More Culture:

June 13, 2024

BEloved Events is helping queer couples navigate wedding planning

Philly residents Bailey Crouch and Eliza Hammer Gage say they're trying to 'elbow some space into this crazy' industry to provide LGBTQIA+ people a 'safe' and 'joyful' celebration.

Entertainment Weddings
beloved events wedding planning Provided Image/Nick Raimondi Photography

BEloved Events founders Eliza Hammer Gage, left, and Bailey Crouch both married trans men and are using the tools they learned through the wedding-planning process to help other queer couples.

After marrying their respective partners, Philly residents Bailey Crouch and Eliza Hammer Gage each realized that they had an overflow of knowledge about wedding planning that they could potentially share with their peers in the LGBTQIA+ community. Thus, the pals and self-proclaimed lifelong "planner types" launched BEloved Events.

Through BEloved Events, Crouch and Hammer Gage offer full-service wedding planning services geared toward queer couples, as well as day-of coordination, celebrant services and customizable packages based on what the couple wants and needs from the early planning stages through the day of the special event.

MORE: Son of Berenstain Bears creators reflects on his and parents' time at UArts: 'That was the most important part of my life'

"Not everybody dreams about their wedding for their whole life, and not everybody who dreams about wearing a big white dress grew up as a girl," Hammer Gage said. "We're trying to elbow some space into this crazy wedding industry to make it so those people can have the celebration of their love that feels good and that is safe and is joyful and is everything that we're hoping that their marriage is, too."

The BEloved owners are both Philly transplants — Crouch grew up in Pittsburgh and Hammer Gage grew up in Connecticut and went to high school in Central Jersey — and both currently feel at-home in the city thanks to what they refer to as its openly queer and creative qualities. 

Crouch and Hammer Gage met each other at church, soon realizing they had a lot in common. Both women work full-time jobs in technology and were planning their weddings around the same time — Hammer Gage got married in 2020 and Crouch in 2021. Also, both women identify as part of the queer community and both married trans men. Hammer Gage said they each "struggled heavily" in navigating the heteronormative realm of wedding planning and learned helpful tools in the process.

"When both of our weddings were done, we were like, well, I guess we just purge all of this knowledge now and go back to being tech workers full time," Crouch said. "So then we started scheming, and we were like, what if we kept our day jobs, but we used all this information we learned about planning our own queer weddings and gave it back out into the world."

Thus, BEloved was born. They soft-launched the company at the end of 2023 and officially opened for business in April. This is the pair's first professional foray into event planning, although they have been planning intricate events for their friend groups for years. 

"Nothing ever is just chill with us," Crouch joked.

beloved eventsProvided Image/Nick Raimondi Photography

Bailey Crouch and Eliza Hammer Gage run the Philly-based BEloved Events wedding planning company.

What wedding planning services do they offer?

BEloved's full-service offering is all-encompassing and can begin even before a couple gets engaged. 

"We walk you through the entire process," Crouch said. "You come to us either before you get engaged, right after you get engaged, whenever you are ready to start talking about it. And that is a lot of hand-holding, if you're really scared, if you maybe are super busy. ... (Full service) is like, sign us on for the entire time, we'll take care of everything. We will love it."

Then there's the "increasingly popular" day-of coordination, in which the BEloved ladies step into a hosting role on the day of the wedding, allowing the couple getting married to relax as the guests of honor as they take care of the last-minute logistical snags. 

"There's so many questions to be answered and vendors to contact and payments to remember that having somebody around to just manage all of that, and also to make sure that you're eating, and that we've taken time to put you away in a room for an hour before the ceremony so you can decompress, and to make sure that any family that's being weird, maybe we can, like, nudge them the other way," Crouch said.

BEloved also has the capacity to offer ceremony officiation services, as Hammer Gage is ordained to marry people.

"We do offer celebrant services for folks who don't have a church connection, don't want a church connection, maybe don't have a friend who has a priestly vibe, who want somebody kind of nice and neutral to be the one to do the ceremony," Hammer Gage said.

Overall, when it comes to the services they offer, Crouch and Hammer Gage are willing to work to accommodate whatever vision the couple has for their big day, and they are more than happy to help toss the traditional wedding "rule book" aside.

