Offbeat Bride, Divorced

June 16 2016 | arielmstallings
Notice anything missing on that left hand? Photo by Glass Coat Photobooth at Atlanta Lovesick Expo 2016
Notice anything missing on that left hand? Photo by Glass Coat Photobooth at Atlanta Lovesick Expo 2016

Oh hi there, it's me. Ariel. You know, the publisher of offbeatbride.com. The author with three names who wrote that book, Offbeat Bride: Creative Alternatives for Independent Brides, a decade ago? The founder of a publishing business built on the back of her 2004 wedding?

Yeah, that's me. And as of June 2016, I'm divorced.

It hasn't been a secret, but it hasn't felt appropriate to talk about it here until now. Things have been a little intense, you know?

…How intense, exactly?

Well, eight weeks after my partnership of 18 years collapsed, it was my job to fly all over the country to co-produce eight Lovesick Expo wedding fairs. While the expos ended up being deeply therapeutic, there's no denying that co-producing 400-person wedding shows was still a pretty balls-out (labia-out?) emotional experience.

If you came to a Lovesick Expo this year, maybe you noticed. If you brought me a copy of the Offbeat Bride book to sign, I may have smiled a little too hard. If you asked me if my husband was performing at the expo, you may have caught me visibly wince as I politely shook my head and said, "No, not this year."

Maybe you noticed the lack of a wedding ring, or just picked up on something being a little off, which lots people did, because I have a pretty shitty poker face despite the fancy dresses. If you looked me in the eye in the swirl of the wedding expo and asked me, "…you doin' ok?," I probably told you I wasn't.

How could I not? If you tell me how you started reading Offbeat Bride when planning your first wedding in 2012, and how you're using it again now in 2016 to plan your second wedding, how could I not tell you that I get it? When a divorced wedding vendor tells me about how he had to work a wedding the day after his ex left him, how could I not tell him that I get it? I really, really get it. I leaked tears all over my sequins, week after week. I flew back to my empty home, week after week.

Ariel at Lovesick Expo 2016
On stage at Lovesick Expo Seattle, with one of my co-producers, Tom.

Sharing & secrets

As my emotional barfing at Lovesick Expos should make clear, my divorce certainly has not been a secret… but it just didn't feel appropriate to publish anything about it while the situation was still unfolding. Out of respect for my son and the rest of my family, it won't ever be appropriate for me to say much about the end of my marriage… but now that the divorce is legally finalized and a matter of public record, it feels disingenuous not to acknowledge.

I mean, a decade ago I wrote a tell-all book about my fucking wedding! That book launched this website. This website launched what became the Offbeat Empire LLC, the company that supported my family as it was, and continues to support my family as it is now.

My greatest personal joy in being both an author and publisher has always been the personal connection with my readers. I'm a memoirist and service writer, for godsake! I write narrative nonfiction and relate my own personal experiences to your experiences! That's my fucking jam, so it's felt deeply uncomfortable to be cagey about such a profound shift in my life. It felt secret-y, even if it wasn't.

…Then again, offbeatbride.com isn't about me, and hasn't been for a very long time. Most readers don't even know who publishes the site, and why should they? If you're looking for wedding porn, it doesn't matter who manages the web hosting and pays the editors. But still, but still… sweet readers, it's felt weird between us, and I haven't liked it. I haven't liked having that wall up. It's nice to open the curtains and get some light in this dark place.

How does my divorce affect my work on Offbeat Bride?

It doesn't, other than that I probably won't be writing much relationship advice. (Oh, the hubris of thinking I had answers to questions like, "How do you make a relationship work for 18 years?" Now I'm smart enough to just shrug.)

As that divorced vendor at Lovesick suggests, there are a lot of us in the wedding industry who've gone through divorces. This is hardly a unique experience, or some sort of pain that I alone understand. I'm not the first wedding industry person to work straight through a divorce — hell, I'm not even the first wedding blogger to go through it. My special snowflake badge is officially forever retired.

