Tuesday, April 22, 2008

on good thoughts and good presents

hello all -- have been thinking a lot about a comment i saw this evening on my little guest post at offbeatbride, and wanted to write some thoughts --

the heart of the comment is this:
...I was a little disturbed by the commercialism of this post (even if it is lovable etsy commercialism)...

my first instinctive response was: {slight defensive crossing of arms} but... did they read the original question? nice person writes in wanting to know what she could spend $20-$70 on to give as a gift. and... did they read the whole post, where i took pains to say you could donate to an activist cause, or make something, or give your time or service, or give a photo or something small and meaningful? of *course* you don't have to spend $20-70 per person, everyone is different, and that's the whole point {defensive muttering}.

that all took a good half a minute. but it started me thinking: my chirpy little post *is* commercial. even though the question i was asked to respond to called for it. in fact, this whole blog is blatantly commercial, "lovable etsy commercialism" notwithstanding. it prompts us to contemplate the wants and desires and the drive to spend and to sell.

a truly eco-conscious or handmade wedding probably dispenses with a lot of the paper goods and extra little items and flourishes below. where does the line of too commercial get drawn? when does reading wedding blogs and making inspiration boards and plotting your purchases cross the line into ostentation or consumerism? i know i've been trying in my own life to simplify and to not overindulge in retail therapy. yet i encourage you all every day to consider this shiny thing, and this, and this.

i think two points can be made.

1. it's YOUR wedding. only YOU (or your domineering bridemaidzilla sister, natch!) can know what's right for you, so why not try to embrace it rather than compare it with what other people do? easier said than done, but there's no need to feel strange or disturbed for doing what works best for you (so long as it doesn't actually hurt anyone, of course!). small gift, no gift, custom pink cadillacs for all -- as i said in the post, the people who love you aren't there for the freebies. they're there for *you*.

2. you don't *need* this stuff. it's stuff! the basic assumption of this blog is, if you're already planning to go out and spend your hard-earned local currency on wedding things, let it go to indie designers, artists, craftspeople, creative thinkers, small businesses, local folks. let it enable someone to quit her day job and dream big.

part of why i write this blog is that i desperately miss the arts community i was getting involved in in boston, and i'm trying in some small way to connect with a community of people who make things. a huge awkward part of being an artist is selling your work, promoting it and getting people to value it and choose it over the other mass-produced stuff that's out there. that's the commercial enterprise here. look at this amazing stuff! aren't people talented? why can't we take a $70-90 billion industry and steer more of it into artists' pockets? don't doubt etsy is a commercial enterprise -- their 4-week handmade wedding series increased business *57%* in the wedding category. good for etsy, true, but also good for a lot of really cool folks.

(btw, if i sound judgmental of the monogrammed sheets from pottery barn, i apologize -- if you love them, there's no shame in that either! that just doesn't happen to be what i write about.)

this is at its core a shopping blog, which is weird (to me). reading these blogs, it's hard not to feel some emotional tug of i wish or i want or who can afford all this. i totally understand where this commenter is coming from -- does it all have to be something purchased? heck no. and i thank her sincerely for emphasizing a point i may not have made clear.

the one thing i do feel strongly: it would be *nice* to do something for your wedding party. if you have asked people to make any sort of gift to you, of their time, their assistance, their money in purchasing a particular outfit or a plane ticket or a registry item, the very least you would send is a thank-you note. it seems the least you would do for your best men and women would be to think of some (free even!) meaningful gesture to say a gracious thank you. i stand by the spirit of the original post.

end late-night philosphical musing.


  1. Sadly critical posts like the one you mention is exactly why a lot of brides forego trying to do anything green or anything with a less typically wedding capitalist bent at all...cause usually there is someone around the corner telling you that what you are doing just isn't good enough and that if we were *REALLY* a good bride we wouldn't be doing such&such.

    Isn't that what we all are trying to avoid most in the wedding world? Making brides feel like their wedding doesn't have to meet someone else's preconceived standards is what wedding blogging is all about.

    Cause really any party of any type is unnecessary and blatant cosumerism...if one really wanted to avoid that one would get married in a court and be done with it. Trying to walk the fine line between excess and spartanism is where the challenge lies.

  2. Good post! In some folk's rush to condemn commercialism, they forget that we are physical beings in a physical world and should appreciate the beauty and ingenuity of material objects in our lives.

  3. Oh, well said all! Good post, good comments!
    My thought of late (on bridal party gifts) has been this: Why not just buy them the dress, and then give them a small token of affection, like a framed picture of you both on the wedding day and a thank you note? They will be eternally grateful that they didn't have to buy that dress... I'm also planning on getting small gifts for all the other people helping us out in non "offical" roles (we are only having a small bridal party).

