Why are so many offbeat weddings low-budget?

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I've noticed that the majority of the weddings you feature are budget weddings. Not all of them, certainly, but quite a lot. I would imagine that even more of them get submitted than get featured.

Why are so many offbeat weddings lower-budget weddings? What is it about budget and offbeat that seem to go hand-in-hand? Is it the craftiness of the general offbeat community? Is it that we're so broke we have to automatically eliminate almost everything and can only work back in the things that really matter? Is it that we have too many hobbies that eat up all the spare cash we could put towards a wedding? -Cassie

6k-vs-30kYou ask a super interesting question — so interesting that we need not one, but TWO editors to weigh in on the answer. Welcome to a very special edition of She Said/She Said, where Ariel (Offbeat Bride's founder) and Megan (Offbeat Bride's managing editor) weigh in with our perspectives, and share our very real (and very different) wedding budgets, considerations, and theories.

Ariel: $6000 wedding budget

Before I dive in with my thoughts on this, I want to remind everyone that almost a quarter of Offbeat Brides are planning weddings with budgets over $20,000. I talked about this a lot in my post a couple months ago, One-lowsmanship and luxury shame: one more way you're supposed to feel bad about your stupid wedding. So Cassie, you're absolutely right when you say that not all Offbeat Brides are planning lower-budget weddings — a very large slice of the Offbeat pie is made up of folks who have mid-range budgets.

That said, you're not wrong that we feature a lot of economical weddings, and that the majority of our readers are planning weddings with budgets under $10,000. So. What's up with that? Here are my theories, coming both from the perspective of someone who had a $6000 wedding, AND from the perspective of a wedding media publisher:

I'm paying means I'm controlling (but also means I don't have as many resources)

The table settingsI see this frequently with Offbeat Bride readers — when couples pay for the wedding themselves, they usually have total control over wedding planning. Total control can mean greater aesthetic freedom, which can mean more offbeat-identified weddings. But paying for the wedding yourself can mean your budget is smaller — especially for younger couples who are navigating the very contemporary realities of stuff like low employment rates and student loan debt.

As for me, my partner and I had been together for 6 years by the time we got married in our late-20s. We'd both been financially independent from our parents for many years, and so when it came time to talk about finances, we didn't feel comfortable accepting much financial help. Each of our fathers generously contributed $2000, which we then matched with $2000 of our own. This $6000 budget covered our entire wedding weekend, as well our two-week backpacking honeymoon.

Since we were splitting the costs, our families were relatively hands-off about influencing the wedding. Those of you who've read my book know that I had a few run-ins with my mother around planning the ceremony, but other than that our families seemed to respect our wishes. The result? A wedding where guests sat on mismatched blankets and drank from mismatched mugs. The few tables we had for older family members featured “tablecloths” made from mismatched bedsheets from the Goodwill.

There's plenty of inspiration for higher budget weddings

As a publisher, I can say that Offbeat Bride has always intended to fill a gap in the wedding industry. When you're working with a larger budget, you've got a delicious deep pool of wedding resources to tap into, including what I toooootally wish I could have done, which is hire a wedding planner. (It's their job to know everything awesome about weddings, and make your wedding exactly fit your flavor of awesome.)

My goal has always been to provide inspiration for a chunk of readers who aren't getting what they need from other wedding publications. Certainly, Offbeat Bride has never excluded our non-economical readers — we've all seen the rise of the high-end shabby/chic aesthetic, which taps into a rustic aesthetic while still feeling deeply luxurious. (BHLDN is of course the ultimate example of this, but 5 seconds on Pinterest will show you the beauty that can be worked when a higher budget is applied to a rustic theme.)

Of course visually, these higher budget offbeat weddings are, um, STUNNING. Like, beyond stunning. Jaw-droppingly gorgeous and pants-wettingly fabulous. But it's a fabulosity that A) isn't accessible to many of us and B) is served by other publications, so I always balance focusing on those kinds of weddings with focusing on my beloved simple weddings.

But let's see what Megan thinks, because she has a very different background & perspective…


Megan: $30,000 budget

Since we're talking numbers, I'll just just put it on the table that I come from a wealthy family who very generously funded my wedding. Because of my background, I have a theory as to why offbeat weddings are often lower-budget weddings:

Parents <3 traditional weddings

I'd be willing to bet that a majority of our larger budget weddings have received financial support from parents. The thing is, as Ariel mentioned above, the people footing the bill generally get to make the decisions. I would be willing to bet thanks to the pendulum swinging, many of us offbeat types have more traditional parents.

