Book review: Is the Offbeat Bride book worth reading?

Everyone knows the Offbeat Bride blog, one of the earliest bridal blogs and the first to glorify non-mainstream weddings. And everyone knows its central message is authenticity, as in, if you really like Doctor Who, go ahead and have a Doctor Who themed wedding. But what might have seemed a very relevant and even groundbreaking discussion at first, has become absorbed everywhere, and now even Style Me Pretty brides constantly mention that they want their wedding to “reflect our personalities”.  The whole Be True to Yourself thing is kind of yawn-inducing at this point. So when, on a bookshop shelf, I came across the book that spawned the website, I wondered if there was anything in it that we haven’t heard before.

From the tag cloud in my sidebar you can see that one of my most frequently used tags is ‘authenticity’. And if you asked OBB, they’d say, Hey, We’re all authenticity all the time too! What I mean by the word is not exactly the same thing that they mean by the word, but, in the Venn diagram of authenticities, there would be some overlap. For instance, this: “…we didn’t put ourselves in debt. Instead of paying to create a fantasy land, we picked the best things our everyday lives had to offer and crafted an extra-special everyday.” Exactly, exactly, exactly.

That said, the discussion around money issues was not a very compelling one. I’d been keen to check out what the book had to say about it ever since, way back when, Meg on A Practical Wedding let us know that she contributed a sidebar in the book on the topic. So yes, you know what’s going to happen now, brace yourself for some more of my apparently unavoidable APW headdesking…Initiate:

Inevitably, the scant few hundred words about money talk a lot about emotions, and zero about actual numbers. There are four bullet points, two of them employ the phrase “feels right to you”, one says, “You don’t have to spend money in ways that make your feel financially uncomfortable”, (Teh Wisdom flows!), and the other one says, “…there are times when you’re willing to throw money at a problem to make it go away. Do it.” Arg. I hate financial advice about emotions, because it isn’t actually financial advice, and money, perhaps unlike other wedding stuff you can talk about, lives in the world of objective truths. It’s a bad idea to go into debt, whether that feels right to you or not (and evidently, going into debt for a wedding feels right for a lot of people). *headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk*

The most useful part of the book for me was the discussion about navigating religious differences, particularly when you want a secular wedding but some of your family members are religious. Or as in our case, they don’t necessarily know that we don’t share their beliefs. Thanks to the advice in this book, we are strongly considering incorporating an ambiguous moment of silence during the ceremony, where people can think happy thoughts, or pray, or send vibes, according to their world view. We’ll also be taking heed of the caution to not discuss our wedding’s religiosity or lack thereof ahead of time with said family members.

But ultimately, the most engrossing part of the book is the awesomeness of Ariel Stallings herself, author and founder of all the Offbeat offshoots. It didn’t take many pages of reading before I was sucked into her coolness, and the book is mostly a record of sorts of her own wedding experience. It’s like reading her personal wedding blog, except there’s chapters instead of posts and you get to read them all at once. Feeling teenagerish, when she says stuff like, “I wanted to dress for the wedding the same way I would for my faviourite kind of party, which is to say like a fairy-freakish electro forest queen”, apart from vigorously agreeing, I couldn’t help kind of wanting to be friends with her and wishing I could have been at that wedding. It sounds damn fun. Minutes after I finished the book I did the googling necessary to find her wedding pictures, and got totally adolescently inspired by this bridal portrait. She looks fierce.

She’s the cool older sister, and while reading the book I found myself constantly evaluating where my own wedding would sit on the offbeatness scale, and alternately feeling totally aligned with her, and then wondering if I was overstating my wedding’s offbeatness in an effort to be like the cool kids. But seriously, turns out my wedding is going to pretty damn offbeat, and the book provided some nice solidarity, even if she’s more extreme than me. So I’d say if you’re someone who is not having a mainstream wedding, and is looking for some like-minded reassurance, then yes, it is worth reading.

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10 responses to “Book review: Is the Offbeat Bride book worth reading?

  1. I’ve also just been evaluating our wedding plans on the off-beat scale, and whilst they’re pretty low down in many ways, there are still offbeat elements that will raise a few eyebrows. I sometimes find myself wishing it was more offbeat – but I would be trying to be the cool kid, and I’m not! She does say your offbeat-ness should be authentic to you, and that’s where I’m aiming. Waiting for the book to be available from the library currently..

  2. “and evidently, going into debt for a wedding feels right for a lot of people”
    I think that there are big cultural differences here, but we don’t really have big credit card debt/wedding debt here (at least that I know of). I mean, I wouldn’t dream of having debt for something other than the house (and maybe in the distant future a car? But I’d also try to avoid this one if possible). I don’t even own a credit card! I simply use debit.
    Of course, we have other problems – since most guests give money as a gift, brides across message boards are trying to figure out if you break even on your wedding day with guests’ money. Ugh.

  3. Fantastic review Lindsey! I’m not as level-headed as you about money. In fact, I’m totally emotional about it. You’re right, I don;t need another author telling me it’s OK to be emotional. I need solid, number-crunching advice. With that said, your also right about the cool-older sister vibe. I love the off-beat philosophy. The fact that tenants of it are going mainstream doesn’t make it irrelevant. Indeed, it seems more relevant than ever!

    • Thanks Christie!

      Yeah, I wouldn’t say Be True to Yourself is irrelevant, just ubiqitous, and such a given that we don’t need to mention it any more. Is there really still any one out there having a wedding they don’t want in order to appease families? Well, maybe, actually. But they’re not on the blogs, that’s for sure.

  4. I think that even for the traditional brides it is helpful because it does go into how to handle those moments where you and your parents/ future parents might clash heads. I felt the part about how to reword things to not sound so negative when turning an idea down was very, very helpful. Damage control is not often talked about in the wedding community, so it was nice to read and know there are a lot of people who have to go through this.

  5. I loved the Offbeat Bride book – the half of it I read anyway. I was all, I love this person, these are my people (even if I’m not quite as offbeat), I want to be a part of this tribe and revel in creative authentic gloriousness. Then they wouldn’t let me sit at the cool-kids’ table over at the Offbeat Bride Tribe forums, and I learned that the Offbeat Empire is more like the evil Empire in Star Wars. I felt so wretchedly rejected that I couldn’t finish the second half of the book, and ended up giving it away to one of my Rogue Bride readers. Very sad. I know you’re not an APW fan, but I found that crowd to be a lot more genuinely welcoming. Just my 2 cents – I think Ariel may have become a little power-mad since that book came out and her business boomed.

    • Yep, I hear you. I don’t read the blog either. I tried to keep the review to just the book, which I suppose is easier to do when I haven’t been personally burned by the Empire.

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