Making Their Weddings an All-Gender Affair

When Dot Goldberger and Simone Budzyn were brainstorming how they wanted to feel on their wedding day, they came up with a number of different adjectives. Among them were: “calm,” “beautiful,” “cared for” and “pumped up.”

So they called on 30 friends and family members of all genders who they knew would help them feel those things when the time came. They called the assembled group their “Pump Up Party” or “Pump Up People.”

Later, as the couple prepared to exchange rings before 135 guests at their wedding on Oct. 8 in Chesterfield, N.J., their “Pump Up People” formed a circle around them at the altar and held hands while singing “For the Beauty of the Earth,” a hymn chosen because it was featured in the 1994 film “Little Women,” which had been important to both partners.

“It made us feel completely encompassed by the love of our community,” said Mx. Budzyn, a 32-year-old psychotherapist.

Some couples, like Mx. Budzyn and Ms. Goldberger, a 32-year-old paralegal, are forgoing traditional bridesmaids- and groomsmen-oriented wedding parties in favor of more inclusive practices, whether it’s renaming the group — Mx. Budzyn, for example, “liked that ‘Pump Up People’ is a little bit silly, but it sort of evokes a feeling of fun and excitement” — or doing away with it altogether.

“We all know the traditions. We all know the expectations, and those carry a lot of weight,” said Ainsley Blattel, the director of brand and marketing at Modern Rebel, a wedding planning company in Brooklyn. “Oftentimes, they aren’t what people want to do.”

“Words have power,” Mx. Blattel added. “What you call your wedding party, and the people in it, matters, especially if you do have folks who are nonbinary or trans who don’t feel comfortable with the mainstream binary options.” Some options include “best person,” “mate of honor” and “party people.”

Casie Kowalski, 32, and Tyler McIntosh, 34, also had a combined all-gender wedding party consisting of 18 people on Oct. 15 in Long Island City, Queens. The idea originated during the bachelor party planning process: They wanted to have one large, combined event they called a “BachelorX party,” which was held in Miami last June.

After the Miami trip proved to be a success, the couple decided to bring the concept of one combined group to their wedding day. The group included Mr. McIntosh’s sibling, Lillian McIntosh, who is nonbinary. The couple listed the pronouns of the whole wedding party on their website, informing guests that Mx. McIntosh, 26, uses they/them.

“It made me feel seen,” they said.

The groom, a senior director of social production at Paramount, and Ms. Kowalski, an architecture and design manager at Ralph Lauren, also saw an all-gender wedding party as a way to have fun with fashion. “We wanted to look mixed up,” Ms. Kowalski said. The couple asked the people in their wedding party to wear anything that matched their black and rust color scheme.

Mx. McIntosh wore a tuxedo, which they said was their “small way” of informing some family members of their gender presentation.

This was their first experience being in a wedding party. “I definitely was nervous about getting more negative reception from my extended family, who is a bit more conservative,” Mx. McIntosh said.

But after an “overwhelmingly positive” experience, Mx. McIntosh said they’ll feel less anxious going forward. A second brother is getting married in November, and they will stand by his side at the altar.

While these couples had wedding parties that ignored gender norms, some may decide to not have wedding parties at all.

“A lot of people who work in the wedding industry just continue carrying on a narrative because that’s what they know and what they were taught,” said Mx. Blattel of Modern Rebel.

David Green, 36, and Ryan Schwartz, 37, did not have wedding parties for their summer camp-themed wedding because they felt they “create unnecessary exclusion and hierarchies in an event that is all about community,” said Mr. Schwartz, who is the founder of Mental Health Match, a website that helps people find therapists.

Both Jewish, the two instead engaged in a tradition called a tisch, or a gathering of close friends and family before the wedding ceremony, on June 18 in Portland, Ore. Mr. Schwartz’s crew congregated in the living room; Mr. Green’s in the backyard.

Eventually their two crews came together, and the couple received a “high energy send-off” before they took an Uber to their wedding venue, said Mr. Green, the founder of Stacks Journal, a scientific publishing journal.

“Historically, the tisch has been gendered. But there’s no playbook for a queer wedding,” Mr. Schwartz said. “As queer people, we learn to question what we’re told, and to search inside to find what’s authentic and meaningful to us.” He added, “that’s the joy of being queer.”

For Stephanie Ramones, 33, inclusivity is a priority for her wedding this summer in Philadelphia. She said she and her fiancé have many nonbinary friends and have felt most comfortable dropping wedding parties entirely.

“Creating an inclusive space and a space where people feel seen and cared for,” said Ms. Ramones, a wedding photographer. “To me, that’s just being a good host.”

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