The fallacy of offbeat trends

Updated Oct 12 2015
arielmstallings
A Bride or a Rose
Photo by Sara Jane Photography
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.

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.

  1. I just discovered this site yesterday, and spent my whole day drooling over photos of genuinely beautiful weddings where people look happy, rather than the posed romantic faces seen on all the other terrible website. I understand that there can be a touch of overlap in some of the trends here but I feel this website allows people to realise that they can embrace their individuality on a day which is overloaded with tradition. I got engaged on christmas day and I automatically thought of all the things that typically come with weddings and thought "great"! Then my mind started to rebel. I hate beading, I hate gross white wedding shoes and natural makeup and I don't want a day that was designed by my mom. By seeing this website yesterday…. I was set free. You know what, I'm gonna wear my converse with my white dress. Because now I know that other people have, and haven't exploded because they didn't conform.
    Rant over. I feel better already….

  2. Whoo! How did I miss this post? It's so GOOD. And to think some people say they don't come here for your writing. (who are those people? Nutters, or so say I).

    Anyway, I love this. I've also been thinking about/concerned about this very issue, and your Anon commenter summed it up so well. To me offbeat-ness is about who you are and rocking out with yourself, not about one particular aesthetic. I mean, I'm not really punk or goth or any one offbeat aesthetic, but I adore the philosophy, and I'm sure as heck not any WIC asthetic.

    But also, what you said about pushback to the WIC makes sense to me too. Every so often I have someone say/comment to me that "it shouldn't matter what the WIC does, you should never think about it, you should just do your own thing." And while this might be true (and I'm not totally sure that it is) I find it to be relatively imposable. The cultural noise about weddings loud even when you are not engaged, and it's deafening when you are. I think some conscious pushback is always necessary, whether that comes in the form of blogging sass or a red dress and converse. So, I think this has helped me understand more of what is going on…

    Hum.

    Thanks Ariel. I for one come here for your writing. Always have.

  3. I'm completely late to this party–ironically, I've become so busy with my wedding planning that I haven't had time to read OBB!–but in getting caught up, this post jumped out at me. I LOVE the attitude on here, overall, but the one thing that has bugged me is that OBBs can sometimes tend to hate on beautiful, romantic elements…I recall a crack about "at least I'm not barfing pink flowers…".

    Well, here's the thing. I AM, thank you very much. You shouldn't have girly-girl elements if that's not you, but pink roses and lace are 110% me, and anyone who attends my distinctly off-kilter Victorian tea party wedding is going to say, "Gods, that totally is her!" LOL

    So, to each bride her own; NOTHING is boring or lame or whatever if you're doing it because it's you, and not because you feel pressure to be more traditional OR more offbeat or anything else.

    Love,
    A Victorian Frou-Frou Bride

  4. Being someone who is the first to point out and abhor co-opted rebellion I have to say… ah shit, bird cage veil and peacock feathers aren't my own original idea? whateves. Nothing exists in a vacuum, and what i think is most important is that you allow for collaboration and change within your ideas. Everyone being different together (a'la urban outfitters or hot topic) can be yucky, but so can stressing about being entirely 'original'. no one is. while i love independent thought, it is never entirely independent. so let's consider this example: that a song played live for an audience may not hold the original creativity, energy, emotion and ideas that manifested it coming into being, and is in fact the vessel for them at best or the product of them at worst; but if it is sincere it will resonate and allow for independent interpretation for those who listen. My point: marriage is a symbol of your love for your partner, as well as a cultural and social commitment to that person… make it a sincere expression of your coupling, aware of all the influences and baggage that come with the symbol but not allowing them to re-define your interpretation.
    off beat, traditional, whatever.

  5. Oh, I love this!

    Here's the thing. To me, being an Offbeat bride means that you are doing what you want because you want it, not because someone else, whether in Media or in your circle of family/friends say it's "how it should be". If I hear "oh, that's not traditional" one more time….and yet to many of the brides whose weddings are featured on this site, my wedding will seem very traditional.

    So, who do I listen to? My Mother? you guys? Nope. Just myself and my man. That's it! I really thought I was being so original using peacock feathers in all my decor, bouquets, etc…because I had never seen it before, I just really love peacock feathers. Then I stumble on this site and realize, LOTS of people are using them…so, maybe I am not so original, but if I were to abandon the idea, then i would still be conforming in a way, and I would be looking for something that has not been done just to basically say I did it first. My wedding is not about bragging rights, it's about declaring to those I love that this is the man I want to be with, live with, raise a family with, etc. So no matter what I do with my wedding style, the outcome is still the same.

