hand holdin'

The offbeat bride: Gus, activist

Her offbeat partner: Joey, activist

Date and location of wedding: Milwaukee, WI — August 13, 2011

What made our wedding offbeat: My partner and I decided when we got engaged a year ago that we would try to keep the budget to be less than or equal to one month's rent (550 dollars). We went over by 200 dollars, but that's okay, because literally everything from the venue to the rings to the outfits to the party favors to the food was all included in that number.

Furthermore, we're a queer and genderqueer couple who wanted to honor our different cultures' traditions (I'm Irish and Italian, he's Jewish) while also bucking the gender norms that a wedding ritual often entails. So this is how a Southern genderqueer trans guy and a femmebear get married.

prep time

Tell us about the ceremony: It was supposed to be outside in a local park, but it rained. So we had to move it inside to the reception area, and the tables created our aisle. The guests sat on the built-in benches on the wall. Our friends played guitar and singing saw during the wedding procession. I walked down, escorted by my mother, to an acoustic version of Otis Redding's “That's How Strong My Love Is.”

the music

Our officiant read the non-gendered, very consent-orientated ceremony out of a copy of Darwin's Origin of Species. She also did the entire speech from The Princess Bride. My vows included a traditional Celtic prayer which honored my Irish heritage:

You cannot possess me for I belong to myself.
But while we both wish it, I give you that which is mine to give.
You cannot command me, for I am a free person.
But I shall serve you in those ways you require,
And the honeycomb will taste sweeter coming from my hand.
…I pledge to you that yours will be the name I cry aloud in the night,
And the eyes into which I smile in the morning.
I pledge to you the first bite of my meat and the first drink from my cup.
I pledge to you my living and my dying, each equally in your care.
I shall be a shield for your back and you for mine.
I shall not slander you, nor you me.
I shall honor you above all others, and when we quarrel we shall do so in
Private and tell no strangers our grievances.
This is my wedding vow to you
This is the marriage of equals.

the space

We also had our friend, a very brilliant Jewish scholar, recite some readings from the Torah in both Hebrew and English to honor Joey's culture.

grandparents' shrine

Our biggest challenge: The budget wasn't that difficult, to be honest, despite trying to spend only 550 dollars. The hardest part was balancing our radical anarchist ideals and the cultural traditions and rituals we both loved. The response from other queer anarchists made it difficult.


My favorite moment: We wrote our own vows, and just hearing what we had to say to each other was so amazing and heart-expanding. Joey hates public speaking, but his vows were so genuine and heartfelt.

At one point, our best friend Robyn (and my maid of honor) broke down during their toast and had to grasp the hand of their boyfriend, while their best friend held on to them, just so they could make it through their speech. After they finished, both my husband and I went to their side and hugged them and cried.

Joey's vows

Joey reading his vows

My funniest moment: My brother, the photographer, brought one of his friends from art school to help photograph the wedding. He was this white, straight, cis guy, and we thought for sure he'd be uncomfortable and squicked by everything. Turns out he was the most enthusiastic, happy-go-luckiest human on the planet who never stopped dancing or photobombing everyone. Colin, you were a joy.

The spread

Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? I actually preferred having the ceremony inside, when all was said and done, because the music was so incredible and beautiful that it would have been a shame to have not been able to hear it.

ring exchange

My advice for offbeat brides: Dresses that happen to be white are far, far less expensive than wedding dresses. Your friends want to help you and are also broke. Their wedding gift to you can be their talent. Our friends gifted us everything from 140 vegan cupcakes to their musical talents to video recording the whole thing. Let the experts do their job!

Kelsey's toast

family portrait

What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? When it came down to the wire, nothing actually mattered more than our promises to each other.

First kiss

Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding inspo!

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Comments on Gus & Joey’s super budget vegan queer love-fest wedding

  1. Absolutely beautiful wedding for only $750. That’s amazing! You are an inspiration to me (just beginning to plan). I hope that I look as beautiful on my wedding day as you did. Your dress was stunning. Best wishes for a happy future for you and your partner!

  2. What a beautiful wedding! Just goes to show you dont need to spend lots of cash to have an amazing day!!

  3. Fantastic!I love the old timey photos of the relatives and that shot of the two girls hugging the bride. So sweet! Many congratulations!

  4. Congratulations! You two look so happy. 🙂 I echo everything everyone else has said, but just slightly off-topic, I really appreciated the links within the text to definitions of everyone’s identities. You both rock for doing exactly what you as a couple wanted and not caving to either traditional politics or even queer anarchist politics. It’s hard no matter what, so congrats again, and all the good health, love, and happiness you can possibly handle! 🙂

  5. it was great moment for those that love music. a great heart shape music cake.

  6. Congratulations! I’m so impressed by the wonderful, customized wedding you crafted on such a tight budget. I love the Celtic prayer and the bride’s dress. As HungryGrad said, way to go for having the wedding YOU wanted! Also, thank you for including a link to explain cisgender. I learned something today!

  7. I was at this wedding and it was truly one of the most beautiful and heartfelt events that I have ever been to. On top of that, Gus and Joey are two of the most wonderful human beings on the planet, and their ceremony reflected that perfectly.

  8. I second everything that others have said: Congratulations! Y’all look fabulous! What a beautiful and touching event this clearly was! And thanks for the education about “cisgender” – I too learned something new today 🙂

    Now I’m hoping that you’ll be willing to educate me a little further about the use of the words “their” and “them” to refer to a single individual (your friend Robyn). I understand that transsexual people are to be referred to by the gender pronouns that correspond to the gender they identify with, but I’ve never encountered a person who identifies as “they” (or “we” in the first person, yes?). Does this tend to indicate a person who identifies as both male and female, or perhaps neither?

    I hope I’m not coming across as nosy or anything. As someone with a background in psychology, I just find it fascinating how many “flavors” people come in 🙂

  9. I would also like to hear more about your MOH and the use of “they” and “them”, etc… even more clicky links on the other gender-queer terms would be great! I love learning about all the “flavors” as well. I find it fascinating, beautiful, and inspiring. 🙂

  10. That Celtic prayer is so beautiful! And I’m surprised that it put so much emphasis on equality. I’d love to know more about its background.

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