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10 Tips to Planning a Nontraditional Wedding

Not interested in having a cookie-cutter, totally traditional, by-the-book wedding? You’re not alone. And one scroll through Pinterest or Instagram for wedding inspo and ideas will show you that clearly, many brides-to-be crave the offbeat, nontraditional wedding.

The antiquated wedding rules have been thrown out the window, people! You can get married at any stage, at any age and in any way you want to. What a time to be alive, right?

So, if you’re one of the many deep in wedding-planning mode and you need a little help, we have just the insider tips for you.

More: 10 Printable Wedding Checklists for the Organized Bride

1. Downgrade your cake

Small wedding cake

Because having a massive, three-tier wedding cake is so 2000-late. Jessica Janik, bridal consultant and founder of the bridal concierge The Invisible Bridesmaid, tells SheKnows the giant wedding cake should be the first thing to go.

“Half of my brides haven’t even gotten around to cutting the cake during the ceremony because they were having too much fun on the dance floor. The smaller the cake, the more affordable. Have a smaller cake and try decorating it with silk ribbon or real flowers instead of having fondant designs/patterns on the cake.”

2. Ditch traditional wedding heels

Bride wearing Converse

Whether it’s a pair of Converse All-Stars or those adorable (and pricey) espadrilles you’ve had your eye on, spend your money on wedding shoes that match your personal style instead of your dress.

“Think long-term when shopping, so opt for comfort over height so you will want to wear them again and again.” Janik says.

3. Cut down on bridesmaids

Small Sweden wedding party

We’ve all seen the movie, and we know how quickly things can go south. But really, a large wedding party is largely unnecessary — not to mention expensive — if you have only a few friends you’d like to include on your big day. Opting for fewer bridesmaids or none at all can have its benefits, Janik explains, “The less girls you have, the less stress you have, and the less you will spend on flower bouquets, bridesmaid gifts, makeup/hair, etc.”

More: A Designer’s Tips for Transforming a Backyard Into a Wedding Venue

“Don’t be afraid to mix up the wedding party.” Stephanie Moran, formerly the owner and events specialist at Six-Twenty Events, tells SheKnows. “No one ever said that your best friend has to be the same gender as you, so if you’re a bride and want your bestie, who happens to be male, to be in your wedding, do it. Women standing on the groom’s side could wear the same color as the rest of the groomsmen (or same color as their tie) in dress form or go completely gender-neutral and wear a tux or pantsuit. Men standing in on the bride’s side can match the groomsmen or wear a suit or tux that complements the bridesmaid dresses.”

4. Go digital

Once you’re in the throes of planning your big nontraditional wedding bash, it’s comforting to know that traditional wedding etiquette can go out the window. This means you can cut out printed save-the-dates and invites if you want to, Janik says. Sending emails instead can help you to better keep track of RSVPs and save you hundreds on total printing costs.

“If you’re not sure mom would go for it, you can always purchase traditional paper invitations and email your save the dates,” Moran adds.

5. Get crafty

Wedding bouquet DIY

Seriously, though, this is one time in life when your Pinterest and DIY addiction is actually going to pay off. If you’ve got the time and the creativity, you can upcycle and repurpose almost any item on your wedding to-do list. We suggest starting with the easy stuff and working your way up to the harder Pinterest projects from there. A Beautiful Mess has plenty of wedding DIY projects to choose from too.

6. Throw a brunch

As strange as it sounds, planning a morning wedding is a big win in more ways than one: namely in the cash and booze departments. “Who says 11 a.m. can’t be happy hour?!” Moran asks. “Throw a brunch wedding for the ultimate anti-conformist wedding. The perks of brunch weddings include waffle and mimosa bars, a more laid-back vibe and they’re a big budget saver. Brunches can range in cost from $20 to $70 per person, whereas for a formal dinner, you’ll be shelling out $130 to $250 per person. And to top it off, most venues will offer discounts for morning weddings. Just be prepared for a 5 a.m. — or earlier! — hair and makeup call.”

7. Mix up the venue

Cathedral Park wedding

Everyone expects a church wedding, but jaws might hit the floor (hopefully, in the best way possible) when guests realize your wedding will be held under a beautiful bridge — or at an art studio or at a local wine bar or in front of a graffiti mural.

“Instead of a traditional church or well-known wedding venue, have your wedding somewhere unexpected,” Michele Velazquez, owner of the pop-up wedding company Pop The Knot, tells SheKnows.

8. Make it a surprise

This one goes out to all the brave brides (or those April Fools’ Day pranksters). Velazquez suggests making the entire event a surprise if your parents’ hearts can handle it.

“Tell everyone that you are hosting a family dinner or make up another excuse to get everyone to be at your location on the specified date and time. Ask them to all dress for the occasion. When they arrive, announce that this is your pop-up wedding! This is a great way to break traditions and not break the bank.”

You can find our favorite — and totally shocking — pop-up wedding inspirations here.

More: The 7 Best Places for a 2018 Destination Wedding

9. Revamp the send-off

Glow sticks sendoff

“If your venue prohibits sparklers, pass out glow sticks at the end of the night so your guests can still light up your send-off,” Moran suggests. With an aww-dorable ending like this, your out-of-the-box wedding is one friends and family will never forget.

10. When in doubt, chill out

Even celebs have problems keeping everyone happy when planning an ultra-unique wedding soiree. As Kelly Kruger (Criminal Minds and Castle) tells SheKnows of her wedding to Darin Brooks (The Bold and The Beautiful), “Coming from two different backgrounds, it was really important for us to create a wedding that represented both of us as individuals as well as a couple. We sat down and talked about what was really important to each of us. Darin, coming from Hawaii and raised Catholic, and me, coming from Montréal and having been raised Jewish, we really wanted to make sure to have a little of both in our ceremony and reception. We decided to have a reform Rabbi officiate it, but we wrote our own vows and customized the ceremony.”

There’s something that feels so good about flipping the bird to the traditional idea of a wedding while still celebrating a special day with the one you love. If your offbeat wedding is ruffling feathers with friends and family who were expecting a wedding march and a slice of three-tier cake, stick to your guns while setting respectful boundaries. Having your wedding your way may not be something everyone in your family agrees upon, but you can bet they’ll come around when they see the unexpected end product on your big day.

A version of this article was originally published in June 2014.

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