park wedding aisle

32 Park Wedding Ideas & Planning Tips for an Unforgettable Day

Nov 21, 2022
By Wedding Spot

If you’re part of an outdoorsy pair or are looking for help hosting an outdoor wedding on a budget, consider planning a low-cost wedding in the park. It might be winter now, but that doesn’t mean an outdoor wedding is out of the question. In this post, we review thirty-two fun and fresh park wedding ideas including entertainment, décor, and so much more. We look at venue styles, setup options, and planning tips to help engaged couples everywhere host the ethereal outdoor wedding they’ve always wanted.

Explore fun, festive park wedding ideas your guests will love

Whether you’re planning to say, “I do,” at a mountain lodge in the Tetons or get hitched with your childhood jungle gym in the background, these park wedding ideas can bring the magic of matrimony to the setting of your choice.

Theme ideas for a park wedding

Parks are versatile event locations that can accommodate a variety of wedding styles and themes, including:  

1. Classic. Turn any park into a classic event space with crisp linens, formal dinner service, a marked aisle, traditional blooms, and an elegant alter.

2. Chic. Design a chic wedding space at an outdoor park with soft lighting, magnificent floral arrangements, luxurious linens, and a clean design.

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3. Rustic. A park setting lends itself well to rustic-themed wedding decorations. Using chalkboards, tin buckets, mason jars, and simple string lighting, couples can design a rustic park wedding without breaking the bank.

4. Whimsical. Host a playful and whimsical wedding in the park with offbeat decorations, silly games, an unconventional menu, light-hearted entertainment, and a little boho style.

5. Picnic. Invite wedding guests to join you for a wedding picnic in the park. Bright pastels, checkered blankets, woven baskets, and finger sandwiches can bring a picnic-themed wedding in the park to life.

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Park wedding location & setup ideas

From one park to another, accommodations may vary. Sheltered areas, restrooms, tables, and chairs may or may not be available. Review the following location and setup ideas to help determine which setting is best for your park wedding.

6. State and National Parks. Housing some of the country’s most beautiful destinations, state and national parks take reservations for weddings and other special events. If you’d like to get married at the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, or on the ice at Glacier National Park, contact the park’s office for more booking details.

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7. Public parks. Fun for all ages, local public parks make fantastic family-friendly wedding venues. While many public parks allow weddings, they may have size, noise, or other restrictions in place. Contact the local parks department to confirm any specific requirements, permits, reservation fees, or restrictions that are associated with park weddings.

8. Pavilion. Many public parks have covered pavilions or picnic shelters that are available to reserve. Host the ceremony, reception, or both events in a sheltered space to protect wedding guests from potentially poor weather.

9. Tent. If you have fallen in love with a park that doesn’t have shelters available, consider renting a wedding tent to accommodate guests during the reception. After the ceremony, move to a luxurious tented safe haven that shields against the sun and annoying insects.

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10. Open air. Forgo overhead accommodations altogether and host your park wedding in the open air. Create comfortable sitting areas in shaded spaces or place benches by a babbling brook to help guests beat the heat.

Park wedding entertainment ideas

In addition to the activities already available at your park wedding venue, couples can entertain guests with fun activities like lawn games. An outdoor park is  the ideal setting to spur some friendly competition amongst your friends and family. Keep guests entertained at a lively park wedding with  crowd-pleasing wedding lawn games, such as:

•    Cornhole
•    Giant Jenga
•    Lawn bowling
•    Croquet
•    Kerplunk
•    Ring toss

But lawn games aren’t the only way to entertain guests at a park wedding. Here are some more ideas.

11. Photo-op. Build a photo booth for the reception with standing cut-outs, props, accessories, and costume pieces. Repurpose your wedding arch, add balloons, or streamers to transform the altar into a phenomenal wedding photo booth.

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12. Limbo. A wedding classic, limbo is an excellent addition to any park wedding. To play, all you need is a limbo set and an eagle-eyed judge.

13. Performers. Couples who host a park wedding have a lot of space to move around and so will wedding entertainers. Hire a face painter or balloon artist to entertain any kids in attendance. Book a firebreather, acrobat, or an illusionist to captivate and awe your adult wedding guests.

