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Category: Southern Etiquette

We all know bridal parties are famously large in the South, and with the effort to squeeze out as many honorary positions as possible often comes dual roles: choosing both a maid AND matron of honor to stand by your side on the big day. Karen wrote us with a question about this potentially sticky situation:

Hello ladies!

One of my best friends is getting married this summer. She has asked her cousin to be matron of honor and has asked me to be maid of honor, and let me know that I would be very busy helping with things for the wedding because of my title. However, so far she has not spoken to me about any of the usual things a maid of honor would handle, and instead has spoken to her cousin. For example, she mentioned a wedding shower, and then said that she needed to talk to her cousin about more details. That was the first I had heard about the shower, which is fine, but I just don’t want both her cousin and I planning the same things. Can a maid and matron of honor share duties, or not? Another concern is that I’m in school, and so don’t have a lot of money to pay for events or activities, but still want to help in any way I can. All advice will be greatly appreciated!!

Karen, you are in good company! I think many maids and matrons of honor are confused about their duties even when they’re the only one in the role. And the tricky thing is, while there are general guidelines, every bride is a bit different in terms of what she expects or would like her honor attendants to do, which is a recipe for hurt feelings on both sides. So that’s my first piece of advice: Sit your friend down (virtually, if necessary!) and let her know that you’re honored to have been asked and look forward to celebrating this special time with her. Let her know that you’re more than happy to assist in any way you can, but that to do so well you would love for her to elaborate on what, exactly, she expects from you, as well as what her matron of honor will be taking care of. Hopefully that will start moving everyone toward being on the same page! If she’s comfortable putting you in touch with her cousin, that could be a great next step toward you two working together instead of around each other.

I also completely understand not being as financially able; the best thing to do is to be up front with your friend if she asks or asks something of you that you’re not capable of. And remember, joyful, thoughtful emotional support (and sometimes your donated time and labor!) is more priceless to a bride than expensive trips and gifts.

Jessica Lorren

In the meantime, for all those facing a maid or matron of honor position without prior experience, here’s our general guideline to typical duties:

Be willing to help in whatever way possible with wedding planning. If you live nearby, this could mean helping to address invitations or assemble programs. If you don’t, you might offer to set up vendor appointments or research florists.
Lend an ear during the engagement. Even the most cheerful bride will likely need an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on at some point before her wedding. Weddings can be stressful — do what you can to alleviate that stress.
Help the bride select bridesmaids’ attire. Listen to and, if necessary, help squash, unreasonable grumblings from bridesmaids about said attire.
Make sure a shower and/or bachelorette are addressed. Make sure you ask the bride her wishes for these events, and then execute to the best of your ability with ample assistance from bridesmaids.
Organize bridesmaids’ gifts to the bride (if you’re giving one) and organize the bridesmaids’ luncheon (if you’re holding one). Brides sometimes like to host the luncheon themselves as a thank you to their ‘maids, so check with her before making plans.
Go into the wedding day over-prepared. More than any of the other ‘maids, it’s your responsibility to make sure you are aware of the timeline for the day, the order everyone will be walking down the aisle, where you’re taking portraits, etc. This way, the bride won’t be the only one fielding questions on her wedding morning, which can be very stressful.
Take control of the bride’s cell phone on the wedding morning. Of course, you’ll want to consult with the bride before you attempt to commandeer her phone, but setting up a sort of electronic forcefield around her while she’s getting ready means that only the truly important calls will get through.
Hold the groom’s wedding ring and the bride’s bouquet during the ceremony. Reposition her train if necessary.
Witness the signing of the marriage certificate.
Run interference. Between the bride and bridesmaids, between the bride and her mother-in-law, maybe even between her and the mother of the bride. Learn to be gracious, but firm. The skills of a diplomat are essential to successfully fulfilling this role.
Anticipate the bride’s needs. Make sure she eats something so her blood sugar doesn’t bottom out. If she has mentioned little things (having a bottle of champagne in the dressing area, wanting a through-the-door convo with her groom before the wedding, wanting a moment alone with her new husband just following the ceremony) execute her wishes to the best of your ability.
Bustle her gown post-ceremony. If you live nearby, it could be helpful to attend the final fitting so you can learn the ropes — er, buttons and snaps — before the big day.
–- Help the bride change into her going-away clothes and take care of the bride’s wedding dress and accessories after the reception.

Anything to add, ladies? Have you ever been a co maid or matron of honor? How did it go?

emily Written with love by Emily
  1. avatar Madelynne Moulton reply

    One thing my sister (MOH) did that helped me SO much was come up with a list of bags to pack and help me pack them for the wedding day. We had a bag for getting ready (that included toiletries, makeup, etc) , a bag for the church (that included undergarments for dress, wedding shoes, lipstick, etc), a bag for the reception (change of clothes, change of shoes), and finally the honeymoon bag. She put herself in charge of making sure all the bags got transported to the proper location and that everything was there that I needed. It was SO helpful!

  2. avatar Kate Collison reply

    As a bride with a middle-sized bridal party and multiple MOHs, I have been very lucky in that my special-est gals have simply agreed to get along wonderfully and share responsibilities. They deserve a lot of credit for their own behavior and decisions, especially taking this all on without knowing one another previously. I think they felt daunted at first, but really, it’s worked out so nicely, and they are now friends. I came to this decision because I am equally close with these women, but they don’t have exactly the same strengths and weaknesses. Where one may not feel as comfortable, the other steps in. I talked with them initially about what I hoped for in the planning process, what I expected of their roles, and asked if they had concerns about sharing duties. I make sure to be grateful to each for her lovely attention and help — communication has been SO key. My big day is coming up (June 8th) and I plan to ask each to help with one thing. One with the bustle, one with the veil, etc, so that my MOHs feel dutiful and helpful. I would advise brides to choose MOH’s wisely, however, because much of the success of this is choosing young ladies who are close to you, but who are also going to get along even under stress. Make sure to thank them well (as we always should, no?) and in your own, heartfelt way. I am a perpetual note-writer and I have written each gal individual thank you notes for EVERY STEP of their involvement – wedding dress shopping, planning and attending the bachelorette, attending and helping at my shower, for an active listening ear when wedding-stress hits… I think because my women have chosen to get along and I have made time in my process to genuinely tell and show them how happy I am makes our arrangement much brighter!

  3. avatar Emily reply

    I just got home from my very best friend’s wedding, that I was the maid of honor in, and this list is spot on! I took a lot of pride in my role and really wanted to make sure this day was perfect for the bride, and I think it was! I think the most important part is to just communicate with the bride as much as possible.

  4. avatar southern etiquette. | "Tide the Knot" reply

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  6. avatar Annemarie reply

    I need to fine out if a maid of honor is foe who not been married yet? Them what is the matron of honor who been married but still call be the maid of honor too? I need to fine out this? I’m getting married in April 2015 . We r going to Hawaii to get married too. Please help me out please. Thank you


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    I simply love this post! I have posed the same question but have always been unsure of what the title entails. Thank you for the preparation via your post.

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  16. avatar Cassey Penney reply

    Off subject but I was wondering if 1 of the girls has been married & divorced 2 times & currently engaged, would that entitle her to be the matron of honor or maid of honor? My friends have always chosen the married bff as matron & the other bff maid of honor, and I recently heard of just having 2 maid of honors and no hard feelings!

    • avatar Lisa reply

      Hi Cassey! It is definitely fine to have two maids of honor–I did at my wedding! :) The most important thing is that everyone feels comfortable with their role in supporting the bride on her big day, no matter what their “title” is. Hope this helps!

