So you’ve heard about how the best man does a speech that has everyone in stitches? And you know the jobs of the ring bearer and flower girl. But what does an usher do at a wedding?
The role of the usher is a bit more of a closely guarded secret. They’re like secret agents, they can have a big impact on how your day goes but are often overlooked (or undercover to keep the analogy going).
From the organization of key events to keeping guests up to speed with what’s going on. They have a big job on their hands and play an important role in how smoothly your big day will run.
You might be asking yourself what’s involved in being an usher? How do you become the best usher you can? Or, if you’re the couple getting married, how do you choose the best usher from the people you know?
We hope to answer these questions and more in this article.
What is a wedding usher?
Typically, ushers are chosen from the male contingent of the bridal party. However, this is 2023, so get with the times. An usher can be anyone who you see fit to undertake the role.
They’ll usually be the first person that wedding guests see when they arrive at your ceremony. They play a pivotal role in the organization of your day, wearing many hats (not literally) to make sure everyone is in the right place and having a good ol’ time.
Groomsmen are sometimes asked to also fulfill the role of an usher but that’s not always the case. It’s a role that can have its standalone responsibilities and can be a great honor to bestow on your close friends or family members.
What are the duties of an usher at a wedding?
Ushers can have many responsibilities throughout a wedding day and it’s up to the couple to communicate what they expect of their ushers. Equally, a wedding coordinator can be a great addition to your wedding to assist and manage the ushers.
Ultimately, they’ll be responsible for ensuring guests are well looked after, know the schedule of events and know where they’re supposed to be at certain times.
You shouldn’t underestimate their importance. We’ve photographed and videoed over a thousand weddings over the years. The weddings that were absolute chaos always had one recurring theme. Yeah, you guessed it! No ushers.
Below is a list of some of the key roles that an usher will carry out at a wedding.
Greet guests on behalf of the couple
Guests will often arrive at a wedding having never visited the venue before. They don’t know where they’re going and a friendly face or reassuring smile can put them at ease.
As a bride, you’ll generally be otherwise engaged before the ceremony. Equally, a groom is usually in conversation with the registrar or attempting to control their sweaty palms.
Having someone greet your guests can be a great way to set the tone for the rest of the day.
If your ushers make a great first impression your guest will appreciate that they know what’s going on and listen to them should they make any announcements.
Help to balance the guests on either side of the aisle
Another role of the ushers is to help with the organization of the seating for the wedding service.
You may have opted for a seating plan but even so, an usher is unlikely to know all your guests. This is particularly true if you’re having a large-scale wedding.
They can ask which side of the family guests are from and seat them accordingly. Or if you do have a seating plan, show them to their exact seat.
Additionally, they can help to balance the seating so that big spaces and gaps are filled. This will make for a much more intimate feel and a better atmosphere for your ceremony. It always looks naff in our photos if there are large gaps between guests.
Hand out orders of service
If you’ve chosen to have a beautifully designed order of service it’s typically your ushers who will hand these out to guests.
Depending on your instructions to your ushers they might explain the order of events or simply greet guests by saying something like “welcome to the wedding, here’s the order of service, this explains everything that’s going on today.””
Reserve seats for VIPs
Brief your ushers on who the VIPs are at your wedding. These are typically the parents of the couple, grandparents, and very immediate family members.
You can issue your ushers with reservation cards to place on the seats for these people. We always think this is a good idea because it’s otherwise awkward to move people once seated.
Your ushers might greet guests with something like “hello and welcome to Brian and Christie’s wedding, can I ask about your relationship with the couple so I can show you to your seat”
That way they find out exactly who the VIPs are and can swiftly show them to the correct spot.
Help guests with special needs, the elderly, or disabled
You can let your ushers know beforehand about any guests that might need assistance.
This can be particularly necessary for outdoor weddings where the terrain might be a little uneven.
For the majority of guests, your ushers won’t guide them to their seats. However, for elderly guests, some assistance may be required, and it is a lovely touch to make sure everyone feels included and well looked after.
Seat late arrivals at appropriate times
If you have late arrivals at your wedding it can be disruptive to the service particularly if your wedding is in a church where you can hear a pin drop.
Ushers will often stand at the back of the ceremony to ensure latecomers are seated at an appropriate time. For example, during a hymn rather than when the couple is exchanging rings.
Confetti is great at weddings and often makes for great photos. However, people tend not to bring their own these days so providing some at your wedding is a really good idea.
