Traditional Wedding Etiquette Explained

Baffled by all the wedding rules and etiquette? We've explained the different roles and rituals that come with a traditional wedding

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Weddings are surrounded by traditions and protocol, but while many of these have been discarded, they still play a large part in the ceremony.


Even if you decide to break with tradition, it’s still a good idea to know what’s expected. This is a quick guide to who does what and who ends up paying.



He makes a speech in reply to the bride’s father, in which he thanks the bride’s parents and guests and toasts the bridesmaids.


She has the final say on the date of the wedding and the type of ceremony. Both she and the groom are expected to greet guests at the reception.

Best Man

He is one of the busiest of all and should play a large part in helping to ensure all arrangements have been made. This includes the stag night, supervising the ushers, driving the bridegroom to the wedding, and paying all necessary fees on the groom’s behalf.

His most important (and best-known) function is to stand by the groom during the ceremony and pass the ring to the clergyman when asked. He should look after transport to the reception and makes sure everyone has a lift.

At the reception, it is the best man who makes a speech replying to the groom, reading cards and arranging the cutting of the cake.

Chief Bridesmaid

She should help dress the bride, organise the other bridesmaids, hold the bride’s bouquet during the service and help the bride to change after the ceremony.


They hand out service sheets and show guests to their seats.

Bride’s Father

He accompanies the bride to the ceremony, gives the bride away and makes the first speech after the wedding breakfast.

Who Pays for What

There are no hard and fast rules about this, but it is as well to decide in advance who is paying for what, just to avoid any confusion or embarrassment on the day.

Bride’s Parents

Engagement and wedding announcements, bride’s dress, sometimes bridesmaids’ dresses (although most now buy their own), wedding stationery, flowers, photography, transport (but not the groom’s), reception, and wedding cake.


Engagement and wedding rings, all church and licence fees, bride’s and bridesmaids’ bouquets, flowers for both mothers, buttonholes for himself and the best man and ushers, transport for himself and the best man, gifts for bridesmaids and best man, the honeymoon.

Order of Service

The minister will give plenty of advice on hymns to choose, but order of service is basically broken into six parts:

  1. Introductory Medley
  2. Entrance of the bride, referred to as the processional
  3. Hymns, marriage vows and prayers
  4. Hymn or psalm blessing
  5. Signing the register
  6. Recessional

As the party leaves the church, the order should be bride and groom, chief bridesmaid and best man, bride’s mother and bridegroom’s father, bridegroom’s mother and bride’s father, bridesmaids and other attendants.

Seating at the Reception

The bride and groom sit together in the centre. To the bride’s left is her father, the groom’s mother and the best man.

To the bridegroom’s right is the bride’s mother, bridegroom’s father and chief bridesmaid.


But basically, the main thing to remember is that not all weddings days go according to every last detail of your plan, so make sure you enjoy yourself and don’t let petty squabbles over who does what get in the way of your big day.