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?
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.