Planning an alternative wedding- a how to guide

So you’re engaged… Now what? An guide to planning an alternative wedding day, your way

Ok first thing’s first- CONGRATULATIONS!!!! Getting engaged is so exciting (and bloody scary in equal measure- does that mean you’re an actual grown up?) and your head (and your mammoth Pinterest board) are probably absolutely buzzing with ideas. But where the hell do you start? What’s next? What the bloody hell do you do first?? Well, let me give you a hand. Not only have I been there, planning an alternative wedding myself, I have been to more weddings just this year than most people go to in a lifetime. So hopefully, at least a few of the tips I’ve learnt on my travels might be helpful!

Don’t Panic!

My first, and probably most important piece of advice when planning a relaxed, alternative wedding, is don’t stress yourself out. Weddings are amazing, exciting events with a lot to organise, but it’s so important to remember that it is just ONE day, one party; just the beginning of what will hopefully be a lifetime of happy days together. So take a breath. Take some time. Don’t rush into anything. You have all the time on the world!

How to Prioritise

Will all the best will in the world, unless you have pots of money and oodles of time, you can’t do it all. You have to prioritise. Take some time together to discuss your ideas and decide on your absolute priorities. For us, it was Food, Music and Photography. All the rest was just extra- but we knew we wanted to keep people merry and well-fed, well entertained, and we wanted to remember it afterwards! So they were our focus. Break the planning into small, manageable chunks, and set yourself goals- you’ll get that lovely warm, happy feeling when you tick something off (plus you then have an excuse to buy allllll the stationery for those all important to-do lists!) and it will help you manage the stress too.

You do YOU.

This is the big one. The lightbulb moment. The only thing that I insist you must do (Read this in your best teacher voice!) – Right from the outset- you need to make it all about YOU. The pair of you. YOU. Your personalities need to shine through like sunbeams. So- you love rainbow colours and kawaii style- go for it. You want a wedding full of cats because you’re both crazy cat people- go right ahead. You’re a Harry Potter nut (me too!) and you want to re-enact a feast in the great hall complete with gold goblets, floating candles and pumpkin pasties- get right in there.  It’s your day, and you need to plan it your way. Who the hell cares what Auntie Bertha thinks anyway? 


Sorry, it’s definitely not the most exciting topic, but you will need a budget, whether it’s big or small. There’s no point absolutely setting your heart on something, and getting yourself all excited, and then realising it’s waaaaaayyy out of reach. So make a budget plan, do your research and allocate your funds to your priorities first. Plus, it’s a good idea to have a little contingency fund too, and wedding insurance. You know, just in case.
This is another good moment to remind you that this is all about you. There’ll be a big crowd of busy-bodies telling you that you must spend X amount on this, and you shouldn’t spend money on that. This is your day. Plan it, and spend it, your way.

Get inspired

So I’m a proper Pinterest geek. I love nothing more than immersing myself in ideas on there and starting a new mood board. The very thought gets me all excited and I can, quite literally, lose hours doing it! But, if you have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA, it can be a bit much. The last thing you want when you’re trying to plan your alternative wedding, is stress and feeling overwhelmed.
A good place to start can be magazines- I absolutely love Rock N Roll Bride Magazine and have been lucky enough to be featured. Kat, the editor, really understands that not all brides want a perfect white wedding and features a huge range of different styles of awesome alternative weddings. She also has a blog here with even more fab content! I also love Rock My Wedding, Green Wedding Shoes, Whimsical Wonderland Weddings, Plans & Presents, Mr & Mrs Unique and Love My Dress. 

Wedding Fairs

Wedding fairs can (when chosen well) be a great source of inspiration too, as well as being able to find lots of amazing wedding vendors who get YOU. I would TOTALLY avoid generic wedding fairs- unless you’re looking to be sold weight loss pills, crooning singers and cheap polyester chair covers! You’re far better targeting ones which suit your style. You’ll find me at two this year- The Sicker Than Your Average Fair in Liverpool from 19th-20th January ( I know that’s already passed- there’ll be another later in the year so look out for it!) , and The Unconventional Wedding Festival in Lutterworth- both of these are totally different wedding fair experiences which are targeted at couples who want something a little different. I also absolutely love the Eclectic Wedding Extravaganza in Birmingham (you’ll find me on their directory too!) The Unwedding and The Indie Wedding Fair. Your venue may well hold wedding fairs and Open Days too, so look out for those!

