A sticky WIC-ket: Offbeat Bride is part of the Wedding Industrial Complex

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There's a lot of talk in the alt-wedding world about the “wedding industrial complex,” that runaway freight train of wedding industry grossness that's always pressuring you to do things a certain way because supposedly that's how things are done. (Read as: “that's how the industry makes money.”)

Lots of us hate the Wedding Industrial Complex, which some people abbreviate as “The WIC.” I get pitches almost daily from business folks trying to get publicity for their wedding products that I'm like, “Are you kidding me!? This is the worst kind of exploitation of insecurities and fears and UG SO GROSS!” This is to say, I feel y'all on the loathing of an industry that can be insidious and damaging.

I think it's also important, however, to reiterate something I've written about several times before: Offbeat Bride is absolutely part of the wedding industry. From a long but super-important post I wrote in 2011:

Have corners (and maybe even whole hallways) of the wedding industry woken up to the fact that nontraditional weddings are a viable business market? Yes. Absolutely yes, and if you think that's a bad thing, well, I hate to tell you this โ€” I am to blame. Offbeat Bride is a businessโ€ฆ and even more than that, it's become an industry node. A whole niche wedding industry has sprung up around this site.

I heard from one of our early ad clients recently. She IMed me last week to tell me that when she surveyed her readers, 40% of them were STILL coming from Offbeat Bride, almost four years after her first ad. She now supports her family with her small business and has several employees. This is, without a doubt, the very coolest part of my job: helping little tiny indie businesses blossom by sharing their awesomeness on the website. I am a farmer of awesome blossoms!

While this is warm and fuzzy, it also means that yes: offbeat weddings have indeed become their own industrial complex. (I suppose we could call it the OWIC, if you're into acronyms โ€” which we all know I'm not.) There's a whole tiny micro market of artisans and designers and planners and jewelers who make their living off of you and your wedding.

One of the perennial criticisms of Offbeat Bride is “they pretend to be anti-WIC, but they're totally WIC.” I take issue with this feedback not because I disagree with the second half, but because I think the first half is unfair. Offbeat Bride is absolutely, 100% part of the wedding industry, and I hope we've never misrepresented that.

Offbeat Bride is a publication dedicated to stories about weddings, and our business model is based on selling advertising to wedding companies. No bones about it: that makes us completely part of the wedding industry, something that I desperately hope no one has ever felt misled about.

As a publisher, since 2007 my goal has been to be the change I wanted to see: I want a wedding industry that isn't hetero-normative, one that doesn't ignore grooms, one that doesn't try to make a sale based on making its clients feel insecure. Through the articles published on Offbeat Bride, I want to shift the wedding industry by cheerleading those who don't often see themselves represented in other wedding media — whether that's because of body size, disability, age, ethnicity, nerdiness, gender identity, or relationship modality.

Despite our best intentions, however, I strongly believe that everyone should think critically about all wedding media, absolutely including alt-wedding media. (As we say on our About page, “Your wedding should be a reflection of YOU, not other people's tastes — and that includes ours!“) Really, you should think critically about ALL media, period. Remember that if you're reading something for free, your eyeballs are the product. This means you need to be savvy about stuff like hate reading, and thoughtful about a publisher's business motivations.

I try to be pretty transparent about how I do business (yay for the Offbeat Empire's business blog!), so I hope no one ever feels misled. That said, I do recognize that there's a friction… how can you dismantle the exploitative, gross parts of an industry while also being a part of it? We try to do it by being selective about our advertisers, and respectful of our readers. We're also increasingly dabbling in vendor education on issues like client gender identites and groom involvement.

I'd love to hear from readers, though: any feedback about how we can all better navigate the weirdness between not liking the mainstream wedding industry while also recognizing that we're supported by a corner of it?

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Comments on A sticky WIC-ket: Offbeat Bride is part of the Wedding Industrial Complex

  1. I have no issue with you guys being part of the big ol’ WIC – I don’t mind any sort of industrial complex selling me stuff, as long as they are honest, have well-thought out values and care about their customers/guests/clients…etc! Often those are the best, most successful businesses, and there is nothing wrong with that.

  2. I would imagine it is extremely common (if not damn necessary) to love/hate the industry one is in to work for, and build a company such as the Offbeat Empire. If you were content (and/or willing) to go with the normal flow, this whole wonderful machine couldn’t exist.

  3. “As a publisher, since 2007 my goal has been to be the change I wanted to see: I want a wedding industry that isn’t hetero-normative, one that doesn’t ignore grooms, one that doesn’t try to make a sale based on making its clients feel insecure.”

    I see that last part as being the most important. Getting married should never make you feel bad about yourself, but that is how many wedding-related businesses make money. “You’re not thin/pretty/rich enough, but you can buy these products to be thin/pretty/rich enough for one special day!!”

    It’s always been obvious to me that OBB is a business because of the ads and clearly-labelled sponsored posts. But it’s a business that supports being true to yourself, whoever you are, and that is what I like about it. Honestly, I wouldn’t even be reading wedding-related websites if I weren’t looking for places to spend my money, so I appreciate that you’re able to show me vendors whose values are in line with my own.

