Part of the joys of being a single twenty-something is that I get to be in a ton of weddings, like six in the past year.
Being a bridesmaid is like being handed a part-time job you didn’t really apply for. But still, it’s fun and the booze is free so whatevs.
Well, the role of maid of honor is a totally different story.
After being a bridesmaid nearly a dozen times, I was honored to be chosen for the coveted role. I was not just one of “the bridesmaids”, not just a “wedding party” member, but I had my own title.
One step closer to being a queen.
I quickly realized that the role of maid of honor is more like a full-time (ahem, unpaid) job that includes mandatory overtime duties, more rules, fewer benefits, increased out-of-pocket costs, and the beginning phases of an ulcer.
You are the interim wedding planner (and sometimes the actual one), the bridesmaid troop leader, and the unofficial head of the anti-Bridezilla squad. It’s your job to be happy, relaxed, put a smile on your face and make someone else’s dreams come true.
Despite the downsides to being deemed the maid of mental stability, it is also your time to shine. Your bestie needs you now more than ever and I’ll be damned if I let one sprig of baby’s breath stand in my way of making sure she gets her fairytale wedding.
Instead of searching through a million Pinterest posts with enough burlap and lace to strangle a person, I’ve compiled the ULTIMATE checklist of everything you need to be the best damn maid of honor the wedding world has ever seen. You can thank me later.
MOH Duties Before the Wedding Day
Whether your bride sent you a text, wrote you a letter, or gave you a carrier pigeon with a roll of parchment tied to his talons, as soon as you know you’re the maid of honor, it’s time to get started on your official duties.
1. Know your place and make it shine
When my last girlfriend got engaged it was ALL. SHE. TALKED. ABOUT. I literally had to sit on my hands to keep from strangling her over the 42nd use of words like “linens” and “etiquette.”
Rather than resorting to physical violence or throwing up in your mouth, use her initial enthusiasm to get your rules out on the table right away.
For some brides, the maid of honor is basically the wedding planner. For others, it’s more of a figurehead position to let the guests know you’re her bestie. Ask her upfront what tasks she’d like you to handle and how involved she wants you to be.
If your bride isn’t sure how things are going to go, simply be there to listen to ideas, and provide suggestions and advice.
2. Talk to her mom
If you’ve known your bride since her days of overalls and hair scrunchies, you probably know her parents (or at least remember what they look like). It’s always helpful to find a moment to pull them aside, send a quick email, or take her mom out for coffee to make sure tasks are delegated so you’re not stepping on toes.
If you met during your sorority days and you’ve never met her parents, send them a quick email with your contact info and let them know you’re ready to help. This creates a foundation for “Team Bride” and lets them know who you are and how to get ahold of you throughout the wedding planning process.
3. Rally the bridesmaids
As maid of honor, part of your duties is a pep rally leader/mediator/fashion consultant/therapist for all of the other bridesmaids. (Sounds like fun, right?)
Although you may not know all these women, and will likely never see them again in your life, it’s a great time to invite perfect strangers to lunch or out for coffee so everyone can be fake-nice and get acquainted with small talk pre-wedding.
This is a great way to get to know each other, see who’s interested in helping with the bridal shower or bachelorette party, and share important information like who won’t wear an A-line skirt, who’s vegan, and who refuses to accept any color that’s not black.
4. Tell her she’s pretty
Most brides will ask you and a few other select friends and family to come with her to try on wedding dresses. This group torture shopping ritual is a time-honored tradition.
Despite what you think, your job here is to ooh and aww and tell her that she looks beautiful. She doesn’t actually care what your real opinion is, she just wants you to tell her that she’s pretty, so do that and you’ll be fine.
5. Be the bridesmaid style guru
Of course, the bride is allowed to just pick a dress for you and have it shipped to your house, but if you’re lucky enough to have a bride who welcomes your input on the bridesmaid dresses, speak up or forever hold your peace.
This is your time to avoid having to wear coral taffeta or a strapless tube dress at the ceremony. Instead, come to the table ready with several bridesmaid options you DO love, and help the bride choose something that works for everyone.
We have gathered a list of horrible bridesmaid dresses, including the worst hair and makeup to give you hope that this wedding won’t be that bad.
6. Listen to her bitch
Part of your official maid of honor duties is going to include letting the bride vent about her future mother-in-law, her groom’s annoying habits, or the vendors that are “impossible”.
When she calls you, grab a bottle of wine and put on your listening ears because it might be a really long night. Encourage her to take a break from wedding planning occasionally and have a little fun together to de-stress and forget about tulle and bustles. Go make fun of the schmucks on this season of the Bachelorette.
7. Party planning!
This is finally the fun (and expensive) duties of being the maid of honor.
Traditionally, there are two separate parties for every bride. The bridal shower is where she gets Tupperware and mixing bowls from great Aunt Gladys. The bachelorette party is where the real fun happens and she does her best not to cheat on her fiancé.
The two are both completely fun and yes, both are necessary.
Bridal Shower: In most modern weddings, a family member will offer to host/plan the bridal shower. Let them, but that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook.
