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The Ultimate Maid of Honor Duties List | Virginia Wedding Photographer

Wedding Tips

There’s no doubt that being asked to be the maid of honor is an immense honor and responsibility. Whether the bride is your sister or best friend, the role comes with a lot of happy memories made with the Mrs.-to-be. However, it’s also important to know that the wedding day is not about your relationship as bride and maid of honor, but rather the bride and groom. As a maid of honor, you’re more than an accessory to the day. You’re a pivotal part of ensuring every moment is just as the couple dreamed and more! It comes with a cost – financial, emotional, mental, and even physical. The BEST maids of honor I’ve come across are the ones who take their maid of honor duties to the next level, out of their love for the bride and support for the marriage.

In this journal post, I’m walking you through ALL the maid of honor duties that you are expected to fulfill, plus some you’ve probably never considered. As a wedding photographer, I’ve seen qualities and servant actions by maids of honor that really boosted the bride’s experience on the wedding day. I’ve also seen maids of honor drop the ball or worsen a bride’s experience, sometimes without realizing it. So, from the perspective of a wedding insider, here’s the Ultimate Maid of Honor Duties Checklist you need to really wow that special bride in your life!

Maid of Honor Duties Before the Wedding Day

Parties & Celebrations

As the maid of honor, you might be the point person for celebrating the happy couple before the big day. Don’t take this on without checking with the bride and her family, however! Some of the following parties and celebrations are often the pride of the bride’s mother, sister, or even the groom’s family. But, if nobody else is planning on treating the couple to these celebrations, you can really stand out by taking the initiative.

Engagement Party – This celebration usually happens shortly after the couple announces their engagement. Families will often take the lead on planning this, or even the groom himself. However, it doesn’t hurt to plan a separate engagement party if the bride lives far from her family and you want to surprise her with a friends-specific celebration closer to home. Best bet is to check with the groom on what is most appropriate, especially if you want to surprise the bride.

Bridal Shower – Again, often the mother of the bride will take this on, but a maid of honor is often asked to help lead the planning. You might be coordinating with the bride’s friends while mom coordinates family guests. So sticking close to mom in your communication is key, and try not to step on her toes. It’s a special moment for her to treat her daughter.

Alternatively, if mom isn’t in the picture, or isn’t taking the lead on planning the bridal shower, this typically puts you next in line. Bridal showers are different than engagement parties because they A) are typically just for the bride’s female friends and family and B) involve gift giving from the couple’s registry.

Bachelorette – Your time to really impress the bride! This will take tons of organization and people management skills. You come up with the location, theme, activities, etc. Often the Bachelorette party is for the bride and her bridesmaids, but sometimes includes non-bridal party friends as well. It will be your job to get everyone’s participation and attendance on this one, which can sometimes be a heavy lift. Whatever you do, don’t stress the bride out with planning this one. You can be a hero by making this a stress-free gal-pal getaway or night out, to take her away from the stress of wedding planning.


As the maid of honor, you’re not just buying the dress the bride approves. You are also putting out time and money toward a few meaningful gifts and gestures. Here are some expectations and extras you can consider.

Joint Gift – One of your duties as maid of honor might be to coordinate a joint gift for the bride from you and the other bridesmaids. This can be TOUGH. There’s a lot of personalities and budgets to work with. My recommendation is that you first contact each bridesmaid individually. Ask if they’re interested in going in on a joint gift, and if so, how much they feel comfortable contributing. From there, calculate the full amount and decide what kind of gift you can afford with the chip-ins!

This is way better than finding a gift idea then guilting the bridesmaids into splitting evenly. The method I recommend means you will need to keep from shaming anyone for what they feel comfortable affording. It’s nobody’s business how much everyone contributed. The whole point is THAT everyone contributed. If not everyone wants to contribute, consider directing everyone to invest in their own gift for the bride.

Bonus Tip: Make this a gift that is practical, from her registry. Maybe it’s one of her big-ticket items. OR if you want to do a more sentimental gift or gesture (i.e., planning an elaborate bachelorette party/getaway), make sure your personal gift is from her registry.

Personal Gifts – Yes, you may also want to get the bride a gift from you personally. My recommendation is to have this be the opposite of the joint gift (as mentioned above). If the joint gift is a practical item from her registry, you can make this one a more sentimental gift. If the joint gift is sentimental or a getaway, buy your personal gift from the bride’s registry.

Planning & Support

Planning a wedding is not easy. Fun sometimes, sure. But not always. As the maid of honor, your duties begin before the wedding day. Here are some ways you can lend a helping hand.

