How to put on a low-key indie wedding
January 25, 2007 7:28 PM   Subscribe

How to create a low-key "indie" wedding?

Our best friends are getting married. Yay! We are all a pretty low-key, laid back bunch of Vermonters. The few couples in our crowd who have gotten married have done something like picking a cool fun location to had a low key ceremony that involves dressing up in sundresses for women and button shirts for men. Generally people are married by a good friend who gets a ULC ordination. we all love food, so that is taken seriously, but is served in a low-key way. Music is generally an iPod with speakers. There are little to no decorations. Wedding objective: have as much fun as possible to celebrate the relationship of the couple. Family is secondary for many couples in our circle. Parents and siblings are likely to be the only family invited.

So, best friends have asked me to organize the next wedding event in such a fashion. They want to get married this summer on Cape Cod (family house there, and we're going to rent a few neighboring houses for everyone else.) We're thinking last week of July/first week of August and inviting everyone for a week to hang out. Personal notes: they love indie rock, food, snowboarding, sailing, and travel.

Can the Hive help me think of some fun stuff to do for such a crowd? Food ideas, music ideas, low-key flower/decorations, or anything would be really great. I want them to have a great time and for all the guest to enjoy themselves as well. Plus, I figure that there are other people out there like our group of friends that would appreciate this post.
posted by k8t to Society & Culture (17 answers total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I know about
posted by k8t at 7:28 PM on January 25, 2007

Do you also know about Offbeat Bride from our own arielmeadow?
posted by jessamyn at 7:35 PM on January 25, 2007

Response by poster: OMG Jessamyn. Now we have more stuff to look at. I knew we were not alone! TY!
posted by k8t at 7:42 PM on January 25, 2007

K8t, how can I serve you?
posted by arielmeadow at 7:45 PM on January 25, 2007

Okay, let's see. Got married in July, and we were going for essentially the same thing. We hate everything that's typically associated with weddings. A quick list of things we did to make out wedding more palatable.

For the flowers - we simply had centerpieces of daisies in Mason Jars, wrapped with a single light blue ribbon.

Food - Found an awesome caterer, and had stations, instead of serving. Much more casual. I also homebrewed all the beer. That might be taking it a little far, though.

Ceremony - We were married by one of my wife's relatives, who happens to be a very progressive Methodist Minister. She let us write the ceremony, and it ended up being a modified Unitarian ceremony.

Instead of Bachelor/Bachelorette parties, we had a guys vs. girls putt-putt match with all of our friends. The day before, instead of a rehearsal dinner, we had a non-rehearsal bbq/pool party.

We did end up getting an awesome band (mostly laid-back jazz), but our original idea was an ibook/PA. I'd go with it.

I made a CD of all my favorite indie-rawk love songs (especially the ones that my wife loves), and made copies for everyone there. The liner notes were letterpressed. Sounds cheesy, but ended up being really classy, and our friends loved it.

I wore a suit, instead of a tux.

Our friends (who are admittedly photojournalists) did our photographs. We don't have the super-traditional wedding shots, but we've got some awesome shots, and it was great for them to shoot it.

Additionally for photos, we got a photobooth. It was fantastic. Photobooth pictures are awesome, and they're great both as something the guests can take home and memoirs. Worth every penny.

All told, it ended up being a hell of a lot of fun, and very non-weddingish. And also, another recommendation for indiebride. My wife got a lot of ideas (and lost a lot of productive hours at work) through IB.
posted by god hates math at 7:46 PM on January 25, 2007 [2 favorites]

Friends of a friend had their reception at a bowling alley. The bride and the groom are both artists, and they made their invitations, inspired by some invitation ideas in this design book by Maryland Institute College of Art students. The book is not wedding specific, but I've found it to be a good way to get going on any creative project.
posted by Airhen at 8:00 PM on January 25, 2007

Oh! Love, love, love that website and i'm not even getting married. Thanks Jessamyn and Ariel!!!
posted by Ugh at 8:37 PM on January 25, 2007

A friend got me The Anti-Bride Guide when I got engaged, and it had some good non-traditional wedding ideas. Also, a lot of the tips from the Bridal Bargains book translate well to low-key weddings -- especially because there's lots of DIY ideas.

If you feel like wading through the message boards on, there are some really good ideas there too -- unfortunately, I haven't found an efficient way to sift though them. (Maybe do a search for DIY?)

