Questions from you: Strangest weddings, what inspired me to start OBB, what I regret from my wedding, and more!

July 2 2009 | arielmstallings

Inspired by Princess Lasertron (because really, who isn't?) I've decided to start doing a semi-regular feature where I answer reader questions. Not, like, wedding advice questions. But questions about other stuff — the site, the world, whatever.

Here are the first batch of questions, which came in via Offbeat Bride's Facebook page:

At OBB, we're all about honoring the personally meaningful, no matter how weird or "tacky" 🙂 But I bet you've heard about some pretty off-the-wall wedding choices…what are the strangest things you've come across in your OBB travels? -Ariel H.

Ha! I love this question. I've definitely seen some things that aren't my personal aesthetics, that's for sure…

Gone with the Wind

Amber and her American flag wedding dress is one great example of an offbeat bride with an aesthetic opposite from mine … but I loved that she split her wedding into two: half pagan/half country. The American flag wedding dress was counterbalanced by the beltane handfasting in white gowns that she and her husband did as part of the same celebration!

That said, I've been consistently surprised to see how some of the stuff that gives me pause is the stuff you guys love the most! I've featured weddings that I've thought, "I'm not sure this wedding is offbeat at all … maybe I shouldn't feature it?" that then y'all have LOVED. I've featured weddings that I've thought, "Hmm, this might be too weird … maybe I shouldn't feature it?" that y'all have ALSO loved.

Everyone has their own tastes, and ultimately none of us should like every single wedding on this site.

If I've learned anything from OBB, it's that while I have my own values and aesthetics … everyone has their own tastes, and ultimately none of us should like every single wedding on this site. If any one of you likes every single wedding I feature, then I'm getting too narrow in my focus. Part of Offbeat Bride for me is introducing the world to corners of culture that aren't our own … and that means getting a little outside your aesthetic comfort zone. And when I say "you," that includes me!

What made you start OBB? Did anyone inspire you, any bride or wedding in particular? -Bryanna

Oh man. I know you want an inspiring answer here, but I'm going to give you the plain truth: I started offbeatbride.com to promote my book. Obviously, the mission of the site has shifted and grown exponentially since then, but honestly? There was no major inspiration involved, other than wanting to get the word out about this book I'd spent so much time working on.

And as for why'd I write the book? That's not sexy either. It was the only book I could sell to a publisher. I tried pitching a book called "Left Coast Landscapes," which was an exploration of the West Coast's weird subcultures, but my New York-based literary agent was like "Yeah, no one will publish that book." So I wrote a book about weddings instead. And guess what? I STILL FOUND A WAY TO MAKE IT ALL ABOUT WEIRD SUBCULTURES! *evil cackle*

Have you considered adding info on how much some of the offbeat weddings cost? I've seen wonderful OBB events in my area and always wonder if elements can be incorporated into a budget conscious wedding. -Gillian

Sometimes folks mention their wedding budgets in their profiles, especially when they're super budget events in the $500, $2000, $6000 range. And I know from my reader survey last December that most of you are planning weddings in the $5000-$15000 range. But budgets are relative and "budget wedding in NYC" means something quite different from "budget wedding in Cleveland." I never ask people how much their weddings cost because really? It's none of my business. That said, I definitely don't feature the crazy expensive weddings — I was once contacted by an advertiser who said, "I just did a million dollar wedding! Your readers would love it!" I said, "Actually, they wouldn't."

One of the things I've gotten a LOT of, regarding my offbeat tastes, is that I will regret my offbeat wedding in the future. I have gotten told, by friends/family/perfect strangers, that we need to have a traditional wedding or else, in 20 years when we're looking back, we'll regret it.

I'm pretty sure that the only thing I'd regret would be giving in to their pressure, however… Is there anything from your wedding that, when you look back on it, you wish you could change? -Samantha

Absolutely there are things I'd do differently now, and that's just the way I knew it would be and just the way I wanted it! Some people believe that weddings should be timeless examples of elegance, but I wanted my wedding to be a time capsule. I love my parent's wedding photos, where Dad's got his full beard and muslin shirt emblazoned with a lion my mom had embroidered on it. Mom's wearing a daisy wreath and is five months pregnant with me. Hating refined sugar, they served wheels of cheese instead of cake. Mom played her guitar for entertainment. I LOVE that their wedding is so quintessentially 1974.

My wedding meanwhile was totally 2004. Five years later, I've had all sorts of shifts in design and style … of course! Aesthetics shift with time, and traditional weddings aren't exempt — strapless gowns aren't going to be in style forever, ladies. I LIKE that my wedding is a slice of life from when we got married. I didn't want a wedding that didn't have a sense of time or space.

So, while I'd do a few aesthetic things differently if I was planning a wedding today, there's nothing I'd go back and change … with one exception: I'd invest half our wedding budget in photography. We hired a photographer friend who did a beautiful job, but she was very clear with us when we asked her to help that she was NOT a wedding photographer.

