February 07: Offbeat Bride! February 2, 2007

When Andrew and I got married in the summer of 2005, after a solid year of planning the darn thing, I was so happy that we got to do the things that were important to us (handmade pretty much everything, daisies, food and wine, and cool photographs) and got to skip the things that weren’t (programs, favors, tuxedos, diamonds, and legal last name changes). But it was exhausting!

I felt like the last six months of the whole slog was dominated by my new unpaid full-time job: calling vendors, tracking down addresses, and keeping up a ridiculously detailed set of Excel spreadsheets all day on top of my normal workload, just to pull off a relatively informal and relaxed wedding and reception. Half the time it seemed like I was making it up as I went along — it’s not always the most intuitive thing to pull off a wedding that reflects the two of you, if you’re not the tuxedo-and-diamond type… and we definitely aren’t. Luckily for us, we had an amazing wedding officiant, Sister Diane of the Church of Craft, a batallion of awesome and energetic friends, and a Costco membership.

I met Ariel Meadow Stallings, a Seattle writer who shares both my wedding anniversary (August 7) and my thoughts on wedding planning, while she was researching her new book Offbeat Bride. She interviewed me and a couple dozen other brides and grooms about our planning, ceremonies, and beyond, and the resulting memoir-meets-anecdotal how-to has definitely widened the path for “women (and men) who want their weddings to be as independent and unconventional as they are.”

Offbeat Bride

She’s also set up a website, offbeatbride.com, which she updates with new resources, interviews, and anecdotes on a daily basis, and she’s kicking off her West Coast book tour with a bachelorette-party-style signing in Seattle on February 7! I recently got to interview her about it all, and here are some of her thoughts on the state of indie matrimony in 2007 — thanks, Ariel!

What does the term “Offbeat Bride” mean to you?

“Offbeat” is a term of total relativity. I spoke to brides along the full spectrum of offbeat-ness, from women who had weddings in Catholic churches but wanted Europe’s “Final Countdown” played by the string quartet, all the way to couples who had underwater weddings, musical theater weddings, and full-out freakfests that made our hippie raver nuptials look downright traditional.

It’s this relativity that’s important. Being an offbeat bride, to me, means you’re working toward authenticity and faithfulness to your wedding vision, whatever it may be. That authenticity could take the form of a simple barefoot ceremony in the woods, or it could look like an elaborate Hindi-Jewish ceremony in a downtown loft. It totally depends on the couple.

What was your favorite offbeat moment at your own wedding?

One of my favorite moments was when we were quietly waiting “backstage” (on a patio behind some trees near the B&B) before the ceremony. We could hear our friends and family getting settled on the lawn in the gardens where the ceremony was happening, and it was so nice to have a few quiet minutes to collect myself with my almost husband, and the whole thing was made all that much more special when a tiny white spider appeared in the white lily that was at the center of my bouquet.

Ariel and Andreas pre-wedding
Ariel and her husband Andreas, just before their wedding

What’s the best piece of advice you got in the thick of the planning? Any one thing you’d recommend from your own experience?

Several level-headed women I respected told me to be gentle with myself … that weddings have a way of turning the most sane, low-key women into stress-cases. They were right, and their words reassured me that it wasn’t just me being a freak.

For brides who take on the bulk of the planning, there really needs to be an acknowledgment that you’re undertaking a huge bunch of project management. Treat your wedding like you’d treat any other project management — live by your budget and schedules. A little project management goes a long way with wedding planning.

What are some of your favorite online resources for cool and creative wedding planning?

Indiebride.com‘s kvetch message boards were certainly my most valuable resource.

•As much as I hate the site, some of theknot.com‘s budgeting tools and calculators were helpful.

•I also spent a lot of time looking at other people’s wedsites and blogs for inspiration and ideas.

How have people responded to the book so far?

Very positively. I’ve gotten some really touching feedback from engaged women, one of whom said it was like having a big sister helping her out with her wedding. I’ve been surprised by the responses I’ve gotten from wedding industry folks, too — photographers and wedding planners who written to tell me how much they enjoyed the book, despite their jadedness with the whole wedding industry.

What book events do you have planned?

Tons of stuff in the Seattle area, and then I’ve just confirmed a reading and reception in NYC in early March. I’m working on Los Angeles and Washington DC, too. It’s hard, though — since my book was published by a small press, all my touring is out of pocket, so I’m limited to places where I have couches to sleep on. If anyone has a couch they want to open up to me, I’ll try to come to their city!

What other projects are you working on these days?

In a great stroke of divine luck, I was laid off from my dotcom job the week before the book came out, so I’ve been able to focus on not only my book, but all my other beloved side projects, like the Salon of Shame (a bimonthly diary-reading event), Mr. Bento Porn (a photo community of lunch obsessives), and my own freelancing and consulting. I recently set up shop as a social media consultant, too … I’ve been helping some of my fellow authors wrap their heads around using Web 2.0 social media like blogs and flickr and myspace to get the word out about their books. It’s been fun!

Anything else you’d like to add?

I think I’m almost more excited about offbeatbride.com than I am about Offbeat Bride. The book was fun, but it’s essentially a monologue — me going on for 220 pages while the reader just sits and listens. I love that the site is more of a dialog, what with the photo galleries and comments and advice column. I’m such a web geek, and while I’m super excited to be an author, I’ll always be a blogger at heart.

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