  17. avatar Erin reply

    Hi, I actually had both my sisters as MOHs at my wedding! And I think it went well… but now I am the Matron OH and my sister’s BFF is the Maid OH for my sister’s wedding. Overall it is going well I think. But I have been frustrated planning the bachelorette together because the other MOH and I have very different planning styles. She has been very unresponsive to me, so after giving her some time I have decided to make plans. Now she is changing my plans (i.e. telling the other bridesmaids different information than what I told them). I feel frustrated and I don’t know how to deal with this situation. Trying to get through it and wait until it’s over… but could there be a way to enjoy it?

  18. avatar Karen Liddle reply

    I am asking my aunt to be my maid of honor, and just found out the difference between matron and maid. My question is, if she is no longer with her husband, separated from him but not divorced, should I ask her to be my maid of honor? Or matron of honor?

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Reply to:

Whether to take your husband’s name or not is not something we’re going to advise on today, thank goodness! Instead, our question comes from a reader who has already decided to take her fiancé’s name, but is unsure what to do about the rest of her moniker. Read on… we’d love to hear your thoughts!

Hello, Emily!

I am getting married next May, and while I have never questioned taking my fiancé’s name, I’m torn over what to do about my middle name.

I know tradition holds that a lady drops her middle name upon marriage and replaces it with her maiden name. I’m not usually one to go against tradition, but I’ve never liked the sound of my maiden name. However, I do really like my middle name (it’s a lot prettier than my last name, and it’s the name my dad gave me). How big of a faux pas would it be for me to keep my middle name and just drop my maiden name all together?

Thank you in advance for the advice!

An excellent question! Growing up, I always thought it was so peculiar that my mom never had a middle name – she was Beth Bogart until she married my dad, at which point she became Beth Bogart Ayer. My grandmother specifically didn’t give her daughter a middle name even though her two sons had them, because she assumed my mom would just drop it when she married. I’m glad times have changed and that there’s more flexibility these days, especially since I love my middle name! In fact, I love my middle name so much that post-marriage I kept it and dropped my maiden name. That’s right, I’m Emily Armstrong Thomas (despite what my Twitter handle would lead you to believe…).

But back to the question: Though most ladies do choose to drop their middle name in favor of their maiden name when they marry, I wasn’t aware of a tradition that said it was incorrect to do the reverse* — I thought both were equally acceptable options. I double-checked with Emily Post to see whether she had anything to say on the subject, but I couldn’t find a definitive ruling either way. So, to answer M.G.’s question, I don’t think it would be a faux pas at all, and the only reason I would think twice about it would be if your family had strong feelings either way!

It’s hard to put a finger on exactly why I chose one over the other, but the best way I can summarize it is this: to me, it was obvious that “Ayer” would always be a part of my identity, because of my family and connections to people and places. “Armstrong” was something my parents had specifically chosen for me and only me, so to me, it seemed like a more innate part of who I am. It was a tough decision, though!

Ladies, I would love to hear: If you are taking or have taken your husband’s name, what did you do? Did you keep your middle name and drop your maiden name? Or vice versa? Did you keep both? Or, like my mom, did you never have a middle name? I would love to hear in the comments!

*After I wrote this post, Marissa chimed in with a little info of her own! She says: I’m not sure why, but in my experience it’s a very Southern tradition to keep your maiden name and drop your middle name. This was a topic for big discussion when I got married, as my entire in-law family was insistent that I keep my maiden name instead of my middle. Apparently it has to do with how names are passed down, and how to extend family names when couples did not have boys. If you go down old family trees (like BDK’s), maiden names were used not only as middle names for married women, but also as first and middle names for children to ensure the family names did not end. In the end, I legally kept my middle name (I felt my maiden name was a bit too German), but I now wish I’d done the reverse because I don’t ever use my middle name. However, no one knows that, because I go by my maiden name on everything, including my monograms!

P.S. Have your own etiquette challenge? Feel free to email me!

emily Written with love by Emily
  1. avatar Kate Collison reply

    I love this discussion :) So unique! I am choosing to keep both (Katherine Ann Collison Halcrow)- but I will be using my middle name with my monogram (Katherine Ann Halcrow) will be KHA – and I’m a gal who monograms *everything*. I am partly keeping both because my maiden name is what ties me to my beloved father, but I was given the middle name “Ann” as a reference to my mother who is named Ann. I am referred to by my mother as “Katherine Ann” and so my middle name can become a part of my understood first name. Also, I personally don’t feel that I can choose between a “naming-connection”, if you will, to my father while sacrificing one with my mother… and yes, Emily, I feel strongly about the chosen name that my parents gave me… yet, just as strongly about my lineage ties to my Collison family. **An interesting thought – when one researches family trees online and in physical, tangible records, it can be helpful to know AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE about family members, including chosen middle, maiden and legal married names. So, for the love of tradition and heritage (my favorite bits!), there may be some modern upside to keeping both. :) Excellent discussion, SW! Love it.

  2. avatar Kat reply

    For me, this was a really tough decision. I always assumed I would drop my middle name & keep my maiden, just as my mother did, however that is not at all what I have decided to do! Come July 20th, I will become Katherine Ashley Schmoyer instead of Katherine Houston Schmoyer. As much as I value my family heritage, on that July day I will be yoking myself to a NEW family- I will be vowing to be his wife, bear his children and put him before anyone – including my parents. It’s a beautiful, biblical covenant and to me, dropping my maiden name entirely really showed the significance of that! Plus I have to say I agree with you, Emily, when you say that your first & middle names really signify who you are because they were chosen just for YOU. “Katherine” had been passed down for generations in my family & my mom chose “Ashley” because of her favorite character in Gone With The Wind- you can’t get much more southern than that :) I love this discussion though and am interested to read why others decided to do what they did!

  3. avatar Amie reply

    I have never heard of dropping your middle name to keep your maiden name, or changing your middle name to your maiden name. It must be a South thing, I’m from Canada. It makes sense to hold on to it. Here we either hyphenate, go by maiden name, or take his name, but keep your middle name. There are of course all kinds of in betweens. I am keeping my name, but won’t mind it if people call me Mrs. S instead of Mrs. M.

  4. avatar Jewel reply

    My mom kept her middle and maiden name, so she’s Waltina Wilhelmina Cuffee Edwards. And the weird thing is, she gave my two youngest sisters her maiden name as a middle name, so they each have four names. Currently, I have three. I’m not sure why she did this… Now that I’m getting married, I’ve considered dropping my middle name. But then I realized that I absolutely love my middle name (Wilhelmina, same as my mom’s). And I’m incredibly close to my immediate and extended family, and my parents had no girls. But then I also do respect the sweet tradition of taking on the name of your husband. Which is why in the end I decided, why should I have to choose? I love all my names and my soon-to-be last name! So come June 15 I’ll be Jewel Wilhelmina Edwards-Ashman. Yes, it’s a mouthful. And that’s exactly the point. I just love long names; it makes me feel really fancy :) I’ll probably encourage my kids to take the same route I did– consider tradition, but in the end choose whatever name makes them proud and happy!

    • avatar Derrika Wright reply

      Jewel: To Jewel and everyone else that kept their first, middle, and last names, how do you feel out legal documents. I guess I’m trying to figure out what my official middle name will be now. Is it both my middle and maiden? I am really tied to my middle name and don’t want to just drop my own heritage. I also feel that if I simply change my last name, it won’t look like I’m married. My middle name is Neekole by the way and I’m attached to it because its a bit unique and its the name my father gave me. It just don’t seem that on legal documents or applications there really is an option to keep your whole name and simply add your husband’s last name. Maybe I should just have a conversation with the people at the Social Security office when I go to fill out the application.

