Congratulations! Having the chance to be your bestie’s maid of honour is so exciting – you've probably been by their side for years and now you’re about to play a leading role in one of the biggest days in their life!
Sometimes referred to as 'chief bridesmaid', 'matron of honour' or 'best woman', the maid of honour has various duties and ways they must help the bride. Planning a wedding can be so fun and exciting, but it can also be stressful at times, so your partner in crime will want all the help they can get along the way.
From organising the bridesmaids and advising on the best wedding dress, to giving a maid of honour speech and being armed with tissues at all times, your friend or relative is going to need your support both in the run up to the wedding and on the special day itself – there’s much more to it than just planning the hen party, y’know!
Ready and armed with a notepad, pen and corkscrew? Check out our handy FAQ below which will answer any burning questions you have and get the low-down on how to be the best maid of honour with our go-to guide and tips on everything you need to know.
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What is the Difference Between the Maid of Honour and Bridesmaid?
A maid of honour and bridesmaid are both important roles, but typically the maid of honour has more responsibilities than a bridesmaid. A bridesmaid is only expected to attend the wedding and assist on the big day, whereas the maid of honour is an integral part in the lead up to and planning of the wedding day as well.
What is a Married Maid of Honour Called?
Traditionally, if the maid of honour is unmarried, they are called 'chief bridesmaid' or 'maid of honour'. If they are married then they go by 'matron of honour'. There is no difference between the duties and responsibilities of a maid of honour or a matron of honour, however the advantage of having someone who has already wed means they will have prior experience and first hand knowledge of what goes into planning a wedding.
Why is it Called a Maid of Honour?
The term 'maid of honour' comes from the tradition of a maiden, a woman who has never been married, whose duty or 'honour' was to attend to a Queen or Princess.
The role can also be traced back to the Ancient Romans who believed that evil spirits haunted weddings. In order to protect the couple, 10 witnesses - including the maid of honour - were required to dress in the same clothing as the couple to confuse the spirits. The maid of honour was to stick by the bride and protect her from any spirits who might steal her away before the ceremony. And to think you thought today's maid of honour role was stressful!
Can You Have Two Maids of Honour?
Yes! It's really up to the bride whether she wants two maids of honour by her side during her engagement and wedding day. This makes things a lot easier if the bride is feeling pressure to pick just one person, plus the chosen maids of honour will likely be relieved to have each other to share the responsibilities and duties with.
Maid of Honour Duties Explained
Before the Wedding
Finding a wedding dress or outfit is perhaps one of the most exciting events in the wedding planning but it can also be stressful which is why the maid of honour should be on hand to help the bride say 'yes' to their dream dress.
The bride might ask you to come wedding dress shopping with her, or ask for input on choosing the bridesmaid dresses.
As the maid of honour, you’re leading the rest of the bridesmaids so make sure they’re all organised. Help to round everyone up for dress shopping sessions and for fittings. Take some stress off the bride by planning the itinerary for any dress shopping days out – look for a fun place to go for lunch and if you need to book appointments at any of the shops, make sure you’ve left enough time to navigate from place to place.
It’s traditional for the bride to pay for the bridesmaid dresses, however this isn’t always the case. Make sure this is discussed – as well as accessories, professional hair and makeup – to save any awkwardness.
2. Organise the Other Bridesmaids
As the wedding date fast approaches, make sure the bridesmaids know what time they need to arrive, where everyone is getting ready and if there’s anything they need to bring.
If the bridesmaids don't all know each other it's a great idea to connect everyone on a group chat. That way everyone will be on friendly terms by the time the hen party comes around. We don't want a scene from Bridesmaids unfolding!
Think about useful things to have to hand – such as large umbrellas to help in case of bad weather. It’s also a nice idea to put together a bridal emergency kit for the bride. You never know when you might need tissues or plasters!
READ MORE: The 16 Types Of Bridesmaids You’ll Meet
3. Plan the Hen Party
The maid of honour's real moment to shine is the hen party. You will take the lead in organising this so make sure you put a lot of thought into it. Consult all the bridesmaids for ideas and ask the bride who she’d like to attend.
It might be that you need to arrange two celebrations: a hen party for the girls and a more mature, bridal shower style celebration that the bride’s mum and older relatives can attend.
Rather than asking people what dates they can do, pick two or three and ask who can make which date. This is a slightly harsher approach but it’ll make it easier to narrow it down to just one weekend.
Make sure you’re also aware of everyone’s budget – there’s not much point organising the bride’s dream party weekend in Marbella when her friends don’t have the funds.
The hen party should take place up to three months before the wedding – this gives time for any bruises to fade if it’s a particularly active hen party, or for people to recover from their hangovers! With three months to go, the maid of honour should be thinking about little details to make the hen party extra special.
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4. Help with Wedding Planning
You may be the bride’s sounding board for lots of ideas – be prepared to consult on everything from wedding colour schemes to the shape of the wedding cake.
The maid of honour can also help with more hands-on wedding tasks: writing or addressing wedding invitations, making DIY confetti cones or assembling homemade favours. Organise a DIY craft night complete with their favourite snacks and drinks.
