26 Alternative Wedding Ideas That Beautifully Break Tradition

Sometimes it’s nice to shake things up a bit.

Jason Domingues Photography

There are some things we’ve come to expect from a wedding. From the bouquet toss to the cake cutting, certain wedding traditions are as ingrained in our culture as Christmas trees, Thanksgiving turkey, and fireworks on the 4th of July.

But times, they are a ‘changin! Engaged couples are no longer bound by «rules» and «expectations» when it comes to their big day. Whether you skip traditional formalities altogether or find creative ways to make them your own, there are plenty of opportunities to shake up your celebration. See these 26 alternative wedding ideas that beautifully break tradition.

It’s YOUR wedding. Do what you want to!


1. Find an unconventional wedding venue

Want to set the stage for a nontraditional wedding? Start with an out-of-the-box venue! See our list of 16 venue styles that are anything but basic.

Alternative Wedding Ideas | Find an Unconventional Wedding Venue

Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh

2. Throw a surprise wedding

If you don’t want everyone making a big deal over your wedding, plan it in secret—and then spring the celebration on your guests. Surprise…you’re actually at our wedding!!!

Surprise Wedding | Alternative Wedding Ideas

Red Trolley Studio

3. Plan an entire wedding weekend

You know how some people celebrate their birthdays all month long? Do that with your wedding…but pack your festivities into a fun-filled 3-day weekend, like this intimate summer camp wedding.

Plan an entire wedding weekend | Alternative Wedding Ideas

Deborah Huber Photography

4. Host a wedding brunch

Bonus points for a waffle wedding cake. And free-flowing mimosas, of course!

Brunch Wedding with a Waffle Wedding Cake

Kaitlyn Blake Photography

5. Opt for an adventure wedding

Say your vows in a heart-pumping location like a mountain summit, a cavernous cave, or suspended on a platform between 500-year-old cypress trees (as pictured below!).

Adventure Wedding Ceremony | Alternative Wedding Ideas

Cypress Valley Event Center

6. Get married on a Monday

Or a Tuesday…or a Wednesday… The point is, weekday weddings come with many perks—including lower costs, more availability, a cozier group of guests, and a seriously cool non-traditional factor. We’re also slightly obsessed with the idea of a Taco Tuesday theme.

Weekday Weddings | Alternative Wedding Ideas

Colette’s Catering & Events

7. Eff it. Elope!

This couple eloped to Disneyland…and it looks like the most magical day on earth ♥

Elope to Disneyland | Alternative Weddings that Break Tradition

Trista Maja Photography

8. Book a drag queen

Looking for a little razzle dazzle for your wedding? Book a drag queen to be your officiant, emcee the event, or show off their talents as the reception entertainment! Poly Poptart shares this tip: «To find them, gig-based websites can be helpful, as well as attending drag brunches and shows, and searching social media.»

Book a drag queen | Nontraditional wedding ideas

Poly Poptart | Apollo Fotografie

9. Get matching tattoos

Okay, okay… some people may believe this is a kiss of death, but we’re hopeless romantics and love the idea of complementary tattoos in lieu of wedding rings. Nothing says «forever» like permanent ink, ya know?

Matching tattoos instead of wedding rings

Carmela Blackwell Photography

10. Wear what you want

Brides aren’t relegated to white dresses, just as grooms don’t have to wear tuxedos. Switch it up! From rompers to kilts to sequin jumpsuits—anything goes.

Bridal jumpsuit instead of wedding dress

The 4 Eleven

11. Spend the pre-wedding night together

If you don’t already live together, talk with your partner about spending the night together before your wedding day. You may even want to get ready together the next morning. If your partner makes you feel at ease and happy, it makes sense to be around them right before the whirlwind of the wedding begins.

Spend the pre-wedding night together | Alternative Wedding Ideas

Nikk Nguyen Photo | LaLa Park

12. Have gender-blind wedding parties

We love that couples are now opting to include their ride-or-die BFFs in their wedding party regardless of gender identity or expression. From Men of Honor to bridesmates and groomsgirls, anything goes when it comes to your wedding entourage. And this applies to the bach parties, too!

Have gender-blind wedding parties | Nontraditional Wedding ideas

Shelly Beck Photography | The Villa at Cielo Vista

13. Let the wedding party wear white

While we adore the mismatched bridesmaid dresses look and the idea of giving your group the freedom to choose their own attire, we can’t help but swoon over how fresh and clean the wedding party looks in white…

White bridesmaid dresses with the bride in black

Collective Perception Photography | Five Crowns Restaurant

14. Forgo the wedding party entirely

If the thought of wedding party attire and logistics makes your head spin, don’t have one! Make the entire day about the two of you. You can even ask your VIP guests to wear your wedding colors as a symbol of their special place in your hearts. Or just opt for a Dog of Honor and Best Pup!

