How to Have a Non-Traditional Wedding (Part 1)

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You’re about to get married or know someone who is:

If you’re reading this and you haven’t had your wedding yet, I know everything will work out. That seating arrangement making you pull your hair out or having dreams that you walk down the aisle naked? Totally normal. Even if a few things go wrong, you will survive and your wedding will still be fabulous. If you already got married-I’m sure you had the best day ever and I want to see pictures!

I speak from experience when I say things will work out so I’m reliable source. For example: the restaurant where we had reserved for the rehearsal dinner decided to change locations because they ‘thought their other location was prettier.’ We only found after my mother-in-law showed up there to set up. When my mom arrived, they took shots of tequila. The fire alarm went off moments before my soon-to-be-husband and I were supposed to have our private and intimate ‘first look’ and take cute photos before the ceremony. All 300+ people staying at the lodge watched me cry tears of happiness and us make out. Our personal cake and brownies for the guests almost didn’t make it because the woman who not only baked them but delivered them got a flat tire on a small mountain road. Oh, and my cat died the day before we got married.

It was still one of the most magical, picturesque and love-filled days of my entire life. It all worked out.

If you still have some time and planning left to do, consider these few suggestions to kickoff your ‘New Wifestyle’ with some non-traditional flares to your happy day:

1) Have A Couples’ Shower

We live in Oregon but got married in Colorado so my husband and I both traveled to Colorado a few months before our wedding and had a ‘couple’s shower’ (or as my husband affectionately referred to it, ‘our couple’s bath’). This was a fun way to get many of our friends and family together to catch up, open presents and enjoy it all together.

couples shower wedding idea marriage blog

2) You don’t have to go to bars for your bachelorette party

I love a good drink, don’t get me wrong but the whole party-bar scene isn’t my favorite. I had a friend host a BBQ, complete with margaritas and after dinner we went to a place where we learned how to paint! They serve wine and beer as well and I have a memento from that fun night with my closest friends that hangs in our home! My husband and his gang all went zip-lining and then camping for a night. Get creative and do activities that are enjoyable to you.

Non traditional bachelorette ideas

3) Add some bridesmen or  groomsladies!

Both my husband and I have very close friends who happen to be the opposite sex. Initially we were just going to throw them on each other’s sides and call it good but then I realized I can do whatever the hell I want. We had them still dress the same as the bridesmaid and groomsmen because I have OCD but they proudly stood on each of our sides.

non traditional wedding ideas the new wifestyle

4) Pick out shoes that represent you and are comfortable

I love polka dots (and if chevron was available back then I totally would have had a chevron high heels) so I got found shoes that had a little heel and were polka dotted in our wedding colors. I’m already 5’9 so I don’t need the height but my options are endless because I intentionally ended up with 6’4 man. Yes, our children will be giants.

After the ceremony, I kicked those suckers off and put on my Chacos Sandals. These sandals were with me when we first met, I was wearing them when we got engaged, they’d climbed both literal and figurative hills with my partner and I wanted them at my wedding so I had them.

non traditional wedding ideas chacos

5) Instead of guest favors, use that money for a donation to your favorite charity/organization 

Do you have a pile of wedding favors from all the happy couples whose nuptials you’ve been to? A tin that has their name on them with rock solid almonds inside? Maybe some bubbles or a candle or little boxes that look like bride and groom? Yeah, me neither because I threw them away.

How about instead you take that money and make a donation to an organization or charity that you and your partner both believe in! My husband and I believe every person should have the opportunity to get married-regardless of gender so we made a donation to the “Human Rights Campaign” which is working hard on marriage equality. We printed out signs that read “In lieu of favors, a donation has been made to the Human Rights Campaign, which is working at both the state and federal level to achieve marriage equality for all. We are privileged to have this opportunity and believe people who want to make this marital commitment should have the option to do so to celebrate their love. Thank you for celebrating with us-Love Chelsea and Ryan” (feel free to use that language or whatever suits your fancy). The HRC also sent us the well-recognized blue stickers with yellow equal signs on them for our guests to have. Most of our family members loved this while other more traditional family and friends felt some discomfort around it. Nevertheless, this is a deep value of ours so we felt confident in doing this. If your family is helping you pay for your wedding, you may want to be conscious of where you donate the money since some of it may be theirs.

wife blog chelsea avery marriage equality You also don’t need to get all political like we did. If you love polar bears and whales, donate to them. If you feel strongly about ‘being green’ or your religion, donate to them. If you already have your heart set on your super cool favors, more power to you but still consider making a donation as well.

Read Part 2 here because you don’t want to miss having donuts at your wedding!

The New Wifestyle: Celebrate your love and union in a way that represents the both of you

1) What are some other unique ideas you have/had about your wedding?
2) A wedding tradition you love?
3) What did you do at your bachelorette party?


