Kimberly & David's Bookish gender-avoiding party (with a wedding)

Updated Mar 15 2021
rude ring shot
Photos by Russ Mathews

The offbeat bride: Kimberly, not-all-that-evil HR Director

Her offbeat partner: David, condemner of dangerous buildings

Location & date of wedding: Robert J Mohart Center, Kansas City, MO — October 10, 2010

What made our wedding offbeat: We wanted the wedding to reflect who we are, and who we are is practical, crafty people who love books, good food, and relaxed good times. We're also people who would rather not have gender roles, pomp and circumstance, or people standing around awkwardly.

IMG_0387

We addressed the book part by using pages from injured books as matting and decorative elements for the invitations, making all the flowers for the hall and corsages/boutonnieres from book pages, and decorating the tables with old and lovely books. We labeled the table books with a custom bookplate for the wedding and gave them as wedding favors.

Buffet

The good food, no pomp, and no awkward standing was accomplished by putting our short ceremony in the middle of the "reception." People were already eating yummy snacks and having drinks, and we'd been out mingling, long before the wedding itself began. That seemed to make everybody friendly and happy — maybe cause they were not hungry. Photos were mostly candid, with a few quick posed shots that didn't involve huge numbers of people to be orchestrated (also to cut down on awkward standing time).

cheering circle

The gender-avoiding happened by dissecting the "traditional wedding," removing unequal expectations for the partners, changing the language to gender-neutral wording, and adding in elements that replaced the ones we stripped out. We didn't use words like "bride and groom;" rather, our website and programs referred to us as "people getting married," and the minister made it through the entire service with nary a pronoun. David, who identifies as male, wore a full dress tuxedo, and I, identifying as genderqueer, wore a suit with both masculine and feminine features.

couple

We're also hands-on types: we wrote our own ceremony, designed our own wedding logo (a picture representing our last names as a fox and a gear in a kind of visual pun), designed and handmade our own invitations, programs, flowers, centerpieces, favors, and other decorations. We set up the hall ourselves with the help of friends, and cleaned up afterward, too. For anything we had to hire someone else to do, we hired friends where we could. If we couldn't hire friends, we tried to at least hire people we liked, whose businesses were in line with our ethics and principles. All of that made sure that the event went the way we wanted it, and helped keep the budget in line.

Table setting

Finally, we tried to be as eco-conscious as possible. We spent the extra cash for china instead of disposable dishes, used locally-sourced food and drink where possible, recycled our empty wine and beer bottles, asked for e-mail or phone RSVPs instead of sending a separate card, used books bound for the trash to make flowers and invitations and more, and made sure that anything that could have more than one purpose did. The centerpieces were the favors, the ribbon around the program was used in the ceremony, and so on.

D ring

Tell us about the ceremony: We included a ring-blessing ceremony that echoed Unitarian Universalist and Pagan ritual, but allowed each person attending to invoke the blessings of their own faith; a cup-sharing ceremony drawing on Jewish tradition; and a ring exchange familiar from Christian weddings. We used two readings, both from secular sources: a piece from Rilke's "Letters to a Young Poet" that mashed together some of his sayings on love and independence, and the delightful "Loving the Wrong Person" from Andrew Boyd's "Daily Afflictions."

wedding-32

Our biggest challenge: We had two big challenges for the wedding. One was that we, our families, and our friends have a wide range of spiritual and religious beliefs, so we wanted something that would be unique and authentic to us without being an occasion for anybody to attempt to convert anybody else or get into religious arguments. We ended up hiring an officiant from a local interfaith organization, and together we wrote a ceremony that was secular, but included elements from several faith traditions.

