Wedding Planning 101: 5 Alternatives to Traditional Wedding Flowers

Flowers are one of the basic building blocks that come together to create a wedding day; as ubiquitous as the cake or the dress or the music. But we know that traditional bouquets might not be for everyone – and you know by now that we’re all about putting together the wedding that suits you best! Whether for financial, aesthetic, or eco-conscious reasons, you may find yourself considering some alternatives to hiring an expert florist. The crafty among you are likely ready to roll up your sleeves and put your own time, labor, and personality into your floral accents. There are also some spectacularly creative artists out there who can create works of art for you, if DIY isn’t really your thing (we love some of the freaking awesome stuff that can be found on Etsy, for example). However you decide to put together the blooms that will decorate your celebration, here are a few of our favorite substitutes for traditional flowers:


1. Paper

While it may not be the first material to come to mind, paper flowers are actually stunning. There are a ton of options if this look suits you. We’ve seen flowers made from pages of books and/or sheet music, a gorgeous nod to couples especially fond of reading and music. Flowers made from plain colored paper and some paint can also be super pretty.

paper_boutonniere2. Fabric

Another great option for the offbeat couple is flowers made from various fabrics – from silk to burlap to felt to even crocheted. And bonus, you get to keep them forever!

fabric_bouquet3. Artificial

Not all artificial flowers look obviously fake, trust us. Craft stores carry some beautifully convincing options if this is more your style. One thing we love about using artificial flowers is that it can be a cost-saving and barely detectable alternative, should your favorite real blooms be out of season.

artificial_flower_centerpiece4. Market Flowers

Some couples choose to purchase their flowers the day before or even the day of their wedding from their local market, leaving to chance and creativity their ultimate floral look. We totally understand why this method may not be for every bride and groom, but for those couples with a laidback, bohemian style, some floral talents, and a little extra time, this can be an inexpensive and creative challenge.

market_flower_bouquet5. Non-florals

Okay, this category encompasses a whole range of things. A personal fave: bouquets with brooches/jewels/etc. Whether they make up the entire bouquet or serve as accents to other flowers, we seriously love the sparkle and elegance these bring. Another interesting, fun option is bouquets (or centerpieces, or boutonnieres) that are all greenery: succulents, herbs, etc. We’re pretty much talking about bouquets made of cool stuff: feathers, Christmas ornaments, seashells, or anything else you’re really into.



Are you thinking about going nontraditional with your wedding flowers? Have you seen something cool that we didn’t mention here? Tell us in the comments!

Tradition Tuesday: Wedding Food

It’s that time again! We’re thrilled to bring you a brand new Tradition Tuesday, where we focus on one wedding day tradition and our ideas on how couples can make it their own. As huge proponents of the nontraditional wedding, we always strive to make sure that our brides and grooms’ celebrations reflect their personalities; part of this means putting their own spin on the wedding traditions of days past. This week we talk about the food you choose for your big day.


If thinking of wedding food brings to mind a multi-course dinner complete with a limp salad and dry chicken, boy do we have news for you. There are so many awesome, exciting, and delicious alternatives to a (boring) plated dinner that we don’t even know where to start! Whether you’re looking for a slight update to the traditional seated meal or something totally cool and memorable, we know your guests will appreciate the extra thought you put into providing a kick-ass dining experience. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

1. Buffets

Buffets have been around so long that they’re kind of their own tradition already. A more casual, personal option for your guests (and often less pricey for you), buffets encourage everyone to mingle and spend time out of their seats – already more fun than sitting still for hours! They can be easily customized with whatever food you wish to serve, whether that leans toward more traditional wedding fare or something a bit more unique (including the other options below).

2. Cocktails & Hors D’oeuvres

If you’re a “variety is the spice of life” kind of couple, a cocktail-style reception could be perfect for you. Why choose between sliders, empanadas, kebabs, or bruschetta when you can serve all of the above?! Selecting a number of heavy hors d’oeuvres to be passed throughout the night in lieu of a formal dinner keeps the focus on the party while your guests still get to experience plenty of exciting food options.


3. Local eats

We love when couples pay homage to places they love during their wedding day. Whether it’s your hometown, the city you’ve chosen for your wedding, or another place that means a lot to you, tying your food into a special location for you and your new spouse is always a fun way to share your interests with your friends and family. New York pizza, New England seafood, Memphis barbecue, Philly cheesesteaks – all super fun ways to make sure your guests are fed. Of course, here in Chicago we’re big fans of the deep dish pizza or Chicago-style hot dogs!


4. Ethnic Food

For our couples looking to honor a certain culture during your big day (whether your own or one that inspires you), serving ethnic cuisine is a bold, interesting choice. We recommend selecting a variety of dishes or one or two universally enjoyable entrees to ensure that even the pickiest of your guests will find something new and delicious to try. That said, don’t be afraid to go for something unusual or unexpected; it will make your wedding even more unique to your friends and family.

5. Brunch

To save money on their celebration or secure popular dates, many couples are opting to get married at nontraditional times and/or days. In some cases, this makes a brunch reception the perfect choice (and who doesn’t love brunch?!). A great mix of breakfast and lunch options and delicious cocktails, and your guests will be happy campers.


6. Late Night Eats

This is a newer trend that we adore: supplying awesome snacks later in your celebration to keep the energy going until the very end. We’ve heard of everything from surprising your loved ones with a couple’s favorite treat (s’mores, anyone?!) to hiring trendy food trucks. So fun!


Now it’s your turn! What do you dream of serving at your wedding? Have you seen any awesome or unique foods served at weddings you’ve been to? Did you get as hungry reading this post as we did writing it?! Tell us in the comments.

