Embracing an Alternative Wedding Timeline

May 30, 2012 in
Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

Pink Cloud 9

Sarah Shewey is the founder of Pink Cloud 9, a collective of wedding professionals that help DIY couples affordably navigate and execute their wedding plans. Sarah writes a column for the Huffington Post Weddings and updates her dog's blog whenever he's a good boy.

Hearing stories of wedding proposals always puts a giant smile on my face; the element of surprise gets me every time. Whether they unexpectedly popped the question at work, a favorite restaurant, or on TV with a giant dancing flash mob, as a wedding planner, I can truly appreciate the effort involved. Suspending a moment in time requires a lot of help from your friends and family, tons of details, and careful scheduling.

This makes me wonder: Why isn’t the approach to planning the timeline of a wedding day just as surprising, creative, or unique?

You know the drill: ceremony at sunset, photos with the family, cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, dinner, speeches, dancing, cake, bouquet toss, and the grand exit. It’s a perfectly fine way to celebrate your marriage, but incorporating some surprise into your wedding day is an easy way to update an old tradition.

Marry Me in the Morning
Planning a morning wedding is a refreshing way to create a casual feel. It can also help trim your budget.

Wake up to the sounds of lovebirds chirping outside your window and hop right into your gown for a lovely morning wedding. Guests can arrive around 10:00 a.m. to find iced coffees and mimosas waiting. After you’ve exchanged vows, take some cool pictures with custom his-and-hers sunglasses.

Join the party a bit before noon at an elegant brunch with fresh berries, elegant salads, and made-to-order waffles served family-style. An acoustic guitar strumming in the background and some table games will help your guests get to know each other better.

Dance Party Wedding
What if we skipped the ceremony and went straight to the party? This is a great option for weddings with a younger crowd and contemporary parents.

Have a civil or private ceremony for a couple dozen close friends and relatives, then invite the rest of your guests to a fun dance party reception. You can share the moment you said “I do” with a quirky video or slideshow during the reception.

There’s nothing like a stiff drink to get people in the mood to let loose. Hire a great mixologist to make some specialty drinks with fresh organic ingredients. Consider offering some fun, bite-sized appetizers to be passed around by servers. Ambient or upbeat music at a level low enough to allow for conversation is always important.

As the wedding couple, it’s up to you to break the ice on the dance floor. There are a few ways that this can happen: You can let your guests mingle until you burst in for your grand entrance, take the center of the dance floor and show off your moves! Or, if you’re a little shy, you can hire professional dancers to do the work for you. This could also be a great time to show that wedding video from earlier.

Later on, feel free to let your guests and DJ take over to keep the party going. If you can find a band that mixes both live instruments and DJ music, do it! Giving out fun party favors throughout the night will re-energize the dance floor. Fun props like mustaches and boas always find a good home. Don’t forget to pick a great final song to end the evening on a happy note!

If you plan on having a traditional wedding, consider making some small adjustments to freshen up the timeline:

The First Look
Get the pictures out of the way by planning a “first look” photo session where your partner sees you before walking down the aisle. Family photos can also happen at this time.

Cocktails, Then Ceremony
Plan for the cocktail hour before the wedding ceremony. Everyone will feel like family once the reception begins, which can immediately start with seating everyone to dinner.

Toss the Toss
The bouquet and garter toss are probably the most awkward part of any traditional wedding. All the single ladies and fellas will thank you for leaving this tradition to the ’90s.

  • MWDesigns2

    MWDesigns2 from MWDesigns2 says:

    I love the "morning wedding" idea- different and exciting; a fresh idea and who doesn't like 'brunch?'

    8 years ago

  • chiquiita

    Tania from chiquiita says:

    I love morning weddings, they last longer, especially in my culture...it can be an all day event. Love the article...thank you.

    8 years ago

  • ariella42

    Ariella Carver from HausofAriella says:

    If my fiance could function before noon, we might do a morning wedding with a tea/brunch. Since that's not the case though, we're doing a fairly traditional timeline. However, we are doing a first look, partially just to get the photos out of the way so that we can get all of the photos we want without making our guests wait forever.

