Tips to help you be the Greatest Maid of Honour (or Man of Honour…) of All Time
By Lorraine Wright, Marriage Celebrant
14 April 2023
Congratulations! The bride-to-be has asked you to be her maid-of-honour (or man-of-honour). That means she trusts you, and wants you by her side on this important day.
But what does a maid-of-honour actually have to do?
It really depends on the people involved, and the type of wedding they’re having. But the most important things for the MOH to do are to:
- help the bride prepare, so she is ready on time
- help her feel as calm and relaxed as possible, and
- help her look her amazing best … not just at the start of the ceremony, but throughout the whole experience.
Before we move on, let’s get the terminology thing out of the way. Traditionally, an unmarried chief bridesmaid is called the Maid-of-Honour, but if she’s already married, she’s the Matron-of-Honour. But seriously, this doesn’t have to be a big deal these days. Choose your own title! And if your bestie is a guy, go for it and have a Man-of-Honour by your side!
To keep it simple, from here on I’ll be referring to the role as “MOH”, and to the person they’re assisting as the “Bride” (or She). But please don’t feel excluded by my brevity. The gist of this article is applicable and inclusive for all genders, but some of the specific tasks will vary, depending on the person’s wishes.
Well before the wedding, sit down with the bride and work out a plan (or run sheet), so everyone involved knows what their tasks include. Then, regularly check that you’re all on track.
- Does she want you to be in charge of the hen’s party, dress shopping trips, nail and spray-tan appointments?
- Does she expect you to be present for a ceremony rehearsal?
- Does she want you to make a speech at the reception?
- Is there anything she wants you to collect and bring home for her at the end of the night?
Bride’s prep list:
Encourage the bride to make a list of everything she wants to wear, carry with her, or have someone take for her, and check these things off on the day so nothing is forgotten.
- Dress, veil, shoes, underwear, bra, Hollywood tape, bouquet, earrings, necklace, bracelet, rings, hair pin/decoration, card for her new spouse?, keepsake from her grandmother?, grandfather’s pen for the signing?, (or whatever is relevant);
- Purse – containing phone, tissues, lipstick, mascara, face powder for touch ups, breath mints, and lots of cotton tips for dabbing tears without ruining her makeup
- Jacket/wrap for later in the evening
- Comfy shoes to change into
You’ll most likely be in charge of booking the pre-wedding activities, such as the hen’s night/weekend, bridesmaid-dress shopping trips, and possibly nail and spray-tan appointments, if these are part of the plan.
- Some brides prefer to have total control over what their bridesmaids wear; others want it to be a mutual decision, while a few give their bridesmaids carte blanche to decide for themselves, perhaps with just a colour scheme in mind. My best advice is to be honest, because most brides prefer you to look and feel your best, too. If you know the dress that’s being considered will not suit your colouring or body shape, mention it, and suggest something more suitable.
- You should also have an open and honest chat about the bride’s expectations in terms of who is paying for the bridesmaids’ outfits, shoes, jewellery, hair and makeup. In most cases, the bridesmaids pay for their own outfit and shoes, while the bride covers hair and makeup. She might also gift her bridesmaids some earrings or a necklace to wear on the day. But there are no rules with this stuff, so talk it through.
- Regarding the hen’s night… ask the bride exactly what she wants to do, and have some suggestions up your sleeve, based on what you know about her, in case she hasn’t had a chance to think about it.
- Is she a party girl, or is a relaxing weekend at a spa retreat more her thing?
- And what are her expectations in terms of who will be paying for what? (Generally, attendees pay their own way, but because everyone’s circumstances are different, you may have to be the voice of reason if she has her heart set on something that is unaffordable for some.)
- Avoid having the hen’s night within 2 days of the wedding… she’ll want to be well rested so she can look her best on the day.
On the day:
- Make sure the bride has something to eat, and plenty water to drink while getting ready. Same for you, too! It’s amazing how these simple things can be forgotten in all the excitement, and that’s a recipe for light-headedness or even fainting.
