How to Plan a Non-Traditional Wedding

It’s become increasingly popular for couples to choose non-traditional elements to incorporate into their wedding. Often times these decisions are made because the traditional elements just don't fit the couples' style. Other times it's to make wedding planning or the wedding day itself a bit simpler, either for the couple or their guests. There are also some non-traditional wedding trends that will have no impact on the flow of your day, like having a man of honor, serving pie instead of cake, and writing your own vows. Those types of non-traditional elements can still be plugged into a typical wedding timeline. Essentially, you’re just swapping out one tradition for something that better fits your wedding style. While these changes make your wedding unique to you, they also still allow for your guests to follow along and meet the expectations of a "typical" wedding day. 

Think about the last time you attended a wedding. At any point in the day did you have to wonder what was going to happen next? Probably not. The day likely flowed easily from the ceremony, to cocktail hour, to dinner, and then dancing. But think a little bit harder, and you’ll likely discover that there were certain things that happened that queued you into what was going to happen next. The couple made their grand entrance to the reception, which kicked off dinner. The couple cut the cake, which meant cake was available for everyone. The couple did their first dance, followed by everyone joining and the dance floor to officially be open. These transitions seem subtle, but they are very important queues that guests know to wait for before moving to the next portion of the night.

I recently coordinated a non-traditional wedding where the couple did not want a big sit-down dinner, and instead preferred for their guests to mingle, eat whenever they wanted to at either tables or cocktail rounds, and then enjoy music from a live band after dinner had wrapped up. Sounds relaxing, right? The only problem is that none of the guests would get in line to get food because the bride and groom hadn’t eaten, yet. The food was out, the servers were ready, and all of the staff were encouraging guests to jump in line, but the response we kept getting was “I’ll wait for the bride and groom to eat first”. When you’re hosting a non-traditional wedding, you need to find ways to communicate what you have planned so your guests can follow along. While this couple thought they were doing guests a favor by allowing them to eat whenever they were ready, the guests were still following the flow of a “normal” wedding, and no one wanted to seem rude by eating first. I eventually had to tell the bride and groom that they needed to grab a plate of food, and as soon as they did, their guests were quick to follow.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you can’t still go off the beaten path for your wedding. When you do, you simply need to have a way to communicate these changes to your guests. Having a DJ or MC is a great way to make this happen. When they can make an announcement over the mic and get all of your guests on the same page, your day will flow tremendously smoother. Another great way to provide this information is through signage or printed materials. Add a note to the ceremony program, put up a chalkboard sign near the buffet, or have some instructions on their menu cards. There are lots of places that information can be strategically shared with your guests, which will help eliminate any confusion.

It’s important to make sure your guests are on the same page as you, especially when you’re hosting a non-traditional wedding. Once you and your significant other have finalized how you’d like the day to flow, and what you will and won’t be incorporating, it’s important to work out how that will be communicated to guests so they know what to expect. At the end of the day, you want your wedding day to fit your personality, but you also want everyone to have fun, and sharing these details with them will help make that happen.  

Thrifty Events offers wedding planning, event design, and day of coordination services.


Candi Block, Founder & Event Planner

Midwest native with big-family roots, now newlywed, entrepreneur, and new home owner in the PNW. Love being involved in the community, crafting, creating, and Netflix binging.