Ideas for non-traditional ceremonies – with or without getting married

Ideas for non-traditional ceremonies – with or without getting married

Mar 7, 2020 | ADVENTURES, ELOPEMENTS

There are lots of reasons couples decide to make commitments to each other outside of a wedding ceremony. Sometimes it’s because the concept of traditional marriage doesn’t suit you or because personal circumstances mean that a wedding isn’t possible right now (and maybe you intend to marry later).


but this is the important bit…


In your love, you get to make the rules.

You don’t need to get married to mark a commitment to each other. And if you decide to get married, you don’t need to do it the way others might expect you to.

Dancing at Kilchurn Castle, Loch Awe elopement

OK, so with that out of the way… if you’re here as a couple who wants to celebrate your love (with or without a wedding ceremony) then let’s dive into some things to think about when planning your own non-traditional ceremony.

Ritual + ceremony

The only thing that makes an act a ceremony or a ritual is the intention behind it. We take actions every day that we might consider ritual (our morning cuppa for example) and this is sacred. A ceremony marks a moment in time and it might includes some rituals in it (old or new). There is no ‘right way’ to have a ceremony. And if you think about it in that way then the opportunity to create something that is really meaningful to you is immense and exciting.

You can choose to honour traditions, whether recent or ancient (for example, a reading, vows, exchanging of rings, handfasting etc.) Or you can completely throw traditions out of the window and mark your love in your own way. For example, finishing a hike together, planting a tree, making something together, sharing the favourite stories from your journey together. It can truly be anything as long as it is meaningful and intentional as a marker of commitment.

Glencoe white cottage handfasting vows

Make an adventure of it

Who says a commitment ceremony or wedding has to be c.1-hour long on a weekend afternoon? If that doesn’t feel right to you then make an adventure out of it. Spend a couple of days or weeks celebrating your love. Use this time to share experiences as well as words.

Adventurous elopement couple walking in The Devil's Pulpit, Glen Finnick

Let your personalities shine through

This one is key – don’t be led by Pinterest beauty or wedding magazines. The best days are the ones which feel most like ‘you’.

I know this sounds a bit deep, and frankly a bit hard but there are some initial questions you can work through together to help you start to think about crafting a day which is a real reflection of you as a couple.

  • What’s your cute-meet story? Are there any clues there about what is meaningful to you?
  • What shared interests do you have?
  • What do you value most about spending time together? (i.e. sharing experiences, cosying up together, kindness, laughter etc.)
  • Ask your friends what reminds them of you as a couple – some of the things they say might surprise you!
  • What are you both passionate about? (i.e. you shared values)
  • What’s on your bucketlist?
  • What is ‘love’ to you as individuals? Write it down separately and see where you overlap
  • Ceremony aside, what does your ideal day/adventure look like?
  • If money was no object and you didn’t have to please anyone but yourselves, what would be your ideal ceremony or wedding day?
Same-sex elopement in Edinburgh

Make it as intimate as you like

Choose the people who you invite to share this event carefully. This is often the hardest part of planning any celebration but remember this moment is MOST important to you. And no one else, no matter how close, is entitled to share that. You can give permission to as many or as little people as you like. Ask yourself ‘do I want this person/people to hear me say these words or watch this ceremony’? And if it’s yes, then HOORAH, bring them as part of your tribe!

Embrace local traditions VS make your own

Depending on where you decide to hold your ceremony, you may want to investigate local traditions to see if something resonates with you. You can honour a place by embracing a local tradition or if that makes you uncomfortable, you can make your own. It’s fun to think about how you can craft a ceremony with elements you can replicate later in life. For example, renewing your vows or getting handfasted again or revisiting a planted tree.

Pouring quaich with lindisfarne mead in Glencoe - Scottish tradition

Wear whatever you want

Like anything else in a non-traditional ceremony, what you wear is entirely up to you. There is freedom to challenge or honour certain traditions. This includes a white dress or a suit/kilt. Whatever you wear – be intentional about it. You must feel amazing in what you decide.

Choose a time and season which helps you fall deeper in love

Each season has it’s strengths and challenges – you might feel called to the vibrant energy of summer or the rich cosy tones of autumn or the beautiful wilds of winter or the life-giving spring. Choose one which fits with your kind of love. Me and my husband are winter-lovers – we can’t think of anything better than cosying up by a fire after braving the elements outside.

Also choose a time to suit you – sunrise, sunset, night-time, high-noon or anytime in between. Whichever makes you feel happiest!

Too much freedom? Get some help from a friendly guide (that’s me)

If the idea of so much freedom overwhelms you then I’d be happy to help guide you through the planning process to a perfect non-traditional ceremony to suit you.


Real story of Amber + Coenraad’s handfasting commitment story

To celebrate their love and engagement, with a promise for a long future together, they asked me to document an adventure in the Scottish Highlands and facilitate a handfasting ceremony.


Interested in creating your dream non-traditional ceremony? Or eloping in the Scottish Highlands?

Get in touch with me for a chat over a cuppa (or online) about how you can make it special and unique to you.

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