Wedding parties busy out of limelight

With the pressure to pull off the perfect nuptials, planning a wedding can be a time-consuming and stressful process that usually falls on the shoulders of the bride and groom.

But there are others who can help run the show.

Being a maid/matron of honor and a best man is a respected role in the wedding process, but it is also one that comes with specific responsibilities that have been refined by years of wedding traditions.

The Knot, a company whose website prides itself as being “the Internet’s most-trafficked one-stop wedding planning solution,” defines a maid or matron of honor as “part worker bee, part emotional lifeboat.” By contrast, the best man is not just a glorified groomsman, but “part valet, part hand-holder” as he helps the groom “come through this nerve-racking experience with flying colors.”

From the minute one accepts the title as maid/matron of honor or best man until the couple takes off for the honeymoon, both the experts and the veterans have defined what it takes to be the best at the job.

Part Bridesmaid, Part Shoulder to Cry On

Marcia Stewart, owner of Ash-Hanson Flowers and Wedding Innovations in Marietta and a wedding coordinator with more than 3,500 weddings under her belt, said the key to the job is support.

“Try not to make any negative comments about anything that the bride and groom are trying to do,” Stewart said. “Only offer suggestions when asked and always find out what the likes and dislikes are of the couple before offering an opinion.”

Standing by the couple’s side but never letting your voice drown out theirs is something most wedding attendant veterans can agree on.

“Remember that it’s her day, and that your job is to be there to support,” said Ashley Guilmette, a recent matron of honor and newlywed herself. “If she wants me to wear an awful dress, that’s what I’ll do. Let her have her day and support her.”

Guilmette and her childhood best friend Trisha Rahe, both Marietta natives, were thrilled when they became engaged within a few months of each other and planned for their weddings to fall just two months apart; Guilmette’s in July 2013 and Rahe’s in September. They were each other’s maid/matron of honor, a decision they both agreed was a good one, despite the stress of taking part in the planning of two different weddings at the same time.

“I think the hardest thing is, I felt a little bit disconnected for parts of it,” Rahe said, as she was residing in Cincinnati and her friend resided in Akron. Rahe was married at St. Mary Catholic Church in Marietta and held her reception at The Lafayette Hotel. Despite the distance during the planning, Rahe and Guilmette made sure they were there for each other as much as possible.

Being the Best Man

For the best man, as well as the maid/matron of honor, organization is everything, according to Stewart. She outlines some duties that might seem far from obvious.

“Help protect the car from any abusive decorating by well meaning guests,” Stewart said, listing very specific things that are best left to the best man. Even more importantly, she reminds a best man to “keep the ring in your possession at all times.” The Knot also reminds the best man to continuously check on the ring’s safety before the ceremony, to avoid the awkward “where did the ring go” moment spent digging through pockets.

The Knot also notes that though a maid/matron of honor typically has to focus on a bridal shower, the bachelor party, a staple in the-wedding process, is not to be forgotten.

“Don’t be shy about enlisting other groomsmen to help you out – most guys don’t mind this duty,” The Knot experts said. “Put financial worries out of your mind – the cost should be split among everyone who attends the bash.”

Movies provide good examples of things to avoid, much like the bachelor party gone wrong, noted most prominently in The Hangover.

The bachelor party, Stewart said, should “definitely not be the week of the wedding,” to create enough of a time buffer between what can often be a wild night and a formal occasion.

Ryan Donovan, who served as the best man for Rahe’s wedding, said just being there for the groom is the highest priority.

“They picked you as a best man because you likely know them best and will know how to make the day most enjoyable for them,” he said.

The Toasts

Whether you’re a champion of public speaking or you run and hide at the thought of standing up in front of people, the high emotions and high expectations can make wedding toasts a nerve-racking experience.

“When it was my turn, I felt like I was going to throw up I was so nervous,” Guilmette said. “Definitely practice, write it in advance, and memorize it if you can.”

Donovan agreed that practice is key, but so is humor.

“Make it funny and run it by somebody that knows the bride and groom and their families to make sure you’re not telling too many inside jokes,” he said.

The Knot advises that the toast at the reception “is your biggest – and probably most frightening – duty.” The most important thing to remember, according to The Knot, is that “mum is the word on the bachelor bacchanalia.” In other words, a best man should keep the stories about the groom’s frat party years to a minimum, especially if there are grandparents present.

Dave Doran, the co-founder of Best Man App, a web application that provides tips on being a best man, describes how to avoid making yourself, to put it bluntly, “the idiot” of the wedding when giving a speech.

“One of the most common mistakes a best man can make is to drink too heavily before his speech,” Doran said in an article from Primer Magazine.

It’s easy to go down the wrong path in a speech when you’re trying to please a crowd, but drinking can exacerbate the problem.

“Offending the guests is second only to offending the bride during a best man speech and there is nothing more certain to upset the bride and her family than by bringing up the groom’s former partners in your speech,” Doran said.

It’s Their Day

“The day of, make sure everyone has everything,” Guilmette said, describing the time when she spilled orange juice on her bridesmaid’s dress a half hour before she had to make it down the aisle. “You can’t plan for something like that…but just plan for the unexpected.”

The most important thing, Rahe said, is that once everything is planned and it’s time to say “I do,” being the maid/matron of honor and the best man means that you should be a buffer.

“Nothing goes straight to (them), it goes through you first,” she said. Being Guilmette’s long-time best friend, she “knew what she wanted and was not afraid to make decisions.”

Rahe and Guilmette have been friends since kindergarten.

“I don’t think that happens that often,” Rahe said. “I will never forget the moment she asked me to be her maid of honor.”

Rahe remembers bursting into tears, and said the whole planning process made their friendship even stronger.

“It helped us reconnect and bond through the experience,” she said.

Of all the specific duties, from planning the perfect bachelor party to making sure every hair is in place, any wedding expert and veteran will say that it all comes down to taking as much stress off the happy couple as possible so they can enjoy their day.

“It’s best if you just make yourself completely available to them and jump when they need something before they even have to ask,” Donovan said.