Michelle & Noah’s Picnic Wedding

by Meg Keene, CEO & Editor-In-Chief

Stop the presses! I have a new favorite budget wedding! This one is via Real Simple Weddings, and it’s a picnic wedding. A picnic wedding just wasn’t practical for us, but I love them. The very best part of this wedding? The couple was aiming to keep the cost under $10,000 for their 100 person wedding, and (drum roll please) they came in UNDER budget!
The bride and her sister sewed these stylish picnic blankets out of calico fabric they found on sale. I also love this simple bouquet of tulips wrapped in fabric that would be super easy to make on your own.
They had their caterer pack these brown bag lunches for the guests, and put a sticker on each one with the menu. Just because they were having a picnic wedding didn’t mean they skipped dancing! The music was played on a ipod, and they had their first dance to Iron and Wine’s “Love and Some Verses.”
The bought wooden table ware on ebay, and the brides sister made the delicious looking whole-wheat cake with butttercream frosting. I love this wedding so much, I just want to eat it up!

Has anyone been to a picnic wedding? Planning a picnic wedding? I want to hear all about it!

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. She has written two best selling wedding books: A Practical Wedding and A Practical Wedding Planner. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in Oakland, CA with her husband and two children. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit MegKeene.com. #NASTY

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  • we’re having a picnic reception next month (my god, i can’t believe it’s next month already) in pasadena, ca. budget is $15k-ish, and i can’t wait till i have pictures from the day to show off! my main inspiration actually came from an article in martha stewart weddings a couple years ago, modified to fit our color scheme. after being told repeatedly by “wedding” caterers that we were insane for expecting to keep to a $20/person food budget, we ended up calling corner bakery cafe and are getting gourmet boxed lunches with sandwiches for around $10 apiece! for dessert, in addition to cake, we’ll have a whole buffet of some homemade, some costco, and a couple of bar cookie options from corner bakery… because we love sweets!

  • Jenna

    I want to have a picnic with my husband in between my ceremony and reception, which he thinks is a terrible idea, but this picture convinces me it is completely doable!

  • I ADORE picnic weddings. Well, at least the idea of them (I’ve never actually been to one). The one from Martha awhile back was absolutely perfect, and one of my very first inspiration boards was for a picnic wedding…. Maybe I’ll include another one for my next set of budget-friendly boards.

  • i loooove this wedding so much! thanks for posting!

  • Such a fun idea. A friend of mine had a big picnic wedding all planned, with baskets, blankets and pick your own treats…and then it got rained out. Be sure to have a really solid back-up plan if you want to try this.

  • I LOVE this idea. I’m going to forward this to my friend, who had her first date on a picnic and then was proposed to over a picnic. What a great idea to pay tribute to their story!

  • Peonies and Polaroids

    We really wanted a picnic wedding when we started planning but somehow it didn’t quite happen. We needed something that could easily transport to inside if the weather is Scottish!

    It’s my very favourite idea for a wedding though. Amanda, your plans sound gorgeous!

  • We’re planning one in August. Nice to see the trend!

  • For Jenna, While your guests want to see you and spend time with you, many cultures provide for time for the couple to be alone. At a traditional Jewish wedding, for example, after the ceremony, the bridge and groom gather in a private place for Yichud (comes from a word that means “together”). What they do with that time is their business, and many people share food then, especially because brides tend to be hungry after the crazy preparations in the morning.

  • I love this idea and have been looking for something similar. However, I have two big quesions for L.A or So-Cal brides trying this (or any park-setting) wedding:

    1. Amplified outdoor music is a requirement for me, but so far I haven’t found parks that allow it.

    2. I’d like to have alcohol of some type at the wedding – it doesn’t need to be a full open bar, but maybe a white wine sangria (picnicky and delicious). Have you found parks that allow alcohol?

    Thanks for any help.

    • Anne-Catherine

      i’m also planning a picnic wedding for next year. it will be in a field in the middle of the country, with only horses and cows surrounding us, so we can party as loud as we like.
      tables and chairs will be made from hay bales, large round ones as standing tables, small square ones arranged as sofas, with blankets on them to make them more comfortable.
      there will we a hog-roast over an open fire, a lentil soup served in preserve glasses and a sangria bar. also sandwiches served inside a big bread loaf (the one where you open up the top of the bread and there are all these little sandwiches inside)
      i will be making the cake myself, and i am thinking about making a cupcake tower, with different types of cupcakes to suit everyone’s taste.

  • rebecca, we went with the neighborhood church in pasadena. the grounds are not the *most* spacious, but they allow amplification and some alcohol. and they have bigger/nicer bathrooms than most of the city-run parks that we looked at!

