Why did I worry about these 6 "risky" wedding decisions?

February 17 2014 | Guest post by Britt B.
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What will guests think of cocktails BEFORE the reception? Photo by Allebach Photography.

As a feminist and a tomboy, planning a wedding was not high on my priority list. I had always claimed that I would never get married. But when I met my future husband, my refrain changed to, "If we do get married, let's elope."

After we became engaged, it started to feel like we might regret not having a wedding. I didn't want our loved ones to miss out on creating this important memory with us. So with the help of my parents and fiancé, I began planning. I am pretty stubborn when it comes to upholding my ideals. As a result, wedding planning felt mostly like an uphill battle against everything the wedding industrial complex holds dear.

If you're like me, then you may be feeling anxious and insecure about making weird or risky wedding decisions. To help you gain perspective, here are the top six wedding risks that I worried about. Spoiler alert: ALL of these decisions turned out to be rewarding, and contributed to the success of our celebration.

1. What would people think of my non-traditional venue?

I got married in a Mexican restaurant in Philadelphia. Leading up to the wedding, I winced every time I told someone where I was getting married. But this decision made sense for us — we got to have our wedding near our families, but in a space and with food, drinks, and decor that reflected our lives in the Southwest. This decision turned out fantastic. Plus, who doesn't love margaritas and churros for dessert?

2. Was my dress too plain?

I chose an off-the-rack, short wedding dress. I knew a simple dress would make me feel at ease and like the best version of myself. I also didn't want to purchase a garment for hundreds or even thousands of dollars to only wear once. I figured all I had to do was wear something remotely "bridal" and I would look the part, because everyone would be so ready to see me as "bride." The dress was an above-the-knee, cream, organza fit-and-flare at a very reasonable price point. Looking back at pictures, I definitely look like "the bride," and I was comfortable all night.

3. What would guests think about cocktails before the ceremony?

Our wedding ran from 7pm to midnight. To avoid starving guests and a line at the bar, we decided to start the evening with an hour of cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. I worried so much about guests thinking it was crass or too non-traditional to do cocktails before the ceremony, but this was the best decision ever! My husband and I got to make an entrance and greet all the guests while the party was in full swing. Bonus: A friend of ours, who was also our officiant, got to enjoy one precious cocktail to calm his nerves before the ceremony.

4. Would I look like a bride without a veil or something in my hair?

The only thing I regularly wear on my head is a bike helmet, and the idea of sporting a veil clashed with my particular feminist values. I flirted with the idea of a sparkly headband, but then I realized that my desire to "put something on my head" was motivated by insecurity. "Was my dress too plain?" "Would I look like a bride without a veil or something in my hair?" Once I realized that I didn't actually want to have a veil or a hair accessory but just thought I was supposed to have one, I stuck with a final decision to forego the headpiece and never looked back.

5. Is it okay to DIY your wedding music?

We decided to DIY our wedding music because we are both music lovers. After reading helpful posts about being your own wedding DJ and using Spotify to build a playlist, we made a plan. One of our friends is tech-savvy and also has great musical taste. We asked and he was more than willing to be our DJ for the evening. In the months leading up to the wedding, we built and curated shared Spotify playlists for cocktails, dinner, and dancing. We used a computer and rented two speakers, a microphone, a sub-woofer, and a mixer from a local sound equipment company found on Yelp. They set up and broke down the equipment and sent a technician to ensure the audio worked. This all cost much less than a DJ. Choosing the music together was one of the most fun wedding planning activities for us as a couple. I would highly recommend this option!

6. Renting your accessories

While shopping for earrings, a bracelet, and a cover-up (since the wedding was in December), I realized the cost to purchase accessories was quickly starting to outweigh the cost of my dress and shoes put together. That's when I discovered Rent The Runway. For $100, I rented earrings, a bracelet, and the most ridiculous pink fuzzy marabou cape in the world. The accessories arrived a day before the wedding and everything looked great. Why spend hundreds of dollars to purchase accessories when you only need them for one night?

Looking back, these decisions seem so right for us and not worth an ounce of stress or worry. When planning your wedding, remember who you are. Stick with what makes you happy and comfortable, and don't worry about negative things other people might think.

  1. Your wedding sounds fabulous! It blew my mind the first time I saw booze from the get go!! So civilized!!! In weddings -people think they're being offbeat sometimes, when they still have the same flow of formal weddings. I think it's time to REALLY tear weddings upside down! Sometimes I even see the brides out before the ceremony, that is unheard of, but it is so awesome, it's also less overwhelming, because most people have already said hello!!!

