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Maid of Honour

By: Lisa Thiel - Updated: 11 Sep 2010 | comments*Discuss
Bridesmaid chief maid honour wedding

The job's also called 'chief bridesmaid' but 'maid of honour' makes it clear that the bride's picked you out to share special privileges on her wedding day. You'll return the compliment by attending to your own responsibilities both before and during the big event. Learn what's expected of you in this guide to the position.

Who to Choose

Even if the majority of the bride's attendants are children, it's a good idea for her to pick an adult woman as the chief bridesmaid. Not only will she be able to co-ordinate the other bridesmaids for dress fittings, rehearsals etc., she'll be an invaluable support in the run-up to the big day.

If the bride has female relatives, selecting the maid of honour is a delicate balance between tact and family loyalty. Ideally, the chosen person should be calm and unflappable to steady the bride's nerves. A great organiser is also useful in the preparation stages, while a maternal streak comes in handy for looking after younger page boys and flower girls.

However, sisters/cousins/nieces of a suitable age may feel aggrieved to be passed over in favour of someone with more of the skills mentioned above. If such a situation is likely to arise, the bride should nominate their relative as chief bridesmaid, but get a more level-headed friend to keep an eye on their activities. Or they can dispense with the 'chief' title altogether and simply ask the adult bridesmaids to help out - it'll soon be clear which of them have a real talent for organisation.

Planning the Wedding

As soon as your status as chief bridesmaid is official, get yourself involved in the wedding plans. No matter how organised the bride is, she will appreciate having you as a sounding board for her ideas, worries and problems. Any small tasks you can do to keep thing on track for the day will be much appreciated.

One of your main duties before the wedding will be to accompany the bride when she goes shopping for her wedding dress. Chat to her beforehand so you know what sort of thing she's after, then wear flat shoes and take a bottle of water for your long day of traipsing round shops and sitting outside fitting rooms while she searches for that elusive 'perfect' frock. (It's also worth noting that nothing less than your honest opinion will do for the most important outfit she'll ever pick, so be prepared to be brutally frank).


The maid of honour should have a big say in the selection of the bridesmaids' dresses - after all, you'll be wearing one on the day! Discuss the requirements of the day with the bride before you go shopping - the formality of the wedding, the figures of the bridesmaids, their likes and dislikes, will all play a part in the type of dress you choose.

If all the bridesmaids can't agree on the same dress, try to find a compromise that suits everybody. Consider buying different dresses in the same colour, or select a fabric everybody likes and get each bridesmaid to have a dress made that suits her figure. Where the colour's an issue, try buying the same dress in a different colour for each bridesmaid, as bridal stores often stock the same gown in a range of shades.

Bear in mind that, at the end of the day, it's the bride's wedding and she has every right to choose what the bridesmaids wear. Do as much as you can to convince her of flattering, elegant options everyone else can live with, but if she insists on putting you in full-skirted mustard-yellow satin, you'll be expected to grin and bear it - and make sure all the other bridesmaids do too.

The Hen Party

This is definitely your most enjoyable responsibility, so make the most of it! When deciding on an activity, try to take the bride's interests into account. While hen dos haven't got the same overtones of ritual humiliation as traditional stag parties, they have acquired an association with L-plates, tacky veils and drinking until you can't stand up. If this sounds like the bride's idea of a good night out, go ahead and plan one - but don't expect her to be thrilled if she's not the hard-partying type. Dinner at a good restaurant, a day of shopping or tickets to a band or theatre show may be more her cup of tea.

Pampering experiences are a popular option for hen parties and have the added bonus of getting you groomed to perfection in time for the big day. Check out day or residential spas near you to see if they offer tailored packages or discounts on group treatments. Spa days are also handy for those in a group with varying budgets, as you can book as many or few treatments as you like and spend the rest of the time relaxing.

A short break abroad's becoming an increasingly popular option for hen and stag parties alike, with several specialist travel agents springing up on the Internet to cater for pre-wedding fun. Have a quick chat with the best man before either of you book anything to make sure you're not planning on going to the same place - after all, who wants the boys intruding on your girly fun?

The Big Day

As with every big occasion, getting ready is half the fun, so the bridesmaids should go round to the bride's lodgings to dress. The maid of honour needs to check the night before that all the bridesmaids have got their dresses, make-up and accessories ready, and that they know where they're headed and at what time to arrive in the morning.

Make sure you arrive and get ready a little early so you can provide the bride with moral support while she prepares. You'll also need to be on call to help the bridesmaids with their outfits. A good idea is to organise an 'emergency kit' full of essentials including tights, hairspray, plasters, stain remover, a needle and thread in the same colour as the bridesmaids' dresses, baby wipes for removing make-up etc., which can be 'on call' all day.

Once you've arrived at the venue, meet up with the best man and co-ordinate any photographs being taken before the wedding of bridesmaids and groomsmen. As the most senior person in the procession, the task of ensuring everyone's in the right order also falls to you. Check everyone knows where they're sitting once the procession's over, and when to get up for the recessional at the end. Get everyone into position before the bride arrives so she can relax once she's rolled up.

Traditionally, the bride hands her bouquet to the chief bridesmaid for the duration of the service. Make sure you've got an aisle seat so you can be prepared to take these from her and pass them back afterwards. Nominate another bridesmaid to take your own flowers from you before the bride hands hers over.

At the reception, if it's a formal do, you will be needed as part of the 'receiving line' that greets the guests as they file in for dinner. It's also traditional for the chief bridesmaid to dance with the best man after the bride and groom have their first dance, to signify that everyone else can join in the dancing. Less traditionally, you may also be called upon to make a short speech mirroring (though probably not as long as) the best man's, in which you can thank the groomsmen and add your own reminiscences about the bride.

Once it's all over, the maid of honour should take responsibility for collecting the bride's wedding dress from wherever she leaves it between the wedding and setting off on honeymoon. Ensure any hired outfits get back to the rental shop on time, and organise cleaning of the bridesmaids' dresses so you can get a group discount rate.

Finally, remember that the maid of honour's most vital job is to keep everyone around her calm as events progress. If you've been married already, you'll know that the madness is only temporary and that a cool head's the most important part of any wedding day outfit. If you're not married, see it as a chance to learn - then you can pass on your wisdom to the bride when it's time for her to be YOUR maid of honour.

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