Walking on egg-shells: the challenges of serving many communities

Head Wound

When I wrote my book in 2005, I didn't have a philosophy about weddings. I had planned exactly one wedding (mine!) and avoided most wedding media (including websites, magazines, tv shows, and books) while doing so. Offbeat Bride: the book, was just me sharing my story, corroborating with a hundred or so other brides, and then trying to encourage folks to figure out what they wanted to do.

When I first launched this website, I still didn't have a philosophy. I was just promoting the book, doing my thing. I ranted and bitched a fair amount before realizing that I didn't like the kind of attention that sort of writing attracted, and shifted to a more tolerant, "go you, whatever you may do" philosophy. By mid-2007, Offbeat Bride was dedicated to tolerant support of pretty much everything and everyone.

And now here we are many years later. Despite the site having grown exponentially (1 million of you read every month!), we still focus on supporting non-traditional niches. These days, we cater to a LOT of different niches, and that's where the editorial challenge comes in: everyone wants us to cater to their niche, and when we don't, sometimes y'all get upset. See, when you're dedicated to niches, you can't make everyone happy all the time… because if we did that, we wouldn't be about the niches any more. We'd be USA Today.

We've received complaints from members of almost every niche community you can imagine (and some you've never heard of), telling us that we're being insensitive because we didn't acknowledge their needs. We suggested having a drink, when some of you don't drink. We've written about honeymooning in regions with political turmoil, where some of you won't go. We've featured pictures of smoking brides, and when some of you think that it's a bad example for younger readers. We referred to a vegan wedding as "cruelty-free," and some of you like meat and don't appreciate the insinuations that you're cruel, thankyouverymuch. We've offended environmentalists by referring to a non-green-enough-for-their-tastes wedding as "eco." Once, an advertiser told us she was uncomfortable with our talk of genital excretions — but that ended up being a misunderstanding about the word "squee."

I've gotten frequent enough complaints about the swearing on Offbeat Bride that I have a form letter response, thanking the writer for the feedback but informing them that swearing has been a part of Offbeat Bride's language since 2006 when I included the phrase "ass-fucking" in the book, and while I totally respect that the profanity isn't going to feel right for everyone, it's just part of how I do things.

Then there's what I call the reverse discrimination fallacy, where brides on the more traditional end of the spectrum complain that they feel excluded or demonized for being "too normal." We've edited wedding profiles to exclude lines like, "I didn't want a stuffy traditional wedding," knowing that somewhere an Offbeat Lite bride was going to think to herself, "Oh, so now my wedding is STUFFY!? Fuck you, offbeater-than-thou bride." (Speaking of Offbeat Lite: not everyone likes that term, nor does everyone like the phrase "Wedding porn.")

The feedback we receive from readers is almost always tremendously educational — even when we don't capitulate to the requests. I've learned a huge amount about gender identity from readers of Offbeat Bride. I had no idea that people who followed the Paleo diet saw it as an identity to the point where they would be offended by vegans. I've learned boat-loads about the range of recovery community opinions — some of you are positively mortified when we make even lighthearted suggests to have a drink, others joke about how one glass of wine would turn into the whole vineyard. The "offbeat couples of color" tag issue was one with strong and articulate opinions on both side of the fence. The only thing we could all agree on is that we should let folks self-identify.

The challenge for me editorially with all this feedback is that I simply can't make everyone happy. While we work our tails off to keep Offbeat Bride an inclusive, supportive environment where folks of all backgrounds, genders, niches, and tastes can hopefully feel comfortable, ultimately, this is OFFBEAT Bride, and you WILL see things here that you don't like. In serving another niche, sometimes we won't perfectly serve yours — and we hope that can be ok for everyone.

