A Bride or a Rose
I'm confused by the “trends” that have been emerging with Offbeat Bride. To me, it feels like the concept behind the book and the site are supposed to be “Offbeat = Personally Expressive,” but lately it's been more of “Offbeat = Red Dress, Birdcage Veil, & Sneakers.”

The message seems like it's getting lost. Instead of people getting swept up in mainstream insanity and wedding ideals, they're doing the exact same thing with the “Offbeat Wedding,” like they're trying to fit into the trends. -Anonymous

Hoo-boy! This is something I think about a LOT actually, and it's way bigger than Offbeat Bride and wedding trends, although that's a part of it. Please, allow me to put on my sociologist hat and pontificate for a moment …

Subcultures can often fall victim to their own uniforms. When I first started going to raves, I clearly remember my first moment of looking around and thinking “Everyone looks so different … in the exact same way!” At the time I thought it was awesome, like a badge so that you could recognize your peers on the street thanks to their phat pants and baby-doll tees.

But as I've gotten older, it's something that's worried me more and more about my beloved subcultures. The first year I went to Burning Man (1999) it was this fabulous chaos of survivalists and club kids, anarchists and gun freaks, aging hippies and SF dot com yuppies. By the last year I went (2003) I was starting to recognize what one friend termed “the Burniform.” The fake dreads, the big boots, the guyliner. The Burniform has since evolved, but there's still a lot of uniformity considering it's an event dedicated to radical self-expression.

The same thing happened with hula hoopers, another one of my favorite little subcultures. Within a few years of hooping increasing in popularity, it went from this goofy thing that we did in the park with friends… to hearing people say things like, “Oh, I'm not really into hula hooping — I look terrible in booty shorts and fuzzy legwarmers!” I kept trying to tell people, “No no no — hula hooping is fun for everyone! Not just hot chicks in short shorts!” Suddenly, it wasn't fun for everyone … many everyones seemed to feel like they didn't get to be in on the fun.

This is all to say, dear anonymous, you're not the first to notice (and be a little concerned by) the distinct Offbeat Bride trends. I mean, that's why I was able to recognizably dress up as an Offbeat Bride for Halloween, right?

I'm an Offbeat Bride for Halloween!

Some of this is just larger wedding trends: birdcage veils are popular in weddings all over the place. Offbeat Brides don't exist in a complete vacuum, and some things (like cupcakes, converse, and bikes) show up in the context of Martha Stewart weddings. Which certainly does NOT mean there's anything wrong with them — it just means that some trends are much larger than Offbeat Bride.

Some of it too is just the nature of things when you have a community sharing ideas and being inspired by each other. With any cultural niche, there's bound to be some micro-conformity — especially if part of your subculture revolves around defining yourself in reaction to dominant cultural influences (ie, Wedding Industrial Complex). When you're pushing against some larger institution, people seem to need more of a visual reassurance that even though they're weird, they're weird together. Hence, trends popping up in the offbeat wedding world. It's sort of a visual badge: “We might be strange, but at least amongst each other we feel safe.”

That said, some of this is definitely my fault: my red wedding dress obsession probably got the best of me, and despite my own hippie/raver/burner leanings, a lot of offbeatbride.com readers (and therefore photo and wedding submissions) seem to fall towards the rockabilly, goth, and punk side of the spectrum. I totally recognize that those aesthetics aren't everyone's scene, and I'll step up my efforts to bubble up more weddings the likes of which you've never seen before.

[related-post align=”right”]Because you're right, dear anonymous reader: Offbeat Bride is about encouraging everyone to find their own personal expression, and the LAST thing I want to do is inadvertently enforce some sort of offbeat cultural homogeneity.

So while I love that we're all inspired and learning from each other, I encourage each you to see through the styles and gowns and decor and find inspiration in each other's spirits and creativity.

This might mean pausing for a second when your first reflex is to blurt “WHERE'D YOU GET THAT BAD-ASS DRESS!?” and instead consider asking, “Where'd you get that bad-ass attitude?” Because inevitably, that's the more interesting story.

…Because there's more to learn from each other than just how to dress and throw a party.

… And because I truly and genuinely believe that the best offbeat communities can share attitudes and enthusiasm and inspiration without having to wear any sort of offbeat uniform.

Comments on The fallacy of offbeat trends

  1. If people are upset that brides on there all seem to be the same [ie, red dress/birdcage/etc..] – don’t get pouty and leave looking for more “diversity”. BE THAT DIVERSE BRIDE.

    We read Offbeat Bride and join the Tribe because of that reason – there are women/men like us who want the same things for their weddings and we can find support there when society/friends/our families just don’t understand. But these same amazing people will love you if you want your ringbearer to be your llama, if you want the big poofy white dress, or if you think birdcage veils are dumb.