  5. avatar Laura Caroline reply

    I love this post! Even though I’m not married yet, I have always struggled with which name I will drop (or to keep both), since I will take my husband’s last name. I am so glad my parents chose to call me by my first and middle name – the meaning behind both names, especially my middle name is precious, since I was named after our alma mater! I’m leaning towards dropping my last name (especially for monogram purposes!) because of something my dad told me when I graduated: everyone always asked him if he was upset he never had a son to pass on the family name. He said he never thought twice about because he knew his daughter would make a name for her own. I know that’s a lot to live up to, and even though I love my family and my last name, I think I’ll keep my double name!

  6. avatar Sarah W. reply

    I loved the idea of dropping my middle name and putting my maiden name as my middle name–that’s what I did. It doesn’t seem to be all that common for women to do that anymore. I did it because I never used my middle name much. It’s totally not out of the ordinary to just drop your maiden name and replace it with your married name and still keep your middle name. To each his own, right? :-)

  7. avatar Rachel reply

    Such an interesting topic I’d never considered! My mother was always called by her middle name even when she was a baby because my grandmother and grandfather thought she’d be a boy! (this was the 60s) So she’s always been Lynne and they added on Charlotte as a first name since she turned out to be a girl! So obviously when she married she couldn’t drop her middle name. So she added on her new married name and has 4! When I got married though I legally dropped my middle name because I LOVE my maiden name but I really think it’s a matter of preference. It’s YOUR name and you have to live with it. I say do what you want. ^_^

  8. avatar Laura reply

    When I was younger, I thought it was the law that women kept their maiden name as their middle name when they married :) That’s what my mom, grandmothers and aunts had done. I loved my middle name, Cameron, which was my great-grandmother’s maiden name, but I knew that it meant a lot to my family (especially my Dad) that I keep my maiden name, so that’s what I decided to do. However, I hope to use Cameron for any future little ones. Fortunately for me, it works for boys or girls :)

  9. avatar Kristen Cox Leen reply

    I just got married two weeks ago, and I am in the middle of the long journey of changing my name! I am a true southern girl and didn’t think twice about dropping my middle name and keeping my maiden name as my middle name. My VERY southern grandmother was a little disappointed when I told her I am dropping my middle name, Louise, which is named after her! All the females on my mother’s side have the same middle name. I gave my grandmother comfort by promising to give my daughter the middle name of Louise to keep with family tradition. I just didn’t want to have four names! I think it’s best for family history and for keeping part of my identity as a Cox (especially since my father passed away 8 years ago) to keep my maiden name. Also, it’s a pet peeve of mine in the world of social media when my girl friends drop their maiden name and then I have no idea who they are on facebook! I am going to weigh in on the side of tradition here and say keep your maiden name.

  10. avatar Kelly Cummings reply

    My mom didn’t have a middle name either, for the same reason!

    I actually legally kept all of my names and added my husband’s last name (no hypehns, that’s my new last name) when I got married (and now my name reads like a law firm, since all of my names are also used as surnames, haha), but my middle name was my grandmother’s maiden name and I really hated the thought of losing it. I use my maiden name as my middle name for most forms though, and so my driver’s license is pretty much the only thing with all four. I’m sure all the girls with double names have a lot of trouble with the name change dilemma!

  11. avatar Jenny Lynn Weitz Amare-Cartwright reply

    This is fascinating! I am from Venezuela, but I have been living in the United States for almost 10 years. My parents gave me a first name, a middle name, and as it is customary in South America, I have two last names (the first one is my dad’s and the second one is my mom’s maiden name). I have always used all four for everything (my ID card, my passport, insurance cards, etc.) When I got married, I decided against dropping any of my names because I felt that if I dropped any of them, it was like dropping my entire family! I have no brothers or sisters, so if i had taken my husband’s name, my parents heritage would have stopped right there. However, informally (meaning not legally) I include my married name everywhere I can, so I often use five names… and yes, everyone makes fun of me all the time, and it is usually a great ice breaker when I hand out business cards. The fact is, that I am proud of all my names becuase all of them are very important for me (it goes back to my great grandparents, grandparents, parents and now my husband). My biggest concern now is, how am I going to name my children? Will they have my husbands’ last name or a combination of mine and his like it is done in South America, where I am from? Should I give them my maiden name as middle name instead? But which one, the first one or the second one? It is all very complicated, but very very exciting!

  12. avatar kelly reply

    i’ll be keeping my ‘maiden’ name, not changing my name at all :)

  13. avatar Christin reply

    I love this discussion! As an academic and a Southern woman, there was quite a bit of debate about whether I would take my husbands last name. To echo Kat, it was very important for me to take his name and start our own family also due to the fact that I am a child of divorce and my mom (whom I’m closest to) changed her last name when she re-married. I since I have two brothers, I chose to drop by maiden name because the family name would continue without me and because my first and middle name come from both grandmothers which is very important to me. In all I’m Christin Elizabeth Huggins and love it! I totally agree that one’s name should be a reflection of her identity and what makes you feel most comfortable, even if it breaks from tradition. :)

  14. avatar Julie reply

    I love this discussion! I am born and raised southern, although my parents are from the west. My mother dropped her maiden name. But, when all my friends started getting married around me, they were dropping their middle name. I really didn’t want to drop either name. I like my middle name and my maiden name is very unique and recognizable to folks from my hometown. So, I turned my maiden name into a second middle name. I can use them as I see fit. My younger sister dropped her maiden name. To each their own!

  15. avatar Carolyn reply

    This is really interesting! I was open to keeping either Maiden or Middle name. My dad recently told me he doesn’t care if I keep the maiden name, and we do have several males with the same name…but I feel weird leaving out the maiden name! Who knows what I will do…I’ll probably wait until the last minute to decide!

  16. avatar Mary reply

    I have always loved my middle name and thought I would just add my married name at the end of my full maiden name. But then I married someone who’s last name started with the same letter as mine. My maiden name was really unique to begin with so making an alliteration out of the whole thing seemed silly.

  17. avatar Jessica reply

    This is a very interesting topic. As a girl of the south I was always familiar with dropping your middle name, and the always present “double name” situations. I’ve decided to keep my maiden name for a reason i’m surprised i havent seen in any of the comments above! First, my middle name is seldom used, so I don’t have much of an attachment to it. Second, I’m an only child, and there’s nobody else to carry it on. Lastly, and most important to me, is that i’m known professionally as Jessica Hughes. In my industry, its important that you’re known when changing jobs, etc, so becoming just Jessica Bennett would really confuse people!

  18. avatar Karen reply

    I honestly didn’t really think about the issue too much. I knew I would take my husband’s name even if I didn’t really want to because my parents and grandparents would be horrified if I didn’t. They are old fashioned in that a southern lady ALWAYS takes her husband’s name. My husband and I didn’t really discuss it either. I guess he just assumed I would take his name. Looking back I wish I had made more of an issue with it because I wanted to keep my own name. I was 35 when I got married in 2005. I should have put my foot down.

    When I went to the Social Security office the lady never questioned me. She just added his name to the end so now I have 4 names; First, Middle (my middle name from birth and my maiden) and Last (his last name). It makes it difficult as so many software programs still take so few characters for a middle name so I have to pick and choose sometimes which middle name I take. Even my driver’s license would only take 1! Shocked me. Aren’t there a lot of people with more than 3 names or long middle names?

    Plus, I just don’t want to get rid of the middle name my parent’s gave me at birth. It’s too pretty.

  19. avatar Jenny reply

    I actually kept both my middle name and my maiden name – so now I technically have 2 middle names. I felt attached to both and just didn’t feel right about dropping either one so I just kept both. :)

  20. avatar Clair Ashburn reply

    I have an extra confusing response! I grew up with 2 middle names! For a total of 4 names. When I got married, I thought 5 names would be over the top :) So I dropped one of my middle names and added my maiden name as a middle name. I think logistically it’s nice to keep your maiden name in the middle (whether you add or replace) because if an old document has your maiden name, you can easily show that was you.

