Being a best woman
Despite conventions, the only ‘rule’ a bride and groom are expected to follow when it comes to picking honorary attendants – that’s the best man and maid of honour to you and me – is the picking of them. That ‘rule’ about them having to be the same sex as the bride and groom is just tradition talking.
Now we all know tradition’s a tough cookie to crack. But it’s not impossible. And this week’s interviewees can prove it. Jen is going to be her brother’s best lady in a few months. And Mel was best woman for her best friend Mike just a few weeks ago.
How did other people react to your title?
Jen: ‘Unfortunately, my brother’s fiancée isn’t so enamoured by the idea. She tried to get me to be a bridesmaid, but he insisted on my best lady status. Everyone else I spoke to hadn’t ever heard of a best woman before. And some found it quite odd, which frustrated me because, if I was a man, they’d call it a brotherly bond. Why should my gender make it weird?’
Mel: ‘Everyone’s reactions were good, thankfully. The only joke that was made on the big day was how butch I looked – haha!’
Did you have any concerns over being a best woman?
Jen: ‘No, I’ve never had any concerns as I’ve always been a tomboy. But aside from that, I’m not one to view my gender as a barrier to anything I do. Plus, I don’t feel I have to be a man in order to fulfil the role.’
Mel: ‘Not at all – nothing conventional about us! I feel that people should be allowed to have whoever they want as their best people. That being said, when I was putting my speech together, most of the info and advice I could find was catered to the generic ‘blokey-bloke best man speech’. So I had no real guidance. I decided not to make a huge deal of me being a best woman in my speech. And no one said anything out of the ordinary on the day, apart from my Dad. But I think that, in terms of generational beliefs, older people are less aware of the fluidity of gender and the bending of conventional rules.’
Any advice for future best women out there?
Jen: ‘My brother’s wedding isn’t for a few months, so I’ll take a rain check…’
Mel: ‘Be completely prepared. For most of the day, forget about enjoying yourself and be at the ready for any job that comes up. All the married couple want and need is for the day to run as smoothly as possible without them having to worry. So having a clear plan of what needs doing and being available at all times is a must.’
Best womanhood: just a phase or the start of change?
Jen: ‘I think that people see best woman-age as being a quirky thing to do, which tells me that we’re not in an era of best ladies. Having said that, I think that as a society we are more comfortable with these types of ideas. And I think the gender divide is getting ever smaller (although some people may disagree).’
Mel: ‘I think being a best woman isn’t that common because most people are still very conventional. I also think that the gender roles are different with gay couples, and so having a best woman instead of a best man is quite normal. However, straight couples continue to have traditional weddings and roles, and also tend to have friendship groups of the same gender – meaning the best friend of the groom is more likely to be a man.’
Both Jen’s and Mel’s insights stem from having a shared belief that it doesn’t matter if you have a best man or woman, a maid or man of honour. And why should it? Having the right people around you at your wedding is bigger than gender, surely?
If you’re in the midst of choosing your honorary attendants, make sure your choice suits both you and your partner. If your wedding is deeply rooted in religion – or your family are hard core traditionalists – and you plan on going against the grain, be prepared to fight your corner. But know that it’ll be worth it. After all, it’s not your family or friends who have to deal with all the ups and downs to your wedding. It’s your best person. And if they’re not someone who you can laugh with, shout at and cry on, then the whole process might be harder than it needs to be.
If you’ve been a best woman or are set to be one, we want to know about your experience via the comments box below. Did you come up against any resistance? If so, how did you deal with it? And do you think best womanhood is a just a phase, or are stories like Mel’s and Jen’s part of a fresh perspective?
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