Alternative Wedding Ideas for Non-Traditional Couples
Published date: 3rd May 2022 | Author: Hollie Bond
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Because following wedding day traditions just isn't for everyone.
We live in a very different age to our parents. If someone had suggested to them while they were planning their big day, ‘have you thought about holding your wedding ceremony in a brewery?’, they’d probably think the other person was crazy. But nowadays, putting together a more unconventional wedding is almost the norm. For couples in 2022, if they don’t have at least two to three pinned tabs featuring alternative wedding ideas, they’re the odd ones out! Uniqueness and creativity is key for modern celebrations, and the desire to be different has never been greater.
The pandemic has certainly played its part in fuelling the fire for unique wedding ideas. During the two or so years we were confined to our homes, couples were feverishly wedding planning one of a kind ways they could celebrate their nuptials. While also coming to terms with the fact that a traditional, large family wedding was now, maybe, not what they actually want. And actually, they’d prefer an outdoor wedding, with live music, and food trucks and friends. Their best friends, close friends, after work drink friends. The kind of wedding guests you actually want to spend time with. Unlike the relatives you haven’t seen for years, or the plus-ones you don’t even know. No, post-pandemic engaged couples would like to celebrate, and relax on their wedding day, surrounded by the people they missed the most over the last two years.
Today, we’re going to explore some of our favourite alternative wedding ideas and wedding reception themes that we think non-traditional couples will love. They’ll be a little something for everyone, regardless of your budget, taste, or location. Unique wedding ideas that will put a new twist on what a wedding ceremony and reception should look like. Who needs a wedding planner when you’ve got us right!
Alternative Wedding Ideas for the Modern Engaged Couple
1. Ditch the Suit & Gown
Even those guys, who practically lived in pyjamas 24/7 during the pandemic, still looked forward to getting dressed up and going out once everything was over. But the traditional look for a bride and groom is not how everyone imagines ‘dressed up’ should look. And besides, if the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that comfort is key, and a wedding dress is rarely comfy. Therefore, if you prefer not to wear white, or even wear a bridal gown, then don’t.
Ditch the traditional wedding attire, and wear something that feels like you. It can still be smart. Maybe a jumpsuit, or a wedding suit, or even separates! A cosy jumper and a floaty skirt is such a cool look. Whatever it is, go with what makes you feel you.
2. Host a 'Backyard Wedding'
We’re borrowing the phrase from our friends across the pond, as it fits the feeling exactly. Obviously, there were a lot of ‘backyard weddings’ during the height of Covid-19. But post-lockdown, these smaller, more intimate at-home celebrations are still taking place. And for the lucky few who have had access to a large outside space, they’ve been a godsend. As they have allowed couples to host an outdoor wedding, that is totally there’s. Free from the constraints wedding venues often place, and blessed with the comfort a home provides.
These garden weddings often have a much smaller guest count, which when you think about cost, and the fact that you’re not renting a venue. Can seriously save some money. Meaning much more wedding budget can be used to buy a house, or splash on an epic honeymoon!
3. The Weekday Wedding
Have you noticed that your weekend diary is looking a little full in 2022? So many weddings got delayed over the last two years, and it’s only now that venues are starting to catch up!
Weekend weddings are now hard to book for many engaged couples looking to tie the knot this year. So, why not, say hello to a Thursday celebration? Less money, less hassle, quieter, and you’ll know who really wants to come to your wedding! Those people willing to use up their work holidays to see you say your wedding vows, those guys really love you!
4. Host Cocktails Instead of a Sit Down Reception
A cocktail reception with canapés is a lovely way to celebrate your nuptials. Without the formality of a sit-down meal. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but as long as the snacks on trays are constantly floating about. And guests do not need to linger by the kitchen door just to grab a morsel of food. You should see no problems. And in fact, it’s a nice way for everyone to catch up, freely, without feeling like they should stick to their allocated position.
You could go one step further, and upgrade the whole affair with some unique cocktails created for the evening reception. Drinks that could be paired with the canapés, or maybe signature cocktails that represent significant times in your shared life. A chilled Caipirinha to represent that hot air balloon ride you took over Rio de Janiero, maybe. Or a G&T with a twist, to remind you of your London engagement.
Attempt to think like a wedding planner, and continually try to add extra meaning to every moment.
