Not interested in having a cookie-cutter, totally traditional, by-the-book wedding? You’re not alone. And one scroll through Pinterest or Instagram for wedding inspo and ideas will show you that clearly, many brides-to-be crave the offbeat, nontraditional wedding.
One of the most overwhelming aspects of making wedding decisions is the judgment that comes from others. A common line of reasoning is “do it this way because that’s the way it’s done.”
Well, times change and different types of weddings flourish in this age of individuality. Plus, you are unique and should have a wedding that reflects who you are and what you care about!
For those reasons, you do not have to follow tradition unless you want to. In fact, you could even do something else instead of a wedding. Or hold your event at a unique non-traditional wedding venue. Ideas are here.
If you’re here, chances are you’re after something a little left of centre for your big day. After all, not everyone is a fan of rose bouquets, satin lace, and big white dresses.
No, you want something a little different. You want a wedding that is uniquely you.
We’re going to give you plenty of advice for planning a non-traditional wedding, from changing the small details to revamping the entire day. This guide will walk you through the process step by step so you can add in your own twists exactly where you want them.
When it comes to your special day, Vines of the Yarra Valley has proven itself to be an iconic wedding venue and function centre in Melbourne
Table of Contents
- 1 Non-Traditional Wedding Ceremony Ideas
- 1.1 Downgrade your cake
- 1.2 Ditch traditional wedding heels
- 1.3 Cut down on bridesmaids
- 1.4 Go digital
- 1.5 Get crafty
- 1.6 Throw a brunch
- 1.7 Mix up the venue
- 1.8 Make it a surprise
- 1.9 Revamp the send-off
- 1.10 When in doubt, chill out
- 1.11 Choose a Wedding Theme
- 1.12 Find a Non-Traditional Wedding Venue
- 1.13 Create And Send Your Wedding Invitations
- 1.14 Pick Out Your Wedding Dress
- 1.15 Dress Your Bridal Party In Non-Traditional Attire
- 1.16 Decorate With Unconventional Flowers And Frills
- 1.17 Provide Unique Food, Drinks, And Fun
- 2 How to get started on your non-wedding:
- 3 How to Throw a Wedding in a Non-Traditional Space
Non-Traditional Wedding Ceremony Ideas
Chances are since you are reading this, at least some of the details above are not your thing. The good news is you can change any piece of it you wish as long as you stay within your state’s law.
If you do not get into the formality of a church ceremony and regular reception at all, keep scrolling. You will find some things to do for your anti-wedding wedding under “What to Do Instead of a Wedding.”
If you plan to have a ceremony with a full contingent of family and friends present read below. Here are some non-traditional ideas to get you started.
Downgrade your cake
Half of my brides haven’t even gotten around to cutting the cake during the ceremony because they were having too much fun on the dance floor. The smaller the cake, the more affordable. Have a smaller cake and try decorating it with silk ribbon or real flowers instead of having fondant designs/patterns on the cake.
Ditch traditional wedding heels
Whether it’s a pair of Converse All-Stars or those adorable (and pricey) espadrilles you’ve had your eye on, spend your money on wedding shoes that match your personal style instead of your dress.
“Think long-term when shopping, so opt for comfort over height so you will want to wear them again and again.
Cut down on bridesmaids
We’ve all seen the movie, and we know how quickly things can go south. But really, a large wedding party is largely unnecessary — not to mention expensive — if you have only a few friends you’d like to include on your big day. Opting for fewer bridesmaids or none at all can have its benefits, The fewer girls you have, the less stress you have, and the less you will spend on flower bouquets, bridesmaid gifts, makeup/hair, etc.
“Don’t be afraid to mix up the wedding party. “No one ever said that your best friend has to be the same gender as you, so if you’re a bride and want your bestie, who happens to be male, to be in your wedding, do it. Women standing on the groom’s side could wear the same colour as the rest of the groomsmen (or same colour as their tie) in dress form or go completely gender-neutral and wear a tux or pantsuit. Men standing in on the bride’s side can match the groomsmen or wear a suit or tux that complements the bridesmaid dresses.”
