When it comes to planning a wedding, you’ve probably heard of ushers and groomsmen. Perhaps you haven’t heard of them, perhaps you have – and perhaps you’re wondering what the difference is.
Many people confuse the two, and often the two groups get treated the same by the couple (in terms of their role and responsibilities). And nowadays the two terms are used interchangeably. Groomsman is seen as the more favoured term in the U.S., while usher is preferred in the U.K.
But when it comes to traditional wedding terminology, ushers and groomsmen are two different roles, and they each have their own responsibilities.
This means there are some key differences between the two, which we’ll outline for you in order to help you decide: should I have ushers, or groomsmen, or both at my wedding?
What Is a Groomsman at a Wedding?
Simply put, a groomsman is a male assistant to the groom. The plural is groomsmen. They are, essentially, the male equivalents of bridesmaids.
That’s not to say that you can’t have a female groomsman – anything goes nowadays, of course! But if she’s a lady, she’d be called a grooms woman (and if non-binary, they’d likely be called a grooms person).
Groomsmen typically all wear the same suit, so they’re instantly recognisable (similar to how bridesmaids tend to all wear the same dress, or at least the same colour). They may also have matching ties, shoes, buttonholes and other accessories.
Like bridesmaids, groomsmen are considered VIPs in the wedding party. They sit at the front during the ceremony, and close to the top table during the wedding breakfast (the only groomsman that actually sits at the top table is the best man).
Groomsmen Roles and Responsibilities
In truth, the role of a groomsman is entirely up to you. There are things that they are supposed to do but it can be a purely ceremonial role if that suits you better.
Traditionally, the role of a groomsman is simple. In a similar fashion to bridesmaids, groomsmen are the ones who help the best man plan a stag do (and attend the do, obviously!) They often attend all of the pre-wedding activities, such as rehearsal dinners, parties, suit fittings etc.
Groomsmen are often the people who arrive first at the wedding, making sure everything is set up properly and that all looks set to be a great day.
Usually, the main role of a groomsman is to keep the groom nice and relaxed before the service. They may also get ready with the groom, in the same way that bridesmaids get ready with the bride. We all know that weddings are stressful, and having a rally of support around you is a nice way to unwind so you can enjoy the day.
In some weddings groomsmen also walk down the aisle before the bride, arm-in-arm with bridesmaids. However, this is only really seen at American weddings, and is less common in the U.K.
Groomsmen also serve a secondary purpose, albeit not necessarily deliberately. The funny thing about a group of best male friends together is that they are usually the most rowdy ones there. These are the group of guys who will be the first out on the dance floor, encouraging everyone else. They will be the life of the party and really get the celebration going after the reception is over. You can also usually rely on groomsmen to have some suitably embarrassing stories to tell about the groom during the speeches!
Why Should I Have Groomsmen at My Wedding?
For many grooms-to-be, they have many close friends, even several brothers - and they want them all to be there with them on their big day. It’s the same as a bride having several different bridesmaids.
Usually the groom will have at least a best man, but for some they want more of their closest friends up there with them - probably to calm the nerves! Many people also opt for groomsmen because the bride has a lot of bridesmaids. Traditionally, there will be the same number of groomsmen and bridesmaids (though this isn’t a hard and fast rule).
Having groomsmen isn’t completely necessary. But if you have a lot of friends and family that you want included in the wedding, this is the perfect role to put them in - low responsibility and maximum fun.
The most important groomsman of all, of course, is the best man. Make sure your best man knows he’s appreciated by picking out the perfect best man wedding party gift for him.
What Is an Usher at a Wedding?
Ushers are the people who meet and greet wedding guests at the door to the venue, and guide people to their seats before the service.
Traditionally, ushers are male, and look very similar to groomsmen – they all wear matching suits, and typically comprise the groom’s best friends and brothers. However, at modern weddings, you can of course have female and non-binary ushers.
The only thing that’s important is that your ushers are well-dressed, polite, and great at schmoozing! They are the first wedding party members that your guests will meet, so it’s important that they leave a great first impression.
Usher Roles and Responsibilities
The ushers are the people at the wedding who will welcome you and ask “bride or groom?” when you arrive at the venue. This is so they can sit you on the correct side of the aisle. Of course, the couple getting married might not care about which side of the aisle people sit on - in which case they’ll just show you to an available spot.
Usually, the couple will choose just one or two ushers - depending on how big the wedding is. Some couples with huge weddings will have several ushers, so there’s no right or wrong number for how many there should be. Ushers can also help out with last minute preparation such as arranging chairs, testing sound systems, and so on.
Ushers don’t walk down the aisle, and will sit with everyone else, as opposed to the groomsmen who stand beside the groom. If you have an order or service, it will be up to the usher/s to distribute these out amongst the guests. You can also have the ushers as the ones to liven up the celebrations afterwards. Many people also choose to have their ushers MC the event, so everyone knows what’s going on and where they’re going.
For example, once the ceremony is over and the reception begins, some couples choose to have one of their ushers announce them at the reception as husband and wife. You can also choose to have them get people to their seats for the speeches, announce when dinner is going to be ready, or announce that the dancefloor is now open!
Why Should I Have Ushers at My Wedding?
This is a choice for grooms who have lots of people they love that they want to include on their special day, but don’t want loads of groomsmen.
Ushers can take over some of the more menial tasks of the day, leaving the bride and groom free to enjoy their wedding and spend time together. They can also help rein in some of the chaos inevitably caused by two large groups of people coming together. They can bring some order to the day, getting people where they’re supposed to be, letting people know what’s happening, and just generally making sure nothing is going too wrong!
If you’re having ushers at your wedding, why not check out our range of fabulous usher wedding party gifts to thank them for their hard work?
Which Should I Choose: Ushers or Groomsmen?
Traditionally, groomsmen are people who have a closer relationship with the groom, and ushers aren’t as close. But this is no hard and fast rule, and you can choose to make your best friend the usher and have no groomsmen.
Ultimately, whether you go for a groomsmen, usher, or both - the choice is yours to make. It will depend on how big your wedding is - for example, for a small wedding of 50 guests it doesn’t make sense to have 7 ushers and 13 groomsmen. Although if that’s what you want, then you do you!
You might think that having a couple of people to control the chaos is a good idea, but groomsmen seem unnecessary. Or you might think that all of your closest friends should be groomsmen and there’s no need for ushers. You also don’t have to have either. Many grooms opt to have one best man, and that’s it. No groomsmen or ushers.
At the end of the day, it is really only a label – so feel free to call your groom’s “best men” anything you like. Ushers can carry out the same roles as groomsmen, and vice versa. Often, the difference is only in the name – U.K. weddings have ushers, and U.S. weddings have groomsmen.
As long as everyone has well-defined roles and everyone knows what they’re doing, what you actually call your wedding party members is totally up to you.