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Wedding Wednesday – Who Is The Maid of Honor?

What is the etiquette on choosing a maid/matron of honor? I was always under the impression that the honor attendant is the bride’s best friend, but my sister and my mother insist that best friends are only honor attendants if the bride has no sisters. (This is in the context of my still-mostly-hypothetical wedding: my sister has essentially “called” being my maid of honor and gets upset if I say that I’m unsure who it will be. I’m not even properly engaged yet!) 0331-17

Your sister and Mom are wrong.   A bride’s maid of honor can be whomever she chooses it to be.

To be honest, after years of coordinating weddings, my advice is to have no attendants at all.   Cuts down on the drama and expenses considerably.

{ 37 comments }

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  • lkb June 27, 2018, 7:21 am

    While it is the bride’s choice (and not worth stewing over for a hypothetical wedding as in the OP), it’s a big choice that does have consequences. Growing up in a household with only one other sibling, I would have been very hurt if I had not been my sister’s matron of honor. She would have felt the same if she was not my maid of honor. We are now at the point of life in which we are the only ones left of our family, so I’m glad we stuck together despite our differences (and we are very different in many ways).

    (Also, in many ceremonies, attendants are requiredwith the honor attendants intended to be the official witnesses to a ceremony. In our Catholic wedding, the maid of honor and the best man were our witnesses, signing the marriage license.)

    There are two people from our wedding party who we are no longer in touch with because of painful life circumstances. It stings to know those connections are lost but it would have been even worse if either of those had been our maid of honor or best man.

    • flora June 27, 2018, 8:40 am

      Perhaps, but not everyone is close to their siblings. And even if they are close, that does not mean he/she would be a good choice for the wedding party. My sister is 12 years younger then me and we’re not excatly close. I had her as a bridesmaid but not my maid of honor. And, even if I wasn’t living out of state I’d be surprised if she chose me over her best friend of 20 years as her maid of honor.
      That said, this is 2018. I don’t see why people can’t change it up and get creative. You could chose to have 0 attendents as the Ehelldame suggested. You could chose both sister and BFF as your people of honor, or have someone completely different. Heck, you could chose your best guy friend, it’s up to you when the time comes!

      • EchoGirl July 1, 2018, 12:40 am

        ” even if they are close, that does not mean he/she would be a good choice for the wedding party”

        This one is huge. My BF and I aren’t “formally” engaged, but we’ve discussed marriage and weddings, and one of the things he’s said is that he’d choose his best friend as best man over his brother, even though they’re relatively close, in large part because his brother would probably hate being Best Man (he’s very shy and doesn’t like being the center of attention). Every dynamic is different because every person is different, and most people have some understanding of their family’s dynamic when they make these choices.

    • Kimberly June 27, 2018, 10:43 am

      I am very close to my sister and was so happy that she had someone else be be the maid of honor. The only drama was when some of Sis’s university friends thought the MOH and HS friends were being mean leaving me out of some of the festivities. A cousin stepped in and explained that if I had been asked, I would have put on a brave face and joined them. I would have been miserable in the bars, and due to medical conditions unable to participate in most of the spa day stuff. We long ago figured out that equal and fair can often be different things.

  • staceyizme June 27, 2018, 7:25 am

    I can see why a sister might wish to be your maid or matron of honor. But your mother and sister are trying to force the decision in favor of their own wishes. Since you aren’t even engaged, you don’t have to answer. The attitude they are displaying is useful information about the likely difficulties ahead for you dealing with them in planning your wedding. Put them on an information diet of “need to know”. And maybe plan/ pay for your event so that you avoid the worst of the potential pitfalls?

  • viviennebzb June 27, 2018, 7:27 am

    Your sister is confused and mistaken. An honor coerced is no honor. Sister gets to make this choice for her own nuptials, no one else’s. Start polishing that spine, OP, this is one of the first of many tests.

  • Vicki June 27, 2018, 7:38 am

    lkb: if you’re close to your siblings, it’s natural to want them to be in your wedding party. If you’re not, using a wedding to force a performance of intimacy at a stressful time is unlikely to help.

    Sometimes painful life circumstances come between people and their siblings, parents, or other close relatives. Having “Mary, who unfortunately I no longer speak to” in your wedding photos wouldn’t be improved by it being “my sister Mary, who unfortunately I no longer speak to” instead of, say, “my college roommate, Mary.”