"One joy of a queer wedding is, if we've already thrown the rule book out the window, like if you have a wedding where there is no bride in a white dress, the rules are already gone," Hammer Gage said. "So I think Bailey and I both want to encourage folks to say, cool, we've already thrown the rule book out the window. Let's kick it out the door completely, and then figure out what is a wedding that doesn't have some of those traditional, required elements. We then help folks pick which elements they do really want to keep and only keep what's meaningful to them, and then let go of the rest." 

Crouch and Hammer Gage also say they're interested in meeting their clients' financial needs and helping them to invest in the parts of their weddings that mean most to them.

"The marginalized community doesn't always have the generational wealth that goes into most weddings, I would say, or even just the paycheck to paycheck," Crouch said. "So, definitely interested in trying to meet all of our community members where they're at. If you want to do a big luxe wedding, cool; if you want to do a backyard shindig and save a ton of money, we are also totally there."

They will also help their clients have sometimes-difficult conversations with their families about what aspects they do and don't want to include at their wedding, whether in relation to things like bridal parties or wedding attire. Plus, they're down to accompany customers on shopping trips to pick out wedding dresses, suits or taste wedding cakes. They also can help couples ensure that their ceremonies and receptions meet the sensory and ability needs of them and their guests.

One of the most important things they do, though, is advocate for queer couples as they may face challenges either with their families or vendors in the planning process. They hope to fulfill "big sister" roles for their clients in helping them navigate any difficulties they come up against.

"It's easy for us as a third party to sometimes do some of that advocacy work, even during the planning," Hammer Gage said. "If you're selecting a DJ, you're probably also selecting the person who will be on a mic throughout your reception. If that person isn't cool with different pronouns, or like somebody using a name and pronoun that maybe strikes you as unusual at first, you're not the person who should have a mic in your hand at that wedding."

Interested couples can fill out the online inquiry form. When it comes to vendors, Crouch and Hammer Gage also hope to build up a repertoire of queer wedding vendors in the Philadelphia region, and have set up a vendor contact form to build those connections. Their future hope is to be able to offer elopement packages using all queer vendors.

wedding planning beloved eventsProvided Image/Nick Raimondi Photography

Bailey Crouch and Eliza Hammer Gage set out to help queer couples navigate wedding planning.

"One of the number one things that we're hearing from couples is they really want to work with queer vendors," Crouch said. "It is just one of those things that it's like, do I want to vet somebody and see if they're chill with all this stuff, and have they done this before? Or, are they already a part of my community, and they're immediately going to get it and they're totally going to understand where I'm coming from."

So far, BEloved is going "really well," according to Crouch. 

"Our community has been so excited about all of it, I feel like we've had a lot of support, had so much enthusiasm from vendors," she said. "I think we were both worried going in, like, is this too niche? Are we being a little silly about it? But the reaction from all of the vendors has been like, 'Oh yeah, that makes sense. You're planning an LGBT wedding, you have an LGBT planner,' and everybody's been super wonderful."

Hammer Gage said: "We had a session with a bride recently, and it was very funny because we could tell as we got on the call, she was pretty anxious about some stuff. As we were ending the call, it was really clear that she felt a lot better, and we had some cool ideas that she hadn't quite thought about. It just felt like, there's a cool piece of helping folks wade through this thing."

What's next for BEloved Events?

Looking ahead, Crouch and Hammer Gage hope to help couples plan all kinds of unique weddings. Some of their ideas include brunch weddings or weddings held at unconventional venues like Reading Terminal or on the roof of the Free Library. 

"We're down to figure out the funny, weird, fun, crazy stuff, if that's what people want," Hammer Gage said. "If somebody's, like, 'My dream is to get married in front of the heart at the Franklin Institute,' we will throw you the most beautiful Franklin Institute heart wedding that you've ever seen."

Crouch said they named the business BEloved — "B" for Bailey and "E" for Eliza — because it was never "going to be contained entirely to weddings." They'd love to continue using their talents, and their status as "creatives and DIY girlies," to plan all kinds of events.

"I plan a retreat every year with my friends as an art retreat, slash, 'I want to see all of you,' and I've already had somebody reach out to me and be like, 'Hey, I want to do this with music, but I have no idea how to do it. How do you do it?' So, yeah, definitely planning for the future with that," Crouch said.

Hammer Gage said, "If somebody wanted to throw a drag Thanksgiving, I would totally help plan a drag Thanksgiving, like, whatever."

Follow Franki & PhillyVoice on Twitter: @wordsbyfranki | @thePhillyVoice
Like us on Facebook: PhillyVoice
Have a news tip? Let us know.