Planning makes perfect, a step-by-step guide to all you need to know – and then some…

The Best Man

If the bride is the queen of the day, then the best man is the kingpin who works behind the scenes ensuring everything is going to plan and dealing with any minor problems without bothering the happy couple.


However tempting it might be to choose the joker who’s the life and soul of every party, you’re far better off with someone who will take his responsibilities seriously, keep all the organisation under control and leave you to enjoy your day without any niggling worries about how many guests have been stranded at the church.

The part that worries most best men is the speech – but that should be the least of their problems. The best man’s job, in a nutshell, is to support the groom both in the run-up to the wedding and on the day itself.

Before the wedding the best man should:

  • Make sure he keeps himself up to date with all the arrangements, liaising regularly with the groom and the bride’s family.
  • Check the hiring, cleaning or collecting of suits for himself and the groom.
  • Check the ordering of the flowers for the bride and her attendants, sprays for the two mothers and buttonholes for himself, the groom and other immediate members of both families.
  • Check the printing and collection of order of service sheets and make sure that the ushers know what their duties are.
  • Check arrangements for the first night and honeymoon are in place and that necessary passports and visas are in order.
  • Organise the groom’s stag night – preferably some days in advance of the wedding – and make sure the groom gets home safely afterwards.
  • Check the rings have been collected.
  • Check the transport for the bridal party both to the ceremony and from there to the reception.
  • Organise accommodation for the groom and himself the night before the wedding.
  • The best man might also be asked to help with accommodation for guests and to liase with live musicians or disco both before and during the reception.

Photo by Richard Palmer Photography

The Best Man on the Big Day

  • Take the groom’s going away clothes to the reception venue
  • Check the service sheets are delivered to the church for the ushers to hand out to guests as they arrive.Make sure the groom arrives for the ceremony in good time. Pay all the church fees on the groom’s behalf before the ceremony.
  • Hold the ring(s) until the appropriate moment in the ceremony when they should be handed to the groom or the minister.
  • Sign the register as a witness to the marriage.
  • Get the bridal party together for photographs.
  • Make sure the ushers arrange lifts to the reception for any guests who need them.
  • Escort the bride and groom to the bridal car and then escort the bridesmaids to the reception.
  • Liaise with the toastmaster or, if there isn’t one, assume those duties himself – these include announcing the speeches and the cutting of the cake.
  • Reply to the groom’s toast to the the bridesmaids with a brief, polite and – if possible – funny speech before reading out any cards and messages.
  • Announce the newlyweds’ departure from the reception and ensure they have all their tickets and luggage.
  • Arrange for any wedding presents taken to the reception to be taken home.
  • Take the groom’s wedding clothes from the reception and, if necessary, return hired suits.

Photo by Michael Crowe Photography

The Best Man's Speech

When it comes to the speech, all the advice is: Resist the temptation to tell any juicy stories whatsoever from the couple’s past. The escapades may have been hilarious, but now is not the time for embarrassing reminders of past romances or past quarrels between the happy pair.

Because the best man’s speech is generally regarded as the prime entertainment at the reception, getting it together can be a daunting prospect – but don’t panic.
If you can tell jokes – clean ones, please – that’s fine, but a short, sincere speech wishing the couple every happiness will fit the bill just as well.

Unless you’re experienced at this sort of thing, write down exactly what you want to say and practise it. Don’t be tempted to wing it on the day.

The three essential parts of the speech are to thank the groom on behalf of the bridesmaids for his kind words about them, to read any cards and messages that have arrived and to announce the cutting of the cake.

Photo by Jamie Davis Photographer

The Chief Bridesmaid

The bride’s equivalent of a best man also needs to be chosen with care as it is she who will support the bride in the run-up to the ceremony and on the day itself.

Though her duties aren’t as onerous as those of her male equivalent, they’re every bit as important in ensuring the bride has a worry-free day.

The chief bridesmaid should…

  • Arrange the hen night and make sure the bride gets home safely
  • Arrange for the bride’s going away outfit and honeymoon luggage to be taken to the reception venue
  • Help the bride to dress for the ceremony
  • Make sure the flowers and bouquets have arrived on schedule
  • Supervise the other bridesmaids and attendants and assemble them at the church ready for the arrival of the bride
  • Arrange the bride’s dress and veil before the procession down the aisle
  • Take the bride’s bouquet at the start of the wedding service and carry it to the vestry ready to give back to the bride after the signing of the register
  • Keep an eye on young attendants during the reception
  • Help the bride change from her wedding dress into her going away outfit
  • Arrange for the wedding dress to be returned home

Photo by Moment in Time Photography

The Ushers

Church weddings normally have three ushers who should arrive at the church about 40 minutes before the wedding is due to start.

Their principal job is to hand out the order of service sheets to guests as they arrive and show them to their seats – friends and family of the bride on the left of the aisle, friends and family of the groom on the right, though at more informal weddings, guests are being invited to mingle rather than ‘taking sides’.

The ushers should make sure one of them pays special attention to the groom’s parents and the bride’s mother as they arrive and escorts them to their places.

They should also help the best man organise lifts to the reception for guests who may need them.

Photo by Howard Lucas Photography

Wedding Planner

First Things First

From announcing your engagement to setting your wedding budget plus the low-down on who pays for what.

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Best Man / Bridesmaids

Take a look at their list of duties before you decide which of your friends to choose.

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The Invitations

Set your wedding style right from the start with your choice of invitations – and find our how to word them.

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Who Does What?

Eliminate the hassle by making sure everyone know where they should be and what they should be doing.

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The Ceremony

There's never been so much choice in where to get married, from church to licensed venue or even abroad.

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The Reception

From a buffet catered at home to the glitziest of venues, how to plan for the biggest party of your life.

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