Tuesday, May 4, 2010

24 Hour Wedding Blog Cycle

"Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery - celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from - it’s where you take them to."

Eff this obsession with completely unique weddings that are perfect reflections of us and our unique partnership and our unique love. Eff this obsession with wedding trends and worrying about whether we can really have cupcakes at our weddings because we're not sure if they're "tired or trendy". Eff these concerns about whether birdcage veils are last year's style or this year's style. If you like cupcakes, have them at your wedding. If you like the birdcage veil style, go for it. Because really, any other option you could possibly dream up has been done before by someone, somewhere getting married.

My unmarried, unengaged girlfriend recently went to a wedding and came back giddy with a-ma-zing ideas for my wedding that were just going to blow my mind. What was her I-simply-must-do-this-or-my-wedding-will-fail-brand-new-idea? A DIY photobooth. Yeah. It's been on my reception list for about a year now. Old hat. But the important part is that it wasn't old hat to her. She hasn't been mainlining wedding bullsh*t for the last year. She just went to a wedding hoping to have a blast, and she did.

It put the blogland obsession with trends in perspective. Back when bridal magazines were the go-to source for inspiration, they would recycle trend pieces each year, for the next crop of brides. Styles might shift somewhat with fashion, but the May issue would probably repeat a lot from issues the year before. If the market turns over entirely every 9-18 months (depending on the length of your engagement) there's no real need to strive for wholly original content. But, with the internet now driving the wedding industry, we've seen both an explosion in creativity from non-traditional sources and content churn as 700 blogs rush to repost, reinterpret and create the Newest Best Must Have Wedding Ideas of the Week.

Because the truth is that there's nothing new in the world that hasn't already been done. But the blogs need to breathlessly sell you on the idea of the amazing newness, or why would you bother reading their site over any of the 700 other options? And so, we end up with asinine pieces entitled "10 Wedding Ideas You've Never Seen Before"  from the Knot, which is itself struggling against the inroads made by more "trendsetting" wedding blogs and communities. But, even beyond being entirely incorrect in its title (really, I've seen some of these ideas before, possibly done better) it's also ridiculously misguided and even downright awful. Because in its attempt to set new wedding trend standards, it's again selling us on unnecessary products and concepts about the meaning of weddings themselves. Let's look a bit more closely at what I mean by examining that list of "10 Ideas You've Never Seen Before: Think You've Seen It All? Here are 10 Genius Ideas Your Guests Will Never See Coming!"*

1. Stop-Motion Lego Save the Date Video (with convenient link for videographer vendors!). Ok, so I'd never seen this particular save-the-date video before receiving the Knot's list. But I've seen others elsewhere, and, while they're pretty darn rad, save the date postcards are panic inducing enough for us (design compromise, lack of time, lack of necessity, where else do we cut the budget to afford these things... arg!) For some couples, it makes sense to invest in this - it's a fun project, they both work in film, whatever. But it's a SAVE THE DATE, not even an invitation, and hardly a darn reflection on the wedding. You know what would be unique at this point? A weddingblog that advocated picking up the d*mn phone and calling your guest list to let them know the wedding date and details six months out. "Hi grandma, could you save the date? Awesome. Now I can get back to crafting garlands made out of newspaper clippings from the day we got engaged."

2. Paint can reception table lighting. Yeah, it's cool looking. And yeah, it's a larger-scale version of this idea I saw at 100 Layer Cake with tin cans. Which requires a lot of tin cans and a freaking drill. Yeah, the paint-can-lighting-scape would definitely require an army of event designers and craft elves. Which is why the Knot also offers a handy link to wedding planners. (Oh dear. I can't possibly imagine convincing Jason to help with tin can drilling night after night, week after week, or emailing Emilia Jane with my brilliant and original idea about tin can light installations)

3. Skis as your Guest Book. Yeah, have your guests sign your skis (records, hockey sticks, guitar or any other personal hobbyist item) for an keepsake-guest-book you'll display for all time! This is actually a cool idea, for people who want guest books and have a meaningful shared hobby. I saw this done recently with a surfboard and it was perfect for the couple. But for me, I can't imagine caring about a guestbook, let alone schlepping around a giant sporting good covered in signatures through our next few apartments. You know what would be unique? Admitting that most guest books are lame, primarily because we don't know what to say besides "congratulations!" Give us ideas that inspire creativity in our guests, and I'd be more impressed.

4. Custom Wedding Cake Table. Since I think $1000 cakes are silly enough already, I'm not even going to dignify this with a response.

5. Tree Planting Ceremony. "Sure, you could stick with the traditional candle or sand ceremony, but why not cap off your wedding ceremony with a tradition that really celebrates growth?" Um, Knot, the definition of tradition is that it's a belief, action or ritual that's been handed down through generations. You can create new rituals that may eventually become personal or family traditions, but you can't invent traditions. And anyhow, the candle and sand thing are pretty darn recent too (maybe back to the the 1930s for the unity candle). And the tree planting's been done before too.

