9 years of Offbeat Bride: we won (and why we're done being special snowflakes)

January 4 2016 | arielmstallings

we won tshirt

January 1st, 2016 was Offbeat Bride's ninth anniversary! That is a hell of a long time to be doing anything, and it's especially a long time to be publishing a website. I mean, how many sites that you were reading in early 2007 are still around? How many of them are still active? Nine years on the internet is like 100 people years! This is me holding my little internet trophy and feeling awesome!

Nine years ago, it made sense to have an Offbeat Bride LiveJournal feed. Nine years ago, lots of you who are now engaged were in high school. Nine years ago, some of you who are now engaged were already married — to prior spouses. Nine years ago, red wedding dresses were almost unheard of, and Harry Potter weddings were never seen.

And somehow here we are: nine years later! Still kicking! Still cheerleading! Still celebrating.

Things HAVE changed though…

The biggest shift is that, well, WE WON. I wrote about this a bit last April:

This year it's even clearer… over the last nine years, we won the war against wedding homogeneity. It's not only just OK that your wedding reflect your personality, it's almost assumed that of course you're going to have some references to your favorite bits of pop culture, or the place where you had your first date, or that song your dad used to sing to you.

Being an Offbeat Bride just isn't as much of a battle as it used to be. All of us on staff really truly feel this shift in the site, and feel the shift in ourselves. I definitely founded this site with a sense of battling and rebelliousness. I wasn't just being myself, I was pushing hard against mainstream weddings, trying to carve out something different! I was defying the expectations! I was standing up for my own vision! Truth be told, I definitely had some special snowflakeness going on, and some offbeater-than-thou posturing. When my book first released, I made Offbeat Bride shirts that said "Fuck Taffeta."

Nine years later, Offbeat Bride knows very well that some people like taffeta… and that's awesome! Nine years later, Offbeat Bride doesn't have to try so hard about being off anything. We're about inclusivity. We're about a welcoming community vibe, and speaking to each other with respect. We're about throwing the doors open, and moving past anyone having to prove themselves — including proving to anyone how offbeat you are or aren't. We're about authenticity, whether that means uber odd or streamlined and minimal.

How we're including more people in offbeatness

In no place is this inclusivity shift more obvious than the retirement of the Offbeat Bride Tribe. I know that some of you deeply loved our forum, but the sad truth was that its existence fostered a sense of Offbeat Us vs On-beat Them. Since members had to apply, I heard constantly from people worrying they weren't offbeat or cool enough to join. (The application process was mostly just to keep out spammers and trolls, but any wall around a community is immediately going to feel like it creates a "cool kids" table.)

What most members loved about the Tribe was the community vibe, the commitment to tolerance and support, the inclusivity and kind-heartedness. Nine years into Offbeat Bride's offbeat ride, it's clear that the community vibe is what really matters. It's why we're bringing that spirit of tolerant discussion out from a private forum and into our Open Threads on the blog. We're tired of the offbeat walled garden, and being the mall cop who decides who gets to come in.

The doors are open. Come on in.

So what is Offbeat Bride about in 2016?

Nine years in, Offbeat Bride is about cheerleading you in your wedding planning, supporting you through your challenges, providing inspiration and advice, all from a staff and community that's committed to inclusivity.

Offbeat Bride isn't about having the weirdest wedding, or being the first person to ever do that clever thing at your reception, or wanting guests to tell you "that was the best wedding I've ever been to!"

Offbeat Bride is about celebrating the ways each of us is offbeat and awesome, not about drawing lines around who's offbeat enough.

Offbeat Bride is about showing you the weddings of people you might not see on other wedding websites, because not everyone who gets married is a white, straight, cisgender, able-bodied twenty-something.

Offbeat Bride is about not taking ourselves too seriously, while also respecting and celebrating folks who do things differently than we do.

Offbeat Bride is about inspiring you to do things the way that feels right, regardless of whether that's over-the-top weird or quietly minimal. We know that offbeat isn't a spectrum — it's a prism and we love all y'all's love, no matter what it looks like.

Clearly, I'm in a navel gazing mood… so you tell me: what does Offbeat Bride mean to you? Ever year it's a little different… I want to hear from this year's readers! Tell us what you want the site to be, what you're looking for, and how we can help you get there.

