How to :: be a Maid of Honor

It’s one thing to be a friend, another thing to be a sister, but fulfilling the expectations of a maid of honor takes the title of kindred spirit to a whole new level.  Every little girl dreams of her wedding day but rarely does she dream of all the time and exhaustion that comes with it.  The following tips will help to minimize stress for both the bride and yourself, while creating positive memories along the way.

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Celebrate.

The man of her dreams has just proposed to her.  At this point you may or may not know if you are the maid of honor, but you do know that she’s your close friend.  She’s glowing and reveling in her new title of “fiancé.”  This is your opportunity to be by her side and share in her excitement.  Throw her a party, gawk at her ring; bring her magazines to peruse and chick flicks to watch.  Be excited!  No one wants to have a killjoy for a friend, much less for a maid of honor.

Get organized.

One of the most overlooked, yet most important parts of planning a wedding is taking the time to get organized right away.  Buy the bride a binder.  Create an easy-to-use system with sections and labels.  It may not seem that important at first, but you will find it will save you hours of frustration if you just take care of it right off the bat.

Talk Responsibilities.

To save yourself and the bride from awkward moments down the road, ask what her expectations are for you.  It’s possible that she may not need you to be by her side at all times, but you should be prepared to dedicate as much time as she needs.  Some things that the typical maid of honor is responsible for include:

-Organizing Bridal Showers
-Organizing the Bachelorette Party
-Helping shop for the dress
-Helping create, stuff or address Save the Dates and Invitations

Every bride is different, so never assume the answer, always ask.

Be Accessible.

With the way we keep our cell phones close by at all times, this may seem superfluous, but throughout the months before the big day it is essential for the bride to have quick and direct access to you, your support and your opinions at all times.  This is especially important the week and day of the wedding to ensure a relaxed and enjoyable experience.

Honor the Groom and Mother of the Bride.

Despite what the movies depict, not every groom is void of opinions when it comes to the wedding day.  After all, it is his wedding too!  Give the groom the opportunity to be involved and to help make decisions.  If he’s not interested, at least you have respected him by asking.  The same goes for the mother of the bride.  Give her a quick phone call early on to make sure that you don’t overstep any boundaries.  This is her little girl and she will likely want to be involved as well.

Be Selfless: Don’t add the zilla to bride.

The bride has asked you to bring your relationship to a new level.  She has hundreds of details to keep track of and hundreds of decisions to make.  Your job is to make her day as stress-free and smooth as possible.  This is her wedding; so as you help her plan, remember that it doesn’t matter if you don’t like her colors or if the bridesmaid dress makes you look fat.  What matters is that she looks beautiful and that she has the experience of a lifetime.  It will almost certainly drive her crazy if you make everything about you and disregard her desires and feelings.  She is honoring your friendship by including you in this way, so honor her by forgetting yourself and focusing on her.

Learn Her Style.

It’s likely that as the bride’s close friend you already know her wardrobe and her stylistic choices and this is your chance to utilize that information.  Keep her past decisions and preferences in mind as you help look for dresses, decorations, etc.  As you do this try not to take it personally when she rejects ideas.  It’s not worth your time to let your feelings get hurt.  It can’t be said enough: It is, after all, her wedding.

Be Honest.

The bride has asked you to follow closely with her as she plans one of the most important days of her life.  There are some times when a woman just needs to know the truth about how a dress makes her look.  You, as her friend are the only one in that moment who can tell her the truth in love.  So as painful as it may be, it’s your responsibility to tactfully do so.

Save Up.

Surprise! The title maid of honor costs money!  Rarely does one anticipate emptying their savings to be a maid of honor, but if you’re not careful, you might.  As with everything, there are great ways to be frugal and still create a great party, but you also don’t want to skimp on your friend.
Some costs you can expect:

-Bridal Shower/Bachelorette Party invitations
-Bridal Shower/Bachelorette Party decorations
-Bridal Shower/Bachelorette Party favors
-Bridal Shower/Bachelorette Party gift for the Bride
-Bridal Shower refreshments
-Bridesmaid dress, shoes, and accessories

Don’t be afraid to ask for help from the other bridesmaids and friends.  Often times everyone will pay for her own meal/drinks if you go out for the bachelorette party.  Chances are you’ll find plenty of people who would love to pitch in for additional costs and it doesn’t hurt to ask!

Delegate.

Even though responsibilities are delegated to you from the bride, there may be so many that you, too, have to delegate to the other bridesmaids or family members.  As was stated above, there are often plenty of friends and family members who would love to help out.  Part of eliminating stress for the bride involves eliminating stress for yourself.  It’s not selfish; it’s just plain smart.

Pay Attention to Detail.

Possibly the most intimidating factor of planning a wedding is the tremendous amount of details to cover.  Keep track of everything.  Utilize the organization you set in place at the beginning throughout the entire process.  Think Santa Claus; keep your list and check it twice.

Be Considerate.