Post-divorce, you might see me writing a bit more over on Offbeat Home & Life. God knows my personal writing has been an ink-black, seemingly bottomless cenote of words about grief, loss, healing, recovery, and personal development.

Inevitably, the next question everyone always asks me is this:

Will there be another book?

Gurl, please.

Of course there will.

But maybe not the book you think. There will be no book called Offbeat Divorce. It was weird enough to become some sort of wedding expert — I was an Offbeat Bride who'd planned exactly ONE wedding. Why would I set myself up to give ill-informed advice based on having gone through exactly ONE divorce?

Also, somehow writing a book called Offbeat Bride about my 2004 wedding has meant that it's 2016 and people still ask me about my wedding… I mean, it was awesome, but I do NOT want to set myself up to still be talking about my divorce in 2028, thanks.

So, while there will be no Offbeat Divorce, there may indeed be an Offbeat Resilience… because although I have zero interest in writing about my divorce, of course I have a shitload to say about the process of healing through rocky-as-fuck transitions like going from Offbeat Wife to Offbeat Life.

If you want to follow along with the writing I'm doing now, head over to Offbeat Home & Life, or catch my behind-the-scenes posts on Offbeat Empire.

  1. I was once upon a time an Offbeat Bride featured on your site and went through a very rocky one-sided divorce sooner than I imagined. I thank you for your words, dedication and honesty. There are so many points throughout a divorce you feel alone, ashamed, ignored – we need to continue to lift each other up whether we are walking down or running away from the aisle. xoxo

  2. Divorce sucks but it has been the most educational experience of my life. It taught me how strong I really am, it taught me who my friends are, it taught me who I want to be and it taught me that sometimes all you can do is get through the day and hope tomorrow is better. Thank you so much for your candor and for creating this safe place. You are surrounded by love and support!

  3. I always tell people that you and your Empire are my inspiration for how to run a transparent and ethical business, how to create, curate, and manage a community, how to deal with the intertwined public identities of work and life, etc… This is just another example of how much YOU ROCK. Sending love your way.

  4. "Offbeat Wife to Offbeat Life", perhaps followed up at some point by "Offbeat Life to Second Time Bride?" 😉 lol … I've been through it too (was married for 13 years), and am enjoying your wonderful blog as I plan my wedding as a second time bride.

    I was an offbeat bride the first time around in 1996 (god I'm old), so was really pleased to find your blog as I'll always be an offbeat bride – the first time, second time … who knows perhaps I'll be a crushing failure and end up with 7 husbands like good old Liz Taylor. Never a quitter me and I do love a nice wedding 😉 ha ha

    As much as it's also incredibly painful, may you enjoy the many fun, life changing and indeed exhilarating transitions that lie ahead for you. Exciting times ahead.

    x

  5. "[…] who the fuck am I to give advice about anything? […]" – don't beat yourself up. There are and will be learnings from this experience, for how painful it must have been.

  6. Ariel, I hope *hugs* from a mostly lurker will be okay. Friends had been talking about Offbeat Bride (the website) for ages, so… well, I broke up with my ex of 10yrs awhile ago. I had some "advance warning" because when we were talking about engagement, I had one of those Knowings (that are right about 95% of the time) that this was going to be a long-term but not forever relationship. I had some logical reasons to back that up. My ex agreed with my analysis, and so neither of us were particularly surprised that it was those exact reasons that caused us to drift in different directions. Short version, they hate change and in 10yrs were basically the same person as when we got together. I, however, embrace change, and I am not who I was when I was 20.

    Anyway, my partner (who I was already involved with, because poly), and I were talking about getting married, and this time, I wanted to do it right. See, I wanted a small handfasting ceremony with our friends, with my ex, but they decided in Nov 2006 they wanted to get married ASAP for tax reasons. Enter a very hurriedly scheduled justice of the peace ceremony. We were supposed to have a renewal ceremony later, but it never happened.