As far as specific suggestions, here's a few:

- I personally love flowers as decorations, especially with an outdoor wedding. It's pretty easy to find instructions for making bouquets/centerpieces online if you want to DIY (we did for my friend's wedding, and it was surprisingly easy). If nothing local strikes you, try who has pretty good deals on many kinds of flowers, plus they'll tell you what's in season. Also, you don't need a lot - just a strategically placed arrangement or two makes a big difference.

- Candles are also awesome decorations. I got a ton of votives in glass holders from for really, really cheap. Ikea's good for that too, if you're near one. Along the same lines, luminaria are great along the aisle of a backyard wedding if it's in the evening or at night. Also for night time: if there are trees, white christmas lights or lanterns are a great touch.

- chair covers can make folding chairs look good, or you could rent garden chairs.

- Food-wise, I'd just suggest that if you're having a small wedding see if any favorite restaurants will do a catering thing for you- I would guess the quality would be higher than usual catered food and you could get some unique stuff, too. If you're not doing dinner, there are some good tea sandwich recipes out there that are pretty easy to make (if you're doing the food yourself).

- ipod with speakers sounds like a good way to go, music-wise. Maybe poll the couple and their closest friends for recommendations? I personally don't think wedding music has to be "wedding music" per se (but then again our wedding music included Morrissey and Madball, so, you know, take that as you will).

Generally, I think if you keep things simple and understated, it's hard to go wrong.
posted by AV at 8:51 PM on January 25, 2007

If you want to get seriously laid back, I recommend pot-luck dinner. Especially since you say that you all love food. You could request that guests not get you presents (unless you really do need all the home furnishing stuff that usually comes with a wedding), but instead invest their time in cooking a great dish for you. Have them bring the recipe, which you can compile into a wedding day recipe book to pull out for anniversaries to come.

Point is, to me simple and understated means taking emphasis away from money spending and placing it on your friends and family and how significant it is that they share your wedding day with you.
posted by cubby at 9:11 PM on January 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

I grew up in Arizona, which is where we celebrated our wedding, and just wanted to capture some of the flavor of southwestern backyard fiestas. That kind of informed the whole thing, from music (lots of latin-flavored instrumentals) to snacks to booze.

We had a backyard cocktail party with homemade sangria, fresh-squeezed lemonade, a keg of beer and a few cases of bottled water. We had chips and salsa and guacamole and we made a few mix cds (it was pre-iPod), plus we had a marachi trio who played for about 45 minutes or so (special gift from a friend). We decorated with balloons and flowers in mason jars, and had bride and groom piƱatas.

Later we had a dinner at a restaurant that was special to us--reserved one of their large rooms and arranged a per-plate rate and to bring our own wine and cake. We also played the same mix CDs at the restaurant.

It was a "wear what you want" kind of thing, lots of sundresses and guayabera shirts, all our nieces wore their best princess costumes. The whole thing didn't cost more than a couple thousand dollars and the vast majority of that was for the dinner. Costco really hooked us up for the backyard part of it all.
posted by padraigin at 9:20 PM on January 25, 2007

ipod with speakers sounds like a good way to go, music-wise. Maybe poll the couple and their closest friends for recommendations? I personally don't think wedding music has to be "wedding music" per se (but then again our wedding music included Morrissey and Madball, so, you know, take that as you will).

AV, in my experience, this fell flat on its face for one wedding I went to. About a maximum of six people were dancing, and then only for two songs.

I think a DJ with strict instructions not to play the Chicken Song is the minimum.
posted by randomination at 4:32 AM on January 26, 2007

DJ's are a matter of personal taste. We both think they're rather trite....but then again, we're not having a dance at the reception, either - just a nice dinner.

One thing we're doing differently is using a website to disseminate information to guests. We included the URL in small print on the invitations, and guests can go there to get directions, find lodging, etc. It's currently very much under construction, so be gentle.

We are also having a friend officiate us. We're both pretty much atheists, so we didn't want an overly religious ceremony. We've written our own vows, and a childhood friend will marry us.

Something else to consider would be getting a non-traditional cake. We've spurned the white wedding cake in favor of a croquembouche made by a local bakery.

I'm still trying to talk the bride-to-be into letting us ride away from the wedding on my '64 Vespa Allstate...
posted by kaseijin at 5:46 AM on January 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

If you're friends with a band (a band that would be cool-indie-wedding appropriate), don't discount the possibility of a live music/ipod combination. That's what Mr. Paleography and I had and it was one of the best parts of the reception--they played our favorite songs, learned a couple of covers for us, and were generally excellent and not at all wedding-bandish. They also volunteered to have mp3 playlists ready for when they weren't playing, and just hooked the ipod or whatever into the PA. Or something.
posted by paleography at 8:50 AM on January 26, 2007

randomination, I get what you're saying - but it all depends on the guests. I agree that random aunts/uncles/grandparents/distant relatives probably wouldn't be down for an indie music mix. But since the OP said it's a small group of mostly friends that will be attending and that they all have similar tastes, I think it would be appropriate. An ipod would definitely be out of place at a banquet hall wedding, but that doesn't sound like the kind of wedding the OP is planning.