We’ve seen ushers handing this out with the order of service as guests arrive or placing it on the seats before the ceremony. These methods are great for when you’re able to throw confetti as the couple walks down the aisle.
However, the most effective way we have found for occasions such as church weddings is for the ushers to hand this out as the guests leave the ceremony. That way the confetti is in hand and ready to be thrown as soon as the couple leaves the building.
Help to organize group photos
Now, this is one we know a lot about. We can’t tell you how important ushers are to the smooth running of the group photos. Actually, we can and we’re going to!
A photographer will often rely on the ushers to identify guests for the wedding photos. If Aunty Edna has nipped off for a cheeky Prosecco it’s their job to find her.
Ushers will generally have a better idea of who all the guests are than the photographer.
This is a really important role to ensure everyone is captured on the day.
Seat guests at the wedding reception
In a similar vein to seating guests at the ceremony your ushers will help people to locate their spot at the reception.
This is usually a little more straightforward as there is usually a table plan with designated seating. Again they can use their discretion to assist anyone that may need it.
Guide guests to the fireworks display
Sometimes a firework display is kept a secret from the guests at a wedding. It can be one of the jobs of the ushers to keep this under wraps.
When the time comes it can be the job of the ushers to announce this and gather everyone together to the best place to see the epic light show.
Don’t get too drunk too early (keep everyone in check until the party)
Perhaps one of the hardest jobs for any usher is to not get too drunk too early. It can also be their responsibility to not let others drink too much too soon as well.
We’ve witnessed a drunken best man speech that no joke went on for one hour. IT. WAS. HORRENDOUS.
It’s important that an usher is perceptive of how much people are drinking particularly if they’ve got important roles to play. Like the best man’s speech..
Keeping everyone in check until it’s time to party will mean the wedding is more enjoyable and fewer problems arise. Trust us we’ve seen it all.
Why is it a good idea to have wedding ushers?
In our opinion, having attended around 1000 weddings, it’s always a good idea to have ushers at a wedding. It not only adds to the smooth running of the day but also gives specialist responsibilities to your chosen people
Let us explain some of the reasons why we think they’re the bee’s knees!
Improves the organization and general vibe of your wedding
If you want a relaxed and smoothly run wedding then ushers are essential. They’ll be able to organize your guests which will make for a much more controlled day.
Imagine 150 guests turning up to your wedding without any ushers. It would be absolute pandemonium. Trust us, we’ve seen it and it affected the whole vibe of the day. Guests not having a clue what was going on and even asking us, the photographers, what was going on.
Makes large weddings easier
Maybe you haven’t decided on your guest list yet. Or maybe you’re thinking it would be madness to invite 200 people to your wedding.
Well, this is where your ushers really come into their own. That is essentially their role. To manage the crowd and show them where they need to be at set times.
They’ll inform your guests where the restrooms are and what’s happening throughout the day. Ushers may also help with managing where guests park their cars.
Large weddings need this control more than any other. Crowds need to be told what’s going on to ensure the smooth running of your day.
Helps people feel involved
The role of an usher can sometimes be seen as one of lesser importance. However, we don’t buy that.
We just think their role, whilst important, isn’t one that attracts attention in the same way that say, the best man or maid of honor does.
For these reasons it can be a great role for those friends or family members you have who don’t like hogging the limelight.
At the same time, the role of usher can be whatever a couple decides. They can either give it to someone who doesn’t want too many responsibilities or someone that will revel in making conversation with Grandad Bill.
It’s a very flexible title that’s a great way to get people involved in your wedding party.
Who is usually an usher at a wedding? And what makes a good choice?
Choosing friends or family to take on the role of an usher can be a difficult decision. So what are some of the qualities to look for when thinking about choosing your ushers?
This isn’t necessarily a full-on requirement especially as there will usually be a group of ushers.
However, it is useful to choose someone who is happy to talk to anyone. There will be a lot of guests to greet at a wedding and likely a lot of unfamiliar faces.
Equally, ushers will sometimes make announcements throughout the day so someone who is happy to shout orders will be useful.
This is especially true when trying to organize group photos with the wedding photographer.
People who are friendly
Well, hopefully, you’re not having anyone as part of your wedding party that isn’t friendly! But you know what we mean. Some people are more friendly to strangers than others.
Pick someone who has good people skills and a friendly demeanor even if on the inside they’re stressing that things aren’t going to plan.
Someone who is organized
Think about someone that wears a watch. Someone who is always five minutes early. Someone that organizes their sock draws in a color-coordinated system.
Ok, maybe you don’t need to go that far!