    So, with my current partner, I wanted to do it right, but I had NO CLUE where to start, and I remembered friends linking to Offbeat Bride. Your site was the first one I visited, and the one that has had the most helpful information to me (and helped keep me sane because oh holy shit what am I getting myself into?). I just wanted you to know that, you have done something amazing here, even if what started it is no longer a thing in your life. You have helped so many people, I can say because I think this is the first time I've commented here, more than ever comment, and I hope that is at least something of a comfort.

    I am still so sorry, and I wish I could give you a big hug, a nice glass of mead or ice wine (or something harder if preferred, but sweet alcoholic treats always brighten me up a bit), and more support than I can in this comment.

    Is there a way to contact you more privately? I'm not trying to creep, promise. I have 0 experience w/ Snapchat, which is noted as one way to get in touch. Again, more hugs and love. <3

  7. Ariel, so much love to you. I have thought you were a boss bitch since I found your site in 2009. OBB and OBH (and OBF, may it rest in peace) have been daily reading for me ever since. I have learned so much from your work and appreciate your perspective. I'm sorry you're going through such a shit time, but I look forward to everything you do next. <3

  8. Don't sweat it. I was an Offbeat Bride and I got a divorce. Life is complicated. I did try to submit a story to Offbeat Bride once about my divorce and it was rejected, so it would be nice if there was more realistic coverage of some of that stuff on here now. But hang in there! Time heals all wounds.

  9. Sorry to hear that, it sounds like things were really tough for you.

    Working the Expos despite everything is a brave decision. I've followed this blog since before I was engaged and it always provided solid advice and support for my choices to be different from the mainstream. I wish you all the best and offer virtual hugs, if they're desired. Xx

    • For real, Bobbi… coulda written almost every word of your post, except the parts where you're farther along on the compassion train. I'll get there some day…

  10. What really strikes me here is your statement about being a wedding expert. I don't listen to experts (outside of a few fields, like medicine) because it seems to be 99% opinion-presented-as-fact. But your book, your site, and your empire (wait, does that make you our Empress?) didn't take the tack of being the expert. You took the tack of being honest and creative, as an alternative voice in a sea of white taffeta. By publishing and speaking and hosting, you told me that weddings and unions and people can be authentically themselves- zany or traditional, as long as it's honest and fun. Which, frankly, is a better message than the previous 30 years of programming I had before. So don't be hard on yourself, because your being amazing and inspiring has LITERALLY ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with your marital state.

    (But if you wanna write a book about dating post-divorce, I'm down- got a lot of folks who need a bit of sunshine around that these days.)

  11. I'm so sorry you had to go through all this
    I guess the main thing I want to say is I know how inclusive you try to make this site but hell if anyone is going to judge you for that, or want to look at the shoes or stories on your site less … fuck them. They do not belong here. Honestly. I've been part of this online family (if mostly the kind of estranged awkward cousin) since about 2011 and I value your advice and stories just as much as I ever did. No one gets out of life alive and some people don't stay in love forever, or they love but just can't practically do it anymore. Obviously I don't know what happened but I can say with almost complete certainty that you didn't fail. I'm guessing/hoping you know that.
    I really hope to see more of your writing about life and everything for sure
    lots of love, take care of yourself

  12. Wow, I'm so sorry you are going through this. Your original personal blog was one of the first ones I ever went back and read all the archives of like a stalker. Obviously you haven't shared much of your personal life with readers for years, but I think there of those of us that still wonder about your life. Even if this divorce is "for the best", it still sucks a lot. Sending you healing thoughts!

  13. I know I am stupid late to this, and there's been 6+ additional months of healing and emotion and all that. Hopefully, you're in a stronger position now than you were when you were writing this.

    All I came here to say is that married or single, you're still someone to admire for your honesty, candor and sun-bleached, naked vulnerability.

    Whether or not you feel like you can give advice, or tell anyone anything, I just hope at some point you're able to really get your wobbly legs strong again, stand up and say "yes, I am here. I am still standing and fuck you for second guessing my grit."

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