Casual wedding ideas backyard

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The best decor ideas for an outdoor wedding

Planning an outdoor wedding? Look no further than our list compiling some of the trendiest ways to decorate it. From elegant string lighting to rustic wine barrels, we’ve got inspiration for every theme.

1. Chandeliers

Whoever said you couldn’t elevate the outdoors? Hanging chandeliers is a beautiful way of bringing elegance to your wedding and illuminating the setting at nightfall.

2. Tented Wedding with Checkerboard Dance Floor

If you envision an outdoor wedding but still want cover in case of rain, there’s nothing better than a tent. With a makeshift ceiling, the design possibilities (floral chandeliers, real chandeliers and more) are truly endless. As for the dance floor, you’ll need something solid for guests to dance on as opposed to grass so why not opt for a swanky design such as checkerboard.

3. Large Ceremony Flowers for the Altar

Embrace the beauty of the outdoors by framing the altar at your ceremony with a few oversized floral arrangements. Not only will they guarantee luxury, they’ll serve as gorgeous accents to your wedding pictures. Afterward, simply transport them to your reception.

4. Floral Welcome Signs

Another ode to the outdoors is a lush floral welcome sign at the entrance of your ceremony or reception. Keep it simple with greenery or fancy it up with more elaborate flowers that follow the palette of your theme. Either way, guests won’t be able to take their eyes off it.

5. Paper Fans

Let’s face it, outdoor weddings are hot. Providing guests with a paper fan on their seat is a kindness that won’t go unnoticed. Serving two purposes in one, paper fans ease guests of the heat on a hot summer day and inform them of the activities to come.

6. Wreaths

You don’t need to have a Christmas wedding to use wreaths for decor. Hang them from a structure above you and your beloved at the ceremony and reception or place them on the gates/doors of your venue as a warm welcome.

7. Chalkboard Signs

I think we can all agree writing on the chalkboard was our favourite part of school growing up. Now, you can use it as decor at your wedding. Seating charts, table numbers, welcome signs, whatever stationery you include can be presented through chalkboard signage.

8. Ceremony Benches

Individual chairs are usually a go-to seating choice for outdoor weddings, but why not change it up and use ceremony benches. You might be able to fit more people with less items and styles come in a wide range: logs, sleighs or cushioned.

9. Wine Barrels

Rustic brides take note, one of the hottest decor elements for weddings today is wine barrels topped with flowers. Use them to either frame the entrance of your ceremony or serve as the base of your sweet table and drink station.

10. Outdoor Lounge Furniture

When cocktail hour commences and you and your new hubby need to go take pictures, there’s nothing more inviting than stylish outdoor lounge furniture for guests to sit back and relax on.

11. Swings

Plain and simple, swings provide a romantic visual for outdoor wedding pictures. Plus it allows you to take a break from standing and sit down gracefully. Your inner child will thank you for the walk down memory lane.

12. Flower Petal Aisle

One of the easiest ways to decorate your ceremony is by placing flower petals down the aisle. If you want to get creative with it, opt for an ombre effect or swirly design.

13. Lanterns

Instead of simply lighting candles at your wedding, light the way by placing them inside vintage lanterns. If light isn’t needed at the time, lanterns can serve as a decorative spot to place flowers.

14. String Lighting

Like fireflies in the night, string lighting adds serious whimsy to a wedding reception. Especially if you’re saying “I do” in the city, twinkling lights will illuminate the sky in place of stars.

15. Drink Dispensers in Old Cabinets

What’s more refreshing than pouring yourself a glass of cold lemonade from a drink dispenser at an outdoor wedding? We guarantee adults and children alike will get a kick out of it.

16. Picket Fence Signs

Instead of having guests guess where the washroom is, lead the way with an adorable picket fence sign. If your venue already has one, personalize it with flowers or your names and wedding date.

17. Gazebo Wedding Flowers

If you’re saying “I do” under a gazebo, chances are it won’t already be decorated. Take it upon yourself to give it a facelift by framing it with flowers. Everyone will be “wowed.”

18. Hanging Jars Filled with Flowers

Already a fan of mason jars? Then you’ll jump at the chance of incorporating them in your wedding by hanging the jars and filling them with flowers for centrepieces.

19. Blankets

As day turns to night, temperatures start to cool down. A thoughtful way of keeping your guests warm at an outdoor wedding is by offering blankets to wrap themselves with.

20. Empty Picture Frames

Empty picture frames come in all colours, shapes and sizes so naturally that makes them a perfect decor item for your wedding. Use them as table numbers or simply hang them on a backdrop behind your head table as a visual cue.

21. Ladders

Vintage outdoor weddings are calling for ladders to pose as a decorative feature. Cover them with flowers and twinkling lights or use it as a clever display for your cakes.

22. Wooden Slabs

Honour the beauty of nature by lining your aisle with wooden slabs or tree trunks. Top it off with fresh flowers and you’ve got yourself the perfect decor for a rustic outdoor wedding.

23. Window Frames

Like empty picture frames, window frames pose a plethora of possibilities for decor. Lean it against an entrance and use it as a seating chart or fill it with goodies (such as popcorn cones) as an interactional feature at your sweet table.

24. Floral Hoops

Probably one of hottest wedding decor trends today is floral hoops. Hang them above your head table, design it into your cake or even wear it as your bouquet. Floral hoops are all the rage!

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24 Outdoor Wedding Decoration Ideas

Written by Christina Rowan

Congratulations, you’re engaged! Now the fun of wedding planning begins. Planning a small wedding with your closest family and friends is a special way to truly celebrate love. An easy way to make your small wedding even more personal is by hosting it in your backyard.

There are countless possibilities when it comes to hosting a backyard wedding in the comfort of your own intimate space. With no venue cost, few rules and little design restrictions, you have the freedom to transform your yard into the wedding of your dreams.

Whether you’re throwing a colorful fiesta, an elegant soiree or an effortless bohemian bash, we put together a list of 36 backyard wedding ideas for any couple. Remember to send out save the dates that are consistent with your wedding theme, so guests can plan for and start the countdown to your big day.

1. Set the Stage

Source: Paige Budde of Awake Photography

If your backyard is all grass, designate an area to let loose and dance the night away. A dance floor can help to define the space and even out the ground (especially for ladies in heels!).

2. Eclectic Lounge

Source: Ashley Paige Photography

Designate a vibrant colorful space for guests to relax and enjoy a cocktail. Mix and match couches, vintage chairs and cushions with a big bohemian rug.

3. Natural Ceremony Arch

Source: Pat Furey

Create this simple arbor with a few pieces of wood. Try adding on a flower arrangement that matches your wedding colors to create consistency throughout the venue.

4. Let Sparks Fly

Source: Stephanie W. Photography

Set up a table for guests to grab a sparkler and let them know when the send off starts. Have your cameras ready for this special moment.

5. Rustic Wood Reception Furniture

Source: Ashley Caroline

Incorporate wood tables and chairs for the reception. Pair with white plates or shibori dyed napkins to give the dinner a relaxed feeling.

6. Adorn Your Wedding Cake

Source: Lauren Fair

For a rustic or natural theme, display your cake on a wooden cake holder. Decorate with flowers and a wooden sign.

7. Entertain with Games

Source: Paper Antler

Allow guests and little ones the fun of playing wedding games like cornhole or giant connect four. It gives people an opportunity to interact with others they might not know well.

8. Long Center Table

Source: Zac Wolf

Make the reception feel welcoming and open with a long banquet-style table. Guests will enjoy the warmth and cheer of celebrating the couple side by side.

9. Open Cabanas

Source: Amanda Driver

Set up oversized cabanas on the grass to break up the outdoor space. Hang draping curtains for some depth and surround it with hanging potted plants and candle lit lanterns.

10. Potted Plant Favors

Source: The Hursts & Co

Create DIY mini garden-worthy plants for guests to take home. These are the perfect party favor for a spring or summer wedding. Try using custom flower pots for a unique touch.

11. Vintage Car

Source: The Rowlands

Take it back to the 1920s with a vintage delivery car. The happy couple can begin their life together by riding away in it after the ceremony.

12. Chalkboard Seating Chart

Source: Mariel Hannah

Map out the table seating with a giant chalkboard. This will be the first thing your guest’s see when they enter the backyard so be sure to include a welcome message.

13. Bring in a Mobile Bar

Source: Olivia D. Wenger Photography

Convert an old airstream or camper into a whimsical drink station. Have a bartender manage the space and keep the drinks flowing.

14. Snap a Polaroid

Source: Anna Delores

Fill your guest book with Polaroid pictures of your guests. Have them write a personal note or word of encouragement to remember your special day.

