Bridesman and Groomswoman Etiquette for Your Mixed-Gender Wedding Party
A wedding is your day to plan your own way. As such, most traditions are no longer a must when planning your wedding ceremony and wedding reception, and that certainly applies to who makes the cut in your wedding party. Gone are the days of men on one side and ladies on the other. By mixing things up with a coed wedding party, the to-be-weds can have all their besties and favorite people—regardless of gender—standing next to them in support.
"You get to be surrounded by the ones you want to be by your side," says Alex Chalk, senior planner for Taylor'd Events. "It becomes a truly personalized experience that you can look back on and feel thankful you chose what felt right to you."
What is a Bridesman? What is a Groomsmaid?
At the end of the day, every one of your loved ones who is in the wedding party is a wedding attendant, but it can be helpful to delineate more specific titles that nod to which to-be-wed they're present to support. Historically, in heterosexual bride-groom couples, the bride would select a bridal party and dub each attendant a bridesmaid. Likewise, groomsmen would support the groom.
However, as antiquated rules about who can and can't be in a wedding party go by the wayside, it can still be helpful to have titles for the people involved in your wedding party. Wedding party titles are especially handy when making personal introductions, crediting the wedding party in the wedding programs or announcing each party member as they enter the reception.
There are no rules, so to-be-weds can be creative with what they call their attendants—whether it's the man of honor, the bride's best man, or something completely unique to your friendship. Generally speaking, if someone is referred to as a bridesman then it's assumed they're a male wedding attendant supporting the bride. Conversely, a groomswoman is generally a female wedding attendant supporting a groom. Ultimately, bridesman, groomswoman, BFF, friend or sibling—what you call them is your call.
How to Express Your Intentions for Your Wedding Party
While some guests will enjoy a switch from the norm, others who are stuck in a tradition-focused mindset might be surprised or uncertain of your decision. Communication during wedding planning with VIPs is key, especially if your parents are the ones you're experiencing pushback from.
"Ask family members about their hesitations; part of alleviating the hesitation is to listen to all parties' concerns," says Araceli Vizcaino-S, community manager for Azazie, a made-to-measure online dress retailer. "Many times they don't understand where you're coming from, and it's helpful to understand that it's important you have these people by your side on your wedding day."
Chalk also says to remember whose celebration it is. "If you can't convince someone with more traditional views, then take solace in the fact that you are doing what feels right to you. It is your day, after all."
How to Handle Wedding Showers, Bach Parties and Prewedding Events
Wedding and bridal showers, bachelor parties, bachelorette parties and other related traditionally gendered prewedding events may seem tricky to navigate when the guest list includes bridesmen and groomsmaids. The good news is that they don't have to be. Just as you bucked tradition with selecting which best friends to include in your wedding party, the same can be done for related events.
"Invite your loved ones, no matter their gender!" says Chalk. "Another option is to throw a joint shower/bachelor/bachelorette party. A wedding is a time to celebrate with those you love, no matter what tradition says."
Couples that have both a bride and groom can consider a Jack-and-Jill style shower, where the entire wedding party is involved, and men and women are both invited. Keep the games, activities and decor gender-neutral. When the day is done, remember that it's ultimately just a party celebrating the union-to-come for two friends.
What Your Wedding Party Should Wear
One thing's for sure: Ditching the gender roles means your wedding party will be full of originality. However, it can also call attire for the big day into question. The first rule is that there are no rules. Instead, have a vision in mind for what you want your day to look like and what you want to have captured in photographs.
For specific what-to-wear ideas, Vizcaino-S recommends the women standing up on the groom's side either wear dresses that match or coordinate with potential bridesmaid dresses, or wear dresses or outfits that match the groomsmen's suit color, such as black, gray or taupe. For the male bridesmaids, or bridesmen, standing up on the bride's side, match ties, bow ties and pocket squares to the bridesmaid dresses. For a more mix-and-match style, choose a wedding color palette and pick clothing for everyone that coordinates.
Personal Flowers for Bridesmen and Groomsmaids
Generally speaking, bridesmaids carry bouquets during the wedding ceremony and groomsmen wear boutonnieres on their tux lapel. However, if you're breaking the mold it can be hard to know what personal flowers to plan on for your wedding party attendants. Feel free to have fun with it! Consider giving groomsmaids corsages that showcase flowers similar to those in groomsmen boutonnieres. Likewise, a bridesman could wear a boutonniere in a similar shade as the bridesmaid or maid of honor bouquets. There are no rules—so have fun with it.
Gifts for Bridesmen and Groomsmaids
In much the same way that gifts are a nice way to express gratitude to bridesmaids and groomsmen, the same goes for all wedding party attendants. As a way to honor your friendship, consider gifting each attendant a thoughtful present on the morning of the wedding while everyone is getting ready. This small gesture will go a long way in showcasing your appreciation.
How to Ask Loved Ones to Be a Bridesman or Groomsmaid
While those closest to you will likely be honored to be asked to participate in your wedding party, loved ones of a different gender may be surprised by your invitation since they may not know you plan to have a mixed-gender wedding party. In addition to thinking of a creative way to ask besties to serve as attendants, like a gift box or thoughtful card, it's a wise idea to also speak with your pal directly so you can chat through any questions they may have about expectations.