Non -Traditional Wedding Ceremony Ideas
Making your wedding ceremony personal to you

Resources, Weddings

A lot of my wedding couples have been embracing the non-traditional when it comes to their wedding ceremony. From unique unity ceremonies to completely non-traditional ceremony timelines, here are some of my suggestions as a bride who had a very non-traditional wedding day (read more about my own wedding day and everything non-traditional we did here!) and photographer that supports you making your wedding day all about you!

Embracing the Non-Traditional: Unique Wedding Ceremony Ideas

Cocktail Hour Before the Ceremony

This was something we did at our wedding because we weren’t planning on doing a ton of photos after our ceremony and we wanted to do private vows before the ceremony. This worked for a couple reasons:

  1. We had a small guest count.
  2. We only had a small family shot-list after our ceremony (which included all our 15 guests). If you are planning on having a larger wedding and/or a larger family shot-list this plan might not work for you. One workaround would be to have guests grab a glass of champagne and then go straight into finding their seats.
  3. We were doing couples photos later in the evening during reception. We only wanted a few couples photos since we opted for a day after session (more info on that here!) Which meant we weren’t leaving our guests for too long without an activity (ie. cocktail hour). If you still want a traditional amount of couples photos and want to do a cocktail hour pre-ceremony consider having your session be later in the evening closer to sunset.

This created a wonderful “welcome hour” before ceremony. We got to socialize with our guests rather than being hidden away before ceremony. And it gave them something to do while we were off saying our private vows.

Activities During Cocktail Hour

There are so many fun things you can do during your cocktail hour to entertain your guests, some ideas are:

  1. Live drawing of all your guests – an awesome keepsake and wedding favor
  2. Guest book – you can make these as personalized as you want
  3. Lawn games – we played Kubb at our wedding, but cornhole, giant jenga, etc. are usually hits
  4. Food stations – pretzels, tacos, etc.
  5. Custom drinks – craft cocktails, beer kegs, champagne wall, etc.

Pre – Ceremony Tokens

This can be blankets to keep your guests warm or fans to cool them off. It can be a champagne wall so everyone can get a beverage before the ceremony. Or a welcome brochure with the days events, couples get to know you facts, etc.

Unique seating styles

If the standard wedding ceremony seating doesn’t feel right to you, here are a few ideas:

  1. Wedding in the round – couple in the center, guests all around them. Creates a sense of community and allows the couple to see their guests no matter where they look.
  2. Mix up the guest sides – no need for the traditional separation of guests based on who they are there for. Have guests sit on whichever side they please.
  3. Wedding party and family on the non-traditional side – typically family and wedding party stand on the side of their person, but what if they switched sides so they (and you!) could actually see your face?

Wedding Entrances

A lot of my couples ask about wedding entrances– how do we get to the ceremony if we don’t want all eyes on us? What if I don’t want to be walked down the aisle? Really, the world is your oyster. I’ve had couples walk in together, couples walk in with their guests, or walk in solo. You can be escorted by your siblings, your pet, etc.

I walked down the aisle by myself (not because I don’t love my dad) but because I didn’t love the traditional “being given away” and I wanted to be 100% focused on my husband, Zain and vice versa. It was emotional, empowering and I would 1000% do it again.

Couple walking into their ceremony together
Cassidy walking herself down the aisle and meeting her groom halfway
Emma had her mom and her dad walk her down the aisle

Non-traditional wedding roles

I’m sure you’ve seen the viral, flower girl grandmas, but here are some other ideas for how to incorporate your friends and family into the wedding parties.

  1. Beer boys – in place of a flower girl, have folks walk down the aisle delivery beer to your guests.
  2. Ring bearers in style – kiddos in cars, security outfits, etc.
  3. Flower girlies – your adult friends (or grandmas) as flower girls
  4. Pets included – when in doubt, you can have your pets walk down the aisle, sure to be a hit with everyone.

Unique Officiants (or not!)

One great way of personalizing your ceremony is to choose an officiant that speaks to you as a couple. This could be one of the incredible, professional officiants that tailor their ceremonies to you or it could be a friend, family member, etc. What about the person that introduced you? Your sister that saw your relationship flourish? And if none of that speaks to you, one great thing about Colorado is… you don’t even need an officiant! Yep, you can marry yourselves!