15. Popcorn Station

Source: Paper Antler

Have some fun and set up a flavored popcorn station. Guests can help themselves and fill up their box whenever they please throughout the night.

16. Use a Simple Table Setting

Source: Anna Delores

Create an airy and spacious feeling with a dramatic white table runner. Line earthy eucalyptus, vintage bottles or fruit in season along the center.

17. Keep Your Guests Warm

Source: Amanda Driver

Provide a basket of blankets for guests to wrap around themselves throughout the night. Draw attention to the blankets with a custom sign.

18. Twinkle Light Garland

Source: Studio Castillero

String a canopy of lights throughout the yard to add a romantic glow. Not only will it make for pretty pictures, but provide ambiance for when the sun goes down.

19. Frame Table Assignments

Source: Jenny Moloney Photgraphy

Put a different spin on displaying guest table placements. Clothespin custom wedding placecards to wire and embellish it with a wood frame or florals.

20. Geometric Floral Arrangements

Source: Jana Dillon Photography

Are you planning on bold colorful florals? Attach them to fun geometric shapes or structures and hang for a cool design element.

21. Fresh Lemonade

Source: onelove photography

Cool things down with a fresh lemonade, cucumber water or sweet tea drink menu. These choices are ideal for a summer backyard wedding bash.

22. Hanging Ornaments

Source: Kat Bevel

Glass succulent orbs add a classy touch. Hang them from a structure or even the trees in the backyard.

23. Liven it up with Giant Jenga

Source: Katie Pritchard

Set up giant jenga for adults or kids to play during down time or gaps between the reception and ceremony. You can even personalize the blocks and put the couple’s initials on them.

24. Add a Vintage Cart

Source: Katelyn Vines

Use a old wheeled rustic cart as decor. You can even place bite-size desserts on top for guests to grab and go.

25. S’more Lovin’

Source: Amy Vafa

A classic and sweet backyard treat guests will love! Set up a s’mores station for people to help themselves. Carry the same theme throughout your other desserts.

26. Create Open Seating

Source: Josh Elliott Photography

The ceremony seating doesn’t have to be stuffy. Use the open space to your advantage! Line long benches under the shade of big trees. Add aisle runners or flower petals to make the aisle pop.

27. Put Out a Family Style Spread

Source: Josh Elliott Photography

Display a charcuterie board guests can enjoy during the reception. A long wooden table, mismatched dishes and rustic signage help elevate the look.

28. Decorate the Sweetheart Table

Source: IRIS Photography

Add a personal touch to the Mr. and Mrs. chairs. Try a custom sign or classy calligraphy to distinguish their seats from the rest.

29. Poolside Paradise

Source: Nicole Lev Photography

What makes your backyard different? If you have a pool, try setting up a bridge that connects each side of the space. Line it with floral arrangements.

30. Hanging Window Frames

Source: Brooke Mayo

Draw your guests’ eyes upward with pretty vintage window frames. Vary the heights of each and adorn the frames with colorful flowers, vines or even twinkling lights.

31. Eco Friendly Utensils

Source: Katherine Rose of Max and Friends

If you can, why not help the environment? Use eco-friendly or biodegradable utensils and plates for the cocktail party appetizers.

32. Add a Delicious Dessert Wall

Source: W&E Photographie

Mix things up and add a fun design element to the otherwise classic dessert table. Besides, who doesn’t love donuts?

33. Serve Fun Cocktails

Source: Victoria Cameron

Seasonal cocktails add the perfect touch to any wedding. Use vintage, classy glassware. Guests can enjoy and refill their drinks all night long.

34. Rustic Hoop Decor

Source: Makayla Rae

Take your favorite quote and turn it into an oversized hanging design. Make it the focal point of the ceremony or reception.

35. Customize Take Home Gifts

Source: Eager Hearts Photography

Send home guests at the end of the night with a meaningful and personalized gift that matches with your theme. The favors can double as table name place cards.

36. Go Out With a Sparkle

Source: Amy Vafa

Being in the comfort of your backyard means you can get away with things you wouldn’t at a typical venue. Have guests light their sparklers and surround the couple at the end of the night for a stunning send off.

Backyard weddings are usually more laid-back and casual than other weddings, so why can’t the planning process be? Use this list of ideas to get started!

Plan ahead and order your wedding invites and programs all in one place. Whichever theme you decide on, be consistent with every idea and detail. Your breathtaking backyard wedding will be one that’s remembered for years to come.

The Pros and Cons of Throwing a Backyard Wedding

It was originally my husband Ian’s idea to get married at our home in Arizona because he thought it would save us money. (Our house had no particular sentimental meaning and is nothing fancy; we just happen to have a decent yard.) At first, I thought he was crazy! It would be hard to pull off, it’d create more work for us, and it wouldn’t look perfect… so many things could go wrong. We estimated we’d have around 130 guests, which isn’t a huge wedding but isn’t small either.

However, the more I mulled it over, the more it began to make sense. Ian and I are both very laid-back, and we love to have family and friends visit us, so an at-home wedding seemed to suit our personalities. I still had some reservations, and I worried about all of the things that could go amiss during the entire year we were engaged. Ultimately, our non-conventional setting paid off: Our wedding was amazing and perfect, and I wouldn’t have changed a thing!

When we began the planning process, we assumed throwing our wedding at home would save us lots of money. In the end, I don’t think we spent less overall, but we were better able to allocate funds to suit our needs and preferences than if we’d gone with a more traditional venue. Our biggest savings was food and drinks. We hired three of our favorite food trucks, which were much cheaper than traditional catering. Our guests loved them because they could get as much food as they wanted, and each truck had multiple choices, so there were plenty of fun options to try. Best of all, they brought the kitchen to us, so we didn’t have to worry about the functionality of our own cooking space. We also brought in our own alcohol and didn’t have to pay any venue fees.

These savings allowed us to splurge more on personalizing the wedding with flowers, decorations, and entertainment. Our guests’ enjoyment was our number-one priority. We didn’t want a cookie-cutter wedding — we wanted to make things unique and fun. Our backyard provided the ideal opportunity to bring our vision to life!

Since we decided to bus people to our house from hotels, we started the party early by providing appetizers and drinks before the ceremony. For the cocktail hour, we had custom-made board games and yard games in our wedding colors.

We had unlimited time for dancing and a live photo booth with multiple backdrop choices and props. We even had a caricaturist! We wanted there to be fun around every corner.

However, there were also things we had to spend extra money on that we wouldn’t have if we had chosen a traditional venue. For example, we had to rent tables and chairs, and we had to have extra lighting installed. I worried about the restroom situation for months; I wasn’t sure if the two bathrooms in our house would be enough (we didn’t want to have to rent any), and they’d never seen that much use! About six months before the wedding, we also had a problem with very aggressive bees in our yard. Lastly, parking was another major concern, and we fretted over whether the neighbors would be mad about the traffic and the noise.

My biggest piece of advice to anyone thinking of getting married at home is to go for it! It creates such an incredibly personal and intimate experience that you could never recreate somewhere else. We weren’t just inviting everyone to our wedding — we were welcoming them into our home. It truly brought people together. It’s important to find the right people to help you, including a great planner who can help circumvent any potential issues before the big day. We could never have pulled everything off without our amazing vendors. Hosting an at-home wedding presented some logistical challenges, but they made it happen.

It was a perfect day; one that I wish I could relive a thousand times over. The only problem now is that we may never be able to sell our house, because every time we look out into the backyard, it brings back so many wonderful memories!

Tell us: Would you consider getting married at home?

—Katherine Swenson

Wedding Planning, Design, Day-Of Coordination and Dessert Stands: Shine Events
Floral Design: Butterfly Petals
Rentals: Prim Rentals and Y-knot
Catering: Chef Bob Harrison of Chef A Gogo, Grilled Cheese, Roasted Shallot and QUP BBQ
Cakes and Desserts: Kick Ass Kakes
Transportation: Ollie the Trolley
Hair: Dolce Salon at Scottsdale Quarter
Makeup: Murphy Little at Neiman Marcus, Scottsdale
Photography, Videography, and Photo Booth: Memories Through Time
Bartender: Arizona Bartending
Caricature Artist: Bill Wylie
Lighting: Mystic Lites
DJ: Mobile Magic Sounds
Stationery: Be in Love Designs

You’re cordially invited to our very own big fun, small cost backyard wedding (held here in Richmond, VA at our first house). so you might as well make yourself comfortable, because we’re breaking it all down – food, decor, invites, and more.