Wedding Planning 101: Elements of the Perfect Proposal

Before the wedding planning can start, there’s one little (okay, not so little) question that needs to be asked. While it may seem like a simple phrase, “Will you marry me?” is probably one of the most nerve-wracking questions you’ll ever have to utter. But never fear, Once Upon a Wedding is here . . . to help, that is. Whether you want your proposal to be over-the-top epic or sweetly sincere, there are a few elements that you’ll want to consider and have in place for one of the most special milestones of your lives. Here are the major ones to keep in mind:


1. The Ring

Okay, we know this one’s pretty obvious, but for the most part, proposals (in Western culture at least) are accompanied by a certain piece of bling. We know that the choices here are endless, so whether you know your loved one’s style best, get some help from a friend or family member, wait to shop with your soon-to-be spouse, or decide to go completely nontraditional and opt out of jewelry (more power to you!), this is one thing you’ll want to carefully ponder before the big moment arrives.

Instagram: @ouawchicago

2. The Location

As you’re planning your proposal, we recommend you give lots of thought to the perfect place to pop the question. Some ideas include:

• A gorgeous local spot (a park or the beach, somewhere with a beautiful city backdrop, etc.)

• Somewhere special to your relationship (where you met or had your first date, a favorite place to go, etc.)

• A special occasion (a holiday or party)

• At home

Wherever you choose, this is a memory that you’ll keep forever, so make sure it has the right backdrop.

beach_engagement_couple3. The Speech

Even if you plan to wing it and be spontaneous as you ask the love of your life to spend forever together, it can be a huge help to make some mental notes or even jot them down. Even the most steel-nerved folks will likely feel some butterflies, so planning a bit ahead of time can be a lifesaver.

4. Attendees

Do you want this to be a private moment between you and your significant other, or do you prefer to share the joy with special friends/family? Maybe you’d like to keep the actual proposal private, but have loved ones on-site to celebrate immediately after? Something else to consider, too, is having a photographer hidden to capture the excitement and emotion for you to relive for years to come.


5. “Extras”

This is the “how will you do it” part. Whether with a sweet scavenger hunt, a romantic meal, incorporating their favorite hobby, on vacation, or with a thousand yellow daisies* – the sky’s really the limit. Even if you want to keep it completely simple and heartfelt, try to think of some memorable, personal, and unique way to show your bride (or groom) to be how much they mean to you. We guarantee they’ll never forget the moment you create for them.


Tell us! What’s your proposal story, or your ideal proposal? Do you love seeing amazing stories (and rings!) as much as we do? Let us know in the comments.

Feeling like you might need some extra help in planning the perfect proposal? Once Upon a Wedding now offers Proposal Planning!! Contact us for more info.

*Bonus points and eternal love for anyone who can tell us in the comments where this reference came from.

Tradition Tuesday: Nonreligious Weddings

It’s that time again! We’re thrilled to bring you a brand new Tradition Tuesday, where we focus on one wedding day tradition and our ideas on how couples can make it their own. As huge proponents of the nontraditional wedding, we always strive to make sure that our brides and grooms’ celebrations reflect their personalities; part of this means putting their own spin on the wedding traditions of days past. This week we talk about secular wedding ceremonies.


Until very recently, the word “wedding” almost certainly conjured images of a lovely church (or other house of worship) ceremony. Religious weddings often include very specific guidelines, time-honored traditions, and time for spiritual readings and prayer. We love nothing more than to see couples for whom these traditions mean a great deal incorporate their faith(s) into their special day. For many other couples, however, faith may not be a major part of their day-to-day lives. In those cases, we firmly believe that nonreligious couples should plan a ceremony that first and foremost reflects their own priorities and personalities. If that sounds like you, follow our tips to begin writing your own ceremony rules, making sure every moment feels 100% personal.

Find the Perfect Officiant

It’s so important to find someone you trust and connect with to officiate your wedding. After all, he or she will be the one delivering a (hopefully) heartfelt message to your family and friends as you tie the knot. Some religious figures are more than happy to conduct a secular ceremony, while other officiants (like a justice of the peace or judge) specialize in nonreligious and/or nontraditional weddings. Either way, an officiant seasoned in secular weddings will be a huge asset to you in planning the structure of your ceremony. Another route, and one of our favorites, is to be married by a friend or family member. While this may require some additional research about what your state/county requires of an officiant, the extremely personal touch this brings to your big day is almost certainly worth it.


Choose Your Ideal Venue

Gone are the days where all weddings take place in the family’s church. Today, there are so many different kinds of venues to choose from! When searching for venues, think about what kinds of locations inspire you; what reflects you as a couple. Your options are endless: parks and gardens, museums, libraries, historic homes or buildings, loft spaces, barns, vineyards, country clubs, hotels, banquet halls, galleries, city landmarks… the list goes on and on. Once you narrow down a venue type or two that speaks to you, research a list of such places in your city or town and make sure to experience your favorites in person. The venue is such a key piece to your wedding day puzzle, so make sure that the one you choose can accommodate your needs and, more importantly, feels like the perfect fit.


Write Your Own Vows

We love love love when a couple decides to write their own vows to each other. There is almost nothing more intimate and unique than to hear a couple commit to one another in their own words. Your loved one and your guests will appreciate and remember hearing your unguarded, genuine sentiments as you promise your own happily ever after. This is your chance to express what’s most important and personal to you as you move forward into married life. Whether you choose to be funny, sentimental, or somber – or a combination – we truly believe that this will be one of the most special moments of your day.


Embrace Your Uniqueness

Our number one tip: While it may seem daunting to break with tradition, never forget that you deserve a day that perfectly represents you and your bride or groom-to-be and honors your love together.


We want to hear from you! What you think about nonreligious ceremonies? How did you/are you planning to update traditionally religious customs? Tell us in the comments!