Why I worry when people say they want a "unique" wedding (let's talk about authenticity vs. attention) #Philosophizing#feeling competitive#insecurity#manifestos#special snowflake May 13 2009 | Ariel arielmstallings "I think I want a UNIQUE WEDDING," she says. By: PRECIOSA ORNELA – CC BY 2.0 I've been thinking a lot lately about the pursuit of authenticity versus the pursuit of attention. The first feels very internal, like you really have to look with-in yourself with a lot of introspection and thought to determine what's important … while the other feels very external, like you're hunting for other people's eyeballs. And why does one seem like so much fun, while the other seems like so much work? When you're striving for authenticity, you're working to be as true and honest to yourself as you possibly can … and in order to do that, first have to figure out what your values even are, and get a grasp on what really matters to you. In the case of wedding planning, it can be about setting your priorities. Is it all about family? Is it all about your vows and the ceremony? Is it all about food? Authenticity is all about truly knowing yourself and your partner. It takes effort and guts to figure yourself and your partner out, and it's usually kind of private, introspective process. No meetings with vendors or collages here: just looking inside and considering yourself. Pursuing attention, on the other hand, feels super externalized … all about other people's expectations and reactions and responses. On a certain level, when you're attention-seeking, you're handing over your happiness to other people — because that thing that you're doing? It only really matters if someone else is looking and (hopefully) approving. It can make you feel manic and anxious, always thinking, Will they like this? Will this amaze them? What will people do when we hit them with THIS?! It can lead to a ton of validation-seeking, where you're constantly testing out ideas on people and watching for their responses. "We're thinking of having all our parents walk us down the aisle together," you say to a friend, and then watch for a smile or a twitch of the eyelid. Did that smile mean they like it? Or did it mean they're just being nice? Shit, I can't tell! Now I think I'm going to have an anxiety vomit all over the floor! So, if seeking attention is the more stressful way of doing things, full of freaking out and anxiety vomit … why does it feel so much more fun? Why would many of us rather spend our time obsessing over the perfect guest gift basket ("Ooh, I'm going to put themed breath mints in, and then we'll pull out a box before our first kiss — ZOMG IT'S PERFECT!") over spending a few solid hours into consideration over our vows? Why do we get all giddy over the delicious details, but find ourselves repeatedly changing themes or venues because we're just not sure what's really even important when it comes to the big picture? I'm a hundred and fifty percent guilty of this, and not just in wedding planning. Why is it so much more fun to impress other people than to truly know yourself?! What if you're an extrovert and seeking attention IS authentic? Gah! My brain! It's pretzeling! Related Post Othering: the ways Offbeat Brides push themselves away Over the years, I've seen something come up time and time again from Offbeat Bride readers: people will send an email, post on the Tribe,... Read more I guess it comes down to this: Attention gives you the cheap high of other people's energy focused at you … but authenticity gives you that deep, long-lasting satisfaction of knowing that you're on the right path and you're doing the right thing. While the quick high is more fun in the short run, the deep satisfaction is ultimately more filling. The pursuit of attention is thinking the day after the wedding, "OMG PEOPLE SAID OUR WEDDING WAS THE MOST UNIQUE AND AMAZING WEDDING EVAR!!!" ….and then realizing you can barely remember the day because you were so worked up. The pursuit of authenticity is thinking to yourself five years after the wedding, "I'm still living out my vows in this commitment … every single day." Reporter Name * Reporter Email * Original text Enter the original text here. Edited text* Enter your suggested copyedit here. Notes You can add a note for the editor here. * Required information. Fix Typo Ariel Author of the Offbeat Bride book, Ariel acts as the publisher of all the Offbeat Empire websites. She lives in Seattle with her son, and if she's not reading or writing books, chances are good that she's dancing or happy-crying. Subscribe to her newsletter to get the behind-the-scenes stuff. PREVIOUS Sophie & David's fantastic romantic Alaskan wedding NEXT Breakdancers at Butterbean's wedding Show/Hide comments [ 61 ] I totally agree with you. I get a little upset with the pursuit of attention, I believe a wedding is about you and your spouse, and not about anyone else. My girlfriend who's getting married is obsessed with attention, not about what she and her fiance want, but what is expected of them, what would be better than her friend's wedding (whose date is 2 weeks before hers), ensuring her centrepieces are bigger, her bombonierres are better – and really, for what? No one is