Help us plan a decentralized wedding reception!
July 23, 2015 1:35 PM   Subscribe

"Can't travel? Hate the relatives? Let US bring the wedding to YOU!" That's our upcoming pitch to family/friends, anyway. Help us elope and eat our cake, too.

My fiance and I are going to elope, but with a twist: we plan to travel afterwards to 5 or so cities across the US to meet up with various pockets of family and friends. For each city, we'll do a few local activities and then have 1 or 2 nice meals together. Instead of a traditional wedding registry, we'll ask folks to help chip in on our travel/lodging expenses.

This venture could conceivably span over an entire year, so we can take advantage of fun seasonal activities. Neither the fiance or I are especially schmoopy and we're certainly not religious. But we are toying with the idea of turning these parties into a sort of decentralized wedding reception.

I could use help brainstorming wedding reception cliches that are typical to the American experience. In particular, cliches that can be fulfilled (or alluded to) outside of the wedding reception environment.

Example: The Chicken Dance. We plan to go to an awesome German Restaurant on a polka night for this.

Prospective metro areas: Detroit/Ann Arbor, Orlando/Ft. Myers, Atlanta, DC, Austin/Houston.

Difficulty mode: nothing overly gendered or related to having kids. (We're a trans couple usually misread as cishet and we don't want our queerness erased in this pursuit of kitsch.) We wouldn't consider something like flowers gendered, but many bride/groom traditions are.

Looking for general ideas or specific venues, whatever works -- we're planning this pretty far in advance. Probably only 1 or 2 kitsch ideas per city (though we'll do photos in each).
posted by Wossname to Grab Bag (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Feeding each other cake with your fingers!
posted by foxfirefey at 1:39 PM on July 23, 2015

It might be nice to say a few words either to each other or about each other at each event (like, abbreviated wedding vows -- we are so happy to be together, yadda yadda), and then maybe invite anyone who wanted to say something to chime in with a toast or a reading?

You could also bring some kind of photo album, polaroid/digital camera, or guest book around with you as you travel, to invite people to leave you notes or selfies. And if you had a hashtag, you could keep track of all the photos people post on social media across all the locations.
posted by likeatoaster at 1:45 PM on July 23, 2015 [4 favorites]

Getting drunk -- bar crawl
Best Man/Maid of Honor Toast -- brunch (toast, get it?)
Throwing the bouquet (too gendered?) -- arboretum/park picnic
posted by Rock Steady at 1:58 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

You could do a wedding photo type lineup with everyone who has come to each event. You could assign things like flower "girl" to your great uncle and best "man" to a 3 year old -- make some signs like flower uncle and best nephew -- even though it's gendered you can make it non-gendered.

Show the photos off at the later events you have. Not everyone hates their other relatives, and part of the fun of a wedding is getting to see people.

It's also nice to have photos later, once people have gotten older or passed away. Even if you are only getting one set of professional wedding photos, take the time to get everyone in photos at each stop.

Edit: I don't know the non-gendered term for nephew/niece, but use that.
posted by yohko at 2:18 PM on July 23, 2015 [5 favorites]

You obviously know your friends and family, and it could well be that they will all *love* the idea. However, to me it seems grabby.

If you want to elope, great. If you want to travel as a married couple to see your peeps, wonderful. But to ask friends and family to foot the bill because you aren't asking them to travel for the wedding strikes me as tacky. Clearly, YMMV.
posted by girl flaneur at 2:35 PM on July 23, 2015 [35 favorites]

So when you have meals with your friends and relatives in these various cities, will you and your SO be picking up the tab for everyone's meals? I think that's the only way you can justify asking people to chip in for your travel expenses.
posted by merejane at 2:56 PM on July 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Agreeing with girl flaneur, and, if you elope, you...elope. There isn't an "elope and still have people wedding it up with you" option. I think people will be happy to see you, and, then, a bit put out on finding out that it is a visit not with a strict "we wanted to see you" flavour, but a "we want you to celebrate us and give us money" twist.

I re-read your question a few times and still don't really understand what the idea is, I don't think. Have multiple small pretend weddings, asking people to chip in for these, and what are good ideas for this? It sounds -- not even half-baked, as ideas go. One-eighth baked, perhaps.

