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Wedding season is here (has it ever really left? Lol) and in the wedding planning world…I am in the thick of it.
Don’t get me wrong, a lot of the details have already been decided but now it’s the part where I have to take all of my ideas and mash them into one big, beautiful, cohesive wedding!
It’s getting there but it’s definitely not easy.
To my brides without wedding planners (and brides who can’t help but to be hands-on), finalizing all the details, making sure your wedding is unique to you and your partner is the hardest, most important part. We’ve nixed a lot of traditions and sprinkled in a bunch of quirky additions that feel the most genuine to us. We’re not forcing or doing ANYTHING on this day that doesn’t feel authentic to who we are!
Yes, you get inspired by Pinterest and your friends’ weddings but guaranteed there will be details that you would rather not have for your own wedding, like a first dance, or maybe you’d rather have a wedding theme that matches the Harry Potter obsession you and your partner have (this is so unique)!
Whatever the case, I think it’s vital to remember that no wedding is the same and there’s no need to “keep up with the joneses.” Your wedding should tell your own love story by incorporating what’s meaningful to you and what represents who you are as a couple.
Toss the rest.
If certain traditions don’t align with who you are and the idea that you’ve had of your dream wedding, then don’t do them! It’s easy to let parents (and other loved ones get involved) and put pressure on you to include certain traditions but it’s YOUR day (they had/can have their own)! Put your foot down on your must-haves and do whatever would make you feel the happiest on one of the best days of your life!
Here’s some non-traditional elements I may (or may not) incorporate in my own wedding, and you can too:
- Phone Guest Book
A lot of times I’ve found that the traditional guest book is either missed by the guests somehow or some guests want to write a whole novel which makes other guests wait, lose interest, and/or forget to come back later in the evening when the wait dies down.
If you’re interested in something more out of the box, ditch the book and have guests sign a vinyl record or better yet… get a phone guest book!
A phone guest book is interactive and your guests can leave as many messages as they want throughout the night (including both sober and drunken voice messages filled with love for the newlyweds). It’s a great sentimental keepsake that you can cherish forever and listen to your loved one’s voices for years to come.
- Artificial or Dried Flowers
Did you know that flowers, real flowers, can cost you thousands of dollars and may be even more costly than a photographer, caterers, and entertainment combined!
Some florists may charge you $1000 for your event while others may charge you upwards of $10,000. I, myself, was quoted $5,000 from a recommended vendor just for the ceiling installation, not for any of the centerpieces, bouquet, etc.
That seemed like an astronomical amount especially for something that guests would say, “Wow that’s so pretty” and then move on with the rest of the night. At least that’s my opinion and since real flowers weren’t at the top of my list (and would most likely be tossed at the end of the evening), we’ve been looking at silk flowers and dried/preserved flowers.
Silk flowers are just a nice way of saying artificial flowers. There is a way for silk flowers to be tasteful and just as stunning as real ones so gather up some Pinterest inspo and start a mood board of how you would like to incorporate silk flowers into your day.
Preserved flowers are just as nice as fresh flowers and they’re still real! You just don’t need to worry about the flowers wilting and they’re much more cost-effective.
Bonus Tip: If your heart is set on real flowers but you still want to keep low on costs, buy them in bulk from Trader Joe’s or Costco and host a crafting party for you and your friends to make all of the flower arrangements.
Extra Bonus Tip: If you don’t like the idea of flowers AT ALL, bring in candles! Candles add romance and elegance to any wedding, and no one will notice you don’t have flowers! Some venues don’t allow open flame, but you may be able to get away with using hurricane glasses that “cover” the flame and if not, fake candles with a flickering flame are beautiful, too.
- Veil or Sheer Gloves With an Embroidered Quote
This has been a huge trend lately, probably since Hailey Bieber’s wedding where she donned a jaw dropping cathedral veil embroidered with the phrase, “Till Death Do Us Part”.
It added extra drama for her super long veil and was a special touch when walking down the aisle for all of her guests to see… so why not you, too?
Your veil doesn’t have to be cathedral-length and can be embroidered with any message that feels good to you: “Till death do us part”; “happily ever after”; or even your wedding hashtag!
And if you don’t want a veil, take a chance on another new trend… embroidered gloves! They’re so cute and definitely give royal wedding vibes.
- No Veil at All
I know this is very debatable and some women just feel “more like a bride” with a veil…but it’s gonna be a no for me, dawg (shoutout to Randy Jackson lol).
It oozes “bride” but if I’m not covering my face or am not actually going to be using the veil then it doesn’t make sense to purchase this accessory.
