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I finished Offbeat Bride in just two sittings because I just couldn't put it down.My only disappointment was that there weren't any suggestions on how to handle being an offbeat bride with a traditional groom.

How do you have an offbeat wedding without crossing the line?

How to have a traditional ceremony that won't make me feel like I'm at someone else's wedding? -Becky

Becky, this is a great question, and absolutely a topic that should have been in the book! I lucked out by having a groom whose wedding visions were as hallucinogenic as mine, but your situation is infinitely more common — just because two people are engaged doesn't mean they're somehow a brain-unit with matching Christmas sweaters and 100% aligned opinions.

There are some general conflict mediation issues that I touch on in my book that you could use when negotiating with a traditional groom (ie, the “Why instead of No technique”) but compromising with your fiance is certainly different than dealing with a family member.

First of all, take a moment to appreciate your fiance having opinions about the wedding and wanting to be involved in the planning process. It's weird how, even in offbeat wedding planning, there's this sadly stereotypical gender divide. All too often, grooms just resign themselves to whatever their bride wants (“…it's her special daaay…”), and while that's sort of awesome in a fucked up way (who doesn't like getting what she wants?) from a gender-egalitarian perspective it's really a blessing that your fiance is invested in the planning of the wedding.

My advice would be to do a writing exercise where each of you sit down and brainstorm separately about what you want from your wedding. What are your three deal-breakers, the things you really REALLY want to have at your wedding? Don't focus on things you don't want — that can be a recipe for conflict. It's always more useful to be proactive instead of reactive. What three things do you really REALLY want at your offbeat wedding? And what three things does he really REALLY want at his more traditional wedding?


Once you've each got your lists together, you can come to the negotiation table and see how things line up. If you're really lucky, the deal-breakers aren't mutually exclusive — i.e. he wants to have readings from Corinthians and you want your father to do a reading. That's easy: have your father read from Corinthians. But more likely there will be a few head-butting differences, i.e. he wants to be in a church and you want to be outside; he wants to have groomsmen and you want to stand alone. This is where you can get into some negotiations, ie, making sure each of you have at least two of your deal-breakers represented in the wedding.

I realize this sounds ridiculously over-structured and formalized, but I think it can be really helpful to have tools like this when you're talking over your plans and priorities. By having these deal-breaker items, you'll hopefully be able to stand at your wedding and look around and see a few of the things that are really important to you, knowing that you compromised on certain aspects, but that your deal-breakers are accounted for. Good luck!

Comments on Offbeat Bride + Traditional Groom = ?!?

  1. Thank you so much! This is the wonderful advice I was looking for. I knew cooperation was the key, I just didn’t know the best method. Thank you for helping me feel like we both have a chance to have the wedding of our dreams.

  2. I second the advice on this article! I also promote this “the things you really REALLY want” mindset in the article I had written in 2005 called, “Forget the Countdown and Think What’s Relevant”

  3. As a male, I’ve found the non-traditional elements my wife-to-be has planned to be very liberating. As strange as it is to explain, there is a lot of pressure on us guys to “not care”, which means pretend to have no opinions and default to traditions. What started as an offhand comment about how I can’t stand Wagner’s wedding march turned out to be the impetus for really communicating and making the ceremony our own. Now I don’t feel like I’ll be playing the part of a trained monkey in a suit and I’m looking forward to it!

  4. I think you just need to get your groom more involved in the wedding process. If he’s a traditional groom, he’s not going to get involved regardless if you are offbeat! Anyway, I’m getting married – I’m pretty traditional but my fiancee – not so much. We’re compromising – we’re doing an adventure honeymoon instead. check out groomgroove.com – it helped me get involved. p.

  5. Yeah, but…what if he wants a religious ceremony and I’m a raging anti-jesus atheist? My boyfriend and I are at the point where we don’t even want a ceremony b/c we can’t compromise on that…

    • I don’t know if this might help but my Grandfather who officiated our wedding actually handed me the papers he reads from and his gift to me was that I got the chance to re-write the entire ceremony. I’m not big on religious Jesus, God, Almighty-every-other-word kind of weddings so I re-wrote the whole thing in a tasteful and charming manner that included traditional wedding exchanges, but never mentioned God once. I even threw in a handfasting ceremony that both of my grandmothers (one is a die-hard southern babptist) were super-excited in participating.

