A guide to planning a non-traditional wedding

Guest post by Rev. Katherine Dupree
planning a non traditional wedding alternative wedding ideas from Offbeat Wed (formerly Offbeat Bride)
Larger photo: Heather Schofner Photography, Smaller photo: Weirdo Weddings

Before you scour the web for non-traditional wedding ideas, take a moment and breathe. Yeah, that's big of us to say since our whole bag is planning an unconventional wedding… But when wedding officiant Reverend Katherine Dupree sent us this step by step guide to planning a non-traditional wedding, we thought all offbeat nearlyweds needed to hear this!

Rev. Dupree is sharing everything she wishes engaged folks would do, long before making wedding plans or booking wedding venues or even searching for wedding inspiration! So X out of Pinterest real quick and settle in, Rev. Dupree's got the mic now!

Here's how to begin planning a non-traditional wedding when you have no clue where to start:

STEP 1: Forget traditional weddings for a second

For the sake of this exercise, begin by consciously choosing to erase all your ideas of what a wedding is “supposed to be” and to have fun with this conversation. No need to commit to any ideas that come up and no pressure to be creative either. Pinky swear.

Step 2: Dream up your ideal non-traditional wedding day

  • Imagine the perfect day. If you could do whatever you wanted for a whole day, no limits. What would it look like? Would you be somewhere tropical, mountainous? Would you be surrounded by loved ones all day? Maybe part of the day? Would you wake up in the rainforest and take a waterfall bath together and then hang glide onto a beach where all your friends and family are waiting to have a big party? Or lay in a field surrounded in puppies? Or just eat bagels on a really comfy couch? Go ahead. Let your hearts want what they want.
  • Now imagine someone gave you a bunch of money to throw a kick ass party. What would you do? Would it be a theme party? A costume party? A fancy ball? Would it be big or small? Where would you be? Would you use it as an excuse to create an escape from the every day, into another world – another decade, another environment, a cinematic experience? Or would you want to chalk it full of all your favorite things – hobbies, foods, authentic touches? Maybe everything would be fancy, a monochromatic wash of white with all the guests required to wear black. Or maybe it’d look a bit like a renaissance fair or a masquerade or a scene from your favorite movie. Maybe it’d be an ultimate frisbee tournament. Maybe it’d be all about the food with a five-course dinner. Maybe it’d be all about dancing. What would be the wedding reception of your dreams?

Step 3: Discuss wedding ceremonies

  • What does your wedding union really mean to each of you? Why are you choosing to get married? What feels like the “right” way to honor that? Are there symbols that feel meaningful to you both? Ways that you want to incorporate couple rituals, family traditions or heirlooms? Elements? Art? Moments to breathe and meditate? What do you want to feel coming out the other side of your big day and what are some things that can help create those feelings?
  • What do you want your guests to feel throughout the event? Are you more concerned with giving your guests a moving, grounding experience or ensuring that they have a good time? Maybe both? Do you want them to feel like they’ve been included or like the unexpected could happen at any minute? Are there ways to make sure they feel comfortable? Do the introverts need a little extra TLC? Do folks need a cool place to wait and sip on drinks before they head out into the hot, outdoor summer ceremony? You know a bit about the kind of people who are coming. See if you can anticipate their needs before they arrive and be ready to deliver.
Queer burlesque handfasting Heather Schofner Photography32 alternative wedding ideas from Offbeat Wed (formerly Offbeat Bride)
Maybe you want to do a burlesque performance in a friend's backyard like at this handfasting ceremony. Photo by Heather Schofner Photography

Step 4: Assess your alternative wedding ideas

  • What ideas came up? Where do they fit into your special day? Remember that your experience begins long before the wedding ceremony starts and continues even after the last song is over. Some of the ideas you came up with may not fit in our actual wedding, but they may fit into your honeymoon or make a great addition as a preparation for your wedding week. Or maybe you’ll choose to incorporate them into your anniversary celebrations. There are no rules, right?
  • What about your guests? Your guests’ experience also begins long before the ceremony starts. What are some fun ideas for spreading the word about your wedding? And what about the transition into the wedding itself? What’s parking like? Will there be a decorative archway complete with a signature cocktail that signals to them that they have entered a new space? What about the transitions between the ceremony and the celebration? How can you guide your guests from one space to the next? How can you keep the memories going even after your final exit?
  • What compromises need to be made? Maybe you didn’t agree on everything. Or maybe your budget doesn’t agree on everything. Or maybe a family member like Aunt Martha would throw a fit and make your whole day miserable. What can you let go of in order to make room for what matters most? If one of you feels strongly about something the other does not, maybe consider incorporating your ideas into a separate bachelor/bachelorette party, shower, ritual, experience, etc. And maybe talk about how to mitigate those issues with Aunt Martha.
Grits Unique Unity Ceremony Photos by Amanda Permenter3 alternative wedding ideas from Offbeat Wed (formerly Offbeat Bride)
This couple loved breakfast so much they had a grits unity ceremony. Photo by Amanda Permenter

Step 5: NOW you can start planning your non-traditional wedding

Based on your conversation, come up with a shared vision. Maybe for your next date night, you create a vision board or an itinerary. Every time you face a difficult decision throughout the planning process, go back to that shared vision and use it as a guiding light. Decide to invest in that vision and leave out the things that take away or don’t add to it. Are there things that don’t matter that you could drop or things you want to add? What’s necessary and unnecessary?

Hey, maybe skip the dance party if it’s not what you’re about. Hell, those cupcakes that everyone swears by and loves don’t float your boat? Get donuts; they’re probably cheaper than a wedding cake anyway. Has this process made you realize that you do in fact just want to eat bagels on a couch all day with the love of your life? Find the best damn bagel shop in the world and use that exorbitant wedding budget to shut it down for a day. Or consider a brunch wedding or a morning wedding with breakfast!

You got this, loves. Prouda you for making it this far.

PS : If going through this process made you realize all you truly want in your hearts of hearts, is a traditional wedding, that’s fantastic, that’s valid and that’s beautiful.

Now that you've visualized planning your non-traditional wedding, grab our customizable wedding spreadsheets to stay organized.

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