Un-wedding (Noun)

  • A marriage ceremony and awesome celebration that doesn’t follow traditional wedding rules, focusing rather on who the couple really are.

When you think about it, a wedding is really an endless list of decisions to be made, about things you’ve probably never considered before. Of course, these decisions are sandwiched in-between two that really matter: “Will you marry me?” and “Will you take this man / woman?” Aside from these, your options are to meander an endless array of head-scratching questions. “What colour should our chair covers be?” “Chicken or fish?” “Ivory or white?”

In your newly found engagement bubble, with well wishes and the distractions of the sparkler on your left hand, it’s easy to allow yourself to go with the flow and before you know it you’re being pushed through a maze of expectations and wedding traditions.

It’s all too easy to begin planning for a convention that’s new to you and for which you have no personal interest in. Wedding cake tiers, seating charts and first dance songs suddenly become your first port of call and endless nights are spent wondering why you’ll be spending the night before the wedding apart, before you realise that just because it’s expected, doesn’t mean you have to do it.

When it comes to planning your wedding, you don’t actually have to do anything you don’t want to. On this one day, you can choose to be a little ‘selfish’, if you want to.

Rather than deciding on ‘this or that?’ ask yourself if you really want it in the first place. Is that particular vision important to you for your wedding day?

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It’s worth considering whether you’re following conventional wedding traditions out of desire or a sense of pressure of necessity. Many couples admit that when they sat down and thought about what they envisioned for their wedding day, it was barely a wedding at all. Sure, the outcome is the same, in that they were married, but everything in-between was a stripped back version of the usual wedding rituals. Realising that just because it’s what everyone else has done isn’t a reason to do it yourselves, can give you a solid justification for striping it back and creating an entirely different day.

Of course, there will no doubt be a few traditions that you like, but when you start to weed out those lifelong assumptions, you’re left with only those things that have significance to you as a couple.

And so what you’re left with is an ‘un-wedding’. A day, which celebrates your vision together as a couple and all those things which truly matter to you. If this sounds like your idea of a wedding, we’ve put together some ideas and rules which can be broken.

You are of course free to do what you want! These are just a few of the ways couples have brought their vision of an un-wedding to life over the years.

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The ceremony

Decidedly, it’s the most important part of your wedding, but if you ask a couple what they devoted most of their wedding planning time to, they’ll tell you it was the reception. Of course, it’s where guests will spend most of the day, but the ceremony is when you actually officially get married. So if this is of significance to you, it’s worth giving it a bit more thought.

Having a non-religious wedding ceremony offers you the chance to get more creative as there will be less rules and traditions to adhere to. Plus, you have wider scope when it comes to the setting for your nuptials. If you’ve fallen in love with a beautiful garden or location where you first met, while your officiant might not be able to legally marry you here, there is a way round it. Have your official wedding elsewhere. It’s becoming more common for couples to legally wed a day or two before their celebration. Doing it in secret makes it that little bit more personal too. Plus, with the legalities complete, you’ll have more freedom to have your ceremony how you wish and you can have anyone act as your wedding celebrant, such as a family member.

And when it comes to who is there, again do as you wish. When’s the last time you wanted to spend your day with 200 or more friends? The answer is probably never. When it comes to deciding on your guest list, pretend you’re working on who you would invite to a big birthday party. If cousins, parents’ friends or work colleagues don’t make the cut, don’t invite them to your wedding.

For the wedding day itself, focus on just that – the day. Just because celebrities have week long, extravagant events, with an unlimited budget, doesn’t mean you have to. Focus on having either a half day or full day with a fabulous party or beautiful brunch. Either option will work and it will be much more personal rather than a non-budget friendly blowout.

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The venue

After your vision for the “I dos” are done and dusted, turn your attention to the reception. More and more couples are opting to have just a handful of guests attend the ceremony, with friends and family joining later. Doing this, makes your vows a little more intimate. Plus, if you choose to write your own, you’ll be freer to speak from the heart.

When it comes to the venue for your reception, if the cookie-cutter castle vision just doesn’t cut it, turn your attention elsewhere. When you delve a little deeper, both the north and south of Ireland boast some amazing alternative wedding venues, which guests won’t forget in a hurry.

From lighthouses to lake-side homes, boats to concert halls, gorgeous gardens and gig venues, when you start to think beyond hotels and manor houses, there’s a world of possibilities out there. But of course, you can go as simple or off-the-wall as you like. The perfect wedding venue could mean your favourite restaurant or bar where you first met.

The advantage of booking a restaurant is that the focus will be on producing amazing food, so outdated traditions such as receiving lines and first dances won’t be missed by guests. Plus, restaurants often offer many aspects that a traditional wedding venue afford, such as a bar, eating area and full kitchen. Plus, if you choose one with décor you love, you won’t get caught up in ribbons and extravagant table centre displays.