  • Amanda – Thanks. We’re Jewish and, unfortunately, our temple doesn’t have a grassy yard. But it’s a great reminder to think creatively about non-park-but-parklike venues, so my thinking cap is back on.

    And congratulations on the wedding next month – it sounds like it’s going to be fabulous!

  • Simone

    this is most fabulous! i will have to encourage a picnic!

  • Meg

    Hey Amanda! Email me :) I’d love to feature your wedding, and besides, I know Pasadena well, so I’m curious as to the details!! It’s going to be super lovely. And Pasadena, in July, you will not get rained out. Heated out, perhaps, but rain, never.

  • Jessica

    My fiancé and I are also planning a picnic reception, as inspired by the wedding you showcased from Martha Stewart. We are however tying to come in at $7,000 with 250people attending (200 of that is family alone). It does, in fact, seem impossible but we are 4 months till and still under budget! To cut costs, we are sharing the cost of rentals (chairs, dance floor etc.) with the couple who are getting married the day before us at the same place. My fiancé is a Jazz musician, so friends are playing at the ceremony and reception (including a string quartet with the processional music that my fiancé composed for me to walk down the isle). We’re using a good friend of mom’s to caterer. (She has retired from catering) as well as my fiancés mom’s good friend who is a retired florist. We are making all of the invitations, programs, and picnic blankets ourselves and with a 2PM wedding we are skipping alcohol and having apple cider (because the wedding is in Oct.) So cross you fingers for us!

  • Meg

    fingers crossed, Jessica! I’d love to feature some of your wedding and super smart cost cutting tips when all is said and done. Drop me a email if you are interested!! Good luck (from all of us, I’m sure!)

  • Anonymous

    I love your blog! Throughout the wedding process, I’ve had to ‘de-program’ myself to stay in budget and keep the laid-back feel we want when we get to hang out with all of these special people in our lives. That said, one of my indulgences has been buying wedding magazines! I bought the RealSimple wedding book expecting more of the same outlandish but oh-so-beautiful eye candy. What a surprise to find Michelle and Noah’s wedding among several other real, simple, yet beautiful weddings.

  • Anonymous

    We are having a picnic reception in a Hangar in Seattle at the end of this month. I need idea’s desperately! We got married in June but all of the family couldn’t get together until September 27th. We are doing this for maybe $2K for 120 people. My husband has decided to do the cooking, we have rented the tables, chairs and china. We are having red and white checkered table cloths, white china, real silverware, glasses, etc. It’s almost a shabby/chic picnic. We will have lemonade, tea, coffee and soft drinks. I’m getting little metal buckets with fresh flowers for the dinner tables, river rock with balloons tied on them for the tables that go much higher in the air, and then lots of plastic bugs (what picnic is without bugs) so the kids can play with them. We will have an area outside of the hangar sectioned off for the kids on astro turf to play bean bag toss, football, etc. We are also having airplane rides. People can bring alcohol if they want too. We will have a cake made from a local bakery that specializes in wedding cakes and I’m thinking of music from an ipod. I need more idea’s and opinions. I want to keep the idea of a reception in a hangar theme going but making it relaxed and comfortable for everyone, being more picnic like.

  • What was the description used to find this table ware? Or if anyone knows where anything like that can found please let me know.

  • Anonymous

    i am having a picnic wedding/recption as well.. amplified music and alcohol was an issue for me, too.. but the thing i’m more concerned about is how to maintain some sort of structure.. generally i loathe wedding factories and emcees that talk for more than 5 seconds.. but their one perk is that they seem to keep the night flowing without awkward stops or “what do we do now?” moments… anyone have any ideas/suggestions/solutions for this?

    thanks in advance.
    -Kim Michele

  • Anonymous

    we’re wanting to have a picnic reception in the east bay area but i don’t know where to go if anyone have any ides plz email me @ heavensparadisellc@yahoo.com. its for about 75 to ppl.thanks ieshia

  • Anonymous
  • I am planning a picnic themed, bbq wedding!!! it wont happen until 2010, but it is going to be absolutely amazing!!! and our budget is $6500… so lets hope I can pull it off!!!!

  • I loved reading about this reception.
    And I would so go to and enjoy attending a picnic wedding.

  • where did you have the wedding. it’s so pretty… i was thinking of having a picnic wedding, too.

  • Chris, i found it! latest entry on my blog, super SUPER cheap!
    if you want to find it elsewhere, search "disposable wooden cutlery".

    we're having a picnic-ish wedding next july. i will keep updating my blog with the progress!


  • this post is awesome.

    i have been bothered to what kind of wedding i want because i want to keep things SUPER simple and when i ran into your blog.. *ding, ding, ding!

    now i can start planning!