truly going to say, your wedding was so much better than hers! And that's all she's focusing on… "I'm still living out my vows in this commitment… every single day." That's beautiful. That's important. People remember if you're happy ten years from now, not what your centrepieces looked like. Reply love this! when I first started planning our wedding, I was all about the attention-pursuing details but later realized that they don't really matter and they just aren't US. when my focus changed to authenticity, everything fell into place and I wasn't stressing out so much. and ya know what? people saw that authenticity at the wedding and we got a lot of "this is the best wedding EVAR!" anyways! so I guess what I'm saying is that if you're true to yourselves, people WILL notice 🙂 Reply that's almost exactly my experience. People sense and appreciate authenticity a lot more than some realise. Reply This is such a great post to read 5 days before the wedding – we haven't been sweating details AT ALL and it has scared people, from vendors to parents. But we will spend hours today not making favor baskets but sweating over the perfect ketuba wording and readings. I'm so relaxed, too, and want to take steps to feel present and warm and open on that day. Reply Great post. Reply I'm a total introvert and so's my guy, so even having a large wedding at all is about as inauthentic as it can be. And because our families are important to us (we're both only children and I'm an only grandchild to boot) we're doing it anyway… but from the moment I called my folks to announce the engagement, the whole wedding felt like it wasn't authentic to me. Authentic to me is NOT being the center of attention. Still… it'll all work out. I do kinda like wearing my dress… 😉 Reply Hi Kate, My fiance & I are only children too, and I'm also an only grandchild. Yet, my hubby-to-be has a large family so we too are planning a larger wedding than I'd prefer. I think it'll all work out 🙂 Reply I can relate to this. I would have been happy with no event, just a trip to the JP's office. Friends and family were aghast at this sentiment when I mentioned it well before my fiance proposed. I realized, by the time he let slip the Big Question, that a Wedding (capital W) is something my fiance kind of yearns for, even if he wouldn't admit to it as a romantic yearning–not just a formality for him but meaningful! (Aww…) As my search for authenticity begins, I am grappling with the fact that what NEEDS to happen is this attention focused on us. Well, as the bride, on ME. I have to figure out how I'm comfortable PRESENTING myself and our relationship to the COMMUNITY. So of course what they think is important–if it wasn't, why a public declaration of our love and commitment at all? Reply Great post, and a much-needed reminder as I close in on the 2-months-to-go point. We want an easygoing, fun wedding — and yet I still can find myself worrying whether or not something "fits" with what we're doing — when, in reality, if it's something we want, it should "fit" just fine! Reply Amen. What else is there to say, really? And you know, when your looking for validation in wedding planning it always leaves you sad, because it is never as important to other people as it is to you. With authenticity though, you already have complete satisfaction, even if no one ever even looks/stops/thinks/cares. Yesss. Reply does it have to be Doritos or steamed broccoli? can we have a bit of both? what I mean is, I enjoying putting events together and sharing what I think is wonderful and beautiful, which seems very Martha-Stewart-wanna-be and attention mongering, and it does make a difference that people pay attention, that they "get it", because if it doesn't sink in, it's wasted. but if people could come only for the wedding or the reception, it should be the wedding – to witness and support those being wed. that's what the party is to celebrate, right? my impression of many OBBS is that they want to be substantive AND have their guests genuinely appreciate – not just be entertained by – their weddings. hmmm, maybe I can make Doritos into some kind of topping for the steamed broccoli….. Reply I'm pretty sure I have a similar state of mind. For me, the wedding is about our community and family coming together to celebrate and support our union… But I still want pretty and colorful. Making authentically pretty is in the fiber of my being, and I want people to get that I put work into the surroundings. Reply What about: Melt butter. Crush (nacho cheese) Doritos. Mix the two, and pack into a pie dish. Then, add broccoli, whole grain macaroni, cheddar bechamel sauce, cover w/ fried onions, and bake at 350* until done? 😉 ^That's why I'm here: I never wanted to get married until it proved to be important to my Other Half; so now, I'm trying to experiment together something meaningful to US and THEM (them being his family and our friends). It's gonna be weird, but if you squint and take a leap of faith, it could turn out to be pretty tasty. 