How to best include a butch lesbian bridesmaid: A guide for well-meaning straight brides

So let’s suppose I’ve successfully persuaded you that Butchy McBridesmaid needn’t sport frills. Onto question #2: what, then, is she supposed to wear? This is the fun part. Possibilities abound:

  • The same pants (or color pants) as the groomsmen, plus a shirt the color of the bridesmaids’ dresses (plus a suit vest matching the pants, if you desire)
  • Whatever the groomsmen are wearing
  • Whatever the groomsmen are wearing, minus the jacket (suit vest optional)
  • A plain suit (men’s or women’s, ideally her choice) with a plain white shirt and a tie that you (or you and she) pick out to match the bridesmaids’ dresses
  • Another idea, if you’re hell-bent on matching sides, is to have your lesbo-buddy stand with the groomsmen and wear what they’re wearing

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One bride-to-be recently emailed me a more subtle question. She explained that she wasn’t going to force her butch bud into periwinkle chiffon, and had instead told her that she could wear pants… as long as they were flowy women’s pants with a women’s shirt, which she said would be more closely aligned with the bridesmaids’ look that she was going for. The butch in question was offended, and the bride-to-be was like, “WTF?I thought I was being cool.”

While I don’t think all butches would be offended by the specter of flowy pants, plenty would be uncomfortable. It’s as if the bride is saying, “I get that you’re different, but you have to present in a way I think women should. You still have to fit within my definition of acceptable femininity.” And that doesn’t feel very nice, especially if your butch friend has weathered years of feeling like she wasn’t “doing” femininity correctly. For many of us, being butch is liberating because it means we no longer have to “do” femininity at all. Making her wear flowy pants makes her enter that lousy terrain all over again. 

It’s not that your butch friend should be allowed to wear anything she wants. After all, your other bridesmaids may or may not find tea-length periwinkle chiffon flattering on them, and your groomsmen may not love peach-colored ties. It’s not about giving your butch bridesmaid free reign—it’s about asking her to wear something consistent with who she is. 

My opinion? Don’t force her to fit into your mold. Approach the conversation with love: Ask her what she would be comfortable in and why (or ask something like, “Would you be more comfortable in what the groomsmen are wearing, or in what the bridesmaids are wearing?”), and listen with an open mind and heart. Ask yourself where your discomfort is really coming from. Is it really about formality, or is it about a fear that others might somehow judge you if your friend wears a men’s suit?