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Your dress

If you’re planning a less than traditional wedding, chances are you have less than traditional thoughts on your wedding dress. Some brides just can’t part with the vision of a big white dress, and that’s okay, but if this isn’t your vision for your day, don’t do it. Years from now, the last thing you want to do is look back on your wedding day and think: “What was I wearing?” If you’re choosing to do your day, your way, no doubt you’ve probably got your own unique sense of style going on and so this should be reflected in your wedding attire. It’s probably safe to say that one of the reasons your other half was attracted to you was for your alternative style, so don’t second guess it for your wedding day.

When it comes to ‘the dress’, it doesn’t have to be long, it doesn’t have to be white and it definitely doesn’t have to be from a bridal boutique. If you have tattoos, you don’t need to cover them up either. They’re a part of you and you chose them for a reason after all.

You don’t need to go down the usual bridal shop route either. If you find yourself mindlessly flipping through bridal magazines, bored by A-line silhouettes and sweetheart necklines, this probably isn’t the right choice for you.

But the good news is, there are endless options out there and you’ll probably save yourself some money too. If you have a vision in mind but just can’t seem to find a dress which perfectly matches it, seek out a dressmaker who will bring it to life.

Check out websites such as ASOS, Kitty and Dulcie and Etsy for dresses with a difference. Or, if you’re someone who doesn’t wear dresses, a jumpsuit or trouser suit might just be perfect. If it was good enough for Solange Knowles…

And finally… shoes! Why waste money on a pair of white shoes you’re never going to wear again?! If you choose a tea length dress, go for shoes which deserve to be seen. If heels aren’t really your thing, don’t panic. Converse are the quirky girl’s dream.

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Their dresses

Before we get into the details of bridesmaid dresses, it’s probably worth considering how many you’ll have, if any. We’ve all seen the movie, and how quickly things went south, so if you long for a stress-free wedding day, keep your bridal party small. The fewer bridesmaids you have equates to less stress and less expense.

But if you do want to have a couple of girls stand by your side, make sure they’re onboard with your wedding plans. The last thing you want is opinions on dresses, numbers and venues.

And if you just can’t picture your wedding without a big group of girls by your side, why not adopt the American way of thinking?! In the states, when it comes to bridesmaids, the girls pay for their own dresses. A little controversial, maybe, but if it’s something you feel strongly about, speak to your friends about it.

Again, when it comes to bridesmaids’ dresses, these too should reflect your personal style. They don’t have to match, they don’t have to be cute and they definitely don’t have to be pretty pastel colours (unless that’s what you want).

You don’t have to go down the bridal boutique route either. Let’s face it… it’s highly unlikely that your bridesmaids will wear their dress again, so why spend all that money on it? Treat them to something they’ll love (and actually want to wear again), by choosing something which both reflects your day and their style. High street shops will throw up some amazing (and unexpected) options for bridesmaid dresses so do a little digging and see what you find.

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His suit

Your groom (hopefully) has an opinion on his suit too. So many men succumb to traditional tails and boring pinstripes, which definitely aren’t what they had in mind. So ask him what he wants. Whether it’s a suit that isn’t navy, black or even grey, switching suit shoes for Converse, or injecting lashings of personality through his choice of accessories, he definitely won’t look uncomfortable standing at the top of the aisle.

If your other half prefers to go down the less than traditional route, it’s probably best steering clear of hire shops, unless you do your research in advance and find one which offers a unique array of suits to match his style. If it’s something he’s likely to wear again, considering buying a suit. Or, if he has a specific style in mind, finding a tailor to create a bespoke suit could just be the perfect option.

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The finishing touches

While there are some things you’ll need to have in your wedding, there are plenty that you can do without, namely, the finishing touches.

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Flowers

There’s no denying that traditional weddings are a floral frenzy. Elaborate backdrops, church displays, bouquets, buttonholes and centrepieces can easily overshadow your day. If you don’t love flowers, ditch them. But if you can’t imagine not carrying a bouquet, create one with meaning. Brooch bouquets are perfect for their sentimental value and you can even ask family and friends to donate brooches so you’re carrying a little piece of everyone.

Or, if fresh flowers do take your fancy, it’s amazing what you can create yourself. If you’re fortunate enough to have family and friends with gorgeous gardens, ask if you can raid them ahead of the wedding. Rustic, wild flowers put together with love can mean so much more. Gather jam jars, adorn them with lace and fill them with fanciful flowers for carefree centrepieces.

Another option, and perfect for the DIY bride, is a bouquet made entirely of paper. Anything is possible! Check out some #inspo on Pinterest here.

If you’d prefer to banish the blooms completely, for an entirely different approach, there’s something undeniably romantic about a room filled with candles. Or, if your venue is beautiful, you won’t even need them.

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Cake

If an elaborate cake with its three-tiers is too outdated, give it a miss. Often one of the first wedding traditions to go in an un-wedding, couples find they’re having too much fun to stop for cake cutting and posed photos.

