What is an Honorary Bridesmaid? (6 Reasons to Have One)

Beyond celebrating the love between two people, weddings are also a way for two communities to come together. In some cases, ceremonies can have several hundreds of guests. Planning for such a big event can get intimidating, but many people are willing to help you.

What is an honorary bridesmaid? They are an extension of the bridal party, also called the “house party.” They can have similar duties to a typical bridesmaid, but their responsibilities depend on the bride. Having honorary bridesmaids has six benefits:

  1. They lessen the burden of planning.
  2. They keep the crowd engaged.
  3. They foster a sense of community.
  4. They help you feel ready.
  5. They add to the fun at parties.
  6. They are an additional set of helping hands.

Below is a more in-depth answer to the question, “What is an honorary bridesmaid?” Explanations of their duties and benefits follow, along with tips to remember regarding honorary bridesmaids.

What Is an Honorary Bridesmaid?

bride and her honorary bridesmaid

An honorary bridesmaid walks down the aisle, but they do not stay at the altar with the rest of the bridal party. An honorary bridesmaid may have similar duties to a regular bridesmaid, but the bride ultimately decides the range of their involvement.

The tradition of including honorary bridesmaids is frequent in the Southern states, particularly in Texas. Generally, weddings in these areas have sizable guest lists. This large number of attendees justifies the extra helping hands.

A group of honorary bridesmaids and attendants form the “house party.” Here are some typical duties the bride can expect from them:

  • They can help plan pre-wedding activities. Most wedding timelines include at least one pre-wedding party, such as an engagement party, bridal shower, and more. Honorary bridesmaids can contribute to the planning of these events.
  • Engage with the guests during the reception. As for a large wedding with hundreds of guests, you might want additional help entertaining the crowd. Honorary bridesmaids can encourage the attendees to dance, respond, and have a good time.
  • Accompany the bride while she goes wedding dress shopping. Honorary bridesmaids can offer their opinions and suggestions to the bride while she chooses her wedding dress. The bride will appreciate the insight; wedding dress shopping can be less intimidating with some company.
  • Help the bride get ready on the day of the wedding. This duty includes helping her get into her dress and put on her accessories. Likewise, they can say reassuring words to make the bride less anxious.
  • Perform roles on your wedding day. An honorary bridesmaid can read a passage from the Bible, give a toast at the reception, or help with the rehearsal dinner.

As mentioned above, the responsibilities of honorary bridesmaids vary depending on the bride. She may give them more or fewer tasks — sometimes, honorary bridesmaids have no assignments; their title exists only for the bride to have an excuse to invite them to pre-wedding parties.

What Are the Benefits of Having Honorary Bridesmaids?

1. They lessen the burden of planning. 

friends talking at a cafe

The first response usually discusses their responsibilities when asking, “What is an honorary bridesmaid?” As illustrated above, honorary bridesmaids can help plan, execute, and facilitate your special day.

Some couples have large weddings, the number of guests reaching three digits. They might choose this size for their ceremony because of their culture, social status, or personal preference. Regardless, having a “house party” can ensure that your event will flow smoothly.

2. They keep the crowd engaged.

friends having fun at wedding reception

A master of ceremonies cannot handle a huge crowd alone. For example, if you have a wedding with 400 guests, some will not focus on or participate in the festivities. However, you want everyone to have fun and enjoy the day as much as you do.

Honorary bridesmaids can help the bridal party rally the crowd, making them feel excited. Honorary bridesmaids can socialize with guests, ask them questions, break the ice in small groups, and more.

3. They foster a sense of community.

bride and her bridesmaids at the door laughing

A bride’s bridal party is her support system; more than assisting the bride-to-be during preparations, bridesmaids remind the bride that she has people to trust and love reciprocally.

Therefore, adding honorary bridesmaids to your support system results in a greater community — in both senses of the adjective. You know you are not alone. You can conquer the stress of planning a wedding and transitioning to married life with them by your side.

4. They help you feel ready.

bride and her bridesmaids drinking red wine

It is one thing to feel prepared and another thing to feel ready. You have gone through several months of meticulously planning your wedding down to the smallest detail. However, you can still doubt whether everything is in order.

You might also be nervous about the day: worrying that something will go wrong; feeling uneasy in front of a crowd; being insecure about your appearance.

The people surrounding you, honorary or otherwise, will help you calm down. They can assist you as you ground yourself. They will offer reassurance, coping mechanisms, and entertainment to ease the nerves.

5. They add to the fun at parties.

bride and her friends wearing silk robe and drinking champagne

Bridal showers, bachelorette parties, and bridal luncheons are primarily exclusive to wedding party members. As stated above, some brides bestow the title “honorary bridesmaid” to give themselves an excuse to invite more people to pre-wedding parties.

The more people you have at your party, the more exciting it could be. Drinking games are more thrilling, spa days are more relaxing, and gossiping sessions are more intriguing.

Honorary bridesmaids can also contribute ideas that you or your bridal party have not considered. They might know a place or have connections that will bring new recreation opportunities.    

6. They are an additional set of helping hands.

friends with matching clothes and bracelets

Brides’ involvement in the setup of their weddings varies, but many of them prefer actively participating in the preparations. They brainstorm color palettes, motifs, themes, and other embellishments to personalize their ceremony.

Honorary bridesmaids can increase the size of your sounding board. With their additional insight, brainstorming sessions can be more creative, diverse, and out-of-the-box.

You can also ask for their help finishing DIY projects, purchasing decor pieces, transporting equipment, and more. As for any day-of arrangements, they can collaborate with your coordinator and decorator to quicken the process.

