What Is an Honorary Bridesmaid? (& Do You Need One?) | Bella Bridesmaids

What Is an "Honorary Bridesmaid"? (and Do You Need One?)

Bride and bridesmaids dancing together at receptionPhoto: Bella Bridesmaids Sacramento Forever Photography NY

Everyone knows how crucial bridesmaids are, and most brides delight in appointing best friends as their bridal party. 

These cherished individuals share the joy of the wedding planning process and are beside you when you say, “I do.”

But an honorary bridesmaid? 

Few people — at least outside the South — are familiar with the concept. 

If you’re like most and wondering what an honorary bridesmaid is and what they do, welcome. This complete guide covers all the particulars of this highly supportive and necessary role.

What Is an Honorary Bridesmaid?

The roots of the honorary bridesmaid tradition trace back to Southern culture, where weddings are a huge deal. It’s not uncommon for the guest list at a traditional wedding to be 400 people, plus

It’s not hard to imagine that, in situations like this, having a few extra helping hands is essential.

At its core, the role of an honorary bridesmaid is to be one of the bride’s go-to people for extra wedding prep and wedding day help. Which — let’s be honest — everyone in the midst of wedding planning benefits from. 

While not “officially” part of the wedding party, an honorary bridesmaid can help with several aspects of wedding planning. They’ll participate in the events leading up to your big day, including the rehearsal dinner.

Honorary vs. Traditional Bridesmaids

Honorary bridesmaids receive invites to all the pre-wedding events. That includes bridal showers, bachelorette parties, and — of course — the special day.

On the day of the wedding, the honorary bridesmaid can beam with everyone else in the wedding photos. They may also walk down the aisle but usually don’t stand up at the altar with the other bridesmaids. 

It's also OK if they live far away or cannot attend some events (sometimes even the wedding day).

Part of the “honorary” title alludes to how important that person is to the bride. It’s a bride’s way of showing she wants this person involved to the degree they can commit.

Being a regular bridesmaid, a maid of honor, or a matron of honor involves more responsibility. 

The bride-to-be has a list of bridesmaid duties. We’re talking about wedding dress shopping and hands-on help planning and preparing for the wedding ceremony.

Do You Need an Honorary Bridesmaid?

Bridesmaid holding bride's dress tailPhoto: Bella Bridesmaids Charlotte / Jim Trice

Here are some situations where it’s helpful to appoint an honorary bridesmaid: 

1. You Have a “Core Group” of Bridesmaids 

You have a close group of friends, such as sorority sisters, but you'd also like to include your childhood bestie, who lives across the country. 

Appointing her as an honorary bridesmaid shows her how important she is to you. And you can do that without putting too much pressure on her to purchase plane tickets and make trips back and forth for each event. 

2. You Want to Include Family 

Perhaps you have an aunt or sister-in-law who you adore who’s become a close friend and confidant. Asking your immediate family to be an honorary bridesmaid is an excellent way to include them.  

3. You Could Use the Support 

For those throwing an extra-large celebratory bash, the more hands on deck, the better. 

We’ll get into the specifics of the perks an honorary bridesmaid can offer soon. But (spoiler alert), your honorary bridesmaid can help you with whatever you need.

What Does an Honorary Bridesmaid Wear?

Bride and bridesmaids walking through fieldPhoto: Bella Bridesmaids Indianapolis / Emma Carner Motz

Most honorary bridesmaids choose a dress that’s slightly different from the bridesmaid dresses but still complements them beautifully.

The key is to find something that ties it all together. Whether it be through style, color, fabric — you name it.

Find the bridesmaid dress you love, and perhaps your honorary bridesmaid could wear the same dress, but hers could be a floral pattern. Or, choose the same color fabric with a slightly different style

If your wedding is traditional but you’d love to include a touch of whimsical fun, play it up through the honorary bridesmaid’s gown. Choose a pattern or pop of color.

At Bella Bridesmaids, you can choose from hundreds of custom bridesmaid dresses in various color palettes, patterns, and sizes.

How To Ask Someone To Be Honorary Bridesmaid 

Whoever you ask will likely be happy to be part of your wedding. Sometimes, though, you’ll need a little tact. After all, you don’t want the person you ask to think they’re not “good enough” to be a “regular” bridesmaid!

We’ll show you a few examples of how to ask and what not to say. Remember to speak from the heart and tell them you consider them loved ones. 

With that approach, odds are, they’ll be thrilled.

The Older Relative

What to say: I care about you so much and would love to have you involved in my big day. Would you be my honorary bridesmaid? You can choose your level of involvement; I know you’re busy, so don’t feel bad if you can’t make it to everything.  

What NOT to say: You’re so much older than the rest of us and will probably faint when you hear what we’ve planned for the bachelorette party. But I need your help with other things…

The Faraway Friend

What to say: I adore you, and even though you live across the country I’d love to have you involved in my wedding, even if you can’t be there for everything. Would you be my honorary bridesmaid?  

What NOT to say: I don’t know if I can count on you to be an actual bridesmaid, so that’s why I’m seeing if you’ll be an honorary one instead.

The New Friend

What to say: You’ve really touched my life in the short time I’ve known you, and I’d love to have you involved in my upcoming wedding as an honorary bridesmaid.

What NOT to say: You’re not one of my closest friends; they’re all bridesmaids. So, how do you feel about being an honorary bridesmaid?

Ensure you convey why you value the person you chose and why you picked them specifically for this role. 

Play up the benefits if this is your introverted friend from middle school who isn’t part of your sorority or someone who has a long way to travel. They’ll be happy to know this role has more wiggle room!

They get to be part of your big day and help how they can without extending themselves beyond what’s comfortable.

Reasons To Have an Honorary Bridesmaid

Bride hugging group of bridesmaidsPhoto: Sage Design Company

Even though she’s not an “official” member of the bridal party, your honorary bridesmaid can help you with whatever you need. 

If she’s great at offering emotional support, there you go. Consider her strengths and how they can lend themselves to wedding prep and your big day.

Whether you have a wedding planner or are the wedding planner, extra help is always appreciated.

Here are some other ways your honorary bridesmaid can help you:

• Getting ready
• Setting up and cleaning up the wedding reception
• Getting guests to dance
• Solving last-minute “emergencies”
• Creating DIY décor

    Essentially, they are there for you.

    The best, most memorable weddings are a fusion of love, family members, friends, and community. Toss in gorgeous dresses, flowers, and champagne, and you’ve done it. 

    You’ve pulled off the perfect wedding, and your best friends and loved ones were there to support you every step of the way.

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