      Is there any chance you can compromise with an officiant to make your own wedding ceremony with an equal amount of religious and non-religious readings? My handfasting ceremony featured the “cord of three stands is not easily broken” bible reading…like you can include not just beautiful literary pieces, but religious quotes from proverbs or Song of Psalms. Our vows were my favorite mirrored poems of “The passionate Shepard to his love” and “The Nymph’s reply to the Shepard” I really hope this helps maybe!

      • I’m really curious about your choice of those poems. I love them, too, buthe nymph is telling the Shepherd she can’t be with him. How did you incorporate those into your wedding vows?

    • I was in a slightly different situation (both of us athiest/agnostic, but with some important family members who are religious), but perhaps our solution could work for you. What we did was to take a very traditional wedding service (Book of Common Prayer) and just delete every reference to a deity or religion. We also had our service performed by a Unitarian Universalist minister. Perhaps something like that may work for you guys? Having the nod to religion without actually bringing God into it made everyone happy in our case. If you are interested I’d be happy to e-mail you the text we used.

      • Ella, your situation sounds a lot like ours. Our wedding is in three weeks, and the touchy question of how to leave religion out of the ceremony while not offending those closest to us has us completely stalled! If you would be willing to share your solution with us, I would be most grateful.

    • I have a similar issue myself, my husband to be is Catholic, where as I, myself am Buddhist. I’ve already agreed to do a church ceremony, but suggested I may ask for the “who gives this woman” part to be removed and he’s ended up flying off the handle because of it

      • We changed that to “who presents this woman” because I am no ones property to give, nor to receive. I didn’t want it at all, but compromises. My cousin had some nice language at her (full mass Catholic) ceremony along the lines of “Do you give your blessing and support to this marriage?”, which is basically how a lot of people interpret the “do you give” statement anymore. I found that when you have reasons and a reasonable alternative, the backlash is severe. Good luck!

    • Tough situation, there. But it’s not impossible to navigate. Could you have a civil wedding and a blessing from his priest/pastor/minister?

      My FH’s sister got married two years ago in a civil ceremony — which was not completely unlike a Catholic mass ceremony with the readings and candle-lighting so nobody was left in confusion as to what was happening, and everybody was there to support them so it was an awesome atmosphere. FH’s eldest sister (a nun, probably the youngest in Ireland) said Grace before we started the meal, and everybody participated or stood respectfully while it was said.

      The important things to remember are that you love eachother and want to be together for the rest of your lives. What and where the ceremony is, is just gravy.

  6. mj, how about you and your husband each write your own vows? That way, he can include as much god as he wants in his vows to you, and you can be as atheistic as you want in yours.

  7. I’m having precisely the same issue! My husband to be is quite conservative PLUS I let myself get pushed around by some of my more straitlaced/religious family members, so I’m left with a church ceremony/white wedding dress/150 guest traditional event, and I now have to come up with a way not to feel like I’m planning someone elses wedding, and He’s alternating between telling me my ideas are “weird” and that all he wants is for me to have whatever I want,

    • Thank the others for their input, and then do what you want!

      As for FH, be honest with him. Tell him that you feel this is turning into someone else’s wedding and that while what he wants is important, so is what you want. See if you can compromise on some things (be it vows, ceremony style, music, anything that is nightmare fuel for you), and remember why you’re getting married in the first place.

  8. Thanks for this entry! I am in a somewhat similar boat, but would call my fiance more conventional than conservative. I too get the strange looks for many of my ideas!

    He is not comfortable with having unconventional food because his family might not like it, he want there to be an even number of attendants, he was a bit disappointed that I did not want a diamond ring – though he respects my reasoning – etc, etc.

    I find our wedding moving more towards the vanilla, but I think we are finding a comfortable middle ground. I am going to get the dress I want (not a wedding dress), we are having mostly live plants instead of flowers, AND he agreed to at least meet with an awesome flavorful Mediterranean/Greek/Lebanese caterer!

    I have found the best way to convince him is to SHOW him how classy “weird” ideas can look. For example, I had him look around on this site with me. 🙂 While it didn’t completely convince him, he had to admit that when an idea is well planned and executed it looks good!

    • They won’t like the food? How will they know if they won’t try it?

      My dad is of the won’t-eat-anything-I-can’t-pronounce mindset. A meal has to have potatoes or it’s not a proper dinner. But at the same time, he’s surprised us all by sneaking a few bites of a Chinese takeaway – admittedly after a few drinks, but it’s still major progress!

      I find that weddings are a perfect time to do something different. And in all honesty, who remembers a boring meat-and-two-veg meal unless it’s really bad?

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