You want someone who is able to execute the instructions you provide them with precision.
You don’t want to walk down the aisle and notice people sitting in the wrong seats or people missing from the group photos.
This will come naturally to some and they’ll be able to stay calm under pressure.
By choosing a family member you’re doing your best to include everyone in the wedding.
There are typically jobs for the father of the bride such as walking the bride down the aisle and giving a speech. However, the father of the groom tends to have less automatic roles.
Asking them to be an usher is a great way to help them feel included and important on your wedding day. Similarly, you could ask brothers, sisters, aunties, and uncles to take on the role.
Someone that knows about family tensions
Some level of underlying tension seems to exist between most families. Choosing someone who is aware of any lingering arguments can help to ease tensions or completely prevent them.
Ushers can ensure that people who have issues with each other are sat far apart.
Someone who has insider knowledge of the family dynamics will be able to subtly diffuse any situations that might disrupt the service or wedding reception.
FAQs about ushers and their responsibilities
How old are the ushers?
Anyone of any age can be an usher. However, being an usher comes with some level of responsibility so there should be some consideration given to age.
Ideally, you want someone that can strike up a conversation with all age ranges and isn’t nervously telling people what to do.
For these reasons, we wouldn’t recommend anyone below the age of around 13. That being said, as long as you think they can do the job, age shouldn’t matter.
What do ushers wear on the day?
A bright pink suit with yellow dots.. No, we’re kidding!
Ushers will usually wear the same outfit as the other groomsmen and best-man. If not identical then something very similar.
It’s not unusual for all the groomsmen, best-man, ushers, and paige boys all to wear matching ties or bow ties. They’ll also be part of the people chosen by the couple to wear boutonnieres or corsages.
What happens if I don’t have ushers?
It’s not a requirement to have ushers but it’s your funeral. No, wait, it’s your wedding!
If you forgo having them it might make it more difficult to manage guests and have them seated in the right positions.
Ushers take a lot of strain off the bride and groom by meeting and interacting with lots of guests. Without them, a couple would have to do their jobs themselves. Not greeting guests as they arrive could create an unwelcoming atmosphere for your wedding.
That being said, perhaps you’re getting married without having a wedding? Maybe you’re having an elopement? Or a very minimal occasion? Well in that case ushers aren’t really necessary.
What is the difference between an usher and a groomsman?
There isn’t really a clear difference between a groomsman and an usher.
From our experience of shooting weddings, it’s usually the best man worrying about delivering his speech all day. In the meantime, the ushers are having a fab time interacting with guests and having a brilliant day.
The groomsmen will typically stand with the groom during the ceremony but this can also be true of ushers. In the modern day, there really isn’t much difference and lots of the roles are interchangeable.
Is it an honor to be an usher at a wedding?
It should be seen as a great honor if you’ve been chosen to be an usher.
It means you’re one of the most important people to the couple getting married. You’re also likely one of a select few who can help make sure the day goes off without a hitch.
An usher shouldn’t feel like they are any less important than anyone else involved in the day. It’s a team effort and everyone has their part to play.
Do wedding ushers have to be male?
No! Absolutely not! Ushers can be anyone that a couple feels is the right fit for the role.
So long as they’re good with people and able to help them to their seats there’s no reason for gender to come into it.
How many wedding ushers should I have?
There’s no set amount of ushers that you should have at a wedding and it’ll depend on several factors.
- How big the wedding is: The bigger the wedding the more ushers you’ll need to manage the guests.
- Your number of friends: If you’ve got lots of friends as a couple you might want to offer this role rather than making them regular guests.
- Venue logistics: For example, if you need some ushers to meet guests at multiple entrances, you’ll need more.
The general rule of thumb is to have 1 usher per 50 guests. However, we think you’ll have to make a judgment call here and consider all of the above points.
You should first decide how many people you intend to invite to your wedding (recommendations here). Once that figure is decided you might get a better idea of how many ushers you’ll need.
As we’ve already mentioned we’ve been to a lot of weddings with ushers and lots without.
The weddings that chose to have ushers always ran much more smoothly and were especially helpful to us when organizing group photos.
So, no matter how small or large your wedding is, we think ushers are really useful and shouldn’t be overlooked. They’re essential for greeting guests and making them feel welcome and informed.
Hopefully, our article has helped to shed some light on what an usher does at a wedding.
Ultimately it’s down to the couple who are getting married to pick the right person for the job.
Get this decision right and your guests will feel special, always be in the right place at the right time, and your wedding will go off without a hitch!