If every post was written to cater to everybody's tastes, we'd be doing something wrong. We're not USA Today, after all — and that's part of why y'all read the site. For us, "Offbeat" ultimately just means being authentic to your identity, and for Megan that can mean cracking SNL jokes that people don't always get and/or like. For me, it means sometimes using language that strikes some people as crude and gross. For one intern, it sometimes means having strong opinions about websites that some wedding photographers might find insulting. Other writers might have suggestions for wedding undies, but also be ok with you not wearing underwear at all to your wedding.

I want to encourage all our readers to be critical thinkers — we're not the arbiters of taste, nor are we going to be able to cater to all readers at all times. We LOVE getting feedback from our readers about how our posts make you feel, even if I can't always promise that we'll be able to make all of you feel good about every single post on the site. We're ok with that, and we hope you can be too.

  1. If it wasn't for this website site at all, I do no think I would have gotten some kickass ideas for my wedding or if there was not going to be a wedding at all. For the most part, keep doing what you are doing as a writer Ariel and owner of Offbeat empire. Hell my fiance's is happy about this website and likes some of the ideas other offbeat brides have share with me. Hell it has also give me a place to vent and bitch since I do not have a lot of close friends.

    So keep bitching, writing, and ranting…we still love you!

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  2. I'm probably a little more "traditional" than most of the brides on this site, but I find that even the most outrageous and crazy offbeat weddings (while I might not want them for myself) still offer great insipiration. I often find little nuggets of ideas or advice I can use even if the wedding itself wouldn't suit me. (Same goes for some traditional and stuffy weddings.)

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  3. You know, one of the things I love about Offbeat Bride is that USUALLY, disagreements, feelings of being offended, etc. become constructive and interesting discussions instead of degenerating into silliness. So, even when people ARE offended – a good conversation can happen. It's the culture promoted by the moderators that allows so many of those productive, DIFFICULT conversations to happen.

    That's why the site promotes something way better than "tolerance." Tolerance implies a hierarchy – I have the right and the power to "tolerate" something I consider lesser, inferior. This site, and the groups, don't tolerate. They are diverse groups that at their core engage, accept, promote that diversity. Learn from each other as equal participants.

    And provide some kick-ass ideas too!

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  4. This is a wonderful, well-written post and the philosophy translates to pretty much every community on the internet. The person who created the community/website makes the rules and if you don't like it, either suck it up, or go somewhere else.

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  5. Having bacon for breakfast, I can't say the "cruelty free" comments ever offended me. This is a strong passion for some people, and it's food, it doesn't hurt me if they want to eat something else. As for swearing, I curse like a sailor, so I can't say it bugs me. Being offbeat light doesn't make me feel disconnected from these ballsy brides, personally. I cheer them on, and they inspire me to put my foot down on things I really wanted (like my red shoes. I can compromise with the best of them, but I'm not wearing white shoes and that's final, thanks OBB!). What I'm trying to say is that, I fell in love with this website for it's diversity and fluidity. While other wedding sites have strict rules, OBB has this freeing sense where I can unwind. Instead of comments like "OMG, you CAN'T do that, it's not tradition!!" or "Well MY wedding went like this, so your marriage is less worthy of lasting than mine" there's encouragement. I love it.
    And anyone who has a problem with it is completely missing the point of this site. And I'll drink to that.

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  6. Ariel, I think you're doing a great job. This is the most supportive, welcoming forum on all the nets. I bet an overwhelming majority of people here feel that support and love here.

    Keep up the good work.

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  7. So, all I have to say is, thank you for linking to the old-school bitchy rant tagged posts, because reading them is putting a smile on my face :)

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  8. So many of our offbeatness seem to be traditional for us. Propose to him – done by my fmil in the 70's. Wear a non white prom dress – done by my Gran in the 50's. So our offbeat wedding plans turn out to be somewhat traditional but I really don't need the rant ;)

    Labels really freak me out and the expectations around the label. The offbeat emprire made me realise that I'm normal and that I can rock my universe my own way.

