Obvious and outdated: is my work here done?

April 27 2015 | offbeatbride
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This photo was taken on my book release tour almost a decade ago, back when I used to wear a veil for readings and use a sock puppet. Also, this size of photo was considered "hi res" in 2007. Photo credit: Lisa Whiteman.

The Offbeat Bride book was first released in December of 2006, with a second edition in January of 2010. The wedding it described happened in 2004, and I wrote the bulk of the book ten years ago. The fact that people still buy the book at all is only because of this here website, but somehow people do continue to buy it… and sometimes review it on Amazon.

A negative review came in a couple months ago that blew my mind in the best possible way. In it, the author rehashes the most common complaint about the book (that it's a memoir and NOT a planning guide — which is a legit complaint and something that's frustrated me ever since 2006 when my publisher decided to give the book a misleading subtitle). But this reviewer also files a new complaint, one I've never heard before:

It's boring and in many ways obvious and outdated.

"Boring and obvious"!

THIS IS AMAZING YOU GUYS. Well, the part about being outdated feels a little silly. Of course the book comes off as dated — it was written a decade ago, and I've always been clear that I wanted my wedding to feel dated, so it's no surprise that the book about that wedding would feel equally dated.

But the assertion that the book feels boring and obvious is truly remarkable, and genuinely wonderful. If the core lesson of the book (which is that your wedding should feel like an authentic expression of who you and your partner are) feels obvious, that means the world of wedding planning has dramatically shifted in the last decade!

In 2005, my literary agent was like, "There are almost no books out there about nontraditional wedding planning — the Anti-Bride Guide seems to be the only well-known one, and it's not especially nontraditional." Ten years later, I would argue there's a glut of nontraditional wedding books (and even more blogs) dedicated to every corner of the nontraditional wedding world. It used to be that "nontraditional" was a niche, but now every subniche has a dedicated voice cheerleading its readers onward. The topic has been sliced and diced a ton of times, and new voices just keep coming. It's rad.

My original work here DOES seem to be done. For the most part, even if folks think Offbeat Bride is tasteless and tacky, everyone knows that having an offbeat and authentic wedding is an option. We have engaged readers who have been following the site since they were in middle school. Gay and Lesbian couples can get married in the majority of US states. The lessons have permeated the wedding world so much that even The Knot writes about it, and non-white wedding dresses are now totally standard.

So, is my work here done? Is that it? Time to just fold it all up, and call it quits? Offbeat Bride's mission has been completed, see y'all later?

HELL NO

There is still so much work to be done. Stuff like helping vendors understand that gender-essentialism isn't effective marketing. Stuff like ensuring that people who aren't represented on other websites are always featured here — couples with disabilities, couples who aren't young white slender people in their 20s, couples who make decisions that some of us are quite sure we'd never make, but who made them with intent and accountability.

I love that marriage equality has crept across the United States in the time that Offbeat Bride has been around, to the degree that sometimes people are like, "PSSHT: What's offbeat about this lesbian wedding?!" Marriage equality still has a long way to go — when will gender-neutral contracts become the standard for wedding vendors? When will wedding websites stop saying BRIDE'S NAME: / GROOM'S NAME: and just have MY NAME: / PARTNER'S NAME:? Lots of US states have made progress, but the wedding industry has still got a long way to go when it comes to catching up.

And will my work ever be done when it comes to trying to convince people to communicate constructively online? I'm continually amazed by people who leave rude comments (…comments that I agree with!), and when their rudeness is moderated, huff "…WHAT?! IT'S JUST AN OPINION." Yep, an opinion that I agree with, but an opinion that you presented so rudely that no one's going to listen. I don't know that THAT work will ever be done.

But my book is still boring and obvious, which is rad

I'm not being sarcastic or facetious when I say that I LOVE that my eight-year-old book about a wedding that happened over a decade ago now feels dated — it should feel dated! I love that a book about a wedding where people pooped in buckets filled with sawdust is now like "Pshht: no duh you can do that at your wedding." This is what progress looks like… it looks boring and obvious, and that's fucking awesome.

That said, there's still a lot of work to be done. Can't wait to roll up my sleeves with y'all.