5. Festival Wedding
The UK boasts a wonderful array of DIY wedding venues, and these open-minded spaces are often only too happy for you to throw all your alternative wedding ideas at their blank canvas. Many of these unconventional wedding venues are outdoors, in the countryside, and benefit from a wealth of land. Land that can be utilised for anything you like. So, why not throw your own festival wedding!
A boho bonanza of a wedding with floral crowns, ribbon wands, food trucks, games, and of course, live music. Depending on your location, you and your loved ones could be dancing through the night to your favourite DJ. Or sharing stories around the fire while toasting marshmallows.
6. Wedding Soundtrack Favours
Have you ever been in the taxi home after a particularly fun wedding and wondered, ‘what was that song they played after the first dance?’ Well, your guests will have no need to wonder! Because in their goodie bag, they’ll have a hand-picked, personally burned CD or USB with all your big day bangers on. The ideal way to remind loved ones of your special day, even years down the line, when they pop that soundtrack on.
You can’t, however, just pop a CD-R in amongst the bottle of Bailey’s and their piece of wedding cake. It needs to be presented in a fun way, that marks the occasion. We love these CD covers on Etsy for example, as they’re so easy to customise. Such an effortless way to create a personalised wedding favours.
7. A Creative Wedding Ceremony Arch
No modern ceremony backdrop is complete without an arch. And these days they’re not even arches! We see boxes, floral halos, ladders, old wooden palettes… you name it! Creating a one-off arch is such a lovely way to share your creativity, as it will feature so heavily in your wedding photos. It’s also a cost-effective way to decorate your wedding reception. As most savvy couples will transport their ceremony arch (if possible) to their wedding venue, and use it maybe in the entrance, or as a cool background for Instagram selfies.
We recently pooled together some of our favourite, and most inventive DIY arches in this post. Go check it out because we think your wedding deserves one of these stunning arches!
8. Elope, with the Kids
If you’re not marrying for the first time, you may be inheriting some little ones as part of the bargain. How ever you feel about this situation, and however much love you’ve got for your partners’ children. It can be hard on kids to feel a part of a new, blended family. Therefore, why not dedicate your unity ceremony, or elopement to each other, and the kids.
Give your future step-children a special part in the ceremony, and gift them the feeling of being in a dream team.
9. A Surprise Wedding
Just imagine your friends faces when they realise the engagement party they’ve turned up to, is actually your wedding. Wow! It would certainly be memorable.
Of all the alternative wedding ideas we’re featuring, this could be the most controversial! As there may be some guests who are not too keen on being kept in the dark. However, we all know who those people are in our friendship group, or family. So, either live with their disappointment at not being involved, or create a little surprise wedding planning gang, and let them help you create the big day.
10. Skip the First Dance
For some, the idea of the spotlight, the lonely dance floor and the soulful ballad is not an image that conjures joy. Fear yes, anxiety almost certainly. If this is you, don’t put yourself through the torture, and save your first dance for when there’s not hundreds of eyes watching you.
If you still want to have a special dance together, but would rather a shared experience. Why not ask your guests to join you from the very start. Dancing together, as a group, will certainly shift the majority of the focus away from you. And allow you to actually enjoy the moment. Another option would be to incorporate friends or family into your dance. Maybe a father/daughter, mother/son, best man/maid of honour dance, all together. Select a little group that will inspire confidence in you, and help fill up the gaps on the dance floor.
11. A Not-So-Ordinary Guest Book
Guest books are a lovely keepsake, and a sweet way for friends and family to share their thoughts on your wedding day. However, there’s no reason for it to actually be a book. It could be (almost) anything. And at any nontraditional wedding these days, you’ll find that couples have thought of some pretty creative ways for guests to leave a note.
Here’s 5 quick DIY guest book ideas we’re loving right now.
- Guest book quilt. Guests write their notes on a patch of material. Following the wedding, someone who’s good with a sewing machine can then join all the patches together to create a charming quilt.
- Polaroids. Each guest who wants to sign your book needs to take a picture of themselves, and then write their note either on the back, or at the bottom of the Polaroid.
- Globe. The guest book is a globe, guests choose a place on the map where they would like to leave a message. Could also act as a source for travel recommendations.
- A Puzzle. Who didn’t get into puzzles during lockdown?! Well, with a puzzle guest book, you can spend a joyous first anniversary, taking a walk down memory lane. With a puzzle that holds so much more meaning than that one of a kitten sitting in a wellington boot you struggled to complete last year.
