Once he’s popped the question and you’ve settled the location, budget and style of the wedding, your next worry is: Who’s to help?

Traditionally, wedding duties fall to family and close relatives. Today, a couple is likely to include their friends too – in some instances, more friends than relatives, since a younger crowd is apt to come up with current ideas. In fact, getting friends to help has become such a standard that some brides-to-be “expect” their closest friends to help.

But here’s a suggestion: Instead of telling your best pal that she’s going to be your bridesmaid, phrase it as a question and ask rather than demand: “Would you like to be my bridesmaid and help me with my wedding?” always sounds more meaningful and sincere. Your friend is less likely to feel that she’s being taken for granted too.

So what are the different wedding roles that your family and friends can play?

Singapore wedding advice: Your bridal retinue

The who’s who of your bridal retinue. Image: Corbis

MAID OR MATRON OF HONOUR
This role goes to your closest girlfriend (or sister, as some brides prefer) – she’s like the “chief bridesmaid”, if you will. Of all your helpers, she’ll be the one whom you’ll rely on the most. If she’s single, she is a “maid”; a “matron” if married. If you choose to have both, a maid and a matron, then it’s the former who plays the main role.

The maid of honour’s duties include coordinating all bridesmaids’ meetings and activities, which cover the bridal shower or the hen night. In short, she’s the main liaison between you and the rest of the bridesmaids and/or helpers.

On the wedding day, she stays with you, helps you with your gown, arranges your veil, and carries anything important. She’s also the one who will gather all the bridesmaids together for formal portraits. Traditionally, she also signs your civil or church register as a witness but brides now sometimes prefer their parents to be their witnesses.

BEST MAN

He is to the groom what your maid of honour is to you – the biggest source of support. He’s the groom’s best friend or brother, and can be married or single. Like the maid, his main role is to help organise the stag night, and coordinate the groomsmen’s meetings and fittings. He also needs to orchestrate the toasts and give a speech at the reception.

In Western culture, he even picks up the groom’s attire before the wedding and helps confirm honeymoon reservations. On the wedding day, he stays with the groom and helps him with anything he needs. He holds the wedding bands, signs the licence as the groom’s witness and gathers the groomsmen for pictures.

BRIDESMAIDS
You can have as many as you want – although 12 is usually the limit. Bridesmaids can be single or married, and of any age, but girls between six and 16 years old become junior bridesmaids and won’t take on many “heavy” duties. A bridesmaid’s main duty is to help the maid of honour and the bride as much as possible. And yes, in our context, that includes “ragging” the groom on the day he goes to fetch the bride.

If you have a church wedding, all your bridesmaids will walk in the processional and recessional. On the day, your bridesmaids are expected to mingle with the guests, and encourage them to get on to the dance floor after your first dance.

GROOMSMEN
The male counterpart of bridesmaids, they are there to help the best man and the groom with any errands before the wedding. Again, in the local context, they are also the ones who help the groom fulfil the “tests” set by the bridesmaids when he gets to his bride’s home. If you have a church wedding, the groomsmen can partner the bridesmaids during the processional.

FLOWER GIRL
Usually between four and eight years old, she walks ahead of the bride in the processional, carrying either a small bouquet or a flower basket and scattering flower petals in her path. Always include her in your rehearsal so that she’s comfortable with her role and prep her about the amount of attention she’ll be receiving come the day.

RING BEARER
The ring bearer is traditionally a boy aged between four and eight. He carries symbolic rings, tied to a ring pillow, down the aisle. As with the flower girl, include him in your rehearsal and prep him for the attention.

USHERS
The ushers have more to do on the actual day than during the run-up to the wedding. On the day, they should arrive earlier at the ceremony venue, help greet guests and usher them to their seats, including the bride and groom’s parents. They also help with general errands on the day.

This article was originally published in Her World Brides March-May 2011.