    Another bride I knew, got married in a warehouse kind of church and had a coffee station and frozen yogurt from two cool, local businesses and got married at 10a!!! I was like…… mind blown!!!!

    • Thanks Tonya! It was so nice to walk in to the party and greet guests before the ceremony. It made it easier to say hi to everyone there and made everything feel more relaxed and natural – a lot less uptight (which totally isn't my style). That warehouse wedding sounds pretty rad. FROYO!

  2. Yayyyy! Your wedding sounds awesome! Our plans though not the same as yours, are more personal preference than classic wedding and have had us worrying (no alcohol, no wedding cars and diying the music for example) but hearing how well yours went is a big boost and validated our belief that our wedding is about us and our marriage, not about fulfilling the expectations of others!! Thank you!!

  3. I'm right there with you on worries Nos. 2, 4, and 5, and possibly 3, as well, if one of our desired ceremony locales pans out. It's incredibly helpful and heartening to hear how well things worked out for you!

  4. I remember my Mom on my wedding day, "Where's your veil??" "Ma, it's 30 mile-per-hour winds out there. We never planned on one!"

    I'm glad I didn't have to fight with one of those things. Ugh. The dress is bad enough.

    I sort of regret our DJ. He made some very off comments… But oh well, live and learn.

  5. The "nontraditional" decisions my husband and I made about our (offbeat-lite) wedding ended up being some of the best parts of the day. And our guests loved those unexpected elements best. They told us how much they appreciated that the wedding really reflected us and our personalities. The best weddings, in my mind, are the ones that genuinely reflect the couple. I don't care how traditional or nontraditional a wedding is; I care about the couple really sharing and celebrating their own style.

    • Us too! We got very similar comments, about how wonderfully different it was and how perfect for us and so very personal (without being uncomfortably personal for my private hubby). My mum worried about our food choice (delivered pizza and appetizers along with salad) but it was delicious and everyone enjoyed it (to the point that very little dessert was eaten).

  6. I'm with you on the whole feminist tomboy doesn't spend life's existence dreaming about a wedding thing! That being said, I have become obsessed with all the finer details once it happened to me too. Jeez it sucks you in!

    Anyway, it's great to hear how validating it is going with what fits you and not what everyone dictates is "the norm". I've been worried recently that some of our decisions will have everyone going WTF?! But at the same time I'm equally relieved that we've put money down on those things so I can't chicken out, haha. I must learn to have confidence in displaying my interests instead of hiding them :-/ just hopes no one thinks I'm being a phony because they don't usually see those sides of me :-/

    • Yeah! Rent The Runway has a whole "wedding" category with veils and blingy belts. The cut crystal jewelry is perfect b/c it adds a ton of "regal" sparkle and it's soooo cost effective to rent it.

    • Rent the Runway totally changed my life. I have a Pro membership and now sometimes even rent just the bling for an event, for $5 and $10 a pop. I am an evangelist for that company and will be renting items for my wedding as well. Long live RTR!

  7. We're not having a separate "ceremony" and "reception." The current plan is to have people arrive in our space (we're still deciding on which space we'll use, from our list of candidate spaces), start enjoying their food, and then maybe 15-20 minutes in have the two of us stand up, go over to where the rings are on display and do a little mini ceremony of some kind, quick as that, and continue the party. We really want the focus to be on fun and everyone enjoying themselves. No procession, no officiant, no big hullabaloo. Just quick, easy, and then back to the food and drink and conversation. We might make a gorgeous "commitment contract," and sign that, or something. I saw a nice non-legal ceremony where the guests were asked to all come up and sign as witnesses to the commitment contract, rather than the traditional two-witness signature lines on the marriage license/certificate thing that we do here in the US. I kind of like that idea, maybe we'll ask our guests to come up throughout the party and sign the commitment contract (separate from the guestbook, we already have an idea for that) to show their support of our commitment. We're not having a legal marriage, so it would be a nice way to involve everyone in the event and give it a sense of "this is official" without actually being official, which we definitely don't want.

    • I am super in love with your ceremony/reception idea! I've been shooting weddings for almost six years and have never seen that done.

    • This is pretty much exactly what I'm planning to do with my sweetheart! We're renting a historic house/garden, we have a friend who does amazing vegetarian catering, and we're getting a keg or two. We'll wait till people are settled in a bit, then do a short and sweet ceremony (by ourselves, non-legal) and invite people to speak their minds or play songs for us or just hang out. We want it to be as laid-back as possible. We'd also like to have everyone there be our witnesses and invite them to sign the contract with us. Then we can frame it and hang it up!