Since my lovely parents were shelling out for the wedding, our plans went from pizza and beer in a public beach park, to the privilege of fine dining and an open bar at an amazing beach-front restaurant. Yes, our wedding was MORE than we ever imagined when we thought we'd be paying for it ourselves. But that's also why our wedding was a bit MORE on the offbeat lite side.

me & my dad 3Because ultimately things weren't going to happen unless my parents were on board. Do you remember my posts about conflict over invitation wording and being weirded out by my traditional wedding shower? I had to fight tooth and nail for every non-traditional detail. My mother was crest-fallen that I wouldn't be wearing a big poofy gown with so many sparkles that if I caught the light I could cause seizures. My dad was shaking his head the entire time he walked me down an aisle made of humans as my groom dried off with a towel after entering the wedding in a canoe — this was NOT how he envisioned giving away his little girl. I actually had to get one of my friends to act as the “sparkle police” to keep my mother from covering every table at the reception with rhinestones and glass beads.

Offbeat does not always = low-budget

Oh, but we did get to have many offbeat details at our wedding! And because we had a bigger budget, we got to do things like really splurge where it counted. We used that money for good with non-traditional wedding favors that helped support a charity close to our hearts. And we made our investments last with non-floral centerpieces that cost a pretty penny, but are now used to decorate our home. We turned our wedding into a once-in-a-lifetime honeymoon with friends by hosting a destination wedding.

Or take a look at the recently featured Van Dyke wedding — a perfect example of a high-budget non-traditional wedding. Celebrities are often unencumbered by traditional parental funding, and therefore can go all the fuck out if they want to. Or they can even tone it down and go low-budget if they'd rather, like Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer, with a flash-mob wedding on the streets of New Orleans.

And in the end, I LOVED our big-budget, high-end wedding… but when I eventually found out the final budget, I thought of all the other ways that money could have been spent, and I felt awful. I was in mid-tears, feeling like a snobby asshole when my father put his arm around me and told me to never feel bad about the expense again. Our wedding day was so special to him and he saw how special it was to us, and he promised me that he wouldn't have changed a thing.

Now it's your turn to put on your sociologist hat and muse with us: why are so many Offbeat Brides working with lower budgets? And editorially, should we be making a point to feature more high-end weird weddings?

Comments on Why are so many offbeat weddings low-budget?

  1. I think a lot of OBB’s are weird because we already don’t fit into the mainstream. By extension, if we don’t have mainstream jobs, we don’t make big bucks. Or if we do, we often have other things to spend it on.
    Editorially, I feel like OBB could stand to feature more Lite weddings. I love all the Dr. Who and circus themed weddings, but I’d like to see more semi-traditional ones in there too. It’s hard for us Lite Brides to feel included. We aren’t mainstream enough for SMP, but we’re not weird enough for here.

    • We’ve been trying to include more Offbeat Lite weddings in our lineups for this reason. And if you’re ever looking to get some lite inspiration, there’s always our tag archive. 🙂

      • I love the “corkyness” of a lot of the wedding here although I am more of a traditional person. Weird is such a strange word to use on an blog/website called ” OFFBEAT” bride.

    • Editorially, I feel like OBB could stand to feature more Lite weddings.

      I love featuring weddings all along the offbeat spectrum, but it can be challenging when we feature a less weird wedding and get comments like this.

      Also, if you’re feeling out of place as an Offbeat Lite reader, I *HIGHLY* recommend reading this post: http://offbeatbride.com/offbeat-lite

    • Wow, after reading all these philosophical responses, I’m going to throw in a random pragmatic towel into the mix: one of the reasons we are having a low-budget wedding is due to time. We nailed down the date and venue, but didn’t really have a source of income to actively plan until about 8 months prior, which takes a lot of WIC options. So while I wouldn’t mind spending a bunch of time and effort on my stds and invites, the timing required me to whip something up in photoshop and send them out on the cheapness.

