Maid of honor
Choosing your Maid of Honor is more complicated than it looks. Nowhere else in your wedding planning is it easier for vexing problems to turn up! Why? Because the Maid of Honor's duties are often vaguely defined, and worse, poorly communicated.
In fact, every bride has her own unique idea of what a Maid of Honor should be. Which is fine - the trick is in communicating those ideas!
So what does a Maid of Honor do? On one end of the spectrum, she's a ceremonial figure who steps off the plane and walks down the aisle before the other bridesmaids.
On the other, she's a master of precognition who soothes your nerves before you know you're frazzled, helps you send out your invites, "manages" the bridesmaids, spreads the word on your registry, and offers up her thoughts on everything from the venue to the dress.
Most often, the Maid of Honor is somewhere in the middle. She leads the bachelorette party and/or bridal shower, and tries to "be there" for the bride during the planning process, and the ceremony itself.
All this flexibility leaves a lot of room for misunderstandings. And they happen a lot. The world is full of brides who feel hurt and let down by close friends as the big day draws near. Do you want to be one of them? Of course not!
So here are some tips on choosing - and communicating with - your Maid of Honor for minimum stress, and maximum happiness.
1) Define what you really want. Are you a do-it-yourself bride, or do you want your Maid of Honor to be your right hand all the way through?
If you're high-maintenance, accept and acknowledge it. Pick someone who can truly be there for you, and let them know exactly what you want. If you don't know anyone with that much time or energy to give, think about finding help elsewhere. Is your fiancé an active participant? Can your mother do more? Maids of Honor are not supposed to be wedding co-planners ... unless they really, really want to be!
2) Tell her what you really want. More than one bride has shed tears because a Maid of Honor couldn't read her mind. For example: many brides wish their Maids of Honor could give a little speech at the reception, but never get around to asking them. If it's important to you, talk about it!
3) It doesn't have to be family. Never feel you "have to" make a sister or other family your Maid of Honor. If your best friend's a loyal trooper who goes with you on all the errands, choose her. She deserves it.
4) Pick someone local if you need a lot of help. No one can do much from 3000 miles away, no matter how badly they want to.
5) Be realistic; look at past performance. Weddings are exciting. People are human. When everything's new and you've just announced your plans, lots of people will offer to help. But not everyone will manage to follow through.
Who came through for you before the wedding? Who actually managed to rearrange their schedules to be with you, even when inconvenient? These are the people to rely on. No matter how exciting your plans, they won't make an overcommitted person more available to you. Avoid the trap of asking such a person because you think your wedding will be "important enough" for them to "change their ways," and you'll avoid all the stress and hardship of a disappointing Maid of Honor.
6) Be realistic; look at her life ahead. No matter what a treasure your Maid of Honor is, she has limits, too. Is she expecting a new baby? Is she working through a divorce? If these things slow her down, which they probably will, can you pick up the slack without feeling disappointed?
7) Consider more than one Maid of Honor if you just can't decide. But keep in mind, this can cause problems too. Can your Maids of Honor divide responsibilities, communicate well and avoid feelings of jealousy?
Now that you've chosen, honor your Maid of Honor with a little sign of how special she is to you. Take her out to a day spa, or go together to have your hair done before the ceremony. Pick out a dress for her that's a different color from the other bridesmaids, or order her a bouquet with some special touches. She deserves it!
Follow these tips, and you'll be the bride who spends that all-important day surrounded by loving, warm friends at their ease. Could anything be better?
Blake Kritzberg is editor at "FavorIdeas.com." Stop by for wedding favor ideas, Save-the-Date eCards, free wedding screensaver, free wedding templates and Bridezilla's weekly adventures at: http://www.favorideas.com