Dress code and party attire ideas for park weddings

At a park wedding, couples can invite guests to wear whatever they want, or they may dictate a dress code for the event. If you decide to implement a dress code, consider:

14. Casual. Host a casual park wedding where guests can look wonderful while still being comfortable. Detail whether shorts, sandals, or other warm-weather items are allowed at the outdoor event.

15. Semi-formal. Also referred to as “dressy casual,” set the dress code for your park wedding as semi-casual if you’d like guests to arrive in attire a step above casual. Guests will feel comfortable, cool, and look amazing in semi-formal cocktail dresses and suit jackets.

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16. Seasonal. Embrace seasonality when styling the wedding party. Dress the bridal party in light, flowing fabrics and forgo groomsmen jackets in the warmest months. Choose long-sleeved dresses and warm fabrics in the fall and winter.

17. Layering. At any outdoor wedding, layering is recommended for the couple and their wedding guests. Attendees may find an early afternoon ceremony warm but want a jacket as the day goes on. On the “dress code” section of your wedding website, offer layering recommendations based on the season and potential weather.

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Park wedding decoration ideas

A major component of decorating for a park wedding is working with what’s already there. Focus on ways to glam up the gazebo, pavilion, chairs, benches, or other structures already in place.

18. Chair decorations. Turn plain outdoor furniture into striking wedding seating. Add lush garland, bright floral arrangements, ribbon, lace, hanging signs, or balloons to wedding chairbacks.

19. Hanging lanterns. Perfect for open-air park weddings, lanterns can be hung directly from the trees. In areas with little tree coverage, shepherds’ hooks can also be used to hang lanterns and light heavily trafficked guest paths.

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20. LED lighting. To prevent the potential of unintended fires, skip open flames. Whether in a tent, under the trees, or in a wide-open meadow, using LED lighting is recommended for park weddings. Hanging, rope, orb, and other LED lighting designs can be used for ambient, peaceful reception lighting during the day or full illumination at an evening event.

21. Geometric arbor. Create a unique ceremony design that juxtaposes the natural park setting by getting married under a modern geometric arbor or hexagonal arch. Arbors are a terrific addition for farmhouse or rustic weddings that want to add a sprinkle of sophistication.

22. Ribbons. Add ribbon to garlands, wreaths, floral arrangements, menus, or even your hair to add a dash of delicate beauty to park wedding décor.

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Food and drink ideas for a park wedding

After the ceremony, invite weddings guests to join you for further celebrations in the reception area. Treat friends and family in attendance with:

23. A cookout. Reserve a pavilion with a barbeque grill or bring your own to treat guests to a casual post-wedding cookout.

24. Fresh foods. Save money on your menu and impress guests with flavorful fresh produce. Serve slices of fresh watermelon, blueberry cobbler, or veggie platters filled with local fare.

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25. Small bites. Keep food service on the casual side with a reception full of delicious budget-friendly wedding finger foods instead of a full-service dinner. Offer up charcuterie boards, veggie skewers, mini-cobblers, or a DIY taco bar. Guests will have a variety of flavors and food styles to choose from.

26. Family-owned. Ask your favorite locally owned family restaurant to provide food for your park wedding. Book catering services if available, or set up an on-site buffet to share your favorite local foods with guests.

27. Canopy. At an outdoor park wedding, your cake will need protection from the elements, especially pesky insects. Protect the cake with a glass display case, by placing it safely under a tent, inside the pavilion, or use a dramatic netted canopy to attract additional attention to the confection creation.

28. Dessert display. Lugging a multi-tiered cake into a park venue can be difficult on uneven terrain. Avoid potential missteps, save money, and create a whimsical cupcake display instead of splurging for a full-size cake.

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Venue ideas for a park-inspired weddings

Below, we’ve listed three venues that are splendid for couples inspired by park wedding ideas. These venues are perfect for park-loving pairs:

29. Park Chateau Estate and Gardens | Brunswick, NJ

Located midway between Philadelphia and Manhattan, the Park Chateau Estate and Gardens is a French-inspired venue in East Brunswick. Engaged couples may choose to wed in the estate’s private chapel or outside in the famed gardens, beside a sparking pond. A grandiose outdoor space, the stone pathways, groomed topiary, and manicured gardens offer couples an entrancing backdrop in an beautiful park-like setting.