6. Custom Illustrated Wedding Invitations.  I agree, they're pretty awesome. But "never seen before?" Meh. If you want original, make a wedding invitation stop motion video. Since everyone's expecting paper invitations, illustrations aren't really unique unless you make them into a stop-motion animation video. Right? Isn't that what you said six unique listings ago?

7.  Bathtub Reception Decor. "Reinvent the way your drinks are served." As far as I can tell, you're still putting drinks in a large ice bucket-type receptacle and not really serving them at all. No reinvention here. And if you were really unique, you'd use a urinal.

8.Phonograph Cocktail Hour. Oh eff me. Like we don't have enough on our plates with thrifting every d*mn candelabra, dish and mason jar, now you want me to thrift my MUSIC? I foresee disaster when you have a few warped Beatles records from the 70s and that new rad collector's edition hip hop sample vinyl option for the phonograph hour soundtrack as everyone hovers within two feet to properly hear it. Eff the "cool" aesthetics and go with the DJ you probably hired anyhow.

9. Big Time Branding. "Okay, it might seem a little egocentric, but today is your day, right?" No. It's really not. And it's really not the point. And your guests presumably already know your names (I hope) without them writ large in spray painted styrofoam. And your wedding isn't a brand or a marketing campaign - it's a celebration of a union and marriage. But since monograms and marketing-speak have been around a while, you're hardly the first article to sell us on the concept of "branded" weddings. Shudder.

10. A Boutonniere for Your "Trophy Groom" This "original" idea was stolen from the Postcards and Pretties blog (with a reference but without a linkback. Nice.) where it was presented as a fun DIY succulent project with succulents potted in a tiny trophy vase. But it took the Knot to make it totally hideous with the "trophy groom, ha ha" joking references. Way to play into the groom-has-no-role-besides-showing-up/she-only-got-married-for-the-party stereotypes. Disgusting and unoriginal. Nice job, Knot, as usual.


In conclusion, unique is bullsh*t. Someone's done it before anyhow. So just have fun with the choices that matter to you and shut out all the effing wedding noise.

*I think you have to be a member of the Knot to see some of these ridiculous links. But I figure some of you also-getting-marrieds have a fakey account or were too lazy to unsubscribe too. And if not, you get the picture anyhow.

24 comments:

  1. hahahahahaha THANK YOU.

    the knot does nothing but make me feel like my wedding is worth peanuts. (and not the yummy orange circus peanuts)

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  2. SO TRUE- I WAS too lazy to unsubscribe and I DETEST getting those ridiculous reminder emails from The Knot. I really just should.

    I completely agree- being original is silly. Who cares? As long as we're "us". Which is why we're having Guitar Hero and Rock Band at our reception. Cuz it will be fun and we really don't care if it's "original" (which it isn't, i totally stole it from OffBeat Bride lol).

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  3. Fantastic post! You've articulated very clearly what I was trying to wrap my head around in worrying about the birdcage veil situation: the wedding trend cycle is changing with the shift away from print media, but more importantly, it is telescopic: people who just go to a wedding every year or two see it one way, people with seventeen wedding blogs on their Google reader see it very differently.

    As for tree planting, my finlaws did it last summer, and they got dirt everywhere: gown and rented tux and dear god you should have seen their hands. But they were happy to have done it anyway, because they were getting married and so happy about it!

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  4. Even harder for me to stomach than the list of wedding trend ideas from mainstream wedding sites - because, as annoying as it is, that is kind of their job - is this question http://www.bethhelmstetterblog.com/2010/04/what-can-we-do-to-ensure-our-wedding-is.html. Why? I can understand why a vendor would want a "blogworthy" wedding but why do couples give a shit about their wedding being published? It baffles me.

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  5. @Emilia - agreed. I think in showing us inspiration for aspirational weddings (blech) it's created a concept of what the "right" wedding looks like (ick). And your wedding is the ultimate "right" if it gets featured on a popular blog, somehow validating that yes, your effort was worthwhile and yes, your wedding was really amazing. I started off wanting a wedding that was as pretty as the blog weddings (before I realized they were all professionally designed and managed, and therefore had no real relevance for me) which could easily tip into wanting a blog feature for my wedding. Luckily, that's not me or my priorities, but I can see that pull. And it makes me a little sad because it all misses the point.

    Those blogs and the Knot/mainstream sites ARE just doing their job. I don't fault them for that at all. But it's so damaging without healthy perspective, and perspective is one thing that's sadly lacking during wedding planning (especially if couples are rushed or have particularly strong cultural or family pressures).

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  6. Pahahaha! I just love reading Knot rants. Makes my day :)

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  7. who the hell cares if youre unique.

    get friggin married.

    as i said on apw months ago: "NOT choosing something because everyone else does, is just as bad as choosing something because everyone else does. It’s the same thing."

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  8. I have to admit, when I see an idea I'd thought of (& thought it was original) on a wedding blog, I think "well, I guess I can't do that." or "well, it's different enough from what I was thinking that it's ok."

    But, I'm like that with EVERYTHING I do, not just weddings. I think it comes from being raised in the woods away from people. I don't think my wedding will be unique, but if I'm going to put time into thinking up and then creating something, I want it to reflect my own creativity, not someone elses, even if it is coincidence.