  21. avatar Pamela reply

    Hi, im glad somebody feels the same way I did two years ago. I dropped my maiden name and kept my middle name. I not only love my middle name but actually childhood friends known me by it. It’s part of my identity. Ill always be part of my family but dropping my middle made me feel if that part of me would just be gone. I’m glad my family understood and never questioned my decision :)

  22. avatar Madelynne Moulton reply

    My legal name is Sarah Madelynne Moulton (I dropped my maiden name). But I identify myself as Madelynne Miller Moulton because I have never gone by Sarah and Miller is part of who I am! And, I love alliteration!

  23. avatar Julie reply

    I kept my maiden name. Once you get married you are now in a family with your husband but I think keeping your maiden is a nice way to respect your parents and all they have done for you.

  24. avatar Taylor reply

    Well I have a similar issue. I have a first, middle, and last name. I will soon be getting engaged and I have always thought I would drop my first name, since I go by my middle name. Literally NO ONE calls me by my first name. So why do I need it, right?! But my mother is very hurt by the idea of me dropping my first name because she loves my first name. Our family is also only girls, so our last name will be gone when my sister and I get married and change our names, if we don’t take our last names as our married middle names.
    So my name is Christian Taylor Bishop
    Mom wants: Christian Taylor Deal (similar to what she did)
    I want: Taylor Bishop Deal ‘
    Thoughts anyone?

  25. avatar Emily Rachelle reply

    I’m just a teenager, but I love to read wedding blogs. I’m sure I’m not the only one! ;)

    Anyway, I’ve lived all over the place – South Dakota, New York, Georgia, and more than a couple foreign countries. I don’t know much about those countries’ traditions, but I’ve seen a pretty even balance between keeping the middle name and keeping the maiden name. My mom and most of my relatives, as well as most of the people I knew in New York, dropped the maiden name. As a kid I thought that was the norm. Then when we moved to Georgia I learned how common it is to drop the middle name.

    Personally, as the only girl in my family, I’m not all that attached to my maiden name. My middle name (Rachelle) is unique and beautiful and is actually a combination of my mother’s name (which my dad wanted to use) and Rachel, which my mom wanted. So, when I started blogging and writing, I used my middle name instead of my last, because (a) I like it better, and (b) I wanted to build name/brand recognition, but I also knew I’d be taking my husband’s last name when I got married. (Since then I’ve learned how common it is to just not change your name, but I never liked that idea anyway.)

  26. avatar Lakin Turner reply

    I’m from WV and I am getting married in August. My name is Lakin McKay Turner and when I get married I will drop my last name and add my new one so I will become Lakin McKay McCann. I chose to do that because it sounds fun! Plus my fiance has an “M” middle name as well so when kids come along we would like to keep in that way!

  27. avatar Sam reply

    My fiance and I just talked about this the other day! My middle name is Nell which has been passed down for hundreds of years, and my last name is Schweitzer, which doesn’t make a very pretty middle name, so I am definitely dropping my maiden name and keeping Nell as my middle name.

  28. avatar Meredith reply

    I will be getting married in October and I’ve never liked the idea of dropping either middle or last name. My middle name is a combination of my grandmothers middle names Louise and Ann I’m Luann, so it is very significant. I do have a brother so the last name will continue, but I’ve decided to keep my name and just add my new last name. I will identify legally and socially with the new last name, lucky for me both my middle and last names start with an L so keeping with the 3 initial monogram won’t cause me a headache over which to pick!

  29. avatar Emily reply

    I kept my maiden name and dropped the middle. Love the information in this post! This is something I wondered about 5 years ago and couldn’t figure out what to do, so last minute I dropped the middle.

  30. avatar Jen Kessler reply

    This is so interesting! I’ve never heard of it before and maybe that is because I live in Seattle. I love these kinds of traditions and I think that’s why I find this blog so delightful – it seems the south is rooted in deep tradition that makes me fantasize about living in a different time. :)

  31. avatar Lauren reply

    This is very interesting. I’m glad to know that I won’t be the only one dropping my maiden name in the future :). I’m way more attached to my middle name than my maiden name.

  32. avatar Katie reply

    My name is Mary Katherine, but I have always been called Katie by my family and friends. I couldn’t exactly drop the Katherine, as then no one would understand where the nickname derived from. I didn’t want to have four names, and I have been told that dropping your first and your last would be more complicated, and it seemed like it would be doubly confusing for people. The end result–I am dropping my maiden name and will keep my middle name. Depending on the maiden name, you can always give it to a son (or a daughter!) as a first or middle name if you are concerned about keeping your name alive in records–not to mention it results in a name that is unique and specific to your family!

  33. avatar Meghan P. reply

    I have a unique situation with this, because my parents blessed me with two middle names! I have always loved having four names (except when monogramming), but find it hard to choose one middle name over the other. I decided a long time ago to do what my mother did, and use my maiden name in between my first & future husband’s last name. My middle names will still be very much a part of me regardless.

  34. avatar Monica Ford reply

    I never had a middle name, neither has my sister. My older brother has a middle name my grandfather chose for him and it’s incredibly Chinese (incidentally he got that side of our family’s looks). I’ve given thought to incorporating my mother’s maiden name (since I’m a little at odds with my heritage and the name Ford) but its a bit touchy since my father specifically gave us all his father’s surname after a divorce. Growing up I always wanted a middle name, but neither side of my family felt it important. Its not done with Chinese girls and when I asked my dad (who’s from Mississippi) he said that he wanted my maiden name to be my middle name. I never realised it was a southern tradition. If I were to adopt my mothers maiden name as my middle name, I’m not sure if I would drop it or just add my maiden name when I marry since to me they’re all last names. I suppose this is how people used to end up with a million middle names.

  35. avatar Christyne Parsons reply

    I hope I’m not too late to respond to this… I am from Shreveport, Louisiana and all of my family live in the south in Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. I was never told either way by any of my family members which way to go with a name change. I was actually never spoken to about my name change at all so I’m not sure how strict of a Southern tradition it is…but I kept my middle name and lost my maiden name. I was Christyne Dalese Watson and then I became Christyne Dalese Parsons. I didn’t think Christyne Watson Parsons sounded nice or even looked like a proper name. It definitely looks like it should be hyphenated. … I just think Watson would be a lousy middle name. My parents created my middle name out of my dad’s middle name Dale and their best friend Lisa. So honestly, my middle name has more family meaning than even my last name did. I have a daughter, though, that I used my maternal grandmother’s maiden name as her middle name – so in a way – I am carrying on a maiden name tradition. Her name is Audrey Coco Parsons.

  36. avatar Lee Anne Jackson reply

    My entire family is from Mississippi, and it’s very important to keep your maiden name to them. In Texas, where I live, it’s 50/50. My name is Lee Anne Jackson, but I’ve always gone by my full name. I’m changing my first name to LeeAnne when I get married and will officially be Lee Anne Jackson Rogers. I can’t imagine losing any part of my name because it represents my entire life, both old and new. And it honors the first 32 years of my life with my parents. I think either way is fine, but it’s nice to be able to “hand” these names down each generation.

  37. avatar Reagan reply

    I am getting married in August, and I have decided to drop my middle name and keep my maiden name! I have a specific reason for this, however – my middle name is Mallory, which I just love so much. However, I barely get to use it and hardly associate it as part of my name (since it’s my middle name). So my fiancé and I have decided that if we are blessed with a daughter in the future, Mallory will be a part of her name! To me, that’s a much more excited thought than keeping the name to myself :)

  38. avatar Nicole reply

    I have chosen another option for my upcoming wedding, and subsequent name-change. My parents chose Rosa as my middle name–it was my grandmother’s name and I don’t want to part with it. In addition, there are no boys in my family, and so I would like to keep my last name as well. So, I am keeping both! It will be quite the mouthful, and a hand-cramper for sure! As for monograming, I will be moving my middle name to be a part of my first name (my legal first name will be Nicole Rosa) so my maiden name will be my middle initial of a monogram. What’s a girl to do!

