Inherent in the names of these attendant positions is their level of significance. The titles of “Best” Man and Maid of “Honor,” are important roles, with responsibilities attached. Neither the acceptance of such an honor, nor the process of selection should be taken lightly. 

Traditionally it is the bride who picks her honor attendant, while the groom chooses his. Open dialogue and communication will allow the couple to give one another input, while leaving the final selection to each. In many families, the bride’s sister is the “automatic” choice for maid of honor is and the best man is the always the groom’s brother. If both families follow that tradition, the process is easy, but, unfortunately, that is often not the case.

There is a real advantage in choosing a brother and/or sister for these honor positions, because it eliminates the need to choose one friend over another. In some cases, the prospective bride or groom select a parent as the honor attendants. In the South, the groom’s father is often his best man. It is, however, less common for the bride’s mother to be the matron of honor, because, more often than not she is busily involved in wedding-related chores. 

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 perfectly permissible if they don’t offend your religious beliefs or the sensitivities of your guests. Several Christian denominations have guidelines about who can be honor attendants, so it’s advisable, if you are having a religious ceremony, to check with your officiant. In some religions, the official witnesses must be of the same the faith in which the ceremony is conducted. 

While on the one hand many young couples are reaching back to the traditions of the past and incorporating them into their weddings, there are many prospective brides and grooms who are busy developing new traditions. The terms “Best Person,” “Honor Attendant,” “Best woman” and “Man of Honor” have cropped up recently, because some brides have decided to choose a man as honor attendant and some grooms have picked a female honor attendant. Besides the titles, not much else changes. The respective attendants walk, stand, sit, and behave exactly as their “other gender” counterparts would have.

As far as dress, a man of honor dresses just like the male members of the wedding party, and a best woman dresses like the female members. They each receive the floral tributes appropriate to their genders (i.e., boutonniere, bouquet). If the event calls for a large number of attendants, the bride’s male attendants may be distinguished from the groom’s attendants by the color of their vests.

Likewise, the groom’s female attendants may wear a dress that coordinates with the dress of the bride’s female attendants, rather than matching it. It is certainly unnecessary for the “Best Woman” to wear a black dress or “feminized” tuxedo, any more than a man of honor would need to wear a tuxedo in a color to match the bridesmaids’ dresses. 

The number of honor attendants that the bride and groom choose is entirely up to them. It’s perfectly acceptable to have two best men (e.g., the groom’s two brothers) or two maids of honor. It’s up to the couple to divide the duties amongst the players. There is no reason for tit for tat. If the bride has two honor attendants, the groom need not also have two. 

According to newlywed couples, the actual choice, despite the variety of possibilities is still a difficult one. Here are several guidelines that a bride and groom may use to narrow the field and make the final selections.

  1. Is your relationship to this person one which you anticipate will last for a long, long time or will you “kick yourself” every time you look at your wedding album, because the person you picked has faded from your life? 
  2. Is this person reliable and can he or she accept the responsibilities that the position entails or just be interested in looking good and having fun?
  3. Is this person upbeat, cheerful and resourceful? Will this person really be helpful and provide a support system in a very stressful time?

When the final selections are made, the most important criteria to keep in mind is that the attendants serve an important function and should not create more work for the couple. There is not rule that says you must have honor attendants. If your state or your religion requires a witness, any adult(s) present at the wedding will do. 

Make your choices wisely and you will not only honor friends and family, but you’ll be creating a support system that will prove invaluable on your special day, while strengthening relationships that will hopefully be a part of your lives for many years to come.