Being chosen to serve as an usher at a wedding is an honor. Traditionally, grooms choose ushers from among their closest friends and relatives. The main duty of an usher during a wedding ceremony is to seat guests, but ushers are also expected to know enough about the ceremony to provide guests with information and direction, and to assist with the reception.
In the past, grooms were expected to buy the suits of their groomsmen. Today, to help share expenses, most groomsmen buy their own suits. In some weddings, the groomsmen serve as ushers, while in others, groomsmen and ushers are separate, but in both cases the ushers and groomsmen are expected to wear matching or similar-colored attire. They are not obligated to wear matching ties or vests.
It’s the responsibility of ushers to be familiar with the guest list. The groom picks some of the ushers and the bride picks others to ensure that, together, the ushers are acquainted with virtually everyone. This makes it less likely that anyone will crash the wedding. But it also allows the ushers to know the quirks of the families and complications that might arise when seating guests. The bride and groom may ask that certain people not be seated near each other because of tensions in their relationships. Prior to the wedding, they make this known to the ushers, who seat them accordingly.
The usher should arrive at least 45 minutes early on the day of the wedding. Before the ceremony begins, he should position himself near the front of the church and offer to escort guests into the room or sanctuary. As the usher accompanies guests, he should ask whether they belong to the bride or groom’s party: typically, friends of the bride are seated at the left side of the room, and friends of the groom are at the right. Those who are close family members or friends are seated nearer to the front of the auditorium.
Serving at the Reception
Following the ceremony, the ushers must relocate to the reception venue and direct guests to the right room. Generally, each shares a dance with one of the bridesmaids. Ushers are also expected to explain to the guests where they can leave gifts and cards. If the groom, the bride’s father or another appointed speaker is unable give a wedding speech, an usher may be called upon to speak in his place.