10 Gender Neutral Wedding Terms You Definitely Need To Know

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Gender-neutral wedding terms are becoming more and more common in the modern wedding industry. These terms are not just useful for LGBTQ+ couples and individuals; it’s also a great practice and habit to form as the wedding industry and society today are transforming into one that is more inclusive, flexible, and less bound by traditions and "rules."
While it's important to recognize the place for these terms to recognize non-binary and gender non-conforming couples and individuals, it's also healthy to make space for these terms to be more ingrained in societal norms. Everyone deserves love! And as the spectrum of gender identities and gender presentation continues to diversify, it's important to remember that you can't always tell someone's gender by how they look, dress, or even what pronouns they use.
So why not use terms that allow everyone to feel safe, respected, and included? They aren’t all “made up” words, as some might assume. Most are terms derived from others, and some are common words you probably already use and just may not yet view through a gender-neutral lens. Go on and take a look!

First, a Quick Lesson on gender! 

You may have heard the phrase "gender is a social construct." But what does that really mean? Basically, gender has been used in the past to sort people into certain social or cultural characteristics by way of ascribing specific traits to certain sexes (i.e. masculinity or femininity). However, these traits are not biologically bound. Furthermore, sex itself is far more diverse than the socially accepted binary of "male" and "female" has thus far led us to believe. Though gender and sex used to be used interchangeably, sex now refers to biological identifiers whereas gender is more a form of personal identity and expression.
To be gender-neutral in language simply means to avoid using binary terms such as bride, groom, husband, wife, etc. Gender is an incredibly diverse identifier so not everyone will align with these gendered terms, and using gender-neutral language is a surefire way to make sure everyone feels included whether they're cis or trans and regardless of their pronouns. So what language can or should you use to make sure everyone feels comfortable and respected?

Nearlywed

"Nearlywed" is a great term to use when trying to replace the heteronormative “bride and/or groom” or "bride and/or groom to be." It implies that someone is engaged and isn’t specific to any gender identity. Plus, it's a super cute term! You, of course, can always use the term "engaged" or other terms that we have listed below, but since "newlywed" is already part of common vernacular, "nearlywed" is a great counterpart to use before the wedding occurs. It can be used in a singular or plural context to describe an individual or a couple, and we think it would look great on a save-the-date or engagement party stationery.

Fiance

You probably already know this one and have probably never realized that it's already gender-neutral. Despite there being an additional spelling to specify a woman (i.e. "fiancee"), "fiance" can be a gender-neutral term when spoken or written. And unless the person speaking is specifying gender, it doesn’t have to imply gender identity when used. For example, if you were to say, "My fiance and I went to Paris last month," you aren't revealing how your partner identifies. While these terms can and should be used by cisgender and heterosexual couples to increase usage and make them more common, they also serve the purpose of protecting LGBTQ+ or non-binary couples from outing their partners in situations where that could be uncomfortable or unsafe.
Photo by Shingi Rice on Unsplash
Photo by Shingi Rice on Unsplash

Partner(s), Significant Other(s), Couple

Using "partner," "couple," and "significant other" are great ways to talk about a person or people in a relationship without specifying a gender identity. What makes these different from the term “nearlywed” is that these don't imply anything about marriage. This makes them a great alternative to the terms “boyfriend” and “girlfriend,” in addition to “bride,” “groom,” “husband,” and “wife.” While we're all for "defining the relationship" when the time comes, it's not always our place to define where another couple is at in their relationship. Whether they don't believe in marriage or are unable to be legally married for another reason, these terms are great for any sort of relationship at any stage. 

Newlywed

Another term commonly used that is gender-neutral by nature is "newlywed." It’s similar to "nearlywed," but rather than being used before the wedding, it’s used after. By specifying newly-married individuals, it can replace the terms “wife” and “husband,” at least for a little while! "Newlywed" is a great example of a term that's already commonly used and so is an easy transition to make in the shift towards gender-neutral language. Again, while it's helpful to know the terms for non-binary or gender non-conforming couples and individuals, it's also easy to use inclusive language regardless of a couple's gender identity. 

