A backyard wedding reception doesn’t have to be expensive to be elegant. With a little creativity and planning, you can create a backyard venue that is the talk of the neighborhood. Scroll for a few classy, budget-friendly, outside wedding ideas that are easy to implement in your own outdoor space.
This post is for the bride who wants a beautiful garden wedding on a budget, and the mom who desperately wants to give it to her.
Hosting a garden wedding reception was not in our plans. In fact, I never thought my small backyard was “worthy” of such an event. But, when outdoor garden venues were not operating normally during COVID, I realized that if I wanted to have any kind of celebration for my daughter’s wedding, it would have to take place in our own backyard. Literally.
Backyard Wedding Ideas
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1. Flower blooms and green grass
One of the simplest things you can do to transform your backyard into a beautiful garden wedding venue is to plant flowers around the perimeter, in flower pots, and of course, water the grass regularly. Having an August wedding meant we had to be super diligent at watering. But, even then, dry spots were inevitable during really hot temps. So allow me to share a trick with you. On the week of the wedding, try touching up the dry spots with a little grass paint. No, I’m not joking. The stuff works like a charm! Check it out. I may or may not have used it in some spots in my yard 😀
Watering and fertilizing your flowers is crucial to getting them to grow fast. And don’t worry, when I say “fertilizing” I just mean shake some stuff into the ground every 2-3 weeks. Believe me, I am not a gardener, so if I can do it, so can you.
Keeping up with the vegetation makes the garden beds and the grass part of your outdoor wedding decorations. I only had 6 weeks to pull off this small backyard wedding reception, and when the day came, our flowers were blooming beautifully in the garden. So much so, that we were able to borrow some blooms to put inside these water-filled glass lanterns and use them as part of the decor.
The lanterns hung from shepherds hooks around the yard. I highly recommend you use hooks and lanterns; they area fun way to create a path to guide your guests anywhere you want them to go.
Consider adding a few cocktail tables if you have a small outdoor space.
To allow for more open space to walk around (and dance!) we rented 5 cocktail tables. I love how they looked scattered around the yard. Some of the guests were able to eat standing up, and mingle around the yard. Extra chairs were lined up against the fence for extra seating, and we also had 2-3 regular tables with chairs for parents and grandparents. Did you notice the tulle loops decorating the fence? Tulle is super inexpensive and created a really classy look!
2. Provide places for guests stop and stare
The journey for guests in this small outdoor wedding started with this beautiful entry spot. We wanted guests to take their time and stop and go as they entered into the backyard. A small cardholder allowed guests to securely drop in cash gifts while they stared at pictures of the happy couple.
Don’t hesitate to use your own furniture. Chances are you already love it and it will look even more beautiful outside.
The dining chair and nightstand added a touch of vintage charm that guests loved. And listen, it is OK if the furniture comes from your own living room. Chances are you already like your own stuff, so why not use it?. You might be surprised at how much better it looks outside.
These two wooden easels, were fun to disp;ay messages guests could read as they came in. My niece, who is a nail artist wrote on them with chalk markers.
This console table (above) was another stop. Again, using your own furniture is easy, inexpensive, and makes for a simple, yet elegant backyard reception.
Chances are your guests only know the bride or the groom, not both. So sharing details about the couple is fun and interesting. This console table displayed individual photos of the bride and groom (because the groom is cool too, ya know) with personal messages sharing what they learned from each other.
Use pictures and personalized items to help your guests get to know the happy couple.
I created the printables messages myself using Canva. If you’re like me and Photoshop makes your head spin, you need to try Canva. Their free version is awesome, with drag and drop templates anyone can do. Once I printed these on cardstock I used a clip magnet to display printables in these cute galvanized metal easels.
Since your guests will need napkins, they might as well be cute, right? We ordered these cute personalized napkins with fun facts provided by the bride and groom. Every wedding I’ve ever been to in Puerto Rico has had personalized napkins, so it’s become a staple in our family 😀
3. Think outside the guest book
There are so many ideas for guest books besides the traditional signature book. This piece was custom made and was provided by the groom’s family.
But don’t fret. Items don’t have to be custom to be beautiful, classy, and memorable. If you want to use something different without breaking the bank check out this wedding guest wooden frame or this Jenga style tower.
Whatever you choose can be a beautiful keepsake that can be used as home decor for years to come!
4. Flowers: silk or real?
Wedding flowers are such an individual choice. However, with this being my third daughter to get married we’ve had the chance to compare silk versus real. In this case, my daughter opted for silk because she had two events, each one on a different day. Choosing silk made it so we were able to use the flowers for decorations on both days.
Using silk also eliminated the stress of having to keep the flowers cold and looking pretty on a hot August day. It was the perfect choice for us and I highly recommend it! However, it was not necessarily cheaper. In my experience, prices were pretty comparable.
In addition to the silk flowers, we added a few succulents throughout, at the request of the bride and groom. The cool thing about all of these fun decorations is that they went home with the couple to use as decor in their first apartment. A win-win!