  4. I think it was an excellent article on offbeat bride! Keep 'em comming!

  5. I came across you blog months ago and have been reading it daily while planning my upcoming wedding. I think that both your post on Offbeat, as well as this editorial are both right on the mark. i am putting a lot of thought and care in to planning my wedding for several reasons: it's the biggest event i have ever thrown and want it to be some sort of reflection of who we are and what our values are, we are supporting our local community and artisans through our spending and choosing, and finally - we are on a really tight budget. Through both your blog and hitting etsy directly, I have a custom-made ringbearer pillow that I can trim the ring strings off of after and actually use as a throw pillow (Etsy, $12.50), have wonderful gifts to give to my friends and family that are helping me - (a framed print perfect for one friend $20, embroidered hankies for the Mums $15 each, chiogi necklaces for 2 others at $15 each), and I also have the hand-made earrings that i will wear to match my mothers 1890's Art Nouveau necklace PERFECTLY ($35) plus the adorable one of a kind passport wallet that is coming along on my honeymoon ($20). So, I have saved tons of money, gotten really thoughtful items that people won't jkust chuck right in the trash on the way out of hte reception, and have supported artists and crafters that do this b/c they love to (most of them still have to keep day jobs). and ya know what's best? every single etsy seller I've bought these items from enclosed some sort of card with well-wishes for my wedding.
    I could have spent more or less, gone fancier or hokier - but I cruise the blogs and see what looks good to me, what fits my ideal. I've also borrowed some ideas and made stuff myself to have some DIY elements. and I feel great about the choices I've made. It's not for everyone - but nothing ever is.
    So, keep up the great work with your blog. There are always negative nellies who just need to lash out and throw their judgements on others. the rest of us adore what you are doing!

  6. great post! thank you for sharing your thoughts. :)

  7. wow, thanks so much to each of you for writing!

    the subject of money and 'appropriate' consumption in weddings is central not only financially but emotionally and ethically to a lot of folks, and i want to make sure i convey that the comment on offbeatbride was actually quite instructive for me. it asked me to think more deeply, and it helped me identify one of the ways this blog makes me a bit uncomfortable -- it *is* basically all about buying and ways to spend money on etsy.

    her comment also helps keep in perspective that the type of *rabid* crushes i have on lovely objects may not speak to everyone. it's just what i happen to blog about and find interesting, and is never meant as prescriptive or to make someone feel like what they are doing isn't 'enough'.

    as offbeatbride goes out of her way to reassure us -- what you choose is enough! and hopefully exactly right for you, given the compromises we all make to accommodate other people's wants and needs.

    so: i absolutely don't mean to throw the commenter under the bus. i think it's awesome she spoke up about her discomfort -- it gives the opportunity to look at something i might otherwise take for granted.

    i'm glad to hear different opinions (especially when they're expressed so politely!) and i want to thank all of you again for taking time and putting your thoughts down.

    thanks for reading!

  8. I love your blog and I love that it is highlighting the work of talented artists who are, thanks in part to etsy, able to make a living by creating art. Bah humbug to the reader who had to challenge that.... what we choose to do with our own money is our own choice. If we want to spend it on pretty things that might not be necessary but are supporting someone else's art, then so be it.

    This (loosely) reminds me of a girl I encountered in college.... I was a graphic design/advertising design major, and all fine arts majors had to take a mandatory weekly class together. People from the different concentrations within fine arts presented each week on their concentration and fielded questions that the other art majors had. This girl who outwardly despised us and didn't think that what we did was "art" was CONSTANTLY attacking us and making it known that she thought we were a cultish joke to the fine arts department. The day we made our presentation, she sat there insulting us as always.... while wearing a t-shirt with a huge Nike logo on it. Hello, consumerism and graphic design at its finest! I just giggled quietly to myself as she insulted us.

  9. I thought your musings were well said and quite thoughtful. I appreciate your blog because it shows me new, interesting and beautiful things people are creating on etsy (and I'm single and not even planning a wedding!). And I wanted to say that in the time I've been reading your blog I've never felt like you were pushing anyone to buy something. I've always felt like you were just saying, "hey, I found this and thought it was beautiful or interesting and that others may enjoy it too." So keep up the great posts and good thoughts!

  10. you're an amazing cheerleader for the indie artist. i think the commenter must have missed that you were responding to a specific request "...for wedding party gifts that don't suck".

    if we didn't buy ANY 'stuff', we'd be sitting in a forest, naked and eating the same leaves we wipe our 'hinds with.

    is all i'm saying.


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