couple celebrating their marriage in a forest

39 Outdoor Wedding Ideas on a Budget for the Cost-Conscious Couple

Aug 8, 2023
By Wedding Spot

Everything is getting more expensive, from groceries and gas to buying a home and getting married. Zola estimated that the average wedding will cost approximately $29,000 in 2023, up from 2022’s average of $27,000 per event. With day-to-day life becoming more difficult to afford, many engaged couples have found it challenging to save for their dream wedding—or even host one at all. Some are trimming guest lists, cutting back on decorations, or moving their gatherings outdoors to combat rising event costs. If you’ve found yourself strapped for cash, seeking low-cost nuptial hacks, or hunting for affordable outdoor wedding ideas on a budget, you’re not alone, and we can help.

We’ve compiled a list of tips, tricks, and hacks for thrifty couples seeking outdoor wedding ideas on a budget. Whether you’re looking for out-of-the-box outdoor venues, themes, or DIY designs, you’ll find all that and more below.

Host an upscale but inexpensive celebration with these outdoor wedding ideas on a budget

Affordable outdoor wedding themes

When planning an outdoor wedding, there are infinite design directions you can go in, ranging from minimalistic to totally over-the-top. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, but selecting a wedding theme can simplify the planning process. If you’re not sure where to start, consider choosing a guiding idea or concept.

1. Lake-themed wedding

If you’re lucky enough to live near a lake, take advantage of the setting and host a lake-themed wedding. Plan a laid-back celebration and encourage guests to bring their bathing suits, or elevate your low-cost lakeside wedding with paper lanterns and oversized balloon decorations. Do you have access to a canoe, a couple of kayaks, or another small watercraft? Consider making an epic entrance from the water.

2. Garden party wedding

One of our favorite low-cost wedding themes—garden party—can be set in your backyard. All you need is a little imagination and an appreciation for eclectic décor. Collect an assortment of teacups, small dishes, and cloth napkins from local thrift stores to create tablescapes inspired by the Mad Hatter’s birthday party. Serve tea cakes, scrumptious small bites, and embrace other budget-friendly garden wedding ideas.

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3. Whimsical woodland wedding

Host a woodland-themed wedding to save loads on wedding decorations, as the forest provides plenty of sights and sounds for guests to enjoy. Set up simple seating in the woods for a whimsical spring ceremony, or host your wedding in a meadow in the fall for a rustic, romantic celebration against the backdrop of changing trees.

4. Carnival-themed wedding 

If you’re looking for an unexpected, totally out-of-the-ordinary outdoor wedding, look no further than a carnival theme. Dress in your favorite costume jewelry and outlandish outfits, and encourage attendees to let their freak flags fly! Wow your wedding guests with professional clowns, face painters, caricature artists, jugglers, fire breathers, or other live performers. Because performance artists often work in spurts, with most of their money coming in during the festival season, they may offer lower rates than bands or musicians do during wedding season.

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5. Vineyard-inspired wedding

Create a rustic vineyard-inspired wedding design with wooden barrels, burgundy accents, and lots of wine, of course! Host the wedding at a local vineyard during the off-season to save a few bucks, or incorporate a vineyard theme into your barn or backyard wedding. Recreate the look of vineyard trellising by draping vines, greenery, and soft fabrics over wooden arches or similar frames.

Budget-friendly outdoor wedding locations

If you’re looking for options for your outdoor wedding, look no further. Depending on where you live, there are so many low-cost event locations you choose from, including:

6. The mountains

Spring, summer, fall, or winter, the mountains of North America are breathtakingly beautiful year-round, so look for a venue that offers a view of some. Whether on a mountaintop or at the foothills of an expansive range, the guests at your mountain wedding will remember the setting and surrounding scenery for years to come.

7. State and national parks

Some of the most spectacular landscapes in the entire country are located inside state and national parks. Government-managed parks are fantastic outdoor wedding venues, offering views of everything from desert scenes and canyons to glaciers and lakes. They provide event services that range from venue-only bookings to complex wedding packages. Due to the affordable rental prices and gorgeous settings these parks provide, many locations are in high demand, so book quickly!