  1. jennifermckennasays

    July 14, 2014 at 8:21 am

    Great post as always, Chelsea!
    1. Unique ideas about weddings-
    We did cakeballs instead of traditional cake- saved us money (about 750.00) and cakeballs have meaning for us
    Karaoke at the ceremony (its how we met)- His brother married us and opened with the mawwiage scene from “Princess Bride”.
    2. First Look is really becoming the norm but I really love the idea of not seeing each other till the ceremony.
    3. My bachelorette was awesome! I, like you, do not care for the bar scene and my friend did a “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” themed cocktail hour- all the girls in black dresses and tiaras and then a slumber party followed. It was AWESOME!
    Totally with you on the favors- and something I would do if I had it to do over again is skip the table cameras. no real good photos came out of that but live and learn, it was a truly awesome day almost three years ago and I remember fondly!

    • chelsea

      July 14, 2014 at 10:02 am

      glad you enjoyed it-thanks for commenting jennifer! aww love that you had cakeballs-how fun (and totally one of the part 2 things too!) so fun that you had karaoke at your ceremony with princess bride references-seems like an amazing wedding! your bachelorette party sounds like so much fun-classy, giggles and slumber party! genius.

      take note other ladies that table cameras weren’t that worth it! thanks again jennifer 🙂

  2. Jacquie

    July 14, 2014 at 8:46 am

    <3 this because I <3 you and Ryan together. 🙂
    1. We had a "wedding party" instead of bridesmaids and groomsmen – same thought with you about having men/women on both sides. We just put them all in a circle and fought over who met them first and randomly put them in pairs to walk in/out. See bottom of: We had our guests select pieces of stained glass for us to make a plate out of as our alternative to a sand ceremony. We had a potluck of dessert items from all of our aunts/cousins/etc.
    2. FOOD! There is something magical about sharing a meal together.
    3. We did a painting night for my hang-out-before-the-day, and Dan's friends rented a cabin for a weekend. It was super fun to connect with some people I hadn't seen in years and create something that I'm not ashamed to hang on the wall in our apartment. 🙂

    • chelsea

      July 14, 2014 at 10:09 am

      and i <3 youuuu jacquie! thanks for your comment and sharing about your wedding! such a great idea about 'wedding party' and then randomly putting folks together to walk down the aisle! your wedding website warms my heart so much and am so happy to two of you have one another.

      potluck dessert items-so smart and i'm sure you received all of your favorites. agreed about the having something to hang on the wall from your hang-out day-that we aren't ashamed of and a great memory, isn't it! yay love 🙂

  3. SLS

    July 14, 2014 at 4:34 pm

    I found your blog through a queer friend of mine. I too am queer and am very well self-educated about LGBTQ rights and struggles. This wedding, no matter how many changes you made in the superficial structure of it, is still a traditional wedding. It celebrated a monogramous heterosexual couple getting a state-sanctioned legal designation: married. This in no way, shape, or form actually bends the conventional notions of weddings or marriages.

    Neither does same-sex marriage, but that is another post at another time. What I wanted to make a note of here that I find so incredibly appalling is that you did not research your choice of charity to donate your favor money to. HRC is one of the absolute worst “LGBT” (I use quotes because its really not invested in actual LGBT community) organization. The only people I know in my life who contribute to and celebrate the work of the HRC are straight people who are alleged LGBTQ allies or wealthy white gay men. But the HRC has a long history of transphobia, of working based on a primarily white gay male board, and most recently (and another example of their transphobia), of continuing to support the ENDA bill in congress despite numerous LGBTQ orgs as well as the ACLU withdrawing support precisely because ENDA does not include freedom of gender expression in its policy.

    In other words, thinking that you are being progressive or diverse by contributing to HRC simply shows your heterosexual privilege and lack of criticality in actually dealing with issues important to the LGBTQ community. The “new wifestyle” simply reinforces conventional notions of heteronormativity. Nothing new about that.

  4. chelsea

    July 14, 2014 at 6:18 pm

    hi “sls”-i’d just like to point out that this is post about making those “superficial structures” in a wedding less traditional but in no way talked about making a marriage/partnership non-traditional though i support and encourage that too. i should also note that we got married almost 4 years ago and we did reach out to friends and family who identify as LGBTQ and they suggested HRC because they were working at a federal level.

    i do know that there are plenty of other LGTBQ organizations that exist and perhaps instead of just ripping on how the HRC is no longer doing an adequate job being inclusive, you could provide a few organizations you do think are doing a good job so other readers could support them.

    • Lindsay Thomason

      July 15, 2014 at 3:13 pm

      Hi Chelsea, I know Ryan a little bit through HOBY and I follow you guys and your adventures and think you both are AWESOME. I just wanted to jump in here and say that I for one am extremely touched and honored that you guys donated to HRC (or, in fact, any charity at ALL!) for your wedding favors. Whether or not anyone in our community feels that HRC has done an adequate job, in the grand scheme of things, they ARE working, along with other organizations, to make change, and just based on the last few years, a LOT of change has been made! Side note – my wife and I were legally married 2 months ago in California, and are planning a wedding to include our friends and family next year, I loved your suggestions for breaking or modifying some traditions! Comfy shoes, polka dots, couples showers, and remembering your bachelorette party? I’m down! 🙂 Thanks for your always inspiring and fun posts and your generous and inclusive mindset!