    Just enjoy your wedding, and do whatever means the most to you, no matter how traditional or offbeat it is.

    Much love and peace to all!

  6. As a red dress, possibly bird cage veil wearing bride, i feel I must throw in my two cents. I think maybe some people adopt a counter culture because they aren’t comfortable in their own skin, but for most of us, this is hardly the case.

    There will always be “trends” amongst people… no matter how “different” they may be. Why? Because we are all human beings! We feed off of the world around us, are influenced by it whether we like it or not. I myself have wanted to wear a red wedding dress since I was 15 years old. Why? Because I look f’ing amazing in red! I am sure that this is the case for a lot of other red dress brides as well.

    I am so sick of people complaining that different is not different anymore. Who cares? Do what YOU want. Other people will do what THEY want.. and the world will go on.

  7. I don't care what people do at their wedding or with anything else in life, as long as it's authentic, and it's because it's what they love. For example, I found the "tree unity" idea from this website, and I'm probably going to do it at my wedding. I'll change up the readings and whatever, but I'm still copying it. However I can say with 100% certainty I'm doing it because it's so us, and I think it's lovely.
    There are so many things I find cute on here, like the steampunk weddings. I think they are flippin' amazing. However, if I went out and had myself a steampunk wedding, it just wouldn't be me.
    I just think it's "cool" to be authentic, and think about your guests too, but don't forget to do what YOU like.

  8. I gotta remember this. I need to take the time, just like with the traditions I'm examining so closely, to think about the things I adorn my life with. I do like things for real reasons! I'm not a hipster jerk just because the real world aligns with my world and retro cute funk is "in" and I'm able to buy the things I dream about. Poof.

  9. I've already been to three weddings since late September that were outside with hay bales, mason jars, tennis shoes, purple and orange, etc. It's funny because I mostly blame sites like Pinterest instead of offbeat where people discuss the meaning behind their choices. It's like a new set of "do it yourself" standards are in place now if you want to be considered "non-traditional." I don't mind though. To each their own, right? Each couple still had things that were unique to them like their vows and overall attitude. It was clear who was comfortable with their wedding and chose it cause they love it and who wanted to be different. It's a sign of some deep insecurities if you MUST be special and 100% different at all times, especially when this is an event for your closest friends and family. Who hopefully love you for you and not, you know, how "not like other people you are." Having a wedding you love and ending up happily married is way more important than being the first/only person to do something.

  10. i really needed this just now, so thank you.

    i bought a dress over two years ago now. i love it so much…it was exactly what i was looking for. simple, and understated but still a little dramatic; kind of traditional in cut and style but a little unexpected in that it's a pale grey-blue color with a directional gold shimmer. thanks to life being life (unpredictable, that is), we've had to put our wedding off twice now, our original date being nearly a year ago and our backup date fast-approaching in december and now unattainable. now we're thinking it'll be at least TWO years before we can actually get married.

    so a couple days ago i was in line at joann fabric, picking up some stuff for a craft project for my 3-year-old son, and what do i see on the magazine rack there at the checkout but the current issue of the knot, with a model in an unembellished (like mine) grey-blue (like mine) wedding gown. true, it was a ball gown rather than a drop-waist A-line (like mine), but still, i mentally threw a little hissy fit. "oh, great, i finally find something really different that's so ME and now it's on the cover of the knot before i actually get a chance to pull it off. now EVERY bride is going to be doing it." and the next day i brought it up with my other half that maybe i should pick my gown up from storage at the bridal salon and sell it, since we're not getting married any time soon anyway and may as well recoup some of the money now while we could probaby use it on the stuff that's caused us to put the wedding off.

    you know what? fuck it. i'm keeping it. i will never find another dress that's so perfectly suited to me and our vision of expressing our union publicly, whether every other bride on the planet is wearing the same color or not. it's stupid and it's superficial, but so what?

    if i do wind up having to sell it because we need the money, then so be it. but right now we don't need to, so i'm not going to let the "waaaaaaaah i thought of it first!!!" get in the way of what i really like.

  11. I don't think anyone wanting a traditional wedding ends up on the OBB site. What makes us all Offbeat was the feeling that something about our wedding didn't conform and we looked for a place to belong.

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