Maid of Honor vs. Bridesmaids: Roles & Differences

A bridal party traditionally encompasses the couple’s parents, flower girl, ring bearer, ushers, officiant, groomsmen, bridesmaids, best man, and the pivotal maid of honor. Each member plays a distinct role, with unique responsibilities and tasks, yet the distinctions, especially between the maid of honor and bridesmaids, often blur for many.

Delineating between the maid of honor and bridesmaids, three critical distinctions stand out:

  • Responsibilities
  • Average number in attendance
  • Associated expenses

Below, we’ll delve deeper into these significant differences between the maid of honor and bridesmaids, shedding light on their respective responsibilities and roles. In addition, we’ll outline their similarities and highlight crucial considerations to bear in mind regarding both roles within the context of the celebratory ensemble of the bridal party.

Category Maid of Honor Bridesmaids
Selection Criteria Often the bride’s closest friend or relative; significant emotional support role. Close friends, relatives, or colleagues of the bride; supportive role.
Responsibilities Primary support to the bride, planning lead, conflict resolution, key responsibilities on wedding day. Assist in planning, support the bride, participate in pre-wedding events, and other delegated duties.
Average Number Present Usually one; sometimes two for larger weddings. Varies widely; average is 3 to 5.
Expenses Typically higher due to additional responsibilities and events to lead or attend. Varies, often slightly less than the Maid of Honor.
Dress Code May have a dress that is slightly different or more elaborate than bridesmaids to stand out. Typically wear dresses selected by the bride that are coordinated in style and color.
Pre-Wedding Involvement Deep involvement in planning and organizing pre-wedding events; often leads bachelorette party and bridal shower planning. Participation in pre-wedding events and some planning assistance as needed.
Day-of-Wedding Duties Primary assistant to the bride, holds bride’s bouquet during ceremony, witnesses marriage license signing, and may make a toast at the reception. Support the bride and Maid of Honor as needed, participate in the ceremony, and attend pre-wedding events.
Post-Wedding Responsibilities May be asked to assist with after-wedding tasks, such as returning borrowed items or helping with thank-you notes. Generally, bridesmaids have fewer post-wedding responsibilities.

Unpacking the Roles of Maid of Honor and Bridesmaids

bride and her bridesmaid

1. Responsibilities

Responsibilities of a maid of honor

The maid of honor is often considered the bride’s right hand. Additionally, they are also called the chief bridesmaid. With these descriptors said, it becomes clear that a maid of honor has several important responsibilities:

  • Facilitate the planning of pre-wedding parties. Before the ceremony, brides can hold a few pre-wedding parties. These include engagement parties, bachelorette parties, bridal showers, and luncheons. Although every member of the bridal party will help, the maid of honor is expected to lead the planning process.
  • Be the point person for vendors. As the wedding is planned, consistent communication must be established with the vendors. At some points, the bride might get too busy. In that case, the maid of honor can step in to coordinate with the vendors.
  • Handle conflict within the bridal party. Conflict is unavoidable, especially if the personalities within a bridal party clash. The maid of honor should prevent, mitigate, and resolve any misunderstandings that arise.
  • Go with the bride to important appointments. The bride values the maid of honor’s opinions and insights. Thus, the maid of honor often accompanies her to meetings with the vendors. For instance, the maid of honor is usually a guest in wedding dress shopping.
  • Help the bride get ready on the day of the wedding. The maid of honor typically stays in the dressing room with the bride. She can help her put on her attire, assist her with her accessories, spot last-minute adjustments, and more. Additionally, she can also function as a coordinator with the vendors.
  • Support the bride emotionally. Getting married is a big deal; the couple will experience massive changes in their lives. Given their proximity to the bride, the maid of honor should consistently provide emotional support to her. She must listen with an open mind, provide advice if prompted, and offer a shoulder to lean on.
  • Carry out duties during the wedding. These duties may vary according to the couple’s preferences, traditions, and cultures. For instance, the maid of honor can hold the bridal bouquet while she recites her vows. Moreover, they can safeguard the wedding bands until it is time to exchange rings.
  • Act as a witness for the marriage license. This ceremony duty is highly important; in some cases, a marriage will not be recognized without at least one witness. The maid of honor, along with the best man, generally acts as the witness.
  • Watch after the bride throughout the reception. By the time the reception starts, the bride will most likely be exhausted. The maid of honor should look out for her; they can bring her food, ensure she is hydrated, run quick errands, retouch her makeup, and so on.
  • Look after the bride’s mother during the reception. The maid of honor will look after the bride’s mother the same way she will look after the bride. They must ensure the bride’s mother is hydrated, well-fed, and well-rested.
  • Make a speech at the reception. One of the best parts of being a maid of honor is having the opportunity to give a speech at the reception. Depending on their personality, they can be sentimental, wise, witty, or something else.

