Gabby & Isaac's Vintage Hollywood Glam inspired wedding in Greensboro, NC - Photo by Rob + Kristen Photography
Gabby & Isaac’s Vintage Hollywood Glam inspired wedding in Greensboro, NC – Photo by Rob + Kristen Photography

So you want to have a Non-Traditional Wedding…

Who says a wedding has to be a ceremony followed by a cocktail hour and reception? Well it honestly isn’t always set up that way today or historically. There are lots of ways to shake up the format of your wedding. Whether you intent is to reframe the ceremony as more than just a formality to get through before the party starts, you want to encourage more involvement from your guests, or you just want to be able to have more quality time with your friends and family!

Host a Wedding Weekend

A popular idea for hosting a non-traditional wedding is the Wedding Weekend. Plan a variety of events with your guests over the course of a weekend. This is a great option for those with a lot of guests coming from out of town or if you are doing a destination event. By having multiple smaller events you have more time to connect with your guests. 

Have a Pop up Wedding

For more introverted couples who aren’t exactly looking forward to a huge event or being the center of attention, maybe a smaller more spontaneous event is for you. Pop up weddings are usually pre-planned packages for a small event in a unique location and the planner handles all the details for your event. All you do is book the pop up wedding and show up with your guests! Pop ups are usually a step above just eloping and make it easy to throw a little celebration with your close friends and family. Get in touch if you are interested in a pop-up wedding!

Elope in Style

Styled Elopements are also another option if you want something more than just getting hitched at the courthouse but don’t want to throw a huge soiree! Pick a rad location, find an officiant, some witnesses and that is all you really need – but hiring a cool photographer and a stylist to design the elopement can make it feel extra special and personal. You can still have a celebration with your friends and family later too, but if you want your ceremony to be private, this is probably the best option for you!

Non-Traditional Wedding Ideas - Styled Elopement - Twin Peaks inspired wedding ideas - Photo by Three Region Photography
Photo by Three Region Photography

Adapting Traditions

If you do plan to have a standard one-day wedding event and just want to place more importance on your ceremony, it’s great if you can get your guests more involved. Make the ceremony a bigger part of the day by making it more interactive and less performative. One of my favorite ways to include your guests is the Quaker wedding tradition of a ceremony in the round (everyone is in a circle)  and your friends and family are invited to speak if they feel moved to. The ceremony itself is more about supporting and uplifting the couple getting married. Traditionally Quaker ceremonies are also Self-Uniting (no officiant) but that isn’t legal in most states, but the part where your friends and family share can be added to any wedding!

Non-traditional Wedding Ideas - Rebecca & Dane's Quaker Ceremony in the round in Chapel Hill, NC - Photo by Ariel Kaitlin
Rebecca & Dane’s Quaker Ceremony in the round in Chapel Hill, NC – Photo by Ariel Kaitlin

Another tradition that can be adapted to get your family and friends more involved is the Jewish tradition of the Seven Blessings. Invite seven of your friends or family members to give a blessing for your marriage. Even though this particular tradition is religious, you could absolutely adapt the idea for a non-religious or interfaith wedding.

Handfastings are another cool way of changing up the ceremony format. Traditionally speaking, the handfasting would be performed as a betrothal ritual and sometimes used to publicly renew your vows. Religious ceremonies would be held as well, but the Handfasting was performed in front of your community who would also make promises to support you and your relationship.

Non-Traditional Wedding Ideas - Kate & Brandon's Handfasting - Photo by Kendra from Pinehurst Photography
Kate & Brandon’s Handfasting – Photo by Kendra from Pinehurst Photography

Ditching the Ceremony/Reception Format Entirely

At most weddings, your guests arrive and file into seats to watch you get hitched. Why not shake it up a bit and have your ceremony during the party? This works great if you are having a more informal cocktail party or an intimate dinner party or restaurant wedding. Mingle with your guests, share some drinks and food, and then have your ceremony sometime in the middle of the event. By removing the traditional elements like the processional and a separate ceremony location your event will feel less structured, and less like a show you are putting on for your guests.

Reshaping the Traditional Ceremony

Arriving to the ceremony together or even greeting your guests can be another nice way to break from tradition. Greet your guests as they arrive! Even if you still plan to do a formal ceremony with a processional, welcoming your guests as they arrive is a great personal touch. You could even wait to put on your dress so it’s still a surprise!

Jenn & Teague's Celtic-Inspired Wedding Weekend & Midsummer Night's Dream Masquerade Ball featuring a Celtic Handfasting | Folie à Deux Events Chapel Hill Wedding Planner | Photo by Rebekah Senter
Jenn & Teague share the Quaich bowl of whiskey during their handfasting ceremony – Photo by Rebekah Senter

Creating a fully customized, non-traditional wedding ceremony incorporating your values, culture, and interests can make your ceremony more unique and meaningful. Go beyond just writing vows and write a mission statement for your marriage. Do not feel limited to the standard ceremony script!

Have a First Look

Most of these format breaking suggestions rely on the assumption that you are ok with seeing your fiance before the ceremony. We recommend a first look not only because it makes coordination of your day a bit easier, but it can be great if you are feeling nervous or anxious to have a moment with your fiance before the ceremony.

Carrie & Dave's first look at 21c Hotel in Durham, NC - Photo by MKM Photography
Carrie & Dave’s first look at 21c Hotel in Durham, NC – Photo by MKM Photography

Bonus ideas

Pot luck dinner or desserts can be a lovely way to get your friends and family involved your wedding! Communal or family style dinner service can also change the feel of your reception to be more intimate and engaging for your guests.

Have an open mic at your reception and invite friends and family to share songs, poems, or even a stand-up set at the reception! If you have a musical group of friends, a sing-along or karaoke could be a lot of fun!

Whatever you decide, make sure to do whatever feels right for you & your partner and don’t worry about what tradition dictates!

Happy Planning!

(this article was originally published on The Bridechilla Blog)