Personally, I just don’t like the idea of taking my veil on and off and risk messing up my perfectly coiffed up-do. I would only wear it for the ceremony and it’s an added cost for something my heart isn’t really set on. So, if you’re feeling the same way or just don’t want a veil, then get rid of the whole idea altogether!
- No Wedding Party
I don’t know… but it makes me more anxious at the thought of having to organize a bunch of mine and my fiancé’s friends on our wedding day rather than having to stand up at the alter just the two of us (#BigLeoEnergy).
We’ve both been in weddings before and although the comradery and being surrounded by so much love on your wedding day is amazing (and can still be done without a designated bridal party), it’s also stressful for you AND your friends!
Once they agree to being in your bridal party, they are also saying yes to attending most of your events, including your bachelorette; paying for bridal gifts and decor for you at most said events; buying a dress, shoes, and possibly accessories for the big day; as well as paying for hair, makeup, and a gift for the newlyweds.
That’s a hefty price and may leave some people feeling torn or strapped for money if they can’t afford to participate… but really want to.
To make it easier (and a little more affordable) for everyone, nix the bridal party but still plan a bachelorette with your closest friends. You can also select a few friends you want to get ready with you on the wedding day so you can still take pictures with the photographer and squeeze in some girl time before they send you off!
- Require Guests to Wear a Specific Color
It’s your day and you can request anything that you want! Don’t make it too hard on your guests but require them to wear a specific color, like an all-black or all-white affair, for example?
Having a color-coded dress code adds a chic vibe to your wedding and your photos will look cohesive as all the guests are wearing the same color, leaving only the newlyweds to stand out!
Don’t be scared to get a little risqué either by requiring guests to wear a bold color to really shake things up. Let’s see what ensembles your guests will pull together to show up and show out for your day (the bride shouldn’t be the only one looking good)!
- Get Ready Together
Since many couples already cohabitate, why not wake up and get ready together?
If you’re not having a wedding party, it makes it a little easier to finesse, but if you have a large enough suite or a house for all of your bridesmaids and groomsmen to get ready in… then the more the merrier!
I’ve been told time and time again that “you might get separated from each other” or “you won’t see each other much” so to make sure you get dedicated time together get ready in the same room!
Start the day off right with an early morning sunrise or walk on the beach together (if you’re close to one) and eat a well-rounded breakfast as it’s the most important meal of the day, especially your wedding day (no one wants to see a bride pass out from starvation).
Take this time to take it slow and savor these last moments before the chaos and excitement of the day begins. Then have your glam team (and his barber lol) set up shop to get you both ready side-by-side.
- Walk Down The Aisle Together
Take it a step further from getting ready together and walk down the aisle together, too!
As you all know, both of my parents have passed, and the thought of walking down the aisle with Mike by my side has definitely crossed my mind.
Traditionally, you’re escorted by your father or a guardian who raised you and they “give you away” to your spouse to now take care of you. It can symbolize the joining of two families and bridging the gap between your old life and your new life, or it can be viewed as an outdated tradition symbolizing the transfer of ownership from father to husband (I know, that got dark and sexist real fast lol).
Whatever your views on being given away, you can make this tradition mean anything that you want it to. You can choose to walk down the aisle by yourself because you’re a strong, independent woman; be escorted by your father or father-figure as a sign of giving his blessing to the marriage; or walk down with your partner as a symbol of unity and starting your lives together as one.
- Cocktail Hour Games
Cocktail hour usually has some of the best food but the entertainment leaves more to be desired. Guests are usually moseying around looking at food and trying to mingle but what about after you’re done with small talk? Or when you’re done snacking waiting for the reception to begin?
If there’s a game that you and your partner like to play, then include it in your wedding for your guests to take fun in as well.
- Themed Cake Topper
Gone are the days of your traditional bride and groom figurines being placed on top of your cake.
You can design figurines to look exactly like you and your partner or you can have anything from your last name to a campsite representing your shared love for the outdoors! Have your cake topper coordinate with your theme or bring attention to your hobbies in a creative way that may not have been thought of.
For example, if you both love to travel you may want your cake topper to be suitcases and planes. Or if you love your dogs but they couldn’t be a part of your day, you can get figurines made of them eating pieces out of the cake (how funny is that?)!
- Forget the Cake
For some reason, wedding cakes get a lot of hate. I don’t know if it’s the flavors, the taste, or maybe the guests are just full, but the cake is always the least mentioned or rarely eaten at weddings.
To save some money, talk with your bakery and see if they can arrange to have a couple of the tiers be fake (cardboard, for instance). They can design them to look like the real deal but only the bottom tier will be real cake that you and your spouse will share!