  1. To me OBB is respectful (and often supportive) conversation with no One True Way to have a wedding.

    I have an anecdote supporting the OBB victory: A future aunt-in-law of the Boomer generation thought that I must have a colorful, not-white dress because my shoes are colorful. White dresses aren't the assumed choice now! Well, at least in the pacific northwest.

  2. Well, I'm not a new reader (obviously). I've been married over a year now.
    I keep coming back though (almost daily) because I love the featured weddings; I love the advice. I love the community.
    I do still miss the Tribe, but I understand the reasons it needed to be dissolved.
    It's okay though because now the Tribe is here, out in the open. You bunch of loving, accepting, OffBeat peeps. This is your Tribe.
    Welcome home 🙂

  3. I believe that Offbeat Bride is still fighting the good fight and probably always will be until the day it closes up shop. As one battle resolves another rears it's ugly head. Those 2007 roots might be forged in being different and rebellious in the face of homogenized white weddings but these days you fight gender stereotypes, body image, and are turning the tides on weddings as competitions. So long as teeth whitening and breast augmentation are shoved down women's throats at other wedding expos and men are scoffed at by planners and photographers, there will be something worth countering.

    That's not to say this victory is meaningless. This is huge. It's been nine years but now it's practically expected that couples will personalize their wedding in some fashion besides monogrammed everything. YAY!

    I say to Ariel and all the Offbeat staff: keep on fighting the good fight! I this highly publicized world of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram there needs to be the corner of the internet that shows couples that there is no "right way," to follow a much loved tradition, and to not snark or bash. Here is a place that we appreciate that weddings are in fact ALL beautiful rituals of love. Period.

  4. In the wedding planning world of Pinterest-perfect matchy just-so images that all look alike and too good to be true (and at least a little bit dull, to my tastes), Offbeat Bride is a breath of fresh air. It's a haven of different ideas that, like you said, aren't featured everywhere else. It's a perfect blend of utter fantasy and blunt realism. I see the giant variety here, and I find comfort in seeing myself right in the middle of bridal awesomeness, rather than on the outskirts of just being weird. I can show my mom images from this website and say, "See, I know it's a bit different, but look how cool/awesome/tasteful/still a wedding it is! "

    • I can show my mom images from this website and say, "See, I know it's a bit different, but look how cool/awesome/tasteful/still a wedding it is! "

      I love that people use the site this way… I want to make sure we're always creating more stuff that our readers can use to help them woo dubious family members over to the offbeat side.

    • I'm not even engaged yet but we've been dating six years so I think I've earned the right to start planning my outdoor summer camp married-in-a-creek-bed future wedding. Finding Offbeat Bride about a year ago was such a validating experience.

      "See mom, people do have weekend long weddings at summer camps and I can ask people to sponsor parts of my wedding in lieu of gifts."

  5. I would shoot offbeat rainbows of happiness out my eyes if OBB started activly targeting the wedding industrial complex to OFFER more inclusive options. Imagine Crate and Barrel's Mr. And Ms collection ( I have NEVER seen a mr and ms that wasnt custom ordered), etiquette books that say " all traditions aside, the highest form of respect is to call people what they like" , or a post on Pinterest: 10 Potluck Wedding dishes. I know we have come such a long way, thanks to Target, Vera Wang, Etsy and countless others and it seems so crazy to want to join the advertisers that drove us bonkers in the first place but until I see pants and transgender friendly desses at David's Bridal, we are not done.

    Offbeat brides still seem to be a specific kind of person, a person that saw the traditional/norm and said "I don't like this, is there another option? " and went to find it… But I have personally known too many brides who looked up an etiquette rule and now look at the framed invitation on their wall that says "Mr and Mrs John Smith formally request your presence…" and see that their mom was written out of the picture. Brides who were only sold a white dress or like me had to choose a white dress because the alternative was several thousand dollars or an internet order with no return policy because I have the audacity to wear a size 14, the most common dress size in Amercia! What would brides and grooms truly choose if they were given all the options? Well, I can't wait to find out!

  6. I believe that from a certain socioeconomic and geographic perspective, it can seem like the battle is closer to "won." But trust me, I'm fighting from my family (who are coming from a particular regional and class perspective) some VERY regressive attitudes, both in terms of how a wedding should look and how a marriage should look. I'm traveling in a world where for some it is STILL inconceivable that a woman might keep her name. One vendor suggested to me that I should focus less on my career and more on wedding planning (ha!).