- The Welcome Sign. Why not combine both guest book and entrance signage, and have your loved ones write all over the welcome sign! It will save money on stationery and create a lovely piece of decor.
12. DIY Centrepieces
Wedding planning is expensive, there’s no denying that. But there are ways to shave a little cost off here and there, and actually create something that is pretty special in the process. For example, at your wedding reception, each table will undoubtedly have a centrepiece. Well, why not forgo choosing a design your florist has premade, or choosing something in bulk online. And actually DIY some unique wedding decor yourself.
From floating tea lights and paper lanterns, to scattered petals and succulents. There are so many fun ways to make a statement at your wedding reception. Struggling for inspiration though? Have a look at our 30 Budget And DIY Wedding Centrepiece Ideas, and start crafting your unique wedding look today!
13. Live Stream Your Wedding Day
Every man and their dog is an expert at chatting over Zoom these days. Ok, we’re certainly doing less quizzes, but how many of you are still holding meetings via video stream? Plenty, we’re certain. And it has helped all of us to keep connected to those relatives and friends who are scattered across the country, and the world. Loved ones who may find it difficult to be a part of your wedding party IRL.
Alongside those who live far away, you may also have older relatives who would not feel comfortable attending a wedding at this time. Help these guests, and anyone who can’t physically attend your wedding day, by streaming it online. There are multiple livestreaming companies in the UK who will professionally film, and broadcast your celebration. Or, if the budget is tight, allocate a steady handed guest the task of streaming the event via their phone, or camera. It’ll certainly help to bring everyone together, and mean grandma doesn’t have to fork out for another hat!
14. A Creative Ceremony Layout
Traditionally, during a ceremony, wedding guests sit in lines facing an altar. Nothing wrong with that. But we’re here to talk about alternative wedding ideas, so let’s mix it up! Why not, seat your guests in the round, like at the theatre. You’ll be standing in the middle, with all your loved ones surrounding you. It would certainly feel more intimate.
15. DIY Photo booth
Is it really a wedding reception if you don’t have a photo booth? We think not. However, you don’t need to settle for whatever the wedding venue can provide, or something a photographer brings along to the party. No, you’re planning an unconventional wedding, and that calls for a bit of ‘out of the booth’ thinking!
We recently put together a post on How To Make Your Own DIY Photo Booth, and in that we shared ways you can create your own unique wedding photo backdrop, how to dress the space and light it. It’s such a fun way to do your own thing, and it can be a lot less expensive than hiring someone to do it for you.
16. Marry on Your Own, Celebrate with Loved Ones
For many couples, the thought of fully eloping somewhere far-flung and secretive is exciting, but also daunting. It can seem tempting to ditch all the complicated wedding planning, and run away together. But often, the wedding day is about more than just a marriage license. It’s about close family, friends you’ve grown up with, and loved ones sharing the biggest day with you. Therefore, it can be hard to ditch the whole concept completely. So, don’t.
Instead, keep your wedding ceremony just for you and your partner. Arrange a simple ceremony somewhere special to you, and either bring along two VIPs as witnesses. Or grab two willing victims off the street for a very exclusive, and intimate ceremony. Then, once you’ve exchanged your vows, you can join the full wedding party, and celebrate together! It doesn’t even have to be on the same day. If you really want to indulge in some quality time with one another, make a long weekend of it. Tie the knot on the Friday, host the wedding reception on the Saturday and leave for your honeymoon on the Sunday!
17. A Non-Traditional Flower Girl
Not all flower girls have to be under 9, and wear a pretty little dress. In fact, you could have your beloved pet performing this sacred duty. Or grandma? How sweet would grandma look walking down the aisle, chucking petals as she went! You may also have that friend who always wanted that job as a kid, but never got it… Now’s your chance to fulfil their lifelong ambition, and make them your grown-up flower girl.
18. A Traditional Nontraditional Wedding Ceremony
Jumping the broomstick. Tying the knot. Sand Pouring. These are all traditional ceremony rituals, and each of which could be used to give your wedding a unique feel. Your guests would certainly not expect to see such an ancient ritual take place during a modern wedding, and it will give your alternative wedding a romantic twist. As many of these older ceremonies are deeply emotional, and connecting tasks that bring couples closer together. Emotionally, spiritually and physically.
