Are you looking for a few non-traditional wedding ceremony ideas to make your wedding day a little more your own? Maybe the two of you are non-religious, or maybe you simply want something that is a little more you.
Many couples get married and end up including a lot of things in their wedding ceremony that they either:
(A) Don’t understand or know the meaning of.
(B) Don’t want to do, but because it’s “tradition”, they include it anyway just because.
And many times it’s both.
Well, guess what? It’s 2023 and you can make your wedding ceremony look exactly the way you want. Do you have ideas that some would consider modern or unconventional? Perfect! There are no rules that you need to follow. It is perfectly ok to have a secular wedding ceremony. This is your special day!
Here is what we will cover in this post:
- Memorable wedding ceremony ideas (including non-traditional entrances “the processional” and exits “the recessional”)
- Wedding ceremony ideas to involve guests
- Non-traditional wedding processional order
- Unity ceremony ideas
- Non-traditional songs to walk down the aisle to
- Unique wedding ceremony location ideas
- Unconventional wedding ceremony seating and set up ideas
Memorable Wedding Ceremony Ideas (A Non-Traditional Entrance and Exit)
After planning and photographing almost 500 weddings, we have seen our fair share of unique and memorable wedding ceremonies. If you are looking for a non-traditional wedding ceremony idea to make your special day a little more unique, we have you covered!
Here are a few ideas that stood out to us:
- The bride arriving at the wedding ceremony on a horse
Emily rode bareback on her favorite horse as she arrived at the wedding ceremony. The wedding guests watched her appear from the wooded area behind the ceremony site.
This was such a fun idea for someone who has a love for horses.
2. The flower girl riding a scooter down the aisle
This adorable flower girl was all style as she rode into the wedding ceremony site.
It doesn’t get much cuter than this!
We have also heard of ring bearers and flower girls driving down the aisle on power wheels.
3. The bride and the father-of-the-bride doing a shot together right before walking down the aisle
The bride and her dad stopped at the top of the aisle and took a shot just before walking down the aisle.
The father of the bride had both shots hidden in his jacket until they were ready.
The guests loved it!
This was definitely one of our favorite offbeat wedding ideas.
4. Have a pre-ceremony cocktail hour
One of my favorite untraditional wedding ideas is to have your guests arrive about 30 minutes earlier and treat them to a pre-ceremony cocktail or non-alcoholic drink. It allows everyone to say hello and mingle for a bit before taking their seat.
5. The bride arriving by horse and carriage
This is your big chance to feel like Cinderella!
Arriving at your wedding ceremony on a horse and carriage can truly make you feel like royalty.
6. Miniature horses as the ring bearer and flower girl
This couple absolutely loved animals!
When they found out that their wedding venue did events with a petting zoo, they hired two miniature horses to be the flower girl and ring bearer.
The two miniature horses stayed for the entire wedding ceremony and even walked back down the aisle with the rest of the wedding party.
7. Play an upbeat song for the wedding party recessional. Have the wedding party dance their way back down the aisle
This idea gets your guests smiling from ear to ear.
If you are looking for something more informal to include in your wedding ceremony, playing fun upbeat music to dance down the aisle to is a perfect choice.
Here are a few upbeat songs to consider:
- “Jump In Line (Beetlejuice)” by Harry Belafonte (From the movie Bettlejuice)
- “Hold On (Bridesmaids)” by Wilson Phillips (From the movie Bridesmaids)
- “I’ll Be There For You” by The Rembrandts (Theme song from the tv show Friends)
For more ideas, check out our ultimate wedding song guide (4500 song ideas for every part of your day). Plus you can check out our full list of processional/recessional songs or these fun party songs.
8. Write your own vows (love letters)
Writing your own vows is a really personal and meaningful way to make your wedding ceremony unique and memorable.
We have photographed dozens of weddings with personal vows, and the photos are always fantastic (lots of laughing and happy tears).
We love these personal vow books from Amazon
9. Include your children in the wedding ceremony
If the couple has children together (or if someone has kids from a previous relationship), including them in the wedding ceremony can add a wonderful personal touch to the day.
Depending on the age of the children, you can have them walk down the aisle and be part of your wedding party, or you can have them give readings.
This ring bearer (the son of the bride and groom) needed a break during the long wedding ceremony (adorable!).
10. Have a family member or friend officiate the wedding
We have seen weddings that were officiated by parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and close friends.
One of the most unique wedding ceremonies we witnessed was officiated by every single member of the wedding party. Each groomsman and bridesmaid spent a few minutes officiating a different part of the ceremony. What a fun idea!
