Board #279 | Picnic in the Park (Budget Friendly #11)

Ever since I first saw this spread from the Summer 2006 issue of Martha Stewart Weddings, I have been in love with the idea of a picnic wedding. You can dress it up or keep it casual, and either way, it’s an unexpected idea for a wedding reception. If you love the idea but want a more formal, traditional wedding, this can work just as well for a rehearsal lunch. You can easily spend a chunk of money on picnic food, but you don’t have to. I mean…

Who says…a meal can’t cost under $20 per person?

Mood: playful, casual
Palette: yellow, red, white

{click image to enlarge}

Top row from left: yellow cardigan photo via Brooklyn Bride, letter-style invitation from Martha Stewart Weddings, bench photo from flickr, bowl of berries and chamomile from La Tartine Gourmande
Row 2: lunch boxes via Lucky Me!, ring pillow photo by The Studio Nouveau, cherry lemonade from Martha Stewart, flying a kite
Row 3: shoes from Zappos, wheelbarrow cooler photo by Heather Forsythe, picnic blankets photo by Liz Banfield, chamomile from Martha Stewart Weddings
Row 4: yellow ceremony program photo via {frolic!}, cakes photo by Jessamyn Harris, bouquet from Brides, sign photo by White Box Weddings

The Paper: Set the tone for a playful, casual wedding with an invitation meant to look like a hand-written note. Either use your own handwriting, or employ someone with handwriting you like to do it for you, then have it printed and mail it out in a colorful envelope. Simple ceremony programs are trimmed with pinking scissors and tied with ric-rac to give them a fun touch.

The Fashion: Buy a simple dress and embellish it yourself, with appliques, pleating, ribbon, or even tulle flowers. Accessorize with a vintage cardigan and simple jewelry. Zappos is a great resource for shoes – this pair of cute yellow flats is only $60 – and they offer not only free shipping on orders, but also free shipping on returns.

The Decor: Holding your wedding in a public park (or anywhere that is already attractive on its own) is a great way to save on decorations, and can be a cheaper venue than many others. Check out local public parks as well as state parks in your area. Paper lanterns or crepe paper streamers hung in trees are a cost-effective way to add some color to your venue.

The Flowers: If your guests are eating at picnic tables, decorate with simple arrangements of chamomile flowers or small bowls of summer fruit (check IKEA for bowls under $1), which are both pretty and edible. For your bouquet, mix pricier flowers, like garden roses, with cheaper ones and tie it with a pretty eyelet ribbon.

The Food: Serve picnic lunches in gable boxes or even simple brown bags for as little as $10 per person (you can make them yourself, or ask a local cafe or deli about their boxed lunches). Ask your friends and family members to contribute homemade desserts for a dessert buffet – you can even have bags for guests to take extra cookies home. A wheelbarrow makes for a clever cooler for drinks, and a large jar is a pretty way to serve punch.

Other Details: Save on a DJ or band, by having fun activities for your guests instead of dancing. Ask them to bring kites and set up a game of horseshoes or badminton. If you have a knack for sewing, you can make your own picnic blankets, or you can do what my mother used to do for school auctions: buy moving blankets for $6 apiece and paint large floral designs all over them with acrylic or fabric paint. Not only will they provide your guests with a place to sit, but they make for great favors.

Splurges: Rent a photobooth! The photos are fun keepsakes for you and your guests, and some companies have a flat rate with as many photos as your guests can take. Or, you can set up your own photobooth with a backdrop of interesting fabric and a Polaroid camera.

For Free: At my cousin’s wedding this summer, when the officiant asked “Who gives this woman/man?” the entire bride’s side and groom’s side responded with “We do!” respectively. What a fun way to include your loved ones! You can let your guests know their line at the front of the program.

Real Wedding Inspiration: Michelle & Noah, via A Practical Wedding and The Bride’s Cafe part one and two; Amanda & Eddie via A Practical Wedding


  • Kimberlee says:

    gorgeous – my kind of wedding, and not just because of the price tag. If i ever get married I hope it’s something like this, especially as it would work perfectly with the short dress i’ll be wearing! (will allow for easy sitting on picnic blankets with guests!) x

  • Very cute board. I love the shoes, but alas they are out of my size!! Everywhere!!

  • Your “for free” made me tear up! We can’t really do that, since we’re not having sides (his family is 10X the size of mine, it would make me feel sad) but we can do something like it…

    And, moving blankets? Your mom is brillant! We see where you get it :)

  • Meagan says:

    You are one of the most creatives persons in blog land!! I am so impressed with each and every “wedding” you create! I have been reading for a while and I just love to see what you do next. I am a designer and store owner and am constantly using my favorite blogs as inspiration! Love it!
    -Meagan from over at Rabbit in the Moon blog

  • Caroline says:

    I love picnic benches for the reception. I wanted them for my beach wedding. Unfortunately, the only place I could find that rented them wanted $50 EACH for rental – and that didn’t even include set up and removal. Utterly ridiculous.

  • amanda says:

    ha! i was reading through this post thinking, “this sounds just like MY wedding!” and then i got to the end and saw that we were actually one of the real wedding inspirations. i wholeheartedly agree with the tagline for this inspiration board — who says a meal can’t cost under $20 per person?

    that martha stewart weddings article was totally my inspiration, down to the gable boxes. and once the planning was underway, i ran across michelle and noah’s in realsimple, which made me feel even more certain that we’d be able to pull it off!

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