One thing we did at our wedding was have our guests pronounce us husband and wife. It was so fun to ask that of our guests and so technically our officiant was everyone.

Collaborative Ceremony Events

I love a collaborative wedding ceremony. It encourages and welcomes guest participation and makes them feel a part of such an important ceremony. A few ideas are:

  1. Ring warming – have your guests pass around your rings and imbue well-wishes.
  2. Surprise ring bearers – this takes a bit of planning and some trust. But hide your rings under a seat, whoever has the rings are your ring bearers! It’s a fun little interactive element and makes for a sweet memory.
  3. Acknowledge your guests – one of my favorite weddings, Sarah and Grant, addressed all their guests, thanked them for being their and asked them to support them as a couple in their own unique way. It was so emotional and sweet to have the couple include all their guests in such a meaningful way. If you have a larger wedding, you could thank a few individuals that were impactful in your life or relationship (parents, wedding party, etc.) and then ask the entire guests as a whole to support your marriage.
  4. Group selfie – you know at concerts when the artist takes a selfie with everyone in the audience, it’s that. This could be using your phone or your wedding photographer. It’s a great way to lighten the mood and capture the moment.
  5. Marriage license or guest book signing – this was something we did at our wedding and it was one of my favorite parts. We asked each personal up individually to come sign (the back) of our marriage license. We got to hug everyone and thank them. And as a result everyone was our witnesses and now we have a framed memento of our marriage license and all our guests signatures.
Rings being passed in a ring warming ceremony
Sarah and Grant addressing all of their guests, thanking them and asking them to support their marriage
Rather than a ceremony, this couple played a game of who knows who better

Unity Rituals

There are so many amazing unity ceremony ideas that I made a whole blog post about it! This is a great moment during your ceremony and is a little memento you can take home. It can be collaborative (sand pouring with other family members) or personal (whiskey blending, picture painting).

Determining Reading Order

If doing vows, consider kicking it off with a friendly game of rock, paper, scissors or a coin toss to decide who goes first.

Non-Traditional Vows

Your wedding vows should be a reflection of you as a couple. Whether they are personalized, written vows or the same vows that you each say– make sure to put your personality into them!


If you’re struggling to think of things to include in your ceremony because it might be too short, consider a reading. It could be a letter from a family member, your favorite poem, a religious text– anything that speaks to you as a couple. This is a great way to include important people in your ceremony as well.

Alternative Music Choices

Ditch the traditional wedding march and walk down the aisle to a song that resonates with you and your partner. Whether it’s a piece of indie music, a beloved classic, or even a tune from a favorite film, the music can set the mood and reflect your personal taste.

Ceremony exits

Ceremony exits are often not thought about by couples and I think they should be given more love! (And a bonus– if you don’t have full day coverage getting your end of night send off, this captures the feel of those photos without the extra time needed!)

Petal toss at the end of the ceremony
Couple leaving their church wedding to streamers and bubbles

A few non-traditional wedding ceremony timelines

Small wedding with welcome hour

4:50 – First look and private vows

5pm – Cocktail/welcome hour begins

5:20 – Couple joins cocktail hour, greets all their guests

5:50 – Guests begin sitting down for ceremony

6pm – Ceremony

6:20 – Quick family photos

6:30 – Guests seated for dinner

7pm – Couple sneaks out for sunset photos

7:30 – Toasts begin

8pm – Cake cutting

8:05 – Open dance floor

Larger wedding with traditional post-ceremony events

3:15 – First look and private vows

3:45 – Wedding party photos

4:20 – Guests begin sitting down for ceremony

4:30 – Ceremony

5pm – Family photos // cocktail hour begins

5:30 – Couples photos

6pm – Couple joins cocktail hour

6:30 – Guests seated for dinner

7:15 – Toasts begin

8pm – Cake cutting

8:05 – Open dance floor

I hope this post on unique and non-traditional wedding ceremony ideas 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

My wedding day – things we did to make our wedding day special to us

Candid wedding photography

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

let's work together!

Contact Us!

I'm so excited to hear more about your vision! Send me a message and I'll get back to you within 24-48 hours! 

follow along on the 'gram!