Backyard Wedding Basics

We got married on 7/7/07, our exact two year anniversary of dating (which just happened to fall on a Saturday). Unfortunately, 36,000 other couples picked the same exact date to get hitched, so we decided to do our best to make everything else about that day feel fresh, fun, and personal. And what could be more personal than hosting the 75 person affair in our own backyard?

The Location

Our wedding was pretty much one giant DIY project. From the invitations and decor to the food and entertainment, we personalized as much as we could (without breaking the bank) by doing everything with our own four hands. And because the event was at our home sweet home, we were able to put money that otherwise would have been spent decorating a venue into our own home improvements (gifts that kept on giving even years later). For example, we knew our old jagged patio was a tripping trauma waiting to happen…

… so we invested some of our wedding money towards replacing the old slate patio with a new cobblestone paver version, which created the perfect place for a big wooden buffet table full of delicious gourmet eats and a grilling station for the chefs (John’s uncle and nephew) – who donned customized aprons that read: “You may now kiss the cook.”

Not only did we need a flat surface for serving, we also wanted one for eating and entertaining, which is why we decided to pave our treacherous gravel driveway (heels + gravel = yikes!).

The newly paved surface created the perfect place for grubbing as well as mugging for the photobooth that we rented for the occasion. We’ve never been so thankful to have such a huge driveway (with a spacious turnaround area in the back of the house which kept all of our partying private). And the added bonus is that we never had to weed our monstrous driveway again, which used to take days, so it was one of the best wedding presents we could have given ourselves.

While these two home improvement projects were so major that we brought in the professionals, nearly everything else was completely DIYed from there on out (thanks to some help from our fabulous friends and family). Between John’s cousin officiating the ceremony, a friend playing “here comes the bride” on the guitar, and relatives cooking up some gourmet fare on the grill, we definitely did our best to keep things personal and meaningful.

Invites & More

We decided to make all of the paper goods for the event – from our summery wedding invitation all the way to the customized thank you postcard. But let’s kick things off with the piece of paper that kicked things off in early 2007: the save-the-date. We wanted something simple yet meaningful so we took inspiration from one of our favorite traditions as a couple: taking pictures in a photobooth. I’ll admit that we didn’t want to waste lots of quarters trying to get the perfect photostrip, so we faked our own using a digital camera, photoshop, and some glossy photo paper. The result was a memorable way to communicate some basic details (what, where and when) which was mailed off in a simple, white envelope. And who knew that it would later trigger the idea to rent a photobooth for the actual event? But more on that later.

After our save-the-date broke the news, we turned to our invitation to set the mood. After all, an invite is one of the first tastes of an event that you give your guests so it’s the perfect time to establish things like the tone and the color scheme. We wanted something elegant that still said “fun, garden wedding- leave your tie at home, mister.” So we designed and printed our own invites using a citrus-y yellow and green palette and brought it to life with a few graphic elements like lemon topiaries and buzzing bees. A not-so-typical wedding invitation for a not-so-typical wedding, no? Not to mention that we packaged them (complete with an RSVP card, hotel info, and directions) in bright lime green envelopes which we had the pleasure of hand addressing. Our hands hurt just thinking about it, but it was another personal touch that we just couldn’t pass up.

We knew we had successfully set a light-hearted mood with our invite once the RSVP postcards starting rolling in with all sorts of notes written outside of the lines. We love them so much, we still have them all stacked on the console in our living room. And we enjoy perusing them every once in a while to reminisce (and appreciate our charming friends and family). Gotta love wedding keepsakes beyond the tried and true photo album.

Our wedding paper trail followed our guests all the way to Richmond. For those staying in the local hotel that we recommended, we crafted a welcome packet to ensure that they made the most of their stay. And we didn’t have to cough up a lot of dough. We snatched a bunch of free maps from the local visitors’ center (they were yellow, conveniently), and highlighted some of Richmond’s must-see spots. Then we paired it with a “When in Rome- er, Richmond” guide (a sheet of attractions that we printed at home to correlate with the map). We also threw in a “Virginia is for Lovers” sticker to help our friends and family mark their stay in the big V-A.

The stack of RSVP cards in our living room is currently complimented by another pile of wedding memorabilia: our homemade wedding sentiment cards. Rather than a traditional guest book, we asked our friends and family to leave us a note on speech-bubble cards that we designed and printed ourselves. During the reception people filled ‘em out and simply dropped them in a nearby glass vase for us to pore over later.

When all the “I Do”s were said and done, we still had one more bit of paperwork to take care of – the many thank you cards for our generous guests. Rather than a traditional card, we ordered custom postcards that featured this artsy pic from the wedding itself (for less than the cost of regular stationery). It was just another fun and personal way to help our lovely guests remember the event… and play “Where’s Waldo” by trying to locate their blurry head in the background.

The Decor

And now for the DIY decor. From the moment people arrived, we wanted to make sure they felt comfortable and warmly welcomed. So we created a wooden welcome sign with a hand painted message for our guests. And thanks to the sandwich-board construction (two pieces of wood secured with simple hinges at the top), we were also able to paint a cute departure message that said “Thanks for sharing our special day, please grab a glowstick to light your way to the car” along with a galvanized bucket of white glow sticks to help people navigate our semi-dark street safely. And we made the sign and purchased the glow sticks in bulk for under $30 total.

We wanted a celebration that felt festive and fun, so we were sure to set the tables with care. And while we probably saved well over a few thousand dollars with our DIY approach, we literally did every last thing ourselves (and spent months getting stuff together). In fact, other than renting the tables and chairs from a local vendor, there was nothing conventional about our reception’s set up. The tablecloths and runners were actually just white muslin and textured yellow fabric that we purchased from a local fabric store and the glassware was largely purchased at Ikea. We quickly realized that strategically buying these items was actually cheaper than renting them and we were able to create a more custom look without worrying about fees for staining, ripping, or breaking anything. Even the silverware was purchased from Sam’s Club. Afterwards we donated a lot of the servingware to charity, which felt really good (and was a write off too!).

By choosing fruit over flowers (straight from the grocery store that morning) and going with centerpieces we could easily assemble ourselves (we’re talking ten minutes of arranging all of ’em, tops), we saved hundreds while keeping things chic. The glass cylinders for the fruit centerpieces were from Michael’s for $3.99 a pop and we also snagged about 200 glass votives thanks to Craigslist – where a former bride sold them all for $30 after barely using ‘em herself. We even found festive lemon & lime paper napkins at Target and the punchy citrus print perfectly echoed our lemon and lime centerpieces (note: we may have over-purchased these – we used them for about two years after the wedding).

Our garden themed favors were simple brown mini paper bags (thanks, Target) which held a single gladiolis bulb for our guests’ garden with easy planting instructions written on the back of each bag. Clipped to the front of the bag was another photostrip (tying in our save-the-date and the actual photobooth that we rented for the event) with John’s face covered in lipstick kisses while we held signs that read: Plant one… on us! *smooooch*

We also created place cards for each guest by hand stamping their first initial on a small square of cardstock, hand lettering their full name underneath, and securing each card with a river rock (we got bulk bags of them from Target). Many guests kept their cards, and even their rocks, which helped to remind us that sometimes simple can be just as beautiful as fancy calligraphy and ribbons.

We also had a bevy of beverage containers. Instead of plastic pitchers, we wanted the polished look of glass, so we asked a local wine retailer to save old bottles for us (leftover from their weekly wine tastings and totally f-r-e-e). Once at home we made sure they were squeaky clean and hand labeled ‘em with a sharpie (which never rubbed off or faded in case you’re wondering). We used all the green bottles to hold water, brown bottles for sweet tea, and clear ones for homemade mint lemonade (fresh mint + lemonade = yum). Of course we also had a bunch of red and white wine bottles on hand along with some of those cute vintage glass bottles of coca-cola. We really think making the effort to avoid cans and plastic kept things a little more “special” so it didn’t look like a regular old backyard bbq.

We also tried to think of something fun that we could introduce for entertainment value (cotton candy machine? fireworks? drum line? sno-cone maker?) when we landed on the photobooth idea (spurred by our tradition of documenting many relationship milestones with a photobooth strip – and it tied in with our photostrip save the date cards!). For months we tried to hunt down something local, and then something not-so-local, to no avail (back in 2007, photobooths weren’t really a thing, so they were extremely hard to track down and rent). But about three months before the big day a lovely local lady named Lisa-Ann launched a brand new photobooth rental business in Richmond, and we were one of her first customers. At $1200 for the day (which included unlimited photostrips and an on-site attendant to keep the booth running) it was certainly a splurge, but the hysterical strips of our friends and family having fun in the booth are one of our favorite keepsakes (which we’ve collected in a leather-bound album while framing a few of our favorites around the house).