    8 years ago

  • jenr005

    jennifer raquet says:

    any tips for setting up a great, romantic first look? My fiance and I are getting married in December and are doing a first look so that we have the nice winter afternoon lighting, some special time together before the ceremony and also so we can enjoy more of the wedding festivities. Also, should we go to the cocktail hour, will it be weird for guests to see us there before the big enterance?

    8 years ago

  • pinkcloud9

    pink cloud says:

    @mwdesigns & @tania - so happy you enjoyed the reading! :) @ariella - haha, i totally understand your situation! and you're right, the first look really opens up more time to spend with your guests. @jennifer - some quick ideas/thoughts... definitely scout for a great location with your photographer on the first look. if you're getting ready at a hotel or your own house, choose a place there or close by so that you can do some makeup touch ups right after all the hugging and kissing (and sometimes happy crying). and RE: the potentially awkward double entrance... overall, i don't think it's a big deal... you can smooth this out with a simple conversation about the script of the MC. also, something that could work would also be to plan on you giving a thank you speech or first dance immediately upon entering so that the announcement is more about moving the day along versus a forced introduction. make sense? happy to get more in depth with your specific details - you can shoot me an email (sarah@pinkcloud9.com) or get instant advice via chat on our website. hope this helps! :)

    8 years ago

  • meagan10101

    Meagan Propp says:

    We are "tossing the toss"... always thought that it was so tacky. We are also doing the first look... Very excited!!

    8 years ago

  • flemingdm

    Dominique Fleming says:

    The morning wedding idea is fab, I might have to steal that :)

    8 years ago

  • SomsStudio

    Som from SomsStudio says:

    These are some great ideas!!

    8 years ago

  • LollyPie

    Laura Thomas says:

    Here in the UK, we pretty much always get married in the morning/very early afternoon. In fact in England and Wales it's illegal for a marriage to take place after 6pm. Which is a shame, as I'd like to get married at dusk...

    8 years ago

  • TackyTrash

    TackyTrash from TackyTrash says:

    Thank you for suggesting people give up the bouqet and garter toss. The last two weddings I went to I hid during this part. Especially at the last one because it was me and 3 other single women... I think if people are in their 30s this is just a punishment to those who are single. Would love to hear your thoughts on people who don't write "and guest" on single's invitations, but assume they'll bring one anyway.

    8 years ago

  • pinkcloud9

    pink cloud says:

    @meagan - oh you trendsetter, you... :D @dominique - yes! please do and send me pics!! @som - thank you! @laura - wow, i never knew it was illegal. i thought it was just popular / tradition. thanks for sharing! maybe you can do your version of the dance party idea instead? @tackytrash - awww! don't hide!! if you gotta do it, then make it tacky!!! i think writing "and guest" is a courteous gesture. you know what they say, when you assume....

    8 years ago

  • LollyPie

    Laura Thomas says:

    Yes, it's illegal annoyingly. Grrr. It's a throwback from one of our laws created centuries ago, that nobody in modern government bothered to change. Yeah we'll be having a dance party type thing. Invite a few to the ceremony in the afternoon and then have the others invited to the evening party. Fingers crossed, it'll work =)

    8 years ago

  • lauramartinez1

    Laura L Martinez says:

    We are planning a morning ceremony with family and brunch to lunch with friends. I've been surprised to see how many venues don't cater to this wonderful option! We are also saving money on rentals since the vendor can use their equipment again in the evening. Thanks for posting this great idea, maybe more wedding businesses will start opening up to more choices.

    8 years ago

  • lilknottygirl

    Tiffani Green says:

    i'm so glad i ran across this article! my fiance and i knew we wanted a small, simple wedding that didn't cost a fortune or create a lot of work for us or our families. the morning wedding and brunch is a fantastic idea and we plan to use it. we're also going to have a small dinner party that evening for our friends since only family will be at the wedding. now i'm truly excited for our wedding day. and i totally took advantage of the fact that we're having two events that day to buy another dress;).

    8 years ago

  • cindylitz

    cindylitz says:

    got married in the morning and i LOVED it!!!! even tho our day started so early, it was wonderful and fresh! I would do it all over again!

