Why reality tv is missing the boat with non-traditional weddings

Guest post by Laura Guerrie

I've written in the past about why there will likely never be an Offbeat Bride tv show, but I'm not the only one who's turned down doing a non-traditional weddings reality show… -Ariel

THIS shit is what's wrong with the wedding industry.

Television wants Offbeat Brides. They know you're out there, all gorgeous and colorful and smelling yummy. They covet you and see you as deliciously untouched virgin territory. The problem is, like virgins themselves, once they're anywhere near you — they're completely unsure of what to do with you!

As a Los Angeles-based wedding planner that specializes in unconventional weddings, I get approached from time to time regarding cheesy wedding show ideas. My typical response is the standard T-Rex defense: hold very still and hopefully they'll go away. Recently, however, a legitimate television production company contacted me and expressed interest in developing a show about my business.

They were intrigued by the alternative weddings I've been involved with and wanted to know more about them. They acknowledged that no one has yet done the genre justice, and sought my insight on how such a show might be done.

The skeptic in me gave way to the fantasy that this could actually be done right. How truly awesome would that be? A reality program dedicated to showcasing the unique challenges and amazing weddings of those who march to their own beat!

There were meetings, conversations and interviews, all through which I spoke of my great love of unconventional weddings. I told them how few of my clients were extremely over the top and that it's more often about the bits and pieces of personalization. I let them know that, although the tide is turning, it is sometimes difficult to fulfill offbeat desires in an industry that remains steadfastly traditional. I also reminded them that, at the end of the day, this is someone's wedding and not a time to be derogatory, no matter the style.

I kept thinking they might get bored, that I wasn't able to provide enough drama, but all along it appeared as if they were listening and the calls kept coming. However, several weeks in they handed me their initial show synopsis and I couldn't believe my eyes.

Naughty little buzz words like “weird,” “crazy,” “strange” and “bad-taste” peppered the paragraphs. I choked back a nervous laugh, and they assured me it was an early draft, that each episode would have a “happy ending.” But as I read further, the general gist unfolded like an acid-trip vision — bringing to mind images of vintage circus trains, calliope music pumping out slightly off-key, the animal cars full of rabid brides in tattered day-glo dresses, grooms wearing Chewbacca costumes under their tuxes, and screaming in-laws bearing pitchforks bringing up the rear. (OK, not literally — but that's pretty much what it seemed like!)

If producers would consider abandoning the freak-show format in favor of portraying these celebrations in a positive light, they might be pleasantly surprised to find a built-in, passionate audience who's hungry for more.

When my husband saw it and said it made him feel “squeamy,” I knew I was in trouble. I am one of very few wedding professionals focusing on the alternative and, as such, I felt like I was being Johnny Bravo‘d into a show that had absolutely nothing to do with me or my business. Worse yet, there was a total lack of reverence for the types of weddings I love.

Later that night, I re-wrote their treatment to be a bit more respectful and included it with an email stating that it was imperative that “any media involvement on my part comes from a perspective of celebrating, not denigrating, offbeat weddings.”

And then my phone got very quiet.

I certainly don't pretend to know anything about television production, but I do know that the huge popularity of sites like Offbeat Bride indicates an ever-increasing appetite for such material. If producers would considering abandoning the freak-show format in favor of portraying these celebrations in a positive light, they might be pleasantly surprised to find a built-in, passionate audience who's hungry for more.

I've always said there is a fine line between “having fun with” and “making fun of” one's wedding. By crossing that line, television discards the most important element: These are weddings. No matter how far they are from traditional, at their heart they are the joining of two humans to form a new family and that is not something to be made into a side-show spectacle. At least not on my watch.

If this topic piques your interest, be sure to read Why you should ignore trainwreck wedding reality shows.

