Far and away the most important thing to bear in mind when you’re choosing when, where and how to get married is: what will make this day special, meaningful and memorable for me and my spouse-to-be?
But – unless you’re eloping! – it’s also important to plan a day that your family, friends and loved ones can reasonably expect to enjoy. Attending a wedding means being generous with your time and usually your money, so as a bride or groom you’ll want to do your best to ensure your guests are kept happy, comfortable and entertained.
If you and your beloved met at a summer camp, spend all your vacations in tents and cabins, or just simply love the outdoors, then you’re likely tempted by a campground wedding…but you may be wondering if you can guarantee that your guests will love it as much as you do.
Never fear! We’ve put together some advice to help you plan the campground wedding of your dreams, in the confidence that your guests will remember it for all the right reasons.
With a campground location comes the potential to adapt to a huge range of budgets. It’s possible to find a venue that will provide for all your wedding needs – catering, decorations, ‘glamping’ accommodation – which will be way up the higher end of the price range. But the outdoor setting really lends itself to an informal feel with lots of DIY touches, which will help you keep costs down. Plus if you really embrace the camping theme, a tent is likely to be cheaper than just about any bridal suite you’ll find! As with any wedding, focus first on budgeting for the key elements of your wedding – venue, catering, whatever is most important to you – before you start splurging on party favors and other incidentals.
If there’s a particular campground that holds meaning for you and/or your betrothed, find out if you can reserve it for your special day or weekend – and then consider whether it’s a realistic choice. Do you love it because it’s so remote and wild and miles from anywhere? Great, but – how will everyone get there? Is it available at a time of year that will be comfortable, or will you be shivering in your dress and trying to convince yourself you always wanted a November wedding?
Plan for all weathers
Even if your big day is booked for July, the weather can still surprise you. So you want an outdoor ceremony, followed by a cookout, with all your guests camping out in tents around a campfire? It sounds beautiful, but one downpour is going to ruin it.
If there’s no central building (like a barn or cabin) at the campground, consider planning your site around a large tent so there’s somewhere to shelter if the worst happens – and see below for weather-proof plans on where everyone is going to sleep.
Accommodating your guests
If your wedding day – and night – turns out to be warm and dry, and everyone on your guest list is just as into camping as you are, then putting everyone up in tents could be great fun: you could purchase a load of tents or even invite your guests to bring their own.
But in case of weather-related contingencies, and/or guests who might not enjoy old-school camping (hey there, Grandma!), consider giving your guests the option of an RV rental. A good quality RV will be dry, temperature-controlled, and probably less off-putting to any of your guests who are not natural born campers. Again, a range of options will be available to suit any budget: it’s easy to find an RV with great amenities, and a classic Airstream or VW camper van could even make a great feature for your wedding photos.
On a less glamorous note, don’t forget to plan for enough restrooms for all your guests…be prepared to budget for luxury Porta-Potties if necessary!
That’s the grimly practical stuff out of the way – onto the beautiful details!
Embracing a rustic outdoor wedding doesn’t mean you have to give up on the wedding dress your heart desires. Instead, lean into the challenge of finding a dress that will work with your surroundings (think not too long!) and with your footwear. Heels are definitely out! Barefoot might be cute for the ceremony, but you know you’re going to need something more practical if you’re outdoors all day – what about the classic Western combo of white dress ‘n’ cowboy boots?
Once you’ve decided what you and the rest of the wedding party are going to wear, don’t forget to clue your wider guest list in on the dress code too.
Style and theme
The campground setting lends itself to a number of different styles. If you have treasured memories of going away to sleepaway camp when you were a kid, why not imbue your big day with a nostalgic tint by turning the site into a summer camp for grownups? We’re thinking colorful decorations with lots of bunting; custom pennant flag wedding favors; dinner served at long tables; and s’mores by the fire before bedtime. You could even keep your guests entertained with retro camp activities between the ceremony and dinner: crafts? Swimming? Capture The Flag, Team Bride v Team Groom?
If you’d prefer something a little more understated, consider a bohemian feel (bare feet, prayer flags, ceremony under the trees); include some metallic accents in your decor to bring a little industrial chic into the woods; or simply embrace the rustic romance of your setting with floral designs, warm wooden textures, and simple white lanterns.
Live music is even more magical outdoors: imagine simple strings playing your favorite song as you walk down the aisle, and a band getting everyone up on their feet to dance well past midnight. Aim for a balance between crowd-pleasing genres and the music you both love – and don’t forget to figure out how the band are going to power their equipment. Depending on the set-up at your venue, you may need to rent a generator.
Food and drink
Your power source – or lack of it! – is also a key consideration when you’re deciding what food to serve: it’s not easy feeding a crowd in the middle of nowhere! Think about foods that work well outdoors (barbecue? A picnic?), choose a caterer that specializes in outdoor events, and give some thought to how you’re going to serve it: compostable plates are a sustainable way to keep things easy.
Whether you go with a traditional tiered wedding cake or smaller treats such as cupcakes, don’t forget you’ll need somewhere cool (and insect-free!) to keep them. Meanwhile, keeping drinks cool is a challenge, but also an opportunity for a quirky little decorating touch: beer tastes so much better when it’s been stashed in an old canoe full of ice!
A camping-themed wedding throws up any number of logistical challenges, but also promises an unforgettable day with many opportunities for you and your beloved to let your personalities shine through. Happy wedding planning – and happy camping!