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’d say our wedding was offbeat lite: http://offbeatbride.com/2010/11/new-orleans-backyard-wedding.

    A big party in our backyard. Our budget was around $6g, not including the honeymoon. I think Ariel hits the nail on the head with the “especially for younger couples who are navigating the very contemporary realities of stuff like low employment rates and student loan debt” comment. We paid for it mostly ourselves with a little help from the rents and when it came down to it, I was much happier spending more on our honeymoon to have a magical once in a lifetime trip, than spending it on floral arrangements that last a few days and feeding extra random cousins and in-laws that I’ve never met before.

    I think the other big factor is that offbeaters tend to be a little more granola and socially conscious. I didn’t see the point in spending $2-5,000 on a dress I’d only wear once. That seems soooo incredibly wasteful. My dress was $250 off the rack formal dress from Cache and I loved it. Given the opportunity, I’d wear it again to a mardi grass ball or other formal event. I like crafting, recycling and supporting local business. Why wouldn’t I incorporate that into one of the most important celebrations in our life?

  2. I’m going to say that Megan nailed it in the last sentiment. Not only are all points mentioned valid, but also since life seems to be getting more “real” after decades of people living in a rather frivolous economy, our ideas of what that money MEANS now, in real terms, are different. So while there are those that still throw ridiculous amounts of money around for all things wedding when the time comes, there are a great many more that are starting to wonder why one would spend the down payment on a house for a day of wearing a white gown. Don’t get me wrong, I am all about both ways… all ways… I just adore weddings period. But those people who can’t justify spending outrageous amounts on whimsical details need a place to put their big day… and SMP just isn’t that place.

    The other contributor is that quite often I think “crafty” seems like a fabulous idea, but not everyone knows that often those projects eat up resources faster than non-“project” weddings. Most artsy weddings that are an Offbeat Bride fit would fall into the category of “project” oriented. Tons of DIY that just simply works on all of the mentioned principles at once. An artistic soul isn’t going to be happy finding everything at a one-stop-wedding-shop and that means OTK or DIY on probably larger levels than elsewhere. Always good for inspiration though, and imo worth it.

  3. The parental influence thing sounds about right to me. My wedding budget was $3500, I think I came in at around $3000 (including “honeymoon” which was just a night at a local, but fancy hotel.) I kinda consider it offbeat lite (just small — 16 people including us), but the older generation evidently thought it was odd — our “reception” was just a dinner at our favorite (gamer-themed) restaurant. We paid for it ourselves, although I did receive a couple of Christmas gifts of “cash for the wedding” but it very clearly came with no strings (I made certain.) A few people tried to coerce me into expanding the guest list, but … no. I was going to have MY wedding, and anyone who didn’t like it could suck it. (This included a drunken text the night before my wedding asking if there was room for my grandmother, who I’ve seen perhaps 6 times in the last 10 years. No… sorry.)

    On the flip side, my maid of honor had a VERY traditional wedding, paid for entirely by her well-to-do father. And she gave up a LOT of control because of it. Which amuses me, as she’s one of the more offbeat people I know. It was gorgeous and lovely and fun, but not at all what you would expect from an artist-geek-musician type. But, her parents got the wedding that THEY wanted for her, and she got the husband that she wanted, so in the end? Everybody was happy. 🙂

    • Your wedding sounded like ours! We had 12 total, and the reception was at the restaurant where we had our first date. Our honeymoon was at a local hotel for one night too. 🙂

  4. I always wonder if the cost of the rings and/or honeymoon are included when people talk about the total cost of the wedding…

    We just had our wedding last weekend, and I haven’t gotten the final total for everything yet. I have a rough idea of what we spent, but not 100% certain.

    We certainly kept the costs down for the wedding by doing tons of DIY and utilizing PLENTY of friends for services (officiant, string quartet, day-of coordinator).

    Also, just want to add that OBB served for so much inspiration for our wedding! My (now) husband and I found many advertisers and write ups that led to elements in our wedding. Our big party would not have turned out as well as it did if not for OBB and The Tribe!