    • lkb June 27, 2018, 8:58 am

      Agreed, absolutely. I only meant to say that decisions like this can be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. In my particular culture, it is rather expected that an only sibling get the Honor Attendant role. No, it’s not written in stone but deciding to go outside the family would be rather looked askance.

  • Meredithwiggle June 27, 2018, 8:12 am

    In my husband’s and my wedding, 6.5 years ago, we each had four attendants. My bridesmaids were my two sisters and my sister-in-law, and my maid of honor was my college best friend. My older sister and sister-in-law both had very small children, and my younger sister was going to school out of state, so it made sense to me (and to them) for my good friend to be my maid of honor, especially as she had introduced me to my husband, and we were part of the same college-age social circles. No hurt feelings. My husband has one brother, but they aren’t close- his brother was one of his groomsmen but his best man was also his best friend and roommate from college and grad school. When my younger sister got married, I wasn’t able to attend her wedding since I was almost ready to give birth and not able to travel by plane, and one of her college friends was her maid of honor. Again, no hurt feelings. I honestly think that when there’s drama over wedding attendants, it’s really just that the wedding is bringing to the surface tensions,immaturities, and unreasonable expectations that have been there all along in the various relationships and people involved.

  • ladyv21454 June 27, 2018, 8:28 am

    The maid/matron of honor should be the person that the bride is closest to. If that happens to be a sister, that’s greatl However, not every woman has a wonderful relationship with her sisters, and it would be crazy for such women to choose a sibling over a friend who has been with her through thick and thin. I hate the whole idea of “they’re FAMILY, they have to be in the wedding party”. When my oldest cousin got married, his fiancee asked me to be a bridesmaid. The first thing I did was to ask if she really wanted me in the wedding party, or was asking because I was the closest female relative in my cousin’s generation. She made it very clear that she considered me a good friend and really wanted me. Had she not asked, I would not have been hurt or offended.

  • Emma June 27, 2018, 8:31 am

    I’d stick to a simple “actually, I’m not going to decide on that until I’m engaged” whenever someone inserts themselves into the role. You may pick her when the time comes, you may not!

    I’ve heard that before, though, that siblings should come first. I have a friend that dutifully selected her sister based on this rule when she really had no desire or interest to tackle the role. I was one of many bridesmaids– we all became MOH’s in one way or another for that wedding to compensate for that poor choice. So ultimately I side with admin.

  • Lori June 27, 2018, 8:54 am

    My worry is, if mom and sis are already telling the future bride what to do; that doesn’t bode well for any other wedding plans.
    Are they gonna hijack more stuff? Tell the bride where she had to get married? Her colors?

    Bride to be, stand your ground..if you don’t stand up for yourself now you may as well hand the planner book to mom and sis and say “tell me what date, where to be and what time”

    …..ask me how I know about this….
    My mom…40 years ago…I was 19 and didn’t have the voice to tell her to back off..

    • doodlemor June 27, 2018, 12:34 pm

      I came here to basically say this. It sounds to me like the MOB really intends to be the arbiter of the wedding.

      If you want things to go your way, OP, you may need to pay it all yourselves, or to elope.

      My mother had the chutzpah to tell a close relative that she was going to be my MOH many years ago. I had already asked a college friend, and my mother had to back track. My mother was difficult about this, but finally owned up.

  • theLadyBugg June 27, 2018, 9:28 am

    That’s a bizarre assertion. While it’s certainly common in my (Irish Catholic) family to include siblings as attendants, nobody assumes they’re in anyone else’s wedding at all until asked. With my parents’ generation there were so many siblings that asking them all to be attendants would be utterly ridiculous. In my case, I was and am relieved and thankful that my close friend of 13 years agreed to be my MOH so I wouldn’t have to choose between sisters.

  • JD June 27, 2018, 9:33 am

    OP, I would keep reminding them, first, that you aren’t yet actually planning a wedding. This could be tough, but if you really want a friend in that position, you should do so. But there is no rule on the choice — it can be whomever you want, friend, family, or no one. One of my sisters had a friend as her maid of honor, a sister as bridesmaid, and a sister and cousin just light the candles at the altar. Others have had a matron and maid of honor, so that both a sibling and a friend are honored. So don’t worry about the rule. Plan now on dealing with your pushy family, because this may become an issue, I’m afraid.
    When one of my daughters got married, she had a very small circle of close friends. She chose her sister, the groom’s sister and a friend to be her MOH and bridesmaids. Her more social groom had eight of his lifelong friends stand up with him, including his brother as best man. People may have thought it was weird, but everyone in the bridal party had fun, and it was a joyful, happy wedding. Choose your attendants out of affection, not because of any rules.

