Weddings aren't a strictly gendered thing, as all of us reading Offbeat Bride are likely aware of… but many of the words around weddings and marriage are very gendered. Even if you’re having a completely gender-neutral wedding, it’s really hard to talk about it without using gendered verbiage. But I've tried to find some ways around that!
Sometimes gender-neutral wedding wording already exists, and sometimes there are gender-neutral or other-gender words that somebody else has coined.
Here are a few of the ideas I'm playing with to try de-gender some typically gendered wedding words…
Titles come up as an issue for genderqueer people way before weddings, but there are some wedding-specific issues. Some people don’t like the sound of Mr and Mr or Mrs and Mrs, or the fact that the order is always Mr and Mrs. Other title options include Mx, which uses the X for none or other and sounds like “mix,” and Misc, which is short for miscellaneous.
The most obvious words are the hardest to find gender-neutral replacements for. I've thought about mixing the words bride and groom to make gride.
Spouse is the generic word for husband and wife. But words like partner are more common, if you don’t need to specify that you’re married.
Luckily, the pronunciations of these words are exactly the same, so when you’re speaking, they’re gender neutral anyway. Words like betrothed have a very old-fashioned, romantic feel, and you can always just call them your spouse-to-be or similar.
The generic name is attendant, and you can have a bit of fun with words like crew or team for the whole group. If you do have a bride and groom but have other-gender attendants, words like groomsmaid or bridesman can just swap them around. Likewise, you can follow bride and groom with a neutral word like mate or peep instead of maid or man. If you have a gender-neutral couple and a word instead of bride or groom, you can follow that with any of those words, or make up a new word that matches your bride or groom word replacement.
Best Man/Maid of Honour:
Like bridesmaid and groomsmen, there’s the option to swap or replace maid and man, but there’s also a lot of fun to have. You might have chosen your Best Friend, Best Cousin, or even your Best Alex! Maid of Honour can become Made of Honour, or another quality like Awesome. Chief, as in Chief Bridesmaid, is gender neutral, so everyone can be given titles to match their roles; you can have a Chief Ringbearer. Check the comments on this post for SO many great ideas.
Hens are female chickens, and stags are male deer — any gender-neutral animal name would be a gender-neutral replacement, and animals like fox work well. There’s also the option to use chicken, rooster, or cockerel instead of hen, and deer or doe instead of stag.
Moving away from animal names, and away from the UK, bachelor/ette or bachelor(ette) are one way of making bachelor and bachelorette gender neutral. Bachelor is technically neutral like in Bachelor of Arts, but it is used for men in this context. The “ette” ending is used to feminise bachelor, like “ess” is commonly in English (princess, hostess, waitress), so a similar ending would make an other-gendered third word. Easy options could be bacheloren, bachelorelle, bachelorine or even just bachelorre.
If all else fails, I like making up my own words; someone had to coin every other word, after all!
Did any of my words resonate with you? Which gender-neutral words are you using? How can we all be more aware of gender-inclusive language in wedding planning?