“I look for someone who has a sense of fun…Someone who’s audacious, who is forthcoming, who has politics, who has even a small scrap of passion for the planet. Someone who is decent, has a sense of justice, and thinks I’m worthwhile.” ~ Lily Tomlin on Women’s Friendships – TEDBlog
One of the most exciting and emotional moments for the bride-to-be is when she asks someone special in her life to be her maid or matron of honor (the former being unmarried and the latter being married). But the choice of this particular honor attendant is also a key strategy to keeping the bride-to-be sane and organized; thus, it is worth all the time and effort invested to select the right person.
Sometimes the choice is clear; the bride simply asks her sister, best friend, favorite cousin, etc. Other times, it’s not so easy; the bride might have a number of siblings, relatives and more than one best friend. Whoever the bride decides to ask, she should do so as soon as the date has been set to provide as much advance notice as possible.
While Pondering Who To Ask, Keep In Mind The Following:
- Will the date and location work for her? Someone who has a high-powered career, insane schedule, or who lives far away might find it challenging to fulfill an MOH’s responsibilities. Someone whose schedule and location are more conducive might be a better choice.
- Is she able comfortably to afford the expenses involved with being an MOH? Asking someone who is struggling to make ends meet or is unemployed or underemployed with no other means of income can add more financial and emotional stress. In the case of someone dear to you, consider helping her with most or all of the expenses. Otherwise, select someone who is in an appropriate financial position.
- Does she have the right temperament? Planning a wedding, while fun and exciting, is also one of the most stressful undertakings, especially for the bride, who will want an MOH who will be there to hold her hand, smooth over the rough spots and have her back the whole way — not the other way around! A bride wants the Rock of Gibraltar for her MOH!
- Does she have a sense of fun and positive attitude, take the initiative and know how to organize? Yes, yes, I know, this sounds more like a job interview than selecting an MOH. But, in a way that’s what’s happening. Especially for a large or formal wedding, you want someone who can take charge, is creative and resourceful and, above all, dependable in every sense of the world.
- How deep and long is the relationship? As the bride, you want to select an MOH to whom you have a deep connection, who knows you well and when necessary can second-guess what you will want and need, someone who understands you and is on the same page concerning your wedding vision. Those qualities usually belong to someone with whom you’ve had a long and close friendship.
You May Pick Two
It’s fine to have two MOHs. If your wedding is on the small side, consider having two honor attendants and no bridesmaids. In any case, the two MOHs can share the honor, responsibilities and fun. When it comes to walking down the aisle, one can carry the groom’s ring and the other can take the bride’s bouquet. And both can offer a fabulous support system to the bride-to-be. It’s important that the two honor attendants get along and work well together; and, even if each lives in a different location, they must be able to collaborate effectively. Harmony is important here, so you must put twice as much thought into choosing two MOHs.
You May Pick a Guy
If you wish to have your brother or a close male friend stand up for you, go for it. This is the 21st Century. However, it’s still unusual so ask someone who will be comfortable and confident — and behave maturely — in this role. Communicate clearly what the responsibilities are so there are no misunderstandings. (You will want to avoid complications by not asking the likes of Tom in Made of Honor.)
It’s Tricky Not to Hurt Feelings
Choosing a sibling over a friend is easy to explain; people understand that family typically comes first, especially in a wedding. Occasionally, however, a bride might prefer to ask her best friend instead of her sibling; that can cause hurt feelings throughout the family. When there are no siblings involved, choosing between friends can become tricky. The bride’s role must be that of peacemaker among family and friends.
For many brides, one way around this situation is to bestow upon the not-MOH the honor of performing a reading. Modern wedding readings can be anything that the bride and groom or the reader selects, including romantic, religious, humorous or inspirational pieces. Make sure the person you ask is comfortable with this honor; some people are adverse to public speaking or readings. Also remember to pair the personality of the reader to the selection; for example, a humorous piece might not be a good choice for a shy or serious person.
Selecting the aforementioned two MOHs could also solve this dilemma. If you have more than two very close friends, select one to be the MOH and the other two will be bridesmaids.
Whatever you do, reach out proactively to anyone who you feel might be hurt by not being asked and work out a role for her in your wedding. You don’t want to hear later from a third party that someone is offended or, worse, find out via an absence or silent treatment that a friendship has been damaged.
