Wedding Etiquette For Dummies
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Modern wedding protocol allows you to choose attendants of the opposite sex — a male attendant for the bride or a female attendant for the groom. Although you may see a few raised eyebrows at very traditional weddings, your closest friends are worthy of consideration no matter what gender they are. When a person of the opposite sex acts as the best man or maid of honor, they are called the bride or groom’s “honor attendant.”

When the bridesmaids include a man or the groomsmen include a woman, the groups are simply referred to as the bride and groom’s attendants. When the attendants are of mixed genders, it’s best to have the attendants walk out single file for the recessional.

When you have a woman among the groom’s attendants, her outfit should coordinate with the male attendants’ attire. Some modifications are appropriate, such as the female attendant wearing a dress instead of a tux and having a bouquet instead of a boutonnière. Similar rules apply for a male attendant on the bride’s side.

When a male is serving as the bride’s honor attendant, the next bridesmaid customarily holds the bride’s bouquet during the ring exchange and helps the bride with her dress and train. Female attendants on the groom’s side aren’t generally expected to serve as ushers or help seat guests.

The bride’s male attendant appears in photos with the female attendants, and the same goes for female attendants on the groom’s side. Tell the photographer before the day of the wedding that you have a member of the opposite sex among either or both of the attendant groups.

Another place in the lineup that is acceptable for switching gender roles is with the ring bearer. If you don’t have a young boy in your family or among your friends to be your ring bearer, you can choose to have a female ring bearer instead. She should wear a dress similar to the flower girls’ dresses, but she should stand on the groom’s side rather than on the bride’s side with the flower girls. It’s also acceptable to omit these positions for younger attendants altogether.

If you’re having a religious ceremony and planning to have cross-gender attendant groups, check with your officiant before the big day so you don’t create a fuss at the rehearsal. You want to make sure the tradition and house of worship you’re marrying in allows attendants of the opposite sex before you start asking friends and family for their services.

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Sue Fox is the author of Etiquette For Dummies and Business Etiquette For Dummies. She is the founder and president of The Etiquette Survival Group, a California-based professional development and publishing company.

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