    8 years ago

  • lavenderblue1959

    Cheryl Lavender says:

    I am in my early 50's and my partner is in his mid 60's. We are getting married in winter here in Australia. Wedding is around 3.30pm and in a lovelly sandstone church. My uncle is the local priest and is doing the ceremony. My aunt is the church music director so is organising the music. My other uncle is a piper and is piping me into the church to the tune of Highland Cathedral. My partner and his best man are wearing kilts....so a very Scottish theme. The fact that we have been able to incorporate talented family has helped with our budget immensley. Even one of my cousin's is doing the red velvet wedding cake. A friend who is an excellent photographer is taking photos as well as doing the music. And the fact that most of the decor and ideas have come from etsy has been a blessing.

    8 years ago

  • conniethompson2011

    CONNIE says:

    We are getting married at 1pm with a small ceremony at the venue and then having a buffet lunch, which is saving about $20 a head. We too will do a private "first look" to save time later and to be a bit more romantic. Hoping for a memorable event for my future Mother in Law who was just diagnosed with Cancer. We had planned to get married on Kauai next year until the recent diagnosis. We are now planning a small wedding in 3 months to make sure she is able to be with us. I lost both of my parents to Cancer. Looking forward to our special day but 3 months is not enough time to plan lol! I am so glad it's going to be a small wedding :)

    8 years ago

  • pinkcloud9

    pink cloud says:

    @Laura - Interesting point about having fewer venue options, we too hope that the industry will be more flexible to creative solutions! :) @Tiffani - Awesome! So great to hear that this article really helped you get going! And I LOVE that you get to have two dresses now, haha... woman after my own heart! @Cindy - Thanks for sharing and letting us know that a morning wedding is possible and memorable! @Cheryl - Can we get an invite? Weddings where the whole family jumps in on the action are the best! @Connie - I'm really inspired by your thoughtfulness and selfless nature. Thanks for the reminder that wedding planning should include what's best for your family. Congrats and please do visit our website in case you need help getting your plans together over the next few months. we love the etsy community!! you are amazing women!!

    8 years ago

  • LeasaMarie

    Leasa from LeasaDesigns says:

    I completely agree - get creative with your wedding! Who says they have to be like the last 12 you and your friends-n- family have already attended thru-out the years: Same wedding different bride & groom... Thats what great about ETSY, so many creative ideas and products out there to make it unique!! Great article!!

    8 years ago

  • ALSouthernSweetness

    Suzanne Ziglar says:

    We are getting married out in the woods by a little creek on my family land. We will have a very simple and rustic wedding. We are going to do the traditional ceremony however we have altered it to include our children (from previous marriages) then while we are doing a few pictures they will head up to the bond fire area and fire up the grill. We will get there just in time to get a burger and hang out the rest of the night. We will not be doing a toss, speeches, and probably no dances. After the ceremony it will just be hanging out with friends and family .... good food and lots of laughing!

    8 years ago

  • Streetprints

    Cindy Mousseau from Streetprints says:

    I'm so happy to have found this article! I want to shake up our wedding day too and this gives me some ideas. Thanks so much.

    8 years ago

  • Sydneyanne

    Sydneyanne from Sydneyjos says:

    Cute ideas love it!

    8 years ago

  • colorada

    Cynna from colorada says:

    Fun creative ideas and great article!

    8 years ago

  • xtenix

    Emi L says:

    love the ideas!

    8 years ago

  • ashleyraepierce

    Ashley-Rae Pierce says:

    We live in a valley in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Our ceremony will be early afternoon on a hill with the mountains on the horizon. Guests will be seated on burlap covered square hay bales, and our music will be live - provided by talented friends. We will then move down to the wooded area near the river, where there is a large clearing that was once used to graze cattle. We will have a rustic type bbq meal, which my husband and I will serve, which will be followed by more music. My fiance and I are both musicians, so we will be jumping up on stage to jam with our friends and also take breaks to dance and enjoy refreshments. Its going to be casual, and so fun!!! We're going to have a gigantic fire as well. I'm so excited, and I've gotten every idea/detail off of Etsy - down to my gown!!! Thank you for the article, if we were at all morning people you'd better believe we'd be brunching on some fabulous waffles!!