To encourage people to leave a few of their photostrips for us (and display them for other guests to peruse throughout the night) we transformed our big red metal garage door into the ultimate over-sized magnet board. All it took was a bunch of inexpensive magnets and a sweet little reminder to save some photostrips for us. Lo and behold it worked… we ended up with even more photostrips than guests.

But one of our very favorite photostrips was the last one taken late in the evening after all of our guests had left. We ducked into the booth right before they hauled it away (John wasn’t even wearing his wedding pants anymore, he had changed into shorts to start cleaning up). We just love how this strip perfectly captures the joy of the day and the undeniably euphoric feeling of triumph after pulling off such a fun little backyard gathering.

We also tried to score a few points with our sweet guests by thinking of the little things to with their comfort in mind. This included offering up complimentary flip-flops for guests whose shoes were a bit too ambitious for a backyard wedding. And of course we wanted the dollar store flip flops to look as sweet as the sentiment, so we tied pairs of them together with rustic twine and stuck ’em in a burlap basket for easy access.

We also implemented a practical and budget-friendly twist on the traditional wedding slideshow since a big projector wasn’t in the cards for us. We created a clothesline version by stringing twine between two five foot garden hooks and using charming wooden clothespins to clip the photographic story of us growing up, meeting, and falling in love. This project was less than $20, but it really kept people entertained while they waited for their turn in the photobooth. Friends and family members still mention it to this day.

We also carried a few personal twists on tradition into the ceremony. After struggling to find a wedding reading that we liked, we gave up and decided to write our own. And in a moment of clarity (or utter weirdness, you decide) we pulled out our high school yearbooks and began collecting a combination of sweet and silly notes written by our old friends. The sentiments ranged from complimenting my artistic ability to poking fun at John’s band-geekiness, but actually showed some surprising similarities and perfectly captured our personalities far better than a traditional reading or poem. Thanks to our younger siblings who expertly shared our collection of yearbook anecdotes, it turned out to be one of the ceremony’s most memorable moments. That and the part where we said “I do,” of course.

One detail we couldn’t overlook was the lighting. We knew having the right amount of light in the right places would take our event from backyard barbeque to elegant outdoor gathering, so we went all out. There were votives on the tables for soft lighting. There were a few lighted torches for fun around the perimeter. There were even candles placed in old jars that served as mini hurricaines filled slightly with sand that lined the entire driveway (we saved jam, pickle, and pasta sauce jars for close to a year).

We also added some accent lighting in the form of paper lanterns hung from a pair of trees in the yard near the ceremony site. They provided a touch of interest while we said our vows, but more importantly they created the perfect backdrop for all of our family photos. The lanterns (also from Target) were battery operated so we didn’t even need to worry about wiring. Instead, we could focus on keeping smiles on our faces for all that picture taking.

And speaking of picture taking, we owe a HUGE thanks to our photographer Todd who is responsible for almost all of our beautiful wedding photos. Todd just happens to be a well known professional photographer around these parts, and while I’m sure he’s delighted to have our wedding on his resume, he’s better known for the national print ads and magazine covers that he shoots on a daily basis. We were able to snag his services for free because he also happens to be our brother-in-law (you’ve toured his new house here). Thanks for the great photos, Todd!

The Attire

You may also be wondering about attire. Clearly we went more casual than the typical wedding dress code in part to fit the relaxed atmosphere and also because Virginia is so hot in July. John chose simple khakis, a white button down and flip-flops. It’s mere coincidence that his best friend Kevin (left, our musician) and his cousin Travis (right, our officiant) wore practically the same thing. They dubbed themselves ” The Khaki Brigade” and things stayed informal until we broke out these babies for a few photos…

Yes, those are tuxedo t-shirts. Good thing we don’t take ourselves too seriously, eh?

But you’re probably wondering about my outfit too. It’s an $190 dress I bought at Arden B of all places, a mere 48 HOURS BEFORE THE WEDDING. No lie. I purchased another dress months beforehand – actually the first one I tried on – and counted my lucky stars that I fell in love with a dress so easily. Until July 5th when I was out having girl-time with my BFF and spotted this dress and fell even more in love. At about a tenth of the cost of the average wedding dress, we didn’t mind the unexpected expense (my first dress was around $150, so the change of plans hardly broke the bank). And two days later I wore my new find down the aisle and couldn’t be happier about the last-minute switcheroo. Afterwords I even dyed it pewter gray so I still get to wear it to other people’s weddings. Sneaky, eh?

The bouquet was another DIY project. The morning of the wedding I picked up three large hydrangea blossoms from the grocery store’s floral department (for something like $12). I then tied them together using green floral tape and wrapped thick satin ribbon around the floral tape. Some straight pins with pearl heads secured the ribbon and finished it off – guaranteeing it’d make it to the altar in one piece. I also wrapped a tiny necklace from a dear family friend around the handle of the bouquet (carefully securing it with more pearl-topped pins) for a meaningful and sentimental detail that only we were privy to.

But I digress – weren’t we supposed to be talking about lighting? Possibly our most impactful wedding decor detail was the dramatic garden lighting that we swagged over the entire reception area. To create this effect, we purchased six sets of string lights from Target – the ones with the big, round, clear bulbs – and created three long strands using clear fishing wire for reinforcement (we didn’t want the tension to snap the thin cords). Then we tied carabiners to both sides of the three long strands and hooked one end of each to our sunroom while the other ends converged at the peak of our garage (where they wrapped around our weathervane and plugged into a hidden extension cord). The effect was incredible… and nothing fell on any of our guests (a reoccurring nightmare of ours). Victory.

The Food

All this wedding chitchat must be making you hungry, so let’s move on to the wedding menu. Perhaps our most daring DIY feat was completely nixing the idea of a caterer in favor of taking on the entire wedding menu ourselves. I know we sound cuckoo-for-cocoa-puffs, but there were a few major reasons behind our seemingly insane decision. A lot of catering companies require a separate prep area and our modest rancher just didn’t have the space. We also thought strangers dressed in black peddling hors d’oeuvres in our backyard might be a little odd for our intimate affair. But most of all, we’re just hopeless DIYers with an unhealthy attraction to seemingly impossible challenges – so even though feeding 75 people sounds like quite a job, it really wasn’t so bad thanks to thoughtful planning, a few make-ahead components, and some pretty crafty delegation (in the form of pre-prepared offerings with a gourmet spin).

We made our lives much easier by carefully designing a menu that didn’t require any heat (other than our entrees which were cooked up on the grill) and called for nothing more than a single fork (when it came to side dishes and hors d’oeuvres, upscale finger food was the name of the game). Keeping our offerings simple (fresh fruit, cocktail shrimp, rotini salad, lemon pepper potato chips, etc) and adding an upscale twist when we could (like an unexpected ingredient or delightful dipping sauce) really seemed to work with our informal backyard wedding theme.

Another example of our “simple with a twist” approach to the menu was demonstrated in our main course choices, which we wrote out on a chalkboard hung above the grill for all to see.

Our guests approached the grill and ordered up their choice of a blue cheese angus burger with parmesan caesar dressing, sweet apple chicken sausage with honey dijon, or a tomato and cheddar veggie burger with basil ketchup. We actually made all the blue cheese burgers ahead of time (by adding chunky blue cheese dressing to ground beef and freezing the meat into patties to be defrosted that morning) but purchased the sweet apple chicken sausage along with the tomato and cheddar veggie burgers in bulk from the grocery store a few days in advance. Of course we splurged on some gourmet buns and added a little flair to the toppings (like a dash of fresh basil worked into the ketchup and the caesar dressing that topped the blue cheese burgers). A few fun twists on some old favorites really seemed to satisfy, and we purchased more than enough to go around (so people could try more than one entree if they so desired).

Even though we didn’t have a moment to taste a thing, the overwhelming consensus was “mmmm” as demonstrated by lots of seconds and hardly any leftovers.

Another adorable detail thrown together in the final hour (by John while I was inside getting gussied up) were the extra lemons that he used to accent a big tin of ice cubes. Somehow the 10 cent lemons added so much more to the $8 galvanized tin of $2 ice…

But the most popular menu choice was the decision to keep it simple and serve Richmond’s famed Ukrop’s cupcakes. For those not in the know, Ukrop’s is a local grocery store which just happens to have reached celebrity status for its heavenly vanilla cupcakes. We considered decorating the cupcakes with green and yellow spinkles or lemon candies, but realized that to mess with perfection would be a mistake. And when served en mass the seemingly simple cupcakes transformed into a sea of creamy confections that people literally couldn’t get enough of (several people confessed to downing four or five of ‘em). Feeding each other cupcakes was a fun take on the ceremonial cake feeding tradition as well.

