Including Your Sisters and Besties in Your Wedding Ceremony

by Jennifer Cram - Brisbane Marriage Celebrant © (22/05/2022)
Categories: | Inclusive Weddings | Wedding Ceremony |
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Feet and Shoes of Bride
                      and BridesmaidsWhat do you do when you come from a large family and have more sisters than the ideal number for your wedding party? Or when you just have too many besties?

It is pretty well expected that a bride will include all of her sisters in her wedding party, or that a groom's sister(s) will stand up with the bride. When you add close friends to the mix, it becomes even more difficult. Emotional blackmail aside, these people are important to you, so it is a challenge to find a solution that doesn't scream favouritism or damage your relationship with any of them.

One of the issues is that most people don't think beyond being a bridesmaid when they have expectations of playing a significant, but non-speaking, role in your wedding. But there are so many more possibilities, so let's have a look at those before we talk about the logistics of who to choose and how to do that in a way that feels fair to everyone.

Say no to a gendered wedding party


The traditional expectation of a gender divide in the wedding party no longer applies. Mix is up. So each of you gets to keep your own siblings and besties. No need to hand them over on gender grounds!

Bride's processional


fThe "usual" processional consists of the bride making a formal entry, escorted by her father and preceded (or followed) by females formally designated at bridesmaids who will stand up with her throughout the ceremony. A small boy may be included to carry the rings. Older members of the family (grandmothers) are gaining popularity as flower nanas.

You could expand your processional to include the whole group of your sisters and besties. They don't have to dress alike. They don't have to stand up with your. They can all throw petals and get up to hi-jinks in the manner of flower-dudes. Reserve seats near the front so they can sit down. But after they have greeted the person waiting to marry you! Makes great photos and starts the ceremony on a real high.

Official witness

To marry legally in Australia requires that each of you has an adult witness present. This is a role of the utmost importance because without their presence, there would be no marriage.

Ring Bearer / Presenter of the Rings

I've always preferred to have the rings presented to the couple by an adult. It works so much better. Choose one of your sisters or besties to carry the rings down the aisle and, later in the ceremony, formally present them. But, even if you do have a child ring bearer carry the rings down the aisle, choose one of your besties to formally take the rings from the child and formally present the rings to you. Makes great photos!

Hand over your bouquet

Traditionally the bride hands her bouquet to her MOH. But that leaves the MOH holding two bouquets with no free hands, so you sometimes see a somewhat awkward passing of the MOH's bouquet to the next bridesmaid. Instead, when it comes time to free up your hands, ask your celebrant to ask your chosen bestie to come forward to take your bouquet. Give her a hug as you hand it over. Makes a great photo op.

Official Pourer

An age-old custom is for the marrying couple to share some sort of drink during the ceremony. In modern wedding ceremonies we see it in several forms
  • Loving cup - sharing of wine, water or some other drink
  • Quaich - the Scottish traditional two-handled cup
  • Cocktail mixing/blending ritual
  • Wine blending ritual, usually a mixing of white and red wines
  • Water and wine ritual ceremony

In all of these rituals, the cup/vessel and the drink(s) can be formally presented, rather than just placed on a table for the celebrant to pick up and present at the appropriate time, or for you to pick up and pour. The person doing the presentation can also, where appropriate to the ritual, carry both the vessel from which the couple will drink and the drink itself (eg the empty quaich and bottle of whisky) and pour the drink into the vessel before presenting. It can be very theatrical.


If you're including a handfasting ritual in your ceremony, involve the celebrant does not have to do the placement of the cord or ribbons, or do the physical tying. Let your celebrant do the narration and choose one or more besties to do the placement and the tying.

Adapt the Unity Candle

Although the Unity Candle was invented as a ritual to state the obvious - two people coming from separate families now joining in marriage - and the side candles representing those two people often being lit by their mothers, there is no reason why you should not adapt it to suit involvement of sisters/brothers/besties/best mates. For example, having selected people light individual candles and then, together, light the central candle as a statement of intention to all support you and your marriage. Turns it on its head to make a visual statement about supporting your marriage.

Adapt the Sand Ceremony

Being a relatively recent "invented" tradition, a sand ceremony can be adapted to include anyone you want to include and mean anything you want it to mean. Use something other than coloured sand. Anything that mixes. I've had petals,  gravel, M & M's, etc. Involve all of your besties, give each a different colour, decide what these colours will represent (what they bring to your friendship, is one possibility, another is the qualities they have that will support your marriage), and at the appropriate time, have them come forward to pour their sand.

Readings and Speeches

When couples are looking for a role for female friends or sisters, one of the first suggestions usually made is doing a reading in the ceremony. For male friends or brothers it is often to make a speech at the reception. Females making speeches has becoming much more accepted.

Allocating roles without causing friction

There is only one way to completely avoid hurt feelings when allocating roles - step completely aside and let luck do it.

Pulling names out of the hat is something everyone in Australia understands. And it works brilliantly when you have to choose one or two people from a larger group.

When you need to allocate differing roles among a defined number of people, a slightly different take is required. Put the roles in the hat and let your people each pick one. Simple! You are hands-off, and no-one can manipulate it, or imagine that the process has been manipulated.
Fun variations on the roles in the hat method are some that work really well with a group of women
  • Cup cake lottery
  • Bubbles lottery

Get all of your girls together and set out the exact number of cupcakes of champagne glasses as there are people vying for a role in your wedding

For the cupcakes, carefully insert a tightly rolled piece of paper, on which you have written a specific role, into the cupcake. You can roll the slip of paper round a toothpick. insert, and then remove the toothpick leaving the paper behind - just make sure there is a little sticking out at the top so it doesn't get swallowed by mistake!

For the glasses, stick a label on which you have written a role.

Let everyone choose their own cupcake or glass, and that's their role. If there is any possibility that anyone will take a sneak peak at the glasses labels, just put a letter of the alphabet or a number on the label, and have a prepared list of what role each letter/number represents. To further make sure that, even if someone has a sneaky peak, nobody can use that knowledge to their advantage, don't pick the obvious consecutive numbers/letters starting at 1 or A, pick random ones.

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