11. Wedding party with whoever the couple wants on their side
The traditional wedding party used to have the same amount of groomsmen and bridesmaids on each side (bridesmaids with the bride and groomsmen with the groom).
These days, more and more couples are doing whatever they want. We have seen multiple guys on the bride’s side, and multiple girls on the guy’s side (for a wedding that includes a bride and groom).
Same-sex weddings started this wonderful trend and it’s nice to see more and more couples including whoever they want to stand by their side during the ceremony.
12. Include your pets
Including your furry family members in the wedding ceremony can really add a personal touch.
There are many companies that will even bring your dog to the wedding and take care of them the entire time. That way you can enjoy the day without worrying about them.
You can simply have your pets come for a few photos, or you can have them be part of the wedding party.
This groom walked down the aisle with their 2 dogs. They were the ring bearer and flower girl.
13. A grown-up flower girl or ring bearer
Who said that ring bearers and flower girls had to be little kids?
We have seen a few weddings with parents or grandparents as the ring bearer and/or flower girl (Does it get any more adorable than that).
During one wedding ceremony, the flower girl froze up and didn’t want to walk down the aisle so one of the groomsmen took over her duties.
14. Let your readers choose their own readings
Give them a few parameters to work within (like a two-minute time limit or something like that)
15. No wedding party at all
We have planned a few weddings where the couple did not have a wedding party. The couple still got ready with a few friends, but that was it.
16. Use fun upbeat music during the wedding party processional
You can find an awesome list of non-traditional wedding songs at the bottom of this post (or you can check out our full article of songs to walk down the aisle to.
17. A surprise wedding
We photographed a wedding where the guests thought they were attending an engagement party for the couple.
The officiant (a friend of the family) called everyone up to welcome and toast the couple. Once everyone gathered, the music started and the bridal party came walking out (followed by the bride and her father).
There was no seating. Everyone just moved to the side and made a last-minute aisle for the bride and her father.
Everyone was genuinely surprised.
18. Use school buses to transport your guests to and from your ceremony and/or reception
This is another way to save some money on your wedding day (especially if you had already planned on providing transportation).
You can have the buses pick your guests up at the hotel they are staying at, or you can have your guests park at the reception location (the buses pick them up there)
19. Jumping the broom
Jumping the broom is traditionally performed at black weddings. If interested in finding out more about this tradition, this article on Oprah Daily has some great info. You can also get more info from this article from Brides.
Wedding Ceremony Ideas To Involve Guests
Many couples are looking for ways to include their friends and family members in their wedding ceremonies.
Here are a few of our favorite ideas:
- Ring warming ceremony
A ring warming ceremony is an excellent way to involve your guests in your wedding ceremony.
With a ring warming ceremony, your rings are passed around to your guests before the ring exchange. Each guest holds the rings before passing them to the person next to them (they can simply pass them to the next guest or they can say a short blessing or prayer).
When it’s time to say your vows and exchange rings, your wedding rings have been blessed by all of your friends and family members.
To keep this a little more simple (if having a larger wedding), you can simply keep the ring warming ceremony confined to the front row or two (typically parents, siblings, and grandparents).
2. Invite family and friends to tell stories about the couple
Instead of traditional wedding readings, we have seen multiple couples invite family members and friends up to tell fun stories about the couple.
If doing something like this, just make sure that you approve of the stories being told. Chances are there are going to be many older family members in attendance and you don’t want this to turn into a raunchy roast (or maybe that’s the vibe you are going for……we won’t judge).
3. Blowing bubbles for an amazing photo op
When guests arrive at your wedding ceremony, have someone hand out small bottles of bubbles to each guest (This is a great job for a younger niece/nephew or sibling).
Have the officiant or whoever is introducing the newly married couple instruct all of the guests to blow bubbles at the same time. You can do a 5-4-3-2-1 countdown. This way everyone is blowing bubbles at the same time and your photos will be amazing!
For even more bubbles, grab about 4-8 bubble shooters and put a few people on the end in charge of using them (These are our favorite). These things put out a ton of bubbles and will make your photos look incredible! (The photo below used a few of these)
For even more exit ideas, check out our 49 send-off ideas article.
4. A friend and family-made bouquet
Have a few baskets of loose flower blooms at the entrance of your wedding ceremony site. Put someone in charge of asking guests to take their favorite flower to be used in the bridal bouquet.
Just before the ceremony starts, have everyone pass their flower to the person at the end of their row.
As the bride makes her entrance down the aisle, she will collect the flowers from each person at the end of the rows.
The flowers can then be put together and wrapped with ribbon in the middle of the wedding ceremony.
Then the bride will have a beautiful bouquet that was created with the help and love of her family and friends.
