It Doesn’t Have To Be A Church: A Short List of Alternative Ceremony Venue Ideas

So, I got married in a cute little chapel. It was my way of trying to appease the traditionalists in my family, I guess. And it was really adorable, with a history that I actually had a part in, seeing as it was the original chapel on the grounds of the once-small school I had attended. But…



Hindsight is a funny thing. Nowadays, if I did it all over again, the location of my ceremony is the biggest thing about my wedding day that I would change. (Here’s the part where my husband cracks the obligatory “I’d change the bride, ha ha ha!” joke that usually results with me rolling my eyes and ignoring him. True Love, I tell you.) And nowadays? There are so many more options available. Not that they weren’t available 10 years ago, granted, but with the expansion of social media and the interwebs, I find the information is much more accessible. If you’re not overly religious/into the whole Church Wedding scene and are looking to get married somewhere that better suits you & your lifestyle, there are a lot of alternative options out there!

Stay with me folks; this isn’t going to be an advertising blog post, I promise. It’s not even a little bit sponsored. (*cough* I should be so lucky *cough*)

I have compiled a list of some ceremony venue ideas to inspire and delight. I’m using stock photos and am deliberately not naming any actual venues, but if you’re like me and love to google, I’m sure you’ll find some prime local examples.

1. Gardens/Parks

Okay, so an outdoor wedding has its risks (particularly with weather – always have a Plan B!) but with our usually lovely climate, Garden Ceremonies can be utterly breathtaking. Photos amongst the foliage pop with colour and there’s a real sense of freedom that comes with being outside. Plus, any little kids can run around to their hearts’ content without fear of causing too much of a disruption to the ceremony. Winning!

2. A Library or Old Bookstore

Don’t laugh. I’m a bibliophile. There’s something kind of magical in the idea of being surrounded by literature and history, and the smell of old books adds all sorts of whimsy. Yeah, I’ll admit, this may be a bit of a hipster idea but, damn it all, it appeals. And if I’m imagining the library from Disney’s animated Beauty and the Beast while I type this, it’s not my fault. That place STILL features in my dreams.

3. An Old Theatre (either stage or cinema, though I do feel that stage would work better)

Once again, history and architecture play a big factor in how awesome I think this idea is. Not to mention, imagine saying your vows while standing on a stage in front of your friends and family…Oh! and the big, red, velvet curtains being drawn to reveal the groom as he waits for his bride to come walking down the aisle of the theatre, with twin spotlights that eventually become one in the centre of the stage. Swoon much? (Yeah, alright, I’ll admit I’m also imagining this as some great, big, choreographed musical number. It’s a niche, I’ll concede that.)

4. Your Own Backyard/Home

If you or someone close to you owns a property with enough space to accommodate your guests (and the scenery fits your needs) why not host an epic party at home? It’s not only great in terms of budget, but there’s something to be said about being yourselves at home, about being somewhere that you’re comfortable and happy and relaxed. If you’re trying to avoid having too formal a day, this is always a nice, casual option, and there are a bunch of hire companies out there with seating, tables, decorations and so on who can make the organisational side of this option a lot easier.

5. The Reception Venue

So many restaurants, cafés and other assorted reception venues now offer the ability to host the ceremony on the premises as well. Some have dedicated ceremony rooms separate to the dining room, others can arrange seating to create an aisle and central ceremony point in the same room. This option is very convenient as guests don’t have to travel from one location to another, however the logistics of photography will come into play. That said, your guests will be happy to stay and nibble on Hors d’Oeuvres and have a few drinks while you and the bridal party head out to have photos taken between the ceremony and the reception, I’m sure.

6. On A Boat

Okay, so that’s an image of The Lonely Island, because I’m now singing “I’m On A Boat” to myself like the dweeb I am, but in all seriousness, if you don’t suffer from sea-sickness, this is an awesome ceremony location. I’m not even just saying that because I want a free boat ride (because you’d want to have your ceremony while docked so that you can boot the celebrant off afterwards) but because it’s much like the combined ceremony/reception idea…only you’re on a boat. Boats are not only romantic, but you get dinner and a boat ride. Kitsch? Maybe. Fun? Naturally!