🙂 Reply I'm printing this up and posting it everywhere to remind me to stop worrying over what my conservative family may think, to stop caring what my insanely snobby co-workers will gossip about the Monday after around the water cooler, and to just be the real and uniquely, odd wonderful us! Thank you Ariel! Reply I understand and completely agree with this post. I have to reiterate that it can be REALLY hard to be true to yourself and considerate of your guests. Of course your wedding is about you, but when you invite other people into your world it's natural (and right, I think) to consider their comfort and enjoyment. But it's easy to take this too far. And sometimes it's not always so much about wanting to impress as it is not wanting to disappoint. I struggle with fear of rejection and failure (who doesn't?) and when I get an eyebrow raise or silent, pursed lips from mom or bff upon suggesting some slightly "wacky" wedding idea, it's very hard not be deflated by that. BUT, when that happens, Offbeat Bride is right here to lift my spirits and remind me that it's ok- great even- to be different and to keep the focus on what's real and genuine. Reply I think of all the posts I've read since discovering this (amazing) website – this is the one I know will stick with me the most..I think (for me anyway) our wedding will be a little bit of both. It is our day, our promises to each other..but we've also invited the people we care about most to share it with us. And in some ways its about them too – and them sharing the moment with us, so yes, I do care about what they think – but that's not going to stop me from having the most amazing bright blue wedding shoes ever, or dancing back down the isle with my future husband to a great South African rock song 😉 Reply I think there's a balance to strike. You don't want to lose yourself and what you want in the decision-making process, but I also think that if you have all these friends and family members taking time out of their weekend or even traveling in from another state for your wedding, you should absolutely make them comfortable, keep them entertained, and yes, you should hope they like it. If you're too focused on your enjoyment, on your wants, your feelings, you turn into an insufferable narcissist. I think a little worrying about what other people think is a GOOD thing, because it makes your step outside of yourself and look at a situation from another perspective. Reply I think weddings are inherantly a bit of both. I feel the same way about the "it's YOUR day" philosophy–yes, it is your day, but if it was ONLY your day you wouldn't be inviting anyone to watch. I feel very strongly that weddings (which I differentiate from marriages) are about community. For myself, and I think for a lot of us here, my vows aren't making a commitment so much as reaffirming the commitment I've already made. I'm not going to be saying anything I haven't already said to my partner, but I will be saying it in front of a large group of people. So for me at least, the question of wedding design is not "How close can I get to 100% authentic to me and my partner?" but "How can I balance my individual authenticity with the needs and wants and hopes of my community?" Reply I am totally with Marina on this one, and I love when she said, "How can I balance my individual authenticity with the needs and wants and hopes of my community?" That sums up what I am trying to do in my wedding planning perfectly. Is my wedding as offbeat as I want it to be? Nope… but it was important to me that my family and friends still feel comfortable with the majority of the choices I made. Reply Yuppers! This was the exact difference between my first wedding and the one I'm planning now. The first time, I wanted people to view me as an adult and to see me as beautiful. I also wanted validation through presents *Shudder* The day after the wedding, I had a break down where I cried for two hours, then had all my hair chopped off. I realized it was because I felt I didn't get the validation I was expecting. And I think I didn't know what to do next with my life. I've really discovered myself since then. This time, I don't really care who comes and I'm not expecting gifts. If people don't have fun at my wedding lunch, that's their problem, but I know that it will be exactly what we want–just a low-key day in the sun with great food. I'm just excited for the day to be with my new husband, family and friends. Anyone who shows up is welcome and anyone who doesn't come won't leave hurt feelings. Reply Great post. Thanks for saying it so clearly. Reply "I'm still living out my vows in this commitment â€¦ every single day." Totally got tingles =) Thank you for posting this Reply My black venetian-style birdcage veil is totally an attention detail. I couldn't resist the urge to make my mother squirm. Other than that, everything is all about feeling at home at our wedding. Of course, I doubt anyone will believe that I'm most at home in a haunted garden with candles and masks…but I am! Reply Ariel- you have been on it girl…Great post!!! Reply great post. Even I, who never really gave a flying fuck what other people liked, still was a little worried that people might think my wedding was lame. But I still did what I wanted and just hoped that if they didnt like it, they were at least polite to my face about it. In the end, it really was just ONE day, and 318 days later, Im more