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[Guest Post] Gender Divide: His and Hers Wedding Parties

2012 April 30

In the third of my series of guest posts on the trials of being a feminist while getting married (previously: being given away; the Name Issue), I’m going to take a look at the issues of bridesmaids, best men, hen parties and stag dos.

Front-on colour photo showing the face of a stag looking directly at the camera. He's not looking very impressed. Free image from the surface, it doesn’t seem like it would be a big deal, right? I mean, you say bride, you think ‘bridesmaids’.  What wedding photographer doesn’t have a plethora of pictures of a girl in white, smiling, with five other women of varying ages in a terrifying shade of coral, looking less happy? If you’re the bride, you’re meant to be surrounded by loads of female extras being feminine and cooing about appearance and hair and The Dress and flowers – that’s what the media show. But I had a big issue when it came to my bridesmaids. I have a lot of friends and they are’t all female, and lots of them are in different groups and some are in different countries. In the end, I have a family member (stepsister), my best mate (who lives in South Korea) and a bridesman.

Yup, that’s right. I’ve known Dan since I was 18 and he knows me almost as well as my fiancé, so screw it, he’s in my bridal party. I have a bridesman.  There are actually some great sides to this. For one thing, like my fiancé, he doesn’t drink, so he’ll be very helpful in negotiating the family tensions on the day when it comes to the group photographs. For another, he’s great at calming me down and getting me to remember to have some perspective. And he’s funny and can cheer me up when I’m stressed and grumpy.

Colour photo showing a golden-coloured hen. Free image from to say, my mother does not approve. ‘Why can’t he be part of Future Husband’s party?’ she wailed. It is seemingly ‘not done’ to have men in your wedding entourage if you’re a woman, I imagine because of women not having male friends in the same way in the old days, because, tradition implies, that would surely lead to romance.  (Although I have in fact slept with him. I am not revealing this fact to my mother.) A couple of other people have joked ‘Oh, in a dress?’ and I’ve just stared at them until they stop with their gender stereotyping.

The idea of just having your female friends is a lovely one but a little outdated when you a) know what sex is and don’t need your married friends telling you before your wedding night, and b) regularly talk to men without the worry that someone will see you and call you a strumpet. We’ve moved on as a society, haven’t we? It’s nicely balanced by the fact that Future Husband chose his sister as his best man. I love that our wedding party is made up of a mix of men and women on both sides.

It’s also nice to have an additional excuse for extra parties. I’ve always said I would have a Cock Party as well as a Hen Do. Future Husband is having a Doe Night as well as a Stag Do. Fine, we’ll segregate by gender but by god we’ll have both. It shakes it up from the normal alternative of one single party we could throw, but also means that I’m not just hanging out in a female-only group.

It’s not even that I’ve set out to be ‘controversial’ (my mother, yet again), it’s just that I couldn’t see how I could organise my wedding and not be non-gender biased. We have too many friends, male and female, to simply be that abrupt and schismatic.

  • Lizzie is getting married in 2013 and has already planned roughly 5,748 weddings in her head. You can find more of her musings, wedding-themed reviews and rantings at Wedding Belles UK.
6 Responses leave one →
  1. Kay&theMerry permalink
    April 30, 2012

    I like your guest posts. :) Personally, I’ve been claimed as both the Maid of Honour by my best friend, and as the Bestman of her future groom-to-be. That’ll turn out complicated for sure. I wonder, what was the function of Stag Nights and Hen Nights back when none of us had friends of the opposite sex and/or did not know a thing about sex?

  2. wererogue permalink
    April 30, 2012

    My wedding parties were similar – my Bride had her male best friend in hers, and I had my sister and my female best friend in mine (plus homogendered members to make it up to 3 each).

    We didn’t do extra parties – we just had one party each – one with my friends and one with my Bride’s. There wasn’t much overlap since I had mine in Wales and she had hers in New Brunswick.

  3. Michelle Taylor permalink
    May 1, 2012

    I find the controversy around the ‘Bridesman’ odd (especially the suggestion he should join the other party even though he is primarily your friend!) because the wedding traditions I know have always had the concept of Page Boys, who are like Bridesmaids but male; although I guess they are generally the place for the young boys of the family (who also want to dress up and follow the bride and carry flowers and stuff), rather than the adult male friends of the bride, who show up as Ushers…

  4. Bacon permalink
    May 9, 2012

    My chief bridesmaid was a bloke, and I had another male friend to be a regular bridesmaid as well. It can’t be that irregular, because nobody batted an eyelid when we rented their suits from the shop. They just wrote ‘bridesmaids’ down in their book above the names of those two chaps in order to indicate that their waistcoats, cravats and handkerchiefs would be in the bridesmaid’s colour and not the groomsmen’s.
    Strangely, this put my family’s minds at rest, as they reasoned that if enough weddings were doing it that the shop had a standard practice for it, it was unlikely to scandalise the grandmothers. In fact the grandmothers thought they looked very dapper, and were much too happy to be scandalised.

  5. May 10, 2012

    I have to admit that this post has really blown my mind. Well done to you and your partner for breaking gender conventions with the wedding ritual. I am curious about one thing: how has the Future Husband’s decision about choosing his sister to be Best Man fared, compared to say, your decision to have a male Bridesman?

    Looking at the comments of some of the other people. I’m pleasantly surprised that this is a not-so-uncommon occurence to mix up the gendersexes in pre-marital parties such as these. I’m from an exceptionally religiously conservative background so this is completely new to me.

    As someone going to a Stag Party later on this month, I am kind of dreading the overly male energy about it. I’m not looking forward to being referred to as a ‘wing man’ or ‘going on the pull’ that they are pressuring me into. I happen to be the only unattached person there and it’s hard to say you aren’t currently looking for anything relationship or sexual wise to this particular bunch of men without them doing some peer pressure diatribe about them not taking me seriously about that. If only mixed gender company were an option next week to dilute all of that macho bullhickey, and not in the way they are envisaging…

    If I get married, or (more likely) plan a stag party, I think I’d seriously consider mixed gender parties. I love the whole transgressive idea of it (from my conservative background), I know a few girls who like doing the ‘macho’ activities that my friends like (particularly Airsofting), plus there’d be less awkwardness and cringey talk that polarises genders in a simplistic way. That can only be a good thing as far as I see it. You’ve just given me a great idea.

    Best Wishes on your upcoming parties!

  6. May 11, 2012

    Hey, as someone who’s non-binary gendered I was actually somewhat upset by this post. For two parties segregating people by binary gender to be held may be what you want for your wedding but I don’t think it should be described as “non gender biassed” because it excludes the possibility of a non binary gendered person in attendance (and you may well not know if a friend identifies as non binary) and in fact fails to even acknowledge our existence. I was particularly upset to find this at Bad Reputation given how generally awesome posts are at this sort of thing. I live my life bring excluded constantly from things because of my gender, it hurts when someone holds up an example of this exclusion and calls it inclusive.

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