Picnic weddings are a totally unique and fun way to celebrate your marriage. We love them because they can take on so many different forms: from the formal, featuring champagne and blanket-to-blanket food service, to the casual, where guests serve themselves from a DIY sandwich bar and a barrel full of beers. Because these outdoor weddings are nontraditional, they require lots of creativity and some careful planning. Read on for eight things to consider if you want to have a picnic wedding.
1. Location, location, location.
You can host a picnic wedding in pretty much any outdoor space: a local park; a campground; the beach; or even your backyard. But before you settle on a location, consider the logistics: Are there permits you’ll need to acquire? Your city’s website will have information on how to apply for and obtain the right permissions. Are there bylaws that will affect your wedding plans? Think noise ordinances, alcohol restrictions and nighttime curfews. Read your city’s website thoroughly or call the parks department to ensure all of the legalities are squared away before sending out your invites. If you’re having your wedding at home, be sure you inform your neighbors well in advance — and consider inviting them!
2. Stuff you’ll need.
A park or yard is a blank canvas for a wedding, so you’ll need to bring in just about everything, from decor to table settings. If your location features picnic tables, consider bringing in table cloths that show off your personality. Otherwise, figure out how many blankets you’ll need to accommodate your guests; consider putting families or groups of friends together, but be mindful of the size of each blanket — you don’t want anyone to feel crowded. You’re also going to need plates, cups, flatware, serving utensils and a table for food and beverages. Depending on the type of entertainment you choose, you may also need to rent a sound system.
This one’s a biggie: Whether your wedding’s in a park, at home or on the beach, the bathroom question can be a challenging one. If you host your wedding in a park or at the beach, you may have access to public restrooms. Check them out before your wedding and decide if they’re clean and functional enough for your guests. You may want to bring in your own toilet paper and hand soap in case what’s provided isn’t up to snuff. If you marry at a private home, the existing indoor bathrooms may be fine for a small wedding (about 30-50 guests), but if you’re hosting a larger group, consider renting a fancy port-o-potty.
4. Bad weather back-up plan.
Unless you live in sunny Southern California, perfect weather isn’t always a guarantee. If your picnic wedding will be held in a backyard, prep the house as a bad weather back-up plan. Even if you can’t have the same crazy dance party you’d planned outdoors, an indoor wedding full of music, food and good friends will be just as special. To prepare for bad weather at a park or beach wedding, you may want to rent a tent (though be sure you check with city officials about the legality of erecting a temporary structure). You could also prep up a back-up location, such as a private home, in case of inclement weather — that’s the nice thing about a picnic wedding, it’s so low key you can shift plans without too much upset!
5. The food.
Now the fun part: picking out your wedding food! You have infinite options at a picnic wedding: bring in a food truck; ask your favorite restaurant to cater; have a potluck; set up a DIY sandwich bar; do formal passed apps; or pack a bagged lunch for each guest. You’ll want to avoid serving foods that are difficult to eat — such as soups — and stick to finger foods or dishes like pasta salad that can be served and eaten with ease.
6. Guest comfort.
Depending on the season, there will be different comfort-related issues to tackle. If it’s the height of summer, bring in umbrellas and hand-held fans to provide a little shade and cooling. Is the ground hard? Scatter some pillows around your blanketed picnic area or rent a couple of sofas for additional seating. Will there be bugs in the air on your big day? Purchase some citronella candles or offer guests bug spray upon arrival. Remember to purchase enough water for the duration of your event and have plenty of ice on hand to keep drinks cool.
7. Decorations and details.
The beauty of a picnic wedding is that by choosing a location you love, you can keep your decor minimal — a few floral arrangements, garlands, bunting or twinkling lights are pretty and simple. We’ve seen couples put floral arrangements on each picnic blanket or just on the dessert table — the options are endless!
The time of day, location and style of wedding you want to have will dictate your big-day entertainment. If you want to hire a band or play music, be mindful of local ordinances restricting amplified sound. If you’re having a daytime wedding, lawn games, badminton, volleyball and other activities are fun for guests. You could even do a craft (doubles as a wedding favor!) or set up a temporary tattoo station.
Photos one and three from this engagement session by Lindsey Thorne Photography / Photo two from this engagement session by Vanessa Joy Photography / photo four from this inspiration shoot by Mark Mirocha Photography