Book Blurb: Offbeat Bride by Ariel Meadow Stallings

Book Blurb: Offbeat Bride by Ariel Meadow Stallings

Offbeat Bride

Majoring in the humanities, my approach to wedding planning–surprise, surprise–is to research it to death. I am all for getting lost in tabs of the grand internet, but sometimes its nice just to settle down with a book. I decided on four wedding-planning books that I felt fit my personality and situation. The first book is Ariel Meadow  Stallings’ Offbeat Bride: Creative Alternatives for Independent Brides. I was excited to find a used 2010 copy at a Hastings and read through it quickly. Offbeat Bride is one of the first wedding blogs I had ever visited, and I admire its attitude.

Since I have a history of reading more nontraditional wedding blogs, a lot of the information presented was not new to me. However, if I were a greener bride-to-be, I think this book would be a great introduction to rethinking what weddings are “supposed” to be and how to plan. Stallings’ raver, camp-out wedding is not necessarily my personal vision, but I loved reading about how she navigated planning a wedding with an out-of-the-way location, lots of DIY contribution, and her personal tastes and values. She covers a lot of the hurdles of planning and the traditions  feminist couples may be struggling with, and she does it all with a fun and honest voice. What I respect most about her experience, her book, and her blog is that she always brings home the fact that however you want to plan your wedding is the right way to do it. She gives examples of couples she interviewed who had weddings ranging from church ceremonies to underwater unions. There is no sense of a line for being too different or not offbeat enough.

My recommendation is for any bride who feels like taking an alternative path down the aisle to read this. Her breakdown of her planning is helpful; her writing style makes for an interesting and fun read; and her story can make more nontraditional couples not feel so alone in an industry that may not have offer the day they want.

Happy Reading!


Has a Ring to It

Has a Ring to It

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Not always, but generally in my part of the world, engagement starts with a question and a ring. Sometimes the ring that is given is a complete surprise, but I find more and more couples (including Andrew and myself) are going the other route. The giver of the ring is at least getting input from the recipient on what kind of ring to get whether gold or platinum, diamond or emerald, tattooed or no ring at all. Going a step further, the couple picks out the ring together. I think surprise proposals or completely expected ones work. After all, I can understand the hesitancy to choose an engagement ring by yourself. The person you are giving it to is going to wear it for the rest of his or her life! You want him or her to like it! And there is always room for compromise. Andrew did not feel comfortable picking out a ring on his own, but I wanted some element of surprise. In the end, I decided on what band I wanted, but I never saw the setting with a stone. Andrew picked it out, and I didn’t see the two combined until he was down on one knee. Win-win.

There are a lot of things to think about when choosing a ring, especially together, and I’m not talking about the stone cut. First off, do you both even want a ring? Some people are just not jewelry people. I myself can only remember a few brief times when I even wore rings, let alone anything more than earrings. In fact, most of the women examples I know don’t even wear the engagement ring with their bands anymore, whether it is because they do not find it comfortable or it hinders them at jobs like nursing. I just read a wedding post the other day on Offbeat Bride where the husband and wife didn’t exchange any rings because they would never wear one.

Also, some people, women in particular, may not be comfortable wearing a ring because it can symbolize inequality in the sexes or in general. A woman may think of it more as a brand that she belongs to her fiancé or thinks it is unfair that only one person gets a ring/has to wear one. I’m not arguing for or against any particular side, but I also believe you do not have to have a ring to be engaged. My great grandparents didn’t have an engagement ring; they just ran off and got married. Some people can’t afford one, and its absence doesn’t make the couple any less engaged. Do what’s best for you two. Don’t like rings; don’t get one. Or if you want, get an engagement something else! You could adopt a star together, plant a tree, or give something to do with the other person’s passion. I had a lovely boss who told me that when her now husband asked if her if she’d like a ring, she said no, but she would like a bicycle. So he got her a beautiful high quality bicycle, and they still go on cycling trips all over the country every year. It was touching, and more importantly, it was them. Think it is unfair that you get a ring but he or she doesn’t? There is no law prohibiting you both getting rings or cufflinks or bracelets or bicycles to signify your engagement. I still have my eye out to get Andrew a nice watch as his engagement token…or maybe a banjo.

The second question you may ask, or at least one I did, are there conditions you have for your ring or your partner’s ring that have to do with your values. I am not the greenest person on the planet, but I spent most of my time searching estate and antique rings because they would be more eco-friendly. Diamond and gold mining have an impact on the land, so you may not be comfortable with buying a new ring. Estate and antique rings and family heirlooms are awesome alternatives if you still want the sparkle and shiny. (Just make sure you get your estate or antique ring from a reputable source. While we were ring shopping, one jeweler told me that you have to be careful with rings labeled as estate or antique because the original materials may have been changed in various places or replaced.) Finding jewelers that only use recycled gold and ethically sourced materials are another bet, but who is to say you have to use precious metals if you don’t want to? I was acquainted with a couple at one time who used a wooden ring. The groom had crafted it himself, making it super personal and full of love. Wooden, tattooed, plastic, or otherwise, again go with what is best for you both.

