Why I Chose to Have a Man of Honor

A bride and her right-hand man share their experience bucking tradition

Updated 09/30/18

Athena Pelton

Here at BRIDES we believe that love is love, and that goes for friendships, too. In most cases, "maid of honor" is a designation reserved for your best of besties—the person who is literally family or might as well be—as a way of letting her know you can't imagine getting through a day this important without her. But for Mary Birchard, that her was a him. Read about Birchard's experience asking guy pal Joseph Rogers to be her right-hand man in a role so stereotypically female, it's embedded in the title. Then, read Rogers's take on being a bro MoH.

Athena Pelton

From the Bride

Before I was even engaged, I told Joe, "Just so you know—when this happens, you're going in that top spot."

We'd been in school together since kindergarten but really became friends junior year of high school at a homecoming dinner. We laughed so hard at one point, the whole of the Italian restaurant turned to stare. The summer after high school, we spent every day together before both going to Ohio State, where I met my now-husband Sam. Joe was our number-one advocate from day one.

I feel like it's become more popular to have a man of honor these days, but when I got married back in October 2014, I didn't know anyone who had done it. Still, there was never a question that Joe would be mine. It meant so much to me—having him play that role—and part of it was who he is as a person, but another part was probably the fact that he was a man.

Joe didn't have all of those female ideas and expectations of what's supposed to happen at a bridal shower or bachelorette party or getting ready on the wedding day. He added a level of grounding. Being a bride—and the center of attention all the time—can be really stressful. People, especially women, want everything to be "perfect." There's that expectation, and it can almost become like a competition for us girls to see who can be the most attentive bridesmaid or whatever. That becomes obnoxious and, honestly, adds to the stress.

Joe cut through all of that nonsense. He was always ready with a joke or a funny observation. He kept me sane.

When we went dress shopping, I brought Joe. My mom and future mother-in-law didn't want to say the wrong thing, so they didn't say anything. I appreciated them not wanting to be overbearing, but was also like, "I brought you guys here to help." Joe offered an honest and critical eye. When everyone else was like, "Well, that one could be nice on you if blah, blah, blah..." He'd just be like, "Nope. She hates it." He wasn't worried about offending me like most of my girl friends would've been.

My biggest piece of advice for brides wrestling with whether to include a male in their party is to not overthink this decision. Don't worry about what is standard, or tradition, or expected. Your choices should be about you—what you care about and who you care about. If the friend you need as your main person standing up there with you that day happens to be a different gender, it doesn't matter. The more personal a wedding is, the better the experience is for everyone. Guests enjoy knowing that your party around you are those you love most in the world.

I think people like when things break from tradition.

At the reception, Joe walked out by himself in a perfect grand entrance. (Sam's best man was his dad who escorted his mom.) Sam's uncle told Joe afterward, "You were grinning ear to ear. Everyone in the room could see on your face that you are so genuinely happy for Sam and Mary."

Mary Birchard, as told to Jessie Mooney

From the Man of Honor

I've always been a bit of a third wheel to Mary and Sam, and I mean that in a positive sense. Sam is one of my best friends—I even went on his bachelor party—but Mary is like family.

When Mary asked me to be her man of honor, she was living in Manhattan but planning to move back to Ohio where we're both from and living now. She'd come home to visit and gave me this beautiful white mug with all of the subway rails on it in their rainbow colors. She knew how much I loved visiting them in New York, and wanted me to have a token of the time we shared there. Plus, as I member of the LGBTQ community, I'm partial to rainbows. Of course I said yes, and we came up with the term 'Mo of Honor.

(Cute, right?)

I'm not going to lie: I freaked a little at first. Mary means so much to me, so my expectations were high for myself. I knew the role entailed spearheading a bridal shower and a bachelorette party. The seven other bridesmaids assisted in planning a trip to Atlantic City, but I was particularly nervous about the bridal shower, having never been to one before. I'm lucky that I have some great sisters and a mom who helped me throw the most beautiful shower—with signature cupcakes and Moscow Mules, since that was right as the copper mug trend was popping off.

It definitely wasn't the traditional two-hour event with party games, though. Mary and I had said to hell with the rulebook from the beginning, so this shower went on for nine hours. I remember around 1 p.m. being like, "OK, thanks for coming!"...and nobody left. We kept drinking and dancing until we ended up at a chicken wing place.

On the day of the wedding, I got ready with the girls. (My tux matched the groomsmen's, but while they wore black bow ties, mine was a lilac from the bridesmaids' color palette.) They were all running around Mary like, "Are you hungry? Are you thirsty? Let me get you a snack! You need water!" Mary and I know each other so well that I could read in her eyes she was overwhelmed. I turned to the girls at one point and said, "If Mary wants something, she'll say so or get it herself!"

Right before the ceremony, we sent everyone out of the room so Mary and I could have a one-on-one. We took a deep breath, and just relished everything leading up to that point. I'll never forget that moment—that one time where Mary and I struck peace together in a sea of wedding day chaos.

Two weeks before that, my brother got married, so I was a best man and a maid of honor at the same time. The experiences felt the same. I was selected because I'm important to those people; gendered norms were tossed out the window. Mary and I have never been people to follow scripts. Maid of honor. Man of Honor. 'Mo of honor. Whatever you call it, it should be less about fulfilling preconceived expectations, and more about "What does my best friend need from me right now?"

The closest we came to drama? All the bridesmaids were gifted matching floral robes, and Mary didn't want me to feel left out so she bought me my own special robe in the most beautiful dark green with my monogram on it. We have one picture on Instagram (see below) where I'm wearing it and Mary and I are hugging. It's a fabulous photo, but the robe was very much a one-and-done deal. I hung it up in the hotel closet and the maid stole it.

Joseph Rogers, as told to Jessie Mooney

Courtesy of Joseph Rogers

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