Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Maids of Honor and Special Privileges

If you watch TLC, you know that “Friday is Bride Day.” Typically, this means marathon runs of “Say Yes to the Dress” and “Say Yes to the Dress: Bridesmaid Edition” for a good 24 hours.

When watching one such marathon a few weeks ago (during lunch! I didn’t spend ALL DAY watching!), I was struck by the Maids of Honor in many a “Bridesmaid Edition” episode. These ladies seemed to feel themselves entitled to provide input for, dictate, or choose numerous aspects of the bride’s wedding, including bridesmaid dresses, bridesmaid accessories, and – shockingly – the hierarchy of other bridesmaids. In one episode, two bridesmaids started bickering in a wedding dress shop over which one should be designated the Maid of Honor. Can you imagine the bride’s horror? On “Say Yes to the Dress” this entitlement often took the form of the Maid of Honor believing she had the right to veto or approve a bride’s choice of gown.

If you’ve read the 2013 Summer/Fall edition of Washingtonian Bride and Groom, you’ll likely have encountered the article discussing how brides should treat their Maid of Honor. I liked this article (which appears near the end of the publication) because it provides a semi-gentle reminder of the fact that brides need to treat their attendants, and especially their Maid of Honor, with respect and gratitude. This includes not being too demanding, understanding the attendant’s budgetary limitations, and not expecting a Maid of Honor to drop everything at any time to help with wedding plans.

But, what about how the Maid of Honor should treat a bride? This, in my opinion, is as important a topic that which the Washingtonian article addressed. And so, brides, here is guidance about how your Maid of Honor should behave:

She should be polite and courteous at all times to everyone: this includes bridesmaids they don’t like, family members who are being overly demanding or aggravating either the bride or groom, and vendors who are rude. This rule isn’t too surprising given that politeness is expected in society; however, a Maid of Honor has a special place in a wedding and is often viewed as a semi-representative of the bride, especially if the bride is running the show with no wedding planner. Therefore, it’s particularly important that a Maid of Honor always be on her best behavior.

She should keep her opinions about the couple to herself and smile: nobody wants to know if she thinks the bride and groom shouldn’t get married or won’t last long, if the décor is satisfactory, or what she would have done to plan the wedding.

She should accept whatever dress and accessories the bride selects: remember “27 Dresses”? In that role, Katherine Heigel states something along the lines of “It’s their day. I want to be there for my friends; if they want me to wear a silly dress, what do I care?” This should be every Maid of Honor’s modus operandi.

This doesn’t mean that a bride can’t ask her Maid of Honor to help select bridesmaid dresses or that the Maid of Honor can’t provide a gentle, honest opinion about which dress she prefers. What it DOES mean, however, is that the Maid of Honor can’t throw a fit about a bride’s choice or have specific requirements (long, short, one-shoulder) about the dress. Think of it this way: the Maid of Honor doesn’t know every aspect of the wedding, how would she know what dress will fit best with the wedding’s atmosphere and décor?

She should do what is expected or asked of by the bride – provided she has agreed: this includes throwing a bridal shower and organizing a bachelorette party, if the bride so desires. It also includes completing any tasks that she has willingly taken upon herself. Note: “willingly taken upon”. This means that she must complete, in a timely manner, those tasks that she has agreed to perform – meaning, in turn, that the bride must ASK her for assistance or she must offer her help.

She should be available on the day of the wedding: this essentially means being at the bride’s beck-and-call. Although a Maid of Honor may have family members, children, or a date, what comes first on the day of the wedding is the bride. Anyone accompanying her should understand this. This may mean that her children need a babysitter or at the very least to have someone specifically assigned to caring for them.

She should be timely: please, please, please, be on time. It sets the example for the rest of the bridesmaids and helps the bride be on time. This is respectful of the bride’s hard work in creating a timeline so that her day goes off without a hitch.

She should be happy: if she can’t be happy for the couple or can’t stop focusing on herself, she never should have accepted being a Maid of Honor.

Reviewing all these “shoulds” reveals a common link: selflessness. A Maid of Honor is, first and foremost, selfless when it comes to helping the bride both before and on the wedding day.

So, what is a bride to do if she learns that her Maid of Honor is less than desirable? Talk to her calmly and gently, explaining what she would like and how she’d prefer her planning with her Maid of Honor to progress. If the Maid of Honor isn’t receptive, it might be time to appoint another (either in addition to or in lieu of) bridesmaid to the job who the bride believes might be more helpful.