    • ladyv21454 June 27, 2018, 3:07 pm

      Good for your daughter for not adhering to the whole “but the numbers have to be even!” theory of wedding parties. As you said, you choose your attendants out of affection – and if that breaks the “rules” (most of which people have made up out of whole cloth anyhow), too darned bad.

  • Lyn June 27, 2018, 9:44 am

    My brothers are 18 and 20 years older than me. I grew up with my older brother’s kids. My nieces and nephews were (are) like brothers and sisters to me. When I got married (25 years ago!) my nieces were both attendants, but my matron of honor was my best friend (who is still my best friend). One of my nieces got married in a normal ceremony – I was an attendant (not the maid of honor, that was her sister) and my other niece got married on the beach in Hawaii with no family in attendance at all (they planned it that way). No hard feelings anywhere that I am aware of.

  • lakey June 27, 2018, 10:54 am

    In my experience sisters are usually given a role as bridesmaid. I’ve never heard of an expectation that a sister is the maid of honor. The maid of honor was often a best friend, and a sister or sisters were bridesmaids.

    As someone else has commented, you can be creative. One solution would be to just have bridesmaids, with no one designated as maid of honor. Or you can pay for your own wedding and make your own choices. It’s your wedding. It really seems over the top for your mother and sister to be dictating to you before you’re even engaged. Get some preplanning in your head. You don’t need to discuss everything with them. When it comes time to share information, tell, don’t ask.

  • VickyJoJo June 27, 2018, 11:05 am

    The MOH should be whomever the bride chooses. I was the MOH for my college best friend – her 2 sisters were bridesmaids. She was my MOH (I have no siblings). My DH had 2 best men only – his brothers. He didn’t want to pick between the 2 (they did one speech together).

    It ultimately is up to the bride and groom as to whom they want to stand up for them. Just because there is a family relationship does not mean there is a closeness that justifies that position in the wedding party.

  • Bunny June 27, 2018, 11:11 am

    I have no siblings, husband (now ex) had one sister. I wanted my best friend since junior school to be my only attendant. Husband’s family were fairly put out that the sister wouldn’t be in the wedding. We compromised – my best friend was the MoH, SiL became a bridesmaid. Seemed to work as a reasonable compromise, but we were doing everything small so adding a second attendant to keep the peace didn’t feel like too big a deal.

    For now though, I’d follow the advice above to just deflect since it’s hypothetical, and gird your loins for a future fight.

    • TracyX June 28, 2018, 11:11 am

      I have a twin! I had the exact same situation. SIL claimed that family wouldn’t think she supported the wedding if she wasn’t in the wedding party. So she was a bridesmaid and my best friend was MoH. Husband only had a best man and he escorted them both down the aisle.

      I figured since I wasn’t buying the dress and SIL was going to be attending all the functions, etc anyway, it didn’t really change things in the grand scheme of it.

  • AFS June 27, 2018, 12:06 pm

    Other posters have hit the nail on the head that this is really a proxy battle for control. It may very well be that @OP’s mother and sister know deep down that @OP and sister are not close and are accordingly trying to stake out their claim, as it were. If sis and @OP are indeed close, then more power to her as MOB. But if not and she is the honor attendant, then you can bet that she’s going to try to make the wedding (and any pre-wedding events such as dress shopping, showers, bachelorette) all about her on some level.

    My idea is to have two MoHs. That way mom and sis can’t gripe, but another MoH can offset any sisterly narcissism.

  • Vanda June 27, 2018, 1:23 pm

    That’s what my fiance and I are doing! Zero attendants! It was either zero, or a large bridal party, and both of us want to keep it simple.
    For those thinking about doing that, but are worried about what people will say–I highly recommend it! No stress, and nobody has complained. Instead, there’s relief at not having to buy another gown/rent another tux.
    Choosing zero attendants also has the benefit of eliminating those type of arguments. If anybody does say anything, one possible response: Making choices between your nearest and dearest was too difficult, so you found another way to deal.