  8. Your plan sounds awesome. I love the commitment contract idea. We did a quick 5 minute ceremony with guests circled around standing. We included one "group vow" where our officiant asked the guests to say "we do" to support a statement about us getting married. That was really fun to look out and see our whole party smiling and shouting "We do!"

  9. Please rethink alcohol before the wedding ceremony — in the USA the ceremony is also a legal procedure and any impairment in the couple, witnesses or the officiant can be grounds for an annulment. Now, if its not a legal ceremony then. . . .

    • I don't think the guests drinking before or after the ceremony is going to impact whether or not I'm drinking out of a flask all afternoon before it. (Hint: I will be.) It may be on-beat to do it this way, but the best advice I've heard is to plan on signing the certificate at the rehearsal. While I was formerly working in a wedding venue, that's what almost all the couples did, unless they were making a huge show out of signing it as pretty much their entire ceremony.

  10. It's funny the things we worry about. I totally agree with "When planning your wedding, remember who you are. Stick with what makes you happy and comfortable, and don't worry about negative things other people might think." Though it's pretty hard to not worry about negative things other people might think (or actually do say).

    1. Getting married in my husband's hometown instead of where we live or where I am from – We decided before we were engaged that we were getting married in my husband's hometown. It's only an hour from where we live and all of his family lives there (or nearby). My family is scattered all over the country so if we had our wedding in either of the places I grew up that would mean that nearly everyone would have to travel (and not just my half). We could have had our wedding where we live but it's more expensive, and his brother was married in the city we live (even though he still lives in my husband's hometown) and it resulted in a lot of grumbling from his family and resulted in guests leaving very early (since they had to drive an hour home since they did not want to pay for a hotel). We did get a couple of complaints about the location (from my side) but there is no way to make everyone happy and this was convenient for the most number of people and was the best option for us.

    2. Having the ceremony and reception at different locations – Our ceremony location (a theatre) was not large enough to also have a reception (at least the sit-down meal type) so we decided to rent a hall for the reception. The ceremony was located in town, but the hall was about 10 minutes out of town. I was worried that it was going to be inconvenient for people. We had a lot of out of town guests, some who flew or took the train (though most drove). They all managed to get around no problem. One out of town guest did question why we didn't have the reception at a hotel (there are only two hotels in town, only one has a room large enough for a reception and I didn't really like the vibe when I went to see it).

    3. Not having a cocktail hour – This was partially to save money but also because we were having two venues. We didn't want people to feel like they had to go directly from the ceremony to the reception instead of unwinding a bit in between. In the end I'm pretty sure no one noticed and no one thought we were cheap for not having one.

    4. Not having a Best Man – This was not by choice. We had a Best Man but it fell through in the month before our wedding. I was worried about what people would say (which added to an already stressful situation). We downplayed a few aspects (e.g., my sister who was MOH walked down the aisle but sat in the front row instead of standing up beside me, and we ended up having a sweetheart table at the reception) and it seemed to work out well (and most importantly my husband and I don't feel like we were jibbed because we had to change our plans). My in-laws did repeatedly ask my husband to pick another Best Man but we felt it wasn't fair to ask anyone at the last minute (plus it probably would have led to more family drama). My husband asked someone else to sign the registry for him and he hung out with two of the people he's closest to on the morning of our wedding.

    Looking back there were aspects of our wedding that I wasn't worried about and I defended when people had comments. The one thing I notice about the list of things I was worried guests would complain about, three of the four were things that impacted guests and their comfort. The things that I didn't stress over (and I would defend in a heartbeat) were things that were things that made our day "our day" (e.g., not getting married in a church, not having a religious ceremony, my husband wearing a suit instead of a tux, incorporating my mother and grandfathers who passed away into our day, etc.), and these things didn't impact the comfort of guests.

    Side note: I always wanted my mother and grandfathers to be part of my wedding day as they were such a large part of me. When planning our wedding I tried to find nice ways to include them. I decided to look online for inspiration and read many wedding message board where people were very negative towards women who wanted to include deceased family members in their wedding day. There were comments about how it's inappropriate (weddings are happy occasions) and how it was morbid and how it would bring back bad/sad memories for the guests. I didn't want anything to be in your face (in case there were people it would upset). My mom and grandfathers were mentioned in our ceremony by name along with my husband's paternal grandparents and aunt (since I wanted my family members to be included, I asked him if he had anyone he wanted included). In my bouquet I had charms with pictures of my mom and grandfathers, and my bouquet included flowers that my aunt transplanted from my mom's garden into her garden. At the reception we had a memory table which had candles and pictures of my mom and grandfathers, and my husband's paternal grandparents and aunt. My mother-in-law really liked how we included them in our wedding day and we had nice comments from other people too.

