No-one missed any of the extras: I was a guest at a no-frills wedding

September 8 2014 | Guest post by Inverted Jenny
No-one missed any of the extras: I was a guest at a no-frills wedding
Keep Life Simple, Printable Art by Paradigm Art

My future husband and I went to the first of three weddings we will attend before we are wed. It was a delight to sit back and enjoy someone else's big day, rather than fussing over our own.

Obviously I was paying attention to the choices that were made and how they compared to ours. But rather than breaking that down bit by bit, I'll mention some of the lessons I took away from the whole thing…

1. You can have a no-frills wedding and people will absolutely still enjoy it

This wedding was held on a campground in the mountains. The couple was married in a small amphitheater and the 40-50 guests sat on logs surrounding them. There was no bridal party. The bride did not carry flowers. Dinner was Mexican food in the lodge, the cakes were pre-made by a beloved local bakery. They served good beer and wine and bottles of hard liquor appeared later on. Dancing took place on a basketball court (complete with nets) and a bonfire was held later with marshmallows and savory snacks for the drinkers. I think the sole decorations were blue and white plastic table covers in the lodge, a single string of colored Christmas lights around the basketball court, and a simple photo booth.

And guess what? No one missed any of the extras. Everyone was happy to catch up with old friends, dance crazily, laugh at drunken antics, bask in the glow of the bonfire, and crash in their tents at the end of the night. All that mattered was that the bride and groom brought their friends and family together in one place and made sure they were relaxed and comfortable. That was more than enough.

2. You can dispense with traditions at your wedding and people will still enjoy it

Once and for all, I've decided to never again listen to those who say, "It'a not a wedding if you don't have [thing that the speaker wants you to have]!" A wedding is a wedding because two people get married and that is all there is to it. This bride and groom had no cake cutting, no first dance, no bouquet or garter tosses, and no toasts, and no one missed any of these things because they weren't things that fit this bride and groom's style.

It's awesome to have these things if you want them, and it's great to let them go if you don't. I've been married before, and I learned from my first wedding that people know when you're doing something just because you thought you had to. I'm finally feeling pretty secure about making similar decisions for our wedding.

3. Be gracious and don't shy away from being of service

The bride and the groom made a small speech thanking everyone for coming, took it upon themselves to make sure their guests knew what was happening next throughout the night (there was no MC; they did all the announcements themselves), and helped clean up the lodge themselves in between dinner and dancing (guests pitched in, too).

I think we've been sold this idea that the bride and the groom shouldn't have to lift a finger and should be completely catered to on their big day, and while that's fine, it's not always necessary. I really felt like I was personally welcomed and hosted by this bride and groom, and there was a real sweetness to that that I haven't experienced at a lot of weddings.

But lest I sound too preachy, I'll report this exchange between me and my partner while we helped clean up:

Him: See, this is nice. Don't be surprised if I do a lot of this at our wedding.
Me: No way, dude, that's why I hired a coordinator!

We chatted later about it and I pointed out that I wanted us to have time to focus on one another and on our guests, not on cleanup, and he said that seemed like a good idea. Still, this wedding got me thinking about how I can take it upon myself to make sure our guests feel welcomed by us.

4. Provide what entertainment you can, and your guests will take care of the rest

People who want to have a good time don't really require much to do so. They will take what you are able to give and run with it. At this wedding, we didn't particularly care for the DJ, but then I began to worry a bit: at least this couple was offering dancing, which is something we won't be able to do at our wedding! (Venue doesn't have space for it.) My fiancé then pointed out that when the songs were no good, people weren't dancing, but they were still excitedly talking to one another on the dance floor. "They really just want to catch up with their friends," he said, and I think he was right.

You don't have to worry about the DJ being good enough, or the games being the right selections, or the exact number of chairs around the bonfire or whatever. Pick things that will likely work for your people and let them make their own fun after that. I watched a whole group of people enthusiastically sing Raffi songs around a bonfire at this wedding because they overheard the bride singing. You can't plan for that kind of goodness!

5. The emotional stuff is the real takeaway

My favorite moment of this wedding was when the groom's father teared up during his reading. I'll take feels over frills any day.

  1. Thank you. Thank you thank you thank you. I could write that a thousand more times and still not convey how much I appreciated reading this today. Nineteen days until my wedding and I'm becoming ever more worried about how others will see our wedding. This was a welcome reminder that they're there to celebrate and be happy and that's going to happen even without chair covers or perfectly timed musical entrances.

