Tag Archives: offbeat bride

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.

You probably need a wedsite

First, an update: Yay we have found a venue and set a date, you guys! Nothing has been officially signed yet, and we still have some details to hash out (primarily menu stuff), but it’s definitely happening on that date and in that place. I’ll write about the process in a future post, but basically, oh man was it a relief to find a place that could do what we wanted at a reasonable budget. I’m so excited knowing that it’s actually possible now. When I received the quotes that made me happy, I told my dad and instead of getting psyched he reiterated the importance of not cheaping out the guests. Dad I promise everyone will have plenty to eat and drink, ok? I think the poor guy is maybe a little in shock at the extent to which I’m willing to pare things down, and bears pretty patiently the fact that I don’t want a Wedding Dress. So maybe he’s allowed concerns about food 🙂

So I’m preparing to send out the STDs mass email to all the guests so they can start booking flights and so on. And there will be a lot of questions. I can see them now:
Where can we stay?
How do we get there?
Do I need a visa?
Just exactly how ridiculously hot and humid is it, over there?
Will it be monsoon season? What happens in monsoon season?
What should we wear?

Back in the days when people lived in the same town as everyone they knew, these questions would have mostly been non-existent. And if there were any questions (What present should we give you?), Miss Manners tells me this kind of stuff was handled by the guest asking the mother of the bride. Especially when it comes to gifts, there was this system of discreetly approaching someone close to the couple. Kind of like how your Mom discusses with you what to get your fiancé for Christmas. It’s a very civilised practice, relieving the giver from admitting to the recipient they’re not sure what to get them, and relieving the recipient from the rudeness of demanding something from the giver. Win win.

But alas, here we are with our darn modern lives again, having friends and family in places other than the same town we live in, dammit. So, many questions will happen. And each person asking them will all be given the same answers. It just makes a crapload of sense to put this information together for people to check on at their convenience. Hence, wedding websites.

Wedding websites are in the same category as save-the-dates*: a recent wedding innovation that actually makes sense, but is very vulnerable at this cultural juncture to getting out of hand and being more stupid than useful.

For instance, a wedding is not a PR event. Not a PR event. Not a PR event. Here are some things that are not required at things that aren’t PR events:

  • branding
  • a background story about how the company was founded how you met
  • profiles of the keynote speakers people getting married
  • how to make donations to the charity people adult enough to get married

The people you invited already know who you are. Frankly, to imply otherwise is kind of weird and alienating, no? The wedsite should be for logistical purposes only. It is not a branding exercise. But probably, if you have lots of traveling guests, it’s a good idea to have one.

The good news, wedding websites are free! Yay! Offbeat Bride for example offers several templates. 

If you were going to have a registry, this would probably be the place to tuck that information, in as non-obnoxious a way as you can think of. To be honest my jury is still out on that one, but I lean heavily towards no registry – we’re asking people to travel, for goodness sake, plus they’ll be obliged to spend the night at a resort of my choosing. I think that seriously maxes out my demand quota.

Ok, I’m going to go ahead now and spend some time putting our wed site together, so the link is ready dissemination when we email everyone the date. Yay! We have a date!

*Does that term need hyphens or not? Kindly place your vote.

This month in wedding blogdom: Honest monetisation, and having the guts to criticise

Commentary from the frontlines of the wedding blog world

Figuring our how to monetise successful blogs in a way that doesn’t compromise their spirit is a perrenial issue. Plenty of wedding blogs that are fundementally about consumerism and selling the the WIC dream, either exist as adverts (Martha Stewert Weddings), or bring in the cash via adverts, without any moral dilemma. But what about the blogs whose entire message is that you don’t need all this stuff?

This month A Practical Wedding kicked off its money-making Vendors Directory project, where vendors will pay a fee to be listed. Shortly after, APW announced there will also be a Venue Directory, where couples who have married will submit personal reviws of the venues they used. It’s interesting that these are operating completely differently.

For instance, right in the announcement for the Venue Directory, Meg notes that it is not a revenue generating project, as if expecting kudos, and as if the benefit of user-submitted reviews doesn’t directly negate the benefit of the Vendors Directory, where vendors will just review themselves (also known as advertising).

The thing is, the nature of business is such that adverts are never trustworthy. In this case, supposedly because APW is filtering the ads (for instance, vendors must support same-sex couples), we can therefore trust these vendors a little bit more. The glaring question then is: if this is so awesome, why not incorporate the venues thing into this model? Or: if the Venue Directory is so awesome, why not have a the vendors incorporated in that model? They contradict each other.

The reason, of course, is that Meg is trying to make money. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it does mean she doesn’t get to receive kudos for saying one the projects isn’t about making money.

But then this isn’t the first time Meg has dealt with a little controversy around monetisation. Last year, the results of an APW reader survey revealed some dislike of the ubiquitous posts-that-are-actually-ads, aka sponsored posts, that are the first thing you see 2 out of very 5 days you check APW. Meg thought the criticism was about women’s lack of support for other women making money:

I think as women we do a really good job about shaming each other about money. When was the last time you saw a guy tell another guy that because his new creative project was making money, he was a sellout? I mean, basically never, right? Guys say things like, “DUDE. That’s so awesome that you’re doing so well.” And women say things like, “Have you thought about how you’re selling out and destroying the soul of your endeavor by making this much money?” Because, you know, we’re ladies. We’re supposed to give things away for free, because we’re nurturers. Nurturers of the world, apparently, for free.  So I need to learn how to turn those voices off, and see success as an ok thing. And yes, see MONEY as an ok thing. Even for me. As a woman. As a wife.

(Read more: http://apracticalwedding.com/2011/04/reclaiming-wife-women-money-and-self-worth-part-ii/#ixzz1WaKUZNvD)

Of course, what Meg missed is that the dislike of heavy use of ads is not about anyone’s personal feelings towards her. In fact we can assume anyone who took the survey is probably a big fan. Here is what it’s really about: People look at blogs in order to read something interesting and/or entertaining. Sponsored posts are neither interesting nor entertaining, especially when they’re about a random unaffordable photographer that’s in a different country from you.

In other news, Ariel at Offbeat Bride launched a new blog under the Offbeat umbrella, and this one is about the business side of her blogs. She’s explicit that Offbeat Bride was launched as a marketing tool for her book, and I have no qualms about her use of sponsored posts and ads because a) she’s never promoted anti-consumerism as a key message, b) they’re not the first thing you see half the time, and c) she’s never begged readers for donations (*cough*). She still gets complaints though. Her take on it is ‘Read the disclaimers, people!’

Meanwhile Hindsight Bride and Rogue Bride have collaborated to produce a podcast they call the Bridal Koolaid Cocktail Hour. Among other things, they make fun of a photo in which a bride poses in the squat position, and I thought a hearty ‘hell yeah’ to myself throughout listening to it. Hindight and Rogue seem a little hesitant about the criticism they dish out, but I say screw that. For as you can see, even APW is not sacrosanct in my book 🙂