I very much wanted to find a ring that was more environmentally friendly and unique, but unfortunately, I could never find the ring during months of searching. As I mentioned earlier, I am not big on wearing rings, so there was a point where I didn’t even think I would find something I liked. (And I hate making decisions. I think I told you that.) There were also some mishaps. I had found a beautiful estate ring online that was the clear winner, but it was sold before Andrew could purchase it. Some things to remember, the great thing about a one-of-a-kind ring is that there is only one. The terrible thing about a one-of-a-kind ring is that there is only one. If you fall in love with one and it is sold or not able to be adjusted to your size, that’s it.

Finally, Andrew insisted that we give up on the internet quest and do it the old-fashioned way. I made a list of jewelers in Knoxville, specifically ones that had estate rings, and Andrew added a jewelers that had been highly recommended. We looked at ring after ring, and I tried on a few hopefuls. Nothing looked or felt right. On our last stop we went to the jeweler he had picked, Markmans. I didn’t have to commit to anything, but he wanted me to try on some new rings because my Art Deco dreams were pretty much dashed.

I would like to tell you that we went in, and I found the perfect 1930s delicate gold band with a small twinkling diamond. I didn’t. In fact, let me tell you that the ring I found was not antique or Art Deco in any way. Which bring me to the third question you should ask yourself: have you tried rings on?

I had made some opinions about what I wanted in a ring, so I told the team helping us what I liked. They were really helpful and friendly, and brought out at least twenty rings for me to critique on my hand. I didn’t like most of the twenty, but what was important is that they would say, “Now I know you said you only wanted a solitaire, but this ring has more of the antique style you are looking for.” Then I would try it on. Since they were the friendliest and gave me the most options to look at, I got a chance to test out what I thought I wanted. Then I tried on my ring.

It was a modern style, two bands twisted together. I had seen similar rings trending online, but this one was a little more subtle than some of the more braided bands I’d glanced at. It was rose gold, a metal I thought looked too pink for my skin tone on the internet but made my hand look warm when I tried it on. There was no diamond or gem in it, but it was meant for a solitaire. It looked dainty and perfect for my small fingers. I would never have looked twice at it online.

When we got home, I could not stop thinking about it. But surely, I didn’t want a new ring! Surely I wouldn’t be lured in by the sparkly! I looked up their site and saw that they were a member of Jewelers of America, which states their stand on ethical and responsible gold and diamonds. I also resolved to ask at the store. It didn’t completely assuage my guilt about buying new gold, but it made me feel a teensy bit better.

Of course after I told Andrew that it was the ring and knew he bought it, I felt sick to my stomach. I felt like I had let myself down, so I made a pinky promise with myself. Because we got a new ring for the engagement, I will either not get a wedding band at all—It’s weird enough wearing one—or  I would only get one if it was recycled.

So my advice is to go try on rings! Even if you have the perfect one picked out online, go to a jeweler and find a ring with a similar bandwidth or cut and see if fits your personality and not just your finger. And do your research. For example, you may be in love with a pearl instead of a gem, but you should know that pearls tend to get loose in the setting and may pop out and that since they are soft they need a lot of care and caution so as not to scratch them. Or you may want to get your fiancé a titanium or tungsten ring, but you should know about the difficultly in removing them in case there is a hand injury.

But most of all, know that you have choices. You don’t have to be traditional with a diamond, but there is nothing wrong with wanting one either. Andrew wanted to get me a diamond, and I didn’t have any opinion on gem color. I could have just as easily loved sapphires, emeralds, topaz, turquoise, cubic zirconia, you name it. It’s your ring! (Or not ring.) Stay true to yourself and your experience as a couple.

Keep the love first,


P. S. This weekend, Andrew had us stop at a Kay Jewelers  to scope out men’s wedding band for ideas. The salesperson convinced him to try on a few, and it was nice to see Andrew feel just as awkward trying on rings as it was for me. When we do some more serious band shopping, a future post may be about getting his point of view on ring shopping.

