Offbeat Bride: Taffeta-Free Alternatives for Independent Brides by Ariel Meadow Stallings
Seal Press, 1st printing, 2007
Genre: non-fiction, wedding planning
Synopsis & Review: Unenthused by a white wedding gown and bored by the hoopla of the Hollywood-style reception, Ariel Meadow Stallings found herself absolutely exhausted with the nuances of traditional nuptials. So, she chose to take a walk off the beaten aisle and embrace the non-traditional bride within. Through trial and error, Ariel and her fiancé managed to crank out a budget wedding with all-night dancing, guests toasting champagne in mismatched mugs, gorgeous gardens, no monogrammed napkins, no garter, no bridesmaids, and lots of lesbians. Shortly after her 2004 matrimony, Ariel began searching for other brides whose ceremonies defied age-old tradition and reflected who they are. From there, she developed the idea for a guide for the offbeat couple.
Offbeat Bride serves as an inspiration for those who are interested in a vegan buffet, avoiding bouquet tossing, doing away with the elitist guest list and being a control freak without becoming a Bridezilla. Filled with sidebars, tips, tricks and planner encouragement (all taffeta-free) to help you figure out your special day, this book sees couples through the wedding process from ideas on how to announce their engagement to answering the question, “So, how’s married life?” and everything in between.
Once I got over the initial OMG EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE part of getting engaged last fall, I suddenly realized that we had a wedding to plan. Fortunately, two of my sisters, the younger and an elder, had gotten married in the summer of 2006, and so I’d recently seen the American wedding machine in action. Since it was handy, the first source I consulted was Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior by Judith Martin. (This invaluable tome has been a favorite of mine since elementary school.) Then Maiya steered me toward The Knot. I bought one issue of Martha Stewart Weddings (the one with the butterfly cake cover; it’s so preeeetty!). And though Maiya swore up and down that she would be my mentor, my sensei, my defacto planner, I nearly collapsed beneath the awesome power of the Wedding Industrial Complex (WIC). There was much to do! So I refused to do it, and let our wedding languish.
It wasn’t until after I’d stumbled across Indie Bride’s Kvetch and then Offbeat Bride while desperately searching for a way out of The Knot’s pink WIC ghetto that I began to relax again. What I found at both sites was the approbation and encouragement I needed and wanted from fellow brides-to-be. All Eli and I wanted to do was marry one another and then celebrate with a bitchin’ party for all our friends and family. We had no interest in aisle runners or mother-of-the-groom corsages, in STDs and BMs (heh, heh heh heh, heh). Eli wanted barbeque and a sharp suit, I wanted the Zoo and Ember’s, and a magenta cocktail dress. And with the help of IB and OBB, we’re slowly putting it all together. After a long hiatus from planning other than booking the venue and selecting a caterer (ourselves!), I realized how soon now is, and started planning all over again. OBB has been outstanding, giving us ideas for STDS (heh) and a bouquet. Because of my affection for OBB, I requested the book that started it all from the library.
Offbeat Bride in book form is part memoir, part manifesto, part helpful advisor, and part cheerleader. Though it’s not the kind of guide that features checklists and timelines, it is both edifying and inspirational. Ariel’s experiences, and those of the other brides featured, demonstrate different ways of doing things, proving that there are more options out there than what the WIC suggests. OBB discusses DeBeers diamond mythology, poufy white dresses, and the bridal beauty industry, but it also covers ravers, compromise, wedding co-ops, and chillaxing. As a bride-to-be in the throes of wedding planning, I found the chatty style engaging and soothing. OBB is like a pal who has been there before and wants to relieve your anxieties and tell you all about how she did hers, and how you can do yours–and this is the kicker–any way you please.
An excellent starter book for any bride embarking on her odyssey of planning and wondering whether there is anything else out there past the cookie cutter weddings on The Knot.OBB is also non-judgmental, shouting “Your wedding is not a contest!” at brides who feel too conventional, reminding them that what’s important is honesty and authenticity.
Read also: the Offbeat Bride Blog. I haven’t really read any other wedding books, haha.
Cover: Pretty turquoise, clean design, maybe a slightly more offbeat-looking bride would have enhanced it. But overall, very good.
For me, the scariest part of getting engaged was feeling as if I were suddenly buying into an identity that wasn’t my own.
I was having a bridedentity crisis.
Suddenly I was supposed to care about floral arrangements and classical quartets. Suddenly I was supposed to like poufy white dresses and showing off jewelry. Suddenly I was supposed to buy five-hundred-page glossy magazines and take a strong interest in decorative bows or the backs of rented chairs.
I was a bride, but I wasn’t that kind of bride. I didn’t care about any of these things. I just loved my partner, Andreas, and I wanted to have a big party to share that love with our family and friends.
Most fo us weirdos want our weddings to be a unique reflection of ourselves–and yet somehow, once we start planning the event, that concept seems to fall by the wayside. Tradition has this eerie way of creeping in and taking over. And while a conventional wedding is a superb choice for conventional folks, I’m always amazed by how many freaks, feminists, and freethinkers find themselves getting married at a ceremony that looks like it belongs to someone else.