When my partner and I were planning our wedding last year, we decided right away we wanted to skip the wedding traditions that didn’t feel like us. We love the beauty of passing on traditions from generation to generation but one of the traditions we didn’t love was the constant gender expectations. We wanted a more gender-neutral wedding approach.
The gendered traditions began almost immediately after we got engaged. As a woman engaged to a man, I was bombarded with questions almost daily from family and friends about planning while my fiancé went unnoticed. No one acknowledged the fact that he was the one who wanted a wedding in the first place. My fiancé did more than half of the planning and still vendors would contact me instead of him regarding wedding plans and details. This was just the beginning of a very, very gendered wedding experience.
Now, as a florist in the wedding industry, I work daily to make all couples feel included. I see that many people feel uncomfortable with the gendering in weddings and I think it’s time to make un-gendered weddings not just acceptable but commonplace.
]The gendering traditions start long before the wedding festivities. For my partner and I, we noticed the awkward tradition of invite address etiquette right away.
- The man’s name is listed first on the envelope
- Each name has a prefix: Mr., Mrs., or Ms.
I was not a fan of either of these traditions. Why does gender or marital status need to be specified? And It’s pretty sexist. The term “Mrs.” stands for Mr’s… As in, any married female is owned by her husband. It’s also not very inclusive to folks that don’t identify as male or female.
If you still crave the formality of including prefixes, consider Mx. (pronounced “Mix”) which is an all-encompassing title that includes everyone but still gives a touch of formality. Or save yourself the hassle and just address with first and last names.
Using the terms “Bride” or “Groom”
The term “Bride” is an archetype with so many negative stereotypes. A pure, virgin ready to be given away by her father into marriage. Or a psychotic Bridezilla who crumbles under pressure. Nothing about the term “Bride” felt like me. And I was shocked by how many people just address me as “The Bride” rather than trying to learn my name like would in any other situation. Whenever possible, I asked to be called by my name.
For those that want a nickname but don’t resonate with “Bride” or “Groom” consider “Celebrant,” “Broom,” “Gride,” or “the Couple.”
It also enrages me how many vendor contracts still us the term “Bride and Groom.” As a vendor myself, I encourage all vendors to use the term Partner A and Partner B. Or simply just the names of the couple!
The Gender-Neutral Wedding Party
Traditional weddings have bridesmaids and groomsmen, a best man and a maid/matron of honor. (Side note: why is it that women always need titles that signify if they are married or not… ugh, it’s gross).
At my wedding, I tried to refer to our chosen people as The Wedding Party as much as possible. When we talked about each side I would say “Adam’s Side” or “Megan’s Side.” Nowadays the sides of the wedding party aren’t always split by gender. I’ve heard some couples refer to their chosen person as The Best Man, The Best Women, or The Best Person which I think is really cute.
Bachelorx (pronounced: bachelor-ex) is a gender-neutral wedding term to replace bachelor and bachelorette. Replacing gendered language with an “x” is growing in popularity due to its ease. A similar idea can be used for hen and stag parties.
I’m not going to touch on the activities that occur at these parties because it’s a Pandora’s Box of stereotypes and gendered activities that could be its own book. But I will say that changing the name is a good start to make the event inclusive for all, regardless of gender.
The white dress, the long veil, the black suit… traditional weddings force couples into a very specific box. But what do you wear when you don’t fit into any box? It’s up to you to decide what’s going to make you feel the most like yourself on one of the most exciting days of your life.
Choosing an outfit is a struggle, especially if you don’t see yourself as a traditional white dress or suit person. We recommend starting with this story I’m a combo platter of femininity and masculine traits: where’s my wedding suit? By Emily James, an amazing writer who successfully went through the process herself.
Give your wedding party attire options, too. So rarely do we get to pick how to dress as members of the wedding party. We need to normalize options.
As a wedding florist, the most popular question I get is “who gets corsages, bouquets, and boutonnieres at a wedding?” This is a tough question because most of these accessories are gendered items, and couples typically assume what to order based on tradition. But not every female wants a corsage and not every male wants a boutonniere.
The best thing to do would be to ask the person their flower accessory preference. But when you have 1,000 things on your to-do list it’s a task that easily slips through the cracks. At Silk Stem Collective, we recommend getting boutonnieres for everyone. The strategy is not only inclusive, but it will look cohesive in pictures. Plus, boutonnieres are far more comfortable than traditional wrist corsages.
People will get it wrong. They’ll call you “Bride” or “Groom.” They will assume the Ring Bearer is a cute little boy. Tradition is very strong and has formed somewhat of expectations or habits among us. Don’t feel bad about correcting them and do not tolerate those that do not support your choices.
No matter what you do at your wedding, people will find something to judge. So give up pleasing people now and focus on what it is you really want out of your event.
Walking down the aisle
My dad walked me down the aisle and “gave me away” to my fiancé. This was a very sexist, gendered tradition I was ok with because I knew how much it meant to my dad. I overlooked the troubling context of it for the sake of tradition. But that’s not the right choice for everyone.
For those that don’t love the tradition, talk to your partner about adjusting the processional order. There’s nothing wrong with walking in as a group, escorting both parents, or even walking in as a couple.
Traditional ceremony wording is riddled with gendered language. Here are a few easy substitutions your officiant can use to for a more gender-neutral wedding ceremony:
- Ladies and Gentlemen Honored guests, family and friends
- Bride Celebrant, or just their name
- Groom Celebrant, or just their name
- Wife Partner or Spouse
- Husband Partner or Spouse
- “I now pronounce you husband and wife.” “I now pronounce you married.”
- “You may kiss the bride.” “You may kiss”
- “Now presenting, Mr. and Mrs. West!”
- “For the first time as a married couple, Alex and Taylor!”
The bouquet toss has always made me uncomfortable. It’s a tradition originating in the 1800s from a time when marriage was the only way for women to move up in society socially and economically. Single women desperate for the good fortune of marriage would touch the bride in hopes of rubbing off her good luck. The story has it that to avoid crowding, the bride began throwing elements of her outfit as tokens of good luck.
Some people love the tradition but I always felt called-out for being an older single woman. To avoid the awkwardness, I would wait in the bathroom or conveniently need another drink during the bouquet toss. When our wedding came around, we just did away with the whole tradition nobody missed it.
Like the rest of wedding planning, it all comes down to personal preference.
- David Wilkins: Interesting post and thought provoking as much of the industry is geared towards traditional couples [Link]