Offbeat sins: how to get pulled over by the Offbeat Police

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Last week, a reader of this article noted, So nice to hear that this isn't a total “offbeat bride sin.”

I was aghast. People think there are actual ways to sin against being an Offbeat Bride? That there's a wrong way to be weird? Or the “not weird enough” reverse discrimination fallacy, where if you're “not offbeat enough” the Offbeat Empire's secret service are going to show up in liberty curls, and with wiggle dresses, and sonic screwdrivers, and haul you off to Offbeat Jail where our copyeditor Caroline will don one of her outfits, and make you pay.

You guys. Seriously! I'm always a bit personally taken aback when I see stuff like this, because it makes me feel like I've failed at my job as a cheerleader and supporter of all things along all offbeat spectrums.

But then I realize there is actually such a thing as an Offbeat Sin. Things that readers do that make me want to hop into my Unmarked Black Prius with my flashing etiquette lights twinkling tastefully from a burlap-wrapped dashboard.

Here are the two crimes against Offbeatism that I immediately identified as things that get you sent to BEAT-Y JAIL:

CRIME 1: Ask a question without fucking searching

I'm very serious about this, you guys. We have close to 5000 blog posts on Offbeat Bride, and 30,000 member posts on the Offbeat Bride Tribe. I know we're all special snowflakes, and you're sure you're the first person to plan the most unique Princess Bride/Doctor Who mashup with a rainbow dress, converse, and wedding pies… but actually you're part of an enormous lineage of Offbeat Brides. We've been online since January 2007. We have readers in their early 20s who have been reading us since they were in junior high. Lots of us have planned weird weddings before, and our insights are here for you… assuming you use the fucking search box.

Sometimes I'm not sure if this is a crime of special snowflakeness, or just a more straightforward tech failing or UI issue. (Side note: did anyone notice how the Tribe's search engine was upgraded this weekend? WOOT!) But really: type whatever you're thinking about into the search box. 90% chance that your issue — family drama, weddings with no theme, dead parents, etc… almost anything you can think of, we've written about. We have a few topics yet to cover (mother-son dances? Someone asked recently and we were like, “Wait, how do we not have THAT post?!”), but the search box is your best friend.

CRIME 2: Look back on your wedding, and feel like it belonged to someone else

Read that again. I'm not saying your wedding needs to be quirky (unless you're quirky). I'm not saying it needs to be alternative, indie, or nontraditional (unless you're any of those things, which I was — in some ways, cloyingly so).

I've written many times over the years (since 2007! Did I mention that yet! Oh! I did! *waves cane in salutation*) about how if I were to more literally name Offbeat Bride, it would just be authentic bride. That's been the mission for ages, and that means that your wedding should reflect YOU, not me and my aging West Coast weirdo post-raver/second-gen hippie/gen x former burner condo-dweller. Not Managing Editor Megan, who really thinks you need more sharks and card boxes. Not Associate Editor Catherine, who gets weepy over wedding vows sometimes and really wishes you'd spent longer writing yours.

Yeah, I know this site is called Offbeat Bride, because it's based on a book, and the book was based on my personal wedding story. I started it all with a weird, quirky wedding, so I went for a title that described me and my wedding. Think of the name of this site as just its founders' title — not a suggestion or a demand about your wedding. You can self-identify however you want — neo-traditionalist librarian cisgender bride or aesthetically obsessive groom or pansexual wedding party member or LORD ALMIGHTY fill in the blanks (that blank is the only part of the Offbeat Empire's reader survey that I miss).

You guys know this, right? That we feature tons of weddings here that are SO NOT MY PERSONAL STYLE. Weddings with stuff that I give the side-eye, that strike me as silly, that strike me as something I'd never ever do. These side-eye weddings are also the ones that I as an editor love the very most. Why? Because it's so evident that you people are so deeply and powerfully YOU. You managed to make decisions that line up with who you are both aesthetically and values-wise. I get to soak up all that YOU-ness. I've got plenty of ME-ness already. FEED ME YOUR YOU-NESS. IT SUSTAINS ME.