    • Getting married should never make you feel bad about yourself, but that is how many wedding-related businesses make money.

      To play devil’s advocate here, some folks might argue that Offbeat Bride does apply its own kind of pressure on readers — that every wedding decision should mean something, or that if you’re not having a theme wedding, you’re too normal.

      As you can see from the posts I’ve linked above, I don’t think we’re about any of those things, but I understand that when folks are feeling insecure about their wedding, almost any input can feel like pressure. The challenge for me as a publisher is just to make sure that I’m constantly balancing our wildly offbeat content (which some readers find intimidating) with reminders and reassurance.

      Updated to add: No need for me to play devil’s advocate, just read this comment.

      • That is a good point. I’ve read enough posts addressing the “not offbeat enough” idea to understand that the pressure is unintentional, but not everyone has seen those.

        I think that seeing a wide variety of weddings featured is the most helpful kind of reassurance. When people see a featured wedding just like the one they’re planning, it automatically implies “your wedding is cool too.”

        • I think that seeing a wide variety of weddings featured is the most helpful kind of reassurance.

          Absolutely, which is why we try to feature both simple weddings AND small weddings as much as we can:

          One of the challenges here is that we don’t get many submissions with that kind of wedding… folks who plan small & simple weddings don’t always think there’s “enough” to share, and we can’t feature weddings that aren’t submitted to us! :/

      • Not to mention, ONE LOWMANSHIP! The whole “my awesome wedding cost less than your awesome wedding” competition. We cut every corner we could on non-essentials for our wedding (no favors, no seat covers, no professionally designed invites, etc.) and it still ended up costing an average amount because we spent the money on the things we *did* care about (photography, food, band). Because of one lowmanship I have actually worried that our wedding looked too expensive (people thought our venue cost way more than it did). Yet isn’t the goal of DIY to spend time instead of money in order to make things awesome?

        It’s all very silly.

  4. I think as long as you want to have a wedding that involves anything purchased or created for the sake of that wedding, you are “buying into” the wedding industry on some level and by necessity. What is important is to find those sites, vendors, etc that still uphold values you agree with and don’t actively try to shame you into spending more money or changing your ideal. I guess I’ve never thought there is something wrong with engaging with the wedding industry (obviously, since I’m planning a wedding) – it’s buying into the WIC (emphasis on ‘complex’) that’s a problem. So in that sense, I actually disagree that OBB is part of the WIC rather than part of the wedding industry. But maybe I missed something in the article or maybe that the ‘WIC’ refers to the industry in general, rather than a pervasive attitude within the industry.

  5. I’ve been engaged for almost a year now (and I read wedding blogs for a good year before that). I’ve saturated myself pretty intensely in wedding media, both traditional and alternative. And know what? Offbeat Bride is one of the only two wedding blogs I still read (the other being East Side Bride). It’s because OBB is authentic and thoughtful, but without coming off as try-hards. You post weddings/media from such a variety of couples that it always makes me feel welcome, because I really *believe* that your number one priority is helping me plan a thoughtful and joyous wedding. And your advertisers are a part of that. This is always the place I go to first when I’m looking for a new vendor, because I trust this blog and I trust that you will point me in the right direction. You certainly are a part of the WIC, but in a good way – you are changing it from the inside. You are our mole! And by reading OBB I’ve become a better consumer in the WIC. Together it makes for change in the industry, and that’s a good thing!

    I guess what I’m saying is…keep it up! And if I had to make one suggestion it’s that I wish you had even more rad vendors ๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. When I hear the expression “industrial complex” I tend to think “aggressively producing, promoting, selling, and exploiting for profit’s sake regardless of consumer need.” An “industry complex” gets it’s power from lacking transparency when dealing with consumers and skewing the market in their favor. That’s something I don’t attribute to Offbeat Bride. If for nothing else, you are constantly reminding us to critically think about all sources of influence. You’re always recognizing that there are multiple ways to celebrate and do well, even financially.

    I don’t know how you classify yourself, but I kind of see OBB as a business-to-consumer AND consumer-to-consumer media organization. I also don’t see the wonderful ideas and real weddings shared here as a way of drumming up business or creating new services ’cause Company X is noticing a slip in revenue. Editors and their contributors feel genuine in their enthusiasm. The attitude I see is more, “Guys! Check out what this couple did… so cool! and less, “Don’t pass up this new trend! You need to include it in your wedding! Buy!”

    That’s the distinction for me. If you had more posts like this one, or more posts where businesses provide insight others might feel the same.

    • If you had more posts like this one, or more posts where businesses provide insight others might feel the same.

      Yeah, the thing I forget is that just because I wrote a post like this back in 2011, doesn’t mean that someone who got engaged in 2013 will have seen it. ๐Ÿ™‚ Sometimes I forget that with a transient readership, I have to find non-irritating ways to repeat myself…

  7. I’ve never felt mislead by OBB. I come here because I consider myself Offbeat Lite and I like seeing alternative weddings and vendors to be inspired by. I coopted the idea of “getting weddinged” from here for what we’re calling our wedding ceremony/vow renewal. I learned of the ring warming ceremony here first and am super excited to include that in our ceremony.