    So I DO miss the Tribe a great deal. The mainstream wedding industry still tries to shove a lot of crap down our throats, which is easy to forget if you're in a more "hip" area. So thanks for fighting the good fight so far, and I hope you continue to support inclusivity and individuality.

    • Preach! 3 years into marriage I'm still getting cruel comments about keeping my name and people who outright refuse to address me correctly even though they know, like sold me a car and had to sign over the title, but won't call me by my name because it might offend my husband while he puts up with my little "phase". Sigh, Wisconsin.

  7. I am getting the sense from other commenters that we haven't "won" yet, and honestly, I agree. Maybe within certain more liberal communities, we have won, but at least where I am from, there are miles to go before we sleep, as it were.

    I will feel like we've won when I can walk into a bridal shop, and it's not called a bridal shop, but a wedding shop, and I can find dresses and pants suits and everything in between in all the colors of the rainbow.

    I will feel like we've won when I don't have to "test" vendors by having my significant other email them first to see whether they write him off immediately because he happens to be male.

    I will feel like we've won when I can go to the county records office, and they will have a marriage form that says, "Spouse" and "Spouse" that hasn't been made with some white-out and a copy machine– and they then file the form using a numerical system and not the male partner's last name (same-sex couples get to choose under whose name to file the form).

    So I think we've made progress. And that progress is awesome, and I am beyond delighted that OBB has in many ways been at the forefront. But we are nowhere near done yet.

    • Erin, I love all these perspectives… and the perspective that there's still much work to be done. You're right…

  8. I really like what the site has become. And I say this as someone who's read it from the early days : ) I feel like the "ah ha moment" for me was back when "Your Wedding Is Not A Contest" was posted. It made me feel like "okay, cool, an offbeat wedding or an offbeat couples doesn't have to necessarily look one way"

  9. I'm a new reader, and my wedding is just a month and a half off. It's all craziness, and the dress has gotten shared and liked and favored by more people than I've ever met in my life. I was excited to find Offbeat Bride because of the belonging – it's not just me that's out there having or planning a fandom-themed wedding, and I'm maybe not the only one walking around with wide eyes thinking to myself "I have no idea what I'm doing," and just going with it.

    As someone with a lot of older family, I've definitely run into the super traditional issues and the culture shock. It's happened with my friends, too – and I respect their right to be wrong about what I should be doing with my wedding.

    All that said, I'm glad I'm trying to pull this off on the West Coast instead of anywhere else. If you've won anywhere, it's definitely here.

  10. Speaking as a UK bride-to-be, the 'battle' over here is definitely not won. We are much more limited in the places we can get married in, as it has to be a permanent roofed structure with a license, and you have to have an official registrar – this necessarily comes with a price-tag and the expectations of a traditional wedding. The only way round this is having a secret legal wedding and then hiring an independent celebrant to perform a non-legal wedding where you want to. Trying to find vendors for a small off-beat wedding has been a challenge, we've had to warn them it will not be a traditional affair and they have largely given us an 'ok, we'll go along with this because you are the client' attitude rather than being fully supportive of helping us do things differently. During hours and hours of internet research through local photographers' portfolios, I came across lots of couples from different ethnic backgrounds, and lots of LGBT weddings, a few tattoos and piercings, but only ONE coloured dress. I love OBB, and even though as a couple we are probably only 'offbeat – lite', this is the site where I feel represented most, and which empowers me most to do it our own way. I salute you over there in the US for being so inclusive and forward-thinking. I'll keep spreading the word here about OBB. Can the LoveSick Expo move over here too please?

  11. OBB is like the 'me' version of Pinterest. Not just for wedding planning (oh the hairspiration on here!), and not just for events. It's like the coolest creative brainstorming group I could hope for, and I get to sit in and admire it all without being forced to contribute. 😉

  12. It's feeling ok with my "strange" decisions. A reminder that my idea that this day should be about my fiancee and I celebrating this thing we do (our relationship) and our choice to bet half our shit that it'll work out rather than tying down a man, or making an honest woman of me, or honouring our parents, or whatever else the wedding industry wants us to think – is OK. It doesn't matter that the book was written nearly a decade ago. It's become essential to me during this process.

