Okay, you’ve gone through the emotional rollercoaster that is picking your maid of honor (tips on picking your squad, right here, if you need them). Your lady and/or lad has said yes, accepted their hand lettered card (or you know, responded to your text with a confetti emoji). Tears of joy have been shed. YAS KWEEN, the dynamic duo is going to turn this wedding UP with some #friendpower, amirite?
Or will you? Is your maid of honor just going to arrive at the altar on the day of, or will they become your new personal assistant until that day? (Spoiler: probably neither!) Once you pick your maid of honor, you need to know what they’re even being picked for (what are those maid of honor duties?), agree on expectations, and then (please!) give them the tools they need to succeed in the role.
In a nutshell, the maid of honor gig is all about showing up. It’s about being there for your friend, sister, cousin, beloved bud, debate opponent, co-baker, book exchange partner, or fellow cat enthusiast. It’s being the support they needs on what can be one of the most stressful, emotionally raw, anxiety-causing experiences of their life. What that looks like changes from couple to couple, MOH to MOH, and relationship to relationship. So that means that we can’t give you an exact list of what the maid of honor duties will look like at every single wedding. But what we can help you with is a framework to help you figure out what being a maid of honor will look like in this particular wedding. Take a gander, but bring your ideological scissors along while you do. Cut away or add to your heart’s content. What do you want (be honest!)? What is reasonable? What can your MOH handle?
The only thing we ask? Make sure the maid of honor and the wedding person are on the same page from Day One. Trust us, you don’t want to be having conversations about who’s supposed to be planning a surprise bachelorette weekend in Vegas (or if there is going to be a bachelorette weekend at all) three months before the wedding.
Maid of Honor Duties
Be there symbolically
The only maid of honor requirement we can probably all agree is a must-do? Standing up there with the couple as a show of support and love. “There” depends on the couple of the hour and where they’re getting hitched, of course, so you’re on your own as to whether that’ll be standing in a church, a redwood glade, or, um, a cliff. (Might want to send that info along before your MOH picks their shoes for the night.)
Be there physically
MOHs are a popular pick for little aesthetic duties, like playing babysitter to the bride’s bouquet and making sure the wedding gown’s train is looking top-notch in photos. Another actually super-fun perk is going on shopping trips with the other bridesmaids and helping the bride pick out the dress/wedding jumpsuit/etc. And, whether one ascribes to traditional maid of honor duties or not, stocking some tissues to hand to the couple when the vows and readings start a-coming is always wise.
Honestly, though, most maids of honor do some heavy lifting. A common sentiment among wedding-planning people is the wish that they had more than just two hands. Oh, hi, MOH! You’ll probably be the first person the couple thinks to ask for help with those pre-wedding tasks and crafts, like when they have to assemble a hundred DIY wedding favors, or hand-make an invitation suite. (The maid of honor can also could be in charge of getting the word out regarding things deemed Not Fit For Invites, like where the couple is registered, or that there’s a no-kids rule.)
And, on the day of the nuptials (AKA Stress Time Zone 9000), maids of honor are on the front lines for things like picking up the cake, securing the checks, and setting out the menus.
Word to the Wise MOH: Do try to pitch in to keep your person sane, to the extent that you can. Don’t bite off more than even you can chew, and start actually stepping in as free wedding planner and taking over every detail—from managing vendors to hand-crocheting elaborate altar backdrops solo. Unless you want to, and in that case, um, can we be friends? (See also: The Bridesmaid Bill of Rights.)
Traditionally, a maid of honor also acts as the point person for spearheading the rest of the wedding squad in pre-wedding party planning. We do suggest that the couple tries to make sure what they want in this realm jives with their people’s capabilities and budget, without straying into Unreasonable Land. (Which, by the way, is very close to Wedding Land, so make sure you know where you stand.) Which brings us to …
Be there financially
Wedding party inclusion is a notoriously expensive gig. Couples, we know you’re maybe spending what feels like way too much money on this, but demanding that your friends contribute similarly onerous sums for your event is uh-uh-nope-no-way-not-okay. See again: Make sure you’re on the same page with what’s financially expected—because what one person thinks is assumed, another thinks is the stuff of fairy tales. (Remember the $15,000 bridesmaid dress?) Get those conversations out of the way up front.
Word to the Wise MOH: What about gifts? We know, we know: You’ve totally been there for the couple this whole time, for, like, a year of planning, and eight hours of actual manual labor (kidding! hopefully!). Do you really need to give a gift? Gifts are never necessary, but if you want us to guarantee you that the couple won’t notice/care/be hurt, fairly or unfairly, that you didn’t get them a gift, we just can’t do that. That applies to, yes, showers, bachelorettes, weddings themselves, and perhaps even engagement parties, you poor creature. Try getting creative with your gifts to cut down costs and not create an Incident. Can you give something handmade or nostalgic for your present? A gorgeous card, a lovely letter, perhaps, or a creative photo of the two of you from high school.
Be there socially
Do you also kind of hate throwing parties because whatifnooneshowsupomg? That’s kind of why the bachelorette, engagement, and bridal shower parties are so great. The wedding squad, led by the maid of honor, is generally expected to show up as guaranteed guests. So if you are engaged and want those kind of parties, make sure your maid of honor is ready to do that. Plus the wedding party members are usually the perfect guests to task with Having A Great Time at the wedding, to get the vibe up and make sure it doesn’t feel like a room full of wet blankets. That means MOHs are often the first on the dance floor to get those other wallflowers feeling funky, or social butterfly-ing up some conversation at dinner tables that have got the crickets.
Be there emotionally
Weddings are the feels—even in ways you wouldn’t expect. On your wedding day, one minute, you might be telling a vendor where to put the cocktail tables and the next you’re sobbing over the sight of the cupcakes. Who knows why, really?
Even the strongest among us can use some emotional friend support, and this is one majorly good reason why you want to pick your favorite, most emotionally vibin’ person to be your maid of honor—aka the human probably at your side all day long. They’ll be there when you collapse into tears over That Thing going unexpectedly wrong, despite careful planning. (Good ol’ That Thing.) They’ll be there right before you go down the aisle, and you’re like, “HOW CAN I LOVE MIKE THIS MUCH but no seriously,” and then start to bawl. They’ll be there when your mother-in-law is doing that thing mothers-in-law do, and demanding you change the seating chart or something else frustrating on a normal day, but unbearable on this day.
This is our favorite reason to have a maid of honor, because it’s going back to the heart of this whole event: love. For your partner, for your people, for your crew. The bottom line is that your maid of honor is the person who will stand closest to you while you get married to your new partner for life. They’re there to show up for you at your wedding the same way they’ll show up for you in your marriage, and the same way they have shown up for you in the past. Sometimes that’s by lending an ear and having a good together-cry on the couch—and sometimes it’s passing a tissue at the altar.