Save money on your outdoor wedding with these tips.

There’s no better backdrop for your summer or fall wedding than nature. You can save money on the venue and many other amenities with these tips for having an outdoor wedding without breaking the bank.

First, don’t be fooled into thinking that having your wedding at home automatically saves you money. Unless you set a budget and plan some other savings, you could end up spending more than if you rented an all-inclusive venue. Prioritize what you’re willing to rent or buy and just how formal you want your outdoor wedding to be. Then get going with these tips:

  • Pick a venue. Some couples have great back yards of their own or the bride’s parents want to host the wedding. A big, open yard means you start with a budget of zero dollars and can allow some budget for a tent or other cover for shade, along with food and décor. Of course, plenty of shade trees? Even better!
  • If you don’t have the right yard, ask extended family and friends. Country, rustic and coastal weddings are popular. And anyone close to you would probably be happy to offer their summer cabin, beach house or other gorgeous property for free. Just be sure to work out details such as parking and consider a nice gift or gift card as a thanks as you depart.
  • Or try a local, state or national park, which might have beautiful settings and scenery for much lower fees than wineries or other typical outdoor destinations.
  • Your local library or university might charge nominal fees for use of outdoor settings and offer back-up rooms in case the weather changes.
  • Museums, botanical gardens and historic sites are other choices, but prices can vary. With any public, government or nonprofit outdoor setting, you usually have to reserve your date and time and pay a fee.
  • Save money on a planner with do-it-yourself organization. Having an outdoor venue introduces a few extra challenges but eliminates others. Check with friends who have exchanged their vows outdoors for advice and then get organized. With a checklist, you, your partner and a few friends or family members can knock this out.
  • Remember the adage of “something borrowed” for brides. You’d be amazed how generous your friends and family are and how much they love to help. Accept offers from clever and crafty friends and the lease of tables, chairs, dishes and other props.
  • Collect bottles or mason jars to use as free flower vases and candle holders for your tables. Wrap lace, burlap or fabric ribbon around the bottles or jars for inexpensive décor to match the style and theme. Rocks or sand inside the jar hold scented candles or citronella, which also adds bug control. Even tin cans make great utensil, napkin or flower holders if painted and decorated.
  • Use what you have. If your event is in your back yard, why hide the patio table? Drape it with a matching tablecloth and use it to hold gifts, beverages, whatever fits the layout.
  • Potted plants and flowers already in your yard or a rented setting make great backdrops. Add them to your decorating plans and cut back on purchased fresh flowers.
  • Simple flower arrangements are all you need for outdoors. You’re surrounded by blue sky, green grass, trees or water. Buy your own flowers at a bulk or discount store and assign a friend or family member the task of cutting and preparing table decorations.
  • Crafty friends and family can make DIY backdrops and decorations too. All you need is a theme, color palette and imagination.
  • Use food bars and carts. With an outdoor venue, you can relax the rules. Treat your guests to plenty of good food prepared by a few local food cart vendors or catered by a local barbecue joint. Or host a food bar with gourmet burger fixings and a cupcake bar for dessert.
  • For an afternoon wedding, save money on food by serving finger foods and cake or desserts only.
  • Your guests won’t be sitting for long. Save on fancy, padded rented chairs, but beware of metal if they’ll be out in the hot sun. Or get creative. Couples with rustic and country weddings have used straw bales covered with linen, which could be another “something borrowed.”
  • Expecting some heat? Make your wedding program double as a fan for guests. Buy kits with popsicle sticks and printable cardstock to make your own.
  • Serve beverages you purchase at a big box store and set out in theme-appropriate iced containers, like galvanized washtubs for a rustic or country wedding. Use brightly colored plastic containers for a beach or pool theme.
  • Save money for your wedding party, too. You can make an outdoor setting as elegant as an indoor one if that’s your preference. But if you want to keep it cool and casual, choose clothing that matches the expected weather and conditions and that bridesmaids and grooms men can wear again. Spiked heels will sink in the grass, and long gowns will pick up sand or mud.
  • String garden or Christmas lights for a soft glow to keep the party going after dark.