What’s a house party and what do they wear?
A fellow bride and I recently joked that we both asked people to be in our “house party” without really knowing what that meant. Google searches don’t turn up much more than tips on having your wedding at home (a different kind of house party). Here’s what I’ve heard from other Southern brides and gleaned from websites.
What is a house party? How is it different from bridesmaids?
A house party is a Southern tradition through and through. I’ve never met someone from above the Mason-Dixon line that had heard of it before, but every single Houston wedding planner I talked to asked me how many bridesmaids I had and how many girls were in my house party.
The main difference between a house party member and a bridesmaid is that the house party does not participate in the wedding ceremony. They don’t stand up with you at the altar in the church; they sit with your family in the front row. There are lots of other duties that the house party can help you with: guest book attendant, gift table attendant, handing out programs, serving cake, and just helping you get through the day.
The house party is just as much a part of the wedding party as the bridesmaids. Usually, the house party participates in all of the same wedding festivities as the bridesmaids: bridal showers, bachelorette party, bridal party luncheon, wedding day pictures, etc. They also get a small gift from the bride as thanks for helping with the wedding.
The house party is analogous to ushers who aren’t groomsmen: they don’t participate in the ceremony, but they are certainly vital to the wedding day.
Who is in the house party?
The most common answer to this is “women that the bride is close to, but is unable to have them as a bridesmaid.” There are a few reasons to have a house party in the first place and to include a woman in the house party:
- You have way too many bridesmaids already! House parties were most likely created to include as many of the bride’s friends as possible in the bridal party, without overcrowding the altar.
- You want to include and honor a woman, but you’re not especially close to her for whatever reason. This often includes your groom’s sisters or college friends you’ve grown apart from.
- You’re close to a woman, but she cannot afford to be a bridesmaid (buy the dress, travel to the showers, etc) or she lives far away and will not be able to participate in wedding activities like bridal showers. You shouldn’t assume this will be the case; you should ask them to be a bridesmaid first. If they voice financial or distance concerns, you can give them the option of being in the house party to make them more comfortable but still have them involved in the wedding.
Being asked to be in someone’s house party should always be considered an honor, not a slight. In my case, I chose to have a house party so that the number of bridesmaids and groomsmen would be equal: that’s it. My house party are no less than bridesmaids in my eyes. If my groom could rustle up two more friends to stand up with him, everyone would be a bridesmaid!
What does the house party wear?
Typically, the house party does not wear the same dress as the bridesmaids. The house party members pick their own dress individually; the bride doesn’t pick it out and they don’t have matching dresses like bridesmaids. This can often save house party members some money! Most brides ask the house party to wear a black dress, since many would be able to pull out the Little Black Dress.