Looking for Marriage Ideas Without a Wedding? Try these Non-Traditional Ones

More and more couples are ditching tradition and searching for marriage ideas without a wedding. Sometimes you just don’t want the same old, same old. Think, something old, something blue. Think big white dresses. Think, throwing a bouquet. You know the drill.

While I’ll never judge somebody for wanting these things, some people just don’t dream of these things. So, if you’re one of those people, here are some non-traditional wedding ideas that may inspire you.

Marriage Ideas Without a Wedding- Non Traditional Wedding Ideas

I was going to take a few moments to define “traditional wedding” so you could be sure that it isn’t what you want. However, it’s not easily definable. For some, it means a church wedding surrounded by 500 of your closest friends and a father figure giving you away to your betrothed.

a bride and groom walking on top of a mountain, one of the best alternative wedding options

For others, it means a ballroom reception with a sit-down dinner, a first dance, and at least one inappropriate drunken toast from a second cousin you’ve never met.

Rather than trying to tell you what it is, I’ll assume that you’ve already done your research and ruled it out. So, let’s just dive into how to plan a non-traditional wedding.

Picking a Venue

Gay wedding on the beach

You don’t need a religious venue to make a marriage official. You can get married in your front room if you really want. So, pick any venue you want, whether it’s personal, weird, or just nice. Whatever floats your boat. Here are a few ideas that I love:

  • Haunted mansion
  • Favorite restaurant
  • Underwater
  • A zoo
  • Your back garden
  • The mountains
  • A forest
  • A beach Drive-in movie theater

When you ditch tradition and skip the grand wedding, a whole new world of possibilities opens up to you. Literally all you need is you, your true love, someone to witness the event, and someone to make it official.

Dress How You Want

Woman wearing a boho wedding dress with brown accents

There’s really no link between how you dress and the validity of your marriage. You could turn up in your pajamas, hypothetically. Here are some dress code ideas:

  • Wear your favorite color instead of traditional wedding colors
  • Ditch the veil

Wear dress alternatives (jumpsuits, powers suits, bridal pants) Of course, if you want to sneak a little tradition into your big day, go ahead and wear that dress or tux. The best part about opting for marriage ideas without a wedding is that you make the rules. Although, honestly, even if you do opt for tradition, you still make the rules. It’s your day, after all.

Create a Unique Ceremony

If you can't pull off your planned wedding due to current events, consider downsizing it into a minimony! Read on to learn how!

There are many ways to still have a ceremony, but make it totally different from the ones you’re used to attending. By the way, if a ceremony is something that you’re just totally not about, then I have a paragraph dedicated to what to do instead of a wedding. It’s right at the bottom. Here are unique ceremony ideas:

  • Include your whole family into the vows (I love this idea if one or both of you already have kids)
  • Have both parents give away both the people in the couple
  • Carry something other than a flower bouquet. Some couples have money or pizza bouquets.
  • Play unique/personal music as you walk down the aisle
  • Don’t walk down the aisle at all.
  • Omit any roles from the ceremony that don’t feel right
  • Have a minimomy.

pet-centric ceremony, if your furry friends are just that important to you.

Make Changes to the Reception

This portrait shows a wedding reception table centerpiece of white and yellow flowers in mason jars with lemons. Under the flowers is a burlap table runner with a blue lace table runner on top of it. There are small, lit candles surrounding the centerpiece. There are other tables and lights in the background.

There are just little changes you can make, which will make everything feel like your very own day, rather than just a string of traditions put together.

  • Change champagne to your favorite beverage. Prefer beer? Hey, it’s still bubbly! Planning a sober day? No problem, switch to sparkling cider.
  • Scrap the speeches and just have a party.
  • Have a casual meal instead of following a formal, set menu.
  • Skip the guestbook.
  • See each other before the wedding, if you’re not superstitious people.
  • Toss something other than a flower bouquet.
  • Instead of that grand tiered cake, opt for your favorite dessert instead.
  • Feed each other something different than cake, or not at all.
  • Have a food buffet table.
  • Mix up the first dance, opting for something more upbeat and lively.

Alternative Wedding Ideas

If you don’t want a wedding, then that’s okay. That’s not to say you can’t do something at all. Here are a few ideas for those wondering what to do instead of a wedding:

#1 Elope

This is one of the most popular and common alternative wedding ideas, and that’s for a reason. You get to do whatever you want, anywhere you want, and it can even be just between you and your partner. And you don’t have to overthink this; even getting married in your house counts as eloping.

Did You Know? According to the market research firm The Wedding Report, the average cost for a traditional wedding in the United States in 2022 is around $27,000. All the more reason to elope.

bride and groom walking on the beach

#2 Virtual Wedding

Necessity is truly the mother of innovation. Before the pandemic, no one had thought of the possibility of a virtual wedding.

groom video calling his soon to be wife

Then couples got tired of postponing their weddings indefinitely, which was a wise move because most countries are still on lockdown as I write this.