Our personal favourite, when it comes to ceremony rituals, is tree planting. As you can imagine, this involves planting a tree, and it can either be done during your ceremony, or after. It’s a sweet way to represent your love story, while also giving something back to the earth in the process.
19. Spend the Night Together Before Your Wedding
Which is stronger. Your belief in superstition, or the feeling of love and comfort you have for your partner? If the needle is wavering closer to the latter, then why not embrace every moment of your wedding, and have fun together the night before.
Weddings should be all about creating a special day that reflects you, and makes you both feel happy. If spending the night before your big day alone, or with friends, does not bring you joy, then don’t do it. If having your partner with you, before all the madness starts, is what you need, then seek their comfort.
20. DIY Your Wedding Invitations
The invites and save-the-dates are the first thing your guests will engage with when it comes to your wedding. They set the tone for the whole celebrations, and their style offers a tantalizing glimpse of what’s to come. For this reason, it’s important you consider carefully how they are presented.
If you’re hoping to show off how special this wedding will be, then why not create something utterly unique. Something made by your own fair hands. Not creative? Not good at arts and crafts? Don’t worry, we’ve put together 15 Creative DIY Wedding Invitations Ideas for you, complete with simple instructions!
21. Say No to Wedding Cake
A large proportion of wedding cakes are simply for display. They tick a traditional wedding box, and look impressive on the desert table. But you know what else looks impressive? A doughnut wall. An ice cream bar. A cupcake tower. These sugary structures will all create a stunning display, and can be creatively used to fashion a new kind of cake cutting moment.
The options are endless, and these wedding ideas can be defined wholly by your own sweet-tooth.
22. Introduce a Fun Activity or Games to Your Reception
Some members of your wedding party may groan at the idea of games, or activities during a wedding reception. But for anyone with a childlike sense of fun, or for those who have witnessed a real wedding abroad. You will know what a galvanizing experience the right games can bring to a wedding venue full of people who may not already know each other.
Nerve wracking events such as the speeches, or the first dance soon become a lot easier when you feel that the whole room has become a lot more connected. And sometimes, all it takes is a few rounds of giant Jenga and the spectacle of the ‘newly-wed game‘!
23. Discover a Unique Venue
The first step when planning any wedding, is booking your venue. It comes well before saying yes to your white wedding dress, and just after selecting your wedding date. It’s a vital task that impacts every other decision you wish to make concerning your nuptials. Not only that, your wedding venue is the physical backdrop for your celebrations. Therefore, its style and ambiance need to reflect the occasion.
Many venues already come equipped with a style and decor already in place, making it difficult to go wild with your alternative wedding ideas. That’s why our team have put together this list of 15 DIY Wedding Venues for 2022. A shortlist of colourful wedding venues in the UK that will welcome your crazy ideas, and be more than happy to help you put together a wedding in a more creative way.
24. Read Your Vows in Private
If you’ve opted to write your own vows, you don’t have to read them out load, in public. There can be a temptation when penning your vows, to create a moment. To make your guests laugh, or cry. When really, these words are deeply personal. They’re about you, and your partner. It’s nobody else’s big day. Therefore, you shouldn’t feel pressured to entertain.
Take the performance aspect away from your vows, and instead read them to each other in private. This way you’ll appreciate the words a lot more, and free yourself from the fear of scrutiny.
25. An Unforgettable Wedding Menu Experience
Don’t settle for the standard menu offered by a venue, or caterer. Think about what your guests would actually want, and what will create an experience for them. We’re not talking Heston Blumenthal, more like, the creation of little moments during the reception meal. Thinking beyond the three courses. Maybe the food is served by performers? Maybe each dish holds some sentimental value? Or maybe, you’re a huge Star Wars fan, and you want the canapés to be served by Storm Troopers…!
Consider something that represents you, and that you think your guests will get a kick out of. Even if it’s just having food trucks, instead of table numbers and a plated service. What will make your loved ones walk away thinking, that was pretty special!
We recently put together our list of the top 40 Stunning Destination Wedding Locations for 2022. And it got us thinking. Why not combine the destination wedding, and the honeymoon altogether! For example, you could tie the knot on the beach in the Algarve (Portugal), surrounded by your wedding party. Then, take a select group of them away with you for a weekend in Lisbon. Share a couple of nights together, eating and toasting your nuptials. Then, say goodbye, and take your own trip around the country, or head straight to Spain.
