How to Have a Male Bridesmaid or Female Groomsman

A bride and groom surrounded by their bridal party.

When it comes to choosing your wedding party, the issue seems pretty cut and dried: bridesMAIDS belong with the bride, while groomsMEN go with the groom. This decision, like most wedding traditions, is pretty segregated between the sexes…but for modern couples, this can be a big problem.

What do you do if your dearest friend is of the opposite sex? What if someone in your wedding party identifies as non-binary? Can you have a brides…man? A grooms…lady? The answer is simple: OF COURSE, YOU CAN! Here are a few tips to help you plan your wedding with a non-traditional bridesmaid or groomsman.

The Title

First things first: when you decide to ask your friend to join your bridal party, what will you call them? As I mentioned, the words “bridesmaid” and “groomsman” are pretty loaded with gender connotations, and someone who doesn’t identify with that gender might feel uncomfortable with the question. I believe the easiest thing to do is keep it simple: “Will you be in my wedding?” should get the message across.

Of course, the moment you ask your friend or family member won’t be the only time their title comes into question. What will you put on the ceremony programs? You have a few options here: list the members of the wedding party as “Bride’s Companions” and “Groom’s Companions” (or put your own names if you’d rather), list everyone together as the “The Wedding Party,” or do away with the list of names in programs altogether! Trust me, no one will care (and it will save you a few cents).

The Outfit

Choosing outfits for your wedding party is always a challenge (there are a lot of opinions to consider), but it can feel especially difficult when you have a mixed-gender bridal party. Won’t a female groomsman look silly in that row of suits? A male bridesmaid can’t wear a dress, right? And what about non-binary people – what do they want to wear?

One easy way to solve this problem is simply to mix it up; tell your wedding party they can wear whatever they want, as long as it matches your color scheme. You’ll have an eclectic mix up there at the altar, but everyone will be wearing something they love.

However, even couples who want their wedding party to match can work with a mixed-gendered crew. If you have a female groomsman, consider renting her a smart, fitted suit (women always look gorgeous in tailored menswear). If you have a male bridesmaid, have him accessorize with a tie and pocket square that matches the bridesmaid’s dresses…or, if he’s up for it, get a custom suit made from the dress fabric! This will ensure a cohesive look on both sides of the altar and help your wedding party feel comfortable and look fabulous.

The Events

Another stumbling block you might face with a mixed wedding party is the planning of pre-wedding events. Bridal showers, bachelor parties, bachelorette parties: historically speaking, they’re all events that cling to traditional gender roles. What if your male bridesmaid doesn’t want to do a spa weekend for your bachelorette? What if your female groomsman isn’t up for strippers and beer pong at the bachelor party? How can you have the classic pre-wedding parties without excluding some of your friends?

Here’s the thing: you asked this person to be in your wedding party because they mean a lot to you. You two probably have lots of things you love to do together…so why not do one of those? It’s OK to deviate from tradition when planning your events, and I’m sure you can come up with a party activity that everyone will enjoy. Heck, you could even combine your bachelor and bachelorette parties for one big bash with everybody!

The Recessional

So, you’ve finally made it to the big day. You’ve had the gender-inclusive parties, everyone’s dressed up in the outfit they prefer, your partner and his groomsmen are waiting at the altar, and you’re about to make that walk down the aisle. There’s only one problem: how are two guys (or two girls) supposed to walk up the aisle together after the ceremony?

First of all, calm down. It’s 2019: no one cares who is walking with whom during the recessional. However, if you or someone else in the wedding party is really concerned about walking with the same sex, there’s an easy way to fix it—just keep it casual! Instead of having your two dudes or two ladies walk arm-in-arm up the aisle, have them simply walk next to each other. You could even play some upbeat music and have them dance out of the ceremony!

Ultimately, your wedding party should include the people who are closest to you—and that should never be limited by gender. If you want to have a male bridesmaid or a female groomsman, go for it!

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