You can have cheaper sheet cakes made of the same flavors to be served to guests or opt for a dessert table with a variety of different sweets like cupcakes, cookies, candies, and donuts. Your guests just may not be cake people and that’s okay!
- Forget the Speeches, Too
Speeches are the point in the wedding that either makes people laugh, cry, or yawn.
You’ve got both of your best friends and possibly both sets of parents ready to share how much they love your union but it can easily turn into a never-ending story with too many inside jokes that can get lost in translation. So, ditch the speeches.
It’s nice to hear how much all these people love you and some funny stories along the way, but it’s not a necessity if you and your would-be spouse don’t care to do the speeches anyway.
Sidenote: If you do decide to keep the speeches, make sure you have these two things:
- a set list of who will be speaking and
- a cut-off time.
Have both determined ahead of time so your Great-Uncle Bob that you only see on holidays isn’t hogging the mic for 15 minutes when he wasn’t even supposed to give a speech. Designate your speakers and have them each talk for 2 minutes MAX!
- Upbeat First Dance Song
Start the dancing portion of the night off right with an upbeat first dance!
I was inspired by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding where they did their first dance to “Land of 1000 Dances” by Wilson Pickett. It’s a fun classic, has a funky beat, and it will get anyone up and moving (listen to it and you’ll agree).
Don’t forget that your wedding is a party and people want to dance! The first dance is a great way to open up the dancefloor for the rest of the evening and you can also have your guests join you halfway through the song if you don’t like the idea of being the center of attention for too long.
- No First Dance
Speaking of not liking being the center of attention… say no to the first dance if nothing about it interests you (or if everything about it makes you anxious).
Not everyone likes to be the star of the show with all eyes on them. Even though you may know every single person in the room, it doesn’t take away from stage freight setting in and/or forgetting the choreography (God, forbid).
You can always just sway back and forth and wait for the song to end but if you’re not feeling the idea just jump straight into getting everyone out on the dancefloor as soon as possible.
- Take Pictures at Each Table
Many brides and grooms regret not taking more photos or not having enough time to take photos with all of their guests. With all of the commotion of the day and trying to soak up every second, it can be easy to not take pictures or forget to greet a few guests.
To make sure you’ve taken pictures with every single person attending, set out some time within your schedule to take group pictures! It can be done by having the emcee/DJ make an announcement of what is going to happen and then playing a song for the newlyweds to jet off to each table for pictures before the song ends!
Another option (if you’re worried about falling over your dress or working up a sweat) is to have your guests come to your sweetheart table or gather at a designated photo wall/backdrop to take pictures with you table by table. The emcee can direct which tables are next for photos to limit confusion and chaos for guests and make the photography moment more seamless.
- Hybrid Cocktail Party Reception (no sit-down dinner)
If you eloped or just want your wedding to be a laidback party, opt for no reception and extending the cocktail hour. This means no formal, multi-course dinner, only cocktails, passed hors d’oeuvres, and a few stations like a raw oyster bar and charcuterie!
Many guests prefer the cocktail hour menu over the sit-down dinner menu anyhow, so make your guests and your pockets happier by toning down the formality and bringing a focus to guests mingling and dancing (and never sitting down unless they want to).
- Family-Style Meal
When touring different wedding venues, I saw equal amounts of venues offering either a buffet option, a normal, sit-down dinner, or the more modern option: family-style meals.
Family style meals are very appealing as they’re a hybrid of a sit-down situation and buffet-style dinner. Your guests remain seated at dinner but instead of the waiter asking what each guest wants, the entrées and sides chosen by the newlyweds will be placed at the table to be passed around for guests to share!
This makes the dinner experience more interactive and less formal while also breaking the ice for guests who are seated together but may not know each other.
- Skip the Bouquet & Garter Toss
The bouquet and garter tosses are traditions that may be awkward and off-putting to some, so if you feel uncomfortable with your spouse going up your dress to fish for your garter then skip it altogether!
If you don’t want to toss your bouquet and want to preserve it later on, then don’t toss your bouquet!
While some guests look forward to this portion of the evening, it’s not about them! Lol jk but really it isn’t.
If you want to still gift the bouquet to someone, you can always present the bouquet to someone you want to get married next as a cute little nudge or you can gift it to the woman who’s been married the longest as a sign of respect and admiration. Traditions are tradition but you can always tweak it to make it your own!
- Custom Edible Favors
The best type of wedding favors are the ones that your guests can eat!
To some, wedding favors may seem like a waste of money or an added expense for a portion of the evening that people may be too drunk to remember to take their favors home.
To others, it’s a small, special way to say thank you to your guests for joining in the celebration of your union!