In the hecticness of your wedding day, you might not have the energy to deal with vendors. You can ask your honorary bridesmaids to act as liaisons.

Things to Keep in Mind Regarding Honorary Bridesmaids

two girls laughing and wearing a crown

Deciding if You Need an Honorary Bridesmaid

After learning the answer to “What is an honorary bridesmaid?” the next step is determining whether you need one for your ceremony. You are not required to enlist the help of a house party, but there are a few ways to decide if you can benefit from having one.

Firstly, consider the size of your guest list. If you have a limited number of attendees, you might not need honorary bridesmaids. However, with large weddings — at least 150 guests — you might want the extra help.

The list of advantages above can also aid you in deciding. If you think you and your guests will benefit from the assistance of honorary bridesmaids, then you can proceed to choose your house party members.

Choosing Your Honorary Bridesmaids

women playing to choose the honorary bridesmaid

There are several ways in which you can choose your honorary bridesmaids. Firstly, if your bridal party is composed of close relatives, your house party can include your close friends. This way, everyone you love gets a significant role in your day.

Sometimes, brides prefer having a younger relative — such as a sister — as their maid of honor. The rest of the bridal party can be composed of cousins and other siblings. In this case, older relatives and close friends can comprise the house party.

In particular, aunts and older cousins are popular choices for the role of honorary bridesmaids. You may want their practical help and advice on your wedding day, but you do not expect them to participate in the traditional wedding party rituals.

If you have multiple circles of friends, picking a bridal party might be challenging; you risk alienating or upsetting the other group of friends if you do not choose them. In this situation, you may want to elect your closest or oldest group of friends as the bridal party.

Your newer, less tight-knit groups of friends can combine to form a house party. Not only does everyone get a role at your wedding, but the pre-wedding preparations are also opportunities for creating and strengthening bonds.

If you have nephews and nieces you want to include, you can also ask them to be honorary members. They might be too old for the roles associated with children, such as flower girls and ring bearers. Alternatively, you can classify them as junior members of the bridal party.

If there are people whom you would have loved to include in the bridal party but are unable to attend the ceremony, you can also give them the title “honorary bridesmaid.” Furthermore, you can have someone walk in their place.

Ultimately, the role of an honorary bridesmaid is better for a group of people. Three to five honorary bridesmaids are typical, but you can have around 20 if you prefer.

If you only have one to three people in mind, it might be best to include them in the bridal party. Doing so will avoid any misinterpretations and hurt feelings.

Honorary Bridesmaids Do Not Have to Be Women

While forming your house party, remember that honorary bridesmaids do not always have to be women. Any sex and gender can join, so long as you connect with them. For example, men and nonbinary folks are welcome to help you with wedding-related preparations as attendants.

Inviting People to Be Honorary Bridesmaids

friends laughing and having fun on the streets

Once you have decided whom your house party will consist of, you must ask them. However, you must be careful with how you invite them, especially with your words. They might take it the wrong way and feel hurt that they are not a member of your bridal party.

Although you do not need to explain why you chose them as honorary bridesmaids, giving them a reason might help them understand your decision.

Remember to be patient and compassionate. Nothing good will come from acting defensive, malicious, or snarky. You can get your honorary bridesmaids to understand your point through an honest and open conversation.

With that said, avoid having the conversation through emails or messages. Meet them at a coffee shop, invite them to your place for a meal, or hop on a Zoom call with them. Not only will the invitation feel more personal but explaining what the invite entails will be easier.

You can also give them a gift or letter as a proposal to be your honorary bridesmaid. Doing so will also mitigate negative reactions. However, only purchase presents if they are within your budget.

What Honorary Bridesmaids Wear

bridesmaid wearing burgundy dresses

The attire of the house party members depends on the bride’s preferences. She can let them wear what they want or ask them to coordinate with the bridal party. However, they typically take care of their hair and makeup.

For example, your bridesmaids might wear a navy blue dress. Your honorary bridesmaids can choose another shade of blue, such as dusty blue, for their outfits. Oppositely, they can go with a complementary color, such as burnt orange.

Include Them in Portraits

Given that honorary bridesmaids will assist you with wedding preparations, one way to thank them is by including them in group photos. Wedding photographers usually take group portraits during cocktail hour.

If you plan on including honorary bridesmaids in the portraits, what they wear will be essential. As mentioned above, it is best if your house party coordinates with your bridal party. They can be identical, complementary, or similar in vibe.

The Order of the Processional

couple getting married in a church

The honorary bridal party also walks down the aisle during the processional. The order in which this part of the wedding occurs depends primarily on the coordinators. However, you can talk to them to find a sequence that works for you.

For example, honorary bridesmaids can walk after the bridal party and before the parents enter. To distinguish the honorary bridal party from the bridal party, you can make the former go in pairs and the latter individually.

The honorary bridesmaids can sit behind the parents during the ceremony. Unlike the bridal party, these bridesmaids do not stand near the altar.

It is worth noting that since they are part of the processional, you must include their names in the program.

Include Them in the Wedding Introductions

Receptions typically start with the introduction of bridal party members. In many cases, couples work together with the emcee to make the wedding party introductions more entertaining.

To recognize your honorary bridesmaids and their contributions to the wedding, include them in the introductions. Write a short but meaningful intro that details your relationship with and sentiments toward them.

Give Them a Gift as a Token of Appreciation

Including honorary bridesmaids in traditions is a way of showing your appreciation for them. However, you can go further by sending a gift with a thank-you note. Here are some ideas you can consider:

  • Personalized jewelry (e.g., necklaces with their initials)
  • Gift cards
  • Self-care kit (skincare items, bath-related items, etc.)
  • Tote bag
  • Scented candle
  • Succulent
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