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  9. Ariel:
    I'm always reader, never the writer, but just wanted to let you know, you're doing amazing job. There's a Polish proverb: "a person who satisfied everyone is yet to be born". You got pretty close to it. OBB is a burst of a fresh air in the white/ivory vanilla wedding world. It doesn't mean, that white/ivory vanilla is bad. Live and let live. And since I'm repeating what was said before, I won't be offended, if you won't publish my comment :)

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  10. people need to chillax, and lets face it no matter what is written it is bound to insult someone somewhere, and are those the readers you really want anyways?

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  11. I'm glad you made this post. Lately I've been feeling excluded from the site because I'm a small town gal, and I feel that most everything on this site caters to those living in big cities. Rationally, I know that most readers live in or near big cities, but I could still feel tinges of bitterness whenever a post would direct me to a vendor or a store or a service not available in the middle of Nowhere!
    I feel better having read this post, although I still wish that there would be more content for brides struggling with planning a wedding when you have no resources nearby!

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    • Jerilyn, I think I've got your solution right here. Those are a few of our favorite online-only vendors. They're happy to ship their awesomeness to you, wherever you may be!

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  12. If you try to please everyone, you'll end up pleasing no one. IMHO, you're doing a great job of following your mission statement–featuring Wedding Stuff that's not your usual Wedding Stuff, with couples who aren't your usual wedding couples, God bless 'em. Some of the weddings you feature are so outside my zone that I can't do anything but blink and say, "Well, if it makes them happy . . ." But that's all offset by the sheer awesomeness of other weddings. Keep on doing what works for you, and your readers can decide what they like for themselves.

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  13. One of the things I love most about Offbeat Bride is the way it teaches me tolerance. I'll admit, I'm not always so good at it. But if I can see a wedding on here that I totally don't get it, and yet I still feel and appreciate all the love emanating from it, I hope that teaches me to be more tolerant out here in the real world. Thanks for that!!! :)

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  14. I'm pretty much with everyone else here (though truthfully I didn't read ALL 70+ comments) … the bottom line is that in reading your book, I learned that what I want to do is OK, because its what I want to do. I learned that it doesn't matter if I'm offbeat or traditional or somewhere in the middle, or somewhere way outside the lines on either end of the spectrum. OBB has taught me to embrace myself for who I AM, and my fiancé for who he IS, and our wedding for what it will BE. it was one of the best books I've read, for so much more than just wedding planning tips/advice. Keep doing what you're doing, Ariel and OBB. Naysayers are clearly on the wrong website and unfortunately, missing the point COMPLETELY. Their loss.

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  15. I personally have never been offended by anything on any of the OBT sites or on the tribe (except for one instance where a member ripped into another, which was against the code of conduct).
    I love knowledge, perspective and education so I just drink it all in. The staff, the tribe members, the commentors; all their different backgrounds, jobs and opinions. I love it, I really do. Its fascinating to me, the way that others think and their unique and interesting lifestyles. I don't find Ariel crude, I find her expressive and have always felt like she is a friend I've never met. I feel close to Ang as the OBT manager, because she is there for every single one of us. Am I offended that she's offbeat lite? No, because its her. Is she offended by my black wedding dress? No, because i have the right to my own opinions and choices. And thats the way it should be.

    There are many things I see on here that I don't like, or fully understand. But I'm okay with that, and don't feel the need to complain about it. I know offbeat is one of those terms like 'nice'; you never know the extent of its meaning. So I just think of the OBT empire as just a place for people who know who they are. And want to share it with everyone, wether they are apart of a subculture or not. Everything I do is just.. me. Why would I be offended by people doing the same thing?

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  16. I have to mention that when I said I didn't like the term "Offbeat Lite" (and I did say so rather publicly), it's not that I don't like it *at all*.

    It's just that it's used to cover two subgroups on the site, and those subgroups don't really line up. At first it was said to define "people who are offbeat but don't belong to any subculture", but then it evolved to also mean "people who are offbeat but also have some more traditional elements than a lot of out-there folks on OBB".