Responsibilities of a bridesmaid

The bridesmaids also have a fair share of responsibilities. Mostly, they follow the lead of the maid of honor. However, their assistance is essential for the success of the wedding.

  • Help with the planning of pre-wedding parties. There are a lot of aspects to planning pre-wedding parties. Someone needs to contact the vendors, buy the supplies, decorate the venue, and do other tasks. Each bridesmaid will be in charge of a few tasks.
  • Go with the bride to dress shopping and fittings. If the bride wants to, she can ask her bridesmaids to accompany her. They can provide their support and opinions as the bride tries to find the perfect dress.
  • Purchase their attire and accessories. In some cases, the bride’s family will cover the costs of the bridesmaids’ attire. However, most of the time, bridesmaids shoulder these expenses. They need to buy a bridesmaid dress that fits the theme, dress code, and color palette of the wedding.
  • Attend the pre-wedding parties and other wedding-related activities. Their presence at these parties will mean the world to the bride. These activities are opportunities to strengthen the bond among everyone and to show the bride that she has lots of love and support.
  • Give a speech at the reception or rehearsal dinner. The bride can ask one or some of the bridesmaids to make a speech during the event.

Both of these lists are not exhaustive; likewise, not every responsibility above will apply to every bridal party. The bride may even add a few tasks. Ultimately, the responsibilities of the bridal party depend on the couple, the type of wedding, and various other factors.

2. Average Number Present

bride and bridesmaid holding a bouquet

In a bridal party, the bride can have any number of bridesmaids. However, the average number of bridesmaids in any wedding is 3 to 5. Some bridal parties even include junior bridesmaids or honorary bridesmaids

Similarly, the bride is theoretically allowed to have as many or as few maids of honor as she wants. However, it is common to only have one maid of honor. Some brides opt to have two maids of honor.

3. Expenses

In general, both bridesmaids and maids of honor can expect to shell out several hundred — and even a few thousand — dollars. This accounts for their attire, travel expenses, contributions for the pre-wedding events, and other miscellaneous expenses. However, maids of honor typically end up spending more than the rest of the bridal party.

Cost Breakdown for a Maid of Honor

Category Cost Explanation
Travel and accommodation $800 This figure accounts for the costs of transportation and accommodation for every wedding-related activity. Likewise, the costs of accompanying the bride to various appointments are also factored in. Additionally, any place that needs to be rented throughout the timeline is also included.
Gifts for the bride $150 The maid of honor typically gives gifts during the bridal shower and the wedding. If they want to, they can also buy a present for them anytime throughout the process.
Hosting the bridal shower $400 In some cases, it is the maid of honor’s responsibility to host the bridal shower. They can spend at least $20 per attendee. With that said, a bridal shower with 20 guests can cost $400 to entertain.
Bachelorette party $150 Besides their personal expenses, maids of honor typically chip in to cover the bride’s expenses.
Attire and accessories $500 This category includes the costs for the dress, shoes, purse, and other accessories. The costs of alterations are also included in this estimate.
TOTAL: $2,000