If you’re stuck with it, DIY the hell out of that party and save some money. You’ll end up paying a bunch out of pocket out of the goodness of your heart, ya sap. Offer your time in setup, cleanup, and coordinating, but keep those purse strings closed so you can spoil her with strippers instead.
Bachelorette Party: This is where the real party happens. Coordinate with the other bridesmaids who you are now in a text group with because you had coffee that one time.
Ask (politely) for the bridesmaids to donate to the cost of the bachelorette party and make it truly something amazing for your bride.
You can go all out with a destination bachelorette party, an elegant night at a five-star hotel, or a crazed night on the town with half-dressed men. The possibilities are literally endless. Just do your best to make sure she doesn’t wake up the next morning with regrets.
Start planning early so you have money contributed before you have to put the deposit down on the strippers. Just sayin’.
8. Buy her presents
If you didn’t think you could put a price on friendship, you’re about to put that theory to the test. You should plan to give a gift for the bridal shower and the wedding.
Too bad this second job pays crap, right?
There are no rules as to how much to spend, so think of something sentimental instead of just expensive or consider a group bridesmaid gift to spread the cost.
9. Jump on the vendor bandwagon
Remember how I said being the maid of honor is basically another full-time job? Well, get ready to throw in some overtime because your schedule just filled up.
You now have appointments you didn’t even know existed like “flower coordination updating” and “paper selection processing.” (I don’t make this shit up.)
No matter how ridiculous the appointment sounds, you better show up otherwise you should just drop your maid of honor title right now. But there’s at least one appointment with free cake, so power through.
10. Find your inner Martha Stewart
You could probably decorate a small island with the amount of décor used for the average wedding.
Even if your bride isn’t the crafty-type, you’ll likely get stuck creating hundreds of tiny wedding favors, making 16 centerpieces or folding hundreds of paper cranes for the ceremony backdrop of her dreams.
To avoid being chained to a hot glue gun for months, help the bride find décor that works as double duty. Something you can make for the shower and reuse at the reception.
Create a Pinterest board together to get on the same page and have exact plans for what you want to DIY and what you know damn well you can’t make yourself.
11. Seating arrangements
Writing out place cards will likely fall in your lovely little DIY lap. Grab a Netflix marathon and some Aleve because we’re going to be here for a while.
Brightside, it can be kind of fun to put the groom’s ex-girlfriend in the back corner of the room with a weird cousin and put the bride’s ex closer up to show him exactly what he lost.
12. Get everyone there
Make sure the bride has a ride on her wedding day. And what about the parents and the other bridesmaids? Know the timeline and keep track of getting everyone there.
Does anyone need a ride from the ceremony to the reception? What about the clothes you showed up in? Who’s taking care of the bride’s PJs? When is the hotel checkout?
Coordinate travel arrangements and timelines for the entire day so everyone actually shows up at the right place at the right time.
Wedding Day Responsibilities for the Maid of Honor
This brings us (finally) to the magical day, the moment we’ve all been waiting for – celebrating the happy couple and getting drunk with all your friends.
Luckily, by the time the vows are actually said, your duties are almost complete. But don’t worry – there’s still plenty to do until then.
13. Be prepared
Remember the scene in Lion King where Scar is singing about being prepared? That’s your job today, but without the smoke and hyenas.
Throughout the wedding planning process, keep a running checklist on your phone of things to remember. That way, when everyone is stressed out or crying, you’ve got the little things covered.
Commonly forgotten things to remember include:
- Toasting Flutes
- Registry book to the venue (and pens!)
- Seating cards
It’s also helpful to come with an emergency kit of things your bride might need such as:
- Safety pins and fashion tape for wardrobe malfunctions
- Band-Aid and pain relievers for blisters and headaches
- Shout Wipes for on-the-go spot removers
- Bobby pins and hairspray
- All the makeup, because heaven forbid an eyeliner wing needs adjusting
- Scissors (no running)
- Mints, just in case you’re nauseous by the end of the day.
- Blowdryer – the Swiss Army Knife of wedding prep for hair touch-ups, nail drying, water spills, etc.
14. Get dressed
Getting dressed on the wedding day is a mixture of a teenage girl slumber party and a coronation ceremony, but with mimosas.
Come prepared to help relax the bride and get everyone excited. There’s probably even a Pandora station specifically for bridesmaids or something you can find. Bring a stash of favorite snacks, magazines, and plenty of drinks. With one hairdresser and six bridesmaids, you’ll end up with some time on your hands.
The bride should have her own glam squad for hair and makeup, but make sure she has everything she needs laying out in advance including undergarments and jewelry so there are no surprises and you don’t realize she doesn’t have the right bra while you’re trying to getting a nervous woman into possibly the most expensive, elaborate dress she’ll wear in her life.
15. Stay available
Stay within arm’s reach throughout the day. You’re the one she’ll turn to when she needs a bobby pin, a tissue, a potty break, or a cocktail. Don’t be wandering around the grounds looking for a good lookin’ groomsman.
That’s what the after-party is for.
