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Man of Honor, Best Woman? Oh My!


Celeste asks: “Are there rules for selecting honor attendants? I have waited a long time to honor special friends and family members by asking them to be an attendant at my wedding. I’m afraid that I’ll make a mistake, so maybe you can help me do this correctly.”

Dear Celeste: The only “rule” about picking attendants is that traditionally the bride picks her honor attendant and the groom chooses his. Besides that, there really aren’t any rules that need strictly to be followed. There are “traditions” in some families that should be taken into consideration before choices are made. In some families, the bride’s sister is automatically chosen as the maid of honor and the best man is always the groom’s brother. Following their family’s tradition, some couples pick a parent as an honor attendant. In the South, the groom’s father is often his best man, whereas it’s much less common for the bride’s mother to be chosen as the matron of honor. In some families, all the sisters (the bride’s and the groom’s) “must” be attendants.

That being said, while keeping family tradition in mind, many brides and grooms are creating their own, new traditions. In some cases a man is chosen as an attendant of the bride — her maid of honor (man of honor) — or her matron of honor, while the groom may pick one or more women to be among his attendants. Most couples have “let go” of the tradition that the best man and the maid of honor have to be unmarried. Attendants who have been divorced are also permissible. The number of attendants is a decision that’s left to the bridal couple. You should, however, be mindful of the logistics that are involved in having many attendants. For example, will there be space for them to stand? It is perfectly acceptable to have two best men or two maids of honor. One thing you will need to be careful of is that some religions have restrictions regarding who can be an honor attendant, so before you make your final list, check with your officiant.

Last, but not least, when you choose attendants, it’s to your advantage to make it clear that, although it’s an honor to be picked, it’s not just about being in the pictures, or walking down the aisle. Attendants play a real and important role. They are there to support and help you. I recommend you send them to HudsonValleyWeddings.com’s article “The Responsibilities of Honor Attendants at a Traditional Wedding” at so that they accept the honor with full knowledge of what they may be asked to do.

Alice asks:Can a married person be a Maid of Honor? And what would I call a married or widowed ‘Best Man’?

Dear Alice: Neither the best man nor the maid of honor has to be unmarried. A married or widowed man retains the title “Best Man,” while a married or widowed maid of honor is called a “Matron of Honor.” Divorced honor attendants are okay to chose, but be sure that choice wouldn’t offend your religious beliefs, or the sensitivities of your guests. Several Christian denominations have guidelines about who can be honor attendants. Some religions require that the official witnesses must be of the same the faith in which the ceremony is conducted. It’s advisable, if you are having a religious ceremony, to check with your officiant.

Michelle asks: “My best friends are all guys. Can one of them be my Maid of Honor and another my Best Man?”

Dear Michelle: Absolutely. Many brides-to-be are breaking with tradition by selecting a “Best Woman” or a “Man of Honor.” Even bridal showers and bachelor/bachelorette parties are, for some brides, going co-ed. Read all about making the switch in the HudsonValleyWeddings.com feature, “Choosing Your Honor Attendants.”

Hey readers, do you have a good story about “swapping” attendants? Include your comments in the box below, or submit your own question to “The Wedding Guru” by e-mailing judy@hvmag.com.

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