Once you’re in the throes of planning your big nontraditional wedding bash, it’s comforting to know that traditional wedding etiquette can go out the window. This means you can cut out printed save-the-dates and invites if you want to. Sending emails instead can help you to better keep track of RSVPs and save you hundreds on total printing costs.
“If you’re not sure mom would go for it, you can always purchase traditional paper invitations and email you save the dates.
Seriously, though, this is one time in life when your Pinterest and DIY addiction is actually going to pay off. If you’ve got the time and the creativity, you can upcycle and repurpose almost any item on your wedding to-do list. We suggest starting with the easy stuff and working your way up to the harder Pinterest projects from there. A Beautiful Mess has plenty of wedding DIY projects to choose from too.
Throw a brunch
As strange as it sounds, planning a morning wedding is a big win in more ways than one: namely in the cash and booze departments. “Who says 11 a.m. can’t be happy hour?!” Moran asks. “Throw a brunch wedding for the ultimate anti-conformist wedding. The perks of brunch weddings include waffle and mimosa bars, a more laid-back vibe and they’re a big budget saver. Brunches can range in cost from $20 to $70 per person, whereas for a formal dinner, you’ll be shelling out $130 to $250 per person. And to top it off, most venues will offer discounts for morning weddings. Just be prepared for a 5 a.m. — or earlier! — hair and makeup call.”
Mix up the venue
Everyone expects a church wedding, but jaws might hit the floor (hopefully, in the best way possible) when guests realize your wedding will be held under a beautiful bridge — or at an art studio or at a local wine bar or in front of a graffiti mural.
“Instead of a traditional church or well-known wedding venue, have your wedding somewhere unexpected.
Make it a surprise
This one goes out to all the brave brides (or those April Fools’ Day pranksters). Velazquez suggests making the entire event a surprise if your parents’ hearts can handle it.
“Tell everyone that you are hosting a family dinner or make up another excuse to get everyone to be at your location on the specified date and time. Ask them to all dress for the occasion. When they arrive, announce that this is your pop-up wedding! This is a great way to break traditions and not break the bank.”
Revamp the send-off
“If your venue prohibits sparklers, pass out glow sticks at the end of the night so your guests can still light up your send-off,” Moran suggests. With an aww-adorable ending like this, your out-of-the-box wedding is one friend and family will never forget.
When in doubt, chill out
Even celebs have problems keeping everyone happy when planning an ultra-unique wedding soiree. As Kelly Kruger (Criminal Minds and Castle) tells of her wedding to Darin Brooks (The Bold and The Beautiful), “Coming from two different backgrounds, it was really important for us to create a wedding that represented both of us as individuals as well as a couple. We sat down and talked about what was really important to each of us. Darin, coming from Hawaii and raised Catholic, and me, coming from Montréal and having been raised Jewish, we really wanted to make sure to have a little of both in our ceremony and reception. We decided to have a reform Rabbi officiate it, but we wrote our own vows and customized the ceremony.”
Choose a Wedding Theme
Literally, anything can be a wedding theme. You’re only limited by your imagination.
It’s your special day, which means any amount of whimsy and wonder is allowed.
Go for the ethereal with an enchanted woods theme full of magic and fairies. Up the fun factor with cotton candy and games. Transport your guests to old Hollywood, the Wild West, or all the way back to medieval times.
And that’s if you even want a theme. You can always skip it and just focus on having a good time!
Find a Non-Traditional Wedding Venue
Sure, you could have your wedding in a church, a courtroom, or even a castle. But those aren’t the only places that are ready and willing to open their doors for your big day.
What’s your favourite place to go together?
Why not get married there?
Your venue could be as easy and cozy as a party room at your favourite restaurant. It can be as big as an open field where you can set up among the wildflowers.
You could also let your hobbies influence your choice of venue.
Tie the knot surrounded by art at a museum or gallery. Take everyone camping for the weekend and get married in the great outdoors. Get hitched on the home field of the sports team you love to watch together.
Or, get married in the place you two met!