    Not every idea that I see here applies to me, but I love the diverse representation here. I can read this site and not feel slimy about only seeing thin, young, Caucasian couples. I can follow links to vendors and know that I’m starting with a trusted recommendation. I still have to do my own research, I still have to filter out the ideas to find what applies to me, but I get to do so in a safe environment.

    All that to say, thanks for what you do!

  8. Posts like this remind me why I joined the tribe in the first place. The members there are awesome, but they are all inte planning process, which can get heated and angry and anti-this or that sometimes (myself included). Your level-headed, let’s bring this up and talk about it posts are some of my favorites and the mainf reason why I keep coming back.

  9. I’m happy that you addressed this because sometimes I do get frustrated about aspects of Offbeat Bride.

    I am in a serious relationship but not engaged and I have been reading and loving your blog for years. I love all the great personalized touches I see here as a welcomed counter to the WIC (a phrase I learned in my Sociology of Sexuality class in college!) cookie cutter wedding, I do get annoyed because the pressure to put all this time and energy and money into these funky personalized touches IS the WIC.

    I especially felt this way when reading this post from August: http://offbeatwed.com/2013/08/wiclash. How is feeling like you just have to have unique centerpieces and adorably-you programs etc etc any different at all than feeling like you just have to have seat covers and wear white etc etc? I don’t really think it is.

    Sometimes I think that just paying the lump price for a venue to take care of everything might actually be the most un-WIC thing you can do, because you pay the money (assuming you have the money, obviously) and you’re done. No staying up every night making pinwheels or brooch bouquets or whatever.

    That being said, I love all the weddings you profile; they are thoughtful and full of love and I have gotten great ideas from them. I guess one way for Offbeat Bride to improve on this though is to periodically recognize that you don’t actually need any of it.

    • I guess one way for Offbeat Bride to improve on this though is to periodically recognize that you don’t actually need any of it.

      Exactly this, which we try to do as frequently as we possibly can without feeling repetitive. ๐Ÿ™‚ That WIC-whiplash post was basically a collection of links to existing posts we’ve done for years about the pressure some people apply on themselves to be MORE OFFBEATER! It was intended to address exactly the thing you’re commenting on (…although maybe didn’t succeed?).

      My personal favorite of these posts is still this one from four (!) years ago:
      Why I worry when people say they want a “unique” wedding: the pursuit of authenticity vs. the pursuit of attention

      But there are tons more in these archives:

      As I mentioned up-thread, the real issue here is finding ways to keep reminding and reassuring people… without feeling redundant. Serving a transient readership can be a difficult thing! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • I think OBB does a good job of meeting the needs of the alternative “offbeat” bride and acknowledging that not everyone can/wants/need to have every detail “mean something”. I went well down the path you mentioned, my husband and I selected a venue for both our ceremony and reception and handed control to them when it came to picking tablecloths, place settings and glasses. We found other vendors we trusted, who listened to what we wanted and then we handed control to them – the florist, the DJ and the photographer come to mind. It’s not that we didn’t have input or make decisions, it’s just that we acknowledged we didn’t really want to control every single detail of our wedding. Did we stress out? Yes, there was still a meltdown or two. Is there anything I would change in hindsight? Absolutely. Did anything I released control of “ruin” our day? Most definitely not. Do I still think I qualified as an “OBB”, even though I didn’t letterpress my own invites or DIY my dress? Yes, without a doubt. This website does a great job of supporting all visions, which makes it a welcome node in the WIC.

  10. Honestly, this is actually a good example of what I *want* more people bringing offbeatness to the various industries that they relate to. There’s no way to avoid the fact that we ultimately live in a capitalistic, market-based society (unless you’re totally off the grid, in which case kudos, but most of us can’t do that) where “industry” is a word that describes just about everything we do.

    The important part is to have a balanced representation that fights the initial notions proposed by certain industries which reflect and amplify narrow-minded societal standards. To me, this is exactly what OBB does – it supports the fact that lots of people want to have weddings (and it’s okay if you don’t, but why are you on a wedding blog if you don’t like/want to participate in weddings?) but it builds a broader image of what a wedding can contain than the standard “on-beat” media does.

    I honestly wish every industry had these types of voices, because I think it would go a long way to helping those of us with an offbeat mentality deal with our natural gag reflex about mainstream industries – not because the industry is bad, but because the mainstream reflects some stuff a lot of us don’t agree with/appreciate, or simply leaves us out altogether.

  11. I am a tribesmaid, and although I’ve been married for a year and a half, I still read all the articles I get in my email and occasionally peruse the forums. I <3 Real Weddings!

    I came to OBB because I wanted to have a great wedding, but needed to cut corners, DIY and find cost savings wherever possible. I didn't end up here because out of my own need for uniqueness, so much as out of a need to pass cost savings into other areas of my wedding budget so I could have the wedding I wanted. This website provided a huge service for my husband and I. We got some great ideas, and since we have never been "traditional" nor did we have any deeply religious customs to follow, we did end up having a really unique wedding. It was refreshing to find some validation in the forums for skipping a traditional dance, or a cake cutting. When most people are spending 20k-30k on the average US wedding, we wouldn't have been able to have the wedding we had for $11,000 if it hadn't been recommended that I come here.

