Do it yourself wedding under a tent on no budget-got ideas??

by DIY wedding planner on May 25, 2014

I am planning my second wedding, and while I dont’ want the big hullaballoo like my first marriage, I would like an intimate backyard wedding to celebrate finally finding my true love.
We have no budget, but we are very creative and talented artists who can make/do just about anything. My parents have a beautiful property, and I can see saving some money for a tent and tables.
I would like some ideas (details please) on decorations and food for perhaps 50 or so people. I’m not doing the “white thing”. I am thinking buying candles and cheap glass containers in bulk, and alot of paper lanterns when I can find them cheap. White string lights, etc. Flowers are going to be a problem, I’m thinking about tissue paper flower garlands, fabric, that type of thing. Any ideas about color themes,flowers, linens, other cheap/bulk items that make nice decorations, and a way to cut the cost of food would be great! I think the wedding will be late summer or fall.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

A.C.Girl May 25, 2014 at 5:16 pm

One suggestion based on my own wedding. WE had virtually no flower budget, so my mom and I bought some dollar store tall palstic vases, spray painted them a copper color. The weekend before the wedding, my husband and I put on our nasty clothes and went and cut down tons of cattails, as well as the leaves. We filled the tall vases with cattails and placed them lining the aisle. We were also able to find some “colored” fake ones (in rust tones, maroons, dark greens) at the dollar store and then used those as part of our centerpieces. I tell you what, I love that I had no bought flowers at my wedding, it was absolutely gorgeous. My colors were cream and bronze, and my wedding was AUgust 31, which is great timing for the cattails. ALso, if you choose to do a later one you can dry the cattails – just spray with aerosol hairspray and hang to dry.


weddrev May 25, 2014 at 5:55 pm
Jeannette P May 25, 2014 at 6:07 pm

I’d forgoe the tent and let the beauty of nature be your backdrop for this very special event. Then I would use tiny white lights and drape them everywhere. For tables, I would cover them with a neutral base and then a more vivid top in your favorite colors. Fresh cut flowers in vases are a simple way to dress up a table. Votive candles will add to the atmosphere, along with ivy or other greenery. Use raffia and flowers or leaves to create napkin rings. I’d stay away from paper flowers because they can come off as cheap. Go to your local farmers market and see what they offer. Or, to a floral supply house to see what you can purchase in bulk. You won’t need many because of the setting. For late summer, early fall, I’d be tempted to use colors in gold, dark green, burgandy, rust, yellow, purple, vivid pink and so on. For a second wedding you don’t really need much more than appetizers and champagne. But, if you want to serve a more substantial fare, then think about grilled chicken, a potatoe dish, pasta, and green salad. You can purchase large quantities of the ingrediants for each at wholesale supply stores such as COSTCO. Keep your guest list small!


Raina May 25, 2014 at 6:15 pm

Maybe funeral homes or catering places in the area can give you or sell you their leftover flowers that you can redo into centerpieces and bouquet that you like.

For food, simple things that go well on a stem table in big trays: lasagna, chicken, simple salad. Maybe you or friends/family can make them. Or, don’t go to a catering place, but an affordable restaurant can make trays.

Do you have a 99cent store near you? They often have things that will be great for decorating.


MariChelita May 25, 2014 at 6:20 pm

Wow, well it sounds like you’re all set and dont need any ideas. You seem to have the creative part of it down. I like the white string lights, I’m doing that for my husband’s brother’s wedding. I also like the paper lanterns. I think since you’re doing an outside wedding you may want to opt for bug repellent candles. They come in all kinds of shapes and sizes and they have some odorless ones out there. So your guests wont be bothered by bugs. You can find a lot of cheap, bulk items on Ikea and I think you can go online and order them as well.


Blunt May 25, 2014 at 6:27 pm

Has lots of wedding decor and they sell in bulk pretty unexpensive. This is reputable company.

