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 — I am to blame. Offbeat Bride is a business… 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 — 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?