  39. avatar DA reply

    I worked in an office along with an attractive married woman when one day, the flirty guy of the office asked what her maiden name was. You could hear a pin drop and also feel the heat of the death-ray stare she gave him.

    There is a clear, unwritten, interpersonal understanding that is tightly woven in with that kind of information.

    Why did he want that info? Why did she refuse to provide it?

    In my opinion, he wanted it to test her commitment (to get an ‘in’) and she refused giving it to prove her commitment (and/or to reject his interest).

    After experiencing that event, it seems sensible to drop the maiden name unless you are not fully committed to the lifelong relationship.

  40. avatar Ashley Jones reply

    I kept my middle name and put his last name at the end I am now Ashley Winnette Bennett

  41. avatar Audrey reply

    Emily, I felt the exact same as you. My middle name is a family name that my great uncle and great grandfather had – Leighton. I felt like I would always have Hale (maiden name) as a part of my identity. I could always say, “My maiden name is Hale.” But if I dropped Leighton, I would never mention that once was my middle name. There would be no reason to. However, if I had a filler middle name, such as Lee or Marie, I would probably have dropped my middle name and used my maiden name. I have never heard that it is Southern tradition to keep your maiden name, and I come from a long line of Southerners. But we are more like hillbillies than the “old money” south. So that may have something to do with it!

  42. avatar Emerald reply

    My friend – out of nowhere decided to use her married name as her middle name and her maiden name as her last name – she insists this is the correct way. I even mentioned that I suppose Jacqueline Kennedy was wrong! It still doesn’t sink in – the strange this is she has been married to a good friend for awhile and just recently decided to use this strange arrangement. Is this ever correct? She is not a professional – only worked in a factory.

  43. avatar Sue reply

    How would you monogram if you are a divorced mom? Would you drop your divorced name and go back to your maiden name? Example: Kayla Reese marries a man whose last name is Fletcher. But then divorces and marries a man whose last name is Lee. Would she be Kayla Reese Lee OR would she be Kayla Fletcher Lee?

  44. avatar Christine reply

    Wow! This is so interesting to find! I just finally took care of my official name change after I got married and was doing an internet search to see what other gals did and stumbled upon this post. I never knew it was “tradition” anywhere for women to drop their middle names for the maiden names–I thought it was a new trend! I see from the comments that it must be a Southern tradition. I like it, and kinda wish I had been brought up that way. Might have made my decision easier…When I got married I added my maiden name to my middle name (so I have two middle names), but then came across a slew of problems because the full name was too long for documents like social security card, driver’s license, etc. (my First, Middle, and Maiden names all have nine letters!) Well I don’t want to write a blog post as a comment, haha, but if you’re interested in my full experience and some repercussions from doing it the way I did, you can read my post about it:

    I think each woman has to do what feels right for her, though it would definitely be less of a hassle to just replace the middle name (or drop the maiden name entirely) for practical purposes.

  45. avatar What's in a Name? (The Name Change) – The Dutchinese Couple reply

    […] take what you can get. (Edit: Apparently, this is the norm for women in the South—Check out this blog post on Southern—I never knew, but replacing the middle name with the maiden name is the tradition of their […]

  46. avatar 5 Alternatives to Taking Your Spouse's Last Name — Everyday Feminism reply

    […] your own last name as your middle name when you get married is said to be something of a Southern tradition that allows family names to live on even when marriage stands to eliminate […]

  47. avatar Nicole reply

    I have heard of many ladies I respect doing both. In my case I go by my middle name. So my first name is more formal but family, friends, and coworkers call me Nicole even if my name on my birth certificate is Leigh Anne Nicole. However I have found that this tradition is also extremely southern. Most of my family members in fact go by their middle names and I have several friends who do as well. So as I look to changing my name I wouldn’t keep my maiden name because it would either take away my actual name or my full name would become abnoxiosly long.

  48. avatar Nicole reply

    Of course I’m not from the south but I don’t see why you can’t keep both. I have 2 middle names as it is (my middle and moms maiden) but I wouldn’t drop anything. I also semi don’t see the reason to change your name officially. You are who you are when you’re born. You’re allowed to use his name either way so I plan on just using his when I want to and of course the kids get it.

  49. avatar Laura reply

    Despite growing up in Charleston (and now living in Richmond, VA) I never knew it was “traditional” to keep your maiden and drop your middle name! Everyone I know just drops their maiden name. I dropped my middle name because I was Laura Ashley Pierce and my mother swears she didn’t name me after the designer/brand but Ashley was never a name I used or connected with and since I am now Laura Pierce Little, I’ve kept my maiden name and use my full name as 1) the alliteration is a bit much for me and also I think it’s nice to honor my roots as I am the last of the Pierce’s in our tree!

  50. avatar Jehnel Oboza-Davison reply

    I’ve kept it all! Even my mom’s maiden name! Growing up in a Filipino household, traditionally, you would be given your mother’s maiden name as a middle name. I also had a middle name given to me when I was born, so I had a long name to begin with. When I got married, I wanted to hyphenate my name, so I have a VERY long name: but it’s my own & I wouldn’t ever go back! I kept it all because why not? (= (Jehnel Chloe Rovillos Oboza-Davison)

  51. avatar Terann Birdwell reply

    I got married in December and dropped my middle name and kept my maiden. I always knew I would do that- it’s what my mother did and very Southern. I also did it as a way to honor my dad-
    he has 2 daughters, 3 sisters, and all girl cousins, so there is no one to carry on his last name. I feel like keeping my maiden name as my middle is sort of a way to keep the “Hillis” name going!

  52. avatar Abby reply

    I’m getting married in October and I’ve decided to keep my middle name and ditch my maiden name!

  53. avatar Heather B. reply

    I had such a hard time deciding that I actually filled out my social security form both ways and decided when it was time to hand it over! I ultimately went with my maiden name as my last name. I personally think my new name doesn’t flow as well as it would have but I wanted to keep that family name. From a business perspective, using my maiden name has helped people make the connection of my pre and post married identity easier too.

  54. avatar Leanza Altenderfer reply

    My father’s name is Charles Sumner Altenderfer III. Because I don’t have any brothers and I am the youngest I was named Leanza Sumner Altenderfer to continue the middle name in the family. When I take my soon-to-be husband’s name this year I plan on keeping Leanza Sumner simply because it carries on the tradition and because Leanza Altenderfer Kauffman is quite a mouthful! Although I love the sweet tradition of taking your husband’s name and keeping your maiden name, I think each situation and family dynamic is different!

  55. avatar Jessica reply

    This is a question I have also battled with, I knew that I would take my husbands last name my whole life but I never thought about the middle name. For me this was a difficult decision because I lost my father at a young age and as an adult I felt like my last name was a major part of him. After talking to my mom and putting a lot of thught into it, I realize my father gave me my last name, but he chose my middle name. So in May I will change my last name but the rest of my name will stay the same. As my Mom told me, everything you fill out for the rest of your life will ask for your maiden name so there is no worries if it being forgotten.

  56. avatar SAMANTHA reply

    I couldn’t decide between my middle name and maiden name, so I kept both! Yes – I have four names! They are each important to me. My middle name is a family name passed down from my grandmother – actually her maiden name, and a big part of my heritage. I wanted to afford the same grace to my own maiden name as well. So four names it is!