excited about my marriage than I ever was about my wedding. Reply Thank-you for this, I've been struggling a bit with both sides of 'the pursuit of attention'. I've worried about making this wedding beautiful and been disappointed when people don't care about my ideas. On the other side of this I have held back on some decisions as I was worried about the attention they would draw. Now I can feel secure in making the decision to carry a camera as my bouquet because that is genuinely me (even though I love flowers, I love my cameras more) and not worry about whether guests or other people will think I am weird. Reply Hibryd and Marina, I agree with you completely. I really appreciate your distinction, Ariel, in that you're describing two different reasons we do things that we want to do, one of which is much more profound than the other. But like some of the above posters, I think it's important to note that there are other reasons we wedding plan for people other than us–being an attention seeker sucks, sure, but trying to create an experience that makes everyone happy, that IS about more than just us, is amazing. I don't want my wedding to be an expression of my and my mister's authentic selves. I want it to be an expression of the authenticity of the huge amazing community that surrounds us. Reply Kodiak (et al) thanks for bringing up an interesting distinction: I don't see it as being authentic VS. keeping your community in mind. If your family and community are a big part of your life, then including them in the event is totally authentic. The distinction for me isn't about serving others vs. serving self. It's about finding out what's important vs. going for what's going to make the biggest splash. Reply Oh totally, totally agreed! I think we all just wanted to make the point that looking outwards/caring what others think is not always attention seeking. Reply While I think I understand the spirit of this post, some of the subsequent comments have prompted me to defend myself and my fellow true extroverts. You touched on this slightly, but for me attention-seeking is authentic. I spent a long time during my early 20s wanting to change who I was, hating myself for always wanting/needing to be the centre of attention. While this trait in me might not always be fantastic, I've come to accept that it's who I am. I love doing Karaoke in front of a crowd of strangers (even though I can't sing). I'm always the first to jump up if there's an opportunity to express my feelings at a loved ones birthday or wedding. This is authentic to me. I wear my heart on my sleeve and yes, I want people to see it there and value it. Reply Thanks for saying this because I feel the same way I'm a performer by trade, a real theatre girl through and through and so I live my life the most authentically when I'm onstage . I love being a little shocking and being oooohed and ahhhhed at and that's a very real part of who I am so when me and the fiancé talk about the day highlighting me becomes a very big part of that (he likes the stay out of the spotlight). Reply Well said. Great post! Reply Great post – and the last line is great for keeping perspective!! That said, being the centre of a massive party that my partner and I have organised, is authentic to us. Its what we do all the time for birthdays, Christmasses, etc. And we do want people to walk away from it and be like that was awesome (though not saying "that was the best wedding eva" cause thats total narcism). But I get your point that this means that (I hope) we are being authentic to ourselves, and what we are planning is true to who we are, including not loosing sight of the fact this is one day and our marriage will last forever! It is always great to have perspective, and I think that Ariel and OB do give OBT participants that. Reply Awesome post! The thing is, no matter how off-beat your style choices are, if you rock them with confidence, and exude happiness with your decisions, that will do more to validate your choices than anything! In the final analysis, if you don't do something you wanted to do because you fear the almighty gossip, you will always regret it. A few raised eyebrows are totally worth your piece of mind! Reply Oh wow. This totally wrapped up what I've been feeling. Wow. It also applies to almost everything in life. The pursuit of attention vs. authenticity. I think I just had an epiphany…this is definitely something I've been struggling with probably since high school, but have never been able to articulate it. Thanks. It's such a concise way of looking at it. When I was planning my wedding, I was totally guilty of the attention side of things and it made me really sad and I could never put my finger on why planning it was so awful. It's becoming clearer now. It's really hard to search for authenticity when all you hear from everyone is the loud voice of attention screaming "look at me look at me!" You can so easily forget yourself. Reply Best article ever. I think there is a balance for some- especially when trying to plan a circus event that we all call weddings these days 🙂 But to me the authenticity is the most important… this is where the disillusionment of what a wedding is supposed to be goes away, and