  2. Same. Having a secular handfasting and dance party this October 25 and I do get caught up from time to time. I'm not putting out Chivari chairs! How will people deal with folding? Will people disapprove of a buffet with no seated dinner?

    Losing sight of what is important can happen, it's good to check in.

  3. HUZZAH! HUZZAH! HUZZAH!! No frills wedding it wonderful! I just had mine on 8/30 and let me tell you, despite what last minute concerns I may have had….no one missed favours, the bridal party, flowers, garter/bouquet toss or anything else we deemed not worthy of our hard earned dollars or time. But what people are talking about was how personal and inspired what we did was. Every guest, to a person, said ours was by far the most personal wedding they had ever been to and how it was all so very US. That's the best take away for me. Don't let last minutes concerns invade your mind! Keep the day as you both want it! No one misses anything but what they remember is YOU (referring to the couple).

  4. Thank you for the "head above the forest" report. Even thought my own wedding is postponed until we have some more stuff worked out, this drove home a point I will remember when I get back to planning – less planning and more feeling.

  5. My husband and I got married this summer. Our reception reminded me of this couple. We had two of our friend's MC the festivities, another friend baked the wedding cake, there was heavy appetizers and beer and wine…no sit down dinner, no assigned seats. No bows on the seats, no elaborate centerpieces. Everyone got to hang out and simply enjoy one another. After our wedding playlist concluded, my brothers took it upon themselves to lead the guests in a Disney sing along. It was glorious!

  6. Loving this! My wedding is in less than 2 months. And reading this is helping me not cave into adding things into the wedding just for the sake of approval of others.

  7. We're having a fully "frilly" wedding, if you will. But I love the spirit behind this description of a wedding (the personal hosting, the emotional depth, the community togetherness, etc.) , and I really hope we can capture it, even if we do have an hour long meeting with our florist coming up!

  8. I'm getting married in 12 days and this is very reassuring. We're also having a no-frills, or a low – frills wedding rather. No bridesmaids, just my MOH beside me, straightforward church ceremony, and a dessert reception in the church hall afterwards. No favors. No dj. No waitstaff. Decorations by yours truly, my fiance, and anyone else who wants to help. Simple. But I do worry sometimes what my relatives will think since they're used to fancy WIC productions and think that's the norm. Thank you for posting this. A part of me knew this already but I needed to see it said by someone else.

  9. Absolutely yes. The hubs and I had a no frills wedding, and he has a very frilly family, so to speak. And you know what? Everyone had a great time! Although I think in the planning process, some of his relatives raised some questions (A green dress? No dances? No table settings? No waitstaff?) that's as far as they went. And when the big day rolled around, nobody missed any of that stuff. We even forgot to bring the CD of music we had made for the reception and had such a good time that we didn't even notice until we found the CD still in the car afterwards! Nobody else noticed either.

  10. Aww, I'm always glad to read the comments here on Offbeat Bride, but I'm especially happy this post has reassured so many with their wedding dates coming soon!

    While we are having some traditional aspects, I do think this is a positive post for us too. We talk a lot about how different our wedding will be. I've noticed what often comes up is what we will do to replace traditions that we don't want. Now I'm thinking maybe we should stop trying to do that and just cut them out altogether. Seems like stressful!

  11. SO. MUCH. THIS.

    I don't actually get the point of many wedding traditions, so it would be weird for me to include them.

    My girlfriend and I are planning a kinda-brunch low-frills wedding (a truly offbeat thing in Spain, really), and we truly believe that the most important thing in any event is that everyone attending has a good time. Not the food, not the favors, maybe not even the music (though IMHO music IS a must). People bonding and being happy on such a special day is what truly makes a wedding unique.

    For us, that may mean having a friend dressed as Fat Elvis officiate our wedding, laying guitars and games around the venue, and a donut bar instead of a three-course menu with a cake. For others, it may mean having a WP so they can just chill on their day, or having a dozen bridesmaids. It's okay as long as it makes you happy. We're not going to apologise for choosing what seems right for us and no one should either 🙂

  12. I've started worrying about this ever since I heard all the hype that's behind our wedding in almost 6 months. I wasn't worried before, but now I know our families are really looking forward to our Star Wars/Star Trek wedding and I feel like we won't live up to the expectations but THIS really puts the whole wedding machine into perspective. Thank you!!!!

