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Non-traditional things I did at my wedding
As human beings, we’re wired to want to fit in. It can feel hard to step away from “normal” wedding traditions, but as one bride discovered, it can also be very liberating. Read on to discover what non-traditional things Sophie Jay Nelson incorporated into her wedding day.
non-traditional wedding
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Words by Karina Lowndes
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7 February 2024
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non-traditional wedding

Three day wedding.

After so much planning and anticipation we hated the idea of our wedding being over in just a few hours, so we decided on a three day wedding at The Cove Jervis Bay! A big plus to this meant we had ample time to mingle and speak properly to all of our guests rather than being rushed to squeeze in a quick chat at the reception. We also loved the idea of going away with all our guests – like a big family holiday!

After just emerging out of two years of lockdowns and no travel, it was really exciting to be able to get away again. We were lucky enough to find a venue that could accommodate all of our guests on site, this also meant that we didn’t have to worry about transport in the morning or between the ceremony and reception, and people could spend the whole time relaxing and mingling.

We gave out hats.

Having a summer wedding in Australia is likely going to be hot and sunny, so to combat the sun in everyone’s face, my husband constructed a ‘hat wall’ where we had wide brimmed hats hanging up for guests to take. We got the idea from other weddings we saw on Pinterest handing out fans or umbrellas and thought hats would be ideal for ours! We bought about 30 hats from Kmart, which most of the guests used for the remainder of the weekend and then took home as a keepsake.

non-traditional wedding

My mum walked me down the aisle.

My dad passed away a few years ago, so unfortunately there was no option for him to walk me down the aisle. But to be honest, if he was present I would have asked both parents to walk me down the aisle as I feel the act of the father ‘giving away’ his daughter is quite outdated and sexist. But I still like the idea of walking down the aisle with a loved one. Why not have both!?

Attending cocktail hour (instead of getting photos done).

To us, the moment just after getting married was going to be the most exciting part! So we wanted to celebrate that time with everyone, rather than going off solo to get photos done. After we walked down the aisle we led everyone to a champagne tower that we poured to kick off cocktail hour! It was a great way to start the celebration. Later, we snuck off for some couple photos while everyone was being ushered into dinner and being seated.

non-traditional wedding
non-traditional wedding
non-traditional wedding

Wedding website instead of invites.

We opted not to spend money or time on designing invites. I know the process can be fun for some, but do guests really appreciate the invite design you’ve spent hours/days/weeks pondering over? I would say 90% of people just look at the name and the date of the wedding and then put it in a draw (to be later thrown in the bin).

Instead, we sent out simple fridge magnets that just had our wedding website on them, we thought it had an element of intrigue that would encourage people to head to the website to find out all the details. Besides, we had too much info to fit onto a single invite. Having a website meant we could continuously update the FAQ’s and people had access to all the info on their phones.

non-traditional wedding

No bridal party entrance.

After we were officially married, our celebrant pronounced us ‘the newlyweds’ and we walked back down the aisle to The Beatles “All You Need Is Love” (great song recommendation btw!). But other than that we didn’t do a big entrance to the reception, nor did we do one for the bridal party. We didn’t feel it was needed and would rather have more time allocated on speeches. Plus, not everyone in your bridal party actually wants to dance into reception – just ask them.

Pasta for dinner!

Rather than having a formal or traditional wedding dinner (we found the beef, fish or chicken alternate drop option a bit outdated and not really ‘us’), we opted for our favourite meal – pasta! We had our caterers create a delicious custom menu that felt wholesome and reflected our personalities. We wanted something that brought all our friends and family together over a big shared homely meal. We had arancini, garlic breads, salads and pappardelle ragu!

We also had a huge grazing table during cocktail hour instead of canapes – as from our experience you never get enough food with roaming canapes, and no one wants hungry guests!

Bridesmaids wore black.

I had my bridesmaid wear variations of black dresses (that they could pick), and loved how it turned out! It created a timeless, chic and classic look that they all felt comfortable wearing, complimented my white dress and won’t look dated in years to come. The groomsman all wore tuxes which I think also looked timeless and classic. Rather than leaning into what was trending, we really wanted to strip it all back to basics.

Disposable cameras for guests.

On arrival our guests received welcome packs that included a disposable camera so they could capture their experience over the next three days. We loved how these turned out! As we weren’t with everyone all the time, we were still able to see how everyone captured their experience over the three days. We turned these into a photo book, and they are honestly some of my favourite photos from the day. This was also a good alternative to a guestbook.

Other items in the packs: Hydrolyte, eye masks, face masks, wine, Nurofen, chips, chocolate, pasta and pasta sauce.

I did my own flowers.

We were lucky enough to get married at a venue that was surrounded by bush and the beach – to me, nature had already done the bulk of the styling. We didn’t see the value in spending $3,000+ on flowers and instead we just got a few bunches of white roses for our bouquets and some native gums for our table runners from the markets totalling $300. I have seen other brides do a fantastic job with their florist/flower arrangements, but it just wasn’t a priority for us and we’d rather redistribute that money into more food or alcohol for the guests.

PSA: the Sydney flower markets are actually CLOSED on Tuesdays! Which was the day before our wedding and when we went to buy them! Luckily, there was ONE store open that had some roses and natives, we also had to pick some roses up from Woolworths to bulk it up. Highly recommend always checking the markets will be open to avoid an argument with your fiancé.

Other wedding traditions we didn’t include:

  • We decided not to do a guestbook. In my experience, I never know what to write when put on the spot *the pressure!*. Guests have already written you a card, why make them also write in a guestbook that you’ll store away and maybe look at once in the next 10 years?
  • No wedding favours. Waste of money IMO. Unless it is something practical that they can use (bottle opener, stubby cooler etc) they will get left behind.
  • No presents! Online gifting or wishing well is the no-waste way to go. Gravy is great option to personalise your wishing well so guests can see how you will distribute their gift! We had a ‘honeymoon’ and ‘artwork’ fund, which really helped take the ick away from just asking for ‘cash’.
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