    And those two groups are absolutely not the same, though there may be some overlap…so I don't really get why they are both "Offbeat Lite". You can not belong to a subculture and still not be "Lite".

    So it's not that I don't "like" the term – I just think it's poorly defined and attempts to group people in a way that doesn't fit, and would be better served by two terms. "Offbeat Lite" for those who are offbeat but also have a lot of more normal elements in their wedding planning, and something else – "Just Plain Weird" maybe – for those of us who don't belong to a subculture but are not "Lite".

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  17. I'll cop to being "one of the offended", but I use "offended" loosely in that I was never offended, I just saw something that rubbed a raw spot. I sent an email to OBB after one of the posts during Vegan week here, in response to the use of "cruelty free" as a Vegan signifier. I said that to the Paleo community (and possibly the omni community), "cruelty-free" comes across as a harsh judgment. I had always seen OBB as a site that tried to take this sort of input into account.. I suggested the use of other non-loaded, diet-and-philosophy describing language that doesn't come with such emotional baggage. It wasn't because I hate Vegans or Veganism (I'm paleo and one of my best friends is a vegan, even!) but out of a genuine desire to level the emotional playing field when it came to writing about various lifestyle choices.

    To the people who read this article and felt upset: I am very, very sorry that it has upset you.. but, I hope you know that this article is exactly WHY so many of us of the offbeat/weird walks of life flock here. Because we know there's an open ear listening to our concerns, and melding them at least somewhat into future, inclusive, informative posts.

    To Ariel and the Offbeat empire specifically:

    I sent that email and didn't get a response, but I noticed after that I didn't see the same loaded language. That was worth so much more to me, that I could tell that someone read the mail and actually listened to it, even if they didn't agree, more than any response did. And this post just reaffirms that. This post and everything about your site is why I keep coming here. Minority of the minority, or majority of the minority, I am welcome here and you have made that abundantly clear time and time again. The OB empire makes the conscientious effort to be inclusive and is never outright exclusive.. that alone gets it mad props from me. Not everything is going to be "for me", but this is an organization that's all ears and genuinely cares what "me" is to every "me" out there (I hope that makes sense). The OBE is doing a fabulous job and I can't wait to see where it continues to go!

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    • Thanks for the thoughtful comment. And yep, we mean it when we say that while we don't have time to respond to all the emails we receive, we do read and appreciate every single one.

      So, while we may disagree on this particular issue (editorially the bride self-identified as cruelty-free, and I'm not going to edit that; and personally, even as an omnivore, I DO think killing animals is cruel) I'm still beyond glad that Offbeat Bride is able to be supportive and inclusive of folks, regardless of whether we all agree.

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  18. I love this post because it brings up interesting issues that I never really thought about as occurring on OBB. 1st I would like to say that Ariel, you are a freakin' superhero. For me you really truly rank up above witchblade. 2nd, I love OBB, & I say that not really me myself fitting entirely in to any one niche. I mean I am a drinking, cigar smoking, meat eatting (I love meat, I have actually ordered stake letting the waiter know I like there to be moo in my cow) indie something or other rocker. That's me. I'm not green. I'm not vegan. I'm not dry. However, I do respect all those areas & all who are. Vegan is cruelty free – just ask the cow! I know words can hurt, (mostly when they are being screamed at you from friends or family!!!) but no one posts things about their off beat shin dig trying to hurt anyone else on the forum. No wedding that isn't your own is going to be 100% perfect for you. If you liked everything about so & so's steampunk wedding except for the fact that they had booze (they didn't force you to drink), then take ideas from the parts that could work for you & leave behind the parts that don't! Sometimes it's nice to see things through other peoples eyes.
    XoXo

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  19. The single most beautiful thing about OBB (well Offbeat …. ) is this: here people of all backgrounds, cultures, and lifestyles can come together and be MATURE ENOUGH to ignore the stuff they don't like. And then consequently, support the stuff they do like!
    I've learned the hard way that not everyone is mature, no matter their age.