The only wedding that fails some sort offbeat test is a wedding where years later you look back and think, “Oy, whose wedding was THAT?!” In this way, it's as tragic to me to imagine a rebellious contrarian who realizes a couple years later that actually they're kind of a traditionalist who loves their cultural history and wishes they'd honored it more… as it is for me to imagine the free spirit who somehow found themselves in a religious ceremony that doesn't line up to their values, forced into a consumer culture they can't afford. It doesn't matter if your wedding is offbeat or traditional: it matters that it reflects your and your partner's lives and values.

The Offbeat Empire is about supporting folks figuring out who they are, and finding ways to express it. Offbeat Bride of course focuses on weddings as one small, focused, celebratory form of that expression (while Offbeat Home & Life talks about all the OTHER forms). My goal as publisher and cheerleading captain and inadvertent wedding industry interloper, is really just to support you expressing yourself.

I don't want any of you looking back on your wedding and being like, “God, I don't even like Game Of Thrones that much.” Offbeater-than-thou weddings just for offbeatness' sake? That's a misdemeanor right there, and we won't arrest you, but we will escort you off of the property to head over to Offbeat Home & Life's archives, where we can support you with awesome articles to build self-awareness and confidence. We believe in rehabilitative treatment here.

Or as Tuscadero said

Just remember, they don't give out trophies for the most exhausted couple with the most original wedding. They really don't. I've looked into that too.

Preach. All we're here to do together is have a wedding that reflects you, and appreciate other people's reflections. We don't need to compete. We just get to learn and be impressed by how much potential for awesomeness there is in this cohort. Even if it's awesome that doesn't look like us. In fact, ESPECIALLY if it doesn't look like us.

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Comments on Offbeat sins: how to get pulled over by the Offbeat Police

  1. Hi Ariel, as the poster of the “sin” comment, I just want to say thanks for this post and for clarifying the true offbeat crimes. What I said was mostly in jest so I’m sorry if it made you feel like you were doing anything less than a stellar job. That blog post last week was exactly what I needed to read and this community has been incredible. Keep up the amazing work!

    • HA! No worries at all, Joslyn — you’re certainly not the first to express concerns over what qualifies as offbeat, and your comment was a great motivator to write this post! 🙂

  2. Champion post. Offbeat Bride = a safe place to be yourself
    Alongside all the kick ass advice and pretty wedding porn obviously :-p

  3. Proud offbeat lite over here. I LOVED Offbeat Bride when I was planning. In fact, I read it so much, I didn’t even realize how offbeat my lite ideas were. When my mom freaked about my hot pink wedding dress, I was like, “But, but, it’s not a red and black steampunk dress with lacy bustles and a jaunty top hat veil. It’s not purple vinyl. There are no octopuses involved. What’s the big deal?”

    • Hahaha I know. I’m planning our wedding and we’re very offbeat-lite. (It’s actually a super traditional, religious wedding in some ways but not WIC-traditional.) I’ve totally have that happen to me. I talked to a bunch of caterers about menus and was like ” we’d like to serve red meat. But maybe not steak? Maybe lamb or goat stew?” and they would sort of side-eye me and try to steer me back to steak, talking about how that’s what our guests want, or stew just doesn’t work that well. And I’m sitting here thinking, “Really? Lamb stew is offbeat?” but we’re having a very religious wedding with a white dress and a full service caterer and such a traditional wedding! We aren’t asking anyone to come in costume, there are no geeky references in our ceremony, I’m wearing a white dress and veil for goodness sake. We’re super not-offbeat. You think lamb stew is offbeat?

      • I can kinda see where the caterers are coming from when they say “what the guests want”. A lot of people DO think ‘steak’ if there is a red meat option–especially at a wedding. Because so many people expect steak, that is probably what they can easily get their hands on and what they know how to cook for the masses (poorly prepared lamb is one of the worst things ever, IMO. It can taste like dirt). I’ve seen lamb and goat at Caribbean/African weddings but I can’t recall seeing either at ‘American’ weddings.

        At the end of the day it’s what YOU want! But if those caterers don’t sound comfortable with what you’re doing …on to the next!