  57. avatar Carolann reply

    I actually chose my middle name when I was 7 (used to be Carol Ann Belk, and to make the rest of my life easier we legally combined my first and middle name to one word – I guess the name “Carol” on my first grade desk didn’t sit well with me). In need of a middle name, I chose my mom’s maiden & middle name as my new middle name. How I didn’t choose something like “Cinderella” is still a wonder to me but somehow I managed to make a logical decision. So since it wasn’t chosen by my parents and neither I nor my dad have any brothers, I’ll choose to replace my middle name with my maiden. Every situation is different depending on how attached you are to your middle name and whether you’re the only one left to continue your maiden name I think!

  58. avatar Courtney reply

    Thank you for this post! I have been struggling with this decision myself ever since I got engaged and the discussion is helpful. I’ve never been a fan of my last name and have always been excited to drop it in favor of my middle and taking my future husbands last name. However, realizing I would be letting go of a piece of my dad who is no longer with us brought on all sorts of guilt and has made me rethink dropping my maiden name altogether. Still not exactly sure what I’ll end up sticking with come our May wedding, but it’s nice to know that any option I choose (3 names or 4 or maybe even shortening middle and mailed to just 2 middle initials) isn’t as weird as I may have thought!

  59. avatar Bibber reply

    I was struggling with a similar issue, as I too believe stringy in southern tradition and I knew I wanted to take my husband’s name. But the problem, my name I have always gone by is a family nickname of my middle name. It simply didn’t make sense for me to drop it. Also, my mother had the same issue, in that she went by her middle name, and therefore understood the why behind my decision. This certainly made the process much easier though and made more sense. But, I say, if you take his name, do what you feel is right with what you have left if your own!

  60. avatar Lauren reply

    I have never heard of keeping your maiden name instead of your middle name. My sister works at Charleston Wedding Magazine. I will have to ask her if this is common with the brides they feature in the magazine and on the blog. A lot of my friends and family members call me by my full name, Lauren Ashley. I don’t think I would ever drop my middle name.

  61. avatar Gen reply

    This was the biggest fight my dad and I ever got in–completely unexpectedly. I have always loved my middle name (Corling) and the last name I was taking was very similar to my maiden name. At the end of the day, it was important to my family, so I kept my maiden name and found a way to re-purpose my middle name into the name of my consulting company…which funny enough my dad was also “so-honored” that I did. (Corling was paternal-grandmother’s middle name…that she dropped when she got married as well.)

  62. avatar Kay reply

    I actually kept all of my names… my middle name and my maiden name are in the middle and I took my husbands last name. I can’t say it hasn’t been without some issue… people have the hardest time understanding that I have two middle names…not a double first name or a hyphenated last name. But I wanted all of my names, so it is my burden to bear :)

  63. avatar Elizabeth reply

    I was torn on what name to keep as well as I like them both, but I ended up keeping my middle name.

  64. avatar Beth Resha reply

    I kept my maiden name because I had too much with that name on it. Just added my husbands last name. We have been married 7yrs and it has worked out great.

  65. avatar kristin reply

    i LOVE all of my names and have struggled with this. i’ve actually gotten really upset about having to change my name (outside of the excitement of getting married)! and for that reason, i’m keeping all of my names. i didn’t ask anyone’s opinion – which sounds like it might have been for the best! :) but all my names are family names and i want to always feel like me. so there we go! but i’ll also still recognize that i have a new monogram, and for those purposes i will drop by middle name. just not legally!

  66. avatar Felice reply

    I’m so glad this is a discussion. I understand women who keep their maiden names to make legal changes smoother or to honor their family, but I dropped my maiden name like a hot potato for several reasons. 1. My name is so difficult to begin with. Felice Anne Serrett was the name I was born with. My new last name is Delahoussaye. Yes a mouth full. So I’m going to keep Anne so people can at least spell one of my three names. Not to mention Anne is my alter ego who orders my take out and coffee. :) 2. My parents are divorced and I no longer have a strong relationship with my father. And so I do not feel like I need to honor him by keeping my maiden name. 3. I come from an old cajun family. My dad’s birth certificate has our last name spelt Serrette. My grandfather just decided they were no longer going to spell Serrette with the “e” so technically my maiden name is different from my father’s. Either way it is a very personal decision. I don’t think etiquette is something to worry about when it comes to picking a name that you will (hopefully) have the rest of your life.

  67. avatar Sarah reply

    I love reading all of your responses and opinions! My mother kept her middle name when she married my father because her maiden name is very German ; however, she decided to preserve the name by giving it to my brother as his middle name (Alexander Hess). My mother-in-law to be has gone by her middle name her whole life so when she got married, she actually dropped her first name, took her middle name as her first name and her maiden name as a middle name. It was an easy decision for me to keep my maiden name when I get married; my full name is Sarah Elaine Cate, but almost everyone I meet thinks Cate is my middle name and that I go by “Sarah Cate”. And I actually love going by Sarah Cate! It makes my name a little more unique and I love the Southern sound of a double name. And I just love the sound of Sarah Cate Dominick, which is what my married name will be :) All of this being said to show that every bride has a unique name and a unique reason for choosing that name, so whatever you choose to do, embrace it and rock it!

  68. avatar Kimberly reply

    I’m stuck on this issue too. I had always assumed I would do as my mother did and keep my maiden name, but I’m really not sure anymore I really like my middle name. It always a plus that I write my middle name neater than my maiden name. I also think Kimberly Renee Simpson sounds better than Kimberly Jones Simpson. It just doesn’t flow with my maiden name. But I love my daddy, and I just can’t see my older brother having kids, so I feel like I have to help carry on his name. What on earth do I do?

  69. avatar knikita reply

    I just recently gotten married and I was debating on dropping my last name or my middle name. I am from the south and you all know how southern traditions are. After reading a lot of comments on this post I have decided to keep my middle name. My father named me and he passed 3 years ago. My name is kind of unique to me and if anyone who actually know me can easily find me on social media. My name is Knikita (pronounced Nikita, the k is silent) Tijuana and I love it. I will never part from the names my father gave me.

  70. avatar Angela reply

    I am 98% sure I will keep my maiden name and drop my middle name, mostly because when my full name is said or read, I want it to be clear that I am married. My maiden name is such a last name.

  71. avatar Erika reply

    I decided to keep my middle name Nicole. My grandmother always loved that I had the middle name Nicole. She wanted to name my mother Sharon Nicole, but my grandfather wanted her to be Nicki Sharon. She regretted not going with the first. Since she died in a car wreck a few years ago, I feel like I keep her memory alive having the middle name Nicole.

  72. avatar Julie reply

    I am from Georgia and both sides of my family are from North Carolina… I never knew there was a question of how to change your name until I did it! The women in my family have always dropped their middle name (even strong family names) and replaced it with their maiden. I assumed that was the legal way to do it, but apparently it’s just a tradition. Fascinating! I’d love to see a map of these customs… It has to be a regional/cultural thing.

  73. avatar Robin reply

    My grandmother raised me and always said when a woman marries, her maiden name becomes her middle initial. As luck would have it, I ended up with a sister in law also named Robin and it wreaked havoc with utilities and confusion at the post office even though we had different middle initials. When I divorced, I resumed my maiden name and middle initial (Carole).