Once the invitations are out, you might be required to help organise the RSVPs or filter through the menu choices if the bride has a lot to look at.
5. Provide Emotional Support
As you know the bride better than anyone else, the maid of honour should be there for them every step of the way. Remember to be supportive without being overbearing, you might want to have a conversation with the bride to discuss what level of involvement they want you to have.
While your main responsibility is to help with the planning, ensure you're still pencilling in some fun too. A relaxing afternoon getting your nails done, or a de-stressing night out will be just what the bride-to-be needs!
READ MORE: 32 Gorgeous Wedding Nail Ideas
The Day Before the Wedding
If there are any hired items that need collecting, you can help out by offering to pick them up so the couple aren’t stressing about these things the day before their wedding.
The maid of honour might be needed to help set up the reception room the night before, if the venue allows this, and you might also accompany the bride to any last minute beauty appointments, such as a manicure and pedicure.
If you’re staying with the bride the night before, it’s a great idea to put together a sleepover kit – think hot chocolate, Champagne, sweets and some classic wedding-themed films, as well as some beauty treatments (but avoid anything new – you don’t want to risk a breakout the day before the wedding).
On the Wedding Day
6. Help the Bride Get Ready
The big day has finally arrived, and the thing you’ll need to prioritise is to help the bride get ready.
She might need assistance with her hair and makeup, or help getting into her wedding dress. You should also make sure the bride has a good breakfast – we’ve got breakfast ideas for the morning of your wedding to inspire you.
If the flowers are being delivered, make sure they’re all present and correct, and hand out everyone’s bouquet before you head to the ceremony.
The maid of honour, bridesmaids and the bride’s mum traditionally travel to the ceremony together and leave ten minutes before the bride so they’re there to see her arrive.
Before the bride goes into the wedding ceremony, make sure she looks picture-perfect by helping to arrange her hair and veil and then walk down the aisle. Whether the bridesmaids go before or after the bride depends on the style of entrance you opt for – it’s a British tradition for the bride to go first, but many prefer the American format of the bridesmaids leading the way – saving the bride ‘til last.
7. Hold the Bride’s Bouquet
During the wedding ceremony, you will need to hold the bride’s bouquet – you may also be asked to give a reading or to be a witness whilst the newlyweds sign the register.
After the ceremony, the happy couple will leave first and the maid of honour and best man will follow together.
READ MORE: The Complete Wedding Ceremony Guide
8. Stand in the Receiving Line
At the reception, if there is a receiving line, you will need to join the newlyweds to greet the guests as they arrive for the wedding breakfast. If there is a gift table, help by taking the presents and displaying them.
The maid of honour is traditionally seated on the top table along with the happy couple, their parents and the best man. If there’s a different line up on the top table, it may be that you are seated among the guests, ‘hosting’ a table of your own.
READ MORE: Check Out Our Digital Table Planner!
9. Give a Speech or a Reading
Depending on what the couple decide, you may be required to give a reading during the ceremony.
The couple might also want you to give a maid of honour speech at the reception.
10. Keep the Bride Looking Fabulous!
As the day goes on, the maid of honour might need to help the bride if she needs to go to the bathroom – it can be tricky in a wedding dress!
It also helps to be on makeup duty – be ready to correct smudges if needed.
11. Clear the Bridal Suite
If you and the rest of the bridal party enjoyed getting ready for the big day in the bridal suite, it might have been left a bit of a mess.
So that the room is clean and tidy for the happy couple on their first married night together, it’s a nice idea to head up there during the reception and have a quick tidy up. The bride will really appreciate it.
After the Wedding
12. Return Hired Clothes & Tidy the Venue
If the newlyweds jet off on a honeymoon straight away, you might be asked to help out by returning any hired clothes or accessories and by storing the bride’s dress until she’s back and ready to collect it.
You may also be needed to help remove decorations and gifts from the wedding venue.
6 Top Tips for the Maid of Honour
- Put together a sleepover kit for the night before the wedding – even if you’re not staying with the bride, she’ll love that her bestie has picked out cosy PJs, happy-ever-after wedding movies and treats to indulge in on her last night as a single lady.
- Make sure you have an emergency kit assembled for the day of the wedding – have chalk to neutralise any wedding dress stains, translucent powder for touch ups, lip gloss, tissues, needle and thread etc.
- Have a sense of humour – remember, this is your best friend so when it all gets a bit much do what you can to make her laugh, or at least smile.
- Keep the bride fuelled on the big day – she’ll be so busy talking to guests and mingling she will struggle to get drinks and snacks.
- Talk to her partner – some bride dream about opening a gorgeous wedding day gift and reading a romantic love note from their other half on the morning of their wedding, but their partner might not don’t realise this is a ‘thing’. Make sure they knows to surprise the bride on the big day!
- Finally, don’t be grumpy – it might seem like sometimes all you hear is wedding chat, but remember this is a huge occurrence in your friend’s life and it won’t last forever. Smile and be supportive, even if the difference between wedding chairs means nothing to you; to the bride it’s a huge deal.
Remember an excellent maid of honour can make the world of difference when it comes to wedding planning – find out what type of bridesmaid you'll be ahead of the big day.