  13. Another European here. I haven't been to many weddings in my life, but the ones I've been to just didn't feel right for what my partner and I were looking for. Thankfully, I pretty soon came across OBB and I never looked back. I had family members telling me that it's "normal" to suffer on your wedding day due to uncomfortable attire – shoes, headdress, whatever… And I was simply not willing to put up with that. OBB gave me the assurance that it's OK and desirable to be comfortable. I find it funny that so many of our choices that seem only logic to my partner and me, strike our environment as odd. There's still a long way to go until people understand and it's OK and fine to make the choices that fit the couple best and to not follow traditions or fashion.
    That said, my one wish would probably be to see more DIY projects on here. 🙂 Otherwise, I can't wait to see what awesome weddings will be in store for us to admire in the future!

  14. OBB gave me permission to have a wedding that reflected everything that was lovely and fun and true about our relationship. It introduced me to vendors who would not only tolerate but celebrate those things. It gave me a community to plan and share and squeal and feel connected.

    Years later, when my husband left me and my life barely resembled what I thought it would be, OBB gave me permission to experience my divorce as authentically as I experienced my wedding and marriage. It gave me permission to heal without an influx of trite cliches or specific timeline of emotion. It not only tolerated but celebrated my path, my offbeat life path, by bringing me back to a safe place of nonjudgemental folks who were also living their own lives apart from those expectations.

    And now, OBB has given me permission to feel excitement about the potential of a second wedding to a man who may or may not also leave me. Understanding that risk has enabled me to be courageous about the big conversations while ultimately serene about the things I can't control (that is: another person, whether they love me, how many years we will have together and whether we will be separated by his choice, my choice, mutual choice, or neither (death, etc), and what my future life path will resemble regardless of my hopes or assumptions; I can plant the seeds for the garden I hope, but the wind has a way of bringing in weeds – I am now embracing all the beautiful weeds).

    If he does, and if I am broken again, I know OBB will be here (as well as Offbeat Home) full of beautiful people who aren't afraid of honest emotion and who will continue to teach me about resiliency and life.

    OBB has given me permission to live.

    Thank you.

  15. OBB was a big help in educating my guests, especially my husband's family on handfastings and Pagan traditions. I was able to share other wedding, that were similar to ours with them. And the article I wrote about Pagan weddings was published here! Seeing my article on the subject on a website/online magazine that felt legit, made a huge difference for my guests.

    I do wish that there had been more very simple and stripped down weddings available, however. Even many of the weddings found under the "simple" and such tags, include things like a live band and catered meals. I felt a little left out while planning my wedding, because there was very little representation of basic receptions, back yard weddings and so forth.

    I also wish that there was better representation for beautiful and elaborate ceremonies. The articles that I found on crafting a ceremony seemed geared towards an attitude of "Here's a simple, 5 minutes ceremony, because long/religious/fancy ceremonies suck!" I wanted a beautiful, elaborate, religious ceremony and a really simple reception. OBB seems to lean in the opposite direction.

    I've submitted my wedding, and our ceremony script. But I don't expect to see either on the website. Which is too bad. But I imagine such things don't draw as much interest.

    • Elaborate ceremonies and simple receptions are my favourite too! The way I see it, the ceremony is the important part, no matter how much fun the after party will be.

  16. OBB is inspiration, reassurance, and acceptance for me. I'm so happy I discovered this corner of the Internet. I have to say and second many other commenters though, I don't think we've quite "won" yet, so there's plenty more work to do for OBB 🙂
    Congrats on the 9th birthday!

  17. Off Beat Bride is about what you could do and not what you should do. It lets me dream and it lets me turn around and tell my mother that sometimes she is wrong and that the world and weddings don't work the way she thinks they do anymore. I love that it has opened the door for creativity and personalization and that I can just be me and say it how I want to and not how I am supposed to. Finally it has allowed me to stop worrying about tacky and to just celebrate us and the fact that no matter how the day goes the marriage is what really matters!

  18. Not a new reader, I've been reading the site for some time now! I've always known I was a little..different, and now that my fiance (we've been engaged a year and that's still THRILLING to say!) and I are planning a pirate wedding, I know I'm not alone.
    OBB is about celebrating who you are, and who you are as a couple. I can stop worrying about what his conservative parents think, or about how some relatives won't come because it's not going to be in a church, or performed by a religious leader. It's opened the door for me to express myself creatively, and to really let my nerd flag fly!
    Happy level up day (a tad bit late but it's fine) OBB!

  19. To me, offbeat bride celebrates a couple making their vows together in whatever way works for them. I always direct my couples to it because it is always a blog to celebrate love first and not all the flotsam that comes along with a wedding. I love you guys and your work! *cheers*

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