  74. avatar KD Moultrie reply

    I dropped my middle name and replace it with my maiden name

  75. avatar Leslie M. reply

    I kept my original middle name and added my unmarried name as a second middle name when I got married. It took 5 months to get around to legally changing it, but I’ve had it that way since, even post-divorce. Seems fine to me. :)

  76. avatar Marjorie reply

    I am struggling with this right now! I’ve been married for over 2 months and haven’t been able to decide. We had a reason for me to wait (going through house loan process) and now that it’s over I have to make my decision. Part of me feels like it’s not a big deal, because like Marissa said, if I change it one way, I can still go by the other way and no one would ever know.
    My birth name is Marjorie Kathleen Sliker and I married a Gates. I definitely want his last name. I’ve hated going by Marjorie Sliker my entire life and people not understanding what I’m saying or how to spell it. BUT, I went to school for Broadcast Journalism and was a local Emmy nominated journalist, I’ve been working as a videographer and in online marketing for 5 years and have established myself online as Marjorie Sliker. I really want future employers to be able to see my name on my resume and Google me and find everything that’s been posted with my maiden name. Part of me wants to be a stay-at-home mom and the other part of me knows I shouldn’t give up everything I’ve worked for. I hate dealing with the name Sliker, and my middle name is Kathleen, after my aunt, and my favorite part of my name. I don’t want to give that up either. I wonder if I should change it to Marjorie Kathleen Sliker Gates, but is that too long and aggravating when dealing with legal docs and things where I have to use my full legal name? I also thought about legally changing it to Marjorie Kathleen Gates and going by Marjorie Sliker Gates online, then it would bridge that gap online between Marjorie Sliker and Marjorie Gates.
    My husband is supportive either way, but I know deep down he wants me to drop my maiden name. That’s been the tradition in his family. I really just don’t know what to do!

  77. avatar Rachel reply

    I’m getting married in 3 weeks (!) and have battled with this for awhile. Like some of y’all said, my middle name is for my maternal grandmother (who passed away), but as an only child and from a family with only granddaughters, I don’t want my maiden name to end.

    Those of you with 4 names, did you have any trouble fitting all of your names on your drivers license or SS card? If so how did you choose? Plus, my married name is going to be a long Italian name, so I’m worried about the length. And since my new name starts with the same letter as my maiden name, I think I’d lean towards making my maiden name my “legal” middle name if I had to choose; I’d love new initials ;-) Rachel Elizabeth Singer Sanguinito is quite a mouthful!

  78. avatar Lorren Rowland Lerew reply

    I dropped my middle name and kept my last name. My husband, who just happens to be a Yankee ;), thought it was weird that I didn’t keep my middle name. I just felt WAY more attached to my maiden name than my middle name.

  79. avatar Carol reply

    My name was Barbara Carol but I have always gone by my middle name Carol so when I got married I dropped the name I did not use and changed to Carol, then maiden name, and then new married name.

  80. avatar Charlie reply

    When I got married, I kept all names. I took my middle name and hyphenated it with my maiden name and took my husband’s name as my new last name. I loved the option of doing that and my husband and I are both glad I did it that way!

  81. avatar Terri reply

    I’m currently in the struggle to keep or drop my maiden name. Is it acceptable to list your original middle name and your maiden name as the new middle name? Example: Terri Eleanor Hodge becomes Terri Eleanor Hodge Malloy, with Eleanor Hodge listed as the middle name?

Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

Reply to:

Happy Monday, y’all! I’m not the only etiquette guru in the SW hen house anymore, so I thought I’d let Kristin take a stab at this month’s sticky conundrum. Please enjoy! — Emily

Friends, navigating the unwritten “rules” of bridal party etiquette can leave you about as clean as a pig in slop, am I right? The questions seemingly never end, including who to include and where to draw the line — ESPECIALLY when it comes to family. We know that so many of you struggle with this, so we were more than happy to share a recent letter from Betsy, a northern reader marrying into a Southern family:

Hi ladies!

I am recently engaged to a groom raised in the South. I was not raised in the South, and we do not live there now. He has three sisters, all of whom I do not have a personal relationship with — unfortunately, we do not live anywhere near each other. I spent a long weekend with two of them a year ago, and the other I know better, but she wasn’t exactly jumping for joy at the news of our engagement.

If it really meant a lot to my groom for his sisters to be in the wedding, I wouldn’t be writing this email, but he is solely worried that it might cause tension in the family if they are not in the wedding party. I feel that because there are so many sisters it is unfair for him to pressure me to put them in my wedding party. I really don’t want to start off my relationship with my new sisters-in-law on the wrong foot, but I am struggling with the feeling of being forced to put them in the wedding over my own family and friends because of his “Southern tradition” ploy. Please help!


Happy Everything Co.

Betsy, the good news is that I do not know of any particular Southern tradition that requires the bride and groom to include the others’ brothers and/or sisters in his or her half of the bridal party, though of course, it’s considered traditional throughout most of the country. I double checked our friend Emily Post to be sure, and she only says, “You aren’t required to ask siblings, though it certainly promotes family unity.” I would tend to agree with her there.

There’s also no etiquette rule that places a cap on the number of bridesmaids, or says that the groomsmen and bridal party have to be equal in number. (And as someone who had a bridal party the size of a professional football team, I can attest to a large party being the right decision for some!) So if your relationship with your future sisters-in-laws isn’t bad, I’d say go ahead and ask them (they might decline, after all!), but also ask the friends and family members you originally intended to ask. Honestly, these gals are going to be your family for a long time to come, so unless they’d truly make you miserable, I’d go ahead and ask them to participate. The good news is that this time together will allow you a chance to get to know them better!

Since it sounds like you haven’t had a lot of quality time with them, perhaps the other option is to approach them about participating in the wedding in a different role, if they would rather. Given the limited interactions, they might feel more comfortable being a reader or greeter? Whatever you decide, I’d encourage you to talk it over with your groom and make sure you’re both on board — you and he will be making lots of decisions over the next few years around when and how extended family will be incorporated into your new family, so this is a great place to start the conversation.

Belles, what do you think? I know that many of you past and current brides have faced similar situations with wedding parties and family. Any other ideas for how to handle including family members from your new family into your wedding day?

P.S. Have your own etiquette challenge? Feel free to email Emily!

kristin Written with love by Kristin
  1. avatar Alyssa reply

    I’m not a huge fan of the “family wedding party” additions, myself. Honestly, just because I have 2 brothers, I didn’t expect my fiance to automatically put them in his wedding party. I think the tradition is a bit archaic. We actually made the decision to NOT include any brothers/sisters in our wedding parties, as we’ve learned that family members are the biggest source of wedding drama and issues.

    Put people in your wedding that mean the MOST to you, the people who you treasure and love most. If one of those people happens to be your fiance’s siblings, great. Its your wedding, and you should include the people you want, not the people you feel obligated to include. You’ll be much happier in the long run :-)

  2. avatar Diane reply

    About family being in the wedding party. I just had this situation arise. We had only been engaged about a month, when my fiance’s mother asked about the rehearsal dinner (she is paying) and who would come. I didn’t say her daughter and sister-n-law because I hdan’t included them in the wedding party. She was hurt and thought it was not a good way to stat out. I have friends whom have been in my life for 15+ years and we wanted to keep the party small. So I asked his sister and her soon to be here baby to be an honoray bridesmaid and honoray ringbearer and the brother in law to walk in the mom. The result, no hurt feelings. :)

  3. avatar Lauren reply

    My cousin had a similar issue, though in her case, her groom didn’t feel he had a close enough relationship with her brothers to ask them to be groomsmen and the brothers were a bit surprised at how early in their relationship the engagement came. So, the groom didn’t ask them, which ended up hurting both her brothers and the bride’s parents, who wanted to see all their children at the altar when their baby girl said, “I do.” Ultimately, and after more than a few tears, the brothers were asked to be groomsmen, and they graciously accepted. I can say for certain that things would have gone much more smoothly if the groom had simply taken that opportunity to get to know his future brothers-in-law better and not hesitated in asking.
    The extra tuxes cost far less than the headaches!

  4. avatar Lerissa reply

    Yes! This is the best answer!

    Family is forever you don’t want to shake that bond or else you will spend the rest of your life together regretting it. I would take the heeded warning from the fiancé especially since it seems that effort have been made to create that family bond.

