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. We are ending up with a low budget for our area, about $10K in D.C. Originally I was gung-ho for either eloping or doing the courthouse thing. All I really truly care about is being married to the one I love. I’ve also been married before. But he hasn’t! Turns out he still really wanted a wedding, and not necessarily a tiny one. So, we compromised! Smallish wedding, less than 70 people, spread out the costs as much as we could over time, and cut out all the things that didn’t matter to us or could be sacrificed. Our families also all really wanted to be there, which means having a wedding. So we’re going to have fun with it, try to show people a good time but without any of the stuff we felt wasn’t necessary or didn’t apply to us.

    Everyone is really in different circumstances when it comes to this. We’re on the cusp of middle-aged, so we can afford to pay for it ourselves, and also we have different priorities than we may have had in our 20s. Both of us care a lot less about what other people think, other than throwing a decent party for the people we love. Our age and that attitude make us offbeat (at least not mainstream), and it also makes us feel less inclined to spend all our money on a single day. We have a house already, and have plenty of other things we’d like to spend money on for the future!

  2. Fascinating question, and one I’ve been pondering, in a way. I LOVE hyper-personalization in bridal fashion. However, we manufacture locally, and now that our demand is exceeding our production capacity, we’re thinking it’s time to raise prices. I’ve been questioning whether our target bride exists in the luxury market. Tricky stuff.

  3. I have to jump in on this one. Our wedding planning was done in the span of six months and my husband and I got married on June 28th of last year. It was a very beautiful and amazing day, a day I will never forget. We had everything we needed. Our family and friends (all 12 of us including the officiant which we lovingly called “the pope“ and is one of my husbands friends), a windmill venue looking over the water near our house that cost zero dollars (yes, zero) , flowers gotten the day before at the farmer’s market, some alcohol and appetizers, the unification ceremony was done with our favortie European board games, and my in-laws paid for the after party at a local restaurant. My dress was a vintage dress that my mother gave me. The cake with fondant was made by a friend and my husband was the DJ. All in all, our budget was low and it does not matter. Why? Because in the end, all that matters is that it was a happy day for all and my husband and I are making a lifelong commitment. In our minds, we did not want to blow all this money on something for one day because we have our whole lives left to live. We want to do things together and travel and save money to for the future so we can enjoy the rest of our lives. I am not trying to hate on other people that want to spend more money than what we did, it is just our thought process.

  4. I’m an actual sociologist (my *only* hat) and I think your assessment is spot-on! I used this website a lot planning my (very) traditional, but lower-budget wedding (that sociologists still made me feel guilty for, but whatever). If I had wanted to spend more, or not had to worry about it, I could have be totally not-offbeat at all. but this community gave me a lot of agency to make “non traditional” decisions so it would still feel like me + my relationship. Our “offbeat” was that I wasn’t willing to go into debt for a wedding, as a grad student with enough money problems . Which was amazing. so thank you. I think because the wedding industry is 1) traditional and 2) $$$, this community speaks to the entire ven diagram of those two things.

    From a socioeconomic perspective, we also see the wedding industrial complex propose more outlandish and expensive versions of “tradition,” as more folks struggle with money. Historically, this is weird, because weddings have only recently become the monster expenses for “average” people; traditional, middle class (american) weddings were not historically a huge expense.

    Also, this website tends to feature couples in “non traditional” / nonbinary /non hetero relationships, who may not be able to feel represented by the wedding industrial complex, no matter how much money they have.

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