    • Same here:
      Our wedding will be very traditional in some ways. We will get married in a church, have some cake in the afternoon and a nice reception with family and friends in the evening. A dress, a suit, nice music… how boring…
      But then my mother in law had some kind of a shock, when we told her, we want to have a BBQ for dinner and – imagine – the worst for her was, that we won’t have chair covers.
      You see: The word “offbeat” depends a lot of, what you expect something to be…

    • This is how I am managing my mother’s expectations. If she starts to get upset about something my standby options are to say:

      1) This is what we’ve decided and it’s done. So about [insert different topic here].
      2) I’m willing to change my mind [if I am remotely willing] so if you want to put forth the time, money and effort to do so that’s your choice.
      3) Well I was also considering [these three other completely obnoxious and outrageous options that I might actually be willing to do] but they’re too fussy/expensive/time consuming [which gives her a “reason” why I’m not doing them without it looking like I’m simply suggesting them as things she will hate even more, and if she actually likes one of them better then hey, maybe I get a nicer dress/venue than I can afford on my own].

      So far we’re up to one “if you want to put in the time and money to change my mind, more power to you” complete with Mom might be paying for our second venue; and two “I was considering these things I know you will hate” responded with “gosh sweetie your other idea sounds better than it did 5 minutes ago, let’s just go with that.” I haven’t had to put my foot down on anything “already been decided” yet but I’m anticipating that fight over my favors. I am finding though that if she understands WHY I have chosen something, she seems less resistant to it. And from my perspective, my partner and I are assuming we are paying for everything until we have a gift check in hand. So we are making our decisions based on it being OUR wedding with us as the hosts entirely, and if my mother has a problem with something, well, she doesn’t have to pay for it. She just has to show up and be nice about it.

  4. Search was down for a bit I think sin 1 will have a bit more teeth when the search function is optimized. Right now I have a little trouble finding an old post to cross-reference even if I’ve read it and know the words in it.

    Plus I like sitting here and hitting refresh to see what’s new from people who are on right now. I don’t mind being one of the voices answering the daily “Are you sure I’m ok?” with “You are you are!” Snowflakes are as nervous now as they were in 2009. And phones have better cameras now.

  5. “I get to soak up all that YOU-ness. I’ve got plenty of ME-ness already. FEED ME YOUR YOU-NESS. IT SUSTAINS ME.”
    this is a great read…..and i loved the part about the AUTHENTIC you….

    • This reminded me of a quote from Daria:

      Daria: Do you think contacts reveal the you-ness inside?
      Jane: I don’t know. Who’s Eunice and why doesn’t she get her own body?

  6. Damn, now I want to commit the sort of sin that will have the Offbeat Police show up in wiggle dresses, liberty curls and sonic screwdrivers, ’cause that sounds like the best day ever.

    • No joke. Offbeat bride cop armed with her group of hot policepeople… Can we please get some talented person to create that image?

  7. As politely as possible, I don’t think that these are the only “sins” on offbeat bride. After trying to join in on the tribe and having my first couple of posts reprimanded, I honestly stopped participating. In my opinion if I was being respectful of others, not soliciting anything, and staying on-topic for the thread, then my post was ok. Unfortunately the rules of the tribe seem to be more complicated than that, so I’ve gone back to just reading posts.

    • Katie, I’m so sorry you had that experience! This tongue in cheek article is definitely more angled toward “sins against wedding planning” … which I see as very separate from the Offbeat Bride Tribe‘s Code of Conduct. Managing a community of over 12,000 members is a whoooooole different jam than planning a wedding… and while I believe that there are very few “wrong” ways to plan a wedding, I’ve always tried to be very clear about what doesn’t work on the Tribe.

      If you ever EVER have questions about moderation on the Tribe, feel free to get in touch with me directly: I’ve written a lot about the enormous challenges of managing the Tribe over here, but the community manager Kirsten and I are always happy to talk to one-on-one with community members who are feeling frustrated. Managing a community as large as the Tribe is an enormous challenge, and our strategies are always shifting to try to keep as many members feeling good as possible. Feedback from members is also welcome over here:

  8. Ariel, I have to say you did miss a very important sin on here, Bashing body image is a big no go!

  9. I find all “bashing” to be a no-no.
    After all, aren’t we here to enjoy and support one another’s ideas and experiences – especially because most sites do not offer that support?

  10. I’m curious about Beat-y Jail. It seems like there might be a good amount of crafting and baking…so I’m not sure if that’s a big punishment. In fact I think I kind of want to go…

  11. I fucking LOVE crime #1 — or as we used to say back in ye olde Usenet days “read the damn FAQ.” Bec. it’s not a search or technology or UI thing. Maybe it’s special snowflakeness, but I call it newbie laziness. “Hey, I just discovered this blog / forum / community / thing, you ppl on it must spoon-feed me the info you have now, kthx!!!”

