Why reality tv is missing the boat with non-traditional weddings

Guestpost by Laura Guerrie on Nov. 14th

I've written in the past about why there will likely never be an Offbeat Bride tv show, but I'm not the only one who's turned down doing a non-traditional weddings reality show… -Ariel

THIS shit is what's wrong with the wedding industry.

Television wants Offbeat Brides. They know you're out there, all gorgeous and colorful and smelling yummy. They covet you and see you as deliciously untouched virgin territory. The problem is, like virgins themselves, once they're anywhere near you — they're completely unsure of what to do with you!

As a Los Angeles-based wedding planner that specializes in unconventional weddings, I get approached from time to time regarding cheesy wedding show ideas. My typical response is the standard T-Rex defense: hold very still and hopefully they'll go away. Recently, however, a legitimate television production company contacted me and expressed interest in developing a show about my business.

They were intrigued by the alternative weddings I've been involved with and wanted to know more about them. They acknowledged that no one has yet done the genre justice, and sought my insight on how such a show might be done.

The skeptic in me gave way to the fantasy that this could actually be done right. How truly awesome would that be? A reality program dedicated to showcasing the unique challenges and amazing weddings of those who march to their own beat!

There were meetings, conversations and interviews, all through which I spoke of my great love of unconventional weddings. I told them how few of my clients were extremely over the top and that it's more often about the bits and pieces of personalization. I let them know that, although the tide is turning, it is sometimes difficult to fulfill offbeat desires in an industry that remains steadfastly traditional. I also reminded them that, at the end of the day, this is someone's wedding and not a time to be derogatory, no matter the style.

I kept thinking they might get bored, that I wasn't able to provide enough drama, but all along it appeared as if they were listening and the calls kept coming. However, several weeks in they handed me their initial show synopsis and I couldn't believe my eyes.

Naughty little buzz words like "weird," "crazy," "strange" and "bad-taste" peppered the paragraphs. I choked back a nervous laugh, and they assured me it was an early draft, that each episode would have a "happy ending." But as I read further, the general gist unfolded like an acid-trip vision — bringing to mind images of vintage circus trains, calliope music pumping out slightly off-key, the animal cars full of rabid brides in tattered day-glo dresses, grooms wearing Chewbacca costumes under their tuxes, and screaming in-laws bearing pitchforks bringing up the rear. (OK, not literally — but that's pretty much what it seemed like!)

If producers would consider abandoning the freak-show format in favor of portraying these celebrations in a positive light, they might be pleasantly surprised to find a built-in, passionate audience who's hungry for more.

When my husband saw it and said it made him feel "squeamy," I knew I was in trouble. I am one of very few wedding professionals focusing on the alternative and, as such, I felt like I was being Johnny Bravo'd into a show that had absolutely nothing to do with me or my business. Worse yet, there was a total lack of reverence for the types of weddings I love.

Later that night, I re-wrote their treatment to be a bit more respectful and included it with an email stating that it was imperative that "any media involvement on my part comes from a perspective of celebrating, not denigrating, offbeat weddings."

And then my phone got very quiet.

I certainly don't pretend to know anything about television production, but I do know that the huge popularity of sites like Offbeat Bride indicates an ever-increasing appetite for such material. If producers would considering abandoning the freak-show format in favor of portraying these celebrations in a positive light, they might be pleasantly surprised to find a built-in, passionate audience who's hungry for more.

I've always said there is a fine line between "having fun with" and "making fun of" one's wedding. By crossing that line, television discards the most important element: These are weddings. No matter how far they are from traditional, at their heart they are the joining of two humans to form a new family and that is not something to be made into a side-show spectacle. At least not on my watch.

If this topic piques your interest, be sure to read Why you should ignore trainwreck wedding reality shows.

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About Laura Guerrie

Laura is a former Offbeat Bride, the owner of Rebel Belle Weddings and proud Friend of the Empire. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband who plays with cartoons for a living, their daughter whose favorite phrase is “MY do it!” and three rescue doggies.