Your maid of honour is supposed to be the woman that you’re closest to - the one that you want standing next to you while you say your vows. Typically, the title is given to the bride’s sister, or her best friend.
Being asked to be a maid of honour is a great privilege, as it’s one of the most important titles in the wedding party. The maid of honour gets to sit at the top table during the wedding breakfast, and traditionally gives a speech afterwards.
The maid of honour is the bride’s right-hand woman: she helps the bride get dressed in the morning, holds her bouquet while she says her vows, and troubleshoots on the big day. It’s also the maid of honour’s job to plan the hen party, and keep the other bridesmaids organised.
If you’re finding it difficult to choose a maid of honour, read on. This guide will talk you through your options.
Help! I Can’t Pick a Maid of Honour
It’s very common for a bride to struggle with choosing a maid of honour. Often, a bride will have more than one sister, and won’t want to ‘play favourites’ - or else she will be unable to pick between her sister and her closest friend. She might even have two best friends whom she loves equally.
Often, forcing yourself to choose a maid of honour in such a situation can create unwanted drama and awkwardness. Wedding planning is stressful enough without having to deal with the hurt feelings of whomever you didn’t choose. So, what should you do?
Whatever you do, don’t have your bridesmaids ‘compete’ for the title, or ask them to decide the title amongst themselves. That’s a recipe for disaster, and better suited to a sitcom than a real wedding!
Fortunately, there are many practical ways of getting around this conundrum. Here are some suggestions of what to do if you can’t pick a maid of honour.
Don’t Have a Maid of Honour
There’s no law stating that you have to have a maid of honour. In fact, you don’t necessarily need a wedding party at all. It’s quite common, at casual or small weddings, for there to be no maid of honour.
If you simply can’t choose between your sister and your best friend, or you just don’t want to cause drama by elevating one of your bridesmaids above the rest, there’s no need to. Simply call them all ‘bridesmaids’. If anyone asks you who the maid of honour is, be honest: you love them all equally and can’t possibly choose between them.
As for the maid of honour’s traditional duties, you could split them evenly between bridesmaids, or even assign them to someone else entirely (e.g. the mother of the bride).
Pick More than One Maid of Honour
Instead of picking just one maid of honour, why not have two or even three? Having multiple maids of honour may not be traditional, but there’s nothing stopping you from making this decision if it appeals to you. It might be a perfect solution if you’re struggling to choose between close friends or sisters, for example.
Letting two or more women be your collective ‘maids of honour’ will avoid any tension that may have arisen if you’d had to choose between them. They’ll know you care about them both equally. This also means they’ll be able to share the maid of honour duties between them - which they may appreciate, rather than one person having to do it all herself.
Have a ‘Man of Honour’ Instead
If you’re struggling to decide on a maid of honour, but there’s a man (other than your fiance, of course) whom you’re particularly close to, you could always opt to have a ‘man of honour’ instead. This is a new title that is becoming more and more popular in modern weddings.
For example, if you have a brother but no sisters, or a close male cousin that you want to involve in the wedding, this would be the perfect role for him. Or if you have a male best friend, designate him as the man of honour. Either way, it eliminates the quandary of having to choose between your girlfriends if you’re equally close to them all.
Use Different Titles Altogether
If you don’t fancy having multiple maids of honour, but you want to acknowledge each of your bridesmaids in their own special way, why not make up different titles and roles for them? Though it may have raised eyebrows once upon a time, anything goes in a modern wedding.
For instance, you could have one ‘maid of honour’, one ‘chief bridesmaid’, and a ‘best woman’. Give them each distinct roles so that they all feel special. As an example, the chief bridesmaid could organise the hen party, the maid of honour might help you get dressed on the morning of the wedding, and the best woman could bear the rings or hold your bouquet while you’re saying your vows.
If you’re feeling especially adventurous, there’s no need to use the term ‘bridesmaids’ at all. Have ‘bride’s attendants’ or ‘ladies in waiting’ instead.
Does a Maid of Honour Have to Be Single?
Traditionally, the bridesmaids and maid of honour are all meant to be unmarried women of marriageable age. This is why the term ‘maid’ is used, after all - a maid (short for maiden) is a girl or young woman who has never been married.
In the past, weddings were seen as an ideal time for eligible young women to present themselves, so that they might find a suitor. It was seen as bad luck for a person to be a bridesmaid (or maid of honour) more than twice: that’s where the saying “three times a bridesmaid, never a bride” originated.
Of course, modern weddings often deviate from tradition, and that’s absolutely fine. Nowadays, married women are often chosen to be bridesmaids and maids of honour. So, if your sister or best friend is already married, don’t let this put you off including her in your wedding party - nobody will mind.
Technically, if your maid of honour is married, she should be called a ‘matron of honour’ (‘matron’ is an old-fashioned term for a married woman). However, the term ‘matron’ can sometimes have negative connotations, so it’s fine to call her your ‘maid of honour’ even if she’s married.
Maid of Honour vs. Chief Bridesmaid: What’s the Difference?
There’s no difference between a maid of honour and a chief bridesmaid. The two terms refer to the same person - the most important bridesmaid, whose job it is to organise the other bridesmaids, assist the bride, and spearhead the hen party.
‘Maid of honour’ was traditionally a term used in the U.S., whereas ‘chief bridesmaid’ was always favoured in the U.K. However, the term ‘maid of honour’ has become more and more popular in the U.K. in recent years (as have several other American traditions, such as having the bridesmaids walk down the aisle before the bride). You can choose which term you would prefer to use at your own wedding.