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  20. I must say… It took me six months of being engaged, reviewing the "normal ass-fucking" of mainstream wedding sites and my picking through *that* crap to finally find OBB! I am certainly an Offbeat bride and truly love the stories, inspirations, and ideas that this site brings forth. You make me laugh, you make me gasp, you make me feel like me, and I love reading you!! Thank you.

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  21. The first time I saw the OBB website I saw the "Wedding Porn" section and I thought "that's about right!"

    You guys are great! Keep up the amazing work!

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  22. If you tried to please absolutely everyone all the time, you would end up not saying a whole lot. A post on reception music would end up like this:

    Like music? Or not? That's cool too. Just, you know, do what you want.

    Who would read a blog like that? No one. I remember there was a post (or several) about songs that wouldn't make you barf, or that hadn't been heard a million times. A lot of those songs, I didn't really care for. But so what? There were a few that I really liked, but had never heard before. If the post had just said "do what you will" I would not have been exposed to new bits of awesome.

    What I'm trying to say here, Offbeaters, is don't ever change.

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    • Like music? Or not? That's cool too. Just, you know, do what you want.

      Honestly, sometimes that's what it feels like our posts can turn into. When Megan writes about favors, she's learned the hard way that she has to include a disclaimer: "I'm not saying you HAVE to have favors. But if you're into them, here are some ideas." Otherwise, we get snarky comments telling us that we were pressuring people into having favors.

      Coco's post about underwear started off by saying you could choose to not even WEAR undies on your wedding day if you didn't want to … and we then got an comment from someone who was like "Am I a prude because I don't want to free-ball it on my wedding day?" Repeat after me: I'm ok. You're ok. You can wear underwear or not wear underwear. IT'S ALL OK!

      These examples make it sound like I'm kidding. I'm totally not.

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      • I don't envy your jobs at all. I couldn't handle all that.

        Sometimes it seems like people are just looking something to get angry about. If I want to be mad at the internet, I go to *ahem* a mainstream wedding site, which tells me I can be daring and wear ivory. I have a few minutes of "fuck everyone!" mindset, then I come back to my happy place. Namely, here.

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  23. This post makes me laugh (Not in a laugh-at-you way but in a just natural LOL way). There have been times where I have found something crass on the website (aka the DILF stuff)or things I just plain disagree with, but then someone will mention something they were offended/upset with in the comments that I could care less about and I think, "WHA? THAT bothered you?! Who are you random commenter?" I think it goes with the everyone has their own lil' pet peeves. If we think of the OBB websites as a community or even a big house full of people, no one can get along all of the time And that is what makes it fun!

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  24. As many others have said, I'm so glad you all are the way you are. Sometimes the posts aren't to my taste, but if I wanted a site to cater to me, I'd just create my own. You all offer OPTIONS and new ideas and projects, and overall a safe-feeling community where we won't be chastised for thinking a little differently. I know I'd go crazy through this process if I didn't have you all here to vent and get ideas from. We love you all!!!

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  25. You know, I think the only post on Offbeat Bride that ever offended me was one making fun of some sparkly pink tiara placecard holders. Because when I first saw the picture my fist thought was "Cute! I wonder if they come in blue or purple?" and then it turned out the post was mocking them for being so Knot-ey. So for a long time, I didn't read the blog at all, despite being an avid user of the forums. But the attitude seems to have changed to being far more "Offbeat is awesome" and a lot less "Traditional is annoying" (as evidenced by something as simple as the change in the motto). Since I've started reading again, I've loved the site and the attitude. And the profanity :-)

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    • Specifically I think it was the "Your Wedding is not a Contest" post that got me reading again. Because I needed to be told that you didn't actually think I should feel bad for liking rhinestones and tiaras. These kinds of posts popping up occasionally I think really do a lot to counter any unintended offense or alienation that may have appeared elsewhere.

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    • I think the only post on Offbeat Bride that ever offended me was one making fun of some sparkly pink tiara placecard holders.