    I know this isn't the exact type of feedback you were looking for, but for me, this site provided such a great service where other wedding sites might have encouraged us to spend more money on traditions we did not need and provided less inspiration for us to "do-it-ourselves". I really love the site, and LOVE your BUSINESS, and just want you to keep reaching outside the box and inspiring brides and grooms to be themselves and, in turn, helping people to work within their means. It worked for us.

  12. I am the total opposite of the above poster! I was married in June, and the most “offbeat” thing about our wedding were the salt and pepper ceramic peas in a pod on top of our very traditional wedding cake.

    I wore white. We were married in a chapel in a religious service. Our reception was at a private club. Our parents very generously paid for the wedding. We had a wedding party, we’re heterosexual and cis-gendered, my dad walked me down the aisle, yadda, yadda, yadda.

    AND YET, I came to OBB because of the positive vibes, the creative ideas, the tribesmaids, and the ethical, diverse vendors. I found my photographer through one of the regional forums. This is a supportive and fun environment to plan a wedding, no matter how offbeat or traditional you find yourself to be. In fact, this space gave me the freedom to *be traditional*! OBB says, “Be authentic!” and for me, authenticity meant tradition, family, good food, and good photography.

    I also feel that as much as the WIC can put pressure on brides/grooms, I also believe in the old adage, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” As consumers of media, we have the responsibility to censor ourselves when media is no longer serving a healthy purpose in our lives. I still come to OBB because I love reading about offbeat weddings, but if the articles made me feel lousy or incomplete, it would be my responsibility to stop reading. Simple as that.

    In short, OBB served a purpose in my wedding-planning life, and continues to serve a purpose (mostly entertainment ๐Ÿ™‚ ) today. If that’s the WIC, then heck…I like this corner of the WIC!

    • THIS:

      I also believe in the old adage, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” As consumers of media, we have the responsibility to censor ourselves when media is no longer serving a healthy purpose in our lives. I still come to OBB because I love reading about offbeat weddings, but if the articles made me feel lousy or incomplete, it would be my responsibility to stop reading.

  13. Okay. So maybe, technically, OBB is part WIC. However, what gets lost along the way is that while many other blogs feature suggestions and products, to me, OBB features choices and ideas. Yes, there are ads and profits to be made, but I don’t think it’s the same. IDK, this is only my opinion.

    When I look at other wedding blogs, a lot of times I take a step back and all I can see is, “Want this for your wedding? Then buy this/Wear that if you want to be cool/current/trendy/unique/pretty/normal.” Meanwhile, advertisements are stabbing my eye balls and someone’s b*tching in the comments section about how it’s “sooo overdone” or is too expensive.

    When I look at OBB I see, “Want this for your wedding? X couple did it this way, another did it this way, and here are 23432 other ways to do it—if you want to.” Meanwhile, real readers have left comments on other alternatives— NONE of which are telling me which way is right or wrong.

    Bottom line:
    Personally, I never leave this page wishing I was thinner, prettier, more unique, or had more money to spend on wedding dรฉcor. So if OBB is part of the WIC, I will happily get sucked in.

    • I just want to say, Specifically and emphatically THIS:

      “Personally, I never leave this page wishing I was thinner, prettier, more unique, or had more money to spend on wedding dรฉcor. So if OBB is part of the WIC, I will happily get sucked in.”

  14. I’m very offbeat lite, with both my family and his family being rather traditional, for the most part.

    I came to OBB originally because I found a real wedding that I loved… and I got sucked in by the inclusive atmosphere. I have a tonne of friends from generally under-represented groups, and so I like to be in a place that equally supports me as well as people like my friends.

    I have never felt mislead by OBB or OBE, but I do also tend to read a lot of posts on OBE, OB Families (sad panda), and OBH&L. I think branching out onto the other sites gives better awareness, especially with OBE, in terms of how it all works and how everything is kept running. (The money has to come from somewhere!)

    That being said, I have definitely felt pressure while planning my wedding from the traditional WIC side AND the special snowflake unique side, fueled by OBB. I’m not sure how to reduce that – I agree that none of the Blog posts reinforce needing to be a special snowflake directly, and in fact refute it a lot, but somehow that pressure creeps in there. Maybe it’s the paradox of not having many Offbeat Lite feature weddings, which makes “us” feel like we’re not offbeat enough, which makes us not submit ours, which fuels the next round? I’m not really sure. The pressure is lurking here somewhere, but I don’t know where it is or therefore how to fix it.

    I’m hoping to have the courage to submit my Lite wedding once it’s done… no guarantees though!

    You guys are doing a great job though, so thanks again for a great place to hang out on the interwebs in this weird time in our lives when we’re trying to navigate throwing this pressure-filled party thing!

    • Your point about Offbeat Lites not feeling like they’re represented on the site brings up a super interesting point: while we’re known for our inclusivity, ultimately the site exists because there was a lack of media representation of nontraditional weddings.