Make your wedding favors personalized to you and what you and your partner like! It’s like giving a piece of yourselves for the guests to take home with them. Some cute ideas I’ve seen are: food kits, cake or cookies in a custom to-go box, chocolate with the bride and groom’s initials, gourmet popcorn, and local products from the area in which you’re getting married, such as honey or olive oil!
- No Party Favors at All
Party Favors are a nice addition and a thoughtful touch to include in your wedding, but it is not necessary or mandatory.
If you’re not sold on wedding favors or don’t care to budget for them then don’t (did you catch the trend yet?)! Your guests most likely won’t notice that you didn’t have them, and some guests don’t even take the favors home (forgetful or not), so no love lost. 🙂
- Live Painter
In the beginning stages of wedding planning, I had my heart set on having a live painter for my wedding. I loved the classic, fairytale-feel of having a painter paint the day as it unfolds and there was also an option to have my mom painted in as well (how amazing is that?!).
It would have been a perfect addition to our romantic vineyard wedding but for the painters we were interested in, they were upwards of $4,000+…not including travel expenses for any painter we hire. Quality is everything with an art project such as this one, so settling for a much cheaper artist with lower-quality work was out of the question for us if we were going to pull the trigger.
In the end… we decided that while it would be a great sentimental piece to always have hung in our house, it wasn’t a must-have right now compared to the other details we absolutely wouldn’t budget on (venue, food, DJ, etc.).
While searching for the next best thing and looking up ‘wedding painters’, as simple as it sounds, I stumbled on caricature artists and sketch artists as alternative options!
If you don’t know, a caricaturist is an artist that makes exaggerated and sometimes hilarious drawings of people. Supposedly, caricature artists are back on the trend, especially during and after COVID when a lot of traditional entertainment was prohibited.
Sketch artists are pretty similar, but they are less detailed and normally sketch out the silhouette of people instead of including their facial features.
It honestly brings me so much nostalgia of getting paintings done at a carnival or an amusement park as a child and it’s the perfect compromise for about an eighth of the price (if you’re trying to stick to your budget)!
Plus, instead of just one large painting for the bride and groom, each guest gets their own painting done and can take them home as a wedding favor/picture to remember the night!
You can always commission a large painting to be done at a later date and you’ll have the option to choose from one of your favorite wedding photos!
- Welcome Drinks
I love this idea!
9 times out of 10, you’re going to have guests who show up late but also guests who show up super early (hey, they’re excited too). So, treat your early guests to complimentary pre-ceremony drinks and get the party started off right!
It’s a nice, hospitable way to welcome your friends and family from near and far as they mingle and wait for the ceremony to begin. It also gives you and your spouse extra time to take photos or get ready while the guests entertain themselves.
Offer simple refreshments like wine, champagne, and water then open the full bar after the ceremony for guests to imbibe your vibe through your perfectly curated signature cocktails and local beers.
- Late Night & To-Go Snacks
After busting a move and breaking a sweat all night, you and your guests will be famished by the night’s end!
Prepare to feed your ravenous guests during the last hour of the party or as they make their way to leave the venue with late night favorites such as mini pizzas, burgers and fries, or warm milk and cookies (my venue can arrange to do this so see what your venue offers in-house)!
You can even have your favorite fast food catered if your venue allows it (I’m thinking white castle sliders aka belly bombers haha) or hire a food truck to whip out quick treats that will surely satisfy your guests on the go (tacos, anyone?)
- Private Last Dance
The idea of having a private last dance is so personal and romantic and is a great way to close out the end of the evening by sharing a moment just between you two.
Finding moments on your wedding day to just be together and just be in love is few and far between as you may have family and friends you haven’t seen in awhile who want to catch up and other guests who want to make sure you’re having a good time and taking lots of pictures. You may even get separated from your spouse!
Be sure to give the DJ and Maitre’d a heads up and let them know you want a private last dance so it can be arranged effortlessly with your guests waiting in another area for your grand exit!
A private last dance is especially great if you’re planning on having an after-party so you can get in some more dedicated time without any interruptions.
Remember, this is one of the most important, most beautiful milestones in your life and your wedding should be a reflection of you and your partner’s personalities and interests!
Your mother, mother-in-law, your best friend, etc. have all had the chance or will have the chance to get married someday and then they can make the day all about themselves. Take their opinions into consideration but don’t say yes to anything that goes against your own wants and needs.
By incorporating some of these non-traditional wedding ideas and truly making your day your own, you’ll create a unique and memorable experience for both you and your guests!
What traditions are you following for your wedding? What’s something new or unique you plan to incorporate in your day? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!