How to Plan a Backyard Wedding for Under $2000
Prior to March 2020—remember the “Before COVID Times”?—when you heard the word “elope,” you might've immediately pictured an Elvis impersonator in a Vegas chapel. But the fact is, elopements can be a very chic and really smart decision—especially when it comes to health and safety in the midst of this pandemic. In addition to being a mindful COVID pivot, eloping doesn’t mean you have to thwart your wedding wish list either. Take for instance the stunning nuptials of Raleigh, North Carolina, newlyweds Jenny and Rob. Though the pair got engaged and married prior to COVID, their decision to elope will still resonate in a coronavirus world. For one, they had no interest in going into wedding debt as many friends had done before them. So utilizing their generous network of loved ones, the pair planned a Pinterest-perfect mini wedding in their own backyard, replete with amazing DIY decor and a true ceremony and reception.
The bride’s advice? “Think to yourself, ‘What do I want?’ No, really, though, ‘What do I want?’ If you like a tradition, keep it. If you don’t, skip it! There’s so much freedom when you decide to do things the way you truly want, rather than how you think you’re supposed to.” YAS. Here’s how Jenny packed every last wedding dream of hers into an affordable elopement that will resonate with couples who still want to celebrate their love in the time of COVID.
Capturing the magic of the day was Jenny’s number-one priority and a non-negotiable expense. And so, almost the entire budget went toward her amazing photographer Danielle Riley ($1,000 for an elopement package). After seeing the pic above, we’re all in agreement, right? Best. Splurge. Ever. And—as with any vendors—go over the health and safety guidelines (i.e. wearing masks the entire time and keeping up with social distancing rules) of your event (in writing is best) and make sure they are ready and willing to abide by them.
When it came to the dress, Jenny initially went to a few bridal ateliers—but she just couldn’t justify the expense. After ordering several low-key dresses to try on at home, she ultimately opted for a breezy, boho white frock from Show Me Your Mumu. As a fun addition for photos, Jenny’s mother decorated her daughter’s favorite denim jacket with white vinyl letters spelling out “just married.” And for hair and makeup, Jenny’s beauty-savvy friend handled the morning-of as a sweet wedding gift. (Psst: It's absolutely essential that your makeup artist and hair stylist are up-to-date on safety protocols since the nature of their job requires them to be so close to you.)
Jenny’s bloom needs encompassed a lush bouquet of greenery for herself, a flat-laid table runner and swags to dress up the altar. Here, Jenny wisely worked her network: Her mother’s florist friend let her purchase the greenery at cost, and Jenny then DIY’d her arrangements, using Pinterest boards as inspiration.
We love the warm and whimsical outdoor chapel Jenny created with mix-and-match aisle seating. Boho-chic party rentals, you ask? Nope, they literally brought their dining set outside...and had their parents bring theirs over for the day as well. And for COVID weddings, take time to deliberate the placement of seating to make sure your guests—and you—are safe and comfortable. It's a great idea to assign spots as a home base for your guests to maintain social distance.
Granted, Jenny and Rob had an absolutely beautiful property to host their backyard affair. This pondside, lattice arbor was already in place, and so all Jenny had to do was spruce it up with greenery, linen swags and rustic details like bottles and vintage letters (many of which were Goodwill scores!).
Personalized paper goods were an important aspect for Jenny, despite budget constraints, so she got clever and designed programs and elopement announcements herself, which she then printed on cardstock at work. Note the little white sachets placed on every seat…
Would you look at this attention to detail? To dress up and unify the mismatched chairs, Jenny tied dried lavender bunches to chair posts with twine. (Both materials were bulk-ordered on Amazon.)
So what if you only have a handful of guests and straightforward venue? We love how Jenny differentiated each phase of her nuptials with adorable chalkboard paint directives. On to the festivities…
To celebrate the declaration of man and wife! The little white cotton baggies and loose, dried lavender were DIY’d with the sole intention of capturing this magical moment.
Was there a fabulous reception meal? Of course there was. Their intimate reception for 22 was catered family-style by the couple’s favorite Mexican restaurant...for all of $10 a head. Give the food logistics some extra attention to detail as it's a critical step in keeping things safe. No matter how small your guest list is, you should know exactly how food will be made and delivered to your guests so that you can assure everyone's safety.
How absolutely beautiful is this picnic dinner setup? To craft the table, Jenny and Rob bought a dense sheet of plywood at Home Depot and laid it down over cinder blocks. Blankets were literally borrowed from friends, and the throw pillows were purchased new from IKEA for $5 each. As for this glorious canopy of twinkly lights? They asked for them early, on their registry.
Three cheers for personal details. Jenny is a self-professed “coffee person” and collects mugs on all her travels. That coupled with the fact that her brother owns a coffee shop, meant a coffee bar for guests on arrival was a must. (Of course, that's not quite realistic at the moment—but hey, food for thought!) Jenny designed a logo and the coffee mugs doubled as wedding favors for guests.
This Insta-worthy tablescape also couldn’t have been more cost-conscious. The mason jars were bought in bulk at Walmart, and the plates and cutlery are actually all disposable (!), another clever Amazon find by Jenny.
How photogenic is this feature wall? Fun fact: It’s a $10 painter’s drop cloth that Jenny’s talented sister-in-law drew by hand. Anyone else feeling verklempt by all these heartfelt touches?
Another network hookup: These precious miniature blueberry pies, which served as the couple’s wedding cake. The baker at Jenny’s brother’s coffee shop whipped them up to the tune of $100. Single-serve dessert is super smart way to hit everyone's sweet tooth without fear of cross-contamination.
For her “dance floor,” Jenny salvaged a huge, forgotten Persian carpet from the basement of a family friend. The couple had the requisite first dance together before inviting guests to boogie down with them. Jenny’s little brother had the honor of DJ’ing over the Bluetooth sound system. (So adorbs.) For a COVID elopement, consider nixing the dance floor altogether or elegantly dividing sections of it with white or black tape to keep guests separate and safe.
Jenny found these amazing tree stumps (which acted as pedestals for her candles) for free on Facebook marketplace. The candles themselves are from IKEA, and the vases were all borrowed for the day from various friends and family members.
We’ll wrap things up by saying this: An “elopement” is no reason to sacrifice all the lovely little wedding details you’ve pined for and Pinned for ages. Sparkler send-off in your own backyard? Hell to the yes.