The Dress – As the maid of honor, you are not entitled to being present for the bride’s dress shopping adventures. Some brides prefer to keep their dress fully secret. HOWEVER, if you are invited, here are a few tips to make sure the bride feels your support.

  • Hold opinions until you see her reaction. Just smile at every dress she comes out in. You don’t want to accidentally put a downer on a dress that she feels amazing wearing.
  • It’s ok to get emotional (happy tears only). If seeing your best friend/sister in a wedding dress is surreal for you, let it out! It’s sweet to let her know that you are so happy for her.
  • Only pick out dresses for her to try on if she asks. This goes for accessories/shoes too.
  • Learn the bustle. Offer to come to her final alteration to learn how to bustle. Or, remind her to have her tailor take a video teaching the bustle, then study it! You may be tasked with bustling on the wedding day, and those things are not always intuitive.

Bridesmaid Organization – Take away the bride’s stress by checking in with her other girls. Ask if they bought their dress, altered their dress, found their shoes, decided on their jewelry/hair/makeup, collecting Venmos for the hair and makeup artist, etc. etc. Enforce the bride’s wishes on what is worn on the wedding day.

Emotional Support – Wedding planning is STRESSFUL at times. Check in on the bride periodically. Plan non-wedding girl time for her. Consider sending her a self-care package or treating her to a massage, facial, or nail appointment. When she needs to vent, come with an empathetic, listening ear. Offer to take tasks off her plate. Sometimes that’s as simple as researching options for vendors or helping gather addresses for the invites.

Maid of Honor Duties During the Wedding Day

There are lots of roles and responsibilities you hold when the special day finally arrives. It’s more than showing up in a matching dress and holding a bouquet while walking down the aisle before the bride. As a wedding photographer, I’ve seen so many great maids of honors go above and beyond for their brides. Here are some of the tips I’ve collected from observing those awesome women.

General Maid of Honor Duties Throughout the Day

Emergency Kit – This is one of those things that is getting to be more well-known in the wedding world. But in case you haven’t come across the idea, here it is. Pack an emergency kit! A small clutch or bag that includes a sewing kit, Shout wipes, bobby pins in her hair color, travel size hair spray, travel size deodorant (spray kind is best unless the bride’s dress has sleeves), a touch-up makeup kit (her makeup artist may offer one), tampons, a pen, tissues or handkerchief, etc.

Emotional Support – Similar to pre-wedding day, the actual day-of comes with it’s own stressors. Sometimes it’s logistical stressors, sometimes it’s family. Be the buffer for your bride friend and help triage urgent needs and help her create space to be present in the moment. If family is getting to be too much, try to find a kind way to help alleviate tensions. But family can be tricky to navigate. Talk with the bride before the wedding day to see what she wants you to step into and what she’d want you to stay out of.

Timeline Management – When the photographer & planner send the wedding day timeline, ask for a copy. Print copies for everyone or make a phone wallpaper of it for them to keep on their phones the day-of. The photographer will LOVE you for this. It means you’re helping to ensure everyone is where they need to be, on time.

Crowd Control – Generally, you may find some guests get lost throughout the day. Offer a friendly answer when asked “Where is the bathroom?” “Where are we going next?” “Where is the ceremony site?” Feel free to pull the planner for any questions you don’t have answers for. But wearing a bridesmaid dress may signal to guests that you know what’s happening, when and where. Own your role 😉

Getting Ready

H&MU Timing – Hair and makeup is one of the most common reasons we fall behind on the wedding day timeline. This means the girls are going to have to get up EARLY to start getting ready so everyone has a turn in the chair and is done on time. As the Maid of Honor, take one for the team — offer to go first! Then keep the line moving and give everyone 5-10 minute warnings when their turn is coming up.

Feed the Bride – My sister (my maid of honor) did this for me while I was getting my makeup done. I honestly wasn’t hungry when I woke up on my wedding day. I think nerves and adrenaline factored in. But I wasn’t going to eat until dinner, and she knew that. So she cut up fruit and smeared cream cheese on half a bagel and hand fed me between my makeup artist switching brushes/product. It was so kind, as pretentious as I felt about it. Spoil the bride and feed her something even if she’s not sure she’s hungry. Remind her she’ll be glad later she ate something.