      While it’s a huge priority for us to include awesome and thoughtful weddings all along the spectrum between traditional and nontraditional, if we skew too far toward featuring traditional weddings… then what’s our editorial niche? Why do we continue to exist? If you want thoughtful-but-not-super-weird weddings, there are a lot of solid options out there — options that, honestly, Offbeat Bride has lost a LOT of readers to over the years.

      I’m also reminded of the reverse discrimination fallacy that I wrote about here:

      Then there’s what I call the reverse discrimination fallacy, where brides on the more traditional end of the spectrum complain that they feel excluded or demonized for being “too normal.” We’ve edited wedding profiles to exclude lines like, “I didn’t want a stuffy traditional wedding,” knowing that somewhere an Offbeat Lite bride was going to think to herself, “Oh, so now my wedding is STUFFY!? Fuck you, offbeater-than-thou bride.”

      I wrote a TON about the Offbeat Lite friction on OBE, which perhaps you’ve already read but I’ll link again because others might not have seen it: Why we continue to use the term “Offbeat Lite” even though some people hate it.

      This friction between “lite” and “offbeat” is ongoing… and it gets difficult because while for me and my staff, it’s an editorial distinction, for readers it’s an identity distinction and comes with a lot of heat attached. While we’re trying to say, “Hey, we focus more on weird weddings because that’s the editorial niche that we’ve carved out and allows us to exist!” our readers are like, “Your focus makes me feel like you’re pressuring me and that sucks because you’re supposedly not about pressuring people into doing shit.”

      We’ve been talking a lot lately about reframing our “lite” content to be more about simple and small weddings and less about “traditional” weddings. We’ll see how that goes.

      Obviously, I’ve spent waaaaayyy too much time over the years chewing over this issue, so apologies for the novel… I just love that you guys want to talk about this with me! ๐Ÿ™‚

      • This comment thread makes me so happy that I submitted our wedding (http://offbeatwed.com/2011/12/south-carolina-serendipitous-wedding). And I do really love the idea of shifting the focus away from Offbeat Lite=Traditional to simple, small weddings. Especially since OBB was one of the only places I found support for having a simple wedding during the planning process!
        I anticipate that you’ll likely run into challenges with “How big is small?” and “What does simple mean?” Our wedding cost $7,000 and had 65 guests. This is both small and simple by most WIC standards, but downright extravagant compared to my grandmother who got married in 1952 in a tan suit in her parents’ living room. It was fairly easy to self-identify as a “simple” wedding, since the WIC standard seems to involve a professional caterer, baker, hair stylist, makeup artist, florist, and wedding dresses that cost more than $200 and we didn’t have any of those things. However, I’m still not sure what a “small” wedding is….the week before our wedding, a friend asked if we were having a big wedding, and I told her “Yes, we’re expecting about 70-75 people.” And she was shocked, because her image of a big wedding was her brother’s wedding, with 300 people. So I definitely think some guidance around those terms could be helpful.

        Ultimately, I felt that our wedding was a good fit for OBB because of the site’s focus on authenticity and making decisions that are true to you and to your values. This was definitely our strategy in our wedding planning process- to focus on creating an event that honored our faith and families, without devastating the planet.

  15. The best way, I think, to change an insidious beast like a government or the WIC is from within, and the pouffy white “princess” dress is, more or less the best universal representation of that aesthetic. You’ve sort of reached a saturation point here with red dresses (cause they’re usually damn gorgeous!), and we’re starting to see more than one pink or silver or blue one a month too. But there are multiple 5-6 page long threads on the Offbeat Bride Tribe related to “Someone says my dress isn’t bridal because it’s [insert not white pouffy thing here].”

    When someone in a hanky hemmed pink and lime fairy costume in her barefeet with visible tattoos is universally told “Your wedding dress is SO cute!” instead of “That’s not a wedding dress, it’s not white! And ew, your tattoos are showing,” on a board that’s *not* here, it’ll be time to worry that you’re “too” mainstream. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Until then, be the change you wish to see.

  16. So, before I get into my tl;dr about how I think OBB subverts the WIC, I want to point out one thing that has been the crux of OBB’s importance to me:

    The point of OBB seems to me to be: “Will x make you and your soon-to-be spousal unit happy and enhance the ceremony? GO FOR IT.” Cue Tribesmembers chorusing “YAY GO YOU!”

    In a culture (for me, the US) where the overt message is “the bride gets what she wants” and the reality is “the bride is TOLD what she wants and she accepts it with a few expected tantrums?” This site, and the community it attracts, is a huge change from the “normalcy” of the WIC. HUGE.

    That segues rather well into the tl;dr section:
    My perspective is that the WIC is actually not about BUYBUYBUY but about “This Is What You Are *Supposed* To Want” with a side helping of “so shut up and want it already.” It’s an insidious culture meme that displaces focus on deliberate intention within a rite of passage. Wedding traditions have been beautiful and varied and amazing throughout history and around the world, and what currently stands in the place of that gorgeous intention is the equivalent of the invented gender-binary blue vs pink color scheme.

    Therefore, while I think it is entirely valid to call this site part of the WIC, I wouldn’t view it as such, and I think it subverts it effectively in two different and complementary ways.

