I got married in a Philadelphia bar called the Kite & Key on an overcast Sunday afternoon in late November 2009, surrounded by a half-dozen acquaintances we’d known for a month or two. The officiant was a woman I’d contacted over the Internet who agreed to perform her servicesbasically, signing papersin exchange for beer. Our cake came from the Whole Foods down the street. My wife, Adri, jokingly held a knife to my throat as someone snapped a grainy cell-phone photo, the closest thing we have to a wedding portrait. And that was that. Husband and wife.

We were new in town, and we needed to get hitched so Adri could get on my employer’s insurance. Beyond that, the institution didn’t really matter to either of us. Our slapdash wedding reflected that ambivalence. It also suited our personalities. No formality, no ceremony, very little expense. Just good people and good drinks and good memoriesand a good story to tell.

But our wedding wouldn’t work for everyone. And truth be told, there are days when we wonder whether we should’ve gone the more traditional route, with family and friends and a champagne toast, with dresses and tuxedos and a DJ and an honest-to-God honeymoon on a tropical island. Or at least, some version of that tradition that we bent to meet our needs. Because weddings, like the couples they celebrate, should be unique.

The INDY’s Alternative Wedding Guide was conceived on that same principle: that all couples are uniquely beautiful and they deserve to be celebrated for who they are. In the pages that follow, you’ll find stories about how the wedding industry is being flipped on its head, advice from a divorce lawyer on keeping your relationship strong, a profile of a dressmaker who caters to those who can’t find what they need on the rack, and much more. Whether you’re planning to tie the knot or are already marriedor even if matrimony isn’t your bagwe hope you enjoy it. Jeffrey C. Billman

The INDY’s Alternative Wedding Guide: