I’m typing this article and Microsoft Word is telling me that there’s a spelling error; apparently “bridesmen” and “groomsmaids” aren’t in the dictionary (yet). No Microsoft, I’m not trying to type “birdman!” Our friends from Redmond might not be in on the secret yet, but go to any millennial wedding these days, and you’re likely to see a few ladies standing beside the groom, and vice versa.
It’s 2019 people -- let’s get with the times!
I guess that means it’s up to us to popularize these terms. In this article, we review the origins of these roles, give some tips about how to choose the right person -- regardless of gender -- and answer other questions we get on the topic such as, “What about the wedding photos?”
The first matter of discussion is outdated gender roles.
The “best man” is thought to have originated with the Germanic Goths back in the 16th century. In those days, the best man’s job was to steal the bride from her neighboring community or disapproving family -- and that meant he was probably the best swordsman, too. Needless to say, both kidnapping and murder are illegal these days, and the role of the best man continues to evolve towards a less violent and more ceremonial role.
This party is so big nobody's going to notice anyway...
The maid of honor’s origins are equally rooted in outdated gender roles. Her role was to wear the same dress and veil as the bride to confuse jealous suitors and evil spirits. Wikipedia tells us that in China during the feudal era, the female womb was seen as “precious for the production of an heir,” so I guess acting as a spiritual buffer kept those demons away from the bride’s womb…
Don’t take it from us. We talked to couples who had bridesmen and groomsmaids and they told us that what mattered was friendship and loyalty.
“My best friend is a dude, and I really wanted to have him standing up there with me,” newlywed Rachel told us. “My now-husband had a best-maid, and that just felt natural to us since we have opposite-sex best friends. It just make sense for us.”
Christine’s wedding, taking place this July in Los Angeles is another such wedding. When planning started, she made a promise to herself that she wouldn’t do something, “just because it’s what everyone else does.” She told us that her brother would be standing beside her as her, “man of honor.”
Christine’s best friend will be beside her as well, as her Matron of Honor. “My brother is the person I’m closest to,” she explained. “My future husband and I both really wanted by brother up there, and just because he’s a guy doesn’t mean he can’t be part of the bridal party.
It’s fair to say that nowadays, most brides are more worried about bad weather and wardrobe malfunctions than evil spirits showing up and terrorizing their wombs. And the maid of honor has far more responsibilities than simply wearing a dress - including organizing the bachelorette party and keeping all of the bridesmaids in line! With that in mind, here’s what matters these days.
Choose your best friend…
Millennials have taken the conventional wedding and transformed it into a personalized ceremony that says more about the couple than it does about what we think a wedding should be like.
When it comes to best men, maids of honor, and other ceremonial roles, the choice has more to do with honoring long standing relationships than upholding outdated conventions. That means your “best man” could just as well be a woman. What really matters is your relationship with her, him, or whatever other pronoun they choose.
Here are three things to consider when the time comes to make your choice:
give this part some thought...
1. Is he/she/they reliable and capable? A best man/woman should be efficient and useful to the groom, helping him with preparations, attending all wedding functions, and essentially being on call. That means they need to be reliable. The bride or groom should be able to count on them to keep to wedding party obligations and the wedding timeline, and know that they will show up prepared, ready to celebrate and be helpful.
2. Is she/he/they sociable? The groomsmaid, bridesman (or whatever else you want to call him or her or they) is going to be spending a lot of time with you and your loved ones. It’s important to consider all personality types - and potential personality clashes. Your groomsmaid or bridesman should get along well with everyone, and be up to the task of wrangling in all of the other personalities for the duration of your wedding. And don’t forget -- those in this role often make a speech or toast during the reception, so if your groomsmaid is comfortable with the idea of speaking in front of a crowd, that’s even better!.
3. Will he/she/they be involved in all of the same wedding-related events and activities as the rest of your wedding party? Remember, wedding parties typically spend a lot of time together during the planning of the wedding. They participate in bachelor and bachelorette parties, fittings, bridal showers, etc. Even more importantly, the maid of honor and best man are traditionally responsible for planning the bridal shower, bachelorette, and bachelor parties. And, each wedding party typically gets ready together on the big day in the same dressing room. You may already be planning on having more co-ed and non-traditional wedding activities, and this won’t even be a thing to consider. But just in case, remember to take into consideration which events your groomsmaid or bridesman will be comfortable planning for you - and attending.
What about the wedding photos?
Folks are going to look awesome, regardless of their gender. If you are comfortable having a man of honor, you won’t worry about who’s got what chromosomes where… That said, you may also want to give a heads-up to your photographer, so that they don’t leave him or her out of key pictures, or have him or her in the wrong place in the photo.
What should she/he/they wear?
As we tend to answer most questions like this one: Really, whatever you want. A popular choice is to have the bridesman dress in the same attire as the groomsmen, but match his accessories (like his tie or pocket square) to the bridesmaids’ dresses. Best women, or groomsmaids, will often just wear the same dress as the bridesmaids, or don the same suit as the groomsmen. Have fun with it, and work together with your best woman or bridesman to create your own unique wedding party look!
What sort of gifts should I get him/her/they?
There’s a long tradition to purchasing gifts for the members of your wedding party as a token of appreciation for all of the personal and financial contributions they have made to the wedding experience. Typical gifts to groomsmen are cufflinks, engraved pilsner glasses, or cigars. Popular gifts for bridesmaids are monogrammed dressing robes, bottles of champagne, and jewelry -- to name a few. Naturally, these gifts can (and should) be tailored to the individual’s preferences, so don’t feel pressured to give whatever everyone else gives. Just as you have with your wedding: focus on what is meaningful and what matters.