      • And we had a high-budget wedding due in part to lack of time. Off-season (January in NJ) should theoretically save you money, but because we were running out of time (our wedding was effectively planned in four months, which for a 280 person wedding, is not a lot of time), we didn’t really have the bargaining power to negotiate better or to shop around more. Interestingly, although I had a high budget, I still felt like a lot of the WIC vendors weren’t options for us due to the timing and culutral/religious elements of the wedding.

    • I totally feel the opposite. I feel like there are a plethora of Offbeat Lite weddings and not very many truly Offbeat weddings. I was going to ask for more truly Offbeat weddings. I feel like Offbeat Lite can be found EVERYWHERE else as people are moving away from what people want to call “traditional” weddings. I want more diversity for sure. The number of thin, straight, able-bodied, white, Christian, USian weddings on here is pretty high compared to the number of fat, queer, disabled, people of color, Jewish/Muslim/Buddhist/etc., non-US-centric weddings. I understand that that’s also because of submissions, but to see that you’re going in an even MORE mainstream direction is a bummer for me.

      The comment about being in between is hard for me to get behind because you can still see parts of your Offbeat Lite self in both camps. We “weird” people as you said, really have no where else to go.

      • …but to see that you’re going in an even MORE mainstream direction is a bummer for me.

        Wait a second here — who said anything going “even MORE mainstream”? We don’t have any plans to change our editorial focus when it comes to the blend of offbeat vs. lite weddings.

        Don’t get preemptively bummed about something we never said we were doing. 🙂 At the end of this post, we asked if we should consider featuring more higher budget weird weddings — there was no mention of changing our balance of weird-vs-lite weddings.

        • “We’ve been trying to include more Offbeat Lite weddings in our lineups for this reason.” – Catherine

          “We don’t have any plans to change our editorial focus when it comes to the blend of offbeat vs. lite weddings.” – Ariel

          I’m lost. 🙁

          • My comment wasn’t a change in anything we’ve been doing. Keeping a balance of Offbeat Lite weddings in our lineups has been a priority for a couple years. Plus, with 250+ real weddings posted per year, there’s bound to be something for everyone.

          • HA! I can see how that was confusing. 🙂 But yeah, as Catherine says, her comment about “we’ve been trying to include more Offbeat Lite weddings” is reflective of the past couple years — not an indication that we’ll be changing anything in the future.

  2. My budget is $30K, which here in Manhattan qualifies as a low-budget wedding. I fall into the Lite category but I’ve gotten a lot of great ideas from OBB and your site has really helped me clarify what I’d like to have. So while I can’t have my reception in a barn I still like reading about people who do and getting ideas that I can adapt to my big-city shindig.

  3. Some of it may be also that many geeky/LGBTetc/subculture folks have spent a lot of time questioning cultural defaults, which can lead to questioning what aspects of the “necessary” elements of a wedding really matter to them. Focusing on just the elements with personal significance can take the cost down a lot–or bump it up a lot depending on what those things are!

  4. I often wonder what I would have done differently with my wedding if we had had a larger budget. I probably would’ve had it catered, at a nicer venue with a longer time block, and probably some more bells and whistles. (I looked long and hard at renting a cotton candy machine because cotton candy is delicious.) Maybe a custom dress. Other than that, I think I wouldn’t have changed much.
    I think a lot of offbeat weddings are low budget because people of all incomes get married and traditional weddings often have a high cost, so when you’re in the lower income bracket, you need to do one of two things: rack up some debt to have a traditional wedding (which if you want to, rock on) or work your wedding around your budget and find alternatives to traditional elements. Can’t afford standard catering? Try a potluck or food truck. Can’t afford a beautiful fancy venue? Rock your wedding in the backyard or local park. I think sometimes low budget weddings end up being offbeat in the end, even if they didn’t set out to be that way.

    • I totally agree. If you have a small wedding budget, adding creative/personal touches is an inexpensive way to make your wedding memorable.

  5. Our budget is looking to be about $18k, which in Boston is relatively low-budget (often, $20k alone is necessary to cover the cost of the venue and catering). A lot of ways we’re going offbeat are not going to LOOK offbeat at first glance, since we’re going to be changing a lot of things about the ceremony and other traditions. But just the basics of paying for a sit-down dinner? Super expensive in Boston.

    • Similar situation here — also planning the Boston area (MA what, what???).

      We had to do a lot of hard choices for our wedding because of the cost of vendors up here. We are lucky enough to have some help from my parents, and his, though it was after everything has been set down and vendors agreed (family tragedy moves everyone’s attention).