Will She Accept…or Not?
Sometimes the person you ask to be your MOH will turn you down. You will be disappointed, maybe even taken aback, but look on the bright side: your friend is being honest and realizes that for whatever reason right now she can’t juggle the responsibilities. You want her to be part of your wedding celebration, so offer her another role, such as a reader. If she still says no, accept her decision gracefully and let her know that if she changes her mind you will happily find a role for her, if possible.
If she does accept, be grateful and start off on the right foot by getting together soon to celebrate and thoroughly brief her on her role. Remember that, as the bride, you are expected to present your MOH with a gift of appreciation, usually at the rehearsal dinner, and provide lodging on or around the wedding day if she is required to stay overnight or longer. And, you must promise her your first born in return for her service (okay, that’s optional!).
If You Are Asked
If you are asked to be a maid of honor you should be pleased and honored. If the bride is a person you love and are close to, it feels right, and you can fulfill the responsibilities of the role, you likely will accept. But understand that it is a big job and a big responsibility, the scope of which will be determined by the size and complexity of the wedding. Agreeing to be a maid of honor is one of the most precious and unique gifts that anyone can give to a loved one.
On the other hand, if you cannot accept for some reason, be gracious in turning down the invitation. Understand that the bride has placed a lot of feeling and thought into who she wants to stand up for her and support her in this most important milestone of her life; she will likely be shocked and disappointed by your refusal. Have a good explanation; if you prefer it need not be detailed, just understandable to the bride. You might have too much on your plate job wise, or have a family or health issue. Be firm in your decision, but be kind. And be open to joining the wedding in another capacity if you are better able to later on. The bride might ask your advice as to who she should ask in your place; but whoever she decides to ask, be supportive.
What is the Maid of Honor Expected To Do?
Next to the bride and groom and their parents, the role of maid of honor is the most important, based on the level and number of her responsibilities and the fact that she will be supporting the bride, who typically is the most stressed throughout. The MOH is the bride’s right-hand person, and she — as well as all other members of the wedding party — is expected to do her best to ensure that the wedding planning, pre-wedding events, ceremony and reception all run as smoothly as possible.
Following is a list of typical MOH responsibilities:
- Bride’s Ambassador: Deals diplomatically where necessary, appropriate and possible with guests, vendors, family and friends on behalf of the bride throughout the planning stage, ceremony and reception.
- Liaison to Bridesmaids and Others: Oversees and supports the bridesmaids and communicates their responsibilities to them. She’s also in charge of keeping them in the loop regarding all events, tasks and details. If requested by the bride, the MOH also will communicate messages and information to other participants in the wedding planning process.
- Wedding Shower Coordinator: Organizes this staple pre-wedding event, but not necessarily hosts it, although she certainly may. If the MOH hosts, she coordinates the guest list with the help of the mothers of the wedding couple, sends the invitations, arranges the venue (it can be in a home or restaurant), provides food or refreshments and decorations, directs guests to the registry or advises on gifts, keeps a record of all gifts received and by whom, arranges to get the bride to the shower at the appropriate time, and helps with the thank-you notes. The MOH may delegate some of these tasks to the bridesmaids, but overall she is responsible for the event. If another friend or a relative wishes to host, the MOH should assist in all aforementioned tasks, again with the help of the bridesmaids.
- Wedding Dress Collaborator and Bridesmaids’ Attire Coordinator: Accompanies bride to stores, fittings and related tasks, and helps the bride select the bridesmaids’ dresses. Oversees bridesmaids’ attendance to their fittings, collection of their dresses and selection of accessories.
- Day of Wedding Attendance to Bride/Overseeing of Bridesmaids: Helps bride with wedding dress and accessories, hair, makeup, manicure and anything else the bride requires on the day of the wedding, including emotional support. Coordinates arrival or overnight stay of bridesmaids and their dresses, and if necessary coordinates hairstyling, makeup and manicures for which the bride has arranged. Ensures that all bouquets for herself, the bride and the bridesmaids have arrived or been picked up and are stored properly until needed.
- Wedding Rehearsal and Dinner: Attends both, and makes sure the bridesmaids arrive on time. And as toasting and telling stories about the couple are de rigueur on this occasion, the MOH should be prepared to deliver a good story, usually humorous and maybe a tad embarrassing, with her toast! These toasts differ from the reception toasts, which are much shorter and more formal.