Comments on Why reality tv is missing the boat with non-traditional weddings

  1. I long had a job where my schedule left me with weekdays open, which was prime time for wedding reality shows. At first I sort of loved them for how trashy they were, but as I thought more of how I wanted my wedding to be, they started to make me angry. There was one particular moment where David Tutera was redoing one Texas bride’s wedding, and was just appalled that she wanted beer and BBQ and to wear her favorite cowboy boots under her dress. At the end he let her wear her boots, but acted as if it were such a generous act on his part to allow her that bit of offbeat-ness. I also remember an episode of Four Weddings where one contestant voted someone’s wedding down because she thought the fun, choreographed first dance wasn’t the “special, romantic” moment she thought it should be.

    Of course these women all applied to be on these shows, so they know what they’re getting into. It just would be nice to have a show where these offbeat ideas were celebrated in an honest way, not gawked at.

    • “There was one particular moment where David Tutera was redoing one Texas bride’s wedding, and was just appalled that she wanted beer and BBQ and to wear her favorite cowboy boots under her dress.”

      This is just… disgusting. I guess the whole “This is YOUR special day!!” ends as soon as you want something, you know, uniquely YOU.

    • I once saw an episode of Say Yes to the Dress where they were making a big to-do over how this bride wants a… RED dress??? Oh my god, how weird! What a bridezilla– why isn’t white good enough for her? Doesn’t she know how HARD it is for us to find a red dress? Who does she think she is? Someone who’s prepared to plunk down tens of thousands of dollars for one of our products? Ugh!

      …Yeah, I wanted to throw something through the TV.

      • YES! I saw that one. Or at least one with a similar theme. They were also shaming her so hard for wanting a red dress under $2k and basically bullied her into more than doubling her budget rather than saying, “You know, maybe Kleinfeld isn’t best suited for your needs” (ideally off-camera). If I recall, she was also having an Indian wedding, so their dismissal of her desire for a red dress was not only ridiculous because any bride should be able to request a colored dress without grief, but it was also a bit racist.

  2. I just want to stand up and cheer for you!

    Thank you for defending the right of every couple to have their wedding treated with respect, no matter how offbeat or “tacky” it may seem.

    And seriously,
    I wish someone *would* make a show about how amazing and awesome offbeat weddings can be.

  3. I watch some of the wedding shows. But never bridezilla. I love the shows based around one element like finding the dress or making the cake, but beyond that bleck.

  4. On behalf of all of us “off beat brides” (to any extent that may be) – THANK YOU!

  5. I admit that I’m guilty of watching the occasional Bridezilla… primarily to make myself feel more sane. But the shows that do wedding “makeovers” tend to make me really sad. I saw one with a couple that had a fabulous Halloween themed wedding planned and the show tore it apart. Their theme was made fun of and completely ditched. Such a shame!!!

    • You know, the first episode that I watched did a really cool job with it. The couple wanted a winter themed wedding, but they were really into horse-riding (or something) and had left it to family members to plan. the family members had Christmas decorations and the like, which wasn’t in line with what the couple wanted. The planner helped to get it more in line with what the couple wanted. It was heavily themed but not exactly “off-beat” so that might have made the difference. Then I watched a few more episodes and was really disappointment with the rest of what I’d seen.

  6. I agree with the first poster the Four Weddings might be one of the worst offenders. It practically screams “If you don’t toe the line with the way weddings are supposed to be, everyone is going to hate your wedding”

    • I think it depends, though. I’ve seen a few episodes where the brides marked each other down for not being unique or not incorporating personal touches. It’s hit or miss… but mostly miss. 🙁

      • I’ve seen one or two episodes where the other brides actually appreciated the touches in one brides wedding that made it unique and special, and really spoke about that particular couple – but it’s sadly true that these are few and far between.

        I think the simple fact that we refer to ourselves as offbeat means that people are either going to love the unique factor – or, like the media, will point fingers and laugh and make fun of….Which is dumb. Media is dumb – they cancel the good shows, and insist on continuing to feed us junk.

