Unveiled: Altering tradition with bridesmen and groomswomen

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Aleksandra Kochurova and Maxwell Stephens in Washington D.C. (Courtesy Photo)
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By Aleksandra Kochurova | [email protected]

Undoubtedly the best part about a wedding is celebrating with the people you love. After Devin, my fiancé, and I got engaged, the first thing I did was call my parents, and the second thing I did was call my friends — I didn’t want to post anything on social media before sharing the news with my bridal party.

This is part two of “Unveiled,” a monthly column where I share the tips and tricks I come across as I embark on the long path that leads down the aisle. This month, I’ll be talking about assembling your wedding party.

I am very lucky to have found my core group of best friends freshman year of college. We lived together, became adults together, stumbled through the many ups and downs of college and became invested in each other’s families. It was a no-brainer to want all of them to stand next to me on my big day. Except — and this article wouldn’t exist if there weren’t a caveat — one of them is a guy.

Including my friend Max in my bridal party was an obvious decision, but it does go against traditionally gendered wedding parties. Traditionally, if Devin had a sister (he doesn’t), she would have been expected to be in my bridal party. But if they were close, why shouldn’t she be in his groom’s party? For me, including a member of the opposite sex in my bridal party was a no brainer, and it also allowed Devin to invite one of his close female friends to be his groomswoman.

More and more couples embrace mixed-gendered wedding parties because they “want their closest friends or relatives at their side during the wedding festivities, no matter their gender,” Alyson Krueger writes for the New York Times. This isn’t done to forget or disrespect tradition, but instead to have the people closest to you supporting you on your big day.

However, this concept — although trendy — is still new. When I told my mom, she responded jokingly, “Will he wear a dress?” to which I rolled my eyes and responded “of course.” And my mom hasn’t been the only one with questions. If you’re in the midst of planning a wedding and are including your opposite-gendered friend in your party, here are some of the questions you can expect to hear and how to answer them.

What are they going to wear?

No, Max isn’t actually wearing a dress. Rachel Miller from lover.ly wedding blog suggests styling each side of the isle. After you choose your wedding colors and decide what your bridesmaids and groom will be wearing, you can think about how to accent your bridesman’s clothing. My bridesmaids will be wearing burgundy dresses, and Max will likely have either a burgundy tie or vest to match.

However, those are not the only options. You can experiment with groomswomen wearing suspenders or bridesmaids wearing pantsuits. The goal is to have harmony in colors, and as long as you achieve that, your party will look great.

What do you call them?

I started by saying “bridal party” instead of “bridesmaids.” As far as the singular titles, you can do anything that feels right, such as man of honor, best woman, groomswoman, bridesmen, groom’s gal. Choose a term that you both are comfortable with, and don’t overthink it, Miller suggests.

What about bridal party gifts?

Are you dreaming about that beautifully posed photo of you surrounded by your bridal party, all wearing matching silk robes, like I am? Maybe skip the robe for him, but there is nothing in this theoretical wedding planning rule book that says your gifts for people have to match. Gift something of similar value, and consider including at least one gender-neutral gift for everyone.

How do they walk down the aisle?

Since Devin and I have an equal amount of people in each party, we are still planning on opposite-sex couples walking down the aisle together. However, if everyone is comfortable, there’s no reason not to mix it up, Miller writes. You can have each person walk alone, have a few same-sex pairs or have people walk in different combinations of ones, twos and threes.

And the last and most uncomfortable question you may be asked revolves around intimate feelings. It could be phrased in relation to your future husband/ wife, such as “Aren’t you afraid they have feelings for their groomswoman/bridesman?” But they could also be phrased toward you, such as “Why have you never dated your bridesman/groomswoman if you’re such good friends?” You might even be thinking them yourself, if your betrothed wants to ask their opposite gendered friend to be in the party.

The bottom line is, you have to have absolute trust in your partner — it is fundamental in a marriage. As for the other questions, remember that the people asking you don’t mean to be hostile or to offend you, Krueger writes, they might just be curious because this is still a new concept.

I am thrilled that Max said “yes” to being in my wedding, but mixing genders in a bridal party isn’t for everyone. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to stick with the bridesmaids tradition. The bottom line is that this day is to celebrate the union between you and your partner, and you should do what makes you happy.

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