Bridal Party or Wedding Party? Gender No Longer Determines Where You Stand

Seven bridesmaids in pink dresses holding up a man in a suitPhoto: Bella Indy / Stone King Photography

Technically, there are only two things you need to get married: a marriage license and an officiant to sign it.

And while some couples opt to have a small courthouse wedding or an intimate ceremony in the presence of a few loved ones, others dream about having their friends in their bridal party on the big day!

But wait … is bridal party even the right term?

Plenty of people still use this term, and we totally get it — it's a tradition that’s been ingrained in our brains for generations!

But, lots of modern-day couples are tossing the term “bridal party” aside in favor of the more inclusive “wedding party.”


Because gender no longer determines who you stand with!

Is There a Difference Between a Bridal Party and a Wedding Party?

Bride and bridesmaids standing with two men in suitsPhoto: Bella Charlotte / Second Shots Photography

The terms “bridal party” and “wedding party” both refer to the people that stand up as we say our vows.

Depending on your wedding, your party might include any number of roles:

• Maid/matron of honor
• Best man
• Bridesmaids
• Groomsmen
• Ring bearer
• Flower girl
• Ushers

    Whether it’s your best friends or family members filling these roles, your bridal party is all of the people who play some part in the wedding ceremony.

    But, calling it the “bridal party” assumes that there’s a bride involved … and there might not be!

    It also assumes the traditional roles of women on the bride’s side and men on the groom’s side — a concept that more and more couples are tossing aside. 

    There’s absolutely no reason for gender to be a factor in who you choose to stand on your side of the aisle on your wedding day. 

    As a bride, you shouldn’t have to feel like you can only ask women to be on your side of the wedding party. As a groom, you shouldn’t feel obligated to ask a bunch of guys to stand beside you. And ushers can be any gender, not just men.

    Selecting your wedding party is a personal decision, and the only criterion is that you choose the people you want to play a special role in your big day! 

    Man, woman, non-binary, or gender fluid … your wedding party should include the people that mean the most to you.

    Are you still shopping for bridesmaid dresses? Shop our collections:


    It’s 2024! Gender-Specific Roles Are Out the Window

    Gendered phrases are becoming more and more outdated and more exclusive by the minute.

    If you’re a bride with a guy best friend, have a man of honor instead of a maid or matron of honor. If you’re a groom whose closest friends are women, have a best woman instead of a best man. 

    Brides can have bridesmen in addition to bridesmaids. Grooms can have grooms-women in addition to groomsmen. Gender roles don’t matter or benefit anyone. It’s all about who you love and want to stand beside you as you say your I dos!

    Your special day should be all about you as a couple. So, fill your guest list and stack your wedding party with your family members, close friends, and the people that mean the most to you, no matter their gender.

    The Purpose of a Wedding Party

    Two grooms in blue suits with five bridesmaids in five suitsPhoto: Bella Nashville / Sara Kauss

    Regardless of who stands on which side during the ceremony, the wedding party plays an important role.

    They are key players in the ceremony, as well as the wedding reception. Some of them will even help you plan pre-wedding events, such as the rehearsal dinner, and aspects of the big day itself (depending on how much help you want).

    And of course, they show up looking their best so that your wedding photos look amazing.

    There’s nothing about any of those duties that require someone to be a certain gender!

    Related: Who Decides? Bridesmaids Shopping Etiquette in 2023

    There Are Many Ways to Make Your Wedding More Gender-Inclusive

    Aside from asking whoever you want to be in your wedding party, there are plenty of ways to make your wedding more gender-inclusive.

    Instead of having a separate bachelor party and bachelorette party, throw a joint bash with everyone. It’s always more fun when the whole group is together!

    The age-old tradition of all the women gathering on a Sunday afternoon for a bridal shower is also out the window. Instead of restricting the shower guest list to women, invite everyone in the wedding party to join the festivities (perhaps for a brunch). It’s yet another opportunity to get together and have fun before the big day!

    Another way to do away with traditional wedding party roles is to rethink which party members you want to walk down the aisle together.

    You don’t need to designate a female bridesmaid to walk with male groomsmen. Instead, mix up your gender pairings however it makes sense!

    Having a best man and a man of honor? Let them walk together!

    Having a best woman and a maid of honor? Team your two favorite ladies together in one stunning pair!

    There’s no need to have an equal balance of men and women on each side — just ask the people you love to be a part of your wedding party, and don’t worry about the gender balance!

    How Should You Dress Your Wedding Party?

    One of the most important (and most fun) parts of the wedding planning process is choosing what your party members will wear on the wedding day.

    There’s no need to create a perfectly balanced look with five bridesmaids in dresses on one side and five groomsmen in suits on the other. It’s entirely up to you!

    When it’s time to choose outfits for the big day, you can be flexible. Regardless of gender, let the members of your wedding party wear what they feel most comfortable in, whether that be a bridesmaid dress, a tuxedo, or a well-fitted suit.

    If any of your wedding party members are wearing dresses, take them to a Bella Bridesmaids near you to find the perfect look!


    Traditional gender roles and gender-specific terms are becoming less and less important. So when it’s time to ask your besties and loved ones to be a part of your wedding, choose whoever you want to choose!

    “Best woman” and “man of honor” may not be terms that everyone is familiar with at the moment. But as the years go by, you can be sure that wedding parties are only going to become more gender-inclusive, and that’s just one more reason to celebrate!

    For more wedding ideas and planning tips, follow us on PinterestFacebook, and Instagram!

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