7. The Beach

Much like Garden Ceremonies, Beach Ceremonies have the charm of bringing you back to nature. Again, you’d need a plan B in case of weather issues, but there’s nothing quite the same as soft, white sand and beautiful blue-green waves serving as the backdrop to your declaration of love and commitment.

8. Theme Parks

For the child in all of us, who can honestly say that getting married at a theme park doesn’t sound like a tonne of fun? Imagine the photo opportunities! And most of the local theme parks these days have wedding packages, complete with receptions at their restaurants. (I’m aware that the current atmosphere around our local theme parks is a bit shaky, but I still think this is a really different and fun idea.)

Okay, so, as I said, it’s a short list to get your creative juices flowing. If you’ve found some other ideas, throw them my way! I’d love to hear/read them.

Fitting In: Musing About Wedding Dresses and Catwalks

Alright, so this post is likely going to come off more like a rant, but I spent last weekend at a bridal expo in a booth with a bird’s eye view of the catwalk and, though the dresses were absolutely stunning, I noticed something that, while unsurprising, disappointed me.

The dresses -and the absolutely gorgeous women in them- were all tiny. Not many looked as though their styles would be particularly flattering if they were larger or put on a more voluptuous frame. More disappointing still, at least one of the talented designers happened to be a slightly more curvaceous lady herself, but none of the designs she showcased seemed to reflect her understanding of the needs of larger women. I wanted to rush the stage, grab her by the shoulders and shake her while yelling “There’s a hole in the market here! You could make a mint! Big girls want to feel pretty too!” (But because I didn’t want to be thrown out of the expo, I refrained. Big of me, right?)

And, look, I understand that the fabrics used in these pieces are expensive (if I hear the words “imported from *Insert European Nation*” one more time…), so the smaller the dress, the cheaper they are to make, but there were a lot of women of varying sizes and shapes at that expo and if I was disappointed to find a lack of diversity in the fashion on parade, I’m almost certain that I wasn’t the only one.

It’s not to say that the fashion shows were disappointing -they were utterly breathtaking, and definitely fun to watch- but they were also a little bit soul crushing. “I’d never look good in any of those” was a thought that filtered through my brain, and I’m not even shopping for a wedding dress!

Now here comes the real rant.

It hit me, of course, that this really perpetuates one of the main things that keeps many businesses in the Bridal industry alive – insecurity of self. All these brides-to-be are constantly shown body standards that are nearly impossible to attain and maintain…but that’s okay, because there are gym memberships and diet plans and supplements and all sorts of businesses on hand to help make you feel like if you don’t shed the weight, you don’t deserve the pretty dresses. (I was using candy as a ruse to draw people to my booth, and the number of times I was told “I can’t, I need to lose weight to look good in my dress” was nearly heartbreaking. Ladies, you’re all beautiful! One Hershey’s Kiss won’t change that.)

What these businesses don’t understand, though, is that we’re living in the era of self-empowerment. The #LoveYourself, #LoveYourBody and #EffYourBeautyStandards movements are gaining more and more momentum everyday. Shopping on the internet means that no longer do brides have to settle for a small selection of dresses from local suppliers – they can source them from out of state, or even out of the country.

I feel like these dressmakers here are doing themselves a disservice by not catering to a market of brides willing to spend money on pretty things that make them feel good. But what would I know? I only had to suffer the same disappointment when I was searching for the perfect gown for myself a decade ago… How has everything else about the bridal industry changed so much in the last 10 years except for this? Or maybe it has -I didn’t get to go and look at their stalls as I was manning my own- but I didn’t get that impression from the catwalk shows. And that’s the crux of my little whinge here, I guess.

What I’d love to see at the next expo I attend is a bit more representation on the catwalk for ladies with more ample figures. Bring on the Tess Hollidays and Tess Munsters and the Ashley Grahams and the Liris Crosses and anyone and everyone in between. Bring on the dress designers that aren’t afraid to showcase their talent at making every bride of every size feel like a damn princess.

As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter what you look like, you deserve to feel perfect for you on your big day, and you should have the same opportunities to shop for it -and to feel represented and included- as everyone else.

End rant.