Pretty Zen Hen
November 8, 2020

Congrats, you’ve been asked by one of your closest friends to be her bridesmaid! Or perhaps your sister or bestie has asked you to be her maid of honour. Whichever it is, it’s a big deal and an absolute honour to stand by the bride not only on her big day, but also throughout her engagement. But what is the difference between a maid of honour and bridesmaid? What exactly is expected of you for each of these roles? Let us fill you in…

What is the role of a maid of honour?

The bride’s leading lady

The bride’s leading lady and right-hand woman. That’s you! From the moment she gets engaged you are her PA and confidante, and your primary purpose is to assist in reducing stress and providing emotional support for the bride. You may be her sister or best friend and she has chosen you as her maid of honour because she trusts you like no one else. She knows she can rely on you one hundred percent and you will be there for her when she needs a second opinion, an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on. You will be her shining light and positive influence throughout her wedding journey.

Chief bridesmaid wrangler

A big part of your job as maid of honour is keeping the bride’s girl gang in order. The larger the bridal party, the more difficult this task can be. You need to ensure the bridesmaids know about any appointments and dress fittings they need to attend and basically tell them where they need to be at what time. You also need to delegate any tasks that you or the bride need help with, in the lead up to the wedding and on the day itself.

Sometimes issues amongst the girls arise and ideally you should attempt to diffuse any concerns before they get to the bride. Wedding planning is stressful enough without worrying about a bridesmaid who would prefer to wear blush pink over dusty rose. Make group chat your mode of communication with the rest of the bride tribe to make your interactions quicker and smoother.

Before the big day

Throughout the bride’s engagement you will be helping her tick off that to-do list. Don’t worry, there are some fun tasks for you to complete! You need to organise and host the bridal shower and/or hens party. If you have a team of bridesmaids, this is the perfect opportunity to delegate some tasks to them. Download out free hens party planning starter kit below to save you a heap of time and kickstart organising an amazing event. You should also make sure you are aware of any other pre-wedding events such as the engagement party and any wedding rehearsals so you can clear your calendar.

You will likely be asked to attend some appointments, most importantly to help choose the bride’s dress. It goes without saying that you should refrain from critical comments and instead offer support, encouragement and helpful suggestions when it comes to her dress selection. Make sure you attend the final fitting so you can receive some direction from the dressmaker regarding how to fluff and then bustle her train.

Along with the other bridesmaids you can pull together a shortlist of potential bridesmaid dresses, shoes, accessories and hair and makeup styles. Check in with the bride-to-be first so she can give you any preferences such as dress colour and length and whether she wants you all matching or loves the mismatched look.

On the day details

You will generally spend the night with the bride before her special day and ensure she gets a good night’s sleep. Easier said than done! You will be there in the morning to make sure she has breakfast and eats throughout the day. Keep an eye on the bride during the day and ensure she remains calm and ease any wedding day jitters. You will help her get dressed in that stunner of a gown you helped her pick out and make sure she is looking a million bucks.

It is a good idea to nominate yourself as the go-to person on the day and make your mobile number available to guests and event vendors. They can then approach you with questions and concerns rather than bothering the bride or groom. There will be a schedule that you need to stick to, and it is your job to make sure everyone is on track to get the bride to the ceremony on time. Request a run sheet from the bride and groom ahead of the day along with the contact details of key people and vendors.

At the ceremony, it is your job to take care of the groom’s ring and make your way down the aisle first, ahead of the bridesmaids and the bride. When the bride arrives at the altar you need to fluff her train so she is looking picture perfect and hold on to her bouquet as the couple say their vows. You may also be her witness and should make sure her hair and makeup is looking on point for photos.

You’re usually partnered with the best man and will be first in line behind the bride and groom as they enter the reception. Throughout the night you may be required for toilet duty if the bride’s dress is particularly tricky to move in. It’s your job to make a speech and toast the couple on behalf of the bridesmaids. You will need to grab the best man’s hand and be one of the first to hit the dance floor following the first dance. Finally, you may be required to collect gifts at the end of the night and ensure they find their way to the bride and groom.

But wait, what is a matron of honour?

If you’re married, you will be called a matron of honour rather than a maid of honour. Simple as that!

Maid of honour and bridesmaids sitting on bed drinking champagne

What is the role of a bridesmaid?

The girl gang

You make up the bride squad and you are there because the bride couldn’t imagine marrying the man of her dreams without you. You are likely one of her sisters or closest friends and mean the world to her. Like the maid of honour, you primary job is to provide emotional support to the bride and assist with any wedding-related tasks she may need a hand with.

Maid of honour’s army

It is basically your job to assist the maid of honour in anything she needs to make the bride’s wedding planning process as stress free as possible. You’ll be expected to attend some wedding-related appointments such as hunting down the perfect dress for the bride. You will also assist in finding the bridesmaids’ dresses and matching accessories generally after receiving some guidance from the bride.

Offer to help with other pre-wedding tasks, choosing something you’re good at and have the time to commit to. This could be as simple as finding where the bridal party will get their spray tans and nails done the week of the wedding or offering to stuff envelopes and address the invitations. You can also help the maid of honour to plan the hens party and/or bridal shower helping to come up with a plan to wow the bride-to-be and completing tasks to ensure these events run smoothly.

Big day duties

On the big day it is your job to support the maid of honour in looking after the bride, ensuring she eats enough, drinks enough water (in between champagnes), always looks polished and calm her nerves when needed. If there is a flower girl or junior bridesmaid in the bridal party, take charge looking after her when she is away from her mum and make sure she gets down the aisle okay.

At the ceremony you will follow the maid of honour down the aisle and again into the reception. Be friendly and social by greeting guests at the reception and be one of the first to hit the dance floor to encourage the other guests to get up and join you. That’s right, getting the party started is on you!

Pinterest graphic with the title 'What is the difference between a maid of honour and bridesmaid?' overlaying a bride's dress

But what if there is no maid of honour (or even no bridal party)?

Sometimes the bride will choose not to elect a maid of honour or chief bridesmaid. If this is the case, the duties of both the bridesmaids and maid of honour may be shared between the girls in the bridal party. Other times there could be no bridal party or the bride will choose just one person to stand by her side on her big day. In these instances, the bride may call on her mum, sisters or friends to help out with tasks in the lead up to the wedding and on the day.  

Now that you know the key differences between the role of a maid of honour and bridesmaid, you are all set to support your best friend in one of the most significant times of her life. Remember, at the end of the day, it is up to the bride as to how much involvement she wants from her bridal party so just ask if you’re ever in doubt.

If planning the hens party is next on your list, read our blog Ten Steps to Planning the Perfect Hens Party and don’t forget to download our free hens party planning starter kit. This collection of handy resources will help you get the planning of this all-important event underway.

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