A Cheery Texas Picnic Wedding with Lawn Games

A royal blue maxi dress, BBQ buffet, and a foot race. Y'all are going to love this.

Juliet, Fundraising Administrator  & Tom, Graduate Student Recruiter

One sentence sum-up of the wedding vibe: A breezy, festive, Texas BBQ picnic with a wedding in it.

Planned Budget: $10,000.00
Actual Budget: $10,274.00 (includes the rehearsal dinner, does not include the honeymoon)
Number of Guests: 125


Where we allocated the most funds

The venue (with food), photographer, and outfits. All of these are also in the “totally worth it” column.

Our wonderful photographer is a professional but also a friend, and having him there felt so natural, and that shows in our pictures. His style is so vibrant and lively, and I suspected it would be a great fit for the casual, people-focused day we wanted to have, and it was a real win. I could not be happier with our photographs.

Because I didn’t want a white wedding dress, I figured I could get away with keeping things pretty inexpensive, and while I think our final outfit budget is reasonable, this stuff added up. My Nadia Tarr dress was ordered online on sale for $300, and as an added bonus the jersey fabric meant no extensive alterations despite losing some pounds in between when I purchased it and the wedding day. Tom wore a gorgeous Italian lambs wool suit he got at a thrift store for $12.00, no effing kidding. He bought it a few years back and has worn it on many occasions, so for the wedding we had the jacket tailored since he has lost a few pounds as well. Alterations are totally worth it, but kinda pricey! Add that to the “adult things I’ve learned” column. Add in a tie and shirt, our shoes, jewelry, etc., and pretty soon it all cost around $800.00.

Where we allocated the least funds

Relatively, based on typical major expenses: Sound and music (borrowed PA with an iPod playlist), flowers (farmers market DIY), and hair and makeup (makeup by myself, hair by a friend).

We decided that the daytime, picnic with lawn games wedding day we were planning didn’t really require a DJ, so my fiancé and I decided on an iPod playlist… which we didn’t get to until the week before the wedding. This was actually a bit of a positive thing, because had it been done and sitting around the months before the wedding, I’m sure I would have fussed with it endlessly unnecessarily. We enlisted a local friend in a band (that’s a real benefit of Austin living—you know at least a few people in a band!) to bring his PA system for our outdoor ceremony. While we initially thought the celebration would move inside to the party barn after the ceremony, the amazing weather allowed us to spend the whole day on picnic tables under the shade of the gorgeous, giant pecan tree, and it was so wonderful to have the music centered out there for everyone to enjoy. Nate’s PA really saved the day, PLUS he set the whole thing up, and played guitar during our ceremony. We can’t thank him enough.

The best décor decision I made was to purchase flowers through a vendor at our local farmer’s market. Our flower vendor delivered several buckets of whatever was in season two days before the wedding, and the day before my aunts and cousins made all of the arrangements while I made my bouquet. The whole process took no more than two hours; I was really laid back about the look of the arrangements, which helped keep things moving. The flowers looked great in person, but BOY do they really pop in the photographs. I credit the success of this strategy to letting the vendor deliver what was in season; this kept costs down and gave us the freshest flowers.

What was totally worth it

Our venue (which included a full Texas BBQ buffet). Choosing a venue that doesn’t usually do weddings but does lots of other events was the key to my sanity. We had to switch venues two months before the wedding due to a plumbing failure (!!!) at our original, more bare bones location, and we ended up at a privately owned picnic spot with a party barn generally used for events like corporate picnics and family reunions. Because it wasn’t a traditional wedding venue, their laid-back attitude (and budget friendly prices) were a perfect fit for us. Because they do large events all of the time, the venue staff were totally organized, helpful, and made the day run so smoothly. With our budget, I had assumed we wouldn’t be able to afford an inclusive venue, but going out of the wedding-norm made that possible. I’m sure my friends and family would have been more than happy to help set up tables and utensils, swap out empty platters, and pick up finished plates at our original venue, but I am so, so, so glad they didn’t have to.

