As an alternative celebrant, I’ve been to more than my fair share of costume weddings, and I can tell you they are always a lot of fun!
A costume wedding often has a theme (some popular themes include: medieval, steampunk, wild west, “Halloween”, masquerade, favourite book characters, etc.) and having the guests in costume serve to make the day even more special. But for some guests the idea of dressing in a costume for a wedding is completely foreign, and they may not be so keen to participate. Here are some tips for pulling off a successful costume wedding.
Are You Both Into It?
If you want a costume wedding, but your partner isn’t keen, then it’s probably not a good idea to push it. If you’re both excited about it, you’ll be able to get others excited about it as well. But if one of you is rolling his/her eyes behind the other’s back, it’s a great way to get your marriage off on the wrong foot.
Likewise, if one or both sets of parents are footing the bill, and they aren’t keen on the idea, then you should seriously consider dropping it. The last thing you want is a whole bunch of arguments about your wedding.
Offer Guests Costume Solutions
Many guests have no idea where to find a costume, how much to spend, or sometimes, even what the theme actually means. (Try explaining “steampunk” to your grandmother!). It can also be a good idea to choose a very open-ended, flexible theme (e.g. “Time Travel” instead of steampunk) to allow the variety of ages, experiences and tastes of your guests to be fully expressed.
Find a way to offer some ideas on how guests might be able to incorporate the theme into their outfits for cheap. For example, if you’re having a masquerade wedding, offer a list of websites where guests can buy masks at a range of price points. Offer tips on repurposing items already in a wearer’s wardrobe, and ideas for how the unwilling can be “in theme” without going all out.
I went to a LoTR wedding involving costumes where the guests talked to First Scene, one of the best costume shops in Auckland, about offering a discount for anyone attending the wedding. They included vouchers to the shop in the invitations. This was a great way to encourage guests to have some fun with their costumes as well as offering an easy solution for costume procurement.
Don’t Make Costumes Mandatory
There’s often a lot of discussion when it comes to working invitations about whether costumes should be mandatory or not. Ideally, everyone would be dressed up, but the truth is some people feel uncomfortable in costumes, and might not have the time or money to find a solution.
Giving people the choice to come in costume will help make things easier and more enjoyable for all concerned. You won’t feel like the costume police, and your guests won’t feel uncomfortable. One of two people without costumes will not detract from your wedding.
Have a Few “Backup” Costumes just in case
Some guests may choose not to dress up, but then, upon arriving at the wedding, wish they had made the effort. You also might like certain photographs to show all guests dressed up or holding certain props, such as masks.
On a table at the reception, provide a selection of inexpensive, “one-size-fits-all” costume bits and bobs that fit your theme. For example, for a masquerade ball you could supply 5 or so store-brought masks for guests without masks to wear.
Compliment the Costumes!
Take the time to compliment everyone who came in costume, and give him or her a chance to explain some of the elements to you. You might even like to highlight some of the particularly spectacular specimens in your wedding speeches.
To those who didn’t dress up, don’t say anything about it – just tell them how happy you are they could come.
Have you ever been to a costume wedding as a guest? What did you wear?