Your Step-By-Step Guide to Planning a Non-Traditional Wedding

Non-traditional wedding with moon bounce and colorful balloons

Photo: Bella Baltimore/Ashton Kelley

If you’re here, chances are you’re after something a little left of center 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. 

Get ready to shake things up!

5 Ways to Break Wedding Tradition

Do you really want to shock the system? Close the book on the old school? Say no to the norm?

Here are a few non-traditional wedding ideas to take your entire day and turn it on its head:

1. Change Up Your Wedding Ceremony

Dog wearing tuxedo in wedding ceremonyPhoto: Mirelle Carmichael Photography

One of the most traditional parts of any wedding is usually the ceremony. There is a set order to things that is straightforward and easy to follow.

Instead of following the script, try something that better suits your style.

Do a reading from a book that means a lot to you and your fiance. Use anything from Dr. Suess to Game of Thrones

Give Mom and Dad different parts to play. Have both the bride’s and the groom’s parents give them away, or let each family accept the other person instead.

Let your dogs and cats get involved in your special day as ring bearers and flower girls. Or you can even include them as the best man or maid of honor!

Get creative with your show of unity. Rather than lighting a candle, you could share a drink or pull open a party popper — whatever is significant to you.

And why does the ceremony have to come first? 

We say throw the wedding reception in the afternoon and say your nuptials under the stars!

Check out our collection of flower girl dresses!

2. Have a Different Kind of Reception

You don’t have to throw a party in a ballroom after a laid-back cocktail hour if you don’t want to.

Take an unconventional approach to your reception and leave your friends and family talking about it for years to come.

Want something more fun for all ages? Take your guests bowling or mini-golfing. 

Do you crave something different but still sophisticated? Try a wine tasting or reserve a room at your favorite restaurant for brunch.

You don’t even need to have the reception on the same day as your ceremony. Spend some time with your best friends and closest relatives on the day before or after the official ceremony and call it the reception.

Your day means you get to do you!

What about a wedding breakfast?

3. Make It a Surprise Wedding

Diamond ring laying on top of wedding calendarPhoto: Stella Event Productions

Ease the stress of planning and coordinating by surprising everyone with the wedding. That’s the ultimate definition of going with the flow.

Secretly hire an officiant, then invite your closest friends and family members out to “celebrate your engagement.” It could be a nice lunch for everyone in the back room of a restaurant or a get-together at your home.

Once you have your loved ones gathered, bring out the officiant and just go for it.

Surprise! We’re getting married right now!

Related: How to Get Married at Home

4. Live Stream Your Wedding

Technology is an amazing thing, and live streaming your wedding is a total possibility.

It’s a great option if you’re having an out of town wedding but want everyone to see you get married. It’s also the perfect type of wedding if you’re getting married on the fly.

Bring your big day straight to the homes of those closest to you as it’s happening — formal wear optional. And make sure you get a video made for any of your would-be guests that can’t make the livestream, so they can see it later.

5. Elope

Bride and groom in rowboat on waterPhoto: Rachel Ellen Events

Last but not least, we have the most tried-and-true way to get married without having a wedding at all:


If you’re feeling it, just go and get married to your favorite person. Drop by a courthouse or head to a drive-thru Vegas chapel. 

All that really matters on your wedding day is the love you share.

Related reading: Our Full Elopement Guide

How to Plan a Non-Traditional Wedding

Just because you don’t want to stick to tradition doesn’t mean you have to throw a totally off-the-wall wedding. You can stick to the traditional framework and change up whatever details you like.

Let’s go through the planning process step by step, and you’ll see how to bring some unconventional flair to every aspect of your wedding.

Choose a Wedding Theme

Horse dressed as a unicorn at a non-traditional weddingPhoto: KLK Photography

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

Bride and groom getting married on a lakeside dockPhoto: Igor Novikov

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 favorite place to go together? 

Why not get married there?

Your venue could be as easy and cozy as a party room at your favorite 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 pique your interest, here are a few more quirky places to hold your wedding party:

  • Amusement Park
  • Zoo/Aquarium
  • Renaissance Faire
  • Cave
  • Planetarium
  • Forest
  • Theater

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 coloring page.

No spritz of lavender required!

(Although, if you're having a lavender color scheme, you could still do that.)

Pick Out Your Wedding Dress

Bride wearing non-traditional purple wedding dressPhoto: Bella Scottsdale/Denise Karis

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 favorite color.

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!

Dress Your Bridal Party in Non-Traditional Attire

Bridal party with mismatched bridesmaids dressesPhoto: Bella Scottsdale/JaneInTheWoods

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, color, or pattern that they like. They’re all bound to look radiant for your wedding day.

If you happen to be wearing a colored wedding dress, why not put your bridesmaids in white?

Or dress them in jumpsuits or rompers instead of dresses.

Let Bella Bridesmaids help you find the perfect bridesmaid 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.

Related: Wedding Usherette Attire: What Do Female Ushers Wear?

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 centerpieces, 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 color palette. A mish-mash of different colors and furniture styles is perfect for an Alice in Wonderland tea party sort of vibe!

See also: 5 Kinder Alternatives to Releasing Wedding Doves

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 favorite 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.

Go With a Non-Traditional Wedding Cake

Wedding cake made from stacked, homemade oatmeal piesPhoto: Fox & Film

Not feeling the traditional tiered wedding cake

No problem!

Go for a tower of different flavored cupcakes. Lay out a table of single-layer desserts to appeal to a wide variety of tastes. Build a massive stack of cookies or brownies. Have someone make you an ultra-delicate crepe cake.

There’s no rule that says you even need a sweet dessert at your wedding. You could leave out the sugar entirely and go with a savory wedding cake instead.

In Conclusion

There’s no right way to have a wedding, even if it feels that way at times. The most important thing to remember is that it’s your day

Your day = Your way.

Whether you’re ready to throw the entire book out the window or just rip a couple of pages from it, we hope your out-of-the-box plans turn into the wedding of your dreams.

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