    8 years ago

  • tashascreations

    Natalya Farias from tashascreations says:

    Morning weddings are the best. They last longer and newly weds have more time to enjoy their special day.

    8 years ago

  • HCbyHeatherJewelry

    Heather Alexander from HCbyHeatherJewelry says:

    The word tradition leaves a yucky taste in my mouth, so I'm in love with these tips! Where the heck were you when I got hitched?! ;-P

    8 years ago

  • mreno

    mreno says:

    Great suggestions. My fiance and I are having a private, weekday ceremony with a 'dance party/cocktail' reception two weeks later and it's the best thing for us. We're doing dessert, drinks, and dancing, which are the parts I love about weddings. No bouquet toss, no grand entrance, just hanging out with friends and family. And Tacky Trash, I totally feel you on the bouquet toss! I always hide during those! I've made it 33 years without doing it once!

    8 years ago

  • juliannepigeon

    Julianne Louise from heartbeasthandmade says:

    I would hate to have the ceremony in the morning, but I love love the idea of an all day celebration and mimosas, my favorite thing. It would be interesting and possibly novel to have brucnch, party all day, get married, have dinner, and keep partying.

    7 years ago

  • juliannepigeon

    Julianne Louise from heartbeasthandmade says:

    Brunch, that is.

    7 years ago

  • photographybykat

    Kathryn Lymburner says:

    Love the cocktail hour before the ceremony idea, although don't think that will work in my case, but wanted to share an idea I had. If you're doing pictures before the ceremony, you could have the cocktail hour then, to keep guests occupied, and then when you guys arrive you go straight into the ceremony. After the ceremony there could be passed champagne to immediately do a toast, sorta like cocktail hour part 2, and either just visit with people then or you could have the first dance and a speech from someone which would mark the start of sitting down to dinner. Just to shake things up a bit.

    7 years ago

  • LenaBK

    Lena Kotler says:

    There are other ways to shake things up as well! My fiance and I decided that we don't really enjoy most of the reception traditions, so we've decided to turn them into games instead. Escort cards will be scavenger hunt clues instead, the wedding program is going to be an activity book for guests, and we're turning those awkward wedding things into carnival games: A ring toss game with garters, and a cornhole game with little plush bouquets. It's a nod to the traditions without us having to deal with the awkward moments they inevitable create.

    7 years ago

  • MarieThurlow3

    Lindsey Lou from LittleLemonCake says:

    I'm so glad I came across this article! I am not engaged yet ;), but I keep dreaming of a really different wedding. I hope that more and more future brides leave tradition behind and make their day more about who they are as a couple!

    7 years ago

  • nutshellcards

    Stephen Bushnik from NutshellCards says:

    Beautiful article! Surprise is an element we cherish. Nutshell Cards, were created to surprise your partner throughout the wedding day with special messages. Our couples bundles let you create a special "love day" before AND after the nuptials. We hold the seeds for a whole new relationship! Love, love. https://www.etsy.com/listing/118402881/wedding-day-cards-for-couples-10pk-of

    7 years ago

  • reneeyou

    Renee Yu from myjunebugg says:

    I totally agree with the "toss the toss" blurb :)

    7 years ago

  • wrightcass

    Cass Wright says:

    We're ditching both tosses, I'm just not that kind of girl. My venue doesn't allow for a first look due to the location of the ceremony, otherwise I would be all over that as we're a young couple and I don't want the traditional feel to our wedding.

    6 years ago

  • leftoverhippies

    Hazel Lynn from LeftoverHippies says:

    cocktail hour first... I never thought of the ice-breaker factor. hmmmm... I might just use that one <3

    6 years ago

  • essiegurganious

    Essie W. says:

    My fiance and I are having a "just us" wedding on Friday in Las Vegas, and then an in-suite cocktail reception on Saturday night in the Vista Suite, Mandalay Bay. We wanted our wedding to be intimate and personal. The reception will be small with just family and a few close friends. I am simple and don't like all the fuss of a traditional wedding.

    4 years ago