Bridal Show and Tell

Bridal Show and Tell


Happy Monday! So this weekend Andrew and I were quite busy. We spent most of Saturday watching the TI5 Dota 2 grand finals in the comfort of surround sound and stadium seating that is the theater experience. It was awesome, in case any of you are interested in gaming or are supportive girlfriends or boyfriends of gamers. But that’s not what I am here to talk about. Instead, I’d like to talk about how we spent our Sunday at a—duh-dun-duh!—bridal show. The Knoxville Pink Bridal Show, to be exact.  Now for those of you who are also new to the whole planning a wedding thing, a bridal show is basically set up like a fancy college job fair to showcase vendors near or in your area. The categories of vendors ranged from the expected list of venues, bridal salons, caterers, and photographers to services such as bachelorette party planning, beauty care, honeymoon booking, and photo booth rentals. There was still a lot in between, but you get the idea.

Andrew and I were a bit overwhelmed on where to start. The morning of the show, I looked up tips from multiple sites to help me navigate the sea of information we were about to dive into. I will share the tips I actually used plus a bonus one that I would have used if I owned a printer and had prepared in advance.

First off, get a game plan. I found the show I went to manageable, but I already had in my mind what Andrew and I were interested in specifically. Exposure to venues I may have missed in online searching was the number one reason we were going. I picked catering and attire to be the two subcategories we would want to browse. I think this tip was really helpful to brides going to massive shows.

Second piece of advice (which I got first from a soon-to-be bride at a BBQ), make a wedding email account. Almost every website I looked at had this as a tip as well. I filled out several sheets with my information to vendors, and it was a relief to know that my personal email would not suddenly be filled with ads the next day. It is also is a good way to keep wedding stuff in its own safe place.

Thirdly, since I already knew I was searching for vendors more than anything else, I wanted to be prepared in case I actually found one! I wrote down some questions to ask about prices, deposits, what’s included, outside catering, and any other concern I had. Why not know what you want to ask while you have a representative there face to face?

I was actually very careful about what I filled out because I am wary of SPAM and chances to win some “prize” that may or may not involve going to a demonstration. That being said, I really didn’t need to follow the fourth tip I saw repeated over and over. It was to print out labels with all my information to avoid a pen being permanently glued in my hand. So names, wedding date, address, phone number (which is always optional to give out or NOT), and email address could be conveniently ready as a bride or groom hits the booths.

Now I have told you how I got pumped for the show, but I haven’t told you about the experience. Let’s start with what I liked.

  1. I appreciated that if I had wanted to, they were there in real time to answer the questions I had scribbled down in my pink notebook. I thought that was a plus for any bride looking at any vendor. Unfortunately, I did not see any venues I had not already researched. When Andrew would point out one, I could already whisper the magic words of “not in our budget” in his ear or explain details about it. However, I did get to talk to a salon who had dresses I am already admiring, and Andrew got to talk about buying and building houses with a realtor for future knowledge. We both spoke with an event design company. They had many products to peruse, but I took their card when Andrew and I both admired an invitation sample in particular. They also had me at their DIY décor kits.
  1. The displays! Whether it was a wedding-party fashion show, table settings, or catering samples, it is one thing to see pictures of products and quite another to see, touch, and even taste them. I am a sucker for the sweet little details, so I enjoyed seeing them up close. We especially admired the beer truck!

I pulled Andrew into all three photo booths they had set up to try on funny hats, hold up props, and basically get free pictures of us. Very early on in my research, I had fallen in love with the idea of having a photo booth at the wedding but knew it was probably not a splurge I could justify. I really enjoyed getting a chance to see the quality of pictures the booth produced, the diversity and quality of props offered, and the extras different booths included. At one booth, couples received a jump drive with all the pictures, and at another, a photo book was provided to write messages by a copy of the guests’ printed out photos. I was impressed by the booth that could light up in your chosen wedding colors.

The booths were really popular, and I think they would be a hit at most weddings.  There is a “but” though. I think budget brides like me who don’t want to miss out could easily DIY a photo booth. A lot of the types of props could be found at party stores or be handmade with some inexpensive craft materials, and a background can always just be a wall, a roll of paper, or a sheet. As far as the set up goes, just google DIY wedding photo booth, and you will find a lot of material. At the show, Andrew took a quick look at the first booth and was telling me how he thought a person could rig up a computer or camera to a photo printer to do the same thing. If you have a Polaroid or Instax camera, you would just need a person to point the camera in the right direction.

  1. I liked that, if Andrew and I wanted to book anyone that day or even before the month is out, a lot of vendors were offering special offers and discounts. Each bride was given “Pink Bridal Bucks” that could be used toward participating vendors as well. On the flipside, this can put the pressure on couples to make hasty decisions, and I am glad we are too newly engaged to make any commitments. Still, who doesn’t love getting a deal?

Moving on to cons, I want to be clear that Andrew’s and my dislikes were more about our personal taste and values.