Cost Breakdown for a Bridesmaid

Category Cost Explanation
Travel and accommodation $700 This figure accounts for the costs of transportation and accommodation for every wedding-related activity. This category also includes any contributions they make for rentals.
Gifts for the bride $150 Like the maid of honor, bridesmaids give gifts during the shower and the wedding. They also have the option to buy them more presents any time they want to.
Contribution for the bridal shower $50 While most of the expenses fall on the host, bridesmaids contribute some money to help lessen the burden. This offer is not always monetary; they can also make food, bring decorations, create invitations, and so on.
Bachelorette party $100 Besides their personal expenses, bridesmaids typically chip in to cover the bride’s expenses.
Attire and accessories $400 This category includes the costs for the dress, shoes, purse, and other accessories. If necessary, alteration costs are also factored in this approximation.
TOTAL: $1,400

Keep in mind that these cost breakdowns are approximations. Several factors will influence the final amount: the cost of living in your area, the destination of every wedding-related activity, the couple’s wedding budget, and so on. Ultimately, these figures are only meant to give you an idea of how much money you need to prepare.

What Are the Similarities Between the Bridesmaids vs. Maid of Honor?

bride and bridesmaid in yellow dresses

They Are Both Important to the Bride

Disregarding the differences listed above, both the bridesmaids and maids of honor are special to the bride. To be chosen as a member of the bridal party, they should have a close relationship with the bride. Often, they are friends, relatives, treasured colleagues, and so on. With that said, being chosen as a bridesmaid or maid of honor is an honor.

Some brides go the extra mile to make their bridal party feel special. They can purchase or create gift boxes with a proposal inside that says, “Will you be my bridesmaid?” or “Will you be my maid of honor?” They may even write a proposal letter to the people they want to be part of their entourage.

After the wedding, brides also prepare tokens of appreciation for their bridal party. For one, they mention their bridesmaids and maid of honor during their thank you speech at the reception. Brides can also purchase special gifts or favors that will be exclusively given to the bridal party.

Some Costs Are Covered by the Bride

The cost breakdowns above list expenses shouldered by each maid of honor or bridesmaid. However, depending on their budget, brides can cover some of the costs and purchases necessary. Doing so can be a way of showing your gratitude to your bridal party.

  • Accommodation on the night before the wedding. If the bride wants to be together with her bridal party before the wedding, she can rent a few rooms at a hotel. This way, they can prepare together on the morning of the ceremony.
  • Hair and makeup styling. The bride can also hire some stylists to make sure that the bridesmaids and maid of honor look their best. Because styling is no longer a worry, their stress before the ceremony is a bit eased.
  • Floral accessories. Flowers, in general, are taken care of by the bride’s family. Thus, bouquets and corsages are already provided to the bridesmaids and maid of honor.
  • Transportation between venues on the day of the wedding. Especially for destination weddings, the bride’s family is in charge of the logistics. Guests, including the bridal party, are transported from one venue to another without any cost. Take note that this does not include how the bridal party will arrive at the destination.

Considerations for Choosing a Bridesmaid vs. Maid of Honor

The first step in choosing your bridesmaids and maids of honor is to list every possible candidate. Write the names of the people that come to mind. Once that is done, here are some questions you can ask yourself to narrow down the list:

  • How close is my relationship to them? As mentioned above, bridesmaids and maids of honor are typically close to the bride. They are their siblings, relatives, colleagues, and so on. Because you cannot ask all of them to be a member of your bridal party, prioritize those with whom you are closest.
  • How do they make you feel when you are around them? Your bridal party must consist of people who support you, make you happy, and increase your confidence. If you think they will just be a source of negative energy, do not include them.
  • What is their work ethic? Most of the responsibilities of a bridesmaid or maid of honor have been listed above. There is a lot of work that comes with these roles. They require a lot of commitment, willingness, and flexibility — not only in terms of your schedule but also in working as a team.
  • Are they financially capable of taking these roles? As made evident by the cost breakdowns above, these roles can get expensive. From attire to transportation, a member of the bridal party can spend upwards of several hundred dollars. Take this into consideration while choosing your bridesmaids and maids of honor.

