So you took a hike for your first date and really hit it off. After you got engaged on a scenic overlook, you both knew what was in store: saying “I do” to a camping wedding.
Camping can be a great way to celebrate your love and commitment to someone. Extending that celebration overnight or even a couple of nights in a more casual atmosphere allows you the time and space to truly connect with your guests and celebrate in a way that reflects your outdoorsy personality. Her are 25 tips to help you bring your romantic outdoorsy dream to life:
1) Choose a camping venue that offers a variety of sleeping accommodations: tent sites, RV hookups, cabins, and maybe a hotel within driving distance in case Grandma needs something a little less rustic.
2) Visit your chosen location in person before committing to it, and be sure to note whether or not is cell service available there. Also, consider seasonal changes. You may visit your site in the dry late summer, but find that on the Big Day early next spring, a large creek now runs directly across the area you had planned to serve as your center aisle.
3) Ask lots of questions of the camp host and be flexible. Most campsites are not set up for traditional wedding events, and some may not even have electricity, so choose carefully and adjust your expectations (or your venue) if necessary.
4) Look for a venue more accustomed to large numbers of people, but that still has rustic charm and plenty of outdoor space for activities, consider renting a summer camp during the off season.
5) When it comes to restrooms, not everyone can (or wants to) find a tree. Pick a site with bathroom access. Note that some campsites may not be able to accommodate large numbers of people, so check with the camp host and consider renting portable toilets if necessary. Put nice smelling soap and real hand towels in the bathrooms.
6) For your ceremony and main wedding meal, be sure everyone has a place to sit, whether it’s on picnic table benches, hay bails, or rented chairs. Asking guests to bring their own camp chairs is another option.
7) Have some kind of covering on hand to keep off heat, rain, wind, or other elements that can put a damper on your big day. Be sure you choose a campsite that provides a large covered area, or create one yourself with some tarps or a large rented event tent so you and your guests have a place to retreat.
8) Have a plan for feeding your guests over multiple days and communicate it clearly. Will people need to bring their own food for meals other than the main wedding meal? Will everyone bring dishes for a potluck? Will you provide all of the food people will need? If you’re hiring a caterer, be sure they have catered outdoor events before and are capable of getting their equipment to your venue.
9) Some campsites prohibit serving alcohol, so be sure to check policies ahead of time.
10) Whether your planned music is a harmonica and a couple of guitars or the hip indie band you hired to play at your reception, always check with your camp host ahead of time and respect rules about quiet hours and amplification.
11) Be sure to plan a cozy retreat for yourself and your beloved. Whether it’s zip-together sleeping bags and air pads or full-on glamping with an antique bed, down comforters, and a chandelier, make your own space a memorable one. (You may want to choose a location a distance away from the rest of your guests for everyone’s privacy.)
12) Provide a basket of easily accessible sunscreen, bug spray, first aid items, and hand sanitizer for guests. Also, set out plenty of water, and remember that changes in altitude can lead to dehydration.
13) Make easily readable signs to designate important areas: ceremony, reception, campfire, restrooms, kitchen.
14) As with most all weddings, hire or designate a photographer to document your unique nuptials. Make sure they know the lighting situation.
15) Make sure there are plenty of lanterns and flashlights available, and be sure they are easily accessible (and don’t forget to pack extra batteries).
16) Register for camping gear. Get that tent or stove you’ve been eyeing.
17) Provide a large basket of blankets for guests to get cozy by the fire.
18) Be sure to pack rakes and shovels. They will be needed to make common areas level and safer to walk.
19) Be sure guests know what to expect in terms of attire. Consider recommending that people wear comfortable shoes and no high heels. Also, the bride should keep ground cover in mind when selecting her dress length and train.
20) If bouquets and flowers are part of your plan, be sure you have a way to keep them cool and fresh until the ceremony.
21) Be sure there is plenty of parking and/or guests are encouraged to carpool.
22) S’mores bars are expected (and delicious, don’t get us wrong), but try something new with a trail mix bar. Provide large containers of pretzels, nuts, chocolate chips, and dried fruit. Give guests bags or small mason jars to create their own unique blend.
23) Keep decorations minimal and natural. Nature is beautiful on its own.
Create a photo booth area with camping themed props: a puffy vest, plaid hats with ear flaps, binoculars, fishing nets and poles, enamel ware mugs, bandanas, etc.
24) If some guests will only be joining you for the day of the ceremony and reception but not staying overnight, consider pitching a tent for them to drop off purses, diaper bags, jackets, or other items they will want near by but may not want to carry with them all day.
25) Have a sense of humor. Nature—and marriage, for that matter—is unpredictable. Things will not go according to plan (though you should still make lists, have backups, and know where the nearest grocery store, ranger station and hospital are located). Laugh, roll with it, and enjoy the person you have chosen to spend your life with—as well as the beautiful natural setting you’ve chosen.
If you have any other tips to make a camping wedding even more magical, let us know in the comments below!