It is difficult to picture five people in a restaurant in normal attire dancing the horah. Most people find dumb reception traditions, well, dumb, but tolerable in the context of a wedding. Outside of that context, I don't think people will enjoy any of the possibilities here.

Going from place to place and celebrating with your friends and family, minus the pretence that it is a wedding and there should be presents and dances, on the other hand, sounds like a first-rate way to spend a year and celebrate a new union. That part should totally be a go.
posted by kmennie at 3:08 PM on July 23, 2015 [10 favorites]

I like the idea of having something that threads all of these vents together. Like you make some big batch of whatever food (cookie dough, cupcake batter, I don't know) and at every stop everyone gets to have some of the Wedding Snack that is actually shared with everyone all year long. I can't speak to the finances issue of it, but I think the idea of a non-wedding wedding might sound appealing to you (as it does to me) but maybe not as much to people who actually like weddings, so you may want to work on the wording/explanation some. I think "We want to celebrate our special news with you at a special event!" is cool. The "We want to have a wedding but over a long time and with each person only getting part of a wedding" is not going to resonate as much.
posted by jessamyn at 3:12 PM on July 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

My favorite pictures when my sisters and I have been together are all our hands put out like we're showing off our rings.

I think some sort of picture with each group would be good. It's very "weddingy" but also "family reuniony" and... nice.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 3:14 PM on July 23, 2015

Yes, we know our family and friends. We all like to spend money on experiences, not things. People are getting hung-up on the registry comment. We're only doing that for the few people who feel they must buy us something.

We have a history of doing things like this and my question is not one that is concerned with how this is going to be received.

We're looking for fun ideas to make our post-marriage visits more "wedding-like" in ways that could be overt or subtle. We want to distinguish that year of visits from every other year of visits. Having a picnic at a garden, for example, is a wonderful idea that alludes to the tradition of decorating with flowers. Thanks.
posted by Wossname at 3:15 PM on July 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

I think you should have some kind of personalized party favors made up and distribute them to people everywhere you visit. Engraved wine glasses, printed kipahs, whatever seems appropriate, but they should say "WOSSNAME & PARTNER, Together Forever, August 3rd 2015-May 15th 2016" or whatever the actual dates of your jaunt will include.

Also make sure you record the date you visited each place, since you will now have a whole palette of anniversary dates on which to revisit them.

I don't think you're at all out of line in asking for people to chip in for travel, since this trip could be considered a combo honeymoon and wedding reception and people register for honeymoon expenses all the time. You're not asking people to buy you a plane ticket in lieu of getting one for themselves, you're asking for a travel contribution in lieu of a wedding gift. (Though I do think that if you're billing these get-togethers as mini-receptions you should be on the hook for the cost of the dinner/drinks/picnic/whatever.)
posted by contraption at 3:51 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

My wife and I were planning on eloping and then doing something similar. In the end we just invited everyone to Vegas (flights are so cheap it's almost like they're subsidized by the casinos) and just saw everyone at once. Folks made new friends, family got together. It was in the end probably cheaper than what you're planning on doing, and it was for damn sure an experience that no one has forgotten or regretted.
posted by infinitewindow at 3:56 PM on July 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

When I got married, it was important to us to make our commitment in front of our family and friends, to have them participate and witness and celebrate. So, I would definitely do some sort of ceremony in each place, perhaps readings. I'd run a video of the previous ones, as well, and probably a slide show of family and friends. You could get an album, and ask people at each event to write draw, etc., something to add to the album. I would also try to do group shots; I think it's fun to see everyone together. It's a terrific idea, fun for you and everyone.
posted by theora55 at 4:10 PM on July 23, 2015

Similar to contraption's comment: would it be too kitschy/self-important to have shirts printed up like a rock band would for a tour? "The Wossnames, Wedded Bliss Tour" or whatever, with cities and dates on the back. You could come up with a cute logo, and if the shirt idea doesn't seem right maybe you could do postcards instead as invitations. Even a "Save the Date(s)," which is wedding-y.

Some cliched photo ideas:
"getting ready" (you could pretend to make a big deal out of putting on whatever normal clothes you're planning on putting on?),
garter removal/toss (you could throw some substitute...a sock? something related to each city?),
being 'given away' (you could both do it, and have someone chosen at each place to do it--your five year old niece, for instance).