5. Food: Keep it Simple
When my daughter said she wanted to serve pizza at her wedding reception I almost vetoed it. But, if you’ve ever met my dauhter, you know that she’s 70% pizza. It’s her absolute favorite food. I couldn’t say no. To make it look pretty we served it buffet-style and placed it on plate chargers (no pizza boxes!). The chargers were a perfect size. We did have a server assigned due to the pandemic. Otherwise, we would have had guests serve themselves.
Another advantage of serving pizza was the price. It was cheap! We spent less than $300 and fed 75 people, and that included their yummy dessert pizzas too!. Pizza Pie Cafe cooked and delivered all of the pizzas and they were great. They currently have locations in Utah and Idaho. They delivered the pizza in two batches, 90 minutes apart. They also let us keep the heat bags until the next day. So, hit up your favorite pizza joint, they probably cater!
As you can see, he pizzas were surrounded by the decor, pictures, and framed quotes. We used tiny chalkboard easels to display the flavors. And yes, we like pineapple on our pizza. I hope we can still be friends!
In addition to the pizza, we also served pasta salad in individual containers. This not only looked pretty, but it also made it easy, as guests could just grab a cup keeping us from having to serve.
Having only 75 guests overlapping a 3-hour span (thanks, COVID) definitely made the food more affordable and things like dishing pasta into a cup and sticking a fork in it weren’t as cumbersome. And yes, the forks are plastic.
Pretty cool, righ!? They look so real!
As far as drinks, we had chilled water bottles in a galvanized tub full of ice. Do you recognize the 2×4 barstools?
They come in handy for many things!
I was so happy when the florist asked if I wanted the leftover flowers! Heck yes, I do! Be sure to ask your florist to give you anything leftover, especially if you use silk. I guarantee you will pay for it anyway. The wooden rounds added a touch of rustic backyard wedding charm and the clear vases added a hint of elegance, particularly after adding the clear beads. I simply cut the stems and shoved them inside the vase. No science to it!
To make sure the vases didn’t tip over, my friend gave me the hot tip to use alien tape. It’s kind of like gum, but clear, less sticky, and removable. I’m hooked on it now and just used it for other decorations in my house that don’t like staying put. And aren’t those mini succulents cute? We bought them at the garden store, painted the clay pots white, sanded them to distress, and wrapped them randomly in twine.
Use 2-sided tape to keep tall vases from tipping
Ask your florist for any leftover flowers. You can use them in the reception decor to achieve a cohesive look while saving some cash.
7. The arch
To be honest, the arch looked pretty, and it was a great way to fill space, but it wasn’t used a lot. The neighbor’s house was a little too close behind the fence so our photographer opted to take photos with our trees in the background.
I rented the arch, but building your own is very doable. I actually considered it. But, I didn’t want to store it. This arch was made of 4×4 lumber. It wasn’t ideal for photos, but it is a perfect spot if you’re having a backyard wedding ceremony or for the couple to stand and greet guests as they enter the reception.
8. Garden Swing
This garden swing was one of those Pinterest wishes that actually worked out. I built it from a wooden board and tied macrame snake knots on the sides. My thought was to create a pretty, decorative area for the bride and groom to have another spot for photos. But, instead, it organically became a favorite spot where guests took their photos. It was like having a photo booth! In fact, I don’t think we got one photo with the bride and groom in it. But, that’s OK 🙂 I loved that it was such a popular piece and it added so much charm to the decor.
For more details on the how-to of the swing you can watch the video at the bottom of this post. I also have a DIY tree swing you may be interested in that is a little smaller and perfect for kids!
9. Add lights, lights, and more lights
To create ambiance and elegance, I wanted a lot of clear lights. In fact, I couldn’t put as many as I wanted because we were afraid it would be too much for our only outdoor electrical outlet. So we wrapped lights around the trees and the sides of the swing. When the sun went down the yard looked amazing!
I was pretty adamant that I didn’t want to drill or nail temporary holes, so I hung the lights around the patio cover using shower curtain hooks. The white curtain panels gathered and tied to each post were hung on a spray-painted wooden dowel held by stick-on hooks. So, yes all of it was done without nailing or drilling holes and was completely removable without damage the day after the wedding. You can see more real-time details in the video at the bottom of this post.
The mini votive chandeliers looked twinkly and adorable in the daytime while the votive candle in the center shined at nighttime. You can totally use these as a centerpiece or tabletop decor inside your house afterward since they come with a display stand.
At the end of the night, we lined up and formed a bridge of sparklers and bid farewell to the happy couple! If you like the sparkler ideas, be sure to buy the extra-long sparklers As an alternative to sparklers, you can use bubbles. They’re super fun, too, but probably not recommended during a pandemic.
Phew! That was a lot 🙂 I hope you got something out of these small wedding ideas. If you did, be sure to comment below and pin this post to Pinterest!! And if you like what you see on this blog, be sure to join the other 6K+ sawdust sisters and friends, so you don’t miss new projects. I would love to have you!