We also had a big old s’more roast at the very end of the night. After some of our friends and family had moseyed on home, the remaining guests had fun bringing the night to a close by gathering around our firepit and cooking up a melty treat for the road. Marshmallows, chocolate bars, and graham crackers are hardly budget busting extravagances, but the s’more roast was just another one of those details that really made the night memorable for us- and hopefully for our guests.

The Budget

Now that you’ve virtually crashed our backyard wedding, you may wonder how much our big day set us back. Well, thanks to a major DIY effort and a lot of help from our friends and family, we managed to host the entire event for under $4,000. Here’s the budget breakdown:

TOTAL: $3,995

We even got to donate a bunch of the servingware that we purchased from Ikea (it was cheaper than renting it) to charity afterwards, which was a nice little tax write off that made us feel super good. So there you have it. Every last detail about our backyard wedding. And just as all good things must come to an end, our wedding tour must now come to a close. Thanks so much for your virtual attendance!

Still in the mood for some wedding-related fun? Check out some other lovey dovey posts:

How We Met & Fell In Love

The Big Proposal

Where We Almost Said I Do

Our Alaskan Honeymoon

Dyeing Sherry’s Wedding Dress

Adding Sentimental Art

Our 1st & 2nd Anniversaries

Our 3rd Anniversary

Our 4th Anniversary

Our 5th Anniversary

17 Things You Didn’t Know About Planning a Wedding in Your Backyard

There really is no place like home. Whether it’s your childhood backyard, your partner’s parents’ lakehouse or your grandparents’ country cottage, planning an at-home, backyward wedding is an amazing idea—but remember, it’s not an actual wedding venue (yet). Basically, the average home isn’t quite prepared for 150 wedding guests, 75 cars and 20 tables needed for a full-on backyard wedding.

While it may be more work (and more expensive) than you probably anticipated, we can tell you this much: You won’t regret saying your vows in a place that means a lot to you. It’s all about being prepared for what it takes to throw a backyward wedding—either in your own or a loved one’s. So here’s everything you need to know about planning an at-home wedding.

1. You need room to say “I do.”

Does your setup have enough space for all your guests? If not, you’ll have to start trimming the list. Don’t mistake overcrowded for cozy. If you plan to use a combination of indoor and outdoor space, know that if the weather takes a turn for the worst, everyone might need to fit indoors if you don’t have a tent. Will there be enough space in, say, the living room to set up white folding chairs with a wide enough aisle? The general rule is 6 to 10 square-feet of floor space per guest for row-seating.

2. You’ll need lots of help.

Since you’re so accustomed to your home, hiring a wedding coordinator will give you a fresh perspective on the property and what you can and can’t do. You’ll also need pros to cover all the basics: setting up, cooking, serving, parking cars and cleaning up (hiring a cleaning crew may be the best decision you’ll make). In the days leading up to your backyard wedding, the last thing you (or your parents) want to have to do is a massive house-scrubbing.

3. You’ll have to tend to the lawn.

Your entire backyard will be on display, so you’ll probably need to give the space a more manicured look. Whether that means dragging out the lawn mower or hiring a landscaper, you’ll want your lawn to be in peak form. If you’re planning a spring backyard wedding, start preparing in the fall (yes, really). Talk to your professional landscaper about reseeding, replanting and sodding.

4. You’ll need to think about florals (and plant them) as early as possible.

Most perennials need a winter to take hold, and it takes some time for annuals to fill out. Make sure to find out the appropriate planting times for the flowers you’d like, so they’ll be in full bloom on your wedding day. For a spring wedding, cool-season flowers like tulips, daffodils and lilies of the valley will be in bloom (which need to be planted the autumn before). For summer, try annuals like geraniums, Gerbera daisies and African daisies, which should be planted after the threat of frost. You’ll probably want to plant perennials for fall, like Japanese anemones, chrysanthemums and blue salvia—these should also be planted the fall before.

5. Your wedding officiant needs to sign off on the location.

Make sure your wedding officiant will give you their blessing to say “I do” in a backyard or at-home ceremony. Some aren’t able to perform the ceremony outside their place of worship because it’s not recognized by the church. You’ll want to give yourself plenty of time to find a licensed officiant who will do the honors.

6. Wedding guests may try to crash there.

Try to dissuade them from this idea. Unless you’re marrying at a 25-room estate, the only people who should be staying at the wedding site are the homeowners and their immediate family (the couple and any siblings, for example). You don’t want to be fighting your cousin for shower time the morning of your wedding. What you should do is recommend a hotel that’s as close to the wedding property as possible.

7. You’ll need to rent everything.

A backyard wedding inevitably requires bringing in enough rentals to throw a party. Your must-have items are tables, chairs, dinnerware, napkins, table linens, place settings, barware, portable bathrooms and a tent. Rent enough chairs so everyone can be seated for the ceremony. If you need more room for the reception, remove most of the chairs after the meal, keeping just enough around so half the party can sit during the festivities.

8. You’ll probably need a generator too.

Most homes can’t accommodate the amount of power necessary to light a tent or provide power to a catering kitchen. You don’t want to risk a power outage—or worse, blowing out the whole neighborhood. Check with your caterer to see if you need to rent extra coolers, grills or roasters. Don’t wait on this. You’ll want to start researching and reserving equipment six months before your wedding.

9. Your pros will need to check out the property.

In order to determine what extras they’ll need to bring, vendors should stop by for a visit. Have your caterer survey your kitchen to make sure it is well-equipped and large enough to prepare the menu. Otherwise, they may need to bring in a completely functional traveling kitchen.

10. The ground may not be level.

Chairs, tables, the dance floor—you definitely don’t want any of these items to be on uneven ground. Professional tent companies can ascertain whether or not they need to put down a foundation or if they’ll be able to lay a dance floor directly on the ground. Your other vendors (caterers, florist, band and so on) need to determine what’s necessary to keep floral arrangements and the cake table from tipping.

11. You may need a permit to party.

From the city permits to fire department inspections, you’ll need to make sure everything is in order. Bring in an electrician to inspect your area, find out if local noise ordinances require a permit or place restrictions on noise, and determine if you need to file for a permit to park cars along your street. The last thing you want is cops crashing your wedding.

12. Portable bathrooms have gone luxe.

These aren’t your average port-a-potties. You’ll want to account for three bathroom trips per guest, and since most septic tanks can’t handle that many flushes, portable bathrooms are a must. A general rule of thumb is to have one toilet for every 35 guests. Keep in mind that your guests will need a place to wash their hands and do a mirror check, so keep the area well lit. Upscale portable bathrooms are now available that have lighting, sinks, heated water and even air-conditioning. Don’t forget to make them even more home-like by including an amenity basket filled with hair spray, tampons, Band-Aids and breath mints in the ladies’ room.

13. You can save on decorations.

What makes a private residence unique? (An elegant dining room, a massive oak tree in your backyard or a spectacular view, for example?) Play up that feature to create a homey feel. It adds to the trend of making it look like you’ve emptied an eclectic china cabinet of all its unique and beautiful pieces. Use different centerpieces and mix-and-match vases. Bring in fresh, home-grown-type flowers or play with outdoor lighting possibilities. Decorating with garden lamps, paper lanterns and tiny white string lights draped on branches will create the perfect atmosphere.

14. Have a Plan B that’s as good as Plan A.

Unexpected weather can bring about unique challenges—especially at a backyard wedding. Always plan for the worst by making sure guests will be covered in the event of a sudden shower. If there’s no way to pitch a tent at the ceremony area, arrange to have the ceremony at a house of worship in case of rain—make sure to have an insert in each invitation that gives the alternate address and a number to call to find out if the ceremony has moved, plus keep your guests posted via your wedding website. If a tent is your Plan B, make sure it has sides to keep out a downpour. Stifling heat can pose just as many problems as rain, so make sure ceremony chairs aren’t in direct sunlight and that there are plenty of shaded areas, cool drinks and even hand fans available (your ceremony program can double as fans). If it’s a warm day, extra electric fans and portable air conditioners can be brought in; on wintry days, propane heaters will warm up the place.

15. You may have to include your neighbors.

Let them know of your at-home wedding plans well in advance. Make sure they know the ceremony time so nobody’s mowing their lawn during your backyard vows, and ask if they’d offer their driveways for extra parking space. But you can’t rely completely on neighbors’ generosity. Make sure there’s enough street space for parking, or arrange for guests to park at a nearby lot like a school or church, then provide round-trip shuttle service. If you want valet parking, hire a reputable company.

