The Case For Non-Traditional Wedding Ceremonies

or How to Make Weddings Fun Again

We’ve all been to a wedding ceremony before. Typically, held in a church or religious building, sometimes somewhere more interesting if the couple wants to be more unique or has enough money or some combination of the two. But typically, the ceremony goes relatively untouched. Every culture has its own wedding traditions, sure, but within those cultures, weddings tend to be fairly similar.

To make things worse, if you’re in your mid to late ‘20’s, chances are you’ve been going to a lot of weddings; and let’s be frank, they tend to blend together. Sure, you’re happy for the couple, and sure, it was a beautiful ceremony, just like the last three you’ve been to. Mostly, however, you’re just looking forward to the reception so you can eat, drink, and dance the night away.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are the court-house weddings. This choice may be more common among queer couples who don’t want to get involved with the religious aspects of a regular ceremony, and even failing that, wedding culture is just dripping in heteronormativity, so who can blame them for just wanting to skip to the good part?

Still, where’s the fun in that? The drama? The excitement? There must be some way to have a ceremony while making it interesting and not cripplingly religious or hetero-normative, right? Of course there is!

The secret is that wedding traditions are completely made up! That’s right! Everything from the song choice to the typical fish or chicken dinner options are all arbitrary. What this means is that your wedding can be celebrated however you like, tailored specifically to the personality of you and your partner.

Case in point; the wedding of Soren DeNiz and Lune Stokes, a nonbinary couple who sought to make their wedding anything but traditional.

An intimate affair held in the beautiful Phipps Conservatory; the ceremony immediately bucked tradition by replacing “Here Comes the Bride.” Feeling that the gendered aspect of the traditional wedding song didn’t quite fit the vibe, the couple chose the song “Romantic Flight” from DreamWorks Animation’s 2010 film How to Train Your Dragon.

The couple made their grand entrance donned in custom purple and yellow pastel suits, with flower crowns perched above their beaming faces. The colors, the flowers and the smiles conjured images of spring and renewal. The start of something new and beautiful, while maintaining the personality and identity of the couple.

At the front of the room, the spouses-to-be were received by the cowboy officiant Michael Murphy, a close friend of the couple and a dabbler in Wild West aesthetics. From here the ceremony was off, with friends and family giving speeches, reading poems, and giving dramatic readings of popular love songs, alternating between English and Spanish, reflecting Soren’s cultural background.

Perhaps the highlight of the ceremony was two new activities introduced into this wedding’s cannon: the Tying of the Knot Ceremony and the Mixing of The Fruit Juices.

 If you ever thought that weddings could use some more audience participation, feel free to take some inspiration from the Tying of the Knot Ceremony. A large length of rope was passed along to every member of the audience where they would each make a small knot in it before passing it along to the next audience member before making it back to the couple to tie their own knot. On the nose? Maybe. Adorable and extremely memorable? Absolutely.

The next event was the Combining of the Fruit Juices, where the different juices represented different aspects of their relationship like love and commitment. The couple poured the juices into each other’s cups and drank. Symbolizing a combination of their values and the commitments they made to each other.

This is the part that I acquiesce that, sure, there were some traditional aspects that were maintained, but since the ceremony was so bursting with personality thus far, such things can be forgiven.

Vows were exchanged, rings were presented, and the deal was sealed with a kiss, but, all things considered, I’d argue these are essential to any wedding ceremony, traditional or not.

So there you have it. Yes, weddings still can be fun AND not painfully religious or heteronormative. At the end of the day, your special day is all about the love between you and your partner, so why not make the ceremony as unique as the love you share.

Oh, and of course there was also the reception, where guests were indeed invited to eat, drink, and dance the night away. But, hey, as the saying goes, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it!

Travis Barkefelt is a longtime Pittsburgh resident and even longer time bisexual with an interest in creating and sharing stories that connect and empower members of the community.