Random dancing

The other big issue for us, well, really just for me, was clothing. I'm genderqueer. Formal wear is probably the most gendered thing on earth. I went into the planning process with massive anxiety that I was going to be expected to be stuffed into a dress and grow my hair long and play femme, which is about the farthest thing from who I am that I can imagine. At some point, David looked at me and said, "I don't know why you think you have to wear a dress. We're going to spend money on clothes, why don't you spend your clothing money to have something made that will fit you and make you happy?" Sudden realization! I had a local seamstress make me an Edwardian-influenced tail coat instead. It fit my body and my sense of self, which was delightful.

have some cake

My favorite moment: The ceremony included a ring blessing, in which everybody was supposed to write a blessing on a length of ribbon and then place the ribbon into the box with the rings. The minister surprised us a little by asking people to give a cheer if they supported us, and everybody gave a huge yell and waved their blessing ribbons in the air. It was such a huge feeling of love and support, it was a little overwhelming, and it felt totally spontaneous.

kiss

Also, we had written our own vows that reflected the kind of relationship we want to have, rather than the kind of relationship people want you to have. The vows included promises to love each other, to help each other, and to ask for help when we need it, and — my favorite — to always give as good as we get from the other person. We figured that included the more traditional expectation that you should return love for love and kindness for kindness, as well as sanctioning the sort of friendly antagonism and competitiveness that really is one of the foundations of our relationship. When we said that part of the vows, everybody just cracked up laughing and cheering, because they know who we are and what we're like. It was lovely.

Wedding invite

My funniest moment: Our wedding had a secret theme, unknown even to us! Because there was a gear on the invitation, some of our friends thought it was a steampunk event. So, some came in costume, and some had stories about themselves as some sort of steampunk character. People kept coming up to me and telling me about their time-travel devices, or their balloon trips. This was totally perplexing. I had no idea why this was happening until we were almost ready to leave, and somebody said, "I didn't know we were supposed to have a story!" David and I had to say, "We didn't either!"

wedding-69

Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? I wasn't sure about the space. We knew about the Mohart Center, because David had worked in an office there in his first job in the city. They don't usually do weddings, though. That space is usually used for community meetings and city programs like activities for senior citizens.

The person who was in charge of renting the space was having some family difficulties and taking a lot of time off to deal with them, and so it took us months and months to be able to even be sure that we'd have space. We were literally a month out from the wedding and didn't know if we had a room to have it in. It turned out to be fine, of course. We had the space, it cost us less than we'd thought it would, and the staff were totally helpful in making sure we had everything we needed — once they were sure we were going to be there.

Cake

My advice for offbeat brides: Think about who you are, and who your partner is. Talk about who you are to each other. By the process of writing our ceremony and planning the party, we came to understand better what kind of people we are, and that gave us the security to make the wedding authentic to us. It also enhanced our relationship. Although planning the wedding was not without stress or anxiety for us, we were able to back each other up when needed and support each other.

Couple by the car

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  1. I wish there were more pictures in the wedding porn!! The wedding sounds amazing and you two look and sound like you balance each other very well, which is very important in a marriage!!! Here's to a successful and wonderful 100 years!

  2. That's the same officiant from my sister's wedding! He was wonderful. He stayed true to my sister and brother-in-law's beliefs without offending our more Christian family members. I'm glad your wedding turned out well, and hope you have a most happy marriage!

  3. You both look fantastic. Green really suits you, and both of you simply look radiant with happiness.

    Also, Russ does a damn good job with pictures. ;0)

  4. Really awesome, all around. LOVE LOVE LOVE the idea of having the wedding ceremony itself taking place during the reception – honestly, I wish more weddings were like that.

    Congratulations to you both on your beautiful wedding and your awesome relationship. 🙂

  5. OMG LOVE LOVE LOVE!!! I love the paper flowers! and the books! And the outfits! Fantabulous! To steal Ariel's phrase: I DIE! How did you do the boutonnieres? Congratulations to both of you! So beautiful!

