"I looked like a princette" My experience as a non-binary bridesmate

October 26 | Guest post by Aeron Gray
Photo by MetroStyle Studios
Photo by MetroStyle Studios

My best friend got married recently, which was exciting and amazing. I was in her bridal party, which was also exciting and amazing. The only issue was that I’m non-binary — that is, I’m transgender and not a man or a woman.

What to wear was my main problem

When my friend asked me to be a bridesmaid, I was far less "out" as I am now, and promised that I would wear a dress to match the other bridesmaids, and to cause less of an issue with appearance and her family. She had originally told me and our other non-femme friend, that if we really didn’t want to wear dresses, she wouldn’t make us. I felt okay about it, and it was good to know that the option was there if I couldn’t cope.

I know that many other trans, especially non-binary, people find themselves pressured to present in a way that makes them feel awful at weddings, or having to say “I love you both, but I can’t do this for you” and step back.

When the bride sent us pictures of the kind of dresses she wanted us to wear, I had mixed feelings. The fact that they were knee-length was great, as I’m sure a floor-length dress would have made me feel far more feminine and princess-like. Most of the dresses were figure-hugging and drew attention to the hips, which is the part of my body I feel most dysphoric about. I didn’t want to make it all about what I wanted, but the idea of wearing a clingy dress made me feel physically sick. So I mentioned that I would be happier in a "swishier" skirt… and luckily the other bridesmaids said similar things.

By the time of the wedding, I was presenting very androgynously or masculinely. Wearing a dress was strange, but I felt comfortable in it. It was actually nice to be able to wear a dress and still be correctly gendered, as it was mostly my friends and partner talking to me.

Shoes were also a problem

unnamedI never wear heels and would probably break my ankle if I had to. Plus I know I would never wear them again. Me feeling okay in a dress didn’t extend to shoes, so I spent most of the time building up to the wedding looking for shoes I would be okay with.

The bride-to-be did try and persuade me to wear pumps, which I feel are too feminine and never fit my feet properly. I decided I could find non-leather brogues in the same colour scheme. My brogues really made me feel good about my appearance on the day of the wedding, and I had a great conversation with the groom about his spectacular brogues.

I looked like a princette

We all painted our nails. When the bride-to-be told us about this plan, I was completely fine with it — I like painting my nails. She told me I could wear minimal make-up, and I told her I don’t actually own any make-up. Luckily the bride said it was fine for me to not wear any at all.

She wanted me to wear a hair accessory because I have a short androgynous hairstyle. I chose a metallic alice-band which looked like a flower crown, and felt like I looked like a princette (a gender neutral word to go with prince and princess).

On the day of the wedding

As I sat at the table, looking at my chosen name on the table setting, I felt so thankful to have such accepting friends. Not only did I feel able to make compromises, the bride-to-be was happy to do the same and all my friends were understanding.

I know that many other trans, especially non-binary, people find themselves pressured to present in a way that makes them feel awful at weddings, or having to say “I love you both, but I can’t do this for you” and step back.

By the time the next person in our friend group is married, I think I’ll be wearing a suit with some femme flair rather than a dress with some masculine flair. I had a great time regardless, and I think I really learned a lesson about presentation and how much small details and accessories make you feel.

non-binary bridesmate

  1. that is the sweetest. Simply the sweetest, I'm so glad it came together for you. And the bride. That's what friendship is.

    9 agree
  2. This is lovely! I've also noticed a lot of couples are mixing the genders of the bridal party, such as "man of honor" and a "best lady" – I think that's pretty progressive and may be helpful in future situations like this. Thank you for sharing!

    1 agrees
  3. My father is transitioning to female.
    Fortunately at the time of my wedding (last year), he was fairly early in his (public) transition and most of the family didn't know at that point (or at least not *openly*), so I felt no qualms in asking him to present as my male father at my wedding.
    I didn't ask him to cut his hair, trim back his nails or take out his earrings – just that he wear a suit.
    He was very sweet and accommodating about it.

    Had I gotten married *this* year, we probably would have had to work some kind of different compromise as (s)he presents as female pretty much 24/7 these days and nearly everyone in the family is aware of his/her new gender status.

    It *is* tough as there's no real cultural presidence yet for handling gender fluidity/neutrality.
    I'm so glad you and the bride were able to work out compromises that worked for all involved.
    Wootz!

    • Have you been able to talk to your father about what pronouns your father is using? In general, most folks don't go by his/her or (s)he.

      2 agree
      • When we're in public together, (s)he'd prefer female pronouns; when among family we can continue to use the male identifiers.
        He's still our father and even ten or fifteen years from now my brothers and I will likely still be identifying him as male. He's okay with that.
        When speaking of him/her in a neutral setting such as this, I go back and forth.

        The hardest thing for me has been, "What do I call you public? Obviously Dad/Father/Daddy won't work."
        We've settled on "Didi".

        3 agree
  4. Maybe it is just me but the number of "she said she would permit me to wear" and "she tried to convince me to wear"s in this story make me sad. I had three fabulous cis-gendered women in my bridal "posse" and all I said to them is "wear something that makes you feel fabulous." They each wore something they could afford, felt comfortable in and flattered their figure. I have a photo of the four of us from that day and I LOVE it. What they are wearing doesn't match at all, but the love in the photo is overwhelming. That's what should matter with "bridal parties", not dresses, skirts, color, shoes, make-up, etc!

    19 agree
    • My thoughts exactly! I couldn't believe no one had said that yet. I would never even think to ask an agender person to present one way or the other.

      4 agree
    • I'd say it's because ultimately the wedding is about the bride, not the guests. It has nothing to do with anyone's gender identity, and the bride would have been "permitting" and "convincing" the other bridesmaids to wear similar things regardless.

      5 agree
    • I thought this too. Not to take away from the bride being accepting of her friends non-binary status but … the thought has never even crossed my mind to mention nails, or shoes, or make-up to any of my attendants. They're grown ups, they'll figure it out. The only thing I chose for them was the dress, but even that was a group effort.

      2 agree
    • I have to agree. When I got married, it was "as long as you're wearing clothes and shoes, I'm good." One of my bridesmaids had hair about the length of the author's… I'd have never considered telling her to put an accessory in her hair? Especially if I knew she was transitioning or non-binary? Don't misunderstand, I'm super thrilled the author was willing to compromise and able to do so without feeling they were being treated unfairly, but the pumps and hair accessory thing really rubbed me the wrong way. You know your friend is non-binary, why are you pushing pumps? Why is it not just "whatever makes you comfortable"? No one is going to be looking at your bridesmates' shoes or hair.

  5. This makes me feel so happy and validated. I am also a nonbinary person, but I tend to gravitate from feminine-androgynous rather than androgynous-masculine. my sister made me the maid of honor in her wedding & forced me to shave all my body hair beforehand, which is integral to my identity and presentation. I tried to back out of the wedding but my family coerced me into staying in. I hope more brides take a leaf out of your friends book and are supportive and affirming to the special nb people in their lives!!!

    3 agree
  6. I loved this article. I think it's so important not to force your ideals on your friends- binary and non- who stand in your wedding. I'm so happy to read about acceptable compromises being found and implemented.

    1 agrees
  7. Thank you for posting this! My youngest sibling is non-biary. They were a bridesmaid for our middle sister's wedding a few years ago and I wanted them to be in my wedding party but wasn't sure how to approach the subject since their transition. The term bridesmate is perfect! <3

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