If you're doing a "tour," you could even have a mix CD/flash drive/download from a wedding website as a party favor, with songs selected for each city.
posted by spelunkingplato at 4:15 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Congratulations to you and your partner on your engagement!

Could you ask someone (or two or three people) in each location to coordinate that location's events? Perhaps run it by some of your friends and family first to see what they recommend? I'm sure there are people who would be honored to play the hosting role; plus, it takes the pressure off of you as well as makes it seem more like you're the gracious guests of honor rather money-grubbing partiers on the go. (I'm not saying you two are that at all, and you obviously know your friends and family best! I just think its important to be careful with wording and make sure it's clear that it's all flexible.)

Personally, I'd rather have someone say, "Hey, we'd love to come to your city to celebrate our recent elopement! We'll be there May 3-5. Would you like to meet up?!" and then let me be the first to suggest activities. I feel the same for sharing expenses: as the host, I'd rather be the first to offer than be asked to pony up (but I know there are different familial/cultural/regional/etc. approaches.) Receiving a detailed itinerary for a weekend my own city might feel overwhelming when it comes to timing and prices. (Of course, you sound mindful and perhaps all it'd take was a note that "people are welcome to come to any or all activities!") I think that's something to keep in mind: when people travel to a wedding, they plan to focus on the wedding itself. If the wedding activities are local, guests will likely have their day-to-day local stuff to contend with.

Have you been to Offbeat Bride? They've got a great inclusive wedding planning community there, and I'm sure they'd have terrific ideas for you, too.
posted by smorgasbord at 5:33 PM on July 23, 2015

I did something similar - (eloped, then went around and visited family and friends around the country).

One of the things I did when I was gathering addresses and figuring out where to go was ask people what they liked about where they lived - what's that thing they showed out of towners? And then we took those answers and did our own research and found some really cool stuff that way. Plus, it's always fun to do things with people who are really enthusiastic about doing them.

We didn't bother with a lot of the traditional reception things, but we did have a guest book. We told people to write or draw whatever they liked, and since there were fewer people at each stop and they had a lot more time than they would at a normal reception, we got some really awesome things - and allusions to things that happened during the trip.

Similar to contraption's comment: would it be too kitschy/self-important to have shirts printed up like a rock band would for a tour?

I totally did this - we only printed up t-shirts for the people who specified they wanted them and gave us their size (plus a few extras) and they were a hit. I'm actually wearing mine now. It was a little pricer than the typical party favor, but definitely worth it. Temporary tattoos was another thing we floated around - not sure what the pricing would be on that, but it could be fun.

Plus our invites had DINTY_MOORE & MR. MOORE'S US WEDDING TOUR with the tour dates for all of the locations on one side, and then a small script at the bottom that said 'tickets enclosed'. The other side had a pocket and a little card with the specific location's details.
posted by dinty_moore at 9:04 PM on July 23, 2015

Also, for the registry thing - we were thinking of setting up one of those honeymoon fund sites and just put our wedding trip on there - we ended up deciding against it because of the amount of money they ended up taking out per transaction. It's still an option for you guys. We also encouraged people not to give us Things and instead help us out - by doing cake testing in a far away city*, for example, or by picking us up at the airport. My mother-in-law got her own event to plan, which worked out well.

As a warning, I still got pushback from my relatives that must buy me a thing, preferably a kitchen thing, and new knives were an unacceptable kitchen thing to ask for. My husband had no such issues. People are weird about weddings.

Paper flowers are something that are wedding like, easy to transport, and won't go bad. I got my wedding flowers off etsy - they were made out of old maps for extra thematic resonance. Depending on how crafty you are, you can make these yourself.

*things that will make it feel more like a wedding: Cake. I promise, it works.
posted by dinty_moore at 9:24 PM on July 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

We are kind of doing the same thing! For DC we are putting in the most effort because that's where we live, so you may not want to go as far as we are, but re:venue, several Maryland state parks have pavilions with beautiful forest/lake views you can rent all day for a couple hundred bucks.
posted by solotoro at 8:44 AM on July 24, 2015

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