  1. In a country where "Say Yes to the Dress" is still marathoned on TV, I rather think that it's a niche who finds your book "boring & outdated." My husband is a wedding vendor & wants to do more offbeat work, but 99% of the clients out there are looking for pretty traditional wedding services. And we live in the supposedly hip, creative, trendy San Francisco Bay Area (ok, we get more LGBT weddings, but that's about it :). My own wedding was the most offbeat one I've been to still, & I can count exactly 2 others where a bride wore a non-white gown. The mainstream is still the mainstream, so keep fighting the good fight, from the obvious stuff to the more subtle.

    21 agree
    • I totally agree, Trystan! I'm an event planner, and the entire industry always is looking to up the ante. So many brides are afraid to do that, though. For us, we want the different and the "weird" and the never-been-done-before. That's what makes this job so fun and exciting!! Just as a bride and friend, I love it when I see friends take chances on their weddings and experiment with new themes and designs and venues. It's just more fun that way!

      1 agrees
  2. I love how you turned something intended as negative into such a positive thing!

    Please tell me you're one of the people who clicked 'Yes' on 'Was this review helpful to you?'

    18 agree
  3. The work of Offbeat Bride will never be finished! As a proud member of the event planning community, a woman happily engaged to the woman of my dreams, and as a proud marcher to the beat of my own drum there will ALWAYS be naysayers to anything other than the given norm at the given time. I've had members of the LGBT community criticize the choice of my fiancé and I to host our wedding and reception in an art gallery in a small town called Greenfield near where I grew up in Indianapolis, IN. This particular small town is where I spent most of my childhood and I love it! It is, however, not a very open-minded little town and has been known to be a little bigoted, especially towards LGBT individuals. So members of my own community are criticizing me for patronizing a wonderful, historic art gallery which is more than accepting of all individuals just because the town as a whole isn't as forward-thinking as Los Angeles. How backwards is this thinking? This business owner didn't bat an eye when she asked my fiancée's name and I replied
    "Amber." She was excited that we had even considered her venue as an option. So why not bring a little offbeat to the small town? I think it could only help. It could only improve! The fact that many of my "open-minded" friends criticize me for this choice shows how much work should be done! So I say into the future Offbeat Bride and Home. We need you!

    12 agree
  4. I'm not getting married yet–maybe in the next few years, but if it does happen, it will happen fast. However, because I'm interested, I've been look at a huge number of wedding websites, including yours. Yours is the first that stated outright that certain things aren't needed if you don't want them. That it's essential to have the things that are important to you, but you don't have to have everything else. That you can choose what you're doing and where you're going with your plans, and that you don't have to let the Wedding Industrial Complex dictate how everything goes. I had always planned to wear ANY color other than white for my wedding because I hate white. Now I can find other examples of this to show people who care too much. I wanted to have my FH and I solemnize ourselves (legal in Colorado) and now I don't have to worry about offending anyone by doing this. The wedding industry wants women (women, specifically) to think that if they don't have an expensive wedding in an expensive building, with catering, a huge, inedible cake, a live band or expensive DJ, and tons of bridesmaids (even if you don't really have many girlfriends), your wedding is worthless. I love this site because it didn't say that at all.

    6 agree
  5. Another way that the work done here is still relevant and important: minority religions.

    My man and I are Pagan and having a Pagan wedding (in just a few days!).
    You posted the article that I wrote about Pagan weddings, which I was able to share with family and friends, who know very little about our religion. Seeing it on a legit wedding website really helped them. Then, I was able to send them write ups about other people's weddings that will be similar to ours; Pagan weddings, handfastings, campground weddings, weddings with potlucks. It added a feeling of legitimacy and safeness that otherwise would have been hard fought.

    Thank you

    8 agree
  6. This website/Empire has exposed me to so many facets of life that I would never be exposed to "in real life."
    I live in my own little bubble, and I like it. Even when I lived in an urban progressive area, I chose to stay at home and do my own thing. Now that I live in the middle of nowhere, I still stay at home and do my own thing. But at least with the Offbeat Empire, I know of things like hoola hooping, dyed armpit hair, and have seen so many non-hetero weddings that all I see now are weddings, no labels.
    I guess what I'm trying to say is Thank you! Keep exposing people like me to stuff we don't seek out so that we can have open minds!
    Also, I swear that when you're searching out wedding stuff, it all ends up being blah blah blah, but to the people who attend your wedding, you are cutting edge. People still talk about how unique our bowling alley reception was…

    5 agree
  7. Im rereading your book right now, I got it last year, I just love reading it and looking at all the notes I wrote on the big wedding I thought I was going to have (silly me, we know that much stress would kill us) I have seen ideas from here creep into pinterest and around the web, and its pretty fun to see!