    • Ange June 27, 2018, 9:49 pm

      Same. I don’t regret it at all and used the exact same excuse: I didn’t want to rank my friends. Nobody was at all offended as far as I heard but even if they were it certainly wasn’t my problem.

  • ALM June 27, 2018, 2:59 pm

    My sister was showing me photos of her friend’s wedding and I commented that I wasn’t really into that sort of thing. She then asked/declared I would be her maid of honor in her wedding, wouldn’t I? Um, no. I told her AGAIN that I don’t enjoy that sort of thing and she could have a friend in that role. She was highly offended at my refusal. She wasn’t even dating anyone, much less engaged.

    No one is owed the role of wedding attendant. No one owes it to the happy couple to be an attendant.

    Frankly I think I dodged a bullet. My sister is very controlling and manipulative. Add in a role of happy bride on top of her personality and antagonistic relationship with me and the whole thing would be a recipe for disaster, but she loves drama. Personally I’d rather walk across hot coals or poke my eye with a stick than have her dictate what I’m wearing and be dragged through an etiquette minefield.

  • nora June 27, 2018, 6:09 pm

    My sisters are both considerably older than I am and were each other’s maids of honor. I got married later in life than most and I knew that neither of them were interested in being in my bridal party (both are parents with hectic full-time jobs), so I did them the favor of not putting that burden on them. It worked out well for all involved.

  • Ergala June 27, 2018, 6:22 pm

    My sister is my matron of honor. I did not ask my best friend to be an attendant because she can be very…..negative. When my fiance proposed we told her right after and she said “wow…Gratz?” Then made a comment about how her boyfriend of 5 years still hasn’t popped the question. No hugs no smiles…just negativity. I love her to death but I don’t want to be on eggshells on one of the happiest days of my life. It was a tough decision and I still haven’t told her. If I thought she would be happy on the big day I would ask her but I honestly don’t see that happening.

  • Princess Buttercup June 27, 2018, 6:54 pm

    When I got married my sister hinted at being my maid of honor, which I found astonishing. My sister and I at best coexisted. At worst she was abusive and envious of me.

    I more agree with admin, it’s a lot less stressful to have no attendants. At our wedding I had female best friend since we were in first grade (we don’t talk now because she still hasn’t grown up), male best friend of a few years (no where near as close because of different life choices), female good friend that I still talk with some.
    Hubby had male life long best friend (who doesn’t talk to him or care about him at all anymore), sister (they’ve always been close), and male best friend of many years (now only talks to him when he wants something from him).
    If we did it again, we probably ask one person each to stand with us if they really wanted to, but there would be a lot less importance put on it.

    • Princess Buttercup June 27, 2018, 6:57 pm

      Oh and that female good friend was supposed to have been a female best friend but she backed out two weeks before the wedding because she was being selfish. AKA drama.

  • MzLiz June 28, 2018, 11:57 am

    You also don’t have to have a Maid of Honour. The last time I was in a bridal party, the Bride didn’t anoint anybody as MOH & instead spread out the ‘jobs’ according to the skill-set of each attendant to what that individual person would enjoy doing. I’m not much for shopping or crafts so she had other ‘maids who do like those things help her with that, for example. My task was to assist with the family members on the day, make sure they had drinks/food/whatever, keep tabs on them so they didn’t wander off when they were needed for pictures, make introductions during the reception & have my Hubby dance with the Moms/Aunties cos he’s good like that. That suited me perfectly & the Bride’s Mum said she felt like a rock star with all the personal attention. Bride had the ‘maids & groomsmen arranged by height at the top of the aisle & walked up with only her Dad. Worked great! If you’d like attendants but worry they’ll fight over titles, your explanation could be that you don’t wish to over-burden any one person so you’re not going to make anyone MOH.

    Having said that, I’d go even further than Admin & say I’m an advocate for ‘disclosed eloping’ 😉 That’s what Hubs & I did. We preferred a small wedding & since we didn’t want to pick & choose, we included everyone by excluding everyone. Neither of us has ever regretted it – It was lovely to be able to just concentrate on each other & not have to worry about anyone else. Our day was special, intimate & totally free from other people’s drama. I highly recommend!

    • Ergala June 28, 2018, 3:43 pm

      I love that idea and pitched it to my fiance awhile ago but he wants the ceremony with his friends and family. This is my 2nd marriage and his first, my first wedding was boring and honestly very forced feeling. This time I am getting a wedding dress and we are doing a ceremony though I want it very small and he wants it relatively big. Circumstances have changed and now we are considering a small wedding at the lake at the end of the summer or in his home state with just a few people invited. We can do a big party later if we want to. I told him as long as at the end of the day I’m his wife and he is my husband and our family is united as one that is all I care about.