    First, OBB is subtle yet insistent at saying “THINK about your intention.” I love that in the OBB checklist, the second task is “Figure out general vision.” With one small sentence, the partners in this ritual are asked to think… that in and of itself is incredibly powerful. The WIC profits on dissociation of the partners, and it is an unhealthy way to initiate a ritual of this much societal importance. If the two partners sit down and discuss and BOTH agree they want a traditional wedding in accordance with X tradition, then thumbs up! Good going! That bodes well for your future. ๐Ÿ˜‰ And if you both want a certain level of offbeat? Also good! Go you! If you want different things? Well then isn’t it good to know that now?

    Second, OBB is a haven of cheerleading. Unlike the critical and competitive nature around other sites, we’re all here to be enthusiastic about the choices of others. No one is standing around us making faces at choices they wouldn’t make, regardless of how right they would be for the folks actually getting hitched.

    In terms of offbeater than thou? People are, by nature, pretty competitive. But I’ve never seen that competitiveness expressed *here.* Feeling like you’re not offbeat enough isn’t a problem of THIS site… OBB is brilliant at showing a diverse range of Offbeat choices, from “just a little bit rock and roll” to “so off the beaten path that there’s not even a breadcrumb trail.” I’m left to conclude that the diversity of options available here prompts some folks to sublimate their insecurities about being at ALL offbeat into a fear of being judged for not being offbeat enough. It’s important to note: I’ve never seen anyone here express judgement for x person making a single traditional choice. Recent example: Kitten, Brynn and Doll’s polyamorous lesbian wedding had 3 women in poufy white dresses and veils. Known as a sexist remnant of patriarchy, but still. No judgement here, no worries.

    All in all, I think if the wedding industrial complex was interested in empowering people to adapt the known legal ritual to fit their selves and circumstances, OBB would not need to exist. But the point is, as I said to my mother while describing someone else’s wedding… ten years from now you’ll look back on this and what you’ll remember is that you had the best time of your life so far. And when love is supposed to be a joyous thing shared between matched souls, that anchors you more than anything else.

    • ‘The point of OBB seems to me to be: “Will x make you and your soon-to-be spousal unit happy and enhance the ceremony? GO FOR IT.” Cue Tribesmembers chorusing “YAY GO YOU!”‘

      Yep. THIS is why I’m here. OBB may be part of the WIC, but it’s a constructive, supporting arm of the WIC body. It’s that friend that’s totally excited about going dress shopping with you, but doesn’t judge you if you don’t have a colour scheme (a friend of mine, who is an all-out lover of the WIC and everything brides SHOULD want, freaked out when I said I wasn’t having a colour scheme. “YOU CAN’T HAVE A WEDDING WITHOUT A COLOUR SCHEME!”).

      Even if people don’t agree with you here, they don’t slap you down with their opinions. They offer constructive criticism (though it’s rarely criticism), helpful suggestions, and generally wonderful “If it’s you, go for it!” statements. I’m not poly, I’m not green, I’m not LGBTQ, I don’t like Star Wars, but by god my I get emotional and happy-fluttery-tummy when I see the weddings of everybody on this site.

      It’s the love that matters, and this site is fantastic for reminding us of that. The WIC tends to lose site of that, getting all caught up in the frills and the whistles. And we tribesmaids care about the frills and whistles too, but not without losing sight of the fact that a wedding is the joining of people who love each other. So it’s nice to have something hanging around here in the WIC that makes us feel good about our weddings and our lives, not bad.

      • “I’m not poly, I’m not green, I’m not LGBTQ, I don’t like Star Wars…”

        By which, I mean, I love witnessing those who are. Tis awesome.

  17. if i can make an (imperfect) analogy- getting married is like eating. there are TONS of places to eat. there are tons of places to get married. there are TONS of different atmospheres to find food, as there are to get married. there are TONS of choices, everywhere, looking at us right in the eyes, and sometimes (most times?) being actively advertised to us, bearing down in ways that we might not even know we internalize.

    but what makes making choices a personal and thoughtful and joyous thing is when we feel good about those choices. when we choose the farmers market because we know that someone from our community is benefiting directly, when we choose something healthy because it will make us feel good, and even when we choose something fried and greasy because its fucking delicious. but if we can feel good about those decisions, thats what matters. and i think, even though ive never been married and have no plans to be married, that the offbeat sites give you that feel good feeling. its less about what you should do/eat, its more about making choices that feel good for you. i like that.

  18. I found OBB to be the most supportive and inclusive online wedding thing I found (forums, blogs etc all included). I think the balance is pretty good all over. When you’re featuring a business you make it clear that its a sponsored post. The ads make it pretty clear its a business. In that respect, its the same as all of the other websites really. Except its more awesome.

    I’m a groom, and I dont find the ‘offbeatBRIDE’ or ‘tribesMAIDS’ terms inclusive at first glance. But dig a little deeper and theres definitely inclusiveness in all shapes and forms all round, so I got over that pretty quick. And thats just weddings in general!

    If anything at times I found the content on here challenging. Like there’s been some seriously out there geeky weddings featured on here. Not my thing at all. But it gave me the balls and inspired me to do our own thing with our wedding. And ultimately thats what this place is all about!