Protect Her Space – The getting ready portion of the day is when everyone starts to feel the reality of the day settling in. Mom is bustling around, the planner might have last minute questions, and people are constantly interrupting the bride’s flow to address final touches and logistics. Where possible, step in to help so she doesn’t have to get pulled away so often. Some things she will have to handle, but not everything. Do what you can to protect her space and let her be present.

Keep the Space Tidy – Nothing causes stress more than a messy getting ready space. It also looks terrible in those glowy bridal getting ready photos if there’s makeup, snacks, empty champagne glasses and trash spewed everywhere in the background. Do your part to clean up and keep things tidy as people move about the room.

Gather Her Details – ENP Brides get a reminder multiple times throughout their experience with me to gather their details in a shoe box for when I arrive for photography. You can help! Sometimes the details box gets lost en route to the venue, so keep track of where it is so you can be the one to grab it for the photographer when they arrive. It would be a box or bag that includes everything: her shoes, perfume, jewelry, all three rings (her engagement ring might be on her finger so grab that from her), something borrowed/blue/old/new, veil, invitation suite, etc.

Pack Her Makeup Touch-Up Kit – You might receive this from the makeup artist. Or it may be similar enough products the bride has on hand. After her makeup is done, take the touch-up kit and pack it in your emergency kit to keep on hand throughout the day.


Pass Off the Rings – After I capture details, I typically find the maid of honor and pass the groom’s ring and bride’s wedding band back to her. It’s then your job to get it to the Best Man. Don’t forget! On my wedding day, I forgot the rings at my mom’s house and a dear friend had to drive all the way back to get them for us, arriving just in time for the ceremony to start. Crisis avoided, but avoid it much earlier than we did.

Hold Tissues/a Handkerchief – During the ceremony, the bride has nowhere to hold onto tissues or a handkerchief. This is the most emotional part of the day in many cases. Pro tip: wrap a few tissues or a handkerchief discreetly around your bouquet. This way it’s not visible but you have it ready to hand her when the tears start to flow during the ceremony.

Fluff Her Dress, Take Her Flowers – When the bride makes it to the front of the aisle, the officiant will ask “who gives this woman?” then her dad will say “her mother and I” and hug her, kiss her cheek, then hand her over to the groom. Once the bride turns away from you and toward the groom, bend down to fluff her dress. Then stand up and take her bouquet from her. If her bouquet is super heavy, you can hand your smaller bouquet to the bridesmaid next to you so you can hold hers. Just remember to get the bouquets back in the right hands before the bride and groom walk down the aisle married.

Hold Her Veil – This only really applies if it’s an outdoor wedding. Sometimes the wind works in our favor, but not often. Subtly hold the edge of her veil or lightly tap your toe to it if it’s a long veil. This will keep it from flying out of her head, and help it blow gently in the wind rather than becoming a distraction.


Nail the Toast – This might be one of the most nerve-racking role a maid of honor holds. Don’t sweat it! The best toasts I’ve heard from the maid of honor follow these tips: brief, light, and meaningful. Brief: keep it short; 5 minutes is plenty of time! Light: throw in some personality, but don’t over-compete with the Best Man on humor. You’re not a stand-up comedian in this moment, you’re her best friend speaking to the relationship. Stay away from too heavy of topics, but don’t beg for laughs/applause. Meaningful: any story you tell should have a purpose. For example, if you’re going to share about how you met, it should be because it speaks to the character of the bride… not because you think it’s embarrassing enough to entertain the guests. (Remember their grandmother is likely in the crowd!)

Bonus tip: I encourage you to write out your speech, or at least have bullets in outline form to keep you moving. But print it out on paper! Imagine looking at the photos 10 years from now and seeing your embarrassing old clunky iPhone in your hand, something that’s going to be so outdated your kids will roll their eyes one day. Holding paper will make that photo more about the memory than the technology.

Start the Party – As the maid of honor, you are in the party committee. The bridesmaids and groomsmen are meant to be the ones that get people on the dancefloor and make everyone feel comfortable celebrating. Help the DJ out… be the first one to stand up and bust a move.

Help Clean Up – This might happen at the end of the reception, or even bleed into the next day. But be willing to lend a helping hand in gathering the decor and cleaning up the venue. This shouldn’t land on the couple’s plate. They should be blissfully off to their honeymoon! Offer help to the parents and planner where you can. (This might mean you need to stay sober enough to actually be helpful… just saying!)

Was this wedding tips journal post helpful? Save it for later as you prepare for your maid of honor role now (or in the future!) Pin this post with the image below:

There’s loads more where that came from, shared from my perspective as a wedding industry and wedding photography expert!

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