If none of those ideas piques your interest, here are a few more quirky places to hold your wedding party:
- Amusement Park
- Renaissance Faire
Create And Send Your Wedding Invitations
Think outside of the invitation suite box.
The simplest and most non-traditional thing you can do with your wedding invitations is to go completely digital.
By emailing your invitations to your guests, you save on paper and time. No filling out all those addresses by hand. It’s also a lot easier to keep up with RSVPs when they’re online.
If you still want to mail something, print your invitations on a material other than paper. Fabric, wood, and acrylic invitations are a stunning statement that will help set the tone for your wedding.
Or, just make your wedding invitations a bit of fun.
Turn them into a jigsaw puzzle. Write the information in code and include a way to crack it so your guests can decipher the details. Turn them into a relaxing colouring page.
No spritz of lavender required!
Pick Out Your Wedding Dress
Your wedding dress is your shining moment. It should be something you are absolutely in love with, even if that means it’s not a pure white wedding gown.
You’re the only one who gets to decide what you’re going to wear on your wedding day.
That means you can wear a short dress. Your dress can have flowers or feathers all over it. It could be covered in stripes, or it can simply be a dress in your favourite colour.
You don’t even have to wear a dress if you prefer something like a bridal jumpsuit.
Shoes follow the same guidelines. Whatever you’re most comfortable in is what you should wear. If heels just aren’t for you, go ahead and walk down the aisle in flats or sneakers.
Go barefoot if it makes your heart happy!
Vines of the Yarra Valley is your ultimate Wedding Reception Venue to create your dream wedding.
Dress Your Bridal Party In Non-Traditional Attire
While you’re at it, create a new normal for your bridal party.
Don’t match your bridesmaid dresses. Let them wear mixed-and-matched dresses in whatever style, colour, or pattern that they like. They’re all bound to look radiant for your wedding day.
If you happen to be wearing a coloured wedding dress, why not put your bridesmaids in white?
Or dress them in jumpsuits or rompers instead of dresses.
For the groomsmen, skip the tuxes altogether and put them in nice suits. You can get rid of the jackets and dress them up in some suspenders instead for a look that’s slick yet casual.
Decorate With Unconventional Flowers And Frills
Bride and bridesmaids carrying cotton candy instead of flowersPhoto: Bella Baltimore/Ashton Kelley Photography
Now we’re getting down to brass tacks.
Think about replacing the traditional bouquets with anything you can hold in your hands.
Greens and leaves bring a more natural feel. Lanterns are rustic but keep things elegant at the same time. Cotton candy or lollipops are a sweet addition to any wedding. Beads and pearls make a bouquet unique and glamorous.
You can skip the flowers for your centrepieces, as well.
Hang something above the table, such as a hot air balloon or a unique chandelier. Miniature trees make a good stand-in for flowers, and you can hang things from them.
When it comes to pointing people in the right direction, use a neon-lit wedding sign instead of a carved wooden one.
And there’s nothing saying you have to stick to a strict colour palette. A mish-mash of different colours and furniture styles is perfect for an Alice in Wonderland tea party sort of vibe!
Provide Unique Food, Drinks, And Fun
Wedding popcorn bags with text that reads, “Our Love Is Poppin'”Photo: Nottingham Paper Goods
Your unique touch should extend to your choice of food, drinks, and activities.
Skip the dinner plate and opt for a buffet-style spread! A gourmet pizza bar is sure to turn a few heads, and a candy bar (complete with bags to grab and fill) won’t be forgotten. Instead of a traditional bar, set up a self-serve drink table for guests to help themselves.
If you plan on doing the old-fashioned flower toss, use something other than a garter and bouquet. Throw a couple of teddy bears. Shower your guests with handfuls of sweets. You can even toss a rubber chicken if that’s your style!
Instead of the normal speeches, let your bridal party tell their favourite story involving the two of you.
Are you throwing a fairytale wedding with kids attending? Set up a pony ride and deck that pony out to look like a unicorn. The looks on their faces will be worth the effort.