- Get yourself ready ahead of time, then you can focus on helping the bride prepare.
- You might want to wait to put your outfit on fairly last minute, to keep it in perfect condition. However, here’s a special note for bridesmaids who are wearing infinity dresses (those ones you can wear a multitude of ways): give yourselves a little extra time, so you can figure out exactly how each person is styling their dress. Not everyone gets it right the first time!
- If the wedding is outdoors, consider applying insect repellent and non-staining sunscreen before getting dressed.
When it’s time for the bride to get dressed, help her if she needs assistance to get into her dress.
- If the wedding is outdoors, consider applying insect repellent and non-staining sunscreen before the dress goes on.
- Once she’s in the dress, check every detail… Are all the buttons done up correctly? Is her bra showing? Does she need some Hollywood tape or safety pins? Does she need help with her shoes?
- Who is attaching her veil – the hair stylist, or will she need you to complete this step? If you’re to do it, ask the hair stylist to show you how before they leave.
- Check her jewellery. Does she have her earrings? Necklace? Rings? (All the items on her list?)
- On the subject of rings, traditionally, the bride does not wear her engagement ring to the wedding ceremony. (Her wedding ring goes onto her bare finger, then the engagement ring is placed back on over the top). So, where does she want to keep her engagement ring in the meantime? Will it fit on her other hand? Does she want you to mind it?
- Finally, make sure she has her bouquet (and don’t forget your own, or the petals for the flower girls).
- Before the bridal party starts walking down the aisle, cast your eye over the bride again. Is everything as it should be? Then ask her if she feels ready.
- Take a calming breath, relax your shoulders, and hold your flower bouquet down low. (The joke which will help you remember where to hold them is ‘pubes, not boobs’). Then, begin to walk slowly but naturally down the aisle.
- Look up and smile as much as possible. Make eye contact and engage with people in the crowd as you make your way down the aisle. This will slow you down so you don’t rush, and make your smile all the more natural and authentic.
- When stepping into position at the front, glance over at your counterpart on the other side, so the bridesmaids are evenly positioned relative to the groomsmen, and there is a nice symmetry to the set up.
- Once the bride has arrived at the ceremony spot, help to arrange her dress, train, and veil.
- If you notice the couple are not centred in front of their arbour, whisper to them to shimmy left or right. They’ll appreciate the intervention, once they see their photos!
- On that note, photos will be taken constantly throughout the ceremony – some you’ll be aware of, and others will be happening when you don’t realise it. So, remember to look up and smile as much as possible. Look at the couple; look at guests you know; look at the photographer occasionally. And try not to slide into what I call, ‘resting concentrating face’, which bears a striking resemblance to ‘resting b_face’. This goes for all members of the wedding party!)
- Immediately after the ceremony, the bride might need you to hold her flowers, grab her jacket, hold her drink, check her makeup or her teeth for errant lipstick, as guests crowd around to congratulate the happy couple and have photos. Do your best to be her right-hand person, and don’t wander too far away at this stage.
- Remember to bring water along for the post-ceremony photoshoot, jackets or wraps if it’s chilly, umbrellas if it’s rainy, insect repellent, and makeup touch-up kit.
- The couple may ask their wedding party members to make a grand entrance to the reception. So check, do they want you to simply walk in, or dance, twirl, or do something unique on the way in? (Check your favourite video-sharing platform for tons of inspiration!)
- Throughout the reception, remember to check in from time to time with the bride in case she needs assistance with anything from passing her a tissue, to makeup and hair touch-ups, to helping her find the restroom.
- If you’re doing a speech, take it easy on the alcohol till you’ve had your moment with the microphone. Keep it brief, meaningful, and funny if you can.
- If the couple choose to do a first dance, be ready to hit the dancefloor with them to encourage the crowd to get into the party spirit.
- At the end of the night, be sure to collect anything you’ve been made responsible for. (For example, polaroid cameras, guest book, wishing well, marriage certificate in its envelope, leftover cake, table decorations, bouquets…) Then go and put your feet up! You’ve earned it!