      • Totally agree. I love watching Four Weddings because of all the ideas but it always ends up with something like:
        One of the brides says “Her dress was nice but not really my style so I gave it a two,” then I’ll yell at the TV “But your style isn’t important at HER wedding!” and then my boyfriend says “Why do you watch this when it always makes you so angry?”

        • I would just tell your boyfriend that it’s because you like to yell at the TV. I know that’s why I like to watch those.

    • I admit I’ve never watched it but I think the big problem with shows like that is that the judges are also contestants. So it’s in their interest right from the start to find fault with everything, and therefore give a lower score, to give themselves a better chance of winning. I suspect it might be the case that anything out of the ordinary is easier to criticise.

    • I watched Four Wedding for the first time last night and wanted to get all slappity on the one snotty wench who was spending $80,000 on her wedding and called everyone else “generic” when they chose anything that wasn’t 100% like her wedding.
      I am scouting ebay, local vendors and doing the most with the least for our Luau wedding. It’s going to be tacky and fun,and the guests will enjoy it more than an expensive stuffy snore-fest.

  7. Every time I watch one of those shows I can’t help thinking they were created by the wedding industry to sell me an ideal of what my wedding needs to be, specifically that it will somehow be less if I don’t go into debt spending thousands on my wedding dress and get that perfect ice sculpture. Weddings should be about who you are and who you love, not snarcky comments and low blows.

    • Sadly, you’re probably right. Those shows are usually sponsored by companies in the wedding industry.

      • Hmm… Now that I think about it, when have you seen a TV show or magazine about budget weddings of any kind? Everything seems to equate wedding with spectacle… and spending.

        • I only remember one budget wedding show, and it’s from a few years back: “For Better or For Worse”.

          One week to plan the wedding and a budget of $5000. The bride and groom each had 3-4 family or friends as the team working with a wedding planner to pull off the wedding. The catch was no one could tell the couple what was being done for them.

          Surprisingly few train-wrecks, and usually clever ideas.

          • Yes! I was trying to remember the name of that show…
            I remember it featuring a Moulan Rouge wedding, a fake fall wedding with guests seated on the ground on cushions, and some innovatinve money saving ideas.
            That’s pretty offbeat for a TLC wedding show…

            There’s also SToribook Weddings, where Tori Spelling and her husband help try to make a couples dream wedding a reality. One episode featured a Steampunk wedding – and of all wedding shows I’ve seen, they seem to be the most open minded and respectful to ideas that might be seen as different to the norm.

            Four weddings is awful, and I can’t even bring myself to watch it any longer.
            Oh man. I watch too many wedding shows.

  8. There was a program on RTE television in Ireland years ago called ‘How Do You Do’ which was a lovely make and do show that taught you to make robots out of milk cartons – I LONG for a similar wedding show, where you are show how to DIY your wedding crafts (I love make and do, but I need someone to hold my hand through the process!)

    You see it here in ‘Don’t Tell the Bride’ – where the groom does offbeat things like rent a VW camper van or decorate a room in a nautical theme or choose a simple, beautiful dress and the overwhelming theme of the program is ‘Oh no no no no no, that’s not what she’ll want isn’t he an idiot?’.

    Give me the van and the quirky decorations and the pretty, simple dress. That’s what I love to see on the telly ;0)

    • I personally love it on that show when the bride loves everything he’s done, even if he has made a few mistakes, especially when the show has been criticizing him the whole time, cause the point of the show is to make the bride happy, no the show sponsors. 😀

    • I *hate* that programme! The basic theme running through it is ‘aren’t these men really thick, huh ladies?’.

      Also – HOW DO YOU DO!!! I still save all my toilet roll holders. Bring back Mary Fitzgerald!

  9. You are all so welcome and thank YOU for your supportive comments. Sometimes, as a small business person in in a tough economy, choosing values over PR can be a little scary. I always knew it was the right decision, but reading about your personal thoughts and experiences on this topic makes me feel pretty warm and fuzzy inside!

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