Congratulations! You’ve been asked to be a maid of honor! Your accepted your best person’s hand lettered card (or text with a confetti emoji). You’re delighted So, now what?
As the maid of honor, are you just going to arrive at the altar on the day of, or will you become the couples’s personal assistant till the last birdseed is thrown? (Spoiler: probably neither!) That means it’s time to know what the maid of honor duties are and agree on expectations.
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 need 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. Which 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.
Make sure you and the couple 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, three months before the wedding.
Maid of Honor Duties
Be there symbolically
The only maid of honor requirement that is a must-do is 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. Maybe that will be a church, a redwood glade, or, um, a cliff. (And find out that info along before you pick your 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 super-fun perk is going on shopping trips with the other bridesmaids and helping the bride pick out the dress/wedding jumpsuit/etc. And stocking some tissues to hand to the couple for the vows and readings 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, 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. Which brings us to …
Be there financially
Wedding party inclusion is a notoriously expensive gig. So 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. So if you need to provide gifts and you’re out of cash, try getting creative with your gifts to cut down costs. 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
No, you’re not required to throw a bridal shower or a bachelorette. But yes, your person might be expecting you to do so. So talk about what the couple wants and doesn’t want early on, and be clear about what you think you can manage. (Don’t over promise something that you know you can’t do, that will just cause further problems down the line.)
But even if you’re not throwing these parties, remember that the wedding squad, led by the maid of honor, are generally expected to show up as guaranteed guests. 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 providing whatever social support the couple needs.
Be there emotionally
Weddings are the emotional—even in ways you wouldn’t expect. Even the strongest among us can use some emotional friend support, and that’s the job of the Maid of Honor. Your job is to be there when your person collapses into tears over That Thing going unexpectedly wrong, despite careful planning, or when a new mother-in-law is demanding the whole seating chart be changed at the last minute. As the MOH, it’s your job to step between the couple and the situation, pass a tissue, and offer to fix what’s gone wrong so they can focus on getting hitched.
The bottom line is that as a maid of honor, you are the person who will stand closest to the couple while they get married. You’re there to show up on the wedding day, in the same way you’ll show up for you in your marriage, and the same way you’ve shown up for them 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.