The Wedding Party
There is no Jewish law that prescribes the size, composition, or processional arrangement of your wedding party, except that the bride should walk down to the chuppah sometime after the groom. Wedding parties usually consist of a best man and a maid of honor, siblings, family, and sometimes friends. The Midrash describes that when Adam and Eve were married in the Garden of Eden by God (the first rabbi!), the angels Michael and Gabriel accompanied this first bride and groom to the chuppah. Today, the groom is usually accompanied by his parents and the bride by hers.
The Talmud speaks of both fathers walking the groom to the chuppah and both mothers walking the bride. The Zohar, Judaism's most basic work of mysticism, prefers the parents of each to walk them down to their chuppah.
After God made Eve, He “brought her to Adam.” The Midrash interprets this as a sign that God acted as the “best man” and “maid of honor” at the first wedding. In the book of Aruvin, the Talmud concludes that no one should feel it is below her dignity to spend the day as a bride or groom's right hand person. These helpers at a Jewish wedding are referred to as shushvinin.
There is an ancient custom for every groom and bride to have one or two shushvinin who are their close friends, each to act as their helpers throughout the day. These helpers can be relatives or friends. On this day the bride and groom are seen as a king and queen and should be treated as such with attendants and people to walk or dance before them and behind them.
The shushvinin may have many jobs. She may help the bride with things the day of the wedding, hold her ketubah after she is presented with it, or act as a go-between if she needs to get a message to the groom or a relative. For the groom, the shushvinin might hold the ring he will give his wife or help to fetch things he needs earlier in the day.
Maid/Matron of Honor and Best Man
In the American tradition the maid of honor has several roles, including helping the bride shop for her veil, assisting with invitations and a shower, lending a hand as the bride dresses and has her makeup and hair done, and holding her flowers. The duties of the best man sometimes include assisting the groom with his clothes, making a toast, and returning the groom's tuxedo if he has rented one.
The day God was reveled to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai and they received the Torah, which is described in the Bible in the twentieth chapter of Exodus, was considered by the rabbis as a type of wedding between God and the Jewish People. Moses and his brother Aaron were said to be the two shushvinin for the people of Israel on that day.
Bridesmaids might walk in the processional, help to mingle at the wedding, and perhaps attend the shower. Groomsmen might help with the seating and ushering of the guests, walking in the processional, and mingling with the guests to be sure everyone has what they need. Sometimes small children in the wedding party will toss flower petals before the processional or hold the ring on a pillow before it is given.
The following is a list of blessings, honors, and witnessing opportunities for you to give out to friends and relatives. Some of these can be combined:
Two witnesses for the tanaim
Two witnesses for the ketubah
Two witnesses for the giving of the ring
Two witnesses to stand outside the yichud room
Six or seven honorees to each chant one of the seven blessings
Six or seven honorees to each translate one of the seven blessings
One honoree to make the hamotzie blessing
One honoree to lead the grace after meals
Six or seven honorees to each chant one of the seven blessings following the grace after meals