      ?!?!?!

      Unless my memory is failing me, this must have been a post on the Tribe, not the main blog. I don't remember EVER doing a post like that on the main blog.

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  26. People are too sensitive really. Todays culture of being personally offended by everything and everything needing to be PC has really been a annoyance to me for my entire 23 years. Part of the reason I liked OBB to begin with is that there is no telling others how they should or shouldn't do things.

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  27. I just wanted to add that I thought the picture of the egg was adorable.

    Seriously though, while I dont personally identify with a lot of opinions on this site, I can still admire the people and the strength it takes to stand up and be proud of their choices.

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  28. I really like this post (and hope you're still reading comments on it).

    On the photographer website post, she speaks the truth. And, while sometimes truths like "Dear vendors, please make your sites not suck!" often come out when we've reached our breaking point, it can be helpful, too (on that same note – Venue sites – please show me pictures of your site so I can see if it's worth my time to visit. I don't care about pictures of the cake, flowers, or people. I want to see the venue.)

    On calling it wedding porn, I don't think there's a better term. Really, for this site, it's actually real, awesome weddings, but when you apply the term to sites that do "stylized shoots" and high-budget weddings, it can affect you like porn porn – as in giving you impossible expectations that lead to shame and disappointment. Initially I didn't really react to the term at all – positive or negative. But one day when I was working on my wrinkles looking at some crazy creative beautiful but really not us (or our people) and probably not even something I aspire to be but is awesome for them weddings, I realized the wisdom of the term wedding porn. Sometimes it's inspiring and good but sometimes you have to realize when it's damaging. (Again, OBB leans away from the damaging stuff so I'm not talking about you, I'm talking about ones that don't make me happy for the happy couple but rather make me feel bad for being lame.)

    Finally, as far as pleasing everyone, everyone shouldn't expect to be pleased all the time. Yeah, some things are wrong like say, if you glorified a wedding where the entertainment was kitten kicking. I'd send you a nasty-gram. But in general, we're all people. If this site is the best weddingy site for you, excellent. If nothing about it fits you, find one that does. Or, if you're like me, I identify a little with a lot of different sites and I need a number of them to fill my needs. Yeah, there are definitely some posts that don't fit me. If I want I read them and mull it over some and maybe learn something and accept another viewpoint. Or maybe I just skip it. No big deal.

    Thank you for all you do. It is a labor of love and it's really hard to have a job that is this personal day in and day out. While rewarding, I'm sure there are days it weighs on you. Thank you.

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  29. I just wrote this whole thing about how great and eye-opening this site is and then I accidentally deleted it. The highlights:

    -Star Wars wedding: not for me, but awesome!!
    -Don't love the name wedding porn, but if I click on it I'll see all kinds of wedding pretties!
    -Thanks for the education. Never heard of steampunk before.
    -Live and let live, people!

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  30. i just really feel left out since no one seems to be considering my feelings…by refusing to BE a bride. honestly. so ruuude.

    ::teasing:: i do find the idea of judging those not offbeat enough, funny.

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  31. I must learn more about Paleo diet! OMG amazing wedding menu! Totally pumped and excited about this idea. Thank you. Loved the article, too!

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  32. Thank you for posting this since it gives readers a chance to have a different perspective, assuming they are willing to read it. And quite frankly I like having a website that the most censorship I have to give is following your no-drama comment policy. And I can Totally respect that!

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  33. Phew. I know how you feel, Ariel! So some extent, anyway…
    For instance, I would really like to advertise as being gay-friendly. I don't care who my brides are marrying – a groom, bride, or otherwise. But then I'm terrified to take flack from butch brides wanting suits or men who want dresses, just because of the logistics of my business model. Nobody can serve EVERYBODY. But I love OBB because you seem to have found the balance with catering to awesome people who have the tolerance to see past just the differences.
    PS – DEVASTATED I'm not seeing you in Vegas this week!

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