Ideas for a Budget-friendly, Nostalgic Backyard Wedding & Reception
Written by on Thursday, June 5th, 2014

[Check out our short Video, from this wedding, and scroll down for tons of helpful ideas, photos & details]

Did you know that the “average” cost of a wedding is now $30,000.00???

WOW… in most areas, that’s a down payment on a house!

And just in case you think you have to spend that much to have a memorable celebration,

this blog post will show you how to create the same beautiful memories for (drum roll please)…

  less than 1/10th of that amount:  only $2,756!

s_Wedding Toast

Case in point

I recently hosted an old-fashioned backyard wedding & reception for my son & new daughter-in-law

and to my pleasant surprise, we received a TON of compliments (from guests).

Considering the fact that one of our original goals was simply cost-savings, imagine our delight when,

one after the other, guests told us it was the BEST wedding they had ever attended…. NICE!

They loved the nostalgic venue choice and

four other things they mentioned (most) were the:

laid-back atmosphere

(recommended) casual dress

cozy setting

and all the personal touches

So, our casual, backyard setting helped everyone feel relaxed,

which evidently laid the perfect foundation for wedding success.

Encouraged?  I hope so! 🙂

And to help you plan your own budget-friendly, nostalgic, backyard wedding & reception,

this blog post outlines the steps, details and numerous helpful hints that I used to create a memorable celebration for

my wonderful son & his adorable wife.

Full disclosure: planning a wedding & reception is a large undertaking,

but with the help of my backyard-fresh experience,

you’ll find it doable and rewarding.

And best of all, the money saved can be used on something else… like a Honeymoon! 😉

s_DavidJessicas-FirstKiss_ColorM

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION!

Wedding Location/Venue Rental costs are $500 & UP!

Cost to use the backyard for your Wedding & Ceremony – $0

HELPFUL HINT:  Check rainfall averages (in your area) to choose the best time of year for perfect outdoor weather.

In case it does rain… keep your guest list to a manageable number, inside or out, as Plan B.

Hopefully, the photo (below) gives you some idea of the usable space (apx. 73 ft. x 25 ft.) I had to work with.

Believe me… it wasn’t much! :-/

But a little advance practice, with table angles, helped me create perfect seating for 75 in my little ranch-style home’s backyard!

back yard_empty

(PARKING) HELPFUL HINTS:  Send reminders (email or Facebook) to everyone attending to please carpool.

Let your neighbors know about the wedding (ahead of time) and you may be surprised at how helpful they are… mine offered up the use of their driveways!

ORGANIZED PREPARATION IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS

Become your own Wedding Planner!

If you’re not good at entertaining & crafty details, ask family and/or friends (who are) for help because

the cost of hiring a professional will set you back between 10-15% of the total wedding cost ($3,000-$4,500)

Cost of taking on this task yourselves – $0

HELPFUL HINT:  stay organized (throughout the entire planning process) by creating a CHECKLIST, broken down by who will be responsible for each task.

BONUS… it feels great to check things off, as you inch closer to the big event.

Task List

To create a CHECKLIST, insert a table (into Microsoft Word).

HELPFUL HINT:  Categorize the tasks to ensure you don’t miss anything.

 D.I.Y.  – DO THINGS YOURSELF

Once you have a backyard chosen & your list created,

start working on the task list right away so you have time to tackle as many as possible yourself.

Doing so avoids last-minute rushing and believe it or not… accomplishing things (yourself) also creates cherished memories.

Begin by creating your own wedding invitation.

Invite f n b

Insert photos, the wedding details, RSVP & registry/gift info into text boxes.

We created two 4″w x 9″h templates (in Microsoft Powerpoint),

for the front and back sides of a 2-sided invitation that fit easily in a #10 (4-1/8″ x 9-1/2″) envelope.

BONUS…. the opportunity to reflect yourselves by including photos of your choosing…. even your blended family of pets!