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8. Community spaces

Look for low-cost event spaces in your area and nearby neighborhoods. Public parks, gardens, community centers, and recreation areas are available for events. Although they may not offer food service or onsite event staffing, their BYO-friendly policies make it easy for frugal couples to cut costs.

9. Ponds

Plan a picture-perfect pond wedding to save money and celebrate your love of nature. Most ponds are impressive and flourishing self-sustaining ecosystems. They are hotspots for local wildlife and unique plant species. Hold your ceremony by the bank, and enjoy listening to an organic chorus of frogs, birds, and other creatures dwelling in the area.

10. Rooftops

Are you looking for an affordable wedding venue in a busy city? Do you live in a large building or near a restaurant with roof access? To reduce expenses, consider hosting a small rooftop wedding with your nearest and dearest. Just confirm safety and security restrictions with the building manager first!

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11. Greenhouses

Are you debating between hosting an indoor or an outdoor wedding? Blend the best of both worlds by getting hitched in an indoor greenhouse. With glass walls displaying the landscape and a relaxing, lush interior, indoor greenhouses are fantastic venues for hosting various low-cost wedding plans.

12. Nature conservancies

As nonprofit organizations, many nature conservation groups and nature conservancies host events to raise awareness for their organization and bring in extra funds. Although preserves or conservancies near you may not provide event staff or onsite wedding services, most offer inexpensive venue rental (if you don’t make a mess) for engaged couples planning on a budget.

13. Your backyard

Host an intimate, fairytale wedding right in your own backyard. Mix and match tables and chairs, or line the fence with family photos. Make the most of your space and budget, and kick off married life where you feel most at home.

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Inexpensive outdoor wedding decorations

Because you already have the natural setting to work with, you can create a romantic and scenic wedding scene by adding a few low-cost elements like:

14. Hanging lanterns

Purchase low-cost lanterns at your local craft or dollar store, and add twine, fishing line, or other cordage for hanging. Place LED tea lights or pillar candles inside the lanterns and suspend them in trees, arrange them on reception tables, or use them to illuminate wedding signs and guest walkways.

15. Trendy wedding signs

With everyday materials like leftover wood, chalkboard paint, hot glue, and a dash of creativity, you can make attractive signs that fit your wedding theme and unique decor. Use your decorative DIY signs to welcome and direct guests (e.g., lead them from parking to the ceremony or from the ceremony to the reception) or to highlight areas of interest, like restrooms, serving stations, the bar, and the dance floor.

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16. Geometric wedding arch

Embrace geometric shapes and bold lines to create an end-of-the-aisle image that stands out against your outdoor wedding backdrop. Geometric wedding arches create a dramatic and eye-catching shape without obstructing the landscape. Draw the eyes of wedding guests to the stars of the show with a metallic, wooden, or woven wedding arch.

17. Antique photo display

Celebrate the history and culture of your families with an antique photo display. Highlight the lineage that brought you to where you are today and highlight all the most influential people in your life. If you don’t have a big family or know their history, that’s okay; collect unorthodox frames and fill them with art instead! Use construction paper, foiling, or fabric to fill each frame, and then hang them in your design for a memorable, nostalgic, and creative piece of statement wedding décor.

18. Crafty drink coolers

Instead of investing in expensive outdoor refrigeration, upcycle everyday items into decorative drink coolers. With a little bit of elbow grease, some time, and the right tutorial, you can repurpose unused items, like a wheelbarrow or canoe, into a chic outdoor ice chest.

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19. Open-air string lights

Instead of covering the night sky with a canvas tent top, opt for an affordable open-air wedding. Create the illusion of a tent top with illuminating string lights. In addition to creating a simple yet stunning reception look, a string light top makes it easy for the event to transition from day to night.

Low-cost outdoor wedding ceremony ideas

Incorporate the natural beauty surrounding you to save money on the ceremony. Take advantage of flexible setup options and inexpensive design ideas, like:

20. A lemonade welcome station

Lemonade is easy to make in bulk and refreshing for guests attending weddings in the heat. Set up an inviting guest welcome station to provide guests with a cold drink when they arrive at your outdoor event. Use wooden barrels or pallets for a rustic wedding welcome station or place welcome beverages under an event tent, giving guests a place to cool down before the ceremony starts.