Good luck


Fialka May 25, 2014 at 6:51 pm

As far as food goes, your cheapest option woudl be to not do a dinner- there are a few other options- brunch, tea time, cocktail reception. However, if you are set on a dinner (as I am), making your own food is definetly the way to go. If you’re allright with something less formal, you can do a barbeque- I went to a wedding once where they cooked salmon in foil and it was wodnerful adn very laid-back, also, with barbequing it wouldn’t be very difficult to feed 50 people. If you want slightly more formal, you can go with a buffet, where you can have a lot of cold option so you won’t be so busy. Obviously a lot of salads would be good, btu you can also do things like meat cooked on skewers than can be served cold. (Seafood would be very good for this- and depending upon where you live and what is in season, sometimes there are really great sales.) Sit down meals probably aren’t a great idea- but if you know any high- school or college aged students, you could ask them if they have any friends that want to waiters for $10 an hour- which would really cut down on those costs.
As far as decorations go, I would suggest cutting out most of the flowers. However, having a few flowers placed correctly will probably look much more sophisticated than paper or artificial flowers. If you just want a few flowers, your best bet would be either to do very simply bud vases with single flowers in them- if you’re a minimalist. Or, a centerpiece with candles of different shapes and sizes combined with a few low vases with a flower or two in them. (With this option, you cna also use much cheaper flowers- for example with a red wedding, all red candles and a few red carnations would work, and those are really cheap.)
I really like your paper lantern ideas- if you have really nice ones, you could try hanging them very low over the tables and then just putting a mirror with a few flowers or candles on it under them.
As far as linens go I’m going to assume you can sew and suggest buying sheets- one of the cheapest ways to buy fabric (or curtains if you want a heavier, richer fabric) and making your tablecloths out of them.) This way, you can also make your tablecloths a but fancier, which means you can do a bit less with your centerpieces- maybe bows of a nice ribbon sewed to each corner. ( using a nice ribbon on lots of thigns can be a good way to tie thigns together- you could use the same ribbon on your tableclothes, as napkin rings, around vases, on your chairs, and make everything look more complete this way)
If you like a more romantic type look, you can string your white christmas lights around the tent and put tulle with them- its like 40 cents a yard at walmart- you could also use layers of tulle on the tables if you wanted a lacy type look for a better price.
As far as where to get your supplies- walmart has a surprisingly large craft section- or else, you can buy a lot of new fabric and supplies on ebay. Good luck!


Trixie May 25, 2014 at 7:31 pm

Every wedding has a budget, low or high, there is still a budget. The question is do you know yours… based on what you have stated so far I am guessing you are going with the “as inexpensive as we can manage” thought… which is a mistake many couples make, let me explain why.
With that philosphy in mind you may pick up “inexpensive” items at 30 stores and find out after the big day that you actually spent $30 more than you needed to or maybe even meant to…. because you werent tracking everything you spent and whether it fit within your “budget”.

SO….. step 1 – Make a budget (I PROMISE you, you will thank me for this later.) The way to determine this is to figure out what you have in savings that you can comfortably put toward your wedding, same for your fiance’, then you need to find out if anyone else will be contributing (I am going to guess that the two of you are probably on your own financially for this). Now you know what your base is. To that, add what you can each afford to comfortably add from your pay each month and for the amount of months you will do this.

So as an example:

$200 in savings (you)
$400 in savings (fiance’)
$0 other contributions
Your base is then $600
$50 per month (you) 12 months – $600
$50 per month (fiance’) 12 months – $600
Total budget – $1,800

2nd – Shop around, be thrifty.

