I know exactly what you're talking about! Matt and I had to work around a less-traditional (and therefore potentially more awkward) setup for the start of our wedding. Since our reception was outside by a lake and there was really nothing else around, we couldn't do the traditional aisle-walk thing (since there was nowhere to hide before the big reveal). Plus, I didn't really want that for myself.
We decided that we would just pull up in our car about 15 minutes before the ceremony was scheduled to start, get out, and start mingling with our guests. To mark the start of the ceremony, we had someone fast-forward to our specific song and turn up the volume. That was the wedding party's cue that it was time to assume our places. (As a sidenote, once we were all standing in our places and the ceremony began, I realized I forgot to grab my bouquet! I had to jump out of place to go grab it. Oh well...more comic relief).
At the end of the ceremony, after everyone cheered, we had our officiant give some announcements to the group. Here's what he said:
· 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!
You could consider doing something similar. At the end of your ceremony, the officiant (or you and your partner) could close the ceremony and explain to people what they should do next, such as, "Thank you so much for being here to witness this proclamation of love and commitment. Now it's time to celebrate! Please move your chair over to the side and then start helping yourself to drinks and food!" (or whatever it is you actually want your guests to do...)
We found that folks were fine with our non-traditional format, as long as we gave them lots of information about what was going on and when. We started to get them prepared with information on our wedsite. We also sent out e-mail updates leading up to the wedding. At the Welcome Picnic, we had a big sign explaining the weekend's events. We also wrote the information on the ceremony program fans. Finally, we had our officiant review the information. As a result, everything went pretty smoothly!
I'd love to hear what other advice you all have! Please comment away...