  19. I’m not a regular reader of your blog, but I have visited here many times in my search for wedding information. I tend to gravitate towards online communities that tend to be more inclusive and supportive environments. I love that you addressed this because this weekend a certain blog that shall remain nameless said this on Instagram. “I never promote DIY on…[redacted]…If you are a wedding pro who is constantly let down by the type of brides who are finding you and feel they always tend to be brides who can’t afford your services or who want you to ‘cut them a deal’- it might be time to question the types of blogs you are advertising on. I don’t promote DIY, so I don’t get traffic from DIY brides. Just sayin’…” Really? IMO, entitled and totally all about that WIC (but in a way that makes me feel icky).

  20. I read this yesterday and re-read it this morning trying to get my thoughts in order before I really responded thoughtfully.

    I think what sets this site apart from the other more “mainstream-centric” (I guess?) sites is that this one will take you whether you want a sneezing unicorn, or if you have a deeply Christian, Christ-centered wedding (both of which have been featured). It’s the embrace of “do you” which I have continually found most appealing in the overall and keeps me reading here, and Home and Empire.

    The posts I kept coming back to when I was planning were the ones centered around the one-upmanship/one-lowmanship and others like it. It gave me, and by extension my husband, the power to really look at a wedding ceremony and a reception and say “how far can we reasonably go so *we* feel comfortable and *our guests* will understand what’s going on.

    Being able to look at it from that perspective was a gift to us and I think it’s an unspoken part of the OBB ethos, within “do you”. There’s posts talking about how there’s a large community aspects to weddings, how it can also be about only what you and your partner want, but most things will fall somewhere in the middle. The guide posts were the most helpful, even if this site specifically is against “DO THIS!” The ethics involved in how you display your weddings and ideas — without judgement and with a keen eye to productive conversation — I think is most helpful.

    Yes, this is a business. Anyone who thinks a self-supporting website with multiple staff members, who are paid, isn’t a business may need to take a look at how they see the internet as a business model. But, I think this business is really in its prime when it brings together people from across the spectrum, but united in “I like this” and/or “this speaks to me,” bringing in vendors who are also of the same thought.

  21. I do think sometimes there is a bit of discrepacy whn OBB presents itself like a safe heaven or even safe space, when it really is not. You are always very keen on showing what the Industry Complex does wrong (and it’s great!) but sometimes the choices I see exalted on OBB can be just as damaging. The fact that you can’t give any opinion different from “I love it!” creates this weird divide where we are all free and encouraged to complain about the traditional WIC but it’s forbidden to point out problematic aspects of the WIC you stand for. I don’t know if I make myself clear but I share some of the concerns on that reddit thread, even though of course I cannot talk about them on the site.

    • The fact that you can’t give any opinion different from “I love it!” creates this weird divide where we are all free and encouraged to complain about the traditional WIC but it’s forbidden to point out problematic aspects of the WIC you stand for.

      Just to clarify, from the perspective of someone who’s moderated tens of thousands of blog comments and trained dozens of moderators, this is definitely NOT how we moderate.

      We have a “no drama” comment policy, which is totally different from a “no disagreeing” comment policy. Commenters can (and do, every day) communicate constructively while presenting different perspectives and asking questions like “did you think about it from x perspective?”

      Constructive communication doesn’t mean only sunshine and unicorn farts, and it certainly doesn’t mean that it’s “forbidden” to point out your concerns about ANYTHING we stand for. We’ve gotten our share of negative public feedback — so much that we have an entire archive of reader complaints.

      I totally understand that some of us don’t have a lot of practice with being constructive (especially online), but it’s remarkable to me how many often folks leap from “please be constructive” to “don’t comment unless it’s I LOVE IT.”

      To me, that suggests just how bad most of us on the web are at constructive communication… it says something that we’d rather silence ourselves than take a few moments to figure out to express our opinions in a way that’s respectful and thoughtful. To be clear, I’m totally ok with people not liking our commenting policy — I just get uncomfortable when it becomes an unintentional straw man argument.

      If you’re into comment policy discussion, we talked a lot about this issue over here: Clicks don’t lie: people gravitate toward drama (and who am I to deny them?).

      • Thanks a lot for the link! I still think your commenting policy (which is your own and I don’t expect you to change it for me) is designed to discourage criticism and I have seen many times constructive and respectfully written comments taken down (hei, it happened to me more than once and not because my comments violated any of the rules, as admitted by mods over email). Which is fine, let me be clear. I don’t expect the comment policy to be designed to please me, but me and lots of other people have agreed that on your websites unless you have something nice to say you don’t say anything (except Offbeat empire perhaps).

        • I have seen many times constructive and respectfully written comments taken down (hei, it happened to me more than once and not because my comments violated any of the rules, as admitted by mods over email).

          Super interesting. I’m curious about the specifics of your moderation experience, because honestly: that sounds weird to me. Please email me so we can discuss? (I tried to email you, but the address bounced.)

          I hope it goes without saying that blog commenters or Tribe members can always email if they’ve been moderated in a way that feels weird. Lots of you already do, and my editors and mods are always happy to talk things over, and that includes admitting when we’ve misinterpreted something or made a mistake.