But now we are getting used to virtual weddings, they’re economical, brief and you don’t have to deal with drunk uncle Ted’s karaoke.

But now we are getting used to virtual weddings, they’re economical, brief and you don’t have to deal with drunk uncle Ted’s karaoke.

Did You Know? You can host 32 participants in a FaceTime video call, which would be perfect for a virtual wedding event. If you expect more participants, you can go for Zoom, which allows up to 100 people. Bonus: You can have a virtual photo booth during your virtual wedding! Your guests can click a link that will launch the virtual photo booth within their web browser. They can even use filters and stickers. Make sure to collect all shots in a web gallery. You can even turn it into a contest.

#3 Courthouse Ceremony

If you’re tired of waiting to make it official and still want a grand wedding. That’s fine. This is one of those rare opportunities that life gives us special cases where you can eat your cake and still have it.

groom and bride signing their marriage contract

All you need are at most two witnesses to sign the documents. The court wedding is brief and obviously economical because they’re no guests, catering, entertainment, décor, etc.

If all you want is to make things official with your partner, this is the way to go. You can still hold a large wedding to celebrate with your loved ones at a later date.

Did You Know? You can have wedding vows even if you’re having a courthouse ceremony. It would be best to have your vows written in advance and more importantly, inform the officiant about it. You can choose to have your vows read by the officiant or read them directly to your significant other. You can read personalized vows or even lift passages from Scripture, literature, or pop culture (movies, songs, etc).

#4 Destination Weddings

This is slowly becoming one of the trendiest wedding alternative ideas. A destination wedding may mean getting married during sunset or going far away to an exotic location.

groom and bride kissing on top of a cliff surrounded by the sea

In the beginning, many destination weddings were held in places like Hawaii Islands or beaches. But with people wanting to connect more with nature, it’s now normal to see people getting married in deserts and forests.

It can also be a city that means something to you and your partner.

Did You Know? There are certain states in America that allow you to self-solemnize. The process of self-solemnizing simply means that you can get legally married without having a celebrant, third-party officiant, or judge preside over your big day. You can even have a friend officiate your wedding! You just need to secure and sign a marriage license and that’s it. States that allow self-solemnization include California, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Washington DC, and Wisconsin.

#5 Backyard Wedding

This is another excellent idea for those who don’t want a traditional wedding. If you have a backyard, you can hire a professional to transform it into a great wedding venue.

backyard wedding reception

Unlike other ideas like the courthouse, a backyard idea isn’t a budget idea like people think, but it’s a brilliant venue.

You’ll need to decorate it, hire a DJ, get a generator, etc. But again, it all comes down to the nature of a backyard wedding you want. It can still be memorable and simple.

Did You Know? There are local regulations and ordinances that you may need to be aware of to have a backyard wedding. Noise ordinances are pretty common, but you also have to check if there are other property restrictions that might affect how you celebrate your wedding. These restrictions might be related to parking, overcrowding, or even lighting. So it is always a good idea to give the local authorities a call and find out what is permitted or not.

#6 A Sporting Event

If you and your partner are sports lovers, what better way to celebrate your wedding than at a sporting event?

lovely couple watching a sport event

You can do this in two ways; you can go to a local event with your family and friends and say your vows at a tailgate party. And the other way is to book seats during major events like the world cup and get married after the game.

If you’re doing this during the pandemic, you can still do it virtually with other sports fanatics, and it will still be special.

#7 Hiking

For these to work, you really have to both love hiking; otherwise, you may end up breaking up before you get to the top.

a scenic view of a groom and bride on top of the mountains as they best alternative wedding option

Hiking is so frustrating for beginners, so I only recommend these ideas to hiking lovers. You can challenge yourselves to climb a mountain higher than you previously did and say your vows at the peak of the mountain. It’s such a scenic and a cool view.

And it doesn’t get untraditional than this!

Did You Know? You can hike and get hitched in a national park. The most popular national parks ideal for hiking weddings include North Cascades National Park, Mount Rainier National Park, Olympic National Park, Yosemite National Park, Haleakala National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Zion National Park, Glacier National Park, and Joshua Tree National Park.

#8 Skydiving

Okay, this is probably one of the craziest ideas on this list so far, but I’m sure if you’re an adrenaline junkie, it’s the first time I got your attention.

couple skydiving

And don’t worry, I’m not going to ask you to shout your wedding vows after the jump; you’d probably not remember any of them anyway. 

So here is the idea: say the vows in the plane, then kiss, and jump together; that’s how you enter marriage on a high note.

Final Thoughts

Traditional weddings are beautiful and special, but so is something different. Many same-sex couples are now opting for alternative weddings.

This is either to save, have some privacy during the wedding ceremony or simply be authentic by doing it their way.

Whatever your reason for going for a different way to get married is, you don’t need to justify it.

The important thing is you and your spouse enjoy the day to the fullest.

More and more couples are searching for marriage ideas without a wedding. If tradition just isn't your thing, read on for some great ideas!

Have you tried other alternative wedding options? Share with us your experience below!

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