Wedding Etiquette For Dummies
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Wedding ushers are usually in charge of seating guests and directing them to parking lots, bathrooms, dining rooms, and other wedding sites. While a part of the wedding party, ushers have distinctly different duties than other groomsmen.

Ushers should arrive at least 45 minutes before the ceremony to assist in seating guests. They should be either nattily dressed to match each other or purposely diverse. Ushers should be welcoming and friendly to the guests and avoid standing in a clump. Reserved seating, aside from the first two or three rows, is rare these days. At many weddings ushers still ask, “Bride or groom?” but it is no longer necessary, as a wedding is considered a joining of families and friends.

A good ratio is one usher per 50 guests.

Ushers are usually in charge of seating relatives and other VIPs in the first few rows. The rehearsal dinner is often an opportunity to familiarize ushers with these front-row people. Once at the ceremony, guests often feel uncomfortable letting the ushers know they should be seated in the front rows. If you don’t apprise the ushers ahead of time, you may find yourselves looking at rows of empty chairs during your ceremony. You may also mark reserved seats with small cards. About 10 minutes before the start of the ceremony, siblings who aren’t in the wedding, grandparents (maternal first) and the mother of the groom are escorted to their seats. The bride’s mother is seated last, just before the aisle runner is unfurled. Designate at the rehearsal who will escort her. Late guests are directed quietly to seats at the back of the venue.

When escorting a woman, the usher offers his inside arm to her, which is the arm on the side she requests. When they arrive at her seat, they step aside to permit anyone accompanying her to enter the row first so that no one has to climb over her to get to their seats. When a man arrives alone, the usher directs him by saying something like, “This way, please,” or “Follow me.” When a group arrives together and wants to be seated together, the usher offers his arm to the oldest woman, and the rest of the guests follow behind. Families with small children and elderly guests should be seated near the aisles whenever possible.

Assigning usher duties is a good way to include those friends or family members who didn’t make the groomsmen list, particularly younger members of the family who aren’t ready for the debauchery of the bachelor party.

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Sue Fox is the author of Etiquette For Dummies and Business Etiquette For Dummies. She is the founder and president of The Etiquette Survival Group, a California-based professional development and publishing company.

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