- Bride’s Train & Bouquet, Groom’s Ring: Carries bridegroom’s ring on day of wedding, either down the aisle (usually wearing it on her thumb) or attaches it for ring bearer and accepts it from him or her at the altar. At the point in the ceremony that the ring is required, she hands the ring to the bridegroom. In addition, the MOH helps with the bride’s train, if necessary, and when the bride arrives at the altar the MOH takes her bouquet and holds it throughout the ceremony, and returns it to her for the recessional.
- Witness: Acts (along with the best man) as a witness to the marriage by signing the marriage certificate.
- Wedding Reception: Stands in receiving line (usually next to the groom) or mingles with guests, whichever the bride requests; dances with best man, groom and others; arranges a system for accepting gifts and envelopes from guests, placing them in a safe place and delivering them to the bride and groom later; trouble shoots to ensure everything goes smoothly for the bride; and delegates tasks to the bridesmaids as necessary.
- Post Reception: Helps the bride to change out of her wedding dress and takes care of the wedding dress and its delivery to wherever the bride instructs. Coordinates delivery of any wedding gifts received at the wedding venue. Helps to wrap up any loose ends after the reception, as necessary. Helps bride in departing for honeymoon or mini-moon.
- Jill of All Trades: Addresses invitations, writes out or prepares printed place cards for the wedding, shower or other events, as well handles any details that might come up at any point along the way up and to including the wedding day. While the MOH may delegate some tasks to the bridesmaids, she remains responsible for overseeing their satisfactory completion.
Optional MOH Responsibilities
- Toast at Reception: Provides a toast, usually following the best man’s toast. Traditionally, the MOH did not toast at the wedding reception, but this is a custom that is now trending, and I am very glad of that. Both the best man and the MOH should toast their friends, the bride and groom. But, this still remains an option. Keep in mind that the toasts given at the reception are short & sweet, well prepared and more formal than those given at the rehearsal dinner.
- Bachelorette Party: Coordinates this event if the bridesmaids choose to host one. The Bachelorette Party has been trending in recent years, and many find it a fun event and a chance to party. Such affairs can range from a simple sleepover beauty/movie night to a weekend at a resort. Thus, they are strictly optional and the attendants’ choice, based on what the bride would enjoy and what their pocketbooks can withstand.
- Bridesmaids Luncheon: This is a luncheon that may be hosted by the MOH and bridesmaids as a send-off for the bride; alternatively, the bride may host a luncheon for her attendants to show her appreciation (whether she presents her attendants with gifts at this time or at the rehearsal dinner is her choice). In my opinion, the latter purpose makes more sense as the attendants have given quite a lot to the bride already in terms of time, gifts and other expenditures; and the former is unnecessary if the MOH and bridesmaids have already hosted a shower and bachelorette party. If the wedding is large and or very formal and there have been other pre-wedding events at which the MOH and bridesmaids have extended themselves, a bride-hosted luncheon is a lovely idea. Either way, it’s entirely optional.
- Group Gift to the Bride: This is another custom that I think is unnecessary. It is assumed that the MOH and bridesmaids, either collectively or individually, will be already be giving wedding and shower gifts, as well as a bachelorette party and their precious time, and have already spent a bit out of pocket; there is no need to give yet another gift. Of course, if they wish to do so, that is fine; but it is purely optional.
Maid of Honor Expenses
Traditionally, all the attendants are expected to pay for their wedding attire, including purchases, rentals, alterations, shoes, accessories, hairstyling, makeup, manicures, etc., but excluding flowers (bouquets, boutonnières). In addition, they are expected to pay for their transportation and other travel expenses.
Optionally, the wedding couple might choose to pay for their attendants’ transportation costs if they are out of the ordinary, but this is not usual. And, if the bride wishes her attendants to have specific hairstyles and present a uniform appearance on that score for the celebration as well as for photos, she may opt to pick up the expense for hair, makeup and manicures and have them done all at the same time on the day of the wedding.
The role of maid or matron of honor is an experience of a lifetime and a very special way of showing how precious the relationship with the bride is. It can be the greatest honor someone can bestow on a friend.
Until next time,