  22. I would have to agree that more off beat vendors would be awesome, however I realize the difficulty in that. I’ve found several “Offbeat” bridal blogs and was hoping that by shopping around I’d find more vendors of the type we find here. What I found was that they tend to monetize their blogs in a more traditional way, set up the spots and let google fill them. *sigh* honestly I appreciate how difficult it must be to resist the easy way and put forth so much effort into how you make a living to guarantee us the quality vendors that you offer.

  23. Reminds me of when I interviewed the manager of a Saturn dealership in 1998 for my first Sociology class in college (my major). I wanted to know why they “launched” cars, why they marketed to women, why they had polymer parts on the cars that you could kick without damaging them. In my early college naivete, I left the interview very deflated, realizing the reason they did all that stuff was–drum roll please–to sell cars. Yea, that’s the wizard behind the wall folks. This is my livelihood. This is how I pay my bills and support my fam. Did you know the average wedding professional earns about $25k a year? Even with the WIC, we’re still starving and brides still think we’re trying to rip them off. It’s a difficult balance!! But OBB does a good job…..not everyone can be a fan. That’s life :-/

    • Totally agreed that not everyone can be a fan. I guess I just want to make sure if folks aren’t fans, they’re disliking us for reasons that actually exist. For example, another criticism that’s been leveled at us is that we’re just cheerleaders — and that’s COMPLETELY accurate. It’s part of our mission, and if people don’t like us for doing that? Meh, that’s cool by me.

      I guess I just get tripped up when I feel like the site’s been misunderstood. Like, wait, how can we be all about theme weddings when we’ve totally celebrated having no theme?! But then again, this is the internet, where we’re all playing an elaborate game of digital telephone. Everyone’s entitled to their own interpretations of media!

  24. A thought (which, despite much thought, still may not be well articulated): perhaps part of the problem here – and one of the many roots of wedding insecurity – is that weddings are particularly rhetorical, now. We read them as visual texts, as messages from the ones-getting-married to us-the-audience (whether we’re in the wedding, attending the wedding, or just vicariously enjoying it online). It’s like the wedding has become less an event (of change, or simply of celebration) and more a personal expression. And – to some – it seems to be seen as the ONLY solid opportunity to express one’s adult self to one’s family and friends. So for some, it’s an opportunity to say, “I value tradition,” or “I love owls and printmaking,” or “My values are different from the norm, and I’m proud of that,” or “I don’t care for DIY and I trust others to help provide me with a great celebration,” etc. etc.

    But when we see messages that in any way conflict with our vision – our personal expression of our beliefs, values, desires, interests – we worry that our vision isn’t “right.” We’ve all been trained by the WIC (heck, all of society everywhere all the time) to doubt ourselves, and believe that our selves are not acceptable. Since weddings are not expected to fit a rote pattern, we worry more…

    It’s like we all had to wear school uniforms, and now we’re allowed to choose our own clothes. Some of us don’t care to choose, some liked the uniforms, and some are pumped about the world of fashion that is now open to us. But whatever we do, we know that choice has been extended to us, and there are many options… so we’re afraid that choosing wrongly will reflect badly on us.

    …Or is that a bunch of hooey?…

    • Definitely *not* a bunch of hooey. It’s sort of tragic that, in trying to offer more viable options to couples (“you don’t have to follow cultural traditions or the mainstream wedding industry!”), Offbeat Bride has unwittingly contributed to decision fatigue.

  25. There is upselling a service, and then there is making someone have a complex as big as their debt for the rest of their life. Offbeat Bride is amazing and I wish I would have found it before I got married. It would have saved me a lot of legwork. It’s hard finding the non-conformist non-pushy wedding vendors. (They can’t be heard over their flashy, pushy counterparts)

  26. Thank you very much for posting your reminder to all of us readers, users, and consumers of OBB. I have become overwhelmed with the WIC-iness of OBB and stopped reading the e-newsletters about 1.5 months ago. The odd, self-imposed, stress of planning a non-traditional wedding, but one that doesn’t quite measure up to OBB featured weddings was becoming suffocating. Especially as my fiance wants as non-traditional as possible, but to him that means just a stripped down down, and I just want to be married at the end of the day. It’s difficult to reconcile historical indicators of marriage (joining of a community, and do we have party favours for them), versus modern society (it’s all about me, and who cares if they have cake).

    While it’s easy for us to encourage each other to plan a wedding that is a reflection of ourselves, it’s a difficult reminder to bear when we are faced with a global society. There a lot more people to unintentionally measure yourself against.

    Your admission that the alterna-wedding is a WIC unto itself is refreshing and appreciated.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts here. I’ve always tried to be very that there’s definitely a time to STOP reading Offbeat Bride — and it’s exactly that point when things start to feel overwhelming! In fact, we have a whole archive of posts dedicated to stepping back from Offbeat Bride: http://offbeatwed.com/tag/take-a-break

      I’m glad you found your own limits, and were able to respect them!

      (Personally, I don’t understand why anyone would subscribe to our email newsletter — daily emails would drive me batty! But I know many people absolutely love it, so it’s a function that I like to have available.)

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