HELPFUL HINT:  For a whimsical photo idea, place the wedding rings on your pup’s nose.

Consider asking for help… creative family members & friends might surprise you with some great, usable photos.

I felt very honored that my Son & D.I.L. chose to use four photos I took when creating their invitations.

Take the finished product to a local office retailer (i.e. Kinko’s) to be printed

on double-sided glossy card stock.

Cost:  Ea. set of 40 two-sided invitations (in color) & 1 box of envelopes – $35

SPRUCE UP THE BACKYARD

Choose a focal point, in the yard, to hold the ceremony.

You might be tempted to utilize the patio, if you have one, but I recommend saving that to use as a dance floor.

If you don’t have an existing structure – like a pergola – out in the yard,

create an altar under a large tree or garden arch (there are lots of inexpensive versions of these).

Do this early so you have time to place a floor underneath it

for the happy couple to stand on (during the ceremony) and sit on, while eating.

I chose my pergola, and without any experience,

used some leftover bricks & pavers to create a floor under it

Cost (1 bag of sand) – $3

patio

Also, think about what needs a little touch-up cleaning or looks worn.  Ask for outside opinions, on this, too.

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If you have a patio to use (as a dance floor), pressure wash & possibly paint it.

Also, clean and paint the surrounding fence & yard furniture, if they’re looking dirty or worn out.

Cost to rent a pressure washer – $35

Fence & Furniture Paint – $120

Now, the yard is ready for some art!

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The best art I know of is courtesy of Mother Nature, so plant plenty of flowers.

Check your local discount or garden store and choose (what you like) among the least expensive flowers.

Also, consider a few large flowering plants, to plant in specific spots, for huge impact.

Cost for 60 potted flower plants & 30 bags of fresh mulch – $150.

HELPFUL HINT:  During the weeks leading up to your flower planting, rinse & save eggshells (in the freezer).

Pulverizing them in a blender is an inexpensive & easy way to fertilize & enrich the surrounding soil with calcium.

Cost – $0 (plus, you’ll be recycling!)

BONUS… nature’s “art” created beauty in my yard, even after the wedding!

s_flowers planted

LIGHTING!

Think about where the wedding couple & their guests will be gathering and concentrate most of the lighting in those spots.

I met both of those lighting needs with something everyone already has on hand…. strands of white (Christmas) lights.

I utilized nearby power sources & grounded extension cords to light them up and then, strung them around both areas.

It was easy & quick to string lightweight miniature strands of lights, end-to-end, around structures and between the house & trees.

Cost – $0

s_pergola with lights

s_pergola lights 1     s_xmas lts

Then, light up the remaining garden beds with torches,

filled with citronella fuel to alleviate potential outdoor (flying) pests.

HELPFUL HINT:  Lit torches should be kept away from low hanging branches (fire hazard) & not too close to your guest’s mingling areas (due to a small amount of smoke the burning fuel produces).

Keep in mind, torches can pull double-duty as decorations if you paint the outside bamboo holders OR

are lucky enough to find them in colors that match your wedding decor.

Amazingly, I found these budget-friendly yellow & orange metal (canister) torches at the Dollar Tree

and they matched our wedding color palette perfectly!

Torches & Fuel – $25

s_torches

Next was the table lighting.

HELPFUL HINT:  Check with other people who have had weddings to see what they still have things that you can borrow.

I borrowed several mirror tile squares (from someone who had purchased them to use for their wedding)

because I knew their reflective qualities meant I would only need small, votive lights on each side of my flowers.

And mirror squares are pretty inexpensive (6 for $10), even if you have to purchase them from the DIY (hardware) store.

s_candles on mirror matsHELPFUL HINT:  Check out clearance sections in stores that have several locations in your area.

That way… if you find something that works with your decor, but they only have a few left, you can ask the store staff to check their other locations for more inventory before purchasing.

On my first stop, I found these votive candle holders in the clearance section of a local craft store (Michael’s), for only 50 cents each,

and eventually gathered all I needed from 3 of their local stores.