    Btw, I’ve been married 14 years this month, twice as long as Offbeat Bride has existed, & I just read bec. it’s cool. Love the writing, love the porn, & I sometimes get ideas for events/parties/crafts I do. My wedding was Offbeat before that was a thing, lol, but who cares!

  12. Um, are all the guards in beat-y jail as hot as the bride cop? I kind of want to move in.

  13. I love this… ^_^ This is such a special place to me, and I hope I can continue to be a part of this community for a long time to come!
    Sin # 2 was almost mine… I gave away so much control I was beginning to have no say in my wedding, and it was turning into a very traditional, big-ass wedding. Which is SO not what Danna-sama and I wanted. I’m so glad we get a do over, even if waiting longer was painful! BE YOU, PEOPLE. BE YOU. Because no matter how hard you try to please everyone, someone will always find something they didn’t like, and, even worse, YOU may find you liked very little of your own special day!
    My only sadness about this site is the tiny amount of vendors featured in my area, but since that can’t be helped, I’m content and happy! 😉

  14. I needed this. See, I’m not a good person: I judge. And when it comes to weddings, my judgy side often rears up about outfit choices. I just can’t imagine having a white wedding dress, so when I see an off-beat wedding with a white dress, groom in a suit and tie, religious officiant, and sit down buffet, I find myself thinking “Where’s the ‘offbeat’?” which is silly and hurtful and entirely not cool of me. Maybe just having a UU officiant instead of the Catholic one Grandma expected was a Sysiphian event for that couple. Maybe where they live, barbequed brisket and sweet corn *is* really off the wall for wedding food. Maybe it’s rare to have a friend with a back yard big enough for a picnic wedding in that city; how the frack would I know?!

    I think I at least needed reminded that it’s about not being judged in the first place, regardless of the choices, to shut up the bitch in the back of my head that sounds like my grandmother and her church “friends” whispering behind their fans at the traditional weddings I went to as a kid. (Granted the look on my grandmother’s face when I asked her in front of the bride’s mother why she’d told Grandma Schmidt that Katie should really be wearing red at her wedding was pretty damn funny looking back, but you get the idea.) 🙂

    So, thanks. I needed a boot in the ass to remind me of my manners. 🙂

  15. I can honestly say I think we did our best at being authentic. There were a few decisions made to appease others that I wouldn’t have made for myself; BUT one of our main priorities was being good hosts, so even those decisions felt authentic in making, and we didn’t do anything that felt truly icky.

    One of the things that kept getting said, especially at the second wedding, was “Oh gosh that ceremony was SO YOU!” But people didn’t laugh at the things we expected them to laugh at (while we did get the laughs at the first wedding) so those comments felt as much “That was so dumb but it’s your wedding so I’m trying to be polite” as they were gratifyingly acknowledging of the authenticity of our decisions. Worse yet, it was said with different tones by different people, so some people really meant it the first way and some really meant it the second way! It was kind of soul crushing at the time, but since the people who meant it sincerely were the ones who said it later in the party (read: we got to hang out with our friends after the family obligations part), that’s the feeling I was left with at the end of the day and that’s the feeling I choose to hold onto about it.

    Don’t worry, I’m planning on putting together a profile post about it soon enough 🙂

  16. I’m really glad this popped back up today. I attended a wedding last night that was *so* different from my own (and my own ideas about weddings) that I was having a hard time staying in the moment and not getting judgey (hey, it’s something we all struggle with, right?). From the 1 Cor. 13 reading in the ceremony to the overly-loud Top-40 pop music blaring from speakers that were inexplicably right next to the “old people” tables to the 4-course sit-down dinner that took over 3 hours to get served, it was pretty much everything I sought to avoid in my own wedding.

    But yanno what? I had a great time. The beat was catchy (even though I don’t fancy myself a dancer), the couple was stunningly handsome/pretty, everyone looked happy, and I got to get dolled up and a free meal, which was actually quite tasty even though the service was slow.

    And all the other stuff was mostly not their fault – the perils of a big wedding is that one kitchen can’t feed everyone instantly, the emcee tries really hard to stall for time and only some of his jokes are actually funny, and there were random bits of downtime as everyone tried to get checked in. And in the end, a loving couple committed their whole lives together. The end.

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