    • Thank you! The boutonnières were sort of a last-minute innovation. We made all the paper roses early on for centerpieces (from a tutorial here on OBB – search for French Novel roses, and you should dig the tutorial up), and had a few left over. They're built on pipe-cleaner stems, wrapped in floral tape. I just grabbed some peacock and rooster-tail feathers and silk floral leaves (also left over from the centerpiece project) and wrapped the stem in on itself and taped in the extra pieces with more floral tape. I had in mind to cover the twisted and taped ends with ribbon, but didn't have time, so they were just green and sort of unfinished-looking. And we loved them intensely anyway. 🙂

  6. YESSSS. Genderqueer peeps represent! The whole "no dress" thing sure seems like a big deal, doesn't it? Literally the day after we broke the news of our engagement, I got an email from family letting me know that they would buy a dress for me. Trying to figure out how to say, "no thanks, I love you, but fuck off" was an interesting experience. Fortunately they have come around and my grandmother is sewing vests for both me and my partner. I'll be wearing slacks and a button up shirt along with the vest and a cravat. My outfit will be black and gray and my partner (who is male) will be wearing white and green. We also wrote our own ceremony in order to leave behind all those pesky gender expectations. It makes me so very happy to see a wedding more like I expect my own to be – thanks for making me feel like I am not alone!

  7. "I don't know why you think you have to wear a dress. We're going to spend money on clothes, why don't you spend your clothing money to have something made that will fit you and make you happy?"
    What an incredibly wise spouse you have! That quote should be plastered over every Formal Wear/Bridal Boutique in the U.S.

  8. I just ADORE Kimberly's tux outfit! What a fabulous combination of maculine and feminine elements! Kudos for wearing what you like and looking amazing in it to boot!

    Lovely wedding!

  9. BEAUTIFUL… you can just see the love you two have for each other, and that is amazing. Thanks for sharing!!

  10. Oh my word! Kimberly looks fantastic in that outfit! The cut of that coat with the corset is to die for! And with the pants! Totally stealing and not for a wedding either. Just to wear for the hell of it.

  11. I just have to add my voice to the chorus of how awesome Kimberly's outfit is! It really is an amazing combination of masculine and feminine dress – and looks great on!
    The entire wedding is just great – I love that you used old books that would be thrown out for your flowers. For a while I've been thinking about the book flowers, and I kept coming back to "Why would you cut up a book to do that??" But I can see how if a book was destined for the dumpster, it would actually be a way to give the book a new life!
    I am hoping to incorporate a sense of gender equality and interfaith-ness into our ceremony as well. I'm definitely bookmarking this profile for ceremony ideas! 🙂

    • The hardest thing about the flowers is finding a big enough book – to make a good flower you really want a book that's at least 10" across in its narrowest point. Most (all?) of ours came from an old Western Civilization textbook/reader, so the flowers are things like MLK and Plato and Thomas Jefferson. 🙂

  12. Congratulations!
    I love that you had a random steam punk element happen on it's own.
    Your flowers look great a great use for books past their 1st life as reading material.

  13. Our ceremony is going to be in the middle of the reception as well for the very same reason! No pomp, no "walk me down the aisle", no "look at me!"

    This looks like an amazing event and you both look incredible!

  14. Kimberly, your outfit is awesome! More than that, I admire so much you and your partner and all the people here at OBB who share their weddings and refused to bend to societal/family pressures when planning their wedding. I began coming to this website when my boyfriend and I were planning our wedding, and that wedding never happened. It all fell apart 10 days before, invitations sent and everything. And it fell apart because I was trying to make my parents and everyone else happy by having the wedding I knew they wanted for me, not the very private intimate ceremony that my boyfriend and I had discussed before the planning began. And in the end, we just couldn't go through with that big wedding. I've had to learn the hard way what you and so many others here at OBB have so courageously done from the beginning – being true to yourself, despite any objections/negativity that may come your way. Congratulations to you both and thank you for showing me yet another example of an amazing offbeat wedding!

  15. I love how thoughtful everything about this wedding is! Because you thought it all out so well, it feels super authentic and true to you. So awesome.

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