Seriously, you guys: I'm in no way disappointed with the photos from our wedding, but having spent the last three years looking at the work of some of most amazing wedding photographers in the nation? Photography was about 10% of our $5k budget, and if I had it all to do over again, I'd make it half. That's my only regret.

Gotta question? Go ahead and email me!

  1. I love this new feature. I also couldn't agree more with you about the time capsule thing. Maybe that's all offbeat brides are really trying to achieve and some people just cant understand.

  2. So awesome! Thanks Ariel! I've been told by many people that the photography was the most important part and at first I didn't really believe them. I wasn't going to shell out a ton of money for our small budget wedding. But when so many people were telling me that the one thing they regret was not budgeting more for photography I realized that maybe I should. I fell in love with Tinywater, who is now our photographer. We're spending 50% of our budget now on photography and I really feel good about it.

  3. OMG, Ariel – I'm having one of those "YES! YES!! YES!!!" moments where I can't type fast enough for my brain! When I started to read the "what would you change" question, I was thinking "I wonder if I should post a comment about how I would have invested more in photography?" Of course, a second later I'm reading what you wrote and could not possible word it better so let me just say "ditto." We had a friend, photos were just fine, but now that I'm in the wedding industry and have seen such amazing, funky cool, artistic work, etc etc. The tough part for me now is convincing clients to do as I advise, not as I did, in that department – and I've always referred them to your site as a point of reference. Now I'll just email them this particular blog and let them take it from there! Thanks, as always, for nailing it RIGHT on the head!!

    • Amen, lady! I've been really impressed by the creative ways that OBBs have worked around their budgets to prioritize photography. They do the wedding in modest venues, but hire a killer photographer and hit the fancy locales for pre-wedding portraits.

  4. Love this feature! Plus always great to read more of your well-crafted writing. In terms of the "time capsule", for us we really wanted our wedding to be a reflection of our relationship, values and "likes" and sure those might change but we had exactly that and I was thrilled. You gotta be able to stand by it at the time! Oh, and I would definitely read the Left Coast book (also waiting on Offbeat Wife and Offbeat mama hehehe)

  5. you know, i've been going back and forth and back and forth again …and again…and aga — you get the point — about our photography.

    to have a friend do it, or to have a professional do it – that is a question that i think most offbeat brides have asked themselves.

    thank you for this post, because i think it helped a LOT of us make our decision.

    i'm going for the pro.

    p.s. to all you offbeat brides with professional wedding photographer friends…i'm jealous!!! 😉

  6. If I had my wedding to plan today (vs 10 yrs ago) I would do it totally differently even though, like Ariel, it was the perfect representation of who we were then.

    My two "wish we had done differently" items would be: 1) have the caterers/friend set aside a plate of appetizers for the happy couple (we were taking pictures and missed out on tasting every passed hors d'oeuvre), and 2) make a list for the photographer of must-have shots (we missed getting a posed shot with the one set of grandparents who were able to make it and I regret this).

    (I'm helping my sister plan her wedding, in case you were wondering about this long-married former lurker)

  7. Of course our tastes will change over time, but what better reason to have great themed anniversary parties/vow renewals! We'll have to stay married for many a year to be able to throw all the parties that are lurking in my imagination 🙂

  8. I find I must pipe up and be a contrarian about the photography thing–just to remind everyone that we're all different. One year after my wedding with volunteer photographers (one pro nature photographer and two amateurs, no wedding photographers), this is not one of the things I wish I'd done differently. I am wowed by some of the amazing shots on here, and it would have fun to have some more arty photos of us, but I didn't want to spend time posing. I wanted to have the experience (in fact, I regret we didn't have more time to eat and more time to dance–and if I had it to do over I'd find the money for a paid site coordinator to wrangle all the volunteers so I could relax more). And I love our photos–you can tell how happy we are. Some of my favorites were taken at the very end of the reception, black and whites of us kissing, framed by a lighted doorway. Arty enough for me.

    I hope y'all make the right decision for YOU, whether you're spending half your budget on your photographer or nothing.

  9. Agree on the photographer. If theres one thing looking at all the beautiful photos on here has done..it's making me want not forgot a single moment of the day. People having a good time, good music, and countless amazing photos!

  10. Actually, my only follow up question is… how do you have a million dollar wedding? Seriously, is that what a full gala event at The Plaza costs these days?

  11. Oh, I like this feature! I'll have to come up with a question or two. Funny about the photographer. It's one thing I've heard over and over as "what I'd do differently" whether it's not having hired one at all or having one so aggressive and in everyone's face that they were tossed off the dance floor by the groom after the salad course.

    Being the family photographer & videographer & General Documentarian (in an internet-videobloggy-obsessive-Flickring kind of way)I just figured "I'll take a lot of pictures". DUH! Right. Also, I assumed we couldn't afford one on our upstate NY budget wedding but it turns out a friend of my honey's is a kick-ass photographer willing to knock off a few bucks. Still a sizeable chunk of our budget, but I know in ten years I'll be grateful.