I also found a $6 box of 24 votive candles, to place inside each.

Votives & Candle Total – $25

s_votives

DECORATIONS

Once we received all of our RSVPs (who gets almost 100% Yes?  Evidently, us!  LOL),

we created a seating chart to determine how many tables & chairs we still needed to borrow.

We asked neighbors, friends & family & added their outdoor seating to what we already had.

It all worked out perfectly!

The tablecloths were a lucky find… purchased on clearance also for .60 cents each.

Table, Chair & Tablecloth Cost – $3

Floral Centerpieces

Consider simple glass vases that can be recycled later (vs. stored… to never be seen again), like Ball Jars.

s_ball jars

They are inexpensive (usually .99 cents each), BPA-free and  are made in the good ol’ USA.

BONUS… they can be used afterwards for canning, to store small items in, or as drinking glasses.

To decorate them, I used an inexpensive ($1) roll of twine, which I wrapped around the rim & finished with a tied bow.

s_ball jars before

One week prior to the wedding take a look around your yard and the yards of family members, neighbors, and friends to see what hearty greenery & blooming flowers they have (in quantity)

and wouldn’t mind you trimming… to create floral centerpieces for the reception tables.

HELPFUL HINT:  Test your (chosen) flowers & greenery, for wedding reception-hardiness, by cutting a few early, placing them in water & letting them sit outside for a few hours.

HELPFUL HINT:  Don’t forget to check out herb gardens because some of those also make great (greenery) filler in between the flowers.

If you can’t find enough flowers to fill your vases, purchase inexpensive grocery store bouquets to split between the vases.

Here’s how ours turned out….

s_putting out Flowers

Total Cost (jars, twine & flowers) – $36 (includes a few store bouquets to mix in)

s_OutsideDecorations_Full

MY FAVORITE PART…. DECORATING! 🙂

Once you’ve chosen the color scheme for your wedding & reception, you’re ready to shop for decorations.

I found affordable paper lanterns & tissue flowers at my local ‘Party City’ store, but NOT in their wedding aisle (LOL).

Check out this short video (of my shopping trip) to see what I mean…

Cost (2 packs ea. of the paper lanterns & tissue flowers) – $36

Then, the decorating fun begins… starting with your focal point!

HELPFUL HINT:  Although it’s nice to use ALL fresh florals,

silks made more sense when decorating a large structure, like a pergola, because it can be done ahead of time.

My daughter-in-law (to be) wanted tulips and a bright color combination of pink, yellow & orange.

This was a stroke of luck because I had just taken down my Easter decorations and guess what?

That’s the same color combination I used!  Woo hoo… even MORE savings!

s_front door_full 1

I began by tying 3 pieces of ribbon to a grapevine wreath, and then

hot glued (Easter-recycled) flowers to the perimeter and hung it (horizontally), centered under the pergola, as a floral chandelier.

s_floral chandelier

Next, I wrapped a roll of grapevine around the front of my focal point (pergola) structure.

s_grapevine

Grapevine is a wonderful decorating element that will provide you with a base to which you can attach other decorations.

If you can’t find a roll of grapevine in your floral supply store,

simply cut the binding ties off of a grapevine wreath.

If you find it too tight to open up, loosen it by soaking it in water a little first.

s_grapevine added

Now that you have a base, use floral wire & hot glue to add silk florals & ribbon to the grapevine.

s_decorative elements

First, I added yellow Forsythia vine

s_yellow flowers

wired-on some bird nests…

s_bird nest

hot glued in tulips & baby’s breath…

s_florals added

wired-on bows…

s_bow added

Here’s the finished floral, closeup…

s_decoration finished

Cost (wreath, grapevine, flowers, nests & ribbon) – $150

Here’s how all of the decorative elements looked together…

s_pergola_full 1

My only regret – not creating the pergola patio sooner so the grass had more time to fill in.

But luckily, with all of the other decor to look at, I don’t think anyone noticed.

