Planning a Nontraditional Wedding with Traditional Families

I’ll never forget the look on my mother’s face when I told her at the kitchen table that my then fiancé and I wanted to walk down the aisle to Hall & Oates. She tried to hold back tears as she gasped, “is there nothing in your wedding tied to God or your Catholic upbringing?”

Back in 2010 when I planned my wedding, most of the things I wanted (bridesmaids in any black dress, no assigned seating at the reception, groomsmen in chucks, and a short wedding dress with *gasp* no veil) seemed pretty nontraditional. Wedding blogs were just getting started and Pinterest wasn’t even a glimmer in the internet’s eye. So I clung to my Microsoft Word collage of images and ideas every time I had to brave the storm of trying to explain to my mostly traditional parents why I wanted these things in our wedding. 

And now as a wedding coordinator, I hear the same sentiments from my clients: “my mom is freaking out that we don’t have shuttles for guests”; “my aunt can’t believe we aren’t doing a sit-down dinner”; “do you think it’s okay if we don’t have enough seating for all guests?”  Couples want to include “nontraditional” elements but worry what their traditional family will say or think about it. 

But rest assured!  There are ways to negotiate with family and still have a wedding in line with your values. It might not be easy (especially based on who is paying for the wedding), and it certainly won’t always go your way, but these 3 tips will help when dealing with conventional relatives.

1. Make it Visual
People often frown upon “nontraditional” wedding choices because they’ve never actually seen or experienced them. My mom had never seen bridesmaids in mismatched dresses before, and once I found a picture to show her, she came around. Find pictures of your nontraditional ideas and show your family to help them see just how cool your ideas area.

2. Share Your Reasoning
Explain to your family and friends WHY you want certain elements in your wedding. Once I articulated to my parents why I did not feel comfortable having a super traditional Catholic wedding in a church, my parents were both more understanding and willing to let me have the nontraditional ceremony I envisioned. 

3. Above All, Compromise
Like most things in life and especially if you are about to enter into marriage, compromising is key. If there are some parts of your wedding that are less important to you, but super important to your family/friends to follow traditionally, then it might be best to compromise. 

At the end of the day you’ll have a much happier wedding planning experience if you can not only stay true to yourselves but bring your traditional family along for the nontraditional ride.


Capitol Romance is Washington DC's top wedding blog for practical, alternative, and creative weddings and resources. With over 3500 pageviews a day and expansive social media reach, (Followers on: Over 6K Pinterest, over 2k Twitter, over 1.3K Instagram) Capitol Romance is the leading source in the DC area for local creative businesses, real wedding inspiration, practical wedding planning advice, and "do-it-yourself" projects.