Decide on the type of day YOU want

One thing you’ll realise early on, is that everyone will have an opinion on your day. They’ll tell you where so-and-so got married, and what caterer they used, and how lovely you’d look in this outfit or that outfit. But you need to, in the nicest way possible, tell them to keep their nose out. IT’S YOUR DAY. No-one else’s opinion matters. With that in mind, you both need to sit down and decide on the type of day that suits you. Whether that’s a big festival wedding with flower crowns and garden games, or a tiny elopement in the Scottish Highlands, it’s a choice that only you can make. Don’t let anyone else rain on your parade. 

Guest Lists

Guest lists are renowned as one of the biggest headaches of the wedding planning process. You have to invite your neighbour’s dog’s Uncle Alan because your Mum said so, and your third cousin Rita, twice removed because otherwise she’ll feel left out. BOLLOCKS you do. Your wedding, your rules. It is a great idea though to get an idea of numbers before you start venue hunting- you don’t want to fall in love with a venue and find out it’s too small for your entourage!

When and Where

Ok- so venues are the biggie. It’s likely to be your biggest expense, and you’re going to need a venue before you can book almost anything else. Try not to let it stress you out. If getting married locally is important to you, trawl the websites of local venues and start a shortlist. But if not, and the country or even the world is your oyster, search Google or Insta for venue types. Be that Industrial wedding venues, barns, tipis, or village halls, hashtags are your best friend here. When selecting a venue, keep in mind your budget, your priorities and what you get for your money. Does it include catering? Are there any corkage charges? What time is their licence until? Can you have live music? If you’re planning a humanist ceremony, nowhere is off limits! I’ve photographed weddings in fields, in marquees and tipis, even on the top of mountains, so don’t think that you have to go traditional. You can find a list of my favourite Liverpool Venues here, and a bigger list of UK venues here. 

The main cast

So some suppliers will get booked up quickly. Photographers and videographers especially. It’s a really good idea to make these folks your next port of call. I recommend doing a bit of shopping around and finding a style that you LOVE. I’m definitely more on the fun, colourful relaxed side of photography, with very little posing- a documentary approach- but you might prefer Fine Art photography, or more muted colours- look at what works for you and your wedding. Then, hit insta- again, hashtags are an amazing resource. Chat to a few photographers and videographers, make sure you ‘click’ (you’ll be spending your whole wedding day with these people!) and that their work is consistent- you could ask to see some full galleries of their work. Other suppliers to look into in the early stages depend on your priorities- so if there’s a particular caterer or band you love- ask them ASAP!

The Fun bit…

So you’ve made all the ‘big decisions’- now the fun begins! You get to get creative and find the look of your wedding. Here’s where Pinterest comes into its own! Over on my Pinterest you’ll find loads of inspo for dresses, suits, stationery, flowers, cakes, décor, themes, you name it, it’s there! Currently I’m loving jewel colours, anything space-themed, neon, leather jackets and embroidered dresses. But the nice thing about this part of the planning is that you get to totally do YOU. Pinterest is full of DIY ideas, so you can go totally bespoke. I can also recommend so many amazing suppliers for just about anything!! Remember, you don’t have to have a theme or a colour scheme- sometimes including a little bit of everything you love works just as well! 

Just bloody enjoy it

There will be moments of stress, no one is denying that. Weddings are stressful. Things will go wrong. But the best thing you can do is smile, go with it, and enjoy it! Don’t sweat the small stuff. At the end of the day, if you’re married to the one you love, you did what you came to do. All the rest- the party, the food, the dress, the decor-  is just icing on the cake. And if you need a little help and advice along the way- you know where to find me!!

Rachel Burt Photography

Hey! I'm Rach- a craft nerd, serial Netflix binging, tea-o-holic, peanut butter loving, music geek who loves to travel. I’m also a kick-ass documentary wedding photographer who loves quirky, relaxed couples who like to do things differently. I love colourful weddings and non-traditional couples planning their day, their way.
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