21. Weather-related welcome gifts

Is rain on your wedding day good luck? Even if it is, your guests may want to avoid getting soaked during the ceremony and staying damp for the remainder of the day. If you’re hosting an outdoor event, work weather protection into your décor plans. Protecting guests from the elements may require providing bug spray, blankets, icy water, or hot chocolate, depending on the season. Set up a guest welcome station with everything your wedding guests need to be comfortable.

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22. Budget-friendly seating

Reduce event rental costs with price-conscious ceremony seating. Use hay bales, stumps, or lightweight event chairs that can quickly be carried from ceremony to reception, eliminating the need to rent two chairs for each guest. Cover logs, benches, or bales with plush blankets or smooth throws so no one gets a snag in their clothes.

23. Natural backdrops

If you’re getting married against the backdrop of a breathtaking meadow or mountain range, avoid spending money on large flower arrangements or billowing drapery that will obscure the view. Instead, add a simple wedding arch to mark the end of the ceremony space and leave the scene in all its natural glory.

24. Floral aisle markers

Turn your outdoor wedding into a destination event with large tropical flower aisle arrangements. Create large bouquets with affordable blooms, like carnations or roses, for a romantic, timeless aisle design. Save money on your wedding flowers by repurposing the markers into your reception setup, turning them into centerpieces or gift table accents.

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25. A Honeyfund donation station

If you don’t need dishes, towels, toasters, or other everyday wedding registry items, consider setting up a honeymoon registry, or Honeyfund, where guests can contribute to wedding and honeymoon costs. Instead of gifts, your friends and family can contribute to covering the cost of adventurous excursions, romantic dining experiences, airfare, and more.

Affordable ideas for your outdoor wedding reception

Who said inexpensive and entertaining are mutually exclusive? It certainly wasn’t us! Host a welcoming and memorable outdoor reception with:

26. Shaded lounge areas

Whether you’re hosting a rustic farmhouse-inspired outdoor wedding or a whimsical bohemian-themed nuptial celebration, it’s important to provide guests with a comfortable, shaded spot to escape the sun. Create a laid-back and relaxing outdoor lounge in the shade of trees or inside an event tent to shield your loved ones from harmful UV rays and heat. Arrange plush rugs, wicker furniture, bean bags, floor pillows, and blankets around a low cocktail or coffee table.

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27. Lawn games

Keep guests entertained for just a few bucks with outdoor wedding lawn games, like Giant Jenga, Bocce Ball, Cornhole, or many other popular favorites. Lawn games are affordable and easy to set up. They’re great for adult-only events and family-friendly outdoor weddings—as long as you select age-appropriate games. Load up a cache of water guns in the summer, or prepare for a bride vs. groom snowball fight at winter weddings.

28. A poppin’ wedding playlist

Every wedding needs a little dancing, but that doesn’t mean you must dole out hundreds or thousands of dollars on entertainment. Instead of spending a significant portion of your budget on a live band, build an epic wedding playlist and invest in an outdoor dance floor instead. All you need to DJ your wedding from a smartphone is a set of powerful Bluetooth speakers and a reliable internet connection.

29. Polaroid photo displays

Create a beautiful, romantic photo display with twine cords, clothespins, and a Polaroid camera. Tie the yarn around a large tree trunk and decorate the twine with embellished clothespins or oversized paper clips. Add string lights to your design, and set up a polaroid station beside the display. Encourage guests to stop by the station, take a candid photo, and add it to the collection. By night's end, the trunk will be trimmed with lovely memories that will last you a lifetime.

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30. An outdoor photo booth

If trees aren’t around, set up a wedding photo booth instead! Repurpose the wedding arch, load up on fun props, like boas, masks, hats, and jewelry, and invite guests to share their festive snapshots on social media using your unique wedding hashtag.

31. A coffee mug gift wall

Every couple wants to give their wedding guests a thoughtful gift that they will actually use. Show your appreciation with inexpensive, practical (and totally unique) keepsakes: thrifted coffee mugs. Visit thrift shops and consignment stores in the months leading up to your wedding, collecting the most artistic and unusual mugs you can find. Display the cups on a bookshelf, ladders, or in an antique pantry. Invite guests to choose the mug that catches their eye the most and fill it with a cup of joe or hot chocolate before departing.

