My Wedding Day
A wedding photographer's wedding


Last August I got married to my best friend and literal love of my life. I thought about not sharing anything super in-depth about my wedding to keep things personal, but then I had so many couples asking about my wedding day and the unique things we did to make the day our own. So I thought, why not share?

As a wedding photographer I see a ton of weddings. For my own wedding it was super important that the day felt like us. I wanted things to feel untraditional and not like I was just a guest at one of the many weddings I had photographed. And most importantly, I didn’t want to feel like I was at work.

So after months of planning and brainstorming, we came up with a unique wedding day timeline with some non-traditional elements that made the day feel perfect for us. Feel free to use some (or all!) of these ideas when planning your own wedding.

A big caveat and bit of context for our wedding: we had 15 guests total and everyone but our parents stayed on site. This made a big impact on us being able to things so uniquely. I think if we had a big guest count or traditional wedding, we wouldn’t have been able to accomplish everything.

Unique things we did to make our wedding day our own

Staying at an Airbnb with our guests

I knew pretty early on that I wanted to have a wedding venue with lodging. I wanted to be able to wake up, roll out of bed and get married. Often the most stressful part of the day for couples is the morning portion, they feel rushed and overwhelmed. But by getting married on site, we were able to wake up and have breakfast as a big group. My friends and I all sat outside and read. It was relaxing and easygoing.

Non-traditional rehearsal dinner

We got married on a Wednesday and all our guests arrived on Tuesday, so we knew we wanted to have some sort of dinner or event the night before. We ended up doing a bowling night and then grabbing pizzas back at our Airbnb. Zain and I love bowling and this was the perfect way to hang out with everyone and let people mingle without the stuffiness of a dinner.

Getting ready together

I knew that I didn’t want to be tucked away in a room all morning getting hair and makeup done and then hiding from Zain. So many weddings that I photograph, the couple will be separate for more than half their wedding– which for me, wasn’t a good fit. I knew I would be nervous and maybe a little anxious in the morning and who better to calm me down and make me feel at ease than my partner.

First look and private vows and picnic

This was my favorite part of the day, hands down. If there’s anything you take from our day, it’s this! After my hair and makeup was finished, Zain and I separated for about 30 minutes while we got dressed. We then did a private first look in the forest, followed by our private vows. We both are quite private people, so we knew we didn’t want to say these uber personal vows in front of our guests. After our vows, our incredible planner Quincy (from Right as Rayne) brought us our cocktail hour snacks and drinks. We took in the mountains and just enjoyed a moment for the two of us. This was the perfect moment away before the craziness of the day.

Cocktail hour / welcome hour

Since we knew weren’t going to be doing many couples photos (more on that later), we decided to do our cocktail hour before our ceremony. This worked out perfectly since we actually stepped away from our guests for our first look for about 45 minutes and gave people something to do and eat. After our first look we entered the cocktail hour and played lawn games and greeted everyone for about 30 minutes. Then while people started to take their seats, I went to put on veil and got ready to walk down the aisle.

Our very non-traditional ceremony

Our ceremony was super non-traditional, it began with Zain walking down the aisle solo, followed by me solo. I knew I wanted to walk myself down the aisle (not because I don’t love my dad!) but because I didn’t love the traditional “giving me away” element and I wanted to just have eyes for Zain (and vice versa). I felt so empowered and emotional, 1000% would do again.

We also didn’t have an officiant. For us, we didn’t want a stranger talking about our relationship and we didn’t want to pass the responsibility of marrying us onto any one of our friends or family. So what we did was:

  • Greet everyone and thank them for being there.
  • Address that this is non-traditional but explain that we’d be marrying ourselves.
  • Tell everyone that we said private vows earlier but now will do some more traditional vows and exchange rings
  • Bring everyone up to sign our marriage license (which is actually not allowed so we just requested an extra copy from the courthouse and had them sign the extra copy)
  • Then we asked everyone to pronounce us husband and wife all together

Because we had already had such an emotional, private moment earlier in the day, it felt so fun and sweet to include everyone in our ceremony. I was worried about things being awkward, but by addressing that things were non-traditional and out of the box, it just felt perfect for us.

Quick family photos and then moving to dinner

We knew we didn’t want to take a lot of time on posed photos, so after our ceremony we took some quick photos with all of our guests. (Our favorite photo is the photo of everyone all making a funny face). And then we moved straight into dinner.

Dinner party vibes

Zain and I love to eat. And one thing I’ve unfortunately noticed from weddings I’ve photographed is 1. the food isn’t always that good and 2. the couple never eats. Those were two things that were unacceptable for my wedding. So we ended up hiring a private chef (Eric Vollono) and had a multi-course dinner.

One thing I loved that we did that I actually took from a wedding I photographed, Sarah and Grant, was that we moved tables in between courses. This way we got to talk with every single person.

Our food was incredible. The menu included, Bao Buns served family style, corn agnolotti and short ribs. And right at the end of the night, we had a late night snack of Zain’s favorite food, fried chicken.

Sunset photos

While we knew we didn’t want to spend a lot of time taking photos, we did want a couple photos of us dressed up at our venue. So at sunset (during dinner) we snuck away for literally 10 minutes of photos. This was the perfect compromise for us, pictures on location without being taken away from our day. (We do however plan on doing a “day after session” where we put back on our wedding attire and go do a longer shoot on a day that isn’t our most important wedding day.)

Our wedding timeline

Intimate wedding (15 guest) timeline

10am – Breakfast as a group

12pm – HMUA arrives, began brides makeup

2:30 – Couple gets dressed

2:55 – First look with friends and dad

3:30 – First look

3:45 – Private vows

4pm – Cocktail hour starts

4:15 – Planner brings snacks and drinks to couple

4:30 – Couple joins cocktail hour

5pm – Couple freshens up for ceremony

5:30 – Ceremony begins

6pm – Family photos

6:15- Guests seated for dinner

6:20 – Couple enters reception and begins first dance

6:30 – Dinner service

7:30 – Sunset photos

8:30 – Special dances

8:45 – Open dancing

10pm – Late night snack, vendors pack up

Our vendor team

Planner – Quincy at Right as Rayne Events

Photographer – Gillespies’ Photography

DJ –  Jason Gregory

Florist – Flint and Pearl

Hair/Makeup – A Vow to Artistry

Caterer + Drinks – Eric Vollono

Rentals – Colorado Party Rentals

I hope this post about my wedding and all the unique and non-traditional things we did was helpful for you! Truly the most important thing to remember is your wedding day is first and foremost about you and your partner, this is your permission to ditch anything that doesn’t feel authentically like you. And if you need some help for the flow of the wedding day or just more ideas on how to bring your personality to your wedding day, send me a message! I’d love to help you plan and photograph your non-traditional wedding day!

While you’re here, why don’t you check out some other posts that I think you might like:

Unique and non-traditional wedding ideas

Candid wedding photography

The 20 minute photo session – making your day about you and not a photoshoot

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