    Yes, there are trends in Offbeat Weddings, but does that make it wrong? No. My wedding is offbeat to my family because I don’t want punch and sandwiches cut into triangles. I just want different foods than the normal tradition of weddings. and I get support about dealing with that from my girls on Offbeat Bride Tribe. Don’t knock us down, join us and make us better. Give your ideas that aren’t the offbeat trend of the month. Sitting around and bitching doesn’t help the situation any.

    It’s like these people are saying – now the offbeat are not offbeat enough? Apparently our weddings are a contest now.

  2. I think that the very vast diversity of Offbeat Brides is much more apparent in the Offbeat Bride Tribe. On any give day you can see photos and hear stories from weddings ranging from fairly normal but with a red dress, to hippies barefoot in the woods, to a halloween costume extravaganza, quiet courthouse ceremony with with a small restaurant dinner and more. Of course, Ariel and the Mods can only showcase a small number of these on the main blog, so I think unless you are part of the Tribe, the diversity of what is offbeat might get lost.

  3. I love this post. And I feel kind of guilty admitting that when spending time on OBTribe, I’ve had thoughts ranging from “I guess EVERYONE is doing peacock feathers?” to “Wow, sure are a lot of strapless sparkly dresses from David’s Bridal, and weddings with all the traditional trimmings…how is this all offbeat, exactly?”

    I think it also goes back to the advice that your wedding is not a competition. We shouldn’t be worried about trying to increase the offbeat factor by changing from a red to purple dress if red is truly our fave, and we ALSO shouldn’t forgo the Converses under the dress if that fits our personality perfectly, just to move away from the “trends” in offbeat brides.

    The most awesome advice I am taking from this post is:

    “This might mean pausing for a second when your first reflex is to blurt WHERE YOU GET THAT BAD-ASS DRESS!? and instead consider asking, Where did you get that bad-ass attitude? Because inevitably, that’s the more interesting story.”

  4. Who is to say whether or not “personal expression” can’t include a choice to be part of a sub-cultural (or cultural) tradition? Going against the grain for the sake of doing so seems as silly as going with it because everyone does.

    As someone who doesn’t feel terribly creative, I’m not one to necessarily upset traditions with my wild, visionary ideas. Instead I know that a traditional wedding didn’t feel right and seeing the other people who are more visionary, lets me broaden my horizons. In every culture there will be the creators and instigators and then there will be people like me, cobbling together a lot of different ideas and putting them together in a way that pleases me. Even if it’s been done before.

    The difference between OBB and these larger cultural traditions is that (IMHO) there isn’t a lot of heavy pressure to wear red (or blue, or prom dresses or sneakers). You are seeing people who do these things but it’s without the social pressure.

    I hope this made sense. I re-wrote it until I couldn’t tell anymore.

  5. I love your sociologist hat, Ariel.

    I thought this issue was addressed indirectly (but happily) in the post from a week or so ago about the backpacking wilderness wedding. I was happy to see that as an example of a totally mellow, personal, straightforward offbeat wedding – just as offbeat as the theatrical, technicolor, kick-trash weddings we’ve seen in other posts.

    No wedding is better than another, I say! (Well … I’ve been to some lame ones, true, but I desist.) Everyone’s just as married at the end of the day.

  6. I started reading this blog, ironically, at a time in my life that was spearheaded by newly-found singledom. While I’m still nowhere close to exchanging vows, I still love reading this blog because I see weddings as an outlet for couples to express their creativity. This blog has given me SO many ideas for things to do if I ever do get married. To be honest I would much rather see 5 or 10 brides in red dresses than 89435787524895 brides in the same white dress. My Facebook feed is full of people getting married, and I can’t help but notice how they all look the same. Even if there is an “offbeat bride uniform” it’s nowhere near as cliche as the Standard American White Wedding. 🙂

  7. So funny you posted this today because I submitted our wedding for offbeat porn earlier today but was hesitant to do so because I wondered if it was “offbeat enough”. I then remembered that weddings aren’t a competitive sport. I think you’re doing a great job and I love seeing *variety* in wedding porn. I think there are plenty of offbeat brides who are doing some similar things because they rock (cupcakes FTW!) but are also doing their own thing. But, I hope, and I think they are, doing it because they WANT to, not because as an offbeat bride they are obligated to be offbeat.

  8. Er, as an offbeat bride they are not obligated to do anything (including being offbeat?).

  9. I went through the phase of wondering if I was “offbeat enough”, but then reminded myself that my dress may be ivory, but if my wedding was traditional, people wouldn’t always be saying,”Oh, that’s different, isn’t it?” I realized that I didn’t need to have a red, or green or any other colored dress in order to learn from OBB, because all that mattered is that we had a wedding that was a reflection of us, and not a reflection of what was expected of us. I think the diversity of the offbeat bride definitely comes through better on the Tribe, where there is a whole spectrum of offbeatness. However, the variety in the bride profiles shows that quite well. Keep it up!

Read more comments

Comments are closed.