Weddings are frustrating. Admittedly, some people (myself included) find planning a big event with lots of minor details fun… but we’re the minority. If most people didn’t find planning a wedding stressful, then planners like myself wouldn’t need to exist.
Granted, part of the reason weddings are so stressful for most people is the way we format them. We’re expected to host a big party with lots of expensive décor, fancy food, overpriced stationery, copious amounts of flowers, pricey outfits for everyone involved, fiddly little details everywhere… This one party hosted over the course of (usually) one day becomes this gargantuan process of continually giving in to pressure from the wedding industry, our families, and our peers. And by the end of it, we’re exhausted and praying that we achieved some kind of satisfaction from having done what we were supposed to.
Of course, if the Big, White Wedding™ is your cup of tea, then go for it! Big, elaborate weddings are awesome, and they absolutely have their place! That place just shouldn’t be at the top of the list, in the Default position.
Maybe you’re looking for something completely unconventional. Maybe you like the standard wedding format, but you want something a little more relaxed. Maybe you really don’t care, as long as you get to spend time with your loved ones. If you’re looking for inspiration, consider these ten concepts:
A home ceremony with a potluck meal. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: Anyone who thinks backyard or home weddings are tacky is a very sad, judgmental little human. If you don’t have a big budget and your priority is to have your loved ones spend quality time together, then there’s no reason you should feel bad about considering a backyard or home wedding.
Host a camping weekend. Book some cabins in a provincial park or some spots in a campground, invite everyone on a road trip, and spend the weekend getting married in the woods! What’s better than a wedding that doubles as a weekend getaway for your guests?
A courthouse ceremony followed by cocktails. Full-on dinner receptions are one hundred percent optional, no matter what anyone tells you. Cocktail receptions are usually shorter than receptions where meals are involved, so this is an excellent option if you and your partner are introverts who don’t really want to spend the whole day surrounded by people (even if you do love them)!
Have brunch, and follow it up with a Garden ceremony. There’s no reason your reception has to come after the ceremony. Having it beforehand is an excellent way to take some pressure off and calm those pre-nuptial nerves. Additionally, brunch and gardens are a perfectly versatile match: They can be as informal or as formal as you like!
Go with the full-service venue, but take it down a notch. You know the venues I’m talking about… the venues that are hotels, spas, and restaurants, all at once? The ones that usually have exorbitantly expensive wedding packages? Yeah, those ones. Try this wedding hack: Shrink your guest list. Book one of the venue’s smaller spaces for your ceremony. Book a table in their restaurant and order off the regular menu (or do the regular buffet) for your reception. If you have any money leftover, you could put it into some spa services, stay a few extra nights, or upgrade another aspect of your wedding. All the staples of a wedding, without the elaborate packages! Mind you, this probably won’t work NEARLY as well if you decide to keep your original guest count of 50, 100, or 150+ people. But if you can narrow it down to twenty people or less, you might be able to swing it!
Book your favourite restaurant. Whether it’s a fine dining establishment or a casual spot with an event room, you can have a perfectly lovely wedding in a restaurant setting. Aesthetically speaking, one of my favourite venues in my current city is a restaurant downtown!
Charter a boat. If you’re getting married somewhere with a waterfront, you may be able to charter a boat for your ceremony and/or reception. The dress code can be kept as casual as you’d like, and many chartering businesses (especially in larger cities) offer food packages with your boat. It doesn’t have to be overly decorated, either, if that’s not important to you- the experience of attending a wedding on the water will be enough for your guests to enjoy and remember the experience!
Have a bonfire-side ceremony. I’ll admit: I have an affinity for fire. Candles, fireplaces, lanterns, bonfires… I think of them and I get excited. Even if it involves being out in the country or camping (two things that decidedly do not excite this city lover). Whether you’re going for a rustic country wedding, free-spirited Festival vibes, a woodsy Pagan wedding, or a romantic, outdoor Winter wedding, bonfires make absolutely stunning ceremony or reception additions. Just make sure you check the legalities of lighting a huge fire wherever it is you want to get married!
Take advantage of nature. Get married on the beach… on in the woods, off of a hiking trail… or on the side of a mountain… or in front of a local waterfall! Have a picnic reception, or book something relaxed nearby. You don’t need an expensive venue or complicated packages to get married somewhere naturally beautiful. Just think of how gorgeous the photos will be!
Elope now, party later. If you just want to marry the person you love with no added fuss, or if the thought of saying your vows in front of a bunch of people makes you super uncomfortable (same, TBH), just throw the traditional wedding format away! Elope with your partner(s)- whether it’s a chic city elopement or a trip half-way across the world- and have a reception or party later! It’s the best of both worlds: You get a private, intimate ceremony and a celebration with your loved ones. In a way, you also get to celebrate getting married twice. How cool is that?