And can you believe my neighbor had chairs with my favorite blue color cushions on them?

They matched my blue garden accents perfectly!!  🙂

BARTER FOR NEEDS & SERVICES

When planning your wedding, it pays to think about who you or they know (family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, etc.)

that work for restaurants, take great creative photos and videos, or are just starting a home-based business.

We bartered for several things to save money!

My nephew is a super-creative & excellent photographer and one of my other son’s owns his own multimedia business.

Both were happy to take photos & videos (of the wedding) as their gift to the Bride & Groom.

s_photo

Cost – $0

One of my friends is the Marketing Rep. for a local restaurant.

Because I have always helped her decorate for the holidays, she was so sweet to offer her employee discount

on all of the wedding food (3 salads, 3 pasta dishes, herb rubbed chicken, wild rice, mixed veggies & bread rolls), which were all delicious & 40% off… WOW!

Remaining Cost – $650 (for 75 people)

BONUS… we had a few yummy leftovers to enjoy post-wedding!

And because I paid for the food, the bride’s mom covered the cost of the drinks, cups, plates, napkins & silverware,

so the 2 families basically split the largest expenses, to keep costs manageable for both of us.

We made our own iced tea & coffee.

Total Cost (food, drink & necessities) – apx. $1550

My friend also bartered her (restaurant) discount with a florist friend (for me), so the Bride & Groom’s flowers were free.

Cost – $0

s_JessicaWithBouquetAndRing_CloseUp     s_RonPuttingDavidsBoutineerOn

By asking around, I found an accomplished home baker who happily created the Bride’s dream, ombre’ wedding cake

for 1/4th the cost of what a bakery would charge.

And for even more cost savings, the Bride & Groom added their  own, quirky flair

by using their favorite Beetlejuice characters as the cake topper (cost – $0)

I guess a lot of people know these characters, so it was a fun & popular addition to the wedding.

s_wedding cake

And delicious, but inexpensive cake pops were given out as wedding favors….

s_BestCakeBallsEver

which we heard about (the yummy-ness of) for days after the wedding…. they were a HUGE HIT!

Cost for a 3-tiered, custom wedding cake & 80 cake pops – $255

REPURPOSE TO ADD SPECIAL TOUCHES & MORE COST SAVINGS

Think about the everyday things you already have that can be repurposed for wedding duty.

  I recycled my 2 white lanterns (from Easter),

using one as a candle container on the Altar, which was moved forward (after the ceremony) to double as the Bride & Groom’s dinner table.

s_AltarDecorations_001

Cost (3 White Candles) – $15

and the other as a wedding card receptacle inside the house that I decorated with more recycled (Easter) ribbon.

Cost – $0

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I combined more leftover (Easter) ribbon with 2 paper wedding bells to create the perfect front door decoration…

no one had any doubts that they were at the right place!

Cost – $2

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Another benefit of hosting a backyard wedding is that I can add “Special Touches”

anywhere I want to create the “unexpected” for guests to discover.

I re-purposed the hat (off a snowman ornament)

IMG_0127

to help me decorate part (the groom) of a sweet decorative pair of lovebirds,

which I hung from the pergola.  And I used leftover florals & ribbon to create the Bride’s (bird) veil.

s_BrideAndGroomBirds

Cost (2 bird ornaments) – $8

Also, I used an existing outdoor chalkboard to help congratulate the Bride & Groom…

s_chalkboard

Cost – $0

On my computer, I created a tiny sign, to place in my recycled, wheelbarrow Fairy Garden, with a special sentiment for the happy couple…

s_fairy garden

Cost – $0

MORE COST SAVING TIPS

Instead of hiring a DJ, download wedding music to your phone and

connect it to a quality speaker, positioned near the dance floor.

Music Cost – $0

Don’t forget to check websites like Etsy.com for unique, custom & inexpensive decorations.