*Look for an officiant who will do it for little to no cost (generally you can find one if you look hard enough).
*Get flowers from your local grocer (or your own or a friend’s yard if possible) and hand tie them with ribbon or go with silk flowers if you prefer. You really only need these for your wedding party, especially if you have your wedding in the fall with the foliage for decoration! (That is what we are doing as well by the way)
*If you want centerpieces for your tables, think RENTAL! You can usually rent even cheaper than buying if you shop around (if you cant, then look at dollar stores… nobody will know if that plain glass vase with decorative marbles came from Dollar Tree or a designer store) Great centerpieces are usually simple yet dramatic (think candles in glass holders on a mirror tile).
*You can get rings in silver for about $25 for the pair (upgrade to gold later when you can afford it) or go with no rings at all.
*Depending on where you live the license will cost anywhere from $15 (in NE) to $65 (the highest I have personally seen)
*For the reception food, host a BBQ or have a potluck and have everyone bring a dish instead of a gift, or have a “sub” sandwich (cold cuts reception) from a local deli sliced into smaller servings (usually very inexpensive) Buffet is generally cheaper than sit-down because you dont have to pay labor, but I would suggest hiring a few “servers” for your buffet to help limit serving sizes
*Limit alcohol or cut it completely
*Play your own music from a CD or MP3 player and have a family member play Master of Ceremonies (change music play lists or CDs by your predetermined order, announcing you, announcing dinner and dancing, etc)
*Print your own invites (put that artistic talent to its best use!)
*Have a friend or family member take pictures for you
*Are you Honeymooning? Think creative… turn off your phone, lock your door, get some nice candles, and turn your home into a retreat. Or if you are “outdoorsy” go camping and forget to tell everyone where. Think of things you havent done or seen in your area and become a tourist in your own city! Its amazing what you can miss in your own “backyard”.

Here are a few sites to help you along :)

If you need further help email me and I will do my best to assist


jenhay99 May 25, 2014 at 7:53 pm has good wedding favors and they don’t require a minimum order so you can order exactly how many you need rather an have extras and the best part is they are only 99 cents each.

Also, some places will have cheap sales on their flowers that are going to be dying soon so you could go the day before your wedding to a place that sells dying flowers cheaply (like a nursery) then go to a dollor store and buy ribbon to make hand-tied flower bouqets. A lot of grocery stores have cheap roses by the dozen (like $4.99 a dozen), then give each bridesmaid 3 roses with a ribbon tied on them and have yours with a dozen–just be sure to trim the stems. Boutonirs are easy to make too. You just cut the stem about 2 or 3 inches from the bud and get the green flower tape (like at hobby lobby) and buy crosage pins to pin them on.

Hope this help you!!


Surreal May 25, 2014 at 8:08 pm

I am having a tent wedding in my yard, as well. I am on a very tight budget-and being all crafty and artistic myself, I have opted to make just about everything.
To cut cost on food, we are having our wedding/reception at night after the sun sets. (8:30-ish) This cuts out the dinner cost. Instead, our invitaitons will say, “Dessert and Champagne Reception will follow the ceremony.” This way, I don’t have to worry about having tons of hungry mouths to feed. We will provide fruit trays and desserts. We are just calling it a “moonit ceremony” to add charm rather than sounding cheap.
As far as decorating-craft stores are the way to go! Especially stores like Hobby Lobby-You can buy all of the silk flowers for 50% off. White Christmas lights go on sale for half off as well. I’m going to add some links at the bottom of this for craft places to buy in bulk online.
Here are some stores I found helpful that might be near you. (Other than Hobby Lobby-the best!)
I found pillar candles at Big Lots for $2.00 each and they are 3″ X 6″. Very affordable!
I bought nice glass containers at Wal-Mart for $2.50 each. Once I added flowers around the bases-they look nice! (I have shown pictures to my family and no one could tell I spent so little money!)
Also-the dollar stores ROCK! I have found so many things that I can buy for cheap, slap a coat of paint on and do a little faux-finishing and ::poof:: instant decor!
Since you are creative, I think you will be very successful with your wedding decorations!
Really, when having a tent wedding/reception, decorating isn’t a problem since you have nature right outside to enhance the beauty.
If you need any other suggestions or creative ideas or inspiration-feel free to email! I am FULL of ideas! I can also give you links to pictures of things I have made for mine.
Good Luck and Congrats!


Zinnia May 25, 2014 at 9:00 pm

Maybe you can use some of the ideas from my 2nd wedding: Like you, we decided to have the reception in the yard at home. I have stately old trees, so didn’t need a tent. For food, we had a pig roast – it was unique, inexpensive and relatively easy (my aunt and uncle took care of the roasting). The side dishes were made a day or two beforehand. We had a band, and invited all the neighbors, as well as family. We had about 250 people. We borrowed the tables from the local firehouse (where we were volunteers). We had soda, tea and keg beer, but no fancy alcohol. In order to save on household wear and tear, we rented a johnny-on-the-spot. We hung clear Christmas lights from the lower branches of the trees, and used basic white plastic for the table clothes. White paper plates & plastic ware worked for us.

