The 3rd edition of Offbeat Bride: What it's like to STILL be talking about your wedding 15 years later


arielmstallings
Yeah, that's me 15 years ago.

Think about what you were doing 15 years ago. Think about who you were, the choices you were making, and the ways you talked about those choices. Think about your motivations and your priorities. How was who you are now reflected in who you were then? How did you think differently than you do now? How can you look back and see the ways that the choices that you made then, played out in where you've ended up now?

Last year, when Seal Press contracted me to completely revise and update the Offbeat Bride book for its third edition, I had to get close and personal with those questions for months. As if that wasn't humbling enough, at the same time as I was going through that revision process, I was also writing a book about recovering from my divorce. GOOD TIMES!

More about that other book later, but today the third edition of Offbeat Bride is on bookshelves nationwide (and of course available on Amazon).

Offbeat Bride's 3rd Edition: in bookstores now!

So what's it like editing a book about your wedding 15 years after the fact? It's humbling. It's embarrassing. It makes you realize how much you've changed, and it makes you deeply profoundly grateful for the ride.

With the exception of the new introduction and two chapters written for the second edition in 2010, the Offbeat Bride book was written in 2005. Here in 2019, tons of the language in the original edition felt deeply out of step with Offbeat Bride's current voice.

Every last word in the book was re-edited and revised, which included a lot of clean up for stuff that I thought was funny in 2005 that is definitely super not funny in 2019… stupid jokes about smoke signals (insensitive toward Native Americans), sweatshops (insensitive toward foreign workers), consent (insensitive to sexual assault survivors). I repeated used the word “bitchy,” which some folks see as a misogynistic slur, even when used by women to describe themselves.

Even as a bisexual woman with a lesbian mother, my writing 15 years ago was steeped in heteronormativity. I clearly wasn't familiar with the concept of gender neutrality. Parts of the book were painful to read. My youthful stridency meant that I leaned towards being dismissive and openly hostile toward more traditional weddings.

Seriously, think of yourself 15 years ago. Think about how you talked, and how you acted. I wasn't stupid 15 years ago, but reading my old writing was deeply embarrassing. Ouch. What an education… and what an opportunity to get the book updated!

New content: new intro, new chapters, new sidebars

In addition to a thorough revision of all my old writing, Offbeat Bride's third edition includes a ton of new content, like…

  • New introduction: acknowledging everything that's changed since the mid-'00s, including shifts in how we talk about identity and gender, and the unexpected ways that technology interplays with the tangled dynamics of weddings. I emphasized that “bride” is a state of mind, not a set of genitals.
  • New technology chapter: The old book referenced things like people burning CDs to give as wedding favors (aww, cute!), and hand-coding wedding websites. Meanwhile, the original text made no mention of social media or stuff like using streaming services at wedding receptions. The book mentioned web resources that no longer exist, and doesn’t acknowledge stuff like the concept of “Unplugged weddings,” where people are asked to keep their smartphones off during the wedding ceremony.
  • New LGBTQ chapter: When the book's second edition came out in 2010, marriage equality was just starting to be something we dared to dream — and now it’s legal in almost all our major reader markets: US, Canada, Australia, and the UK. The new edition explores how heteronormativity plays out in wedding planning for queer couples, and has a whole section for polyamorous commitment ceremonies.
  • New sidebars throughout: Focused on inclusive content like planning a wedding while managing a disability or chronic illness, navigating wedding planning and grief, and more.
  • Oh and a new cover design, too! My editor at Seal was very proud of the gender neutrality of the cover — there might be a lacy sleeve and purple nails, but that cover makes NO assumptions about the gender of that bouquet tosser!

All told, the third edition of Offbeat Bride is certainly a much better book than the one I wrote in 2005. And duh: it was uncomfortable AF to look back on things I did and said 15 years ago.

Looking back, I can see the cracks of things that eventually fell apart in my life.

Looking back, there were several times during the revision process that I wanted to reach through the pages of my old writing and shake my old self because I really should have known better.

Looking back, it's really hard not to throw my former self under the bus.

Part of the process of maturation though is gaining compassion for ourselves, and our messy processes of learning and growing through our lives. I'm certainly not done growing, and I'm sure I'll look back years from now and be deeply humbled and disappointed about where I'm at right now!

This concern is especially timely as I stare down the barrel of my next book being published. From Shitshow To Afterglow will be on bookshelves in June 2020, and I can only wonder what things I've written in its pages that I'll regret terribly in a few years. Shitshow is a book about picking myself up after my life fell apart in 2015, so it captures a wayyyy messier time in my life than wedding planning. Oh well. No one said growth was easy or tidy.

For those of you planning weddings, I hope you'll consider buying Offbeat Bride's third edition!

For my beloved offbeat wedding vendor friends, I hope you'll consider snagging a copy for your client lending library.

And for those of you who don't need a wedding book right now but want to follow along with me as I gear up for the publication of the next book, I hope you'll subscribe for my personal newsletter. That's where I'm writing about all the stuff I get to regret in 15 years.

  1. I'll be picking up a copy! Sounds new and improved.

    I too am sometimes not overly impressed with myself from 15 years ago. That's actually about when I started my own business, and at that time I was definitely not expecting it to grow into a serious thing that would still be going 15 years later.

    • Yeah, as I start to assembling the branding and strategy for the business I'll be launching with From Shitshow To Afterglow, I'm finding that I think about things VERY differently than I did for Offbeat Bride. I just didn't expect it to still be a thing 15 years later, and there are some ways I painted myself into a corner back in the mid-00s that still have an impact!

      As one example, the word "Offbeat" is so oppositional! It's positioning itself to say "There are typical people, and then there's this reaction against that!"

      15 years ago, I was super into defining myself and my business in terms of what we were *not*. I was reactionary and rebellious and liked rejecting things as a way to define myself.

      These days, I'm more interested in what we each choose to BE, rather than what we choose to react AGAINST.

    • Absolutely. I'm checking in with my publisher to see what's going on with the Kindle edition… I know the third edition is available because a longtime reader pre-ordered it and told me it was delivered to her Kindle on Tuesday, but something is definitely wonky over there on the Amazon page. Hopefully Seal Press / Hachette will have it figured out soon!

  2. I'm a month out from my wedding, but still really want to get my hands on this new edition…

    Congrats, Ariel, and thanks for being willing to do the hard work of re-examining your work and life 15 years out. You're one helluva woman.

  3. You know, as someone who sees a lot of my own habits in what you write – it's OK to take a kinder view of our own evolutionary processes. The cracks that became things that fell apart… well, that metaphor made me think of tectonics at work under the earth. We don't blame the mountain for changing. It's the same rocks and dirt, just shaped differently.

    Plus, it helps to know that other people – other strong, successful women – struggle too, and learn and grow.

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