I found a woman who creates handmade banners for any occasion, so I ordered this:

s_banner

And they can hang it up in their own home for special occasions like Valentine’s Day or their Wedding Anniversary!

Cost – $13

Also check websites like Craig’s List for wedding surplus that previously married couples have leftover to sell.

HELPFUL HINT:  Use the search term “wedding”.

We found giant “send off” sparklers for …

Cost for 80 – $35

Look on websites like Pinterest for Bridal headpiece ideas.

Our Bride found exactly what she wanted, bought the supplies

and I created her headpiece and one to match for her Flower Girl (puppy)

Cost – $10

s_JessicasHair

And because the wedding attire was casual, the Bride & Groom’s outfits & shoes came to a total of only – $300

A huge cost AND time saver was created when the Bride & Groom decided not to have Wedding Attendants.

This eliminated the cost for Attendant gifts AND a Rehearsal Dinner.

But, they did enlist their trusty pups as the Ring Bearer and Flower Girl.

Here’s the Flower Girl (Bella Luna) leading the way to the backyard where the Groom is waiting for his Bride!

s_JessicaWalkingToTheAisle-DogInFront_001

We were fortunate to have the most incredible Wedding Officiant.

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The Bride & Groom attended a friend’s wedding he officiated at and were so impressed

at his personalized & humorous ceremony script that they were excited he was available for theirs.

When they asked their friends for his contact info, they found out he was not an official Notary, but…

their friends decided to pay the $65 fee to make him an official Notary, as a gift, so….

Cost – $0

Normally, the cost for an established Officiant is $250 & up.

And the Officiant had a Bartender friend who agreed to take care of bar-tending for us.

Labor Cost – $250

And instead of a Maid of Honor & Best Man, both of the Grandmother’s served as the witnesses to their Marriage License,

which I thought was a much more meaningful idea… especially since this Grandmother is now 90!

Cost – $0

s_Gma witnessing marriage certificate

Although our wedding celebration was simple, by today’s standards,

the fun, togetherness, and love were immeasurable and everyone had a wonderful time!

While planning your own special day,

keep in mind that although every wedding is memorable,

I hope you are inspired to consider this budget-friendly, nostalgic idea.

If so, you’ll have lots of leftover cash to spend on making even more memories together!

s_Rings

I HOPE YOU ENJOYED THE CREATIVITY!

eileen_green

P.S.  Feel free to leave your COMMENTS 🙂

Enjoy our short video highlight again

(below) of the wedding, and

after clicking on PLAY, click on the FULL SCREEN icon for best viewing:



20 Comments

  1. Patty Lyda says:

    Eileen, thank you so much for sharing this special day!! Your ideas are outstanding!!

  2. Stella says:

    AMAZING is the only word that applies!

  3. DeAnna W. says:

    Amazing!!! So very pretty, I love every single idea and decoration you had! Great job, my favorite was the grandmoms as witnesses. Congrats to the happy couple, I wish them many many years of happiness!

  4. Sue says:

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful wedding and all the work leading up to it! Absolutely gorgeous!!

  5. V. Kelly says:

    It has an Alice in Wonderland feel to it. How wonderful!

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  7. vickie says:

    Wonderful ideas,I am going to send this to my niece. You are so talented,bet you were worn out after the wedding.

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  17. Kathy Pratt says:

    I love all of your ideas. My son and soon to be daughter-in-law are getting married this June in our backyard. I’m going to use a lot of your ideas. They want a casual, friendly wedding. Perfect!

    • Eileen says:

      That’s great Kathy! I’m sure it will be a wonderful wedding and I’m so happy to give you a few ideas to jump from. And thank you for taking the time to comment and let me know you enjoyed the post. ♥ Eileen

  18. Jami says:

    What did you use for the bride to enter and then for them to exit music wise. Did you do that with the speaker too or have live music?

    • Eileen says:

      Hi Jami, the bride chose to enter & exit without any music… just the chirping of birds and after the ceremony… applause. It was nice!

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