  13. Our wedding coordinator at our venue looked at us in shock when we said we didn't want a guest book. She told us people will feel "awkward and confused" without one. I told my friend about this and she said we should replace the guest book with a big sign that just says "DON'T FEEL AWKWARD OR CONFUSED."

    • We got the same thing when we told people there would be no receiving line. They were all, "What? You don't want to thank everyone for being there? That's awful!!"

      No, we just didn't want to stand around, looking awkward and trying to rush things so we could get to the comic book store to take pictures. We had other plans, and said hi and thanks to every single guest during dinner (while still eating). Guess what? No one missed it on the day. No one even noticed.

  14. Be gracious and don't shy away from being of service – this!!!

    I think of this as the difference between running the event and hosting. Hosting is all about welcoming your guests, enjoying their company and enjoying their happiness. Running the event is about schedules, finding another power outlet for the dj, tracking down the missing napkins etc. If you delegate running the event (and properly delegate it, ie hand it over and don't interfere) then hosting can be very very enjoyable!

    We didn't have a paid wedding coordinator but we did have three key people, one friend handling us getting ready and getting to the ceremony venue, one friend handling the ceremony and getting from there to party venue and then finally the frankly amazing party venue manager who handled everything from there on. We did a big timeline for the day which was shared with all three (our venue manager was very helpful here) which meant we could just get on with the day. We had loads of DIY stuff which we delivered to the venue the night before and with detailed instructions and which were set up by the venue.

    This required a huge amount of letting go on my part but worked really well because it meant that on the day there was always someone enacting the carefully thought out plan and I just kind of moved through the day as it happened around me, more or less how I envisaged. It meant that I got pretty much the beautiful ceremony and party I dreamed up (and so much more than I could ever dreamed) but I was completely free to enjoy it and enjoy other people enjoying it, basically I made myself a guest at my own wedding. As a life long over controller I still don't quite know how I pulled off this amount of letting go but it was so so worth it!!!

  15. In my experience, if people, family members, in-laws do ask about "frills" in the wedding planning, sometimes it's because they want that thing, but other times, it's because they are just as nervous as you are about "what people will think." Just talk to them and find out which it is.
    For example, my mom threw a fit about table linens being actual linen. I realized she was nervous about what her mom would think. I just had to get them both to talk (Grandma didn't care at all) and picnic tables went over just fine (we were outdoors at a small farm/vineyard). That talk also calmed a lot of my mom's nit-picky behavior as I realized she was also just nervous about what her wealthy family would think and in fact they were really chill and had a great time!
    On the other hand, my Dad asked about the Daddy-Daughter dance and I realized that that was something that mattered emotionally to him. It wasn't a big deal at all to add it in. Sure "Butterfly Kisses" is not exactly my song, but it made him really happy.

  16. Yes! Thank you so much for this. I'm getting married on Friday the 13th next month and lately I've been stressing about how everyone is going to respond to the wedding. Our wedding is going to be very genuine to who we are. (There may or may not, but definitely is, a plan in place to play out the "The Lannisters send their regards" line from GoT during the ceremony.) And while we're keeping some of the more traditional things like a cake cutting, we're also changing traditions to make them more us. (We're doing a plushie toss instead of a bouquet/garter toss and doing it to everyone, not just the single people.) Our guests are really excited for our wedding to the point that I'm worried we're not going to live up to their expectations, but this came at just the perfect time to remind me to focus only on what's going to make me and my husband-to-be happy and trust that our guests will enjoy our wedding.

  17. I love this so much! So validating. We're doing a simple (read: brief) chapel ceremony (at a women's university where all the women did the stained glass! YASS!) and then going to a Mexican restaurant afterwards. We were going to elope, but we managed to swing a decently-priced chapel with gorgeous architecture and built by feminists! NO bridal party, but nephews and nieces will be ring bearer and flower girls, 'cause awwwww. My 6-year-old niece was elated: "I get to be a FLOWER GIRL?!" I don't like rating my friends, and my wedding will not be a reason for friendships to end.

    My father passed away a couple years ago and the groom is a mega introvert, so no dancing or throwing the bouquet (because it's silk, and it was expensive!), no garter…just enjoying the company of my friends traveling all the way from Florida and Louisiana to show their love <3 We can't wait!

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