  12. But I really really really want to read a book on west coast subcultures! They are my obsession.
    Hoopers, bicyclists, burners, freight hoppers, anime lovers. Guhhhh, stupid publishers. I'd buy that book so fast.

  13. This posting actually helped me put a significant amount of my fears to rest.

    I have been struggling with what I want for my wedding. Every four and a half days or so I am changing my mind about what I am going to do because I worry myself into the ground about what I will think about it in years to come.

    The whole "time capsule of us" statement really solidified things for me as far as our wedding. Yes I have purple hair and a lip ring. No it's not conventional. Yes some people will think it's tacky. Do I care: Not really. My fiancé and my primary goal from day one has not been to have a huge expensive wedding. It's been to have a genuinely good time with our families, the people who have been on the journey with us.

    Thank you Ariel!

  14. Thank you!!!

    I've been feeling guilty that more than half of our $5000 budget is alloted for photography. We have friends getting married shortly after us, using the same photographer but a cheaper package. They're wedding budget is at least three times what ours is! I was wondering if I'd made a rash choice.

    But I'm glad to know that you, and others, felt that photography was so important. It was the FIRST thing my FH and I booked, and the most important aspect of our wedding by far (at least in terms of things you can pay for). We really prioritized it, and yeah, because I'm spending $3000 on photography, I'm DIYing alot of it, but I don't feel bad about it.

  15. I love the comment about not liking every wedding on this site… I browse daily an almost feel guilty when I see weddings featured that I can just tell aren't something I'd like and skip over them 😛

    P.S. as for people saying you'll regret an offbeat wedding later and do it "this way" my favorite reply is "That's what killer anniversary parties and renewals of vows are for" 😛

  16. I'm getting kinda worried about my wedding photography. I have a close friend who's a GREAT photographer (fashion/girlie/commercial) doing them for me, he and I have worked on a lot of shoots together over the past couple of years so I know his style and what he does. However, he's a little new to shooting weddings, and I'm getting his services for basically free… but I'm just stressed out that I didn't spend the money to hire a quote/unquote wedding photographer. I guess that making a list of photos that I need to have is the best way to face my fears, and just run with it from there? This post has just made me a touch more nervous!

    • Perhaps surf the "pro" photog sites she mentioned at the end of the post and bookmark sets you love. Then send those links your friend so he can SEE what you want to recreate. Words leave room for misinterpretation- images not nearly as much. 🙂

      *disclaimer- I used to work with jennyj and found this site via one of her posts.

  17. I love your point about not loving all the weddings on here equally – I totally agree, and I've surprised myself with the kind of weddings I've loved the most. There is no right or wrong wedding. I love this site and the book, because both are infused with your fantastic, generous, live-and-let-live attitude to life.

  18. […] this post on offbeat bride about weddings being like a time capsule. i was concerned about whether or not i would look back on the photos and still think that i looked good, but ariel's take on representing who you are NOW was really one of those obvious points that i really needed someone to say for me to get it. for instance, i love that my mom was rocking the hippie dress in her early 70s wedding, and that she wore what made her feel fabulous when she was 23. and that my dad had long hair and a handlebar mustache. too cool. […]

  19. My honey and I are planning a Halloween wedding. We are so completely relaxed about it, I am almost worried that we are going to get to the day and have it be a gong show. The main reason (I think!!) we are so chill about it is we are planning to renew our vows every 5 years on the next holiday. So our 5 year anniversary will be a Christmas wedding, our 10 will be New Years and so on. I like the idea of both continuity and change. We laugh about getting to the end of all of the holidays and looking back. The time capsule aspect will be so much fun to watch!!!

    BTW Love the OBB members and how easy going and positive you all are!!!!

  20. I saw pictures of my MIL's wedding. It was 1971, she was 8 months pregnant with SIL, was wearing a straw hat and a homemade muu-muu I wouldn't even wear to clean my house, they had only their parents and siblings as guests, and the cake was homemade. Yet when I was planning my wedding, she was the one who insisted that I get the WIC monstrosity.

    I admit I've been through some regrets about my extremely laid-back elopement (I was the OBB of the day last Thanksgiving if you want to see pictures). Facebook is mostly guilty for that, because I can see other people planning WIC weddings, and the final result. That includes a huge "engagement boom" in my husband's hometown, probably inspired by our wedding and another bigger one that happened a month before. But my wedding was what I wanted then. It was what the 26-years-old me of 2009 had wished for, and got. With my bad temper, my refusal to make any compromise, my penny-pinching, my self-esteem so low that I didn't want to be queen for a day… I may wish I had done things differently, but this is what I wanted back then.

    And if my future daughter or daughter-in-law wants to get married skydiving, or in her living room by an officiant who wears a gorilla suit (suggested by Steve, my hubby's best man), then I'll let her! I won't force her to have the wedding I did not have.

  21. I really hope that the copious amounts of DYI my fiance and I plan to do can help us budget a good photographer. We're both illustrators, so the regular packages seem just a bit stale in contrast to all the creative outlets we're exploring for everything else.
    Now to find one in the QC that we like….

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