16 Simple Outdoor Wedding Ideas on a Budget

Weddings are the most unforgettable moments you’ll experience in life. However, the whole wedding planning process can also be stressful, and the event itself can be expensive. From the wedding cake to the wedding decor, wedding flowers, wedding reception, dance floor, and food service, there are just so many wedding expenses to consider.

Fortunately, you can choose to have an intimate wedding with your closest family members and friends and still make your big day memorable, unique, and reflective of who you are as a couple. Want to know some of the best outdoor wedding ideas that won’t break the bank? Here comes the guide.

outdoor wedding arch

Use a DIY Wedding Arch

A handmade wedding arch is one of our top outdoor wedding ideas on a budget. You’ll have a beautiful backdrop without spending too much money. For example, you can use a wooden arch to achieve a rustic vibe. Old ladders and unique decorations will also help keep your rustic wedding theme alive. Vintage curtains create a dramatic effect, too. You can even add artificial flowers and decorative garlands.

You can simply hang string lights over the arch if you want a more modern look. You can also use an arch made from pipe shelves to paint and decorate them based on your wedding colors. Then, you can replace flowers with some gorgeous greens. Whether you incorporate just a few or many plants, your wedding arch is sure to look amazing, just like you, on your wedding day.

outdoor wedding table set for a meal

Choose a Simple Table Design

If you’re looking for affordable wedding venues, your own backyard is the key! The best thing about an intimate backyard wedding rather than a traditional wedding venue is that it can look stylish and elegant without too much effort and spending too much money on decorations. That’s because the natural surroundings already make for a gorgeous backdrop for your wedding. You can just decorate your wedding table with accessible elements, such as flowers, green leaves, and plant pots. You can also head over to Dollar Tree and thrift stores to find table pieces that will match your wedding color scheme.

Moreover, going back to the basics is a good idea. You don’t have to make the table crowded with designs only to end up making your guests feel uncomfortable during the sit-down dinner or buffet-type dinner.

Don’t forget to set up a table assignment chart, too. This way, your guests know where to sit and talk to people they’re comfortable with. One great way to save money here is to use an old window and write the guests’ names on the window pane. Take advantage of your beautiful handwriting or your friend’s and use a paint pen for the text on the glass.

Festival garland light bulbs hanging over outdoor  shopping area copy space

Illuminate Your Wedding Reception With String Lights

Regardless of your wedding theme, lighting is crucial as it sets the mood for your wedding reception. Apart from enhancing your wedding’s aesthetics, it will also light up the entire outdoor space beautifully. Once the sun sets, it’s the twinkly lights’ time to shine.

One great thing about lighting is that you don’t have to shell out a lot of money to achieve the vibe that you want. Hang some string lights along a fence or from the trees. You can also do so on your outdoor tent’s ceiling. String lights are often available with white, green, and brown wires. If you’re having a simple backyard wedding, you can buy string lights with these three colors and string them in different places around your home.

You can also decorate your fence with some bistro lights or coil them around your tent’s beams to showcase the structural grandeur. Moreover, ensure nice lighting in the dancing area. Then, you can use marquee letter lights highlighting your initials and your groom’s. These offer a more retro vibe for your wedding reception while also adding a personal touch to your backyard wedding decorations.

food warming in a food warming dish

Set Up a Self-serve Food and Beverage Table

A self-service bar and food table is a great option for small weddings held in private spaces like your backyard. With this setup, you can freely stock your drinks of choice and let the wedding guests help themselves, especially when they need one before hitting the dance floor. You can also save some bucks because you don’t have to pay for a bartender or hire another vendor.

Once you’ve decided on your budget, decide on what food and drinks to serve. From warm bread to barbecue, cheese boards, popcorn, and even rustic comfort food, you have several options to choose from depending on your budget.

Then, prepare the necessary glassware, paper plates, ice, and drink options. You can also set a theme for your cocktail hour drink or go for craft beer. Think of the right place for the bar, and assign someone to watch over the drink station to ensure there’s enough to go around.

At most weddings, a certain drink minimum has to be met, and even if you have guests who are not really into alcoholic drinks, you still need to pay the minimum. Avoid wasting money like this by knowing your guests and determining the appropriate food and drinks to serve.

food truck

Get a Food Truck

Another tip for a budget-friendly wedding is to hire a food truck. Apart from taking advantage of cheap catering, you’re also supporting local businesses, especially since many of them have been greatly affected by the pandemic. Their food options are usually sold in more casual settings. Thus, it’s a perfect choice for your casual backyard wedding. With mobile kitchens, food truck businesses won’t even have to cook inside your home or at your wedding venue.

group photo of bride and groom and friends

Create a Smaller Guest List

Inviting more people to your wedding ceremony requires a bigger wedding budget. You’ll need a bigger wedding space, to prepare lots of food, and more. However, if you’re on a tight budget and still want to achieve an elegant wedding, you can simply limit the number of guests. This means preparing fewer tables and chairs, sending fewer invitations, and saving a lot of money on food, to name a few.

Moreover, a small wedding allows you to cherish your big day with the most important people in your life. To some people, choosing a smaller wedding is hurtful, but it’s your wedding — it’s all about you and your groom. Don’t think about what others will say so long as you’re happy and satisfied with your most special day.

You can start cutting the list by 20% and then another 20%. Alternatively, you can start at zero and then include your parents, grandparents, siblings, and a few close friends. You can just talk to your other friends and relatives who are not part of the guest list. Those who aren’t narrow-minded will surely understand that it’s nothing personal and that you simply want an outdoor venue that won’t drain your bank account.