  • Catherine St. Clair June 28, 2018, 12:25 pm

    I agree that it is best not to have attendants if it is going to cause any difficulty. My family was convinced that a sibling had to be included in a church wedding. I never thought my older brother would marry or, if he did, that it would be in a church as he was an atheist. However, he married a Baptist with the agreement that neither of them would attend church, but would be married in her family’s church. She called me to ask if I would be a bridesmaid. I would have never heard the end of it from my family if I had refused, so I agreed. “Sally” gasped and exclaimed,'”But “Rob” said you wouldn’t!” I was at a loss for a reply. I had never heard of being asked to do something and given that kind of a reply. The best I could do was to say, “Well, it is your wedding. Would you rather I was not in it?” I wish I had simply said, “Why did you call me if “Rob” was convinced I would decline?” I was in the wedding. They simply did not keep the photos that included me. Message received.

  • NostalgicGal June 28, 2018, 5:02 pm

    Anyone can be your attendants, and any one you choose can be the maid/matron/lord/dude etc of honor. I’ve officiated many where the bride had a fellow in the honor spot and best man duties were discharged by a lady for the groom. One fellow had his faithful dog, a retriever cross, as his best man. Dog had a bowtie and the corsage on his collar and sat nicely in the proper spot during the ceremony. (humans signed as witnesses though, the county clerk won’t accept pawprints as legal witness signatures). Much mayhem and skulldruggery has gone down over time about who shall be bridesmaids, groomsmen, and the attendants of honor and many a lie have been told to get it the way anyone but the bride wants it to be. Choose who you will. It will have to be you though that has to deal with the family dynamics, and hopefully the polite titanium spine can be well polished and stand up through the onslaught, and the fallout afterwards.

  • CherylAC June 29, 2018, 1:20 am

    I had some pretty strained relations with my SIL when I got married and did not have her in my wedding as a bridesmaid, esp. as I had been in her wedding 12 years earlier to my brother. In my defense, I was living in Pittsburgh, PA at the time of my wedding, the wedding was to be in my small hometown in south central Indiana so I had to have everything planned early (my fiance at the time and I had decided it was easier for us to go back to where our families are from rather than try to have everyone try get to Pittsburgh), and at the time I bought the bolt of material and lace, etc. to go on the dresses to give to my wedding planner to make, my brother was in the Navy and stationed in Bremerton, WA and they did not know where my brother was going to be stationed next or if he was even going to be in the navy (he was having medical issues) and if he was discharged, where they were going to move. I gave her a very nice collectible music box and wrote her a letter explaining everything and she forgave me before the wedding, and we quickly became more like sisters than sisters-in-law, but there were hard feelings for a while before the wedding.

  • cattlekid June 29, 2018, 7:50 pm

    When my sister announced her engagement, my first words to her after “Congratulations!” were “please don’t ask me to be your Matron of Honor”. I live several states away and I knew I was not going to be successful in filling the duties of a Matron of Honor as I was barely going to have time to fly in for the wedding and back. So she ended up choosing her best friend of many years who was close by and could help with everything. They had only one attendant on each side and I ended up doing a reading. I was perfectly happy and would have been so even if I would have just been a guest.

  • EchoGirl July 1, 2018, 2:02 am

    I feel like I should mention that, in the US at least, it’s often necessary to have designated witnesses (yes, even if you’re getting married in front of 500 people), and the BM/MOH often fill this role. That said, I am sure there’s a way to work around it, it’s just something you wouldn’t want to be blindsided by.

  • dancing4Jesus July 29, 2018, 6:36 pm

    I have 3 sisters, and 2 friends that are close enough to be considered sisters. I’m also going to be gaining a sister (presuming that my boyfriend and I do, in fact, get married, but we’re pretty sure at this point). I’ve already figured out that I’ll have my 6 sisters as bridesmaids, and for the sake of not hurting anyone’s feelings, I’m just going to put them in age order, which puts my oldest sister as the MOH. If my friends were the sort of people to look for drama in dumb places, they wouldn’t be my friends, but I figured that’s the best way to make absolutely sure no one gets hurt because I’m “favoring” someone else.