Gen X vs Millennials: How Offbeat Brides of different ages are super different

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We are millennials sign from Etsy seller EverburgDesignStudio.
We are millennials sign from Etsy seller EverburgDesignStudio.

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!

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Comments on Gen X vs Millennials: How Offbeat Brides of different ages are super different

  1. It’s so refreshing to read an article about Millennials that isn’t a Baby Boomer lamenting how awful they are, or another Millennial whining about how Baby Boomers ruined everything. Loved it.

  2. There’s this book, Born Digital (http://www.borndigitalbook.com/) that talks about how we should be defining these confusing generations not by year, but by technology. Because even by year, it doesn’t matter what technology EXISTED, it’s what you had access to/used in your life that seems to define how you approach the world. I see this concept alive and well here in this thread 😉 Recommended read for anyone into these things!

    • Ooooooh, I like that. The concept of technology cohorts makes more sense in so many ways than age cohorts.

  3. I’m finding this a really interesting conversation. I was born in 91 and very much identify as millennial. My childhood was populated with VCRs and cassette tapes and I played Oregon Trail in my elementary school computer lab and clearly remember dial-up internet. Cell phones and good internet happened when I was in high school (I didn’t get my first cell until I was nearly graduated, but most of my peers got them somewhere in the high school range). So I’m old enough to have had a non-tech childhood, I’m not the digital native that younger millennials are, but the tech boom happened before I was grown.

    I grew up a weird kid who wore my geek loud and proud, who defined herself by her geek subcultures, and I still very much do. And I personally love my labels, I wear them like badges of honor and fly them like pride flags. But I do care more about being authentic than about being the loudest or most out-there geek.

    When it comes to wedding planning, my partner and I are most definitely geeky enough that we could totally go full geek. And I adore and admire and am inspired by the weddings I see on OBB that go all-in on a Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter or steampunk or medieval or fandom mashup theme. But I feel like to do that ourselves, while it would be all kinds of fun, and even a genuine representation of us, I feel like it would either only represent one side of who we are or would be trying to cram in so many disparate elements that it would be an awkward hodgepodge. I’d rather work towards something with a unified aesthetic that more subtly reflects our quirks/interests/hobbies and fandoms. (Of course, this is all easier said than done. We’ll see how well it works out.)

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