  • Anonymous

    im getting married in 2 weeks time ,chuch is booked and thats it!!!
    no dress no suits..no nothing and im relatively calm even tho my fiance is stuck in usa with visa probs eek..
    we was having reception at the local pub but prices got horrendous and it really wasnt me..so instead ive chosen the village hall and a wedding teaparty ..i also wanted a picnic but its the weather..it will be semi outside as the hall has doors that go outside…which opens up next to a field..
    im using tea cups n lates i foun din charity shops n vintage tabelcloths..enamelware etc….roses..and traditional teaparty foods…am getting friends n neighbours to bake cakes…so fingers corssed for me !! :)
    oh the music..just going to be playing it off my fiances laptop..we even thought of making a whole cd..so the day/evenings planned…maybe karaoke…weve also made lil baskets fo each person with 1 quiz in about me and my fiance…lil things to keep the kids happi …bubbles etc….
    and all on a 1000 budget max :)

  • We rent a duplex with an acre of flat backyard. Our budget is $500. I am getting my dress made by a friend. bought our invitations at dollar tree and am writing BYOB (bring your own blanket) We are supplying picnic baskets with wine, bagged subs, grapes and bottled water. Under $500, oh, and i am going barefoot. I found someone on Craigslist who just wants to build his portfolio, a lady who will make us a simple cake for cheap, an officiant for free….any other ideas, e-mail me. MCHLLBEESON

  • same alcohol in the park issue here… i’m dying for a picnic wedding in my hometown, columbus oh, and am on a 5k budget, 100 people or less. i know i can do it, but i need help finding the venue and photos on the cheap. never thought of renting a duplex–how do i do that? also good idea looking on craigs for the photographer… i may have to try that!

    thanks for all these awesome ideas. if anyone knows anyone in columbus or central ohio, gimmie a shout!

    • Stephanie


      Have you checked out Innis Woods Metro Park in Westerville or Dawes Arboretum over near Newark/Granville?

      Innis Woods is FREE…the only caveat is that they don’t take reservations, so if you show up and someone else is having their wedding, you just have to wait ’til theirs is over. Just don’t choose September 12th, because you’ll have to wait on me :-)

      I had a friend who got married at Dawes and it was lovely. The do take reservations, but I’m not sure of the cost. I don’t think it’s that much. Good luck!

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  • Kayla

    I love the idea of a picnic wedding! My fiancé and I are having a somewhat Eco-friendly, budget friendly (especially for college students about to graduate!), and also a super fun and relaxed wedding. Our goal is to make our guests feel comfortable and enjoy our celebration! Our budget is roughly $1,000, and we plan to make the food ourselves (mainly from costco!) and I will be helping a friend who graciously wanted to make the cake and dessert bar! Luckily we have experience with wedding cakes with making it for my brothers wedding. But since we are doing a picnic style, we are having a small cake with a ton of deliciously flavored cupcakes! It will be so cute! We also are not allowed alcohol at the park, but hey! Look at it this way, you will be able to spend less overall or perhaps more in a certain area you want to develop (food maybe?) our idea with drinks is lemonade, ice tea, water, etc. It will be fun to have them bottled in galvanized ice buckets. Another great idea for saving money is buying glass jars/vases at good will. Seriously they are so stinking cheap!!! I love the idea of using mason jars for either: drinking out of, putting candles in and hanging them or using them as centerpieces. I hope the planning goes well for our wedding and for everyone else’s, we are getting married in August after six years of dating :)

  • Maria

    My boyfriend and I have been discussig our wedding more indepthly mainly b/c he thinks we on’t be able to afford one and I saif lets plan it out get details and look at the budget. We are not officially engaged due to him not wanting to to uunitl he can afford the ring. But we went fom a church wedding to a garden (we didnt have room for our guests) to the idea of a picnic vintage styled wedding. And all I can say is our budget will be around $5000.00-$8000.00 by time next year comes around. We have come up with a whole lot of ideas and luckily ahve friends in so many different industries willing to help out. We are going to have picnic baskets pre packer for guests (enough for how many pppl the rsvp for), and they will also receive a blanket with our monogram embroidered on them when they pick up their baskets…. Unlesss they RSVP for a table due to age, or disability. Were trying to find a venue we can have a bonfire at=smores. just a lot of a great fun low key ideas for the family and friends. Any other ideas would be appreciated…


  • MegIAre

    It is SO nice to hear someone with a budget of 1000!! I’m working with the same numbers and looking into renting a gazebo at a local park and going with a picnic theme!

    • Yleana

      I want to follow up– Im kind of on the same mission with the budget. How has it gone so far??