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. “becoming more and more aligned under economic pressures to be thrifty but clever, beautiful but unique, and based more on the reason for the ceremony—love—than the actual ceremony itself.”

    This is what made sense & it’s the crux of the article. Look around you – what’s being termed as ‘off-beat’ isn’t actually that. It’s more, “Oh look, we’re Off-Beat!” but it’s not actually. There are a couple other wedding websites & WIC literature that cater to women who want something that not quite Princess-wedding & but not entirely wacky either. And Has any main-stream WIC website/magazine/media addressed the needs of the LGBT community?

    That’s Off-Beat! When you cater to all kinds, not just the ones who DONT want a typical Princess-style wedding. Does this even make sense to anyone?

  2. I believe an Offbeat wedding is a wedding that you walk into, witness, and leave saying “That was exactly them.” It’s a wedding. The bride and groom’s special day for themselves that they share with people they love. Just because it’s not “traditional” doesn’t mean they’re wrong. It’s all about themselves and being in love! (^_^)

  3. I just found this blog, and I am in love with what you’re promoting. I spent a fortune and more hours than I can count on my wedding because it was expected- NOT what I wanted.

  4. Can I say I love being an old (well, 36) divorcee and not giving a feck about anybody’s expectations and judgy-ness on my own choices for my second marriage? Hey, if it works for me, let them blab. No skin off my nose.

  5. The more I read OffBeat bride articles the more I realise I had an “offbeat” wedding before I knew what to call it! Way back in April 2006 I wore a embroidered gold dress with a full length hooded gold cloak, I had a “bridesman” (my gay best friend) alongside 2 bridesmaids and my husband had an “usherette” (a close female friend) alongside his ushers, we had cupcakes as our wedding cake so that I could have nut-free ones, gluten-free ones and chocolate ones without singling out those with allergies (and before cupcakes became very trendy), we banned children because we didn’t want to have to lay on extra activities for them (and the parents actually thanked us for giving them an excuse for a kid-free weekend), we didn’t have a “first dance” because my husband is not a keen dancer – in fact I made him a badge saying “I don’t have to dance. The Bride says so” just so that he wouldn’t get hassled by our well-meaning guests. And I don’t really remember people saying that I couldn’t have what I wanted or that we should be more traditional while we were planning! Maybe I was just lucky or was so adamant about what was important to us that people didn’t contradict us. I’m just grateful that we ended up with the wedding we wanted.

    The only thing we didn’t get was the owl ring delivery that the venue offered (they had a falconry on site and had trained a little owl to swoop down the chapel with a little bag holding the rings attached to its leg. It would then land on the Best Man’s arm and he’d detach the bag and send the owl back to the handler). For whatever reason the Registrar vetoed it completely calling it “Tacky and Demeaning”. I don’t know whether it was too reminiscent of the recent Harry Potter movies (not what the falconry had in mind as far as I know) or whether she actually had a fear of the birds that she didn’t want to admit to, either way we had to give in on that one (and I think the Best Man was secretly relieved!)

    Anyway thank you for giving me a term for my wedding and for continuing to support those who want to do things a little differently/more authentically. Even 9 years after my own wedding I still enjoy watching how others choose to celebrate their commitment so keep it up everyone I want to know how you all choose to do it!

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