Traditional weddings are great and all, but between all the hair spray, rigid seating arrangements and not-so-cute corsages, things can get stuffy fast. Unsurprisingly, couples are modernizing their nuptials in lots of ways, whether it’s with taco trucks, llama rentals (yep) or even slashing their guest list to host a microwedding. And more and more couples are shaking up the old-school idea of gendered bridesmaids and groomsmen with gender-neutral wedding parties.
Why are people having gender-neutral wedding parties? Lots of brides have only female friends and plenty of grooms are buddies with all males. But for a lot of people, gendered parties are a long-held tradition that doesn’t really hold much significance. If a wedding party is about including your nearest and dearest in your big day, you should do just that without having to worry about how to categorize them. And for couples and their friends who don’t fall into the gender binary, bifurcating a group of people by gender just doesn’t make sense.
What does a gender-neutral bridal party look like? It looks beautiful! A couple can decide to nix the idea of separate parties and join forces into one big hodgepodge of friends, making the whole gender thing moot. Or maybe a couple decides they want separate parties but choose not to define them by gender. For instance, we saw one wedding where the bride and groom had their own designated parties, but he wanted his sisters in his party and she wanted her best guy friends included. The result was two groups of people who were selected simply because of their relationships with the couple. Period.
So what do you a call a gender-neutral bridal party? If the couple has one combined group, you can simply call it the wedding or bridal party. For example: “Can I skip the line at the bar? I’m in the wedding party.” Boom. If you have two distinct groups between a heterosexual couple, you can call it the groom’s party and the bride’s party. Same-sex couples with different parties can use their names, like Meghan’s party and Kate’s party. And instead of bridesmaid or groomsman, friends and family can simply say they’re “standing up” in the wedding. It all gets the point across without alienating anyone.
OK, but what about the best man and the maid of honor? For some people, the roles of best man and maid of honor carry a lot of weight. They have important roles and take on vital responsibilities in the lead-up to and during the wedding (like making sure Aunt Diane and Cousin Mildred don’t start up about Thanksgiving of ’92 again). And if a couple wants to assign those roles but doesn’t want to choose based on gender, they can change the name! Some might call the best man the best person, or best sister/brother (if it’s a sibling) or best friend in charge. The same goes with the maid of honor; we’ve heard titles like person or friend of honor. And yes, some couples decide to nix these roles entirely.
And dress code! How does this play into the whole thing? It’s basically the same as a traditional wedding—whatever the couple getting married wants! Maybe it’s a color scheme or pattern that applies to all members of the wedding party. You can send an email that says something like “If you’re wearing a dress, we want it to be maroon and above the knees. If you’re wearing a suit, please wear a maroon tie, white shirt and gray suit. Or maybe the couple wants everyone to rent or buy a specific suit or dress. And just like traditional weddings, we’re sure someone in the bridal party will be upset with something. (Some things never change.)
Alisha Siegel, a wedding photographer who’s witnessed an uptick of this trend, told us, “The whole premise of a bridal party is to have your closest support group around you on this awesome day, so why does that have to be gender-specific?” We couldn’t agree more.