Smaller cakes are much more popular (and not to mention, cheaper) and something which you can pick up in your local Marks & Spencer! If you do prefer an elaborate cake, without the fuss, believe it or not, you can actually have fake tiers! Bakers will create a cake with one or two tiers of the real deal, and the rest are decorated to look the same. No one will know the difference.

If cakes don’t just cut it, turn your thoughts to some creative alternatives. The cupcake fad has been and gone, becoming quickly replaced by donut walls (yes, really), tiers of macaroons or cake pops.

Or, if you’re more savoury than sweet, cakes made from various types of cheese are a real thing, and the perfect way to round off an amazing meal. Other options include cupcakes (which are much easier for guests to take home) or dessert tables. Plus, if your aunt’s pavlova is infamous, you can ask her to create it for your wedding.

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Food

If you view yourselves as foodies, give your guests a meal to remember. The idea of having an un-wedding means the rules go out the window and you can do as you wish, especially when it comes to food. The advantage of choosing a venue, such as a restaurant, that you both love, means that you are guaranteed amazing food, which guests won’t forget in a hurry.

If a traditional three-course meal is too formal for your tastes, serve off-the-wall options such as pizza, fish and chips or burgers. You’d be surprised by how well these always go down with guests. Or, if food is important to your family, have family members create their signature dishes for a real homely feel.

If you plan on serving guests alcohol, save on expensive champagne. Guests will definitely appreciate a cold beer or a signature cocktail more.

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Decor

This is the time when your Pinterest addiction will definitely pay off. All those DIY décor projects you’ve been pinning will actually see the light of day.

If you feel you want to add your own finishing touches, get crafty and create your own décor. From your own bouquets to wedding bunting, colourful pompoms or your headpiece, unleash your creative side and really put your stamp on your wedding through your choice of finishing touches.

You’d be surprised at what you can find on Etsy. In fact, I’ve written an entire blog post about getting DIY for your wedding day with Etsy. Check it out here.

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Music

For many couples planning a non-traditional wedding, music is important. While you don’t need to hire a string quartet or choir for the ceremony, you probably will give some thought to hiring a band for your reception. You don’t have to go down the usual wedding band route either. Seek out local bands at gig nights and approach them to play at your reception. And if cheesy DJs aren’t you thing, check out Say Yeah Wedding DJ. Or, if you’d prefer to do without, make your own mix-type, packed full of your favourite songs and floor fillers.

While you might both have your own personal taste in music, in line with your un-wedding vision, you could be tempted to play your personal favourite tunes all night. But, it’s worth keeping in mind, that if you want that dance floor filled all night, you’ll need to throw in a few well known tracks.

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Invitations

Once you’re deep in the throes of planning your un-wedding, it’s reassuring to know that you don’t need to spend hours piecing together hand cut invites and addressing envelopes. Go digital and send your invites by email. It’s much easier to keep track of RSVPs and food choices.

It’s probably wise to hint at your less than traditional wedding through your invites. If guests receive a formally worded and engraved invitation, they’ll automatically assume they’re attending a formal wedding.

Instead, opt for a stylish font, which isn’t ornate and choose colloquial rather than traditional wording. Language such as “Please help us celebrate as we exchange our wedding vows at 2 pm on Saturday 12th August, at Tom’s Wine Bar”, prompts guests to expect a more casual do.

If you do choose to send out physical invites, the good news is that there are so many inventive and unique options out there. From party invites (that you just have to fill in) to concert tickets, it’s so easy to allow your personalities or shared hobbies to shine through in your choice of invites.

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Photographer

Of course, there is one tradition we’d never skip and that’s hiring a professional to take care of your photos. While you might be tempted to ask a mate with a good camera to capture your day this is one expense which non-traditional couples aren’t prepared to skimp on.

The good news is that there are wedding photographers who are more experienced in shooting informal, alternative weddings. They’re more likely to be on your wavelength and understand what’s important to you.

When choosing a wedding photographer, it’s vital to go with someone who totally gets the angle you’re going with for your day. It’s better to choose someone with the same vision as you and whose personality matches your own.

Have a good chat with a few about your wedding day, look at loads of albums to see if your style matches and allow them to take care of the rest.

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Pop-up wedding

Yes, really! If you’re one of those brave brides who can handle a surprise wedding, go for it! If you really don’t want any meddling, opinions or guests second guessing your decisions, a surprise wedding might just be the answer. Tell everyone you’re having a family dinner or make up an excuse to get everyone at your location on a specific day and time. Tell them to dress up for the occasion and when they arrive, tell them it’s your pop up wedding. This is the perfect way to break all the usual wedding traditions and not break the bank!

There’s something undeniably amazing about ignoring the usual wedding traditions, while still celebrating your day with the people closest to you. Be prepared to ruffle a few feathers along the way, but stick to your guns and bring your vision to life. Having your wedding your way might not be to everyone’s tastes but then again, sometimes you need to experience something different to make you realise what you wanted all along.

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