the reality of life and commitment and demonstrating the love you have for your intended comes in. I can not say that I have struggled with this really… I attempted to plan a big wedding and it stressed me out, and so we dropped it and changed plans totally. It still involves the elements we want/need but it took out the showy parts that really made me and my fiancÃ© uncomfortable….It is much more about us… and as we have been engaged a year now with 4 more months to go I can tell you it DOES take alot of time and introspective searching to figure out what you really want. Reply PS. We are also involving our community so I agree with the piece that it isnt about just being extroverted or introverted, I am one of those people that straddle the fence…so one day I'll be on stage and the next I dont want to leave the comfort and quiet of my home…hehe. But point being, community can be part of a non-attention seeking wedding too… asking for the love and support of family and friends is different than NEEDing everyone to tell you how fabulous it all is/was to feel validated. Reply Well said… I'm new to the wedding thing – only 2 weeks since I've begun thinking about it – and I can see how it would be easy to stumble in the many pitfalls. The ending to your post gave me goosebumps – and this statement also struck a chord: "While the quick high is more fun in the short run, the deep satisfaction is ultimately more filling." This is true of so many things in life! This post is a keeper… thanks! Just Reply This is a great post! This concept applies to so many things. Thank you for writing this! Reply Yes! This is exactly what we're shooting for… details, yes..but the kind that express loving attention (and intention), not the "custom printed shotglasses full of color coordinated jelly beans" kind. Thank you. Reply agreed agreed agreed. Reply Oooo, what a great offbeat wedding topic! I think maybe part of the reason there's such a push/pull effect between internal, "authenticizing" thoughts and external "attention seeking" thoughts when planning The Wedding is because a big part of weddings is about bringing together the people close to us, and a big part of seeking authenticity is about bringing together all the gifts these people have given us over the years. In other words, our individual authenticity is a combo platter of our own individuality mixed with the influences of those close to us. And often we keep people close to us because of the influence they have and the ways they encourage us to change and grow. At least, that's why I keep people close to me… And hopefully my wedding will be something authentic for me and for everyone there! At least, that's my plan… so far I'm thinking a LOT more about the internal, authenticity stuff, but the wedding is a few years off and I really haven't gotten into specific planning yet… we'll see how it goes! Reply We got married on April 25th, and the ceremony was very much about Us Being Us. We didn't write anything, we pretty much winged it. We only got anything approximating an order of events planned out the day before. I did make a complicated dress and our rings, and N did arrange a reception with good food, because those things were important to us. But I felt like it couldn't possibly have been all that interesting for anyone else– we just went up there and told our story, made some vows, and then had champagne with everyone, right? We were chatting with the audience *during the ceremony*. I tended to assume that this would not impress anyone. False, apparently. Much to my astonishment, people are still coming up to us and telling us (yes) "Best Wedding Ever". People who were there, people who saw pictures and talked to people who were there. And I think this is *because* we didn't do very much pursuing of attention. (Apart, of course, from me making my dress, but, well, I sew.) Apparently just Doing What You Do is sufficient to impress people. I didn't expect this– I felt kind of silly forcing people to suffer through it, honestly. But I guess they liked it after all. We got a lot of positive responses because our wedding was laid-back and unpretentious. But I think if ceremonial-and-complicated is more You, people will respond to that too. From my own experience, I'm going to speculate that almost *everyone* will get some Best Wedding Ever comments. And you know what? It will always be TRUE. Reply i'm getting married next weekend, and have thinking about this all week. at first i didn't even think about the attention, but now i'm a little mortified about it. does it go away? Reply this post got lots of attention…. CAUSE it's TRUE and authentic. Reply All I have to say is: Thank You!! Reply Dig it! Bookmarked! 