MADE OF HONOUR
The person in the flowing white dress will always nab the leading role at any wedding, however no bride can do without their entourage of bridesmaids. Western Australia Wedding & Bride’s Kirrily Ireland catches up with marriage celebrant Julie Craig-Smith to discuss the roles and responsibilities of the bridesmaids and, most importantly, the bride’s right-hand-girl – the maid of honour.
Among parents, relatives, friends and colleagues, weddings are almost just as much about the people there to celebrate the couple as they are about the couple themselves. Of these special guests, the maid of honour holds a place of true prestige, helping the bride before, during and after the big day, ensuring everything runs smoothly and bringing a dream day to life for someone they love.
Whether you’re a bride- or bridesmaid-to-be, understanding the responsibilities the maid of honour carries is vital when it comes to choosing the right person, or in fact being chosen yourself, for this esteemed role.
PICK OF THE BUNCH
For some, picking who to be their maid of honour will be a no-brainer, whether it’s a childhood best friend or your one-and-only sister. However, for many others, this can be a difficult choice to make. If you’ve grown up with two or more sisters, or have a large but tight-knit group of friends, selecting just one person to be your maid of honour can sometimes feel like playing favourites.
There are a few solutions to make the choice easier, if you find yourself in this situation. Perhaps you could take inspiration from the leading ladies in the popular sitcom Friends; each member of the group is the maid of honour for another member of the group, allowing everyone the chance to take on this role at some point, thereby leaving no one out.
Ms Craig-Smith has a few of her own suggestions, too. “The bride usually chooses their best friend, male or female, but some may choose their eldest sister to save making choices, and you also do not have to have any bridal party,” the celebrant says. “This is no easy task for any bride and many brides decide to not have a maid of honour, stating that all of their bridal party is important and special, and may give individual jobs to each bridal party person [instead].” This is becoming a more popular option for couples, especially those with many friends of equal closeness and value.
Delegating the maid-of-honour duties is also a great idea if your particularly close friend isn’t quite up to the task. Often being the maid of honour is a big ask, and if an individual is too busy or lacks general organisational skills, it might be easier to divide the tasks evenly “so the bride and her team all feel validated, and the bride is happy”.
AT YOUR SERVICE
The maid of honour’s duties will often differ; there are no longer hard-and-fast rules dictating what is expected. While historically in Roman times, the maid of honour’s job was to protect the bride “from being attacked by bad spirits by carrying wreaths of herbs and wearing similar dresses to the bride to confuse any would-be kidnappers”, what we tend to see at weddings nowadays is far less extreme. Above all else, the maid of honour – along with the rest of the bridesmaids – is there simply to help the bride with whatever she needs, before, during and sometimes after the wedding.
“Depending on the bride’s needs, [the maid of honour] may be involved from the very beginning with [the] engagement, invitations, bridal fittings, choosing venues, attending wedding expos with [the] bride, kitchen tea, hens party, being a liaison with wedding guests and vendors,” Ms Craig-Smith explains. A lot of work goes into planning a wedding, so having a maid of honour to help lighten the load will make the experience significantly less stressful. Trying on dresses, tasting cakes and scoping out venues can also be a lot of fun – why wouldn’t you want one of your best friends by your side to enjoy this special time with you?
If you have chosen a specific maid of honour out of your group of bridesmaids, they’ll be responsible for delegating jobs and organising events such as the bridal shower and hens night. They’ll also be the glue between any members of the bridal party who may not know each other, in which case organising get-togethers to give everyone a chance to bond before the wedding will help them feel “united as a special team on the day”.
ALWAYS THE BRIDESMAID
Speaking of the wedding day – this is when it’s the maid of honour’s true time to shine. In the morning, the maid of honour should be there to ensure the bride has something to eat and drinks plenty of water. They’ll also help with the dress – especially if it has tricky zips or a cumbersome train – while keeping the bride calm. Once everyone is ready, the maid of honour will help the bride into the car, and also help them out of it when they arrive at the venue.
The more typical roles of the maid of honour that are seen on television and in movies happen during the ceremony itself; carrying the train of the dress while the bride walks down the aisle, and holding the bridal bouquet during the vows. After the ceremony – and fixing the bride’s gown during photos – the reception may involve giving a maid-of-honour speech, hanging onto the bride’s purse, and helping to pack up the presents at the end of the night.
GOING THE EXTRA MILE
If you’ve been chosen to be someone’s maid of honour, there are a few tips to ensure you bring your A-game and be the person who makes your friend or sister’s day perfect. Having observed many weddings herself as a celebrant, Ms Craig-Smith says the best maids of honour are the ones who “see straight away the need to adjust the dress, hold flowers without being asked, and do it quietly with no fuss”.
On the morning of the wedding, and even during the day, the bride will be feeling a range of emotions, from excitement to adrenaline and even stress, so “by being organised, calm, patient, [a] great listener and mediator if needed”, you’ll be doing your job right. It’s a big role, but one that is certainly worth having, providing you with a front-and-centre seat at the main event, where you’ll get to witness someone you care for dearly celebrate sharing their life with their partner – with no short amount of thanks to you.
Photography by Sam Amidzic of PhotoSnaps Photography