In my work with Offbeat Bride, I've been around people planning their weddings for a decade. The best part of touring around with the Lovesick Expo this winter was getting to talk to all the amazing Offbeat Bride readers who in some cases had traveled remarkably long distances to come say hello. (I think the longest driver was Roby who drove from Oklahoma City to Denver? 9 hours! Holy shit.) It's to the point where I meet readers at these events (…adult people! People of acceptable marrying age!) who are like “I've been reading you since middle school.” People have been reading this website since menarche, my friends!
As the years have marched on, I've started noticing this shift in weddings that I think reflects a larger cultural and generational shift between my peers (which is sorta the tail end of Gen X) and my younger pals (aww, Millennials I love your beards and artisanal pickles). My undergrad degree is in sociology, so people-watching large groups is my favorite favorite in Favorite Town, and so pull up a chair and let's muse on larger cultural trends, mmkay?
My generation, we loved us some subcultures. When I was starting college in the early '90s, all us weirdos found our ways to our respective weirdo undergrounds — punks, ravers, hippies, goths, skaters, etc etc etc. We were weird and WE LOVED BEING WEIRD. Holy shit, did we love it. We defined ourselves by our weirdness, and how much effort we expended to be weird.
Back in those days (insert waving of cane) you had to skulk around in record stores to find out about underground music events. Yeah, the internet existed, but you had to be nerdy enough to be online (which was a big deal in the mid-'90s!), and smart enough to find your way to the niche message boards that catered to your corner of the weirdness. Google didn't exist — we used Alta-fucking-Vista, and we liked it!
Since all that weirdness was so hard-earned, it was a badge you wore with a lot of pride. This weirdness took effort, fuckers!
20 years later, thanks to the internet, all weirdness has been done. As I've watched Millennials age into defining their own identities, I've watched them first deal with the crushing sense of “Wait, it's all been done before…” (insert emo bangs and tears) and then the relief of “…so who fucking cares?” Millennials care more about authenticity than different-ness, because trying to be different is a doomed recipe for failure flapjacks. Rather than spend much time being emo about it, it seems that many Millennials feel freed up to stop expending so much effort in being weird. My Gen X colleagues and I are seen as a little #tryhard with all our epic efforts in defining ourselves.
Back in my day, self-identifying and reclaiming hateful labels was seen as super fun — remember when Dan Savage's column was called “Hey, Faggot”? These days, my younger friends are like “Ug, labels are for cans of food. I eschew all your labels. I'm just me.” I sputter and cough, “But the labels you choose for yourself are so much funnnn, you guys!” My 23-year-old friends roll their eyes at me and are like, “Whatever, mom.”
(An aside here: I LOVE THIS. This post is most certainly not me saying it was better back in the day, or whining about how “omg I'm just so old.” I love watching things change, and smelling the different flavors. Stagnancy is death. SHIFT SUSTAINS ME. I love new toys and learning new things, so feeling cultural shifts is fun times for me.)
So how are Millennial weddings different from Gen X weddings?
Ok, ok. Rein it in, Stallings. I could go on about cultural shifts for ages, but how does it relate to weddings, and more specifically, nontraditional weddings? Well, here's the thing: us Gen X-ers who loved shouting from the rooftops about how weird we were, were also REALLY into talking about how weird our weddings were. Millennials are like “yeah, whatever: I want my wedding to authentically reflect us, but I'm not into trying so hard to be different.”
This isn't to say that Millennials don't have super weird, super wonderful, super offbeat weddings — they're just less about crowing about them and showing them off in the same ways as me and my Gen X cohort. I've also written before about how the wedding industry and American culture is generally more accommodating of weird weddings, and in fact even completely traditional weddings come with the assumption that you'll have a few quirky/memorable elements… but they don't need to shout.
(Back in my day, we really liked shouting.)
I feel like I'm seeing a shift toward everyone's wedding being a little bit weird, but less of an inclination to make your wedding THE WEIRDEST WEDDING EVER OMG! There's a lot less gnashing of teeth over things like “Will my wedding be offbeat enough?” and “Am I offbeat enough to even be on this website?” and more a shift toward “Oh hey, I like this or that thing for my wedding, and don't give a fuck whether you think it's weird or normal.”
It's a cool progression!
My generation had to work hard to feel different — and that effort came at a cost. Thanks to the internet, many of today's Offbeat Brides came of age with an instant accessibility of every kind of offbeat at every minute of every day. This has made them both generally weirder, but also less driven to prove it — their offbeatness just is.
But these are all the generalizations of a middle-aged Gen Xer. Fellow people watchers, arm-chair demographers, and offbeat obsessives, you tell me: what are the differences between older and younger Offbeat Bride reader weddings? Or are all these generational generalizations an insult to those of us who like to defy labels?
Come analyze with me!