Lavender Writer Chats Up Women’s Offbeat Weddings: Interview with Ariel Meadow Stallings
Ariel Meadow Stallings first wrote Offbeat Bride: Creative Alternatives for Independent Brides in 2005 in the lonely fastness of her Seattle home. Her main aim was to encourage brides to create and enjoy their own special brand of wedding.
To Stallings’s surprise, the book spawned thousands—make that hundreds of thousands—of responses a month from offbeat brides. That explosion of nuptial eccentricity begat her beguiling and addictive wedding website: http://offbeatbride.com. One can browse it for hours, checking in to read the profiles or just feast on the photos.
A quick peek gleaned these tidbits from couples postings on the website: “Ani & Laura’s Lesbian Gamer Geek Wedding”; “Alison & Matt’s Icelandic wedding & Philadelphia library reception.” The latter posted: “We got married at a glacier lagoon….Instead of a cake cutting, we had gingerbread versions of ourselves, and bit off each other’s heads.”
The website is crammed with profiles of couples like these, along with Stallings’s answers and information for the curious. “Wedding suits for butches, transmasculine beings, and other festive gender-benders” is definitely a must-see.
Stallings’s wedding to her partner, Andreas, urged on by the author’s lesbian aunties, forms the framework of the book. Chapters—like “I Am Woman, Hear Me Order Monogrammed Napkins”; “The Swag, Part 1: Invitations & RSVPs”; “Décor Fetishist”; “Prefunk”; “Can I Borrow Your Yarmulke?”; “Who the Hell Are All These People?”; and “Postweddin’ Depression”—give the dewy-eyed a clearer vision of what to expect. The couple survived what Stallings calls her “hippie/raver forest freakfest wedding”—and so can you.
Stallings recently snatched a moment from her wedding whirl to join in a question-and-answer with Lavender’s ring-shy writer.
Just to be clear—your information is in the book and online only—you don’t actually physically set up nuptials for folks, do you?
Oh, goodness—I absolutely am not a wedding planner! I realized pretty early on that I could help a few dozen couples with their weddings each year as a wedding planner, or I could help hundreds of thousands of couples each month as a writer and web publisher. I choose the latter.
Tell us a bit about your website. Will all permutations of bride and groom find it useful? And, while we’re at it, just what is “wedding porn”?
Originally launched as a way to promote the first edition of my book, offbeatbride.com has evolved into a beast unto itself. The site is updated three times a day with an avalanche of real offbeat wedding stories, advice, and wedding porn.
Wedding porn has nothing to do with sex. It’s just photos from other people’s real weddings that may inspire readers in their own wedding planning. I use the term “porn” as a play on “images that inspire desire,” rather than “images of naked people with plasticky genitals engaged in sexual activities.”
Most of my content aims to be easy-to-digest and empowering. I profile at least three offbeat weddings every week, and provide a potpourri of advice, opinion, interviews, features, and perspectives written for people planning offbeat weddings. I’m not especially focused on vendors, and you won’t see many high-budget weddings on the site. I strive for diversity, and—as the product of two gay families—love featuring offbeat lesbian weddings.
Since my book was published by a woman’s press, it was written for women. The website, while inclusive of both het and gay weddings, is also written for women. I just can’t do it all! Men both gay and straight are absolutely welcome, but ultimately, my goal with the site has always been to create a community to support women.
How do you see the rising numbers of same-sex marriages affecting the wedding industry? Are you getting more hits from gays and lesbians? What types of offbeat ceremonies are they looking for, or are they being more traditional?
What types of ceremonies I see queer readers looking for? I’ve seen it go both ways. I’ve talked to gay couples who want to have a more traditional wedding as a way of legitimatizing the ceremony in the eyes of family members who may not see it as a “real wedding.” For folks with dubious or critical family, sometimes, the last thing they want to do is make their queer wedding even more queer. Other queer couples go the opposite direction, figuring that as long as they’re already marriage rebels by nature of their relationship, they might as well scrap all the traditions, and build their wedding from scratch.
What would you tell a couple who want to be nontraditional, but is kind of vague on the details?
I actually worry about couples wanting to be nontraditional. I encourage couples to plan weddings that are an expression of their relationship and personalities. For some couples, this can mean confirming their place in larger cultural contexts, and honoring family traditions. For others, this can mean expressing their individuality. For both, the goal is the same: to create a wedding that fits with the couple and their relationship.
When I hear about couples wanting to be nontraditional, it strikes me as a little inauthentic. You either are, or you aren’t. It’s like Yoda says: “Do, or do not. There is no try.”
That said, I think there’s a lot than can be gleaned from admiring other people’s weddings—even weddings that totally aren’t what you think of as your style. I tell my readers on my website that I guarantee they won’t like every wedding they see on offbeatbride.com. And that’s the whole point! I like to expose my more traditional readers to the wide breadth of subcultures and lifestyles. We have so much to learn from the way different people celebrate their commitment.
In the process of creating your own wedding, does it help or hinder if at least one person of the couple—you, for example—is an obsessive organizer? Your subject heading “Demented bridal-control issues” lingers in my mind. Can you give our marriage/commitment-minded readers come advice?
For me, the way I was able to release control was to focus on the metaissues instead of the immediate issues. For instance, as long as it was my dear friend making our wedding cake, I could release control over what the cake actually looked like.
In today’s world, “bride/groom” can be more than, or perhaps one might say “beyond,” the standard boy/girl dichotomy. With the number of transgender individuals increasing, have you had any inquiries from or information offered by couples with one—or more—trans people?
Oh, I’ve got a whole archive dedicated to transgender wedding issues: http://offbeatbride.com/tag/transgender-wedding. It’s been a really wonderful opportunity for me, actually, to learn more about the transgender community. For instance, I had a reader correct me when I referred to someone as “transgendered” instead of “transgender.” I have tons of lesbian family, so the language around lesbian culture feels pretty natural to me. As a writer, learning the language of transgender culture was a great side effect of working on Offbeat Bride.
Are there any other wedding words or suggestions you’d like to direct to Lavender readers?
This is an odd thing for a wedding “expert” to say, but I actually don’t particularly care about weddings. But I love wacky, wonderful people who are madly in love with each other. I love seeing the way nontraditional people chose to celebrate their commitments, how they come together to honor love and their values. I like learning about new corners of culture: puppet-makers, steampunks, psychobillies, happy goths. I love the way couples express themselves through fashion and art, and I am a huge sucker for exciting wedding photography. Plus, I genuinely enjoy supporting smart women as they question and challenge the massive cultural expectations that come with weddings and marriage.
To see Offbeat Bride in all its spangled glory, visit
Offbeat Bride: Creative Alternatives for Independent Brides
Ariel Meadow Stallings