Are you familiar with this concept of styled shoots? It's when wedding vendors team up together to create fantasy weddings, showing off what they can do. I totally get why styled shoots are great for vendors — it gives folks a chance to show off the kind of work they WANT to do — but we try to not feature too many on Offbeat Bride, and here's why.
My biggest concern: Styled shoots set unrealistic expectations.
It's easy to have the most perfect tablescape centerpiece… when you're an event designer setting up a table for two. It's easy to get the most perfect photos ever… when you're a photographer working with models on your own schedule. It's easy to have every single element of the wedding feel on-theme… when you're a wedding planner coordinating on a set.
You can almost always spot a styled shoot: everyone looks perfect, and there seems to be a lack of guests at the “wedding.”
Again, I totally understand that styled shoots are extremely valuable public relations and marketing materials for vendors. You guys, seriously: as someone who spent a decade working in marketing and who has now spent seven years working in the wedding industry, I TOTALLY GET IT. Some of Offbeat Bride's favorite vendors do AMAZING styled shoots.
As a publisher with a mission committed to supporting couples wrestling with grueling insecurities and internet-influenced anxieties about an event that's already fraught with family pressures and financial realities, the last thing I want to do is set up unrealistic expectations.
But here's why Offbeat Bride features styled shoots anyway: increasing the visibility of folks marginalized by traditional wedding media
There's no arguing that styled shoots can set unrealistic expectations, but I choose to publish them on Offbeat Bride for a very specific reason:
Sometimes styled shoots to highlight folks who don't get as much visibility in the mainstream wedding media.
I'm very clear on Offbeat Bride's submission page that my top priority for the site is using the publication as a platform to increase the visibility of folks who don't feel seen in mainstream wedding media. This includes folks who identify as:
- Nonbinary / genderqueer
…and just otherwise NOT the usual skinny, white, able bodied, cisgender, heterosexual folks seen in wedding media.
The simple truth is that styled shoots allow me to ensure that I'm prioritizing the visibility of folks who might not otherwise feel seen. I want people to come to Offbeat Bride and see people who look like THEM, and so sometimes I choose to prioritize that goal over the goal of setting realistic wedding expectations.
I also want to ensure that Offbeat Bride is a platform that amplifies the work of wedding vendors who identify as BIPOC, LGBTQ, neurodivergent, etc. So this means that I prioritize sharing their shoots, to support their work. I want my business to be a springboard for the kind of microbusinesses I want to see more of… that means amplifying the work of photographers who are queer women of color, wedding planners who are nonbinary folks on the spectrum, and officiants who are disabled older folks tryna do some good in the world.
So, this means that sometimes you'll see styled shoots on Offbeat Bride… but they'll always be clearly marked as such (look for the styled shoot tag at the top of the post!), and they'll usually feature models or vendors who identify as someonhow marginalized by the mainstream wedding media.
This is all to say: yep, I share y'alls frustrations with styled shoots… and yep, sometimes I feature them anyway.