It is your duty as maid of honor to plan the bride’s bachelorette party.  This topic could be its own “how-to article,” but for now following these general guidelines will give you a great start!  The bachelorette party could either be a fantastic success or an epic disaster.  Whatever you do, don’t overwhelm her with embarrassment.  As with everything, every bride is different but you know her limits and you should keep to them.  Don’t add to the hundreds of horror stories marked by disastrous embarrassment, but at the same time make sure it’s a good time!  Once you have decided how crazy or conservative the bride is, browse the Internet, talk to experienced friends and get creative with your ideas!  Here are just a few unique bachelorette party ideas: Paint your own pottery, Pick apples in an orchard and make caramel apples, Pick and carve pumpkins, Take the bride shopping for lingerie, or have a scavenger hunt.  Not every bachelorette party has to have a male stripper or the overdone game where you dress the bride up in a toilet paper wedding gown.  The alternative options are endless.

Have Fun.

You may be feeling slightly overwhelmed at this point, but be encouraged!  If you stay organized and follow these guidelines you are much more likely to have fun along the way.  Remind yourself (and the bride!) to take a deep breath every once in a while.  Remember, there’s a reason she picked you; you are the only one she could imagine sharing this experience with, so take it all in and have a good time!

Now that you have a good idea of what you’ll be dealing with, find encouragement in a few success stories from my wonderful 2012 Brides about their experience:

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Chelsea

“The best part about having a maid of honor is the constant support and encouragement.  I had 2 maids of honor, therefore I had double the attention to detail, double the showers, and double the blessing of their prayers.  Both of the girls lived quite a distance from me, even so they would check-in quite often just to see if I needed anything.  They helped me to collect décor, which was wonderful.  It was lovely to know that I wasn’t the only one looking for a zillion vintage dishes or napkins or cute antiques. My maids of honor also helped us prepare for marriage, beyond the wedding. They gave great advice and loved us very well.  They also took the time to understand the vision of our wedding. I believe those were the most essential features of a truly helpful maid of honor. Who else would have known to pick up coffee while we’re getting ready!?! Or to plan perfectly fun games for the showers that also were dressed to the nines in our wedding colors? Or to be on the lookout for the ideal apothecary jars for desserts?  Or to pray for you every step of the way? Perfectly paired, best friends since we met, maid of honor, that’s who.”

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Emily

“My sister was my maid of honor and she did an awesome job! She was already married herself and had been in many friends’ weddings, so having a little extra experience in the wedding field was a plus! One thing that she did to make things so much easier was setting the dates for the wedding showers and bachelorette party far in advance so that people could make it. I feel that there is so much going on during the summer that friends and family get booked up fast so I really appreciated that. Another thing that she did was put an assortment of wine, cheese, crackers and other goodies in a basket in our getaway car to our hotel at the end of the night. This was such a great idea because you don’t realize how much talking and dancing you do on your wedding day and not a whole lot of eating so we ate it up!”

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Jonna

“My maid-of-honor was wonderful. At first, planning things may have been a little difficult considering I was in Iowa City, she was in Washington, DC, and the wedding was in Colorado. But, we made it work!  She planned the perfect Bachelorette Day: lunch at a surprise location with my wedding party and close friends where she gave each of us a DIY wedding day survival kit, followed by getting our nails done while enjoying champagne and delicious snacks. It was a great way to relax and spend quality time with my best girlfriends before the big day. She also surprised me with personalized koozies that night and all the staple bachelorette accessories: sash, big sunglasses, and of course, a neon pink boa. The day of the wedding, she made it her responsibility to make sure I ate. My stomach was doing innumerable somersaults and food was the last thing on my mind, but she forced me to eat lunch, so that I wouldn’t pass out during the ceremony. She was always looking out for my well-being. I put her in charge of helping to set up tables and organizing decorations beforehand. During the ceremony, she held my vows and tissues…two very important items!  All of these may seem insignificant, but they made our wedding weekend that much more enjoyable. She supported me, was happy for me, and was by my side the entire time. There’s nothing else I could have asked for!”

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Jaime

“My maid of honor was more than a helping hand during our wedding planning.  She was a best friend.  Her humble desire to serve my husband and I was such a blessing.  She planned a fun family bridal shower, a crazy adventurous bachelorette party, helped with all things on my to-do list, and shared so many memories with me.  I often forgot to ask for help during our planning process and it was so nice to have her check in to see how she could help.  It was obvious that the most important thing to her was my husband and my relationship during the process and not just the detail of how a centerpiece was going to look on the table.  I am so thankful for all the ways she loved me and served me.”

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Friends, fulfilling the role of Maid of Honor is quite the task, but it’s one you can totally do while maintaining your sanity and your beloved friendship!  If you’ve seen the movie Bridesmaids….forget everything you saw…right now. ;)  It’s a terrible representation of what this wonderful time in your friendship should be like.  Feel free to comment with questions or more insight below and share the love! :)

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