Elizabeth Elizabeth is a divorced mother of two elementary-aged boys. She is a former English professor and lay minister who now manages the office and communications for a local church. When she's not working or writing, you'll usually find her cooking for her loved ones or hanging out at coffee shops and bookstores. Contact her by e-mailing her at Elizabeth@mumblingmommy.com.

I was married at 22, and for the most part, our wedding was pretty traditional. There wasn’t necessarily any nontraditional wedding choices but I did break the norm in a few small ways, such as wearing a simple dress without a train and choosing music that was not the usual “wedding march.” But I mostly stuck with the basics, and that was fine.

I’ve noticed a trend, though, in the last few years, of brides and grooms being to make nontraditional wedding choices and making their weddings more suited to their unique tastes. And I think this is a great idea, especially since so many “traditions” aren’t traditions at all. Not all brides have to wear white or ivory ball gowns; not all weddings have to take place at two venues (one for the ceremony, one for the reception); and not everyone likes cake. I’ve been to two weddings in the last couple of years that broke away from many so-called traditions, and they were beautiful, meaningful, and enjoyable for everyone involved. Here are a few ways that they each made their wedding day more personal and unique.

Some Ways to Make Nontraditional Wedding Choices

Lisa and Jim: Blue Dress and Chocolate Pie

Image courtesy of JoePylePhotography.com.

When my best friend from childhood got married in 2013, one of her biggest worries was the dress. She is very fair-skinned and has light blond hair. A white wedding dress would almost match her skin, and the trend towards tiered, heavy, strapless dresses wasn’t her taste, either. After trying on a lot of dresses that didn’t suit her, she decided to have one custom-made. She chose a dark teal color and worked with a local dressmaker to create a style that suited her perfectly.  The price tag was still far less than the average cost of a wedding dress. 

Image courtesy of flikr.com.

Another way Lisa broke from tradition was to skip the wedding cake. She and her now-husband don’t care for cake, and it can be a big expense. Instead, they opted to order a chocolate ambrosia pie for each table. The pies doubled as centerpieces, and the guests had fun serving themselves generous slices.

Betsy and Mike: Wedding in a Restaurant

Image courtesy of Brea Photography.

My husband’s sister, Betsy, got married last year, and her wedding broke almost all of the so-called traditions. Her dress was white, but it was a designer cocktail dress, not a ball gown. Their only attendants were his pre-teen children as their “maid of honor” and “groomsmen.” They didn’t hire a DJ or provide a dance space or hold their wedding and reception in two different venues. She wore a single flower in her hair instead of carrying a bouquet. Nothing was typical or expected, but it was a beautiful and classy celebration just the same.

Betsy and Mike wanted a small wedding, just for family and a few close friends. They also wanted to serve a gourmet meal and make that the focus of the reception. Instead of choosing a church or ball room, they rented out their favorite restaurant, The Block, on a Sunday night, when it is normally closed. The Block has a lovely patio area with a gazebo and chairs, so a little decorating and rearranging turned it into the perfect outdoor wedding venue. The reception was held inside the restaurant. Guests were treated to a fantastic sit-down dinner, which they had ordered in advance. They also had their choice of seasonal desserts instead of a layered wedding cake. It was intimate, tasteful, and no one missed the cake or dance floor.

Image courtesy of The Block.

Mike’s three kids also served as more than just attendants. After Betsy and Mike spoke their individual vows, the children stood with them, and they all took “family vows.” Betsy promised to love them as her own, and they promised to love and support her, too. Mike promised that they would be a new family, together, and reaffirmed his commitment to them as their father. It was a great way to include the children in their ceremony and acknowledge their blended family. My mother remarked later that the “family vows” were the most beautiful part of the ceremony.

Takeaway Tips about nontraditional wedding choices:

  • Focus on one thing. Betsy’s photographer is also a wedding planner, and she gave Betsy this tip. Many couples think they have to “do it all” at their wedding. She says to pick the one thing that is most important to you and focus on that. For me, that was the historic chapel where I was married. For Lisa and Jim, it was having live music at both the wedding and the reception. For Betsy and Mike, it was the shared meal. Choose what you care about, as a couple, instead of thinking that everything has to be perfect or traditional.
  •  What tradition? Once upon a time, most weddings were simple affairs. They’ve grown out of proportion over the last 50 years or so, becoming large-scale events that were unthinkable a few generations ago. If you don’t want or can’t afford to have a “traditional” wedding with the ball gown, cake, and fancy reception, then don’t. Make simpler choices that can save you time and money.
  •  Make it personal. Weddings are an odd mix of the personal and the public. But ultimately they are about two people creating a new family. Worry less about what your family or guests might expect and focus on what the two of you need to celebrate beginning a life together.
  • Prioritize your marriage, not your wedding. I’ve known a bride or two who rushed to get married because she was so excited to have a big wedding. Those marriages didn’t last. A wedding is just one day;
    marriage is (or is supposed to be) for life. Some research indicates that the more money a couple spends, the shorter their marriage lasts.

Couples, what “traditions” did you discard for your wedding? What would you do differently if you had to do it all over again? Any nontraditional wedding choices you would give advice to add into a wedding?

Read all the posts in our Wedding Wednesday series.


Category: Spouses

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