As an aside, we did what paleography did - (an awesome) local band with a mix CD playing when they took their breaks. It went over really well. Not many people danced, but frankly we were surprised anyone did as our guests really aren't the dancing type anyway. It wasn't a "typical" wedding, but it was a good time nonetheless.
posted by AV at 11:01 AM on January 26, 2007

You can give everyone a disposable camera and collect them at the end. Have them take a picture of their name first if you want to give credit. Don't forget the children, their shots can be funny, as well as pictures of them taking pictures.
posted by StickyCarpet at 12:10 PM on January 26, 2007

I would avoid TheKnot (sorry AV) unless you want to feeling like killing the other brides. I read it for months leading up to my wedding, hoping that I would find something useful -- all I found were girls trying to out-glamorize each other with their "personal" touches (which were just like everyone else's personal touches).

I say: start with what they envision the wedding to be, what they want to be part of the symbolism of the ceremony, and work from there. Do they want to have guests sign a snowboard? Do they want guests to have activities, or should it be less structured? Do they want to be facing the guests and have a ceremony "in the round", or do they want to stand at the front, as if at an altar? Do they like bold colors, or do they want to stick with a more monochrome palate? Do they want anything special during the ceremony, like a reading? Do they need anyone to be run interference on, like divorced parents or siblings that aren't speaking to each other? This type of thing.

Then work from there. If they need someone to run interference, for instance, maybe you need to assign seats? If they want their sports hobbies to be highlighted, how about having some contests for guests? I'd suggest getting yourself some help, if only to split up the detail work that seems to snowball in the weeks before the ceremony.

Anyway, if you're looking for some advice, feel free to drop me an e-mail [a#hiz#ny#@#gmail, remove #s].
posted by parilous at 12:14 PM on January 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

There's already a lot of great advice here, so I'll only add suggestions I haven't seen so far:

- Plan for rain, hope for sun. Also think about what you'll do if it rained the previous days and the ground is soaked and soft. Talk to a tent company asap.

- Have the event catered (w/buffet or stations) by a local bbq/crabshack/deli/sandwich place. They might even do it on the cheap, because it's a bit of publicity. This also means you can get away with paper/plasticware, because it's what that kind of food is served on.

- Ask friends to bring flowers for centerpieces. My sister once cut down her wildflower garden for a friend's wedding because there was some kind of florist emergency/debacle. Sis and a few friends spent an hour or two before the wedding putting together centerpieces (cheap glass vases from craft stores are perfect), and they were beautiful.
Ideally, you'd want to do this maybe a day in advance.
This won't fly if you're already asking people to bring the food (potluck).

- No matter how informal please PLEASE always assign guests to tables. They can always swap around informally at the ceremony, but it's nice to be assigned a place to put down your drink/purse/jacket, and maybe know a few people at the table. The very worst time I ever had at a wedding was when there wasn't any more room at the table with the only people I knew and I ended up sitting with strangers who ignored me the whole time.

- See if you can borrow a little sailboat like a Sunfish to have out on the lawn and keep all the beer in, with ice. I've seen this done with canoes; it's a great decoration, and practical too! (Just make sure boom is safely out of guests' way.)

- DJs can be terrible, it's true, but so can a very long playlist that's not in synch with what's going on at the party. At the very least, have a trusted (preferably non-essential) guest be in charge of making sure the playlist reflects where the crowd is 'at'.

- Have a familiar face MC! With or without a DJ, it's great to have a friendly face moving things along at the reception, if there are things to move, like dances, toasts, cake-cutting. Our Best Man MC'd our wedding (we kindly made the DJ understand that the Best Man's voice was the one we wanted to hear for announcements).
The MOST important job of the MC is to know when to do what, so maybe you'll be the MC, or a friend who can get a full briefing and stay on task all evening.

- My two cents re: TheKnot: they have a great checklist that will help you make sure you're not forgetting something. I used this, and enjoyed checking off all the stuff we weren't going to do (videographer, etc) - very satisfying. They also have a super-easy little website-maker that you can put up asap for people, and then if you make a 'real' website, just put a link on their page to the real one.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 1:03 PM on January 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

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