How to get started on your non-wedding:
- Make a list with all things traditionally considered “wedding,” Then, individually cross off the things you don’t want/need personally and compare lists. Never spend any more time or thought on things you both crossed off and compromise on things one of you feels is important. Definitely spend money on the things you both want and that make you happy. Add things you think will contribute to a memorable day, even if they aren’t part of a “normal wedding day.”
- Happiness doesn’t have to cost anything, whatever budget you have.
- Use tradition to your advantage. It’s totally acceptable to spend money on a dress you’ll probably wear once. So I spend money I normally wouldn’t think of spending on a dress I was drooling over for quite some years — totally not bridal (in a non-offbeat sense) but certainly to my liking.
- If you want to keep things small, don’t worry too much about scratching family, friends, and colleagues off the guest list. See step 4! You’ll have more time to spend quality time with all the guests.
- Give clear instructions to your guests. We included a letter with an invitation. It started with the sentence; “YES it’s a marriage but NO it won’t be a standard wedding.” We included some context and do’s and don’ts to manage expectations early on.
- Don’t be afraid to cut the legal stuff loose. We got married for free on a Monday morning in less than 10 minutes and did our own little ceremony thing on Friday. The “wedding” itself was more about eating and the party.
- Don’t be scared to be your own master of ceremonies and/or best (wo)man.
- If you don’t like dancing ’til midnight, don’t. Don’t hire a band or DJ if that’s your choice. Hell, you don’t even need to party until the early morning. We ended the day before ten.
- Make sure to make memories and be in the moment! Preparing and the actual day should be fun and relaxed. If it’s not, adapt to your style and feelings more. Stress isn’t worth it.
How to Throw a Wedding in a Non-Traditional Space
If you’re throwing a wedding in a non-traditional space, it turns out there is a pretty consistent list of tasks that you should take care of to make sure your wedding doesn’t get shut down by the police. That list is obvious to hip wedding planners who spend their careers working off the beaten track, but it’s less clear to the rest of us. So, whether you’re getting married on a beach or in your own backyard, here is your starter checklist.
If you’re having a wedding in a public place or a residential neighbourhood, you may need to get one (or more) permits through the city or county to make it legal. Many parks, beaches, and historical sites will require you to have a party permit for groups over a particular number. Some may require you to have a specific wedding permit. If you are intending to serve food, you may need a food permit, along with an alcohol permit (if serving alcohol is permitted). In addition, putting up structures (anything from tents to dance floors to lighting) may require additional permits.
What are the parking limitations where you’re getting hitched? Can you borrow a neighbour’s field as a parking lot? Can you recommend a nearby garage? Do you need to pay for valet service? Can you shuttle people in, or suggest the use of public transportation? Make sure to include any parking expenses that you’ll have to shoulder in your cost estimates.
Research noise ordinances.
If you’re throwing your wedding in your own home or at an art gallery that’s never hosted a wedding before, it’s important that you research your local sound ordinances, and make sure you follow them.
Check with the neighbours.
Wherever you’re getting hitched, it’s important to be a good neighbour. If you’re getting married at home, or in a barn, make sure the locals know what’s going on. The best defence is a good offence. Possibly one with cookies.
Check out our post on How to plan a destination wedding?
Get event insurance.
If you’re hosting a wedding in a traditional venue, you will probably be covered by their insurance. However, if you’re getting married somewhere more unusual, it’s likely you’ll need to provide your own. Often, you can add a rider to your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, or you can get a policy through an event insurance company. This will typically cover everything from personal liability (someone trips and falls and breaks a leg), to damage to the property (your guest knocks over a candle and the barn burns down), to alcohol liability (a teenager illegally drinks your booze, drives, and crashes the car). These policies are generally very affordable, and though you probably won’t need one, a hundred bucks or so for a million dollars in liability insurance is a good deal. Party safe.
There’s something that feels so good about flipping the bird to the traditional idea of a wedding while still celebrating a special day with the one you love. If your offbeat wedding is ruffling feathers with friends and family who were expecting a wedding march and a slice of three-tier cake, stick to your guns while setting respectful boundaries. Having your wedding your way may not be something everyone in your family agrees upon, but you can bet they’ll come around when they see the unexpected end product on your big day.