Is Having An "Offbeat" Wedding Really That Different From Having A Traditional Wedding?

Illustration for article titled Is Having An "Offbeat" Wedding Really That Different From Having A Traditional Wedding?

It is very easy, I think, to crap all over a traditional wedding. I've done it myself, to be honest, rolling my eyes at sites like The Knot and various reality shows featuring out-of-control Bridezillas.

The insanity of wedding culture that has swept across the country over the past 10-15 years is a ridiculously easy target for mockery, especially in these economic times: the elaborate parties that once may have seem necessary and grand now seem stupid and a bit foolish: with student loans, mortgages, and credit card bills to pay, should the average bride still be spending over 20,000 on one party?

I admit to being annoyed by wedding culture; not necessarily the women who embrace it, but the system itself, which appears to be designed to drive women slightly mad in the attempt to have a "perfect day." I recognize that this is just my stupid opinion on these things, however, and do understand that for many women, a wedding day is something they've always been excited to plan and something they are quite happy to obsess over. Everyone has their ways of looking at these things, I suppose. What may be torture for me might just be exhilarating for someone else.


However, I have to say, the thing that annoys me even more than traditional wedding culture is the "offbeat bride" phenomenon, which celebrates couples who choose to avoid your standard wedding fare for something a bit more unique and personal. But does it really? I mean, really? If you're still spending money and many, many hours creating an "offbeat" wedding, does it really make you any different than the woman doing the exact same thing, using "traditional" materials? It seems to be a method of embracing the wedding madness while putting up a front that you're not like those "other" brides who are wasting their time at David's Bridal and picking out proper linen tablecloths. But if you're still picking out a venue, a dress, a DJ, a type of "wacky" cake, and hip decorations, you're pretty much going through the same motions as "traditional" brides, right? Can anyone who has thrown an "offbeat" wedding clarify this for me? Because I admit, at this point, I'm having a hard time really seeing the difference between the two; something that is due to the fact that weddings, no matter how you decorate them, have the same basic structure: ceremony/reception. It's a bit hard to break free from that pattern, no matter how you dress it up.

In fact, more "traditional" brides are going for "offbeat" methods, as the trend shifts from elaborate ceremonies to personal ones: "DIY is coming into play more often in response to the fact that more people are concerned about where their dollar is going," Knot editor Anja Winikka tells the Los Angeles Times, noting that many brides are opting for cheaper, more personalized options, and according to Susan Carpenter of the Times, princess-type wedding dresses are falling out of fashion, as brides simplify their ceremonies due to the withering economy. Carpenter writes: "Pouf is passé. Slim is stylish, and so are soft lace, flowing fabrics and focused embellishment. The everywhere, over-the-top beading and embroidery of recent years? That's gone, for the most part, in favor of simple adornments on a shoulder, sleeve or waistline."

I'm not sure we can count out the princess dresses or the elaborate ceremonies just yet, however: for many brides, their "special day" is an incredibly personal event that doesn't necessarily have to follow fashion patterns or traditional means. In fact, I think it is getting harder and harder to tell where a traditional wedding ends, and an "offbeat" wedding begins, as the two are becoming more and more aligned under economic pressures to be thrifty but clever, beautiful but unique, and based more on the reason for the ceremony—love—than the actual ceremony itself.

Perhaps we should just forget weddings altogether and take Elizabeth Taylor's advice?

This image was lost some time after publication.
This image was lost some time after publication.

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A Wedding With All The Budget Trimmings [LATimes]
Wedding Dresses Go Back To Basics [LATimes]

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My husband and I decided to get married because he really needed to see the dentist. No, I'm really not kidding. We'd been together for 9 years, were committed and happy, but also poor and healthcare for both of us was a real issue.

I planned it in two weeks. Essentially told people, show up if you can. I made my dress in black and red, wrote the vows, had the ceremony in bare feet that was performed by a family friend without any religious language or moral anything. There were 20 people, and afterwards, we went out to our favorite Italian place and had pizza. That's it. It was fun, we enjoyed it, and it wasn't the "best" day of my life.

I don't so much see it as "offbeat" as...not what anyone was expecting. My in-laws had made cracks that I would go "traditional" white wedding, or that my mom would go insane and try to force some weird idea thing.They really didn't see the whole "hey, show up in 2 wees!" thing coming. I think my father in law was shocked.

You know what also didn't happen? My husband and I didn't build up this day into some impossible high point, and it had nothing to do with our level of commitment to each other. 6 years later and we're still doing fine. And you know what else? My friends tell everyone it was the best wedding they've ever been to.