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. Does reciting Catholic vows and actually *meaning* it or *wanting to* counts as Offbeat?

    Seems like so many people, like stated above, just give in and do the “traditional thing” because A) others want them to or B) “that’s just what you do.”

    Almost makes it seem like doing tradition because you actually WANT to do a real tradition and take meaning from it…. Offbeat!

  2. Hm, to play Devil’s Advocate:

    What if a bride really does WANT “what I’m supposed to do”? I think it’s a little unfair to say that brides who do end up with cookie-cutterish weddings are only following trends or too much of a Bridezilla to stroll off the beaten path.

    I agree with what someone said above that it’s all about the couple genuinely expressing themselves. But that doesn’t mean that said expression will be readily apparent.

    • If you are close enough to the couple (or one person of the couple) to be invited to their wedding I feel like it should be readily apparent that it’s their honest expression or not. It’s that when it hits magazines and websites that it has more issues. My cousin released doves at his wedding (which flew back at the crowd and then proceeded to adorably snuggle on a fence just behind the couple.) Would everyone else think it tacky? Maybe, but I know that as they are both farmers they LOVED chasing doves out of the rafters of the barn in the mornings they were loading in hay and now they would be doing it together. Yeah still sounds a bit dorky online but I friggin’ cried because it was such a sweet representation of how they will spend the rest of their lives together…for those who know them and were there.

  3. But isn’t the whole point that as free women we can to act as we see fit, we are not bound to re-act against what has gone before?

  4. Yes, it’s(an offbeat wedding) 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.

    There are lots of people out there who have traditional weddings that do the exact same thing!!! Its a wedding that is authentic to what they actually want. Hoe closed minded to think only offbeat weddings can be authentic to what you want and thats what makes them different to traditional weddings.

  5. People who have a taditional wedding can be having as much a personal and “isn’t it just us” wedding as an offbeat couple can.

    There is no difference between an offbeat wedding and a traditional wedding in how personal it is to the couple.

    Crazy this notion that offbeat is better!

  6. I agree. Being ‘offbeat’ doesn’t mean ‘being cool’ or ditching all traditions. It’s being true to yourselves as couples when you plan your wedding celebration, not constantly worrying about what others will think of it and whether everything will be perfect. Focus on the meaning of the day and things will tend to fall into place.

  7. Before things slide off the rails here, I want to clarify that I never said weddings that look traditional couldn’t be planned with intent. That’s the whole point: to me, “offbeat” isn’t about how the wedding LOOKS. It’s about how thoughtful you were in making your decisions for yourself, instead of trying to line up to expectations you don’t believe in.

    In Jess’s example: If you’re Catholic, then DUH! Saying Catholic vows lines up with what you believe in 100% and is a perfect choice for you. I’m not saying the Catholic vows aren’t offbeat — I’m saying acting Catholic when you’re not is disrespectful to both yourself and Catholicism. (This example is actually lifted from a bride I profiled in my book.)

    We’re arguing for the same thing here, ladies: more authenticity in making decisions for yourself and less blind following of what others expect you to do.

    That said, I do think being thoughtful about your decisions IS better than not being thoughtful about them. So, in that way, I do think offbeat is “better.” I’ve never said “offbeat = WACKY!!” It’s a question of intent, folks. That’s all.

  8. I just wanted to say thanks. I just got engaged a couple weeks ago, and was feeling torn between planning the wedding my family would expect and the one I really want. And this site has been a blessing by helping me realize, it's my wedding, my day, and I have every right to make it as offbeat as I want!

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