How to Be a Wedding Usher
Published date: 16th February 2019
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It might not sound like the most desirable role to play in someone’s wedding, but being an usher is one of the most important. Your job? To help the happy couple’s day run as smoothly as possible. They’ve asked you to be part of their wedding because you mean a lot to them and they need your help, so it’s important to take your role seriously. But what exactly are you expected to do as a wedding usher?
Before the big day
Ask the couple what’s expected of you
The responsibilities of the ushers will be different for each wedding. In some cases, you might be expected to play a big part, aligned with the best man’s duties, while in others, it could just be a formal title as the couple want you to play a special part in their day. So before you get started it’s advisable to catch up with the couple to ask what your responsibilities will be on the day, and about any events, they expect you to attend leading up to it – such as the rehearsal and any last-minute suit fittings.
Go to a suit fitting
Talking of which, you might be expected to go suit shopping with the groom and best man and will need to attend suit fittings, whether they’re bought or hired.
Tip: Make sure you know who is footing the bill for the suits. Normally the couple will cover the costs, but it has been known for ushers to be asked to contribute towards the cost, especially if the suit is being bought for you, as you’ll be able to wear it again at other events.
Help plan the stag do
Most of the stag-do planning lies with the best man, but as an usher, you might be expected to help out. This could include anything from contributing stag do ideas to researching possible locations or venues. Whatever is asked of you, make sure you take it seriously and if for some reason you don’t have time to do it, manage expectations by being upfront about it – that way someone else can take on the responsibilities and the couple won’t be disappointed.
Attend the rehearsal
It’s a tradition that as an usher you’ll be asked to attend the wedding rehearsal. This usually takes place the night before the big day and is what it says on the tin. Everyone who has a role to play in the ceremony meets at the wedding site to go over how proceedings will run. Pay close attention to your instructions, which usually involve letting people know where to park, showing guests know where to sit, etc.
Other things to take note of are where the toilets are, who should never sit next to whom (from divorced parents to a long-standing family feud), and if there are any handicapped/elderly people attending that will need assistance.
Tip: Write it all down so you can go over it the morning of the wedding – and keep it in your pocket so you can refer to it if needed. Also, if the weather is bad, it’s good to have umbrellas on hand to shelter guests as they arrive.
On the big day
Get ready with the groom
As an usher, you could be asked to get ready with the groom and best man, so if you’re not staying over the night before, make sure you arrive on time in the morning. If you’re getting ready at home, ensure you arrive with your clothing ironed and immaculate and ensure your buttonhole is attached correctly.
Tip: Keep a snack in your pocket if you can, you might be without food for a while so this will help keep your energy levels up.
Be first on the scene
Ushers need to arrive before any guests so make sure you show up when you’re told to – an hour before the ceremony begins is normal. Stand at the door and circulate any Orders of Service. If there are any rules in the venue like no throwing of confetti or flash photography, let the guests know on their arrival.
Tip: Store the numbers of key suppliers in your phone, and make sure someone on the bride’s side has your number so if you need to get in touch with anyone, you can.
Seating the guests
That bit is vital, and takes some thinking about: most of us know the bride’s party goes on the left as you face the front, the groom’s on the right. But you need to ensure the VIPs – closest family and anyone giving readings in the service – are seated in the front two rows. And, if you can do it without insulting anyone, mothers with babies and toddlers should be invited to remain near the back: ‘In case you need to take the little angel outside.’
Escort guests down the centre aisle, but once the ceremony has begun, ask late guests to use the side aisles.
During the ceremony
There is disagreement about where the ushers themselves should be once the ceremony is underway. In a perfect world where all guests are punctual, ushers can join the bridal party in the front rows. But in reality, some guests arrive late and need seating quietly.
In that case, after the bride has walked down the aisle, you might be asked to close the doors (if the venue requires). Once the ceremony has finished, you’ll be expected to open the doors again, and either dismiss rows of guests or stand near the doors to guide guests if they have questions about what happens next.
After the ceremony
After the ceremony the duties continue: providing directions to the reception, helping guests to their transport, holding brollies over the aged and the expensively attired, and fetching guests for photos.
But, as with everything already mentioned, what your role is after the ceremony depends on the wedding you’re a part of. So make sure to ask, do as you’re told and remember to smile.
Once you get to the reception, ushers don’t make speeches so you can relax. And if you’ve done a good job you’ll probably get a mention in the groom’s speech – not a thankless task, after all.
Tip: Keep numbers of local taxi firms to hand so you can pass them on to guests at the end of the night.
After the big day
Thankfully not much is expected of ushers once the wedding is over. Just make sure you return any hired clothing and it’s polite to offer to help with tidying up at the reception and taking down any decorations for extra friend points. Who doesn’t need some of those?
What does an usher do?
Duties can be divided into three areas, before, during and after the wedding. The before is a goodie – an usher should attend the stag do. Not arrange it – that’s the Best Man’s job. Just be there with an open mind and read above for usher’s duties in more detail.
How many ushers will there be?
The rule of thumb is one usher for every 50 guests. Even for small weddings, there are usually at least two ushers so no one is left waiting to be escorted to their seat for too long, but it depends on the wedding.
Do I need to buy my own suit?
Usually, the couple getting married pay for the usher’s suits, whether they’re bought or hired, but it’s a conversation worth having to avoid any awkward standoffs at the till.