If the bride wants something to walk down the aisle with, you can have the person walking her down the aisle (her father, mother, both parents, a sibling, friend, etc.) meet her at the top of the aisle with the very first flower/flowers. That person can hand it to the bride as the start of her bouquet.
Non-Traditional Wedding Processional Order and Ideas
Just like everything else on your wedding day, this is your day and you do not need to follow the traditional processional order.
Here is the non-traditional wedding processional order that we have seen a few times (but feel free to move things around to fit your vision):
- Grandparents of the groom escorted by the groom and the parents of the groom
- Grandparents of the bride escorted by the mother of the bride (and the bride’s brother/brothers if the bride has siblings)
- All of the groomsmen together (in 2-4 groups depending on the size of the wedding party)
- All of the bridesmaids together (in 2-4 groups depending on the size of the wedding party)
- Any kids involved in the wedding (ring beaers and flower girls together)
- The bride and the father of the bride (Or step-dad, brother, or whoever is walking the bride down the aisle)
Another option for the wedding party is to have 1-2 bridesmaids walk down the aisle with 1-2 groomsmen (you can mix and match this to fit the size and makeup of your wedding party)
One trend we have seen more and more of is the father-of-the-bride and mother-of-the-bride walking the bride down the aisle.
Non Traditional Wedding Unity Ideas (Unconventional and Unique Ceremony Events)
The tradition of the unity candle hasn’t been around for very long (it started in the 1970’s). It is still a very nice idea, but if you are looking for something a little more modern or non-traditional, we have gathered a few ideas for you.
Wine unity ceremony, beer blending ceremony, mixed cocktail ceremony, oh my!
This is a fun way to do a unity ceremony if you are both beer or wine lovers.
You can do these unity ceremonies in a few different ways.
Here are two that we have seen a few times:
- Blending two drinks into 1
- You would each have a different kind of wine (you could each pick your favorite) or you could each have a bottle of your favorite beer.
- Each of you pours a little into a glass or mug at the same time.
- You both take a sip out of the mug/glass with the new blended drink.
- You keep the bottles and mug/glass to display on a shelf in your house.
One big tip: If you are doing a blended drink: Try it first!
A few days before the wedding, try a few different combinations to make sure you like the taste. It would be pretty embarrassing to take a sip and yell “yuck” during your unity ceremony.
Then again, it might be pretty funny and make for great video!
2. Pouring one single beer into the same beer stein or mug (or wine into a glass/goblet) then each of you takes a sip.
You should choose a beer stein or wine glass that you can keep forever, and possibly start a family tradition with your future children and grandchildren. They can use the same stein of glass to do the same at their wedding ceremony.
You can also do mixed drinks or shots (whatever floats your boat!)
Tree planting unity ceremony
Planting a tree (or potted plant) is the perfect unity ceremony for those who are looking to add an eco-friendly element to their wedding day celebration.
You can do this in many different ways, but here are the two most common:
- Planting the tree in the ground.
- You probably only want to do this if you are having a backyard wedding in a home you plan on staying in (or possibly your childhood home if you and your parents plan on keeping it forever).
- We recommend already having the hole dug (maybe leave enough soil so you can each take out 1 last shovel full).
- Plant the tree and add the topsoil back in.
- Give the new tree some water
- During the tree planting ceremony, you can have your officiant read the reason that you have decided to do the tree planting (maybe you chose a specific tree because of what it represents). You can also have your DJ play a special song if you prefer fewer words.
2. Planting a small tree or potted plant in a container or pot (that you can then plant at a later time wherever you want)
- Put the small tree or plant (already in the pot or container that you want to keep it in along with some soil) on a table along with a container of water.
- Have 1-2 containers of soil from a location that is meaningful to you (some soil from each of your childhood homes, a place that you met, a favorite vacation spot, etc.)
- Each person adds some soil to the tree/plant and gives it some water.
- Your officiate can tell your guests why you have chosen that tree or plant and where you plan on planting it or keeping it.
We photographed a wedding where the two brides did an art project unity ceremony.
While the officiant told stories about how the two girls met in art class, each bride had a canvas set up on an easel with a marker.
It was a speed drawing that they had to complete in 60 seconds without looking down at the canvas (they had to keep eyes on each other only)
It was a very cute idea but since they could not see what they were drawing, the results were pretty funny. Their friends and families laughed when each bride turned the canvas around to show the final results.
A+ for creativity!
Wine box unity ceremony
A wine box unity ceremony is a great idea for wine lovers.
- The couple puts their favorite bottle of wine into a box that gets locked or sealed. We love this personalized box from Etsy and this set from Amazon.
