Advice From a Bride About Having a Nontraditional Wedding

So excited to share this one! As more and more couples opt to have less traditional weddings by including only the traditions that are meaningful to them or changing existing ones to reflect who they are, I’m find it so helpful to ask the couples directly about their experience.

Mattie and Jared share their experience with planning a nontraditional wedding at El Rio, a bar in the Mission in San Francisco.

I met up with them at Proper Hotel for a some family portraits and quick couples portraits.


While we waited for our ride to El Rio, Mattie and Jared transferred their vows from phone / head to paper.


We didn’t want to be limited by a guest count and we wanted a great party. We were discouraged that most traditional options didn’t deliver this in what we believed was a ‘reasonable’ cost and get the personal experience we wanted. We assumed our ‘non traditional’ approach meant simple and inexpensive but that’s not true, designing an experience that feels like you is in fact custom. It takes just as much if not more thought and vision than a more traditional, generic wedding. What worked for us was to focus on moments and then deliberately build structure from there. What did we want to feel like at each interaction and how did we want others to feel?
— Mattie and Jared
We designed the ceremony in a way that would make us (and our guests comfortable) so we could really lean into the seriousness and personal nature of this moment. We saw everyone before the ceremony (no aisle walking) in hopes to combat any nerves (especially for our vows) and it was true, being greeted by our loved ones gave us so much energy and love that any anxiety slipped away. We had our parents gather everyone (setting the tone) and each shared their wishes for us. We had our friends officiate (a couple who’s marriage we admire and friendship adore) and they wrote an incredibly touching ceremony for us. We stripped out formal call and responses and built the ceremony script using our language so it felt natural and truthful and ultimately so that we and our guests felt connected in this deeply vulnerable moment. And because El Rio has such an amazing back patio, everyone stood, huddling around us creating closeness and we loved the ability to see everyone’s face.
— Mattie and Jared

What was the most memorable part of the day?

M&J: “Our ceremony. We don’t often stop and lock eyes with our partners and tell them how deeply we love them. This is a moment not to miss and the vulnerability it requires is worth it. Sharing our vows was intimate, sweet and irreplaceable.”


MJ’s Brass Boppers played immediately following their ceremony for a loud New Orleans party that eventually ended up with a parade down Mission Street, stopping traffic (for just a few seconds).

There is no other experience where ALL of your friends and family are in the same place. You hear this time and again from other people when you tell tell them you’re planning a wedding but can’t decide how big it will be. We understood this in concept - and opted for a large wedding - but you can’t quite grasp just how special and meaningful it will be to see everyone from all stages of your life there, showing up specifically for you, until you’re in the midst of it. The significance of that feeling, the truly once-in-a-lifetime experience, it’s an incredible surprise.
— Mattie and Jared

Mattie and Jared also included the cutting of the cake with the family sword!

M&J: “We created the environment and our friends and family brought the love, the words, and the energy that made our wedding so special.

People have remarked that the wedding felt like "us." This means the world to us and proves that you can do what you want for a wedding, it just takes some intentional decisions.”