  11. Your wedding sounds awesome! I agree it can be worrisome to make offbeat choices, especially when you're surrounded by people and media telling you how a wedding MUST be. We got married on our back deck, and then took everyone out to our favorite Mexican restaurant for drinks and dinner. I got lots of funny looks when people asked what we'd be serving people to eat at the wedding and I told them about this plan…but it worked for us, fit who we are, and was amazingly delicious. Plus, paying for everyone at our small intimate wedding to eat and drink at the restaurant was way cheaper…and less stressful…than the self catering we'd been told we SHOULD do.

  12. AMAZING!! My partner and I are trying to create our wedding to suit us. At every idea or turn that strays from tradition, a family member guffaws or rolls their eyes. I have decided to stop telling people our plans purely because, well…STUFF THEM! It's hard sticking to what you want when you're made to feel guilty, but dammit! It's our (and every other couples!!) special day! Glad you stuck to your guns and had what sounds like an awesome wedding! Reading your article, and others like it, reaffirms in our mind that what we are doing is the right thing for us 🙂 thank you!!

  13. Rent the Runway is amazing! I have definitely seen reviews for gowns that were used as wedding gowns and reception gowns. It's definitely something I will consider when it becomes relevant! 😀
    Their customer service is incredible. A few times I've been unhappy with what I recieved, and they'll promptly send out a replacement overnight so you're not left hanging. They also have amazing deals sometimes. The accessories alone are to die for!
    OBB relevant: You can search for a dress by your measurements, and see customer uploaded photos rather than the model. The reviews are SOOO helpful in picking out something that will work for you.
    Check it out… at your own risk! Hehehe

  14. This made me feel SO MUCH BETTER about my upcoming wedding. I also live in Philly, so I know how insanely expensive everything can be. Who did you rent your music equipment from? My fiance and I also plan on using Spotify as our DJ haha so props to you! And congrats!

  15. I feel ya on this one. Our wedding is in an architectural antiques warehouse and we are *so* eating dinner before the ceremony. I want my guests to have full happy bellies and a glass of wine in them before watching my fiance and I get hitched. That being said these details are a constant source of anxiety for me. Not to mention awkward when really interested persons ask me to explain what I'm talking about. However, "Yay!" for sticking with good choices. 🙂

  16. I love this!! I've been asking myself several of these questions myself, and it is helpful to see other thought processes.

    But most importantly…..where is that octopus straw from?? 🙂

  17. Great tip about renting accessories! It's easy to fake it with cheapies, too. I rocked earrings from the prom section of Claire's, spent $10 on a vintage costume necklace, and my bracelet was a last minute addition that one of my bridesmaids loaned me when she found out I didn't have a something borrowed, and I don't think anyone was the wiser for it.

  18. Your wedding sounds sooooo much like mine! We used Spotify to create our playlists, but my brother-in-laws ended up picking songs, taking requests, and it turned in to karaoke by the end of the night! It was perfect for us!! Our venue was a vacation rental- affordable, our whole family could stay with us, and private for our outdoor ceremony. We had drinks and appetizers available before and after our ceremony, which I think our guests really appreciated. I also bought my dress, shoes and accessories "off the rack" at a non-bridal store and was worried about not feeling "bridal enough"- til my mom pointed out that regardless of what dress I wore, it would be a wedding dress since I was wearing it on my wedding day. I LOVE my dress, and love even more that I didn't spend a ton of money on it.
    Our wedding was 8 months ago and people are *still* telling us it was the best wedding they went to last year! I think when we decide what is best for us and our partners is when the best time is had by all ????

  19. In Israel its traditional to have cocktails and canopies before the ceremony and for the bride and groom to be present and mingling with guests. So there is no great reveal with the dress at the ceremony. People think we are crazy because our ceremony is in the afternoon (unheard of here), cocktails are before the reception and my dress is a secret until the ceremony.
    I guess what I'm saying is everyone has their idea about how things should be but its really not set in stone and as long as you have a good time that's all that matters 🙂

  20. Thank you so much for posting this. I think it might be the most helpful one I've read yet because pretty much everything you just mentioned applies to my experience. I've been nervous about all those things and do feel more comfortable now.

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