- Many couples include love letters to each other to be read when opening (one idea is to write how you are feeling about your upcoming wedding and how excited you are to marry your best friend)
- The box is put away and opened/shared a few years later. Some couples choose their 1 year anniversary, their 5 year anniversary, or their 10 year anniversary. You can pick whatever you like.
- Some couples even choose to open the box and read the letters if their marriage runs into any problems.
Time capsule unity ceremony (without alcohol)
The time capsule unity ceremony is the same as the wine box ceremony, except you don’t use alcohol.
You still write love letters to each other to be opened on a future anniversary, but instead of wine, you could include a gift certificate to your favorite restaurant.
On the anniversary that you choose, you open the box, read the letters from each other, and enjoy a nice night out together.
We absolutely love this idea!
Art/painting on canvas (two colors)
Doing a canvas painting as a unity ceremony is a great idea for art lovers.
There are so many different ways to do this, but here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Put a canvas on an easel or on a stand/table.
- If sitting upright on an easel, make sure to put a tray underneath to catch the paint that runs off.
- Use two see-through containers of paint. We recomend two colors (possibly your wedding colors).
- While your officiant reads some words about the unity ceremony (this can be whatever you want it to be), each partner pours some of the paint onto the canvas and blends it with the other partners paint.
- If you want more control over how it looks, do this with the canvas laying down, and then each of you can use a small paintbrush to make your own art creation.
- You can hang the finished painting on your wall as it is, or you can add your initals and wedding date with a stencil after it dries.
Sand ceremony for wedding
A sand ceremony is probably one of the most common unity ceremonies besides the unity candle (We did a sand ceremony at our wedding and we still keep it on our fireplace mantle after 16 years of marriage)
- You want to get a nice sand ceremony set (2 small containers for the individual colors and a larger container for the blended sand). We love this set from Amazon and this set from Etsy.
- Each partner pours their color of sand into the larger vase/container.
- You keep taking short turns until the large container is full and complete.
- Your officiant can read some nice words about the unity ceremony (what each color represents), or you can simply play a special song.
- You can pick any colors that you like. Most couples either choose their wedding colors or the favorite color of each person (we chose our favorite colors, which are blue and purple).
Tying the knot (robe braiding) unity ceremony
Handfasting unity ceremony
The handfasting ceremony can be traced back to ancient Ireland (7000 B.C.). It symbolizes the joining or binding of two lives.
Non-Traditional Songs To Walk Down The Aisle To (Wedding Processional and Recessional Song Ideas)
Here are a few of our favorite non-traditional wedding songs to use for your wedding party processional/recessional (and for the bride and groom walking down the aisle):
- “1000 Years” by Christina Perri
- “Every Breath You Take” by Music Travel Love (WOW! what a cool cover of this song by The Police)
- “The Luckiest” by Ben Folds
- “Grow Old With You” by Adam Sandler (From the hit movie, The Wedding Singer)
- “Beauty and the Beast” From Disney’s Beauty and the Beast
- “Marry You” by Bruno Mars
If you want even more amazing non-traditional song ideas that are perfect for walking down the aisle to (or back up the aisle for the recessional), check out this article we put together: 109 Best Wedding Songs for the Bridal Processional/Recessional and Wedding Party
Non-Traditional Wedding Ceremony Location Ideas
If you want to get married somewhere unique, try thinking outside the box when choosing a wedding venue. These days you can pretty much get married anywhere you want (you just have to ask).
Here are a few non-wedding-venue ideas that are a little less traditional than the typical church or banquet hall.
- Backyard wedding (your home or possibly a family member)
- Destination wedding – A location that means something to you personally (make it a vacation)
- A University or college
- The beach
- Paddle wheeler on the river
- Ski resorts
- Renting out a movie theatre, bowling ally, or recreational event space
- Theme parks
- Rooftop of a building in your city
- The Zoo
- The aquarium
- Airbnb or VRBO (make sure you rent one that allows weddings)
Unique Wedding Ceremony Setups
If you are looking for a way to make your wedding ceremony set up a little different or unconventional, here are a couple of ways to pull it off:
Have all of your guests sit in a circle.
This is perfect for smaller weddings or micro weddings.
This is a very intimate ceremony set up and allows everyone to feel close to the couple, which makes hearing your vows really easy.
Arrange the chairs in a spiral
Having the chairs set up like this allows for the bride and wedding party to walk by each individual guest when she walks down the aisle. what a fun idea!
Another article that you might find helpful: Do you wear your engagement ring down the aisle?
Interested in learning about the different types of wedding ceremonies? Check out this article: Wedding Ceremonies (Different Ceremony Types Explained)
Make sure to check out the front page of our blog each week for new wedding planning tips