Think about what your marriage means. Love. Growth. Commitment. Why not head to a nursery and buy packets of seeds to hand out as favors?
My son was a surprise. A wonderful surprise, but a surprise nonetheless who made his tiny presence known à la home pregnancy test just days after my now-husband popped the question. Suddenly our traditional wedding plans took a turn. We found ourselves facing an alternative wedding; it had to be planned fast, on a tight budget (babies aren’t cheap!) and now that my growing midsection was announcing to the world that we had been engaging in certain activities before marriage, we lost the option of a traditional wedding (sure, sure, everyone ‘does it’ before marriage—but most can at least give the illusion of innocence with a white dress and a waistline).
Knowing we would have to cut corners, we realized we had the opportunity to make our wedding unique and personal. The gown, the church, the white tablecloth reception: all of it seemed instantly less important. At the same time, we didn’t want just a jaunt to City Hall followed by breakfast at Denny’s. We made a list of what we felt was essential to our wedding. We knew we wanted it to feel like a party, we wanted music that everyone could participate in, we wanted dancing, we wanted it to express our personalities and show our appreciation to the friends and family who contribute to who we are, and who would soon be a part of our child’s life.
There are all kinds of reasons a couple might choose an alternative wedding: budget reasons, time constraints, the fact that, although it’s 2012, most same-sex couples must travel to a state that is not the one in which they live to be married. Many couples simply want to do something different. If you are looking at alternative wedding options, figure out why. Identify what you’re trying to accomplish. As a starting point, forget tradition, forget everything your great aunt thinks weddings ‘should’ be and pinpoint what is most important to you as a couple on your special day. Check out some of the ideas below to design a festival celebrating the most elusive thing any two people can share: love.
Last Minute Weddings
In the same way that the best parties are thrown together when the spirit presents itself, in the way that impromptu get-togethers have the most panache, last minute weddings can be fun and heartfelt. In a traditional wedding (or in a traditional anything, really, since tradition is all about expectations) a lot of things can go wrong. In a last minute wedding, the phrase ‘it is what it is’ reigns, and so it should. Most traditional wedding halls and churches need to be booked months in advance, so with tradition out of the picture, you and your future spouse can feel free to get creative with setting. Maybe pick a restaurant where you had your first date, or a friend’s beautiful backyard. In a last minute wedding, there is no time to tear your hair out over decisions and perfection. In my own, I decided I wouldn’t wish the stress of a last-minute bridesmaid dress choice on my worst enemy, let alone my three closest friends. Instead, I gave them free rein to wear what they felt comfortable in, as long as it contained the color turquoise. Why turquoise, you might ask? Because, similarly, since there was no hope for ordering a dress or having alterations done, as I was gaining baby weight weekly, I headed to a second-hand shop and picked up a vintage 1970’s-era Empire waist gown – in turquoise. It was stunning. And it cost…drum roll…$13.
Which leads me to…
Shoestring Budget Weddings
Shoestring budget weddings absolutely do not have to appear as though you were forced to cut corners. With some thought put in to who you and your future spouse are and how you want to celebrate your love, a shoestring wedding can look as though it were torn from the pages of a hip bridal magazine. Quick example, if you are trying to cut costs, don’t head to the Internet wedding supply websites and pick out the cheapest plastic silver wedding bells as favors. Think about what your marriage means. Love. Growth. Commitment. Why not head to a nursery instead and buy packets of seeds to hand out as favors? They will cost less, feel more personal and, more importantly, feel intentional.
Catering costs are a huge part of a wedding. Forget the caterer, what about a pot luck? Do you have a friend that can bake a cake? Or several cupcakes? Having friends bring food to share adds to the feeling of participation at a wedding, and makes guests feel comfortable, loved and important. At my shoestring budget wedding, my husband made three Crock Pots worth of stew and a friend of mine made the cake. My sister-in-law brought salads. We picked up cases of cheap, fabulous wine (of which the pregnant bride, sadly, got none) at Trader Joe’s. It was, as we wanted, a party.
The money spent on a wedding should not feel like a barometer of the success of this important day. The fact is, the day is a symbol, and not a measurement of all the days that have led up to it or the days that are to come.
Same Sex Marriage
Depending on where you live, if you are in a same sex relationship and wish to get married, chances are you will end up with a destination wedding. As of now, only eight states and the District of Colombia permit same sex marriage, and have only permitted them since 2004, but countless couples who have travelled to these states to have their partnership recognized legally have been together for decades. In other words, love and commitment know no bounds. To recognize this truth, you might want to plan your destination wedding for a special day that commemorates the love you and your partner committed to long before it was legally recognized. The anniversary of your first date, for instance, or of the moment you both realized that, no matter what, you were joined in love.
Again, the most important thing to consider for any couple is what the ceremony means to them, how to best express what their love for each other means, and what the love and support of their family has meant to them.
Are You A Black Sheep?
Maybe you and your spouse-to-be have all the time and budget in the world but just don’t want the bride-and-groom-on-the-cake, walk-down-the-aisle type of wedding. If you simply have the urge to be different, and the funds and time frame to do it up exactly as you want it, you may have the perfect storm of weddings waiting to happen. In this case, you might forego this opportunity to just stick it to the man and head to City Hall and design an event that will never be forgotten.
A Google search of alternative weddings brings forth a wealth of ideas, wedding themes (Harry Potter? Seriously?), crazy wedding settings (Amusement parks? Weddings on roller coasters? Even cemeteries?), folks who aren’t ‘of the cloth’ but who are ordained one way or another presiding over the union, the list goes on. It seems alternative weddings are becoming the next wave in marital union, good news for those who want an alternative wedding in order to express themselves, bad news for those who just want to piss of their parents by having no regard for tradition.
If you, as a pair, put whatever it takes to make your ceremony personal and heartfelt, with time and money, or without either of those things, your day will be memorable for your guests and for yourselves. A few weeks after my own particular last minute, shoestring budget, 6-months-pregnant wedding took place, the thank you letters started arriving in the mailbox. I was so touched to find that several of them mentioned that our wedding was the most beautiful they’d been to.
Now, I’m sure everyone says that to every bride. But as I recall the dining room chairs and loveseats my brothers dragged out to my mom’s orchard, the song my husband’s best friend’s 9-year-old daughter sang at the reception and the aforementioned pot roast my husband made for everyone moments before the ceremony, I can’t help but think they’re telling the truth.