French bulldogs in wedding party dressed in white

Longmeadow Event Center | Drake & CO Photography + Film

15. Rethink the traditional children’s roles

Instead of a flower girl, how about confetti men, ring bearer pets, or flower grandmas? Just because we’ve done something a certain way for a zillion years doesn’t mean it has to stay that way! Imagine the surprise and delight your guests will experience when they see your new twist on this tradition coming down the aisle…

Flower grandma in floral crown sprinkles petals down the aisle from her wheelchair

Jason Domingues Photography

16. Creatively customize your ceremony

The wedding ceremony is the most tradition-laden part of the day, so don’t be afraid to mix things up here. Sing your vows if you’re musically inclined, let guests sit wherever they want, walk down the aisle together, hire a celebrity impersonator as your officiant, whatever! To legally tie the knot, you just need your fiancé, an officiant, and a marriage license. Everything else is fair game.

Sing your wedding vows | Alternative wedding ideas

AK Photography

17. Find alternatives to flowers

Flowers are one of those things people «expect» to see at a wedding, so it’s fun to find an unexpected alternative. If you love the pop of color flowers impart, opt for colorful ribbons as the backdrop to your ceremony or looped into a bouquet. If you still want something natural, use only greenery or pampas grass. Dried flowers are another great spin on this wedding tradition!

Colorful ribbons as a wedding backdrop instead of flowers

Mary Costa Photography | Honeypot

18. Get sassy with your signage

Wedding signage is traditionally used to direct guests to the ceremony location or list out signature cocktails…but we’re big fans of using them to put your cheeky personalities on full display.

Cheeky wedding signs for a nontraditional wedding

Andie Avery Photography | Hey Halle

19. Host a cocktail party reception

Don’t serve dinner! Instead, host a cocktail-style reception that’s heavy on the hors d’oeuvres and drinks. Splurge on several signature cocktails, get a dozen delectable appetizers in rotation, and pass out bite-size desserts. Make it clear on the invitations that there will be «cocktails and hors d’oeuvres to follow» so your guests won’t expect a sit-down meal.

Cocktail-style wedding reception with passed hors d'ouevres

Wolfgang Puck Catering

20. Feed guests with food trucks

Food trucks are equal parts fun, flavorful, and festive. Spread out some cozy blankets and floor pillows on the lawn, let your guests grab their food, and host a casual picnic-style reception they won’t soon forget.

Feed your wedding guests with food trucks, like this fish taco truck

Haley Erdegard

21. Play arcade games at your reception

If the idea of a dance floor doesn’t thrill you, rent some old-school games and turn your reception into an arcade! Beat your new spouse at Golden Tee or Hoop Shoot, show off your pinball skills, or get nostalgic playing Pac Man. All kids—young and old—will have a blast.

Play arcade games at your nontraditional wedding reception

John Myers Photography | The Estate at Cherokee Dock

22. Party down «festival style»

If your idea of a good time is a music fest under the stars, throw a festival-inspired reception. Wear flower crowns, set up yurts, play lawn games, and book an epic live band to bring the house down.

Festival-inspired wedding reception at Elm Pass Woods

Elm Pass Woods — Wedding Festivals

23. Offer a new take on wedding cake

Do something really delightful and unexpected instead of the traditional tiered cake. What about a cotton candy machine? Instead of feeding each other cake, feed each other a big piece of fluff. Your guests will enjoy mingling as they walk around with this portable spun-sugar snack. They’re also great as a cloud-like topper on your signature cocktails! #teamcottoncandyinsteadofcake

Cotton Candy Machine at a wedding reception instead of cake

Elizabeth Burgi Photography | Olive Rose Events

24. Make a time capsule «guest book»

Here’s an idea: Have your wedding guests put notes, predictions, and polaroid pictures into a lockbox that you and your spouse will open on your first anniversary. Opening this up one year later will take you right back to your wedding day, and can take place of the «eat the top tier of your cake» tradition!

Make a time capsule wedding guest book with notes and polaroids

NBB Photos

25. Throw a welcome pool party

Though the pre-wedding bash is a long-established tradition, remember that it really only has one prerequisite: it follows the wedding rehearsal. Instead of making it a formal affair, consider hosting one that’s fresh and unexpected….like a pool party with beer and barbecue!

Throw a welcome pool party instead of a rehearsal dinner

David Lai Weddings

26. Take a latermoon

It used to be that you got married, woke up the next day with your newly-minted spouse, and immediately jetted off to your honeymoon. But nowadays it’s all about the latermoon! Weddings are expensive enough, so don’t hesitate to wait a few months—or even years—to enjoy a post-wedding getaway.

Take a latermoon instead of a honeymoon | Alternative wedding ideas

Jenni Grubba Events | Annamae Photo


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