Is having an offbeat wedding any different than having a traditional wedding?

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111008_Kate-and-Tom_0176That's the question that Jezebel.com asked this weekend, and I figure maybe I should give my answer.

First, I want to acknowledge that although the Jezebel post clearly references the concept of Offbeat Bride, it never directly names or links my site or book. (This actually seemed to cause some confusion in the comments section, where people unfamiliar with Offbeat Bride were like “What are you even talking about, ‘offbeat weddings'?”)

Therefore, I don't think the post is intended as a jab at Offbeat Bride. Rather, it observes that some brides spend just as much money, time, and energy on their nontraditional weddings as other brides do on traditional weddings. Then the question is posed: how nontraditional are you REALLY if you're still spending so much time, energy, and money on your wedding?

This assumes that the most nontraditional way to have a wedding is to go the courthouse and do it Justice of the Peace style. Which, sure: a courthouse wedding is awesome! But what about people whose communities are important to them? What about people who love to party? What about people who are actually (CRIME OF CRIMES!) excited about their weddings?

It seems like the root of the issue is that for some folks, there's still a lot of guilt/judgment around “caring about wedding = victim of patriarchy and/or wedding industry.”

To me, this feels like it assumes that as women we're not able to think through decisions or control ourselves when faced with wedding fluff. It assumes that once you start planning a wedding, you're clearly on the slippery slope to suddenly wanting chairs with ruffles and monogrammed everythings! You're blinded by the cupcakes and ribbons and suddenly you forget your own (last) name and just want MORE PERSONAL DETAILS! MORE SPECIAL FAVORS! MORE MORE MORE!!

It's a risk, sure. That once you open Pandora's Wedding Box, all the expectations come flying out and you find yourself agreeing to a $200 ring pillow or reciting Catholic vows when you're really more of a Wiccan Buddhist.

That absolutely can happen, and part of why I wrote my book was to support people who are trying to keep it from happening.

That risk is part of why I continue to write posts reminding people “your wedding is not a contest,” “don't fetishize your nuptials,” “try not to get caught up in trends.”

To me, part of planning an offbeat wedding is walking into the process with your eyes as wide open as possible, so that you can make thoughtful decisions. I want to empower women to go into this process with the ability to make their own decisions outside of both religious/traditional expectations and consumer/industry pressures.

But when you assume that anyone enthusiastically planning a wedding is automatically a victim of outside forces, you're asserting that women can't think for themselves and are powerless against the lures of taffeta and tiaras. That once we see something sparkly, it's all white blindness GIVE ME MATCHING GARTER bridezilla bullshit. That if you're planning a wedding, on a certain level … you've already lost your mind.

Some people like big parties and are drawn toward extravagant weddings, offbeat or not. Some people hate big parties, and therefore plan a beautiful simple wedding. As long as it's an honest reflection of the couple getting married (and that includes an honest reflection of their budget!) I'm all for both ends of the simple/extravagant spectrum.

I heartily believe that with support and encouragement, intelligent women can plan weddings of all kinds thoughtfully and with their values intact.

So, my final answer to the question: Yes, it's different — because of instead of asking “How can I keep up with expectations?” you're asking “How can I create a wedding that's authentic to what I actually want?” It's all about the intent.


[I'm cautiously leaving comments open on this post, but I want to clarify that I'll be closing them quickly if the discussion turns toward bagging on Jezebel. As y'all know, online civility is extremely important to me so please don't go flaming Jezebel's comment section. I want to believe we can disagree gracefully on this subject.]

Comments on Is having an offbeat wedding any different than having a traditional wedding?

  1. Hear hear! Making decisions consciously about what matters to you, rather than blindly following what the bridal mags tell you you “must have” is the big difference

  2. I’m glad you have responded to the article with what I think is the real difference. It’s about having your eyes open and not blindly doing/selecting things according to what is “supposed” to happen. I honestly believe that this ethos of stopping to think about what is genuine for us as a couple, for our wedding, is going to carry over to our marriage. Taking this considered approach to our wedding has really helped us to stop and think about why we have expectations in other areas of life and if they are truly important to us.
    People can knock offbeat or traditional all they like but if a couple is truly thinking about what a wedding means to them there is hope that they are also thinking about what a Marriage means to them. And isn’t that the best possible outcome?

  3. To me, “traditional” and “offbeat” have nothing to do with what you wear, where you have your ceremony, what vows you recite, who you’re marrying, how much you spend, or what kind food you have. To me, the difference between a typical wedding and an offbeat wedding is “What I’m SUPPOSED to do” vs “What I WANT to do”.

    Anyone who makes decisions based on their own wants as a couple is having an authentic, kick-ass wedding!

