7 Ways to Achieve a Non Traditional Wedding

What do weddings say to you? If you think it’s all big and white, that you have to stay at the same venue, invite none of your friends or 150 of your friends to all of your day – think again. 

In all the weddings I had the pleasure of shooting, couples have collectively struck off every single one of these seven wedding traditions. So even though some traditions are making a comeback (hello veils, looking at you!) it says a lot about society moving forwards. Which can only be a good thing.  Here’s 7 tried and tested ways to have a non traditional wedding. 

Non Traditional Wedding - 7 Ways to Have a Non Traditional Wedding Title image

7 Ways to Have a Non Traditional Wedding

Be unique and be yourselves – it’s your day, nobody else’s. You can involve your parents in other ways (my friend Maria has a great guide on this – sign up on her site). If you’re not one for a first dance, why do it? You might hear me sobbing at the missed opportunity to photograph your dance moves – but hey, it’s your day. Or if a waltz ain’t your thing but you’ve got some killer salsa moves, do that instead. You’ll have seriously upped my happiness quota with that one!

Wear a black wedding dress. Wear yellow shoes. Walk down the aisle together. Flip tradition on its head and reinvent it. 

There is a quote I’ve always remembered – if only to use as ammunition in a heated debate – that all traditions were invented at some point. Scottish Kilts? A pretty recent invention (thank you Anthony Giddens, my degree comes in useful). It seems obvious once you hear it, but things are often excused, explained away or followed because ‘that’s how it’s done – it’s tradition’. Your non traditional wedding – could soon become a tradition in its own right. Your wedding doesn’t have to follow a formula. 

1. The Veil

Bride flicking Jenny Packham veil in Monsoon wedding dress with autumnal wedding flowers

Ah, the veil. That symbol of purity and virginity being lifted away as the veil is lifted from the Bride’s face. The veil has enjoyed something of a comeback and has become a reinvented tradition of sorts. It’s evident – given that most couples live together – that it’s no longer a symbol of purity, chastity or whatever else you like to associate with white and innocence. It’s becoming more of a last opportunity to have fun with your accessories on your wedding day – and let’s face it, it makes for a great photo opp when caught in a breeze.

Groom in grey suit and bride in Pronovias wedding dress and veil in wind against geometric pink and black doors | www.francescarlisle.co.uk

2. The white satin shoes

I for one am all for ditching white for some colourfulness – glitz and glitter are a great swap for white satin, and they sure do dress up a pair of jeans or outfit on a night out – another way to reuse your wedding shoes! You can even ditch the bridal collections altogether if you opt for a bright and bold yellow or orange. Shoes are definitely somewhere where you can have fun with your wedding outfit.yellow LK Bennett wedding shoes, coral wedding shoes, silver Jimmy Choo shoes, glitter gold wedding shoes | www.francescarlisle.co.uk

3. Not seeing each other before the ceremony

Do you really have to sleep in separate bedrooms / hotels / venues the night before? You might want to keep up the excitement of not seeing each other fully dressed and made up, but there’s no reason you should spend time away from each other the night before.

Bride being made up while groom(?) looks on| www.francescarlisle.co.uk

Or maybe you just don’t trust each other not to sneak a peek at the outfit first… so here’s where we go all American … ever heard of a ‘first look’? It’s where you see each other before the ceremony. Nobody else there, just the two of you, enjoying seeing each other in (almost) complete solitude. You can express your emotions more freely, no need to feel the pressure of a room full of guests looking on, no need to hold back or worry about choking up on tears. Sounds nice, right? Only thing to remember – being super organised and on time: it really ain’t cool to arrive late for your other half before the wedding.

You don’t have to walk down the aisle together… but why the hell not?

4. Speeches

Detach yourself from your own desire to scream ‘but that’s not how it’s done’ for just a moment. Think about it. Have you ever been to a wedding and thought to yourself – as the rest of the room grimaces – ooh, some people just aren’t good at speeches? This is where it gets unconventional (though to be honest I really can’t see why) – if your groom doesn’t like talking, or your Dad isn’t around, or just plain wouldn’t be the first person you’d pick to get up and talk at an event, get up yourself or bag your hilariously funny bridesmaid to do a speech instead – or as well. 

Bride raising hand to speak at Wedding at One Friendly Place | www.francescarlisle.co.uk

If you haven’t thought about speaking, you seriously should. Seriously. Expectations are so low (it’s still a shock when a Bride gets up to speak – yup, I know) you can’t possibly fluff it. Ok, so maybe you can and I wouldn’t for one second recommend you aim low – but your instinct is to be trusted, and your fears are not. Grab that mike, girl!


5.  Best Woman & Male Bridesmaids

Ever heard of a best woman? Unlikely to match so well with your groomsmen, but if your best mate happens to be female, what’s wrong with her helping you get your stuff together, greeting your guests and generally being your best mate as they are every other day? You can still have your groomsmen – or mix up male and female bridesmaids. Noone’s going to care as strongly about it as you are on the day, so do it your way. 20 years down the line, the only one with regrets about not picking the right person for the sake of tradition will be you.

Non Traditional Wedding Party - Bridesmaids Floral Tea Length Dresses and Groomsmen with Colourful Buttonholes| www.francescarlisle.co.uk

6. Cutting the cake

I’ve been known to actively encourage a bit more fun on the cake cutting front. I don’t particularly enjoy the traditional cake shot – you’re normally stood there awkwardly as your papparazi guests fire away their flashes en masse, leaving you to wonder just which tier of the cake to cut and where.

buttercream iced cake tropical flowers by Little Bear Cakery | www.francescarlisle.co.uk | www.littlebearcakery.com

So if you still want to host the traditional public cutting of the cake, enjoy it: feed it to each other, take a bite out of the whole thing, have a bit of a laugh. Or if you’d rather avoid the whole ceremony of the thing, be a lot more spontaneous and just grab a slice (or a cupcake) and share a bite on your own!

Bride in Evening Dress and Groom in Tweed Waistcoat sharing a Cupcake at Non Traditional Wedding in a Pub | www.francescarlisle.co.uk

7. The first dance

Who says you need a first dance? Sure, the photos look amazing, but if you’re not much of a dancer and even less so on a quiet dance floor with 80 pairs of eyes glued to you, you could just ditch the dance. These days there’s always a roaming cameraphone which guarantees your video will make it onto Facebook before you’ve even left your wedding… so do what makes you feel comfortable – that could be grabbing your favourite, non traditional wedding song (it doesn’t have to be a slow romantic dance), inviting your friends onto the floor with you half way through, doing your dance alone without all those eyes on you, or ditching it altogether. They’ve all been done successfully – just manage your fears and expectations to a level you’re ok with. non traditional wedding dance - giant light up letters - 50s style short wedding dress | www.francescarlisle.co.uk | Frances Carlisle Photography

Planning a non traditional wedding and think I’d be a good match for capturing your day? Take a look around or get in touch to find out more and see if I’m free. 

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