  8. Thank you for creating a place where I can get support for planning my wedding and feel validated in any decision I make. You have built a wonderful community!

    1 agrees
  9. I soooo love this! And yes, OBB work is never done…i'm sooooo grateful!!!!!
    Seems like eons ago when i caught yall in Seattle….and how things keep changing…and couples getting married are consistently surprising and amazing me on how they celebrate their unions. 🙂 Keep doing what you do and you are an inspiration!!!! <3

  10. This site had been a true godsend for me. It's showed me that my wedding can be anything I dream it could be. Doesn't matter how wacky, weird or obsolete it may be. I love that this place is a safe haven. That people don't judge for beliefs or ideas. That I can truly be me flaws & all. Thank you for that!

    4 agree
  11. This site helped me to not be afraid to express my and my fiance's individuality as a couple and as people in terms of our wedding. I fell into the traps of all the mainstream stuff and my heart would just whisper to me saying, "this isn't you… venture out, it's OK." So I stumble upon this site and saw so many couples taking the stand to break the "white picket fence" mold and just have fun being themselves. It's one of those things you think, ok yah that's cool and all but how does it affect you in real life? Well for me, being a pathetically huge people pleaser, I needed some aspect in my life to give in and provide an opportunity to be a little selfish and just put my foot down and say "I want this!!" I feel like this site has definitely opened my eyes to not only be more open minded and creative, but to also be true to myself. Thanks offbeat!!!

    1 agrees
  12. I'm so glad you posted this!
    I am in wholehearted agreement that it is wonderful that even in the decade it has been since your book came out that there has been a huge paradigm shift in the wedding industry, so much so that non-traditional seems obvious now!

    However, there is still a long way to go, as you pointed out. I found Offbeat Bride because it was the only website that had anything to do with brides with disabilities – still is pretty much the only one! I would say we're a niche bunch of people – but we're really not! Dozens! There are dozens of us! 😀 I for one am looking forward to the future if it keeps becoming more and more open to offbeatedness and the wonderful diversity of people getting hitched 😀

  13. Progress is great and it is even better now more people realise what they can do with their weddings. I got married 5 years ago, but I think there are still people out there now who when starting to plan a wedding don't realise that they can do something different from the norm or don't realise that they don't have to have everything at a wedding.

    Also the WIC is still alive and well. The traditional magazines on the shelves still make me cringe and want to run a mile. Your book and this site made me realise that it was ok to want something different and it was ok to not be enjoying the planning and wanting to scream at people.

    I agree that OBB's work is never done. Keep up the good work.

  14. to be honest your website/book is the only reason I had the balls to have a wedding. ten yrs with my partner and every thought was I wanna spend my life with him but walking down the isle in a white dress is a big no to me. my friends and family tried everything to help me become comfortable with the idea of a wedding. I was told I could make it look and be anyway I wanted but to me it still felt like adding my own touches to a wedding was still a wedding and that isn't what I wanted.

    this site showed me it does have to be a wedding in any sense, I can change the whole thing not just add my personality to a wedding. my friends and family tried to support me but largely ignored the whole process because they didnt understand ( no white dress? no church? i'm confused) so the tribe here was my support system. thank you to all the lovely ladies that were excited with me instead of confused lol the amount of life altering mind opening success that is your book/site amazes me.

    thank you times a million!!

    p.s i'm not exaggerating in any way I ahd to dress shop alone bc all friends and family told me white was the only option, so i'd come on here and say look at my blue dress and get yay looks great not oh but its not white lol might seem simple to say yay for someone else but to me it meant the world. I've always been so sure of myself and my offbeat way of life but the same ppl who always said be yourself all of a sudden were offended that I was ruining their idea of what a wedding should be lol thanks for helping me be myself and accept me as being me

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