The most surprising part of this venue change? In the end when I took out the budget lines for rentals, the hiring of some student workers to help out, and the plates, utensils, etc., I no longer needed to purchase, the new place was actually about $50 cheaper than that first bare-bones venue where we were planning on bringing in sandwich and salad trays. An important reminder that DIY (or T!) is not always the best deal, and certainly isn’t always the best value.

What was totally not worth it

Some of those damn little Pinterest-curated details I spent so much time stressing about. While I still stand by some of the “big impact” décor we did (large flags for the yard, the inflatable swans we put in the pool, the local farm flowers, and the three time-intensive but totally gorgeous pojaki paper chandeliers I made that now hang in our house), if I did it again, I’d skip probably all of the other little, purely aesthetic details I spent so much time looking for and crafting. I thought these little touches would really set the “vibe” of the day, but you know what did a great job at setting the vibe of the day? The people, and the venue. I didn’t need to “curate” a casual outdoor picnic with carefully chosen cocktail napkins, special beverage decanters, and vintage tablecloths—the picnic we ate outdoors really kinda did that on it’s own.

A few things that helped us along the way

I cannot count the numerous contributions from our friends and family that made our wedding possible. We had a very short setup time the day of, so dozens of friends signed up on a Google Doc I created to show up an hour early to help get everything ready. Here’s a tip: if you do something like this, have your volunteers set up the bar first so they can use it! People love helping if they can do so while holding a beer. Also, having a go-to in charge person with a clipboard that wasn’t me was so crucial. We asked a family friend who works as an activities coordinator to stage-manage our wedding day (my fiancé referred to her as our “wedding quarterback”). She lives out of town, so I created maps, inventory lists, and any other sort of diagram or documentation I could think of to pass off to her that morning, and she took my gibberish and totally made it work.

My best practical advice for my planning self

Here’s the one super-practical thing I really wish I been able to tell myself: If something is provided to you (plates, chairs, tables, vases, tablecloths, etc.) through your venue, caterer, or other vendor, don’t try to DIY/DIT “upgrade” it for aesthetic purposes. Check it off of the to-do list, and move on. I totally did this many times before I learned my lesson, and it came from a wedding blog, Pinterest-envy dark place. Flash forward to our wedding, and I spent the entire day so excited to be spending time with my friends and family and taking it all in, living in the excitement of being married, and experiencing “worlds colliding” moments, that I don’t remember what any of those little details looked like. Seriously. The chairs, the napkins, the flatware, the tablecloth colors—I didn’t see any of it that day.

Also, I needed to remember this one more: No one will miss it if they never knew it was going to be there.

Favorite thing about the wedding

The foot race. Two of our friends, who had a long running bet about who was faster, raced down the lawn of our venue about ten minutes after our ceremony and it was just about the best thing ever. The debate had started at another wedding of friends at a fancy country club a few years back, and Tom and I casually said then that the two could race at our wedding, since the country club was not a suitable venue for them to settle the bet. Well, the idea lived and grew, the two raced at our wedding after much build up. I knew our friends would really enjoy the race, but what I didn’t expect was how much our families would enjoy it. Everyone loves a race! It was a great way to build excitement and set a casual atmosphere for our wedding. Here’s a video of the race.

We didn’t have a videographer, so can I say how much I love that this is our wedding video?

Anything else

With the exception of a few speeches and a ceremony (performed by a stand up comedian friend), we cut pretty much every other traditional wedding element. No white dress, no wedding party, no one gave me away, no first dance, no cake (pie!), no bouquet toss, no seating chart; it was a lovely picnic that happened to also have a wedding in it. For us, the key to going so non-traditional was managing expectations. This included lots of conversations early and often with family about what we were (and often more importantly were not) planning on doing, and a super detailed wedding website. There was some surprise and initial disappointment regarding certain missing elements from our families, but time and some minor compromises really helped with that. For our guests, because they knew what to expect, everyone was excited and totally on board for something different.


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