Be mindful of any external pressure that might be affecting your decisions. Your parents might want a certain person as your bridesmaid, or your friend might be hinting that they want to be your maid of honor. Do not listen to these voices as much as possible; the decision is yours to make and theirs to respect.

Once you have chosen the members of your bridal party, it is time to ask them. As mentioned above, some brides go for an elaborate proposal with a letter and a gift box. However, you can be straightforward if you prefer. Regardless, you must inform them about the responsibilities and expectations the role entails. 

Gender Identity Is Not Important

smiling bride with her friends

Historically, the roles of bridesmaids and maids of honor have been assigned to women. Recently, brides are now free to choose men for these positions. Similar to the case in marital status, the terminologies only need to be adjusted. Male bridesmaids are typically called “bridesmen” while male maids of honor can be called “men of honor.”

Corollary to this, nonbinary and gender-nonconforming people can also be chosen for the role. You can ask them about their preferred pronouns and how they want to be addressed. They may feel comfortable with “attendant” instead of bridesmaid and “person of honor” instead of maid of honor.

Marital Status Is Not Important

Both the bridesmaid and maid of honor can be chosen regardless of their marital status. In the case of the maid of honor, there will be a difference in terminology. A married maid of honor is called a matron of honor. However, everything else remains the same.

Important Things to Remember

You Can Have No Bridesmaid and Maid of Honor

There are situations wherein it is better to have no bridesmaid or maid of honor. For one, you may want an intimate elopement with only your partner and the officiant. Moreover, it may not be realistic within your budget to have a bridal party. Regardless of the reason, it is perfectly fine if you choose not to have bridesmaids and maids of honor.

Approach People Who Feel Left Out

Even though you want to, you cannot include everyone in your bridal party. This unfortunate fact might hurt someone you love. On one hand, remember that you do not owe the role to anyone; on the other hand, there are ways you can approach this situation.

Firstly, you can have an honest conversation with people you left out. Invite them over for lunch or meet up with them somewhere. Explain the process through which you chose your bridal party. Make sure that they know how special they are to you and not being a part of the bridal party will not change that.

Alternatively, you can give them another role in the wedding. You can ask them to give a speech at the rehearsal dinner or reception.

You can also invite them to some of your pre-wedding parties, such as the shower, to make them feel included.

Communicate Honestly 

One of the responsibilities of the bridal party is to plan your pre-wedding parties. As such, they must know your expectations, preferences, and boundaries. On one hand, you must be honest and firm; they need to respect these facts. On the other hand, try to be open-minded and receptive to their ideas.

Plan Efficiently

Wedding planning is an overwhelming and stressful process. There are a lot of aspects to consider, things to coordinate, logistics to arrange, and so on. Your bridesmaids and maid of honor will help you as much as they can.

After briefing them about their responsibilities, they must divide the tasks among themselves. An equal distribution of labor is preferred; this will make sure that no one gets burnt out and every task is attended to.

Staying organized is the key to efficient planning. You can create a tracker for tasks that are not yet done, in progress, or already accomplished. Moreover, there must be a spreadsheet for the expenses accumulated so far. Browse through the many organization and productivity tips online and see which ones will work for you and your team.

Final Thoughts

Navigating through the unique responsibilities and expectations of the maid of honor and bridesmaids, it’s evident that these roles are pivotal in orchestrating a smooth and delightful wedding experience. These positions, steeped in trust and commitment, play a significant role in crafting an unforgettable celebration of love and union.

Choosing the right individuals for these integral roles demands thoughtful consideration and deep reflection on the relationship dynamics, commitment levels, and the ability of the chosen ones to gracefully handle the responsibilities. In this joyous chaos of love and celebration, the maid of honor and bridesmaids are not just titles but embodiments of support, love, and cherished camaraderie.

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