Yeah, I hear you. Having an outdoor wedding can throw anyone for a loop. It certainly had that effect on Matt and me. (At one point, Matt was suggesting that we stand on top of a picnic table so everyone could see us. When I pointed out that standing on the picnic table would mean that we had one less table for our guests to sit at, Matt decided that our guests could still sit the table we were standing on. Really? Do I really want people looking up my dress as I profess my undying devotion?)
Initially, I found myself trying to fit our outdoor wedding into the indoor wedding formula: audience facing forward, bride walks down the aisle, ceremony happens, bride and groom walk back down the aisle....
Then I realized it wasn't going to work. There literally wasn't an aisle. I worried about this fact for a millisecond and then realized, "Wait. I don't even want to walk down an aisle. That will make me way more nervous."
From that point on, we just made it up. Instead of thinking about what's normally done, we started thinking about what we wanted to accomplish and what made sense for us. We decided that we would park our car, get out like normal guests, and actually mingle with our friends and family before the ceremony started. We decided that this approach made sense for us because a) We wanted to fit in as much conversation and hanging out time as possible with all of our guests, b) Chillin' with our friends/family before the wedding would relax us and make it feel like less of a performance and c) It solved the no-aisle dilemma. When it was time for the ceremony to start, we had someone switch on our signature song, and the entire wedding party knew it was time to move to the front.
Since we had a very unconventional wedding, we put a lot of specific directions in the ceremony program to help keep people informed about what was happening. Also, at the end of the ceremony, we had our officiant reiterate the directions:
- Thank you so much for joining us today.
- Please stay seated where you are so we can take a few photos of the entire group.
- Those of you who have been asked by Katy to stay for pictures, please gather in your groups over in this area after the whole-group photo.
- If you would like to recycle your programs, there’s a box over there.
- After we take the photos, the celebration will continue six miles down the road at Sunshine Mountain Lodge.
- See you there!
After the group photos, people started clearing out and a spontaneous line formed of people who wanted to hug me. I hugged a few people and then declared to the rest of the line, "This isn't a receiving line! You don't need to wait in line to hug me!" A few people chimed in, "But we want to!" It was perfect.
I don't mean to be self-centered by focusing several paragraphs on our story. My hope is that our process is potentially helpful for you. In short, here are the enduring understandings:
- A wedding doesn't have to follow a formula (although it can if you want it to!). Decide what makes sense to you as a couple and go for it.
- In order to decide what makes sense, think about what your values, goals, and preferences are. Then work backwards from there to plan the smaller steps that align with your end vision.
- Communicate clearly with guests about the ways in which your wedding won't follow the standard formula. We did this on our wedsite, on a piece of chart paper that we hung up at the Welcome Picnic, in our ceremony program, and in our officiant's closure.
So, if you want people to stand in a circle, figure out how to make it work (with or without an aisle). If you want to replace the receiving line with something else, figure out what original purpose the receiving line was going to serve and think of something else that accomplishes that purpose.
Just the other day, Liz from cosa verde mentioned in the comments section that she and her partner are thinking about giving guests a piece of ribbon and asking them to tie it onto the couples' wrists as some point during the evening. That way, they are sure to have intimate contact with every guest and yet no one has to stand in line.
Sometimes we trap ourselves in the details of what we think a wedding is, and we forget that a wedding is plainly and simply about two people and their commitment. It can take whatever form you want it to (and I mean that across the board: If you want to have a super-traditional wedding because it aligns with your vision and values, then go for it!). Each couple can decide for itself what makes the most sense.
So, 2000dollarwedding kindred spirits, what makes sense for you? Are you doing a receiving line?