Who Generally Serves As The Shushbinim-
1. The shushbinim, or attendants, are those who escort the chosson and kallah down the aisle. (Rama Y.D. 391:3, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 147:5, Tashbeitz Katan 465 and Mateh Moshe Hachnasas kallah)
2. A chosson and kallah have attendants serving them just as a king or queen would have. The most common custom is that the parents of the chosson and kallah serve as the shushbinim. (Levushei Mordechai 22, see also Igros Moshe Y.D. 3:106, Koveitz Hameor Teves 5725 and Mishnah Halachos 5:247)
3. If the chosson or kallah do not have parents, then the closest relatives should serve as the shushbinim. If they do not have relatives and were raised by adoptive or foster parents, then the adoptive or foster parents should serve as the shushbinim. (Hagahos Minhagei Worms vol. 2 page 32)
4. Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l had a unique approach when it came to the shusbinim. By his eldest son’s wedding, he and his wife and the future in-laws served as the shushbinim. However, for the rest of the children he and his wife did not serve as the shushbinim. Rather, for the wedding of his second son, his eldest son and his wife served as the shushbinim. Each married child served as the shushbinim for the immediately younger sibling. This is an old custom of those living in Yerushalayim. (Shalmei Simcha) However, as noted above, the common custom is that the parents serve as the shushbinim.
5. Many have the custom that the father of the chosson and the father of the kallah escort the chosson down the aisle. The father of the chosson stands on the right side of the chosson and the father of the kallah on the left side of the chosson. The mother of the chosson and the mother of the kallah escort the kallah down the aisle. The mother of the kallah stands on the right side of the kallah and the mother of the chosson on the left side of the kallah. (see Nisuin K’Hilchosom page 439) The Sefer Shu”t Beis Avi (1:142) testifies that this was the custom in Poland, Hungary, and Galizcia. This is also the custom of Belz and Chabad Chassidim. Many of those in Yerushalayim also follow this custom (Mishnah Halachos 9:287).
6. Many Americans, especially from Lithuanian descent, have the custom that the parents of the chosson escort the chosson and the parents of the kallah escort the kallah. (a source for this custom can be found in hagahos Igra Dtzvi on Sifra Igra D’Pirka 67) This is also the custom of Stolin and Karlin Chassidim (Netai Gavriel Marriage page 108).
Although some have questioned the validity of this custom (see Shevet Halevi 3:187), many congregations have accepted this approach (see Yismach Lev page 74 and Beer Moshe 5:165).
7. As stated above, in Yerushalayim the custom is that the men escort the chosson, while the women escort the kallah. Therefore, argues Harav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l (yivakshu Mipihu page 524), if an American is marrying an Israeli and the wedding will take place in Yerushalayim, the wedding procession must adhere to the custom of Yerushalayim. For normative halacha, a rabbi must be consulted.
8. Customarily, the shushbinim link arms with the chosson and kallah as they walk down the aisle. Some poskim feel that if the chosson or kallah will be escorted by anyone other than their parents (such as step-parents), it is preferred for the men to escort the chosson and the women escort the kallah, so as to avoid any physical contact between the men and the women.
לדעת רוב הפוסקים דיש איסור של חיבוק ונישוק אצל בן מאומץ, וכמבואר באוצר הפוסקים ס’ כ”א, ובסופו מהאדמו”ר מליבאויטש זצ”ל. ועיין באגרות משה אה”ע ח”ד ס’ ס”ד שמשמע שמצדד להקל דהוי אינו דרך חיבה, אכן עדיין אין להקל, שהרי רוב פוסקים סוברים דאף חיבוק ונישוק אינו דרך חיבה הוי עדיין איסור דרבנן, וכמו שהארכתי בזה בספרי ומקרב בימין לענין נתינת יד לאשה. ועוד כל ההיתר שם הוא רק באופן שהבן נתגדל אצל האשה, אבל אם האשה נשא אביו כשבן הוא גדול, אין היתר כלל.
9. The custom is that the shushbinim are a married couple. If the mother is a widow, she and one of her sons may serve as the shushbinim.