Park Chateau Estate and Gardens offers per-person wedding pricing ranging from $160-$375 per guest. The venue can accommodate up to 350 indoor guests and up to 375 outdoors.

30. Nanina’s in the Park | Belleville, NJ

Right on the cusp of Branchbrook Park sits Nanina’s in the Park, a spectacular wedding venue with Italian style and glamor. The Tuscan-villa architecture, many ponds, and glittering pools welcome wedding guests. Famous for its cherry blossom gardens, Nanina’s is a favorite venue amongst couples and wedding planners who want to take a traditional park wedding to the next level.

Hosting indoor and outdoor weddings, Nanina’s in the Park can accommodate up to 400 wedding guests. The wedding venue charges per event based on time and setup needs with a five-hour minimum for weddings.

31. Explore Park | Roanoke, VA

The Roanoke County Explore Park is a gorgeous indoor/outdoor venue located right off of the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is a fantastic location for DIY weddings and is perfect for couples on a budget. The Explore Park offers flat rate pricing for both indoor and outdoor venues and accommodates weddings of 99 people or less.

A ten-hour rental of the park’s outdoor wedding space, which includes the intimate Butterfly Garden with Pergola Arbor, will cost couples $1,250. Table and chair rental is included in the park’s flat rate pricing, and alcohol is allowed with the proper permit.

Tips for planning a park wedding

There are many factors that engaged couples need to account for when planning a park wedding. To help you prepare, we’ve provided a handful of helpful tips:

• Reserve shelter space early. Many public parks, both national and local, are popular tourist destinations that do not offer event space during high-tourism seasons. Offering breathtaking scenery and plenty of space, availability can fill up quickly, so contact parks that pique your interest early.

• Obtain the proper permits. As parks are public spaces, most require a permit (or permits) to host a wedding on park property. Smaller public parks often require a permit to be obtained from the local parks department, while state and national parks require a special use permit that must be filed through their channels. Additional permits for noise, food service, or alcohol may also be required.

• Budget for and pay booking fees. Paperwork and fees may need to be processed through multiple channels before confirmation, and last-minute couples planning a park wedding may find themselves anxiously waiting for approval as the big day approaches. Confirm permit requirements and associated fees early in the wedding planning process for smooth sailing down the line.

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• Scope out bathrooms. Whether your wedding is taking place in a public or national park, consider the bathroom situation ahead of time. While some parks may have a small handful of accessible restrooms or portable toilets available, it may not be enough to accommodate your wedding guest list comfortably. Explore bathroom rental options for weddings in your area ahead of time.

• Hydrate. Keep plenty of cool water on hand, especially for park weddings taking place in the late spring, summer, or early fall when temperatures can quickly rise. Order personalized reusable water bottles as wedding favors for guests. Greet them with full, cool bottles upon arrival, and designate an area of the reception as the “hydration station.” Encourage guests to refill their water bottles and escape the heat at the hydration station.

• Keep food covered and warm. We mentioned keeping the cake protected, but all of your food needs to stay safe. Use outdoor food covers to keep bugs away and prevent other debris from affecting the food. Have food warmers on hand to keep hot food at an appetizing—and safe—temperature.

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• Don’t forget the ice. Ensure that plenty of ice is available to keep beverages cool and food at safe serving temperatures on warm days. For late-spring and summer weddings in the park, it may be prudent to assign two to three members of the wedding party to be on revolving ice duty in case melting occurs quickly. If your park wedding will be catered, discuss the ice situation with the caters ahead of time.

Plan a park wedding your guests will never forget

Now, you have the tips, tools, tricks, and park wedding ideas you need to start the planning process. Will you plan the big day yourself, or do you intend to hire a wedding planner?

Next up, we’re discussing how to pick a wedding planner in five simple steps. If you’re on the fence about hiring a planner, or not sure where to start, we can help.

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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.