😀 Reply Nodding in absolute agreement! I've been organizing weddings for friends and relatives and I just hate to see how the couples get so worked up and fickle minded over the smallest details when they don't even have the slightest idea of what marriage should feel or look like to them. What's the point of having just the bride doing all the work and pursuing attention while the groom couldn't care less? Or the countless arguments between the about-to-be-wedded-couple and their immediate family members over what not to over-spend in or what's not a good color scheme or I-dont-think-your-grandma-is-goin-to-like-the-idea-of-giving-out-just-a-cupcake…! At the end of the day, I think they are more relieved the wedding is "over" than it should ever begun. I thought the wedding IS the beginning of a life together? Why does it sound like it's the "end" of an old chapter and let's pray hard the new chapter unfolds with much hope 😛 Seriously…it's YOUR wedding. Have it YOUR way and make it meaningful to YOU and YOUR other half… I think we should let all brides-to-be read this! 😀 Good post! Reply I wish I'd seen this sight and this post sooner…6 days to go!…but but it is what it is and I don't have to worry about what happens. In the end, I'm marrying a wonderful man and that is what truly matters. Thanks for all the advice!!!! Love this sight! Reply I wish I'd seen this sight and this post sooner…6 days to go!…but but it is what it is and I don't have to worry about what happens. In the end, I'm marrying a wonderful man and that is what truly matters. Thanks for all the advice!!!! Love this sight! Reply Thanks i think i needed to hear that… Reply Thanks for this. I've been grappling with this concept a good bit. When I was first engaged, I intended to sing to my partner at our reception–my gift to him. When I started looking for ideas for songs, I got some pretty nasty comments about attention-seeking and how inappropriate it would be. But in the end… it's what I do. It makes me happy and it makes my partner happy so why the hell shouldn't I be able to do it? Reply Can't thank you enough for this post, not to mention the several other gems of wisdom lurking throughout your site. We got married a few months ago in our living room and postponed the celebration with family and friends until a month from now for the sake of preserving authenticity and removing some of the stress. Recently, I've been drowning in party planning details, trying to conjure up unique ways to ensure that everyone has a good time, but so much that I actually forgot the reason we're having this party to begin with. This mindset has completely taken over — I have nightmares that people will be bored at our celebration, and that just isn't me. I do care if people have a good time, but ya know something? We'll have food, lots of drinks, music — and US — I think we're covered. Reply When I read this, my first thought was actually "Duh?" I'm actually bored by the exterior detail work and have started thinking about the vows even though the wedding's over a year away. When I read articles that suggest waiting to plan the vows and ceremony until about three months before the wedding, I facepalm because it seems to miss the point of the wedding. The reception gets the lion's share of attention because of the planning involved, but I'm just approaching it as a party (which I have experience planning). The ceremony, though? That's where I'm hoping to devote the bulk of my energy. Then again, maybe I'm offbeat in the sense that I'm not afraid to go out on that soul searching limb and bare that in front of my friends and family. *shrug* Reply I have been writing and re-writing my post for 15 minutes now. I've decided to just post this: To me, relentlessly pursuing authenticity is seeking attention. While my FH and I are privately very sappy and lovey-dovey with each other, I know that my whole family and all my friends would be very uncomfortable hearing us pour over each other in our vows. And you know what? I would be uncomfortable, too. For me, our wedding is a party celebrating what we've known for a long time. I don't need to reveal my innermost feelings to a group of 100 people; I reveal them to my FH all the time, and I always shall. At the wedding, we are planning to celebrate our guests as much as ourselves, so we do care if they will like the food, or the favours or the games, etc. It's not all about US, as in he and I; it's about US, as in everyone who has made us who we are. Isn't that, after all, why you invite guests in the first place? Reply We've done some attention-grabbing things, but they were authentically for us. Our human wedipede save the dates (STDs, lol) are one example of that. We're both devious little shits who like to mess with people. The Wedipede was something that felt real to us. We knew we'd get a few chuckles. But honestly, the most important part of that project was the massive amount of fun we had together when we created them. We laughed like crazy and it made for a wonderful memory. (Of course, when my mom called me and was wheezing with laughter, I was excited because I love hearing her laugh). So it was sort of an attention whore move, with authentic roots, if that makes sense. I think the best thing to do is to brainstorm the offbeat ideas. Then, sit on them for a week or so. If they still feel right, or you just don't give a crap what people think (but not in the "This is totally going to piss so-and-so off" way), then it can still be an authentic and from the heart thing… even if it is a completely oddball thing to do 🙂 Reply Read more comments 1 2 › Join the conversation Cancel Reply Your email address will not be published. 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