  4. That if you’re planning a wedding, on a certain level … you’ve already lost your mind.

    That is exactly the message I took away from Jezebel’s article. I know a lot of it is in the writing style and maybe it wasn’t as definitive as “weddings aren’t feminist”. But I bet a lot of people read it that way. One of the things that makes your book and site such a breath of fresh air is that it tells women they aren’t automatically cliche and old fashioned for wanting to celebrate their love with their friends and family. I certainly had to work through those feelings after years of saying I didn’t ever want to get married…and then meeting someone who made me change my mind.

  5. Mrs. Phoenix’s comment rings true for what happened with me and my husband: the process of thinking deeply about what we wanted from our wedding and why, and the (sometimes painful) negotiations when we wanted different things, was great practice for marriage and has carried over into our marriage. All the time thinking and talking about WHY we wanted what we wanted was incredibly useful and not only deepened our understanding of each other, it helped us be mindful of the day itself. I was a little surprised that the wedding wasn’t a blur–and very grateful.

    I agree this could apply to a wedding that appears very traditional–but I think couples who choose at least some untraditional elements are more likely to be forced to articulate those choices.

  6. My wife teases me about claiming “strawman!” too often, but I really do see the internet embracing that fallacy whole hog. For instance, this whole debate. Jezebel is pretending “off beat” is some reductive idea that it just isn’t. Screw that– do what you want to do. It is a pretty simple point– you have to work pretty hard to take it out of context, but somehow, they manage.

  7. Ugh! This is the tightrope we all seem to have to walk lately. If, for example, I like cooking for my boyfriend, I’m perpetuating stereotypes and am anti-feminist. And I If I show any excitement about wedding planning, I’m obsessed and a bridezilla. I think, at this point in my life, I’ve discovered that I spend far too much of my time trying to live down the assumptions made of me. So much time, I end up missing out on things I actually enjoy, for fear that someone will take it the wrong way when I do enjoy them!
    I’m a plus sized girl too (isn’t that a great term? Why aren’t the under size 10 girls “minus sized girls”?) so I’ve spent, no joke, my whole life afraid of eating in public. I exercise, have a slow metabolism and eat fairly healthy. But I can be sitting with friends, eating less than them, and the whole time in my head I’m freaking out with every bite. I feel like they are staring at me, thinking “Oh! So that’s why she’s fat”. And every time I pick up a wedding magazine in the grocery store, I get that same vibe. “Oh, here’s another obsessed bride”.
    To be honest, I’m not sure anymore. Are they actually thinking that, or am I just expecting it? Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just erase all this nonsense from our minds?

  8. I’m so glad you said somthing about the Jez post. I love Jez and have been following the site since it started. I just found OBB a couple of months ago and love it as well. OBB has SO many options for ‘offbeat’, not just money or a theme. The post on Jez made me sad even though I generally like the tone that particular blogger takes and I think anyone who likes Jez and is planning a wedding would LOVE OBB. Not sure if that poster had browsed the site or not before they posted, but OBB defines for me what a Jez reader would look for in a planning site.

  9. I’m a Jezebel fan, but I’ve always found the commenters to be waaaay too judgmental about all things wedding.

    People spend all sorts of money on frivolous things, but no-one gets the same amount of judginess for buying plasma screen TVs, jet skis, or even luxury cars as they do for spending money on a wedding. People go into debt for those things too and they’re unecessary. Why are we suddenly so interested in people’s spending habits when they get married?

    Also, is anyone else sick of hearing the cliche “You could have put a deposit on a house for the amount spent on that wedding”?

    A deposit on a house is just a little different from buying a house. The deposit is meaningless without the massive mortgage.

    Hmm, should I put a little money on a credit card for my wedding and rent until I can afford a house, of save money by marrying for less and getting a loan for hundreds of thousands of dollars?

    • I think the focus on this is centered from the concept that EVERYBODY really WANTS to buy a house and that if you JUST had that down-payment you could! YES a down-payment is usually the barrier that young people face when getting into the housing market but it’s a different lifestyle and it costs a LOT more than renting. If you pay 1500$ on rent that does NOT mean you can afford a house with a 1500$ a month mortgage. What about when the roof needs replacing? What about furnishing the place? What about the huge jump in insurance? What about your time spent on a home?

      This is really a conflict of values is it more valuable to have a physical thing (and granted humans do NEED shelter to live) or is it better to have life experiences that you treasure? A valuable question that each adult should have themselves together enough to make.

      Anyways my sister spent just under 20 grand (CAN) on her wedding and they were given gifts that amounted to approximately 30 grand (CAN) which is her goddamn down-payment!

  10. I was also a little dismayed by the tone of the article. I think the author had some valid thoughts, but either didn’t articulate them clearly or they got lost in the ensuing firestorm of comments. Either way, I love having this dialogue here to help keep me grounded.

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