Spouse

"Spouse" is like "newlywed," in that it's specific to married individuals. The only difference is that it can reference being married in any time frame, unlike "newlywed" which only defines couples recently married. Another word that is more commonly used than others by this list, using "spouse" instead of "husband" or "wife" is an easy way to get in the habit of using inclusive language. If you imagine you were writing an email to colleagues or friends that are a collection of both men and women and you were inviting them to a dinner party, it's much easier to write "spouses are invited" rather than "husbands and/or wives." Gender-neutral language is applicable for everyone, not just in scenarios where you may not know how someone identifies. 
Loverly Instagram
Loverly Instagram

Bachelorx

Bachelorx (pronounced: bachelor-ex) is a term that falls within the same group as bachelor and bachelorette. The suffix “x” is an element popularly used to make words more exclusive by eliminating the elements that are traditionally gendered and replacing them with the “x” — in this case, the “ette” in bachelorette. Bachelor and bachelorette parties have a particularly long history of gender stereotypes and gendered behavior, but that's for another article. Changing the language that we use to describe these events is the first of many steps towards ensuring these events have a more inclusive future, including the fact that gender non-binary folks can also have fun with their wedding party without ascribing a gendered title to the event. 

Best Person/Person of Honor

Instead of “best man” or “maid of honor,” "best person" or "person of honor" is an amazing way to refer to that trusted wedding party member. Other non-traditional ways to title this position is with the terms “best woman” and “man of honor,” which we are all for as well, but switching "person" in for any term that may signify gender allows for even more inclusivity and respect. These are the people that are getting you through your wedding day and doing the work, so we don't want to remove the title entirely. The future of inclusive wedding language is about finding the language that is all-embracing and that fits with you. Again, if you are serving in that position and prefer to be identified as a "maid" or a "man," that is totally fine! We just want everyone to know that there are alternatives. 

Wedding Party/Attendants

Consider replacing traditional “bridesmaids” and “groomsmen” with the term "attendants" OR just call them all a part of your wedding party. Not every nearlywed chooses to have their wedding party attendants be all one gender, so using a term like "attendants" or just "wedding party" in general can take off the pressure and allow the freedom to shake it up. Just as in the case of the person of honor or best person, these are some of the most important people that are part of your wedding celebration. Why not make sure they all feel equally represented and respected in the language that you use? 

Mx.

Many non-binary and/or gender fluid individuals prefer the title “Mx” (pronounced: mix) to replace the gender-specific “Miss,” “Mr,” and “Mrs.” So this term may be useful for individuals who choose not to use those titles. It’s also nice to use in situations where the gender identity of a person does not have to be specific or is actually unspecified. Think about all of the networking emails you've sent where the person has a gender non-specific name; no more resorting to "To whom it may concern." Gender-inclusive language has many, many uses outside of just wedding and relationship talk. These terms can be used anytime and in any place. 

Ring Bearer/Flower Person/Flower Pal

We all know the super adorable moment during traditional weddings where a little boy walks down the aisle as the ring bearer and a little girl walks down as the flower girl. Not to knock anyone who has included flower girls and ring bearers in their wedding in this way, but not everyone has a fixed idea of what type of person should be a flower person or ring bearer. Also, these aren’t even elements that every couple includes in their wedding party. "Ring bearer" is already gender-neutral at its essence, but opening up the term “flower girl” to be "flower person" or "flower pal" lets in flexibility for it to be an adult or someone that doesn’t identify as a woman or girl.
That’s all we have for now! What you can take from this list is that gender-neutral wedding terms are extremely useful and only help to make sure that everyone is included and respected. It takes virtually nothing to replace an outdated or exclusive term with one that offers a little more flexibility with regards to gender identity, expression, and/or sexual orientation. And if there are any other terms that you know of that belong on this list, we’d love to know about them—send us a DM on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter!
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About the author
Queer, nonbinary writer.