  5. I’m doing my second time down the aisle, and both weddings have been/are being guided by the fact that I (and my ex and soon-to-be husbands) don’t want to be in debt for a one day party. My first husband – mostly because he was cheap. My second husband – despite coming from family wealth – prefers simplicity.

    My tastes are also simple, but with details that comprise an entire story … a friend’s Tardis sitting on the beach for my fiance to step out of at the beginning of the ceremony (but the fiance veto’ed it, boo) … filling an hourglass with sand for our unity ceremony … my bouquet filled with tiny memorial frames and charms of symbols that mean things to us … releasing sky lanterns at dusk … And that’s about it. Nothing too much, but everything authentic to us.

    And that’s what it likely comes right down to in the end – authenticity to one’s self instead of fulfilling expectations.

  6. Our budget was $10K and it felt luxurious. We had a destination wedding and the $10K included our airfare, honeymoon, and rooms for our best lady and best dude. Having a small guestlist made it possible to have things be a little more posh.

    http://offbeatbride.com/2010/05/costa-rica-beach-wedding

    I think you see more lower-cost weddings on this site for a variety of reasons. There’s a huge diy contengency here. There are people who question the need as well as ethics of splurging for a one day experience. I also think that many families aren’t in an economic position where they can chip in like they may have if the economy were stronger. It also seems like people want to create a ritual that expresses something about them as individuals as well as define who they are as a couple. But the best part, i see people actually considering what is important to them and prioritizing an experience and event that supports their priorities. All these things are amazing!

    Three years later, i still feel like my husband and i had a beautiful and fun wedding that was a memorable event for everyone who attended…..and i’m looking forward to our 5-year vow renewl.

  7. I wish there was more higher budgets featured. I am in my mid twenties and funding mine and my partners wedding entirely without parental assistance. Current budget- 20k and sure to grow in the next two years. I work as a nurse, so I consider myself pretty average as far as income. I often feel like I’m spending too much as I see the featured weddings on this site. Don’t get me wrong- they’re beautiful, but I would love to see more varied budgets featured.

  8. I think that if a couple had a small budget, they might sit down and try to figure out what is really important to them so they can spend their money on what matters most. Is having a white poofy sparkly dress important? Is hair professional hair, make-up, and or photography important? Is live music? A formal dinner?
    As you strip away things you aren’t interested in (things that the mainstream wedding industry says you must have) you get to make room for what you want. Maybe having your dear friends stand by your side is important, but what they wear isn’t. Maybe you or your fiance is allergic to flowers and you decide to skip them altogether and not decorate your tables, or decorate them with things a that matter to you (for example a mini-TARDIS because you both love DW).
    By trying to figure out what you can afford, you start to see what in a wedding is most important not what bridal magazines tell you you need.
    There’s a flip side to this too. If I’m spending a lot of money, then I want to spend it on what matters most. If you’re buying a several thousand dollar dress your going to want to make it awesome kind of thing

    • YES! And, honestly, this was the one thing that The Knot came in useful for. While the recommended budget proportions *didn’t* fit, their budget calculator was a very handy way to see “we spent $X on this, therefore we only have $Y to spend elsewhere.”
      This was our $7,000 wedding: http://offbeatbride.com/2011/12/south-carolina-serendipitous-wedding (note: that number includes husband’s ring, but not mine- my wedding band came as a set with my engagement ring – and not honeymoon). We splurged on photography, favors, and flowers. So we skimped on venue (church ceremony, parish hall reception), food (fruit and vegetable trays from Publix, plus some finger foods, and homebaked cupcakes), decorations, and our outfits. Overall, I’m happy with those trades, although I would have loved to have had a custom dress, or been married in our university’s chapel. But I wouldn’t have loved those things enough to give up great photography.

  9. I would truly LOVE to have a very expensive, offbeat wedding and congratulations to those you that have the means. I had to take a second job to be able to pay for our $3000 wedding (which we may have to scale down even further) but we’re going to make it awesome nonetheless. In the end, I still get to marry the man of my dreams and that’s what counts.

  10. Our offbeat wedding was low-budget, but more money wouldn’t have made much of a difference. We knew what we wanted, and it just didn’t cost that much. If we’d had thousands of extra dollars, we probably would have spent it, but I honestly couldn’t tell you what we would have spent it on.

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