16. Insurance may cover home repair.

From guests dancing on your lawn to vendors traipsing in and out, your home may take a bit of a beating (all for a good cause, of course). Find out what your homeowner’s insurance covers. You may want to consider getting a supplemental policy. Check with your domestic insurance company to see if your policy covers third-party liability, and with your vendors to make sure they have their own insurance policies, as well.

17. It’ll all be worth it.

Having a backyard wedding at home—even at your new home as newlyweds—is an amazing idea, and an event your family will always remember. The best thing about having your wedding at home is how personal it can be. Nothing compares to getting ready in your childhood room and coming down the staircase in your wedding dress or suit. Find the right wedding pros to help, and you’ll walk down your homespun aisle stress-free.

20 Ideas for a Frugal (Not Cheap) Wedding on a Budget

A reader writes in:

What advice do you have for a frugal wedding on a budget? We’re getting married this fall and want to explore as many cheap wedding ideas as we can. Since we’re both in our early twenties and don’t have a lot to spend, we were hoping to keep our wedding as small as possible. We were thinking no more than six to eight people including ourselves.

Glad you asked. My wife and I were married in the summer of 2003. Although our wedding was actually quite frugal, we recognized afterwards that there was plenty more we could have done to make it even less expensive.

Hindsight is always 20/20, so here are 20 tactics you could try to cut down the cost of your wedding without diminishing your experience or that of your guests.

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20 Tips to Plan Your Wedding on a Budget

1. Avoid guest list bloat.

Although you might be tempted to throw everyone you know on your guest list, that isn’t always a great idea. With each addition you make, you’re adding additional costs while also making your wedding less intimate.

To a degree, this was a trap we fell into with our own wedding – our guest list grew and grew to the point where we invited people that we didn’t know well simply because we felt obligated.

To save as much as you can, try inviting fewer people and making the event more intimate. Start by whittling your list down by 20%, then another 20%. Then see if you’re happy with it.

2. Ask for wedding help instead of wedding gifts.

We were lucky that several of our friends and family had musical talent, so they were able to provide musical accompaniment for our ceremony. We also have a close friend who’s an extremely skilled amateur photographer, and he was willing to photograph our ceremony as our wedding gift. Then, after the ceremony, he provided high-quality digital images of everything.

Asking family and friends to offer help or services that align with their talents in lieu of a gift is a great way to keep your wedding on a budget.

3. Hold the ceremony at home, or outdoors.

Renting a building or function hall for your ceremony and reception can be very expensive. Instead, consider using your own home (or the home of a parent) for your ceremony, or perhaps a public park with a beautiful view.

In each case, you can also have your reception outdoors, creating a picturesque, memorable ceremony while eliminating the cost of renting a venue.

If you go the outdoor route, however, it’s best to have a back-up plan in case of bad weather; you don’t want to get married in a downpour that leaves all your friends and family soaked. That might mean renting a sturdy tent if rain is forecast, or a few industrial fans if it’s an extremely hot day — or simply stuffing everyone inside the house to wait out a storm.

  • Related: Check Out These Beautiful, Affordable Wedding Venues

4. Do the catering yourself, or hire a family-owned restaurant.

For our wedding, we handled our own food preparation and catering with a lot of help from my wife’s family. This drastically reduced the food costs for the ceremony.

If this isn’t your forte, look around your community for a family-owned restaurant and ask the owners directly to cater your wedding. Family-owned restaurants are always the first place to check – they will almost always go the extra mile to make your wedding special and are generally more understanding of your particular budget needs.

5. Go minimal with the flowers.

Instead of spending boatloads of money on flowers that will die shortly after the reception, keep it simple but elegant — for instance, a single rose for each bridesmaid and a very small bouquet for the bride. If you know someone with a rose bush, you can actually make your own bouquets the day before the ceremony by cutting the roses yourself and trimming away the thorns.

Another cheap wedding idea – go with fake flowers instead. It’s likely that no one will even notice, and you could save a bundle by making the arrangements yourself well ahead of time.

6. Skip the groomsmen and bridesmaid gifts.

While it’s considered customary to give gifts to your groomsmen and bridesmaids in some circles, it isn’t always necessary. Instead of buying gifts they may not even want or enjoy, consider writing them a special note to say “thanks” instead. If your friends know that you’re trying to have a frugal wedding, they will understand.

7. Make your own invitations.

With a quality home printer and some time, you can make very classy invitations on your own. My wife and I picked up a simple blank invitation kit on sale at Staples and made our own invitations to our wedding. No pictures or anything – just a very classic font and simple text. It looked stylish and didn’t cost us much at all.

Sites like VistaPrint also offer cheap wedding invitations you can order from the comfort of your home. Their options aren’t too fancy, but they’ll certainly do the trick. You can even hire a freelance graphic designer to whip up a custom invitation for you on Fiverr for pretty short money (starting at $5).

  • Related: How to Find Affordable Wedding Invitations

8. Borrow stereo equipment or use yours from home.

Rather than hiring a DJ, just use your own home stereo equipment, or equipment you borrow from a friend. Put speakers around the dance floor area – there’s no need to spread them around the entire reception room. Create a playlist on your iPod that features a few hours’ worth of your favorite songs – or see if you have a friend who might want to make a playlist for you. Choosing your own songs is a great way to personalize your entire experience.

9. Stock the bar yourself.

Alcohol is a big expense when it comes to a lot of weddings, and it’s also a big variable you can play around with to cut costs. Instead of opting for a full open bar, for instance, you can save money offering just beer and wine, or a free cocktail hour followed by a cash bar.

If you do rent a function hall, ask if they’ll let you supply your own alcohol instead of using the venue’s, which can be a big money-saver. Look for a discount liquor store in your area, and stock up on the basics: red and white wine and a few types of beer at the very least. If you want to offer a full bar, pick up the standard liquors like vodka, gin, rum, and whiskey, plus a few mixers and soft drinks like sodas and juice.

Keep in mind that while it’s more cost-efficient to buy a keg of beer instead of cases, any leftover beer will go to waste, whereas you can store excess bottles for months. And that’s helpful, since it’s a good idea to overestimate — you don’t want to run out of drinks halfway through the reception.

10. Display ‘vendor cards’ in exchange for reduced rates.

If you’re hiring people to provide services for your reception (musicians, a DJ, florists, caterers, photographers, etc.), offer to advertise for them in exchange for reduced rates.

At the reception, put a small card by each person’s place setting that lists the businesses responsible for each service at the wedding, along with their contact information. Since this tends to be very effective advertising, many businesses will happily provide services at reduced rates in exchange for this opportunity.

11. Contact the local university.

If you’d like live musical accompaniment for the ceremony (and perhaps for the reception), one place to look for lower-cost musicians is your local university’s music department.

Contact them and ask if there are any students who are studying a particular instrument or vocal work and see if they’re available to provide music for a wedding. It can help them develop their resume and save you on this typically pricey part of your wedding.

This goes for photographers as well — if there’s an art school or photography program at your local college, see if there are any talented students or recent grads who would be willing to photograph your wedding at a discount for the portfolio-building experience and exposure they’d receive.

12. Price shop for decorations – and consider buying used.

My Wedding Favors, Paper Warehouse, and Hobby Lobby all have sales throughout the year. If you know what you’re looking for ahead of time, you can simply wait until it goes on sale and “pounce” when the time is right.

Meanwhile, you can also consider buying used centerpieces and decorations. Recent brides often sell their decorations on sites like, and you can save a bundle of money — and effort — going that route.

13. If you’re getting married in your own church, ask the ladies’ auxiliary for help.

Most churches have a women’s organization that is very happy to help with wedding preparation in exchange for a small donation. Get them involved – they can take a lot of worry off your shoulders for a relatively low price.

At our wedding, the “church ladies” were a great help with church decoration and other helpful things on the day of the ceremony.

14. Buy dresses off the rack – and on sale.

If you want to save on bridesmaid dresses, try to avoid ordering custom dresses altogether. Instead, head to a few stores with dresses on sale and see if you can all find something “off the rack.”

This works best if your colors are chosen ahead of time and if the store you’re shopping at carries plenty of sizes. To minimize spats within your wedding party, you can also shop ahead of time and only have them try on dresses you already approve of.

Another cheap wedding idea: Instead of buying new dresses, have every bridesmaid wear a particular color dress they already own.

15. Rent tuxedos as a group, or simply wear matching suits.

Unless you have a specific reason for owning a tuxedo (and few people do), you should rent one. It’s often useful to rent the tuxedos as a group through the same business, as you’ll often get a group rate.

If you don’t want to go the tuxedo route, you can also have all of your groomsmen wear a black suit from home or other matching formalwear.

16. Choose affordable wedding rings.

Wedding bands are traditionally an important part of the marriage ceremony, symbolic of your commitment to each other. That doesn’t mean they have to cost you a fortune.