      • chelsea

        July 15, 2014 at 7:24 pm

        hi lindsay! first off-congratulations on marrying the love of your life 2 months ago (your picture attached to your name is THE cutest) yay love! thank you for your kindness and i hope you can feel the HOBY hugs through the screen 🙂 so exciting for you to be planning your wedding to include family and friends next year-i am sure it is going to be amazing! thank you again for your kind words, reading and commenting!

    • SLS

      July 17, 2014 at 4:43 pm

      Some LGBTQ organizations working on important issues from an anti-oppressive stance:

      Sylvia Rivera Law Project :
      Lambda Legal Defense Fund:
      Black and Pink:
      The Network/ La Red:
      National Gay and Lesbian Task Force:
      Outside In Medical Clinic:
      National Center for Transgender Equality:
      National Council of La Raza:

      • chelsea

        July 18, 2014 at 8:58 am

        thanks for the additional resources

  5. Shannon

    July 14, 2014 at 6:54 pm

    Love this! Our wedding was also non-traditional. We had a bath too and as for shoes, well I love sneakers (or kicks as I like to refer to them), so I wore white kicks with blue laces! I’m 5’2 so height would of been nice but I rarely wear heels so it just did not feel right. My maid of honor was a man and so we still referred to him as maid of honor because it was funny to see people’s reactions.

    Dang it!!! Why did we do almonds? Why??

    Meeting Matthew changed my life in a big way and what I loved most about our wedding is how his family filled gaps for me without flinching a eye. I felt very self conscience about the lack of family I had next to his gigantic clan but My “daughter dads” dance was with Matthews grandfather, who Charlie is named after. Rest his soul.

    Twelve years ago July 5th and I’m ready for another one! What??? It’s so fun! Lol

    • chelsea

      July 14, 2014 at 8:28 pm

      shannon-your story and love makes my heart so happy. i got a little teary reading about his family filled ‘gaps’ for you without flinching and dancing with matthew’s grandfather (the original charlie-so sweet!). wow. what a magnificent day and relationship the two of you have created! thanks for sharing this piece of you shannon.

      12 years on july 5th!!!? WOW! big congrats to you both and i vote you have another one too 🙂

      ps. love that your maid of honor was a man!

  6. Heather Hawkins

    July 14, 2014 at 8:44 pm

    1) I got married in ivory and black and still wear that dress super often. Its the one I wore at the KC conference when I spoke.
    2) The food. We didn’t have to feed many people, so Nick’s parents took us to a really, really nice place we already liked. WARNING! Its a noisy website.
    3) I didn’t have one. We literally woke up, got ready, had a wedding in the house we lived in. I don’t think it could have been better. A lot of people didn’t even know we were getting married. We didn’t want to worry about other people on our special day, so we didn’t. We had exactly the people we wanted in the room and that was fine with us.

    • Kim Myers

      July 16, 2014 at 4:46 pm

      Heather and Nick Skyped in her mom and Toastmasters friends. We had our Toastmasters meeting, ended a bit early, watched the wedding from Kansas City, shared a wedding cake card and talked to Miss Aiden who when she was done – hung up on us. It was a unique situation for the mother of the bride, but my family is complete now. At least until my son finally finds the right girl and moves somewhere, not in the United States.

      • chelsea

        July 17, 2014 at 4:40 pm

        that is TOO cool kim! isn’t technology amazing exactly for purposes like this 🙂 love that you even had wedding cake to share in the celebration! that would be super hard to have part of your family so far away…i’m a much shorter plane right from my family and it’s still tough but thankfully we have good parents that support us 🙂

  7. chelsea

    July 14, 2014 at 10:34 pm

    your dress was amazing heather! so unique, elegant and you looked lovely in it according to photos! thank you for the warning about the noisy website but hot dang that is fancypants place-their outdoor area looks fabulous. ‘we didn’t want to worry about other people on our wedding day’ made me smile and so glad you had exactly who you wanted there 🙂

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  9. natalie mitchell

    July 16, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    hey Chelsea. I am getting married in one month-ack! We are going to do a dessert bar, I am making all of my own décor with Day of the Dead theme, we are making our own pulled pork taco bar,. A lot of friends have come through with their own special talents to help pull this off. I will let you know how it goes

    • chelsea

      July 16, 2014 at 3:44 pm

      yay natalie!!! so exciting and congratulations on getting married next month! ohhh i can’t walk to stalk you via facebook to what sounds like a wonderful celebration of you love! you are so crafty with making your ‘day of the dead’ decor and pulled pork-YUM. wishing you lots of love and happiness 🙂 thanks so much for your comment and congratulations again!

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  12. Amanda

    July 23, 2014 at 9:02 pm

    I love love love this post (and the second!). I’m all for breaking tradition if it makes sense to you as a couple. I especially love the bridesmen and groomsladies. And for my bachelorette, we went mini golfing:)

    • chelsea

      July 24, 2014 at 11:57 am

      thanks so much for reading and commenting, amanda! yay for breaking traditions when it feels right to us, huh 🙂 mini-golfing sounds like a fun and different way to celebrate you getting hitched!

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