16. Manage her social media
One of the best ways for a bride to relax is to unplug, but of course, the wedding day must be documented. Heaven forbid Twitter be silenced!
Be in charge of the bride’s phone on the wedding day. This helps her to lower her stress while still capturing behind the scenes shots of everything from the moment you slip on your dress to the champagne toasts.
If she wants you to post, you can take over social media with the hashtag #MOH. Otherwise, just take the pics and allow her to post them later.
17. Patrol the eating….and drinking
Avoid a hangry bride or stumbling bridesmaids. Make sure everyone eats something and nobody sticks to a champagne-only diet.
For the bride, make sure she eats something for breakfast and have a few of her fav snacks or treats on hand to give her sustenance throughout the day. No one wants an alcohol police at a party with free booze, but keep the bridesmaids under control to avoid anyone passing out on the dance floor.
18. Keep things running smoothly
In a perfect world, the wedding planner is in charge of managing vendors, dealing with emergencies, and keeping things on schedule. In the real world, we’re all too broke to afford one of those so the job is now yours.
Bust out your Bluetooth earpiece and call yourself J-Lo.
Keep your eye on the clock and know what is supposed to happen when, so you can gently remind the bride that her limo is leaving in 10 minutes and the bridesmaids need to do less chatting and more moving.
Have a list of all the vendors and their contact information so you know who to call is the cake doesn’t show up or the DJ is late.
Maybe Matthew McConaughey will show up at the end, but don’t get your hopes up. (If he does, call me.)
19. Walk down the aisle
Enjoy your 15 seconds of fame. Don’t over think it and for heaven’s sake leave your phone in the bridal suite.
20. Know your ceremony duties
There are different vibes for different brides, so know what your lady wants you to do at the end of the aisle. She may want you to arrange her train and veil so she’s picture perfect. Maybe she’ll ask you to hold her bouquet or keep the groom’s ring until it’s time. Sometimes you may be asked to sign the marriage license as a witness right after the ceremony. (Try to look a little happier than me.)
Know what your job(s) are ahead of time so you’re not whispering obnoxiously or getting in the way on the most important moment of the most important day of her life. No pressure.
21. Enter the reception and be awesome
If the members of the wedding party are being introduced by the emcee, you’ll enter with the best man. Of course, whether or not you choose to do a silly dance or funny entrance is your choice, but if you don’t you’re a disgrace to fun weddings everywhere.
Even if you’re freakishly shy, coordinate with the best man to make your entrance second best (you can’t one-up the bride).
22. The toast: AKA your time to shine
The toasts are like the State of the Union for weddings. Needless to say, it can be a daunting task, but it is a time-honored tradition and it must be done. And it must be amazing.
Simply put: Rock your reception speech (and don’t wing it).
Not sure where to start?
- Tell the crowd who you are and how you know the bride.
- Express your excitement and gratitude at being a part of her big day.
- Tell a favorite memory or sentiment that everyone can enjoy (avoid self-deprecating, stories of ex-boyfriends, embarrassing moments, or X-rated anecdotes).
- Include the groom by telling about when you first met him or how you got to know him, give a glimpse into the romance from your point of view.
- Offer encouragement or advice for the future.
- Express love and conclude with the standard raising of the glass.
Oh, and don’t pee your pants.
Put your nerves to rest by practicing your speech in front of others before the big day. If you need to, have a glass of champagne to relax, but put down the bottle of tequila, no one needs to see the show of the inebriated maid of honor.
23. Work the party
Is the dance floor empty? Get out there and bust a move.
Is it time for the bouquet toss? Corral the guests where they need to be.
Is Great Aunt Gladys dominating the bride’s time with tales of the great depression? Introduce her to other bridesmaids to keep her occupied.
Work that party to keep everyone happy. Check in on the bride from time to time to make sure she’s not thirsty, starving or needs to pee.
Responsibilities After the Reception
All of that time and effort has finally paid off and the happy couple is on their way (hopefully without the cans dangling off of the car, I hear that’s a fire hazard).
In spite of your partially (or completely) drunken state, there are a few odds and ends you should probably keep in mind.
24. Pack it up
When the party’s over, (AKA the champagne is gone), help the bride change out of her dress into her going-away outfit. Gather the dress and accessories for cleaning and safe-keeping until she returns and make sure that gifts and cards are taken care of and collected in one place.
25. Say no to sparklers
There’s nothing that says “Congratulations” to a newly married couple like a scorched bridesmaid dress and a burnt eyeball.
Giving drunk people explosives is not a good way to end the night. Try something safer like bubbles or confetti.
Despite the carpal tunnel from handwriting tiny seating cards, the hot glue burns from creating handmade flower petals from burlap, and the blisters on your feet from 12 hours in heels, being a maid of honor is truly an honor. It can be exciting, rewarding, and a whole lot of fun.
After her wedding day, she might no longer in the same world of frat parties, club hopping, or the Sunday morning walk of shame, but I can guarantee you’ve got yourself a right-hand bitch for life. And I know you wouldn’t have it any other way.