Make a Wedding Photo Guest Book

One fun way to entertain your wedding guests and make your big day memorable is to have them snap photos with a Polaroid or Instax camera. Add some cute and quirky props. On the back of the photo, guests can write their wedding wishes or any messages for you and your groom. If you won’t have a photo booth at your backyard wedding venue or prefer a more modern kind of photo booth, this photo guest book is a great plan B for you. Besides, several camera shops in the United States sell these films, so you’re sure there’s enough to use.

Moreover, the photo guest book can be part of your wedding favors. Photo snaps from your wedding add a personal touch to your reception and allow the guests to enjoy taking pictures that they can bring home. They’re indeed a great wedding hack that will help you save money.

mason jars with candles and rocks inside

Use Pretty Mason Jars

Great small backyard wedding ideas include using Mason jars. They make for a perfect inexpensive wedding centerpiece. An easy way to design them is to paint them according to your favorite color, like white or pink. Then, place them over a slice of a tree stump, and put some flowers inside that match your jar’s colors and wedding colors. Even after the wedding, you can reuse these jars in different ways, so they’re truly economical.

painted wood wedding sign that says, "this is how our story begins"

Use DIY Wedding Signs

From leading your guests in the right direction for your wedding reception to welcoming them to your beautiful union as husband and wife, wedding signs are necessary for any wedding. To save on costs, you can write and design them yourself. Use a dark wooden board to write your favorite wedding quote, Bible verse, or simple words like “Welcome to our happily ever after.”

To make the signs more appealing, add flowers and greenery. You can even set up signs that remind visitors to refrain from using their phones during the wedding ceremony should you wish.

DIY wedding invitations

Create Your Own Invitations

When it comes to wedding invitations, why spend money when you can have them for free? If you’re good at graphic design, feel free to design your own invitations. If not, you can just look at different design styles and templates online. Then, customize them according to your preference, print them, and send them to your beloved guests. Sites like Etsy also offer some affordable invite templates. Meanwhile, if you prefer digital invites, you can use With Joy or Minted.

Entertain Guests With Lawn Games

The best outdoor wedding ideas include letting your guests enjoy some lawn games. If kids are attending your wedding, all the more that you need to have these games to keep them from getting bored or fussy. If your budget backyard wedding is set in your childhood home, then you’re sure to have beautiful memories of playing there with your childhood friends.

From badminton and horseshoes to croquet, corn hole, giant Jenga, and bean bag toss, there are several yard games to choose from. You may even have one of these games already stored in your garage, so you can save a lot while keeping your guests entertained.

photo wall

Make a Creative Photo Wall

If you want a beautiful backyard wedding with your closest friends and family members, create a photo wall that highlights your memorable moments with the groom. With this photo collection, the guests will have a glimpse of your relationship journey and how you’ve grown as a couple. If your best friend, aunt, or other closest relatives haven’t seen you for a long time, the photo wall is a great way to catch up. This photo wall easily complements your other wedding decorations too, like your wedding signs.

If you prefer a more nostalgic feel, use black and white photos. If you want to highlight your travel photos or silly moments together, use a colored photo collection. You can also hang pictures with your respective families for a more sentimental feel. Another option is to post a series of family wedding photos from different generations. This way, you’re honoring the important people who came before you.

Let Your Pets Participate in Your Wedding

One of the biggest perks of having your wedding in your family backyard is you’re free to get your adorable dogs or cats involved. You can’t do this with traditional wedding venues. Also, your furry friends are already familiar with your own backyard, so they can easily adjust (hopefully) to the surroundings.

You can choose your dog as the ring bearer or simply dress them up according to your wedding themes. Kids who are part of your wedding can play with these cute dogs at your reception location, too. To avoid worrying about your furry friends, ask someone, like your sibling or best friend, to take care of them during your wedding ceremony.

Combine Wedding Decorations and Wedding Favors

If you’re working on a tight budget, you can just combine your backyard wedding decorations and wedding favors. For instance, decorate your tables with some succulents. Then, hand them to the guests at the end of your wedding party. You can also give them some homemade jams, cookies, salsa, and other food items that you’ve served at the wedding. Apart from witnessing your beautiful union, they can bring home something to share with their family and you get to save too!

wedding planner

Choose a Low-Budget Wedding Planner

One of the best budget-friendly wedding planners is no other than yourself. Instead of spending lots of money on wedding planners with significantly high rates, consider planning your special day yourself. While some brides might think this is too stressful, remember that you are not alone. Your maid of honor, bridesmaids, or parents can share great ideas for your perfect wedding venue, wedding party, wedding menu, yard games, and more. Pick dedicated friends who love planning get-togethers and creating to-do lists.

You can make your wedding planning checklist with their help or with available resources online, like wedding planning websites and apps. Generate a group folder where you and the other wedding planners can easily monitor the tasks and items needed. Apart from saving a lot of money, this choice can help strengthen your bond with your family and friends.

Seek Help in Exchange for Wedding Gifts

If you’re aiming for a low-budget wedding, you might want to stay practical and strategic when it comes to wedding gifts. Perhaps, you have a friend who’s a professional photographer, a videographer, a baker, a singer, or an event organizer. Try asking them if they can share their creative talent as a gift for you and your groom. This is also one of the best ways to avoid overflowing kitchen utensils of different brands that you might receive as gifts.

Of course, you’ll still appreciate these kinds of gifts, but if you can have more affordable options for your wedding instead, that would be great. If you’re not comfortable asking this favor (and we totally understand), your friends can perhaps give you great deals or discounts instead.

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Kristen is the founder and content creator at Mom Managing Chaos where she teaches busy moms how to simplify and organize their life and finances. She writes about frugal living, budgeting, productivity and organization.