Mistakes you never knew you were making as Maid of Honor

We all know it's a huge honor to be asked to stand beside a friend or family member on their wedding day as a bridesmaid, but we also know there's a lot that comes along with that role. If you're asked to be the maid (or matron) of honor, that role becomes even more important and potentially demanding. 

While I've been a bridesmaid in a few weddings already, I recently had my first experience as maid of honor. I wish I could say it was all smooth sailing — while, at the end of the day, it all worked out fine and the wedding day was beautiful, there are moments I wish I had handled differently, and I wouldn't mind the opportunity to go back and fix a few mistakes that I made. 

With that said, I reached out to the experts to gauge some of the most common mistakes they witness maids of honor making, often without even realizing it.

You're not communicating with the bride

While this may seem like an obvious point, especially considering that if you're taking on the maid of honor role, you're likely pretty tight with the bride-to-be, but this is not always the case. Cali Pitchel, the Director of Marketing for Joy, a free wedding planning app, pointed out that "not communicating clearly and often with the bride" is the biggest frustration they hear from their brides about their MOHs. 

"The bride is getting pressure from all sides and trying to meet other people's expectations can cause a lot of anxiety," Pitchel adds. "That kind of stress increases the likelihood of mis-communicating, especially in more subtle, non-verbal ways." 

If you're taking on this role, you understand that wedding planning can get very stressful. Make sure you're maintaining an honest and clear relationship with the bride, and you'll be in the clear.

You don't understand the big picture

We've all heard stories about someone we know turning into or having to deal with a "bridezilla." While I think it's safe to say that is never the bride's goal when planning her wedding, it's understandable that, at some point, the stress of it all is going to build up. Eventually, it may seem like she's getting a little crazy over what is likely a very small detail.

"The maid of honor has to understand this larger context — and keep it at the front of her mind for all decision making, big and small," said Pitchell. "The bride freaking out about a minor detail would be annoying under any circumstance, but when the maid of honor can see that freak out in the context of a larger, more stressful moment, she can be more gracious, and ultimately, be a better support for the bride."

You order the guests around

While it is often expected that the maid of honor and fellow bridesmaids are helping to play hostess during the reception, like ensuring guests know where to sit, where to place gifts, and reminding them to sign the guest book before the end of the evening, this doesn't mean they're running the show and ordering guests around.

"I have had two different maids of honor yell out for the guests to rise for the bride before I had a chance to say it," said Jenifer Gay, owner and wedding planner of Blue Flamingo Weddings. It is likely these maids of honor were just excited for the bride to be seen and got ahead of themselves, but Gay pointed out this made her (the wedding planner) look like she didn't know what she was doing and that the guests were dumb for just sitting there. Despite how excited you may be to see your bestie walk down the aisle, just wait for the officiant to direct the guests, and meanwhile, keep smiling for all the photos you know are being taken.

You try to take over the rehearsal

It may be your job to help keep things running smoothly for both the rehearsal and wedding day, but let's get clear that it is not your job to commandeer these events. Gay spoke of instances where the maid of honor would attempt to override her suggestions at the rehearsal or make unauthorized changes on the wedding day, as if it were her own. "Most brides are overwhelmed at this point and just ignore it," she mentioned, "which leaves it up to me to rein them in."

While there may be opportunities for suggestions during the rehearsal, the wedding planner knows the flow of the event. She has been working with the bride and groom to ensure things go as smoothy as possible, and in the way they have envisioned. Listen up and let them communicate to the group so everyone is clear on the plan for the big day. 

You try to overstep the wedding planner on the big day

Maids of honor have not only been known to overtake the rehearsal, but some go so far as to try and make last minute changes on the wedding day and without anyone's approval which obviously puts the wedding planner in a difficult situation. Many wedding planners and venues will work with the same vendors, developing a trusting relationship that has no room for a difficult and sneaky maid of honor to stir up trouble.

"Weddings are surprisingly complicated, highly detailed events," said Gay. "I help couples create the atmosphere they want at their wedding. Even a small change can sabotage the day if it doesn't jibe well with the rest of the event." 

How does she suggest a maid of honor support on the big day? Her advice is to help when asked and offer support when she thinks it's needed, but know to take a step back if it's not, and otherwise let the wedding planner do what she's being paid to do.

You think the spotlight is on you

Being asked to take on the role of maid of honor is so special. I still remember the moment I received the note from my high school best friend asking me to be her MOH on her special day, and immediately bursting into happy tears. I was excited about her big day, to support her in the process, and ultimately to stand beside her as she married the love of her life. 

While I wanted to look and feel my best considering that I would be in pictures that I'd look back on for years to come, I also knew this was not my day. According to Irene St. Onge, the wedding and event planner behind Soiree Special Events, not all MOHs come to this realization.

"Sometimes a role of second lady in waiting goes to people's heads and they forget the day is actually not about them," said St. Onge. "No one really cares that you knew the bride since four or you got drunk together for the first time in your parent's basement. It's not about you." A bit brutal? Sure, but sometimes the truth hurts.

You're mean to the other maids

Most of us have a couple of different groups of friends, and as such, bridesmaids may not all know each other before getting into all of the fun wedding festivities. While you have been granted the privilege of being the maid of honor, this isn't the time or place to take on a bossy or "I know the bride best" attitude. 

"A maid of honor's job is to keep calm, help keep the peace, and not stir the pot or be catty," St. Onge told me. Remember that we are all there because we love the bride and groom, and want to support them on their special day. Regardless if you knew the bride since childhood, college, or just met her a year ago and became super close, every bridesmaid is there because she's close with the bride — so find common ground with everyone, and play nice. 

You don't know how to avoid potential bachelorette party planning drama

One of the biggest jobs for the maid of honor is planning the bachelorette party. While this may seem like a fun task, and it often can be, it also holds potential for a lot of drama. To help in the party planning effort, St. Onge suggests sending out an introductory email about your idea and expected costs. "Don't assume everyone will be able to pay for it or everyone is coming to this party," she said, "so give people an idea of costs before booking everything." She also suggests to work with the bride as she may want to help or even take the lead.

Once you work with the girls and find a date that works best, St. Onge suggests you make sure everyone knows they can contact you offline with any issues, and then keep email chains to a minimum. From there she said, "be upfront and don't expect to foot the bill for everything. Just let the maids know how they can pay you and when you need it. People going unpaid usually stirs resentment." Avoid any potential day-of festivity blow ups amongst the group by keeping the communication open, and ensure that all the details are clear from the get-go.

You don't know what's expected of you

Let me get real here, this was my big mistake. I did not understand what was expected of me and what went into this role — I assumed that if I was expected to perform the task, I would be told. Even if I thought something might possibly be a task I should do, but I was never asked to do it, I didn't take the initiative to ask the bride if she wanted me to do it. Sure, I would find out if the task belonged to me eventually, but it always added an extra layer of stress or left me feeling like I wasn't doing my best job.

It's your job to know what's expected of you from the very beginning, and make sure the bride knows to tell you if she has anything to add to your list. Don't be afraid to ask if you should be doing certain tasks. If you set this groundwork for communication, then you'll be less likely to find yourself stressed with last minute tasks. Take it from me, and make sure the expectations are clear!