A typical 14-karat wedding band can cost upwards of $1,000, and wedding website TheKnot says American couples tend to spend about 3% of their overall wedding cost on the rings (plus thousands more on an engagement ring). If you’re trying to pull off your wedding on a budget, this is an area where you can trim costs pretty easily.

Unlike the wedding itself, which is over all too quickly, you’ll (hopefully) be wearing this ring every day for the rest of your life – so it’s important you like the way it looks and feels. But again, that doesn’t mean it has to cost $1,000 or more. Titanium, sterling silver, and other materials are less expensive, durable, and can be personalized for even deeper meaning. Check out some affordable wedding ring options here.

17. Plan a simple honeymoon, not an ostentatious one.

A huge, over-the-top honeymoon might sound fun, but it’s far, far cheaper (and often more enjoyable) to stay closer to home.

Instead of planning a big, expensive trip, focus on what matters: Unwinding after those hectic weeks leading up to your wedding, and savoring some time alone with your new spouse. An 18-hour flight across the world with multiple connections isn’t going to help in that regard.

You could even just hop in the car and spend a week or two seeing all of the local sights you’ve never had time to see until now. Whatever you do, just enjoy this time together.

Bonus idea: If you’re set on a more distant honeymoon, try paying for most of your wedding expenses with a credit card that offers great travel rewards or a sign-up bonus, which could help cover the cost of your flight (but pay off the balance before it accrues any interest).

  • Related: Seven Cheap Romantic Getaways

18. Involve your closest friends and family in the preparations.

As you’re brainstorming cheap wedding ideas, you should get your closest friends and family involved with the details. Quite often, they’ll have surprisingly good ideas that can save you money and effort.

For example, they might know a vendor that would offer you a deal, or have something you could borrow for your special day. Good friends and family are always there to help, and they’ll be especially happy to contribute to such a joyful occasion — so you might as well take advantage of their generosity.

19. Plan, plan, plan.

When you’re trying to have a wedding on a budget, it’s important to plan ahead. List everything you can think of and walk through these items step by step.

The earlier you get started – and the more things you think about early on – the less “last-minute stress” you’ll have, and the more time you’ll have to find sales and discounts and research other good ideas.

20. Don’t stress.

Something will probably go wrong at the last minute – a little detail of some sort won’t work out. For example, our pastor almost missed our rehearsal dinner, so we barely rehearsed.

Don’t worry about it. Just assume something little is going to go wrong and avoid the urge to throw money at the problem. Most likely, no one will even notice the little issue, and quite often someone in your wedding party (or someone helping out) will come up with a pretty good solution to fix things.

Good luck (and congratulations)!

  • Our Frugal Wedding Adventure, Part 1: The Planning Phase
  • Our Frugal Wedding Adventure, Part 2: The Planning Fallacy Strikes
  • Our Frugal Wedding Adventure, Part 3: The Big Day and the Final Numbers

21 Backyard Wedding Ideas + Checklist to Plan Your Big Day

Decorate your backyard wedding

Source: Gina Brocker

An outdoor wedding incorporates natural elements in your ceremony and reception. You may have a sprawling lawn, patio space or water features to work with so decorations go far beyond just a table centerpiece. Add personal touches like family photos throughout the house and yard to highlight the sentimental value of your special day.


A backyard wedding gives you a chance to be your own floral designer. Depending on the season, you may be able to plant special flowers and a garden ahead of time. Incorporate seasonal florals into your tables, chairs, and decor to emphasize the nature around you. Whether you DIY your flowers or order from a florist, you can turn any backyard into a secret garden.


Preparing for a backyard wedding is a team effort. Landscaping the lawn and surrounding areas will make a big impact on the look and feel of your backyard wedding. Don’t forget to pay special attention to any pools, fountains, fire pits, gardens, decks or lawn furniture. Spruce up these spaces to take advantage of all of your resources.


Set the mood of your wedding by using creative lighting ideas. Outdoor lights transform any space into a cozy setting. You can use a variety of lights and lamps to create an eclectic vibe or use candles and fire to turn up the heat at your wedding.


Whether it feels like an intimate dinner or an energetic block party, decorate your dinner tables with plate ware and centerpieces that match your wedding theme. Tables are blank canvases that allow you to add flowers, fabrics, and decor of your choice. Go rustic, traditional, or glam by setting a table that is both inviting and well-designed.

Set the backdrop for your ceremony

Start your wedding by wowing guests with a one-of-a-kind ceremony. Depending on the weather and time of day, make sure guests are comfortable and that your photographer can work with the lighting. Have a backup weather plan in case you encounter some unfortunate conditions. For example, utilize a tent or covered patio for shelter from rain or snow. If you plan on a winter wedding, provide blankets and heaters to keep guests warm. For summer weddings, have fun with frozen treats and maximize the shade with umbrellas or cabanas.

Whether you go for soft and romantic or bold and beautiful, you have the chance to make the space your own. One benefit of a backyard wedding is the freedom to decorate as you wish, so have fun with the florals and colors!

1. Give guests a warm welcome

Source: Don Mears Photography

Create an inviting ceremony space by bringing in different textures and warm colors. Vintage rugs can turn an ordinary lawn into a magical wedding aisle.

2. Invite your pets to the altar

Sources: Justin Kunimoto and AJ Dunlap

For pet lovers, a backyard wedding is the best opportunity to share your big day with your beloved pets. Make them feel part of the ceremony with a special flower crown or decorated leash.

3. Have fun with your ceremony setting

Source: Eder Photo

Take advantage of all the backyard has to offer. Whether it’s a pool or fountain or maybe an outdoor fireplace, you have the chance to say your vows somewhere truly unique.

4. Keep your guests comfortable in any weather

Source: Karlisch Studio and Fresh Look Photography

Whether the temperature is hot to cool, keep your guests are comfortable during the outdoor ceremony. Provide refreshments before they take a seat to cool them off or offer cozy blankets to keep them warm.

5. Set the mood with lighting

Source: Eric & Jamie Photography

Lighting doesn’t always have to come from above! Using lanterns and candles, you can create a ceremony spot that feels warm and inviting.

6. Create a dreamy backdrop

Source: Spindle Photography

Use sweeping fabrics in your wedding colors to create a fairytale setting like this gorgeous gazebo. Set the stage for your debut as a married couple!

7. Build a beautiful arch

Source: L & B Photography

Have fun with color and bring in bright florals for a beautiful wedding arch. After the ceremony, this makes the perfect backdrop for guest photos.

Celebrate with a backyard bash

After saying your vows, continue the celebration with your closest friends and family in an outdoor space that radiates love! Backyard weddings can feel more intimate, familiar and cozy than big event spaces. Plus, event venues can be one of the biggest wedding budget expenses, so a backyard wedding may allow you to spend more in other areas. Bring the party to your yard by going all out on unique entertainment, fun games, and delicious food and drinks.

8. Entertain with lawn games

Source: Jen Menard Photography

Keep guests entertained during cocktail hour while you take your wedding photos with fun lawn games like croquet and bocce ball.

9. Spruce up your drink station

Source: Krista Jones Photography

Continue the outdoor theme by adding greenery and flowers to your bar. This garden-themed champagne cart fits in at an outdoor soiree.

10. Personalize with details

Source: North Bloom

Lead guests to their tables with simple and beautiful seating assignment signage. Customize the tables by adding place cards that match your wedding theme.

11. Host a cozy dinner party

Source: Kaitie Brainerd

Move dinner indoors for an intimate setting with your closest friends and family. Work with the space you have and tie your table decor and centerpieces to match the room.

12. Transform the tent

Source: The Anastasia Co.

Renting a tent for your backyard wedding is a great way to provide protection from the elements, no matter if it’s hot, cold, windy or rainy. If you’re concerned about the look, tents can be transformed with some florals and greenery.

13. Give guests a local taste

Source: The Ganeys and Street Surfer Food Truck

Food trucks make an excellent dinner option for backyard weddings. They can pull into the driveway and serve your guests throughout the evening.

14. Indulge in your favorite meals

Source: Joe+Kathrina via Junebug Weddings

Backyard weddings are all about giving guests a taste of your life so why not feast on one of your favorite meals? Pizza always makes a delicious addition to any wedding menu and can be customized to guest’s preferences.

15. Offer snacks of the season

Source: Evermine

Perfect for an outdoor fall wedding, these caramel apples make a great dessert after dinner. Add a cute tag and give your guests a sweet treat.

16. Get cozy by the fire with a s’mores bar

Source: Tonya Staab

A s’mores bar is a hit for guests of all ages. Provide different kinds of chocolates and toppings so that guests can customize their dessert. Using a firepit or a tabletop s’mores maker, you can turn your wedding into a cozy campfire.