Since it was summer, we had a misting station and fans set up for those who got hot. We invited families with kids, and the children got to run around and play. On our invitations, we included the note “casual attire suggested”. I made my own dress, and my husband wore nice pants/shirt/tie – no jacket, as did our two groomsmen. I had my two bridesmaids pick out matching off-the-rack dresses of their choice – now I see weddings where just the color is the same on the bridesmaids.

I harvested wildflowers from fields around our house, roses that I grew and dressed them up with some grocery-store flowers and some trim you can get at any crafts store. We had a large decorated sheet cake instead of expensive tiered models. One of the the best parts was that at 10:00pm a storm blew up and everybody scurried to gather things up and put them away — the cleanup got done for us, and we didn’t have drunken guests hanging around!

That was 15 years ago, and it cost us only $1,000 (including the dress!). It may sound “cheesy” to the more affluent, but every time I run into a member of my extended family or friends, they mention what a great time they had at our wedding, and how they wish someone else would do something like that again!

Best of all, I had a great time. My first wedding was formal, expensive and stressful. I can’t remember much beyond the struggle to keep everything perfect. It’s your day, ENJOY IT!


Janice O May 25, 2014 at 9:19 pm

I had silk flowers at my wedding, they looked great, were cheap and I still have my bouquet. For linens look into buying fabric, sometimes buying a couple yards of fabric is cheaper then renting, and you could get some iron on edging. Since you are doing a lot yourself I would keep to easy color themes, like red. Everything comes in red, and you could add gold touches here and there. For the food keep it simple, no buffet they are more expensive, and no choices, when you start to offer mutlipe meal options is when you start getting more expensive. Once you choose what you want check everywhere, grocery stores, resturants, you might be surprised the kind of deals you can find. Also, no alcohol, way too expensive.


angeldust_599 May 25, 2014 at 9:40 pm

I had a very small, inexpensive wedding and for food, my mom made it all herself. I think thats the best way to go becasue you can have a variety of foods and keep the costs down. she made: macaroni salad, toss salad, greek salad, veggies, dips, pickle and olive platters, crackers, cheeses, fruit trays, shrimp, cold cuts, buns, devilled eggs, cake and other mini deserts, lasagna, chicken. we had our wedding at my parents house so everything was in the fridge till we got back there, then mom set it all out when it was time to eat and poppe at the hot foods into the oven. this really saved us tons of money and everyone enjoyed it because tehre was such a variety of things to eat to accomodate everyones tastes.


mamastorm May 25, 2014 at 9:45 pm

You have to get to an Ikea store. Even if you have to drive a long way to get there. they really havve EVERYTHING you mentioned. I was there other day and they had lots of cool lanterns, and candle holders in different sizes and colors that you could use on the tables with tea lights.

They also have this line of products with a white bird that lights up with a blue light. They are not available on the website but when I saw them I thought they would be perfect for an outdoor occasion. There’s 3 products:
1. a single standing bird. (battery operated) They are 2.99 each and they would look fabulous in your plant boxes or flower arrangements. 2. A matching hanging mobile with 5 birds that light up . they kind of look like love birds. (electric)
3. A string of lights with about 5 birds.(electric)

You could have a decorative bird cage to collect your cards and go with the whole theme and also the blue as one of your main colors.
They had TONS reasonably priced stuff in their summer/outdoor section near the checkout section. Lots of pretty vibrant colors. And also paper lanterns in the lighting section. Instead of flowers would you consider plants. You could start with small inexpensive plants and grow them much larger by the end of summer.

Also with food, I think appetizers is definitely the way to go and maybe one or two signature drinks. You could set up a drink sation with pitchers and glasses.

I’ve made lots of chinese paper lanterns as craft projects with construction paper and decorative fake gems. they might look pretty hanging from various lenghts away from th celing of the tent.

Good luck and have fun planning.


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