  5. avatar Jewel reply

    My fiance has two sisters. I asked one of them to be a bridesmaid simply because I know her better. We were good friends in high school, and she actually set my fiance and I up. After her brother and I started dating, things between us got a little rocky, but they have improved little by little over the years. I saw asking her to be a bridesmaid as a way of extending an olive branch between us, in hopes that we can better our relationship, seeing as how we’re going to (finally) be family now! I didn’t ask his other sister to be a bridesmaid. I’d only met her once, and she lived apart from the the family for about 8 out of the past 10 years. And as far as I can tell, there’s no hard feelings on her side about not being a maid. She has two really young daughters and definitely seems like the type who would feel more comfortable tending to them during the wedding events.

  6. avatar Shelby reply

    This is a tough one. I firmly believe that your bridesmaids should be the people you want to surround your self with (not only on your wedding day, but also during the wedding planning!). However, I do think family is extremely important because her fiance wouldn’t be who he is without his sisters in his life. I think the best thing is to find a balance. She could find a meaningful way to include the girls in her wedding, whether its doing a reading together or saying a sweet speech about their brother growing up. They don’t necessarily need to be her maids! The important thing is to let the girls know how important they are to her and her fiance, and how excited she is to have them be a part of their wedding.

  7. avatar Whitney reply

    My groom has 2 older sisters. They’re most definitely not numbered among my bridesmaids – can you imagine taking them on your bachelorette or having them at a lingerie shower? If not, you aren’t close enough for them to be your bridesmaids, I think. Ask them to be honorary bridesmaids, maybe – not sure what your colors are, but ask them to wear a dress in a neutral, easy to find color, and give them monogrammed pashminas in the same color as the bridesmaids and small bouquets. I am asking my future sisters-in-law to be greeters. I felt like that placed them front and center enough so folks would know I’m still happy to have them in the family.

    You just have to find a way to include them that makes everyone comfortable. I am sure they don’t *want* to be your bridesmaids, because they know what a pain it is to be a bridesmaid – so much that you should only do it for a good friend! – and they probably don’t think you’re closer friends than you believe. You just need to give them a way to feel like they weren’t slighted. It would be better to be proactive about figuring it out and calling to ask, so that they feel it was “part of the plan” and not just something you did to throw them a bone.

  8. avatar Cameron Smith reply

    I have three brothers and my fiance only has one sister. Needless to say, it was a little unfair for him ;) We met and currently live in Colorado, so Jordan (fiance) hasn’t had the time to get to know my brothers very well at all.
    Having been raised in the South, and getting married in the South, it wasn’t odd for me to think to include my siblings and his sibling in our wedding party. How I approached it was, it was important for me to have my brothers stand beside us, as it was important for him to have his sister a part of the wedding. Yes, my brothers are groomsmen, but not because they are best buds with my fiance…but because they are my brothers and it means something to me. I also have friends that I have known for 20+ years now, and they are standing beside me along with my future sister-in-law…whom I will know for another 20+ in the future :)
    You could always give them another part in the wedding such as reading scripture, or a literature passage that means a lot to you. I’m honoring one of my girls that way, and Jordan is having one of his guys sing in our wedding. Still honored, but don’t have to be in the wedding.
    Sisters and brothers may decline, but it’s always polite to ask….and may help the new relationship with the extended families start off on the right foot :)

  9. avatar Cameron Smith reply

    Oh also, both our siblings declined the bachelor/bachelorette festivities… so they were honored, but really only wanted to be included in the actual wedding!

  10. avatar Alice reply

    This was a very big issue for my side of the family when planning our wedding. My husband had never met my brother until the day of the rehearsal. My brother lives several states away, I see him only about every other year, and we are honestly not that close. When my husband and brother did have the opportunity to meet (before we got engaged), my brother declined. This upset both my husband and I very much, so when the time came for my husband to pick his groomsmen, it was almost a no-brainer that my brother would not be asked, but instead, we were going to ask him to read scripture during the ceremony. This was NOT acceptable to my mother; she wanted him in the actual wedding party. Mom and I shed countless tears before finally we gave in to the peer pressure and asked him to be a groomsman (and this was months after my husband asked his other guys). My brother happily said Yes, they met at the rehearsal, and our wedding day went off without a hitch. Looking back, it really did not make a difference in the grand scheme of things…we were getting married, regardless of who our bridesmaid and groomsmen were, and we just wanted our families to be happy. To be truthful, I will always remember what a headache the wedding etiquette was for our family, and since they held the purse strings, they do get a say in the decisions. Keep in mind a wedding is not just about the uniting of two people, but the uniting of two families lasting the rest of your lives. Ask yourself if wedding party is a fight worth fighting over, or if a simple arrangement on your part can mean another’s happiness.

  11. avatar Lauren reply

    I am getting married in a little less than a month. Out of tradition, I made my sister my maid of honor. She is younger (thankfully just turned 21) and originally we weren’t super close but the wedding has definitely brought us closer together…she really took things seriously and stepped up to the plate!
    My mom really wanted my brother to be a groomsmen, so my fiancé agreed. However, that made my fiancé then also feel obligated to ask his brother to not only be in the bridal party, but to be the best man. His brother is 15 years older and they are not very close as his brother is a bit immature despite the age gap. His brother did not really step up to the plate at all and is basically only walking down the aisle the day of the wedding. But, the rest of the groomsmen including my brother are people my fiancé feels close too.
    So basically, including family can work out better than expected, worse than expected whatever. But honestly it is just a day and I think it’s worth it to keep the family happy. As long as no one’s going to wreck havoc at the shower, bachelorette or on the wedding day throw ’em in there. Don’t be offended if they skip stuff like showers or bachelor/bachelorettes (being quiet and unseen is better than starting a fight or attending and being a downer). At the end of the day, you and your hubby is what’s important!

  12. avatar Lauren @ Chocolate, Cheese and Wine reply

    I think that if you don’t have a close relationship with his sisters, then you don’t need to include them in the wedding party, but it would be nice to try to include them in the wedding, somehow.

  13. avatar Lauren reply

    We included our 3 siblings in the wedding party – my sister and his sister as bridesmaids, his brother as a groomsman. It worked out perfectly, for a total wedding party of 14 – which is a little large, but very Southern :) We’re both very close with our families, so it was wonderful to be able to include them.

  14. avatar Kori reply

    You are not only marrying the man but his family! I was thrilled years ago when my brother’s fiance asked me to be a bridesmaid even though we weren’t that close yet. And when I got married this past year she was in my bridal party! I think of her as my sister now! And of course I included my husband’s sister and my brother was a groomsman as well as his brother. We talked about it when making our decisions and felt like family was most important. Betsy’s case is a little more difficult, but if it’s going to help the relationship why not? I agree that even including them in some way such as reading scripture is very meaningful to both sides.

  15. avatar Abby reply

    I was in this situation with my brother and sister-in-law from the non-bride side of things. My sister-in-law was struggling with her bridal party and at one point was thinking about not even including her OWN sister as a bridesmaid. Because of this, I told them that if she wasn’t including her sister, they didn’t have to worry about asking me as well. I didn’t realize when I said this how hurtful it turned out being. She ended up having 6 maids (including her sister), but did not ask me – to be frank, I felt very left out.

    At the wedding, they found the sweetest way to include me! I was asked to be a witness, so I got to stand up there next to my brother while they were doing their vows. I will say… it was not pretty at the time, but in the end was really special.

  16. avatar Mechelle reply

    When you leave siblings out, you risk hurting their feelings as well as your new in-laws feelings. When we found out our only daughter would not be asked to be in our only son’s wedding we were all hurt, confused, and saddened. So, yes, you don’t ‘have’ to include anyone, but, trust me, if you care about your new family at all, then don’t start out this way.

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