17. Bring nature to the party

Source: Missy Loves Jerry

Accentuate the outdoor feel of your wedding by bringing floral arrangements. Decorate tables and even your cake with flowers to build on the natural theme.

18. Light up the dance floor

Source: Laura Memory

A solid dancefloor is a must for backyard weddings. Since many guests will be wearing heels and dress shoes, this is a much better alternative to dancing on the lawn.

19. Dress up your dessert table

Source: Goodness Gracious Events

Using chandeliers and creative displays, you can wow your guests with desserts of all kinds.

20. Keep the party going with late night snacks

Source: Barnett Photo

Add a popcorn bar to your reception to fuel the party late into the night. Guests can mix and match their favorite flavors and always come back for seconds.

21. End the night with a backyard concert

Source: Tanya Volt Weddings

Treat your guests to a private concert in your own backyard. Hang some outdoor lights to create an ultra-romantic evening.

Backyard wedding checklist

Once you’ve committed to a backyard wedding, start prepping the yard and contacting vendors to plan for the big day! Use this checklist to make sure you cover all the bases from rental equipment to logistics.

Boho Vintage Weddings

A Boho Backyard Wedding Full of Romance

When a bride & groom are as effortlessly cool as Emily & Austin are, you just know their wedding is going to be something special. Even more so after Emily mentioned in her submission that much of her inspiration for their beautifully boho day came from these very pages 🙂 A relaxed backyard wedding described by bride Emily as “romantic, quirky, and bohemian”, and yes it is as lovely as that sounds…. in fact you had better have your pinning fingers at the ready ladies!…..

“First of all, I have to say when I was planning my wedding I religiously looked at CVB for inspiration and ideas. My wedding would not have looked half as good if it wasn’t for your site, so THANK YOU!

I’ve always been a cross between romantic and bohemian, so when I got engaged I knew I wanted my wedding to exude romanticism, beauty and lushness. I approached our wedding with my husband’s and my personalities as the main priority. We’ve got quirks, and hobbies, and jokes that we wanted to incorporate, while also making it really enjoyable for the guests.

I call our wedding “Backyard Bohemia” because we had our entire wedding in my parents backyard in Fullerton, CA. In the early stages of planning, Austin and I toyed with the idea of having the ceremony separate from the reception, however we ultimately decided what was most important to us was the intimacy and ‘realness’ of the wedding.”

“When I first got engaged I, of course, started dress hunting. Through searching for untraditional wedding dresses I got the idea of a doing a two-piece. Eventually, I found Stone Cold Fox, went to their studio in LA, and fell in love. My dress was pretty much the exact embodiment of myself; I wanted to feel comfortable, relaxed, but beautiful. The best part about my dress is that I can, and have, worn my top since the wedding!”

“Austin wore a jacket and bowtie from Klein, Epstein & Parker and pants and shirt from jcrew. He looked so handsome!”

“Instead of having a separate ceremony and sit-down dinner we incorporated it into one. We were limited on space, due to the backyard, so we simply had everyone sit at their dinner tables during the ceremony, which I think worked out really well. The mini tambourines we placed on each chair allowed our guests to sing along with us during our vows – and doubled up as favours!”

“The flowers were probably the most important decor element to me, and I was absolutely overjoyed when I saw them on the day. I went with Primary Petals from LA! I met with the team a few times to talk about inspiration and what specific flowers to use – we settled on peonies, ferns, and blue thistle; they worked their magic to intertwine these to perfection. My venue was already lush with greenery and I wanted to make it feel like a bohemian forest, so we added eucalyptus and peony garland anywhere we could. Because I wanted the wedding a bit mis-matched, we didn’t go with a specific color palette, but more a feeling. The table centerpieces were large bell jars filled with soft peonies and ferns, and smaller bronze cup vases flowed down the tables interspersed with vintage bronze candlesticks.”

“I loved our first-look moment. We met in front of the house, handed each other hand written cards we wrote for eachother, and just had a really wonderful moment before the wedding started. We also exited with a sparkler exit, it was wonderful!”

“We had Austin’s best friend officiate us, which made it really personal and easy. We’re both musicians, so we sang our vows instead of a traditional vow ceremony. We sang the song “Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and I was holding back tears the entire time 🙂 , it was a great moment.”

“My wonderful oldest sister is a very talented hairstylist at Toni & Guy in Irvine. We worked with 2 girls from her team to put together my look. I wanted my hair soft with a little throwback to the 60’s, and secure so I wouldn’t worry about it all night. The makeup we went for a strong eye, and pretty lips and cheeks. I love eyeliner so went with a subtle cat-eye look.”

“All of the furniture rentals came from Found Rentals and it was just stunning. Rustic wood tables with mis-matched chairs filled the lawn. An iron arbor created the space for Austin and I to get married under and transitioned into our sweetheart table during the reception. We also had the most amazing pink chaise lounge, side table, and woven rug for photos, and just because it was beautiful.”

“We came back into the backyard ringing a dinner bell triangle, a little throwback to his Texan roots. I’m a bit of a foodie so the food was really important to me. I used Whoa Nelly! catering for both the food and the wedding cake The food was served family-style at each table and was absolutely delicious!”

“Whoa Nelly! caterers made our cake as well. It was simple 2-tiered, white frosting with a couple succulents, and our elephant cake topper. I love elephants so I added some details of elephants here and there. Flavors were vanilla on bottom and red-velvet on top.”

Pearls of Wedding Wisdom from the Bride…..

“Once you accept that there will be mistakes and tiny flaws (mispellings on the menus, my fault!) throughout the day, in the end it doesn’t matter, and it is all perfect and the way it should be. And personalize it as much as you want – it’s your day, so have fun!

Also, every relationship is different, but I wanted to include Austin in as much as he wanted, I wanted his personality to shine just as much as mine.”

Tell us a little about your photographer….

” I have known Leanna since we were babes, and I have always admired and loved her photography. To keep the wedding as personal as possible I wanted a photographer I knew, and who had a similar style and aesthetic to mine. I immediately thought of Leanna and contacted her. She was amazing from start to end. We met/emailed multiple times about the style of photos. We shared inspiration and we also got our engagement shots done by her too. I wanted the photos to be real, clean, slightly artistic, and just really highlight the day, she went above and beyond my expectation. I was so happy and honored to have her as my photographer, she’s an amazing artist and dear friend.”

Emily was clearly a natural at this planning malarkey – can you believe this was all pulled together in less than 7 months? “Because I pay a lot of attention to detail, and I enjoy doing that, the planning felt really natural to me. Having a clear vision of what you want it to be like on the day is the most helpful thing you can do. I knew what I wanted from the beginning, from the food, to the feeling, decor, music etc, so then it was just putting the puzzle pieces together. I highly recommend going with a wedding coordinator/stylist, especially if you feel you’re being pulled in multiple directions. But I loved it! I loved it so much that I am a wedding stylist now (you can find me at It’s definitely challenging, but once you find the right vendors that work for you, it makes it a lot easier. ”

Emily, thankyou so much for sharing yours and Austin’s beautiful day with us! And a big thankyou to their wonderful photographer Leanna Jean for capturing it all so stylishly and for allowing me to publish it here on Chic Vintage Brides. If you want to see more of her work pop across to her website, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram or Pinterest.



Photography ~ Leanna Jean Photo

Wedding Dress ~ Stone Cold Fox

Headpiece ~ Vintage barrett, decorated with shell design by mother-of-the-bride

Bridal Shoes ~ Anthropologie

Engagement Ring ~ Vintage mother-of-the-brides engagement ring

Wedding Rings ~ Vintage gold bands found on Ebay

Groom’s Suit ~ Klein, Epstein & Parker

Venue ~ Brides parents backyard, Fullerton CA

Month of Coordinator ~ Lyndsea Tim Tim at Carly Rae Design

Hair & Makeup ~ Toni & Guy Irvine Spectrum Team

Floral Design ~ Primary Petals

Catering & Wedding Cake ~ Whoa Nelly!

Wedding Cake Topper ~ BHLDN

Furniture Rentals ~ Found Rentals

Dinnerware Rentals ~ Casa de Perrin

Menus ~ Remember November Inc

Linens ~ La Tavola Linens

Lighting ~ De-Lighted

Table Numbers ~ BHLDN

Officiant ~ Eric Sanabria, Groom’s best friend

Musicians ~ Southland Band, Father-of-the-bride’s band

Tagged: Bohemian, Boho, Garden Weddings, Real Weddings, Spring Weddings, Stone Cold Fox