      We’re still going to be around $10 for our wedding and another $3 for our honeymoon.

      Season makes a difference, as well, we’re getting married in mid-September.

    • hey! weighing in as a newly-married in the boston area (we live in somerville and got married in cambridge on may 11th). we stuck to a small-ISH budget (~$12k) by looking at restaurants that were willing to host the ceremony and reception as long as we hit a minimum on food/beverage. boston has an amazing food/beer scene and saving $$$ on site fees made a big difference.

    • Yeah, we don’t actually have a specific budget because we had no bloody idea up front what a reasonable range would even be, but we’re probably going to be spending a little over $20K all told (not including honeymoon–we haven’t really planned that yet). Boston IS expensive, especially if you want a sit-down dinner for 100 people.

    • We are in a similar situation in Chicago. Right now the wedding is looking to be around $16K though it will probably be more like $20K by the time its all said and done, which breaks my heart. We’re paying for all of it, no help from parents at all, though they have lots of expectations and demands which I am stressing out about managing. my original goal of a $10K wedding was flushed down the toilet when I realized I couldn’t even get in the door of a venue w/ food and some drinks for less than $8K. And I still feel like we’re throwing a “cheap” wedding. Its so expensive. Its honestly beating me down a lot. I am dreading the bills.

  6. Here’s my two cents. We had an off beat wedding with a splash of traditional. What kept our wedding cost down was the “we don’t give a shit about 500$ centerpieces or having the best florist” attitude. We did what would make our wedding fun and not what would make it look nice. We also only invited our nearest and dearest. My mothers friends did not come, no co-workers, no friends of friends, no +1, only the peopl we cared about and we did not care if someone was upset that they were not invited.

    I will submit my wedding this week. And we spent about 7000 and our was even destination!

    • Where was your destination? Did your wedding wind up being posted online here? Thnx! E

  7. While many of us can go into debt for a wedding, I chose not to for one reason–the price tag better come with a house. Spending money, is an investment, and my investment is like the hooker on the corner. It better go out there and make me my money. A house will return my investment over time, while a wedding will not.

    • I agree! When it came time to spend money on a wedding, all I could think about was how it was more important for my fiance and I to keep our money in savings for the down payment on a house!
      I wasn’t even thinking about “return investment.” I was just thinking “I want a house MORE than an expensive wedding.” Other people want weddings more, and some people have both!

  8. I’m also throwing around a $30,000k wedding in New York City. What I think makes a difference is that maybe OBBs are a little more thoughtful, and don’t spend money on things unless they really mean something to the couple, no matter what the budget. I know we have the money to spend on lots of flowers, but we’re not really “lots of flowers” people, so we’re opting for candles in vases bought at the thrift shop across from our apartment. We could pay for a five-course plated dinner, but we’d rather spend the money on a family-style meal cooked by a professional caterer friend. It’s all about finding things that actually mean something to you, regardless of if you do/don’t have the money to pay for more.

  9. I wonder if it just doesn’t occur to a lot of higher-budget brides that there ARE options outside the WIC. When I got married the first time (in 1999, well before Pinterest), my “offbeat” choices were primarily a result of running into something I was “supposed” to do but had no way of affording. If you don’t run into that situation, and if you don’t have a lot of offbeat friends who are getting married in offbeat ways, it may not occur to you to look for alternatives to “the way it’s done.”

  10. Our offbeat wedding is low-budget by necessity. Our entire wedding budget is roughly $1500, and the only way we were even able to have those funds was a part-time job this last semester of school for me. The upside is that it has forced us to become more creative in our planning. We are blessed to be able to have the wedding and reception at my grandma’s house, which brings so much sentimental value, rather than a place with no memories. We are including traditions and symbolism with meaning to us, and for the most part, omitting aspects we don’t feel attached to. With a small guest list (roughly 30), we are able to keep costs down, as well as to create a more intimate space. The biggest downside is that we are just under a month away, and I do wish that our honeymoon was locked down, and still not a hazy possibility dependent on us having the funds. Luckily, we are planning to drive to Las Vegas, and we can cancel our hotel reservation for free up until the day before the wedding. A big resort-style honeymoon would not allow us that kind of flexibility, so score another point for low-budget awesomeness!

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