My outdoor wedding was pretty frugal and very simple. But - it did not lack beauty. It only cost about $2,000 with $1,000 of it spent my ring and dress (the most expensive parts of the whole day). Here's some things that I did that may help some of you out there considering a simple outdoor wedding.
1.) Have the wedding and/or reception in a park. We had our wedding and reception at a state park. We rented one of the pavillions for the entire day for a mere $30.
2.) Make your own wedding invitations. We purchased paper from a local office supply store and printed our own invitations. I addressed the envelopes with calligraphy to add a touch of elegance. The envelopes were sealed with stickers that went along with what we were giving out as favors as a touch of fun. Overall, the ability to design the invitations ourself added to the personal touch we wanted for the wedding.
3.) Hire a friend as a DJ. I think most of us have a friend that is a "wanna-be" or is a DJ. Let them do your wedding and save the cost of paying a professional.
4.) Rent chairs from a local college - not a rental or wedding rental place. As soon as you put the word "wedding" on something, the price goes up. See if your local college has fold-up chairs for rent. Our chairs cost around $30 for the day.
5.) Get creative for the cake topper. I couldn't find a cake topper that fit my nature theme of the wedding, so I made one with none other than a Chia Tree!! (turn down the volume if you check out the link) I just used the tree, gave it a coat of paint, added two little doves purchased from a craft store and glued them on top. Add some ribbon in the wedding colors, and voila - a nice looking cake topper. And no one knew it was a Chia Tree ;)
6.) Make your own wedding cake. Going with the nature theme of our wedding, my dad cut blocks of a tree in varying heights and I used those to place the cake layers on. For decorating the cake, I used a simple lacework technique that anyone can do because it is a sporadic type of decoration. It also hides any imperfections well if you have the lacework closer together or create multiple layers of lacework.
7.) Have a dry reception (or an almost dry one). Our reception was completely alcohol-free. As a result, a lot of money was saved. Sure, there may have been some guests that missed the alcohol, but we did not drink and we knew that some of our guests could not hold their alcohol well. The great thing is that it is your wedding and you can make the decisions.
8.) Make your own favors. I like to paint when I have the time, so I painted favors to give away to guests. I found little semi-clear bags with leaves on them from a dollar store to put the painted favors in.
9.) Skip a professional photographer. We had two designated amateur photographers (family members) document our wedding. They loved the idea of being the photographers and we ended up with some really great photos. With two of them working hard to capture the moment, they often caught different angles of the same thing occuring. We also included disposable cameras at the picnic tables to capture even more angles.
10.) Have cold cuts for the reception. Our wedding was during the hottest part of the summer and outdoors so we didn't want real hot food. We decided on cold cuts and just made sure they were rolled up nicely and the cheese was cut in a fancy way. Presentation is key, and that just takes some time to do (not money).
11.) Borrow what you can. I worked in a cafeteria at the time and I asked if I could borrow some pans for holding food and ice. If you know of someone with something that would work for your wedding, ask. The worst they could say is no. Just make sure you return things in great shape.
12.) Buy food in bulk. If you know of someone in the restaurant or food service business, ask if they can order certain things for you through their distributor and let you purchase the product at their cost. That way, you save some money even above what you could purchase bulk items for from places like Sam's Club.
Wow, writing all that makes me feel like planning another frugal wedding :)