32. Wedding wish trees

Wish trees are one of our favorite sentimental outdoor wedding decorations. They are artistic alternatives to traditional wedding guest books, which can be used to create a showstopping display at your outdoor wedding. Set up a table where guests can write their well wishes for the newlyweds on a piece of paper, card, or notelet. Pin the handwritten notes to a small oak tree or a tabletop replica to resemble leaves. As more messages are added, the wish tree becomes a beautiful and heartfelt art installation.

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Food and drink ideas for an outdoor wedding on a budget

Thoughtful planning and resource allocation are essential to stretching your wedding budget as far as possible. Reduce food costs, alcohol expenses, and wedding day waste with some simple tricks.

33. Food covers

No matter the time of year, pests should be a concern at every outdoor wedding. From flies to fleas, the last thing you want is for a flying nuisance to ruin the time and effort you put into crafting an exceptional wedding menu on a tight budget. Protect appetizers, food bars, and the cake from flying pests and melting temperatures with low-cost food covers.

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34. Self-service stations

Replace an open bar or buffet line with smaller satellite stations. Choose cocktails that you can prepare in bulk, like sangria or punch, and tasty dishes that are prep friendly. When guests need a refill or a fresh plate, they can quickly serve themselves, eliminating costly catering and bartending service charges. If you have an enthusiastic support system, ask members of the wedding party (or other attendees you’re close to) to take rotating shifts overseeing important guest areas, refilling pitchers, replacing empty trays, and so on.

35. Build-your-own (BYO) food bars

In the spirit of self-service satellite stations, BYO food bars are the perfect way for cost-conscious couples to serve each of their wedding guests something they’re sure to enjoy. Gather all the ingredients needed to create a vibrant and flavorful taco, slider, potato, salad, or sundae bar. With so many BYO wedding food ideas to choose from, every couple can find one to fit their event style and menu preferences.

36. Grazing tables

Food can quickly become one of your highest wedding expenses, especially during peak wedding season when catering companies are in high demand. Cut costs by setting up gourmet grazing tables instead of hosting a formal sit-down dinner. Like a giant charcuterie board, grazing tables are edible displays overflowing with meats, cheeses, candies, dips, chips, and other mouthwatering snacks. For a robust, decadent tablescape, fill empty grazing table spaces with low-cost items like crackers, in-season fruits, homegrown vegetables, or pre-baked pastries (e.g., croissants, miniature cinnamon rolls, cookies).

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37. Sweet or savory skewers

Budget-friendly and perfect for any season, these affordable wedding finger foods are easy to prepare in advance and require little cook time. Whether hosting a tropical-themed summer wedding or getting married in a winter wonderland, the right seasoning blend can turn cheap bulk chicken breasts into finger-lickin’ frugal treats.

38. Seasonal sangria

You’ll find sangria gracing a variety of our wedding cocktail lists. Why? Because of the refreshing beverage's versatility and low cost! With white and red wine recipes galore, you can find the perfect recipe to fit your outdoor wedding style and season. Save a bundle on alcohol expenses by whipping up bulk batches of sangria in advance, adding affordable in-season fruits, herbs, and spices.

39. Potluck wedding

Times are tough for many of us. If your pockets are a bit light, and you’re struggling to find a way to feed all the people you would like to attend your wedding and celebrate with you, consider hosting a potluck wedding. Include an honest note in your invitations, explaining that your goal is to create and share beautiful memories with as many friends and family members as possible, asking guests to bring a dish to share instead of a gift.

Now you have a ton of outdoor wedding ideas on a budget that fit your style to choose from!

Now that you know how to turn your outdoor wedding into a welcoming, memorable affair for a fraction of the average expense, it’s time to put what you’ve learned to good use! Start by choosing the right outdoor venue to fit your event size and style, and go from there. To help you prepare, we’ll take you through helpful wedding venue comparison tips you should know about next.

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Wedding Spot

The Wedding Spot blog is designed to help couples navigate every step of the wedding planning journey. From before the engagement to after you say “I do,” our goal is to give you the tips, ideas, and inspiration to prepare for your big day — and all that comes with it.