The role of the Maid of Honour and Bridesmaids at the Wedding

All weddings have attendants and the bride’s attendants are referred to as the bridesmaids with the key attendant known as the Maid of Honour.  The tradition of having attendants at the wedding dressed similarly as the bride dates back to earlier times in history where it was common to fear the presence of evil spirits and the bride’s attendants would be dressed similarly to confuse the evil forces. Often the number of attendant’s a bride would have would indicate the bride’s social and financial standing. Brides from wealthier families would customarily have more attendants than families with lesser social and financial standing.

Over time the bridesmaids took on the role of fussing over and catering to the bride regardless of their relationship with the bride. As an example the bride in choosing a colleague/peer would perhaps not expect that attendant to serve as a lady-in-waiting. These days it is an honour to be chosen as bridal attendant and those chosen are usually most willing to help in any way.

Maid of Honour is the title reserved for the best friend of the bride and as such the maid of honour becomes the focal point organizing when appropriate the other female attendants. Maid of Honour is the title applied to the key female unmarried attendant/best friend (of the bride). Matron of Honour is the title should the chosen key female attendant have already beaten the bride down the aisle of matrimony and is married.

It is socially acceptable to have a few as one attendant or as many as 12 attendants. The general rule of thumbs is that bridesmaids equal the same number as the groom’s attendants. Just from a practical notion, an usher should not be responsible for more than 50 guests. Therefore if you are having 150 guests then three ushers plus is fine. Another notion is that the numbers of attendants indicate the formality of the wedding ceremony. Three attendants would be considered informal, while 6 attendants would be semi-formal and twelve (or more) attendants would indicate a wedding that was highly formal.

I remember when I first got engaged and there were many celebratory parties going on as my fiancé and I tried to make plans and our friends were celebrating our engagement. One of the celebrations, a bunch of my fiancé’s male friends went out for an informal “chicken and wings” guy night. Well, of course a few beers later my fiancé was on the phone mentioning that he was adding another usher. After three calls and our wedding attendant party had doubled I had to tell him to not make any plans until he was sober. In a large circle of friends it can be hard to select who to choose for the bridal party. The best approach is to limit it to very close friends and/or family.

Another consideration when choosing wedding attendants is their overall response to alcohol. One of my husband’s attendants had to fly in to Ottawa from out of town when I got married. Unknown to us this gentleman had a few drinks on the plane prior to showing up at the wedding and during the cocktail hour. By the time for the speeches this usually polite, well-spoken friend was so obnoxious he had to be escorted out of the reception. And this was while delivering a very important speech on behalf of a dear friend who was ill and could not attend. Later I asked my husband what happened and I guess in the circles they travelled in almost everyone knew this guy could get carried away under the influence. The only way to avoid the embarrassment looking back would have been if I had thought to think about not only my husband’s friends but what their behavior during a party is like and choose accordingly.

This is a list of the head bridesmaid duties. I love the last one I think it is the best …“keep the bride laughing” that pretty much sums up the bridesmaids duties:

Frequently asked questions regarding how many wedding attendants to have:

Another really comprehensive list for all wedding attendants is (note it also includes male attendants):

Maid of Honor Duties and Responsibilities:


When being a bridesmaid can be dangerous (although funny):

Duties of a bridesmaid: