Flexibility & hand-holding: 5 tips for having a successful costume wedding

Guest post by Amberella

Remember Tribesmaid Amberella's DIY Steampunk wedding invitations? She's back to tell us how she pulled off an awesome costume wedding.

Our wedding guests all decked out in their costume finery. Photo by my uncle.

When we were struggling with what we wanted our wedding to be like, we were overwhelmed by the idea of a wedding. We're silly geeky people — the formality and seriousness of everything around a wedding was off-putting. The fact that we were starting to mentally capitalize everything was a sign of how intimidated we felt.

Then, and I am not sure how, we realized something: a wedding is a party, a party about us and everyone who loves us. And having never thrown a party more serious than five people coming over for board games, we set about throwing a kick-ass party. And then it got much, much better. I mentioned that we're geeks, right? Because that definitely influenced our idea of “kick-ass.”

Ed and I had a time travelling-themed costume wedding. It was fantastic.

A costume wedding isn't all that different than a regular wedding. Most weddings are actually costume weddings, unless you wear white formal dresses and tuxedos on a daily basis, which isn't out of the realm of possibility (and is totally awesome — is your work hiring?). But for these instructions specifically, the costume wedding is one in which you ask the wedding party and guests to dress up around a specific theme.

1. Be the kind of people who think a costume wedding is a fabulous idea. Seriously, this is important. If you are really thrilled by the idea, but your partner isn't, then DO NOT DO IT. You are the ultimate cheerleaders of this idea; if you're both excited by it your excitement will pass on to your guests, and the reverse is true.

2a. Choose a flexible theme. Ed and I chose “time travelling” as our theme. We told our guests they had the whole 19th century to choose from, and that they could mix and match. We promised not to drop a dime on anyone to the Time Police if they wore 1815-style pants with an 1870-style hat. It was fascinating how it turned out — our parents and their friends almost exclusively chose Old West outfits, and my friends leaned Steampunk.

2b. Be sure to give yourself flexibility as well. I spent a few really fun days acquiring theme songs from TV shows and movies that featured time travel to play during cocktail/mingling hour between the ceremony and the arrival of dinner. Our recessional music was the Throne Room music from Star Wars. Was this time travelling-themed? Not really. Was it awesome? Yes, yes it was. Don't exclude something you love just because it doesn't fit in with your theme!

3. Plan for multiple levels of participation. Some people are going to get really excited (and you might be surprised by who those people turn out to be), and others will not. If you want everyone to participate you have to let those who don't love the idea, but do love you, find a way to show willingness. Additionally, not everyone has the budget to buy a new costume. On our wedding website we had multiple links:

  • “This sounds like it could be interesting, how can I participate?”
  • “Oh man, I'm so excited I'm already looking at crinoline!”
  • “Do I have to?”

Each category had visuals and links of places to buy things, (Really into it? Here's a place to buy an off the rack costume, or to find ideas on how to make your own. Tentative? Let me tell you how to take clothes you already own and repurpose them). The answer to “Do I Have To” was yes, unless the whole idea makes you very, very uncomfortable.

4. Be prepared to hold hands. No matter how much advance work you do, some people will be entirely stumped as to how to dress. My wedding was small, I was able to figure out who these people were early and work with them to find something that they would be comfortable in. It can be a lot of work, and people will want to check in with you, so be prepared to be patient and to say yes to many, many things… Yes, that shawl looks period appropriate to me, yes I think a string tie works, and yes you should wear comfortable shoes… In my experience it was mostly that people were afraid they were going to let us down by not coming up with something “good enough.”

5. Go out of your way to compliment everyone who participated on their outfit. They came dressed up to celebrate with you, and you want them to know how much they mean to you and how awesome they look. As for the people who didn't dress up (be prepared for a couple): don't say anything about it. Just go up to them, say how lovely it is to see them, and thank them for coming.

Comments on Flexibility & hand-holding: 5 tips for having a successful costume wedding

  1. We’re having an 18th century costumed wedding. We’re welcoming any type of dress from that time period.
    If you’re doing a costumed wedding, you should look into costume rental shops in your area. There’s one about 3 hours away from us, but they have a huge selection of colonial costumes. It’s gonna save us a lot money in the long run, because these costumes cost hundreds, if not thousands to make (to keep). We’re renting costumes for the officiant, bridesmaids, groomsmen, and my father. The groom & I are having ours custom made to keep (I’m making mine).

  2. This is all great advice. We are including a goofy touch in our invitations-there will be a lot of people who are our parents or grandparents generation at our wedding, and I know (knowing them well) that a lot of them will be baffled by the general level of unapologetic geekiness and Halloween craziness. So, in our playfully worded invitations, we mention that costumes are required, except “out of respect for our elders, those over…50…ish…will be granted a curmudgeon’s pass (included!) if they have no wish to participate in this or any other tomfoolery.” In the dozen or so invites going out to older guests, we are literally including a curmudgeon’s pass. We’re also setting up a welcome table that will have loads of masks and props for people who are just too stressed over putting together a costume. An artist friend of mine also offered to set up a face-painting/theatrical makeup booth for the early part of the evening, so that people could ramp up their looks if they want.
    I think the part of this advice that stands out to me as just perfect is, you need to both be people who are super INTO your costume party. If you are, you can find so many creative ways to pull it off with just a bit of enthusiasm and time on your part 🙂

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