Choosing who will be in your wedding party is one of the first post-engagement decisions you will make, and special consideration should be brought to the question of who should be your maid of honor.
Are you obligated to ask a family member, or can you go with your best friend? What are the criteria for being an awesome maid of honor, and how and when should you ask the right person once you’ve determined who that is? We answer all these questions and more, so read on for our advice on how to choose your maid of honor.
What to Consider When Choosing Your Maid of Honor
The maid of honor has specific duties that she will need to fulfill, so choosing someone who is reliable, considerate, and available is paramount. The good news is that you’re not limited to a single attendant.
You can have two maids of honor, a maid and a matron of honor (an attendant who is married), or two matrons of honor. The beauty of multiple maids/matrons of honor is that they can share responsibilities. According to modern wedding etiquette, the maid of honor accomplishes the following:
- Helps the bride in choosing the bridesmaid dresses
- Assists with addressing invitations and place cards if applicable
- Coordinates the bridesmaids’ gift to the bride
- Attends the bridal shower and other pre-wedding events
- Holds the bride’s bouquet during the ceremony
- Holds the groom’s wedding ring during the ceremony
- Witnesses and signs the marriage certificate
- Assists the bride during the reception as needed
- Offers a toast during the reception (optional)
- Helps the bride change into her going-away outfit
- Takes care of the bride’s wedding dress and accessories post-reception
- Pays for their wedding attire and accessories
- Arranges and bears the cost of their own transportation
- Arrives at required times for all wedding-related appointments and events
Unofficial duties include being a sounding board for the bride and being helpful with wedding planning in general. You want your maid of honor to be someone you can rely on for moral support during the planning process, as well as available for pre-wedding events.
If you’re not sure the first pick for your maid of honor is going to be able to fulfill her responsibilities, that’s all the more reason to select two. Dividing responsibilities between two maids of honor is particularly practical if an attendant lives out of town and won’t be local for the responsibilities that lead up to the big day. Most importantly, it’s a way to honor two important people in your life.
Another consideration is personality. Is your potential maid of honor calm under pressure, or does she tend to be dramatic? Is there a potential for jealousy, or is she going to be genuinely happy for you and touched to be asked?
In a perfect world, your fiancé is also going to be thrilled with your choice, but if he doesn’t know your contender very well, don’t let that get in the way. Just keep in mind that once you’ve made your decision, there’s likely no going back without losing the friendship, so consider carefully if your pick is really up for the task. If she’s not, and you still want to honor her, you may have to be okay with pulling some of her weight. The choice is ultimately yours.
Your Maid of Honor Options
Contenders for your maid of honor can be absolutely anyone you’re close to and want to honor on your special day. As far as family, sisters and cousins make excellent candidates, but you are not obligated to give the honor to someone you’re related to.
Your BFF is an obvious choice, and that holds true for friends of the opposite gender—modern wedding etiquette absolutely supports having a man of honor (or even two)! But while many brides may struggle with narrowing down their choice from too many contenders, some brides have the opposite concern: not having any obvious candidates.
The fact is, there is no hard and fast rule that requires that you designate a maid of honor, so if skipping the title is easier (or a must), feel free to do so. You can also think outside the box—some brides ask their own mothers to stand up for them, and this is a perfectly acceptable option. Another potential candidate is your future in-law. What you don’t want to do is go with someone who doesn’t feel right just for the sake of having a maid of honor.
Navigating Feelings When Choosing Your Maid of Honor
While it’s true that you’re under no obligation to choose anyone to be your maid or matron honor, it doesn’t always feel that way, especially if you’re being pressured. Again, having more than one maid of honor is a great solution if there are two amazing people you want to honor, but even then, you risk hurt feelings or someone close feeling left out.
The good news is there is no limit to how many bridesmaids you can have. The average is four to six, but modern etiquette allows you to have as many or as few as you wish, regardless of the size of your wedding. (You also needn’t have the same number of bridesmaids to groomsmen/ushers.)
If you still fear that you’ll be hurting feelings and truly can’t decide on who to ask to be your maid of honor, why not toss a coin or have candidates draw straws so the decision is left to fate?
But if you’ve done what you can and feelings are still hurt, open communication is always best. Explaining your decision kindly and calmly may help unruffle feathers.
Giving a family member who is not in your bridal party at all an alternate role is also a potential solution. You can ask the party in question if they’ll give a reading, be the guest book attendant, or light candles before the ceremony. Making them feel involved and special can go a long way towards mending fences.
When and How to Ask Your Maid of Honor
The sooner you ask your honor attendant(s), the more time they have to arrange transportation and travel, acquire the necessary attire (and get alterations), and plan and host any pre-wedding events they may be a party to. Six months before the wedding is the standard, but organizing the wedding party is often one of the first tasks brides cross off their lists, so don’t feel like you have to wait.
The art of asking someone to be your honor attendant has been finessed in recent years. Some brides plan an event and present the potential attendant with a gift that features an inscription, note, or sign that asks, “Will you be my maid/matron of honor?”
There are many products on the market for popping this particular question, including specialized cards and jewelry that serve as special keepsakes. Asking in person with or without a gift is always the preference, but if the distance is an obstacle, do what you have to do. Calling, writing, or emailing is totally acceptable.
Be ready to provide the wedding date, the locale, and a sense of how formal the wedding will be, and understand if the person you asked needs to consult their schedules or other people in their lives before they commit.
There are a host of reasons a potential maid of honor may need time to consider your request—and a host of reasons why they may not be able to accept. Do your best to be graceful and sensitive if your pick must turn the honor down, and don’t press for an exhaustive explanation. You don’t want to risk a relationship, nor do you want someone dear to you to take on a financial, travel, or time obligation that they’ll struggle to meet.
Choosing a maid of honor is equal parts love, consideration, and strategy. Know that the choice is ultimately yours while keeping in mind feelings, the associated obligations, and who you want to be standing next to you when you exchange vows with your fiancé.