So what does an usher do, exactly? They are not just groom’s well suited sidekicks – they perform some important duties to ensure the day goes by smoothly.
Image from Janine & Gary’s Real Wedding
Usher duties at the ceremony
On the morning of the wedding the ushers will most likely have their transport already arranged by the groom, or travel to the ceremony together with the groom and best man. They should ensure they arrive no less than half an hour before the ceremony, ideally well before any early guests. They may at this time collect their buttonholes, order of service sheets, seating plans, etc., and discuss any issues – for example, the ushers may be asked to inform the arriving guests not to use flash photography, or that confetti is not allowed in particular areas of the venue, or where to gather for photos afterwards. Ushers should also have an umbrella handy, in case guests need to be escorted from their cars in the rain. They should also know the parking arrangements around the venue, the location of the toilets, any alternative exits, and any other practical and useful information.
At least one of the ushers will stand at the entrance to the ceremony venue, asking the arriving guests on which side they are to sit – groom’s friends and family on the right, the bride’s on the left – and hand out order of service sheets at the same time.
Another usher may stand halfway up the aisle and direct the guests to their seats, tactfully seating mothers with babies in the aisle seats, and aunties in large hats in places where they won’t block the view. He should also be aware of any elderly guests who may need assistance.
An usher will also be waiting at the church door to escort the bride’s mother to her seat on arrival to church. She should be the last person to take her seat before the bridal party arrives.
Traditionally, the ushers then join the bridal party to escort the bridesmaids after the bride makes her entrance – this may not be the case if the bride prefers the bridesmaids to walk behind her alone.
At least one usher should stay at the back of the venue during the service, to welcome latecomers and discreetly guide them to available seats.
Ushers, with the help of the bridesmaids, may also help to look after any other attendants, especially the young flower-girls and page boys. It’s a good idea to make sure the parents of the youngest bridal party members are seated near the front of the ceremony venue, just in case.
At the end of the ceremony, the ushers may traditionally escort the bridesmaids at the recessional, following the newlyweds.
Usher duties after the ceremony
The ushers may be expected to help the photographer arrange the guests for the confetti shot, and then for the formal pictures. They may also help with directing the guests to the wedding breakfast or reception venue. They should be available to the best man and the groom in case they need to lend a hand with anything else.
Usher duties at the reception
It may seem that the main part of their day is now over, but the ushers are still “on duty” at the reception to assist the groom and the best man with whatever they may require.
If getting to the reception room requires any directions (for example, at a large hotel), the ushers may direct the guests to the appropriate room upon arrival.
If they are paired up with bridesmaids, they may be expected to join the newlyweds together on the floor at some point during the first dance. They may also feel obliged to accompany any single ladies on the dance floor throughout the evening.
The ushers may also give instructions to other guests about where to leave the wedding gifts and cards, direct guests to cloakrooms and toilets, and remind them to take their belongings with them at the end of the evening.
One of the more delicate usher duties at the reception is handling any intoxicated guests tactfully, before they cause any upset to the newlyweds. It’s almost expected at any wedding that someone will have far too much to drink, and it’s important they are dealt with before any trouble arises. Following this, the ushers should ensure that no guest gets behind the wheel under the influence of alcohol, so calling taxis may be a very helpful task at the end of the night.
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