  1. There were special lanterns for the brides but not the grooms. (I guess we should have been prepared for this since it is called a “bridal” show.) The women registering us did apologize, but this is problematic on a few levels. What I don’t like about the wedding industry in general is that it focuses less on the couple and more on the bride. It is no wonder that people make comments about brides dragging their fiancés to these type of things and the stereotype exists that men are not interested in planning. The market doesn’t try to include or engage them! In fact, the show had a space set up for grooms to play Xbox and sit around. First, nice set up, but second, isn’t that implying that the men need a space to hide away while the bride talks to vendors? Or that the bride enjoys talking to complete strangers about something as personal as a wedding? Or that grooms don’t have opinions?

Almost all of the booths were marketed to women. It made me sad for grooms who want to be involved in planning. It also made me wonder what same-sex male couples do in this situation. Neither one of them is a bride, and the services, though still helpful, are not presented in an equal way. This of course is a general problem and not targeted specifically at this bridal show.

  1. We couldn’t see a lot of “us” in most of the vendors represented. Andrew and I were disappointed. We clearly were not the target audience for most of these vendors. Not all the vendors were in our price range, but I saw a handful of vendors who were small budget friendly. They were not the majority, but they were present. I anticipated that. However, I think that we were hopeful to find more nontraditional or indie or quirky vendors. The venues, food trucks, photographers, and bakers I expected to make an appearance were absent. I am sure that there are wedding shows that focus more on what we are looking for; I just don’t know if there are any near us. I will keep on the lookout for one and keep you posted!

With my first bridal/wedding show under my belt, overall I recommend going to one. I think they are especially helpful if you are newly engaged and wanting to see a portion of what is out there or if you are still searching for a specific category. Also, being at the show opened up conversations for Andrew and me. I learned a bit more about his opinions just by listening to him comment on different booths. It is important to remember that he is a newbie to all of this too, so I vote for couples to go to a bridal show to get the exposure and get to brainstorming.

Keep the love first,



Something New

Something New

On the phone with my mother:

“Andrew and I were thinking about having pie instead of wedding cake.”

(I am pretty sure there was a gasp in here somewhere.)

“What?! You have to have cake!”

“But I’ve read a lot of articles that say most of the cake gets wasted. And Andrew and I don’t really like cake that much.”

“But what if people there don’t like pie?”

“But not everyone likes cake.”

“You have to have a cake. I’ll buy the cake.”

These are the kinds of conversations I am having now.

It has a month since I became engaged to the ginger in my life, but I have been in the “pre-engaged” state for over a year. Andrew and I always knew we would get married; we just weren’t as specific about the when. In that limbo, I have made several secret boards on Pinterest dedicated to wedding centerpieces, themes, invites, and the whole lot. I have hunted down venues in my area through Google searches, Facebook stalking, and general luck. Add on top of everything that I am one of those women who has dreamed of my wedding day since I could play dress up, and you would think I have nothing to sweat about, right? The truth is I am as overwhelmed and daunted by the task of planning as other brides.

I hate to make decisions. You should see me stress over a menu. (And I am vegetarian, so there usually are not that many.) Don’t get me wrong. Pinterest dreams are wonderful, but when the wedding becomes a reality, those hundreds of pins suddenly need to be whittled down. I have to choose. And those picture perfect marquee lights or those sparkly tablecloths suddenly come with conditions. Like a (barely there) budget. An ever-changing guest list. The question of whether we should get married near our hometowns or near Knoxville where we moved to less than a year ago. My own sanity, etc.

Before the clamor of congratulations has even died down, Andrew and I already feel ourselves struggling. We struggle with our individual ideas about what our wedding should be, what our families think, and how we are ever going to pull this thing off. With a modest budget and living off of one income for the time being, DIY seems our best bet. But our skills and our friends’ skills are limited. We are in a new town across the state from our families. My best friends are scattered across the country. We don’t know someone with an idyllic backyard to let us borrow. I didn’t inherit a crafty gene so that I can sew my own sheath dress and veil. I don’t have a make-up artist friend or a fiancé with a troop of groomsmen who can build an intricate altar from tree limbs found in the woods. I also suck at baking. Even my brownies burn. What we do have, however, is a handful of people who love us and the love we have for each other. I think that is a good place to start.

So here I am, between a rock and a white cake, meaning two different things. The first is that I want to start this blog to record and invite you on my journey from newly engaged to newlywed. Step by step, I want you to see my mistakes, my breakdowns, my triumphs, and my joy. The second foreshadows the decisions Andrew and I are about to make, from the intimidating question of hometown bash or intimate affair to the great debate of pie versus cake.

So thanks for reading, and remember…

Keep the love first,