    I'm hoping people reading the Knot do all those things. At once. Or maybe combine them. Like you could sign your bathtub guestbook and use skis to serve cake. Or maybe a paint can planting ceremony.

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  9. @Verhext - It's so easy to feel like our ideas are less special when we've seen them done before. Especially if these ideas have been held close to our hearts and feel personal already. But I'd like to think the act of choosing and interpreting makes these ideas creative and personal, as does the love and sweat that goes into creation. No one else will ever have *my* succulent centerpieces - even thought I've seen them a bazillion times before - because I'm making them with J: growing the plants, finding the vases, deciding on the table layout, working together to make it all come together. Also, they just feel so *right* for us and who we are in our aesthetics, locale, and environmental ethics. So I no longer give a damn if they've been done or overdone or anything else. I've done a lot of self-work on teaching myself to value process over product, which helps with respect to the wedding (and general creativity.)

    So of COURSE your wedding will be unique. Because it will be yours, and that's enough (even though I know you're planning on so much amazingness above and beyond that). Especially because you're lovingly choosing a wedding and rituals that matter to you and your partner. It's going to be so lovely. And creative. And right.

    Also, I want to attend a wedding that does everything listed on all the wedding blogs all at once. Please. I must see that in person.

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  10. There is no way we will ever be truly unique. It's just not possible.

    I quite love the idea of using skis to serve cake!

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  11. Thank you! I rattled off a pissy response to this newsletter yesterday, but this is pitch-perfect.

    My favorite part: "Awesome. Now I can get back to crafting garlands made out of newspaper clippings from the day we got engaged."

    This is why I keep coming back here.

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  12. The only "right" wedding is the wedding that's right for you. Have the damn wedding YOU want. If you see something that's supposed to be "cool" and you like it, and you have the resources and skills or whatever to do it, then do it. If you don't like it, don't. Pressure is not priority, and I run into this all the time as a planner, the difference between "have to" and "want to". As my grandfather was fond of saying, you don't have to do anything but stay black and die. Do you want your guests to sign your surf board? That's an entirely different thing than having to have it.

    Have the wedding you want.
    Have the wedding you WANT.
    Have the wedding YOU want.

    That is all.

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  13. Very funny, and VERY entertaining. I would love to say more, but I'm afraid to wake up with a bloody Knothead in my bed.
    BUT, you're killin me with the Anti-Cake thing! Just stop it already! (chuckle)

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  14. @Mr Frostings - to be fair, I only said I think $1000 cakes are silly (as are most $1000 dessert options, for me and my budget). But! You also offer delicious cakes at sub-$1000 pricing too. Which is awesome and much less silly. :)

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  15. You are very right, everything has been done before. I'm glad I learned this lesson early in the planning stage and I've been less worried about creating an entirely top to bottom unique wedding than one that feels like us. I won't lie, we are definitely borrowing some ideas other people have done.

    But I have no worries that our wedding will be simply us, because we were the ones making decisions, choosing how to put this shindig together. While the elements might have been done before, no other wedding will be like ours, because no one else is us.

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  16. @Verhext You're digging your own tolets. I'm pretty sure you can stop worring about being original ;) But I totally get it - the things I love (visually)about weddings are those moments of really authentic creativity. That said, you can have authentic creativity and not be the first one do do it. Our Huppah wasn't groundbreaking it was just a weird mix - super traditional prayer shawl top and birch branch bottoms. But when I see pictures I don't think wedding trend, I think, "Oh my god US."

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  17. @Emilia Jane OH MY GOD I JUST THREW UP IN MY MOUTH.

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  18. Becca,

    I love this post. Coming from someone on "the other side" as a wedding planner, you'd be surprised at the pressure that some brides are cranking on us to get their weddings published on blogs. Serious pressure. As in "can you ensure that my wedding will be on blahblah.com blog?" Unreal.

    As someone who has been married for almost 9 years, let me tell you that the wedding day fades to a happy, foggy memory. Keep in mind why you're doing this, and rock that birdcage veil as you eat your cupcake!

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  19. LOVE this post Becca! And totally feel you on just. getting. over. being. unique. already. At least for the sake of just being unique. Seriously! I bought a bunch of frames from Ikea a while back for our table numbers. Then I saw them on Ruffled. Then I saw them on weddingbee. And for a quick sec I thought- should I get something else? Something new? Something more (ugh) unique? And then I said fuck it. They cost under $20 and they're for freakin' table numbers for christsake. They don't NEED to be unique. Every single damn thing does not need to be unique. And then I started writing a blog post about it. And then I read this post. And so now I can have another beer and watch glee instead. :) Thanks!

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  20. Emilia Jane, thank you so much for that link as it gave me many giggles today! My favorite part:

    "Don't be afraid to reach out to a contact at the specific blog or magazine in the initial planning stages and ask for their insider tips on making your day magazine worthy."

    How romantic!

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  21. These 10-things-never-seen-before are now the 10-things-most-fresh-in-our-minds.

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  22. That's why I like going to weddings also. I love seeing how they make a wedding so awesome. Unfortunately, the last wedding I attend to was my cousin's few years back and now I'm so excited to attend another wedding on December. :)

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