Make the whole trip one long experience, and by involving your closest friends/family, you’ll be creating a honeymoon with a truly unique feel.
27. Arrive/Leave in Style
If the thought of arriving by limo, or sleek Rolls-Royce to your wedding feels a little cliché, or not really you. Why not consider an entrance that’s a little more, unforgettable?
You’ll certainly turn some heads if you arrive by Harley-Davidson! Or you’re whisked off to your honeymoon by the number 39 bus. Our rule, as long as you can get your wedding gown on it, it’s suitable as wedding transportation!
28. White Bridesmaid Dresses
The idea of bridesmaids wearing white, and a bride wearing any colour of their choosing may strike fear into the hearts of the average Mum. But actually, not every bride wants to look traditional on their wedding day, and having bridesmaids dressed all in white is quite a strong look. Especially for a destination wedding. Just imagine the girls and boys all lined up on the sand, looking sharp in their pressed whites. It’ll contrast so elegantly with their sandy backdrop.
Equally, for the bride, you may not feel as though white is the colour you want to wear on your special day. So, why not opt for something that feels more you. Need more inspiration? Browse through our favourite Alternative & Non-Traditional Wedding Dresses, and find something with a bit of colour!
29. Create the 'Will You be My Bridesmaid' Proposal Moment
Your bridesmaids may already know that they’re chosen. You discussed it in the playground, talked about it during work experience and really nailed down their role while at university. But whether your bridal squad know or not, they still deserve ‘a moment’. A champagne popping surprise of a proposal that really kicks off the journey to the altar.
This ‘surprise’ could come in the form of a gift delivered to their door, or in person during drinks. Think of something fun, yet personal that will inspire the whole gang to get behind you, and support you.
If you’re struggling with ideas, we’ve rounded up our Favourite ‘Will You Be My Bridesmaid?’ Gifts that should help you choose the perfect something.
30. Set up a Self Serve Drink Station
For anyone who’s ever attended real weddings, you’ll know that the busiest place in the venue is always the bar. The queue for drinks can sometimes snake around a ballroom, and really bring the mood down if not dealt with quickly. Why not eliminate the pain, and expense of a full bar, and create a self-serve drinks station!
At these stations, you could have pre-made signature cocktails, both alcoholic and non. All ready to be poured from taps, or jugs that fit your theme. Place multiple stations around the venue, containing different drinks that are refilled periodically.
31. Hire a Celebrant That'll Make the Occasion Special
At present, a celebrant in the UK cannot legally marry you. However, by legally marrying the day before your wedding, and having a celebrant on the special day, you’ll be opening yourselves up to a world of personalization. Free from any boring legal stuff, you and your celebrant can dream up whatever type of service you want.
Celebrants in the UK are often experts in ancient rituals, and can perform ceremonial tasks that align with spiritual beliefs. Making them ideal for creating a wedding moment that is unique to you, and feels much more than your average.
32. A Phone Free Wedding
If you’re anything like us, you’re never further than 2 feet from your phone at all times. This is probably the norm, and it’s not always healthy.
On your wedding day, why not (heavily) suggest that your guests take a break from their devices, and embrace the feeling of freedom. You’ll be amazed at how much more engaged your loved ones are in the events of the day, when they’re not reaching for their iPhone every 2 minutes to check their emails. Besides, you paid a fortune to have a professional wedding photographer capture the whole day. You don’t need their blurry snaps!
Be sure to set up a safe place for guests to leave their phone during the day, possibly being charged, and certainly easy to find.
33. Don't Settle for a DJ
Music performed live was one of the things people missed the most during lockdown. That feeling of a live band can never be replicated by TV, or even a DJ. In this country, we’re blessed with a wealth of talented bands and musicians who have all struggled one way or another over the last two years. They deserve to show what they do best, and your guests will love to be entertained by them!
Remember, this is your wedding, and this is your chance to be unique. Choose a band that really represents you both. Maybe you’re both really into Swing, or Jazz or Goth Metal? Or maybe there’s a local band you love that don’t normally perform at weddings, but would happily grace the stage at yours! Imagine, your own personal gig!
A live band isn’t an alternative wedding idea, but having a band or singer that really resonates with you is.