DIY Garden Wedding: Bring a Vintage Vibe to Your Big Day

By Joanna Tovia of Houzz

We can’t all afford a celebrity wedding planner and a no-expenses-spared reception. But getting married out in the garden can be just as special, and all the more meaningful, if it reflects the bride’s and groom’s personalities and how they feel about each other. A theme that gives your big day a handmade or vintage vibe, or both, can be humble and beautiful, and as delightful for guests as it is for those celebrating their union. Here are some ideas to get you thinking about the possibilities for your own wedding or one you’re planning for someone else.

Photo by Liz Ham


Keep It Casual

Part of the joy of getting married is watching the friends and family you’ve chosen to invite enjoying themselves and sharing in your happiness. A garden wedding with limited space gives you the perfect excuse to invite only those people you truly want at your wedding — not that long-lost uncle who gave you nightmares as a child, or the colleague you’ll never see again once you leave your place of employment.

Arrange seating in a way that lets guests move around and mingle. Getting stuck sitting at a table for hours gets old fast. At this wedding — for interior designer Luci Dibley and her husband — guests sat on hay bales beneath market umbrellas kept upright with giant spools.

Keep Guests Cool Under These Patio Umbrellas

If hay bales are too casual (or prickly) for your liking, you can set up small tables with chairs, or even a shaded shelter complete with comfortable couches where guests can put up their feet.

Photo by Liz Ham

Keep It Cozy

Cordon off the area for guests with bunting you’ve made yourself. If you can gather scraps of vintage or retro fabric to make the flags, so much the better. And don’t worry about restricting your color palette — bunting has a habit of turning out well no matter what.

Make Centerpieces Yourself

If you are having a sit-down meal, the table centerpieces offer you a chance to get creative. Garden cuttings and old wooden spoons labeled with the table numbers are charming at this wedding.

Photo by Liz Ham

If you opt to have a color theme — floral centerpieces that match your bouquet or the bridesmaids’ dresses, for example — bring in a vintage touch by displaying them in a can wrapped in lace and string.

Mix and Match

If you don’t want a cookie-cutter wedding that will soon fade from peoples’ memories, do it differently. Details like mismatched plates, teacups and glasses add a quirky vintage touch, and it can be fun poking through secondhand shops to find old plates for your collection.

Photo by Liz Ham

Digging the Vintage Vibe? See More Shabby Chic Decor

Layer It Up

The beauty of a small wedding is the ability to personalize it without going to huge expense. The starched white tablecloths gracing the tables of formal weddings can bring a sense of occasion, but so can something a little more colorful. Layers of hemmed fabric — even if only over the cake or gift table — will pretty up any venue, inside or out.

Make Every Guest Feel Special

Setting each place with care sends a message of gratitude — not just that the guests have come to your wedding, but also for the role they play in your life. A little gift or wedding favor that guests can take home with them is customary, but one that’s homemade will be all the more meaningful. A jar of jam with a thank-you label, a handful of cookies in a sturdy paper bag tied up with string, handmade soap in a cellophane wrapper — you get the idea.

Make It Magical

If your celebration is likely to linger into the night, use plenty of candles to set the scene. Floating candles in glasses of water on the tables, tea lights in paper bags weighed down with sand lining pathways or garden beds, lanterns hung from trees or all the above. Assign one of the guests to keep an eye on the candles and to replace them if they burn down or go out.

A set-and-forget alternative is the plug-in kind. A string of lights down the center of each table (or just the bridal table, if you prefer) and strung up in trees can make for a magical setting.

Communicate in Style

In keeping with the homemade theme, direct guests to tables with the help of some DIY chalkboard signs. That way you can keep a little control over who gets seated next to whom, and maybe do a little matchmaking while you’re at it.

Photo by Liz Ham

If you’ve opted for the ease of a buffet meal, let guests know the gastronomic delights that are in store with a chalkboard sign …

… or a printed menu. Designing and printing your own is a snap these days, and the clipboard is a cute way to display it.

Have a Little Fun

If you’re not jetting off to an exotic island in a sea of confetti when your wedding day draws to a close, why not surprise your exhausted partner with some bedroom humor? Assign a guest to the task so that you don’t have to sneak away during the reception.

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