Typically, weddings are thought of as rather pompous affairs, with magnificent churches, intricate flower arrangements, champagne and caviar, and of course, the type of elaborate wedding dress that could double as a parachute should the need arise.
These days, however, an increasing number of couples are choosing a more laid back and casual atmosphere for their big day. This could be for any reason from a tight budget to an appreciation for the simpler things in life; but don’t be mistaken, the well-loved all-American outdoor wedding is anything but ordinary.
If cathedrals and chandeliers don’t appeal to you and a more low-key theme is what you’re after, here are some great tips and ideas for making your All-American wedding an unforgettable event.
Decide what your interpretation of “casual” is
This may seem odd, but different people have very different ideas of what “casual” should be. For the one, it means not wearing a tie and popping open the top button on a shirt, while for another it means flip flops and shorts.
In order to plan your wedding just the way you want it, you’ll need to work out what your expectations are and how you can incorporate them into your casual themed wedding. Maybe you’d like the dress code to be relatively formal, yet have the wedding in a laid back environment like in a forest or on the beach.
Or maybe you want everyone to dress comfortably (smart casual) and do something as low-key as a picnic in a park or even a BBQ in your own backyard. Generally, the key is to find the right balance between elegance and simplicity.
Pay attention to the invites
Invitations can really set the tone for your wedding and help guests to know what to expect from the event. Classic wedding invitations for example, would be pretty and poised, perhaps with a picture of two rings intertwined or lots of white lace and ribbons, whereas the invitations for a casual wedding can be more imaginative and use actual photos of the couple or have an amusing twist.
Have fun with the invites and don’t get too stuck on following traditions like white paper and flourished handwriting. Use colors, photos and whatever else you feel will embody the theme that you and your partner have chosen for the wedding.
Choose the a location and décor that fit your theme
For a casual American style wedding, you want people to feel relaxed and at ease in their environment, and the location and décor will play a big part in accomplishing this. You want your guests to be able to let their hair down, laugh with friends and lounge in chairs or sofas that don’t make them feel they have to sit up straight or worry about staining the upholstery.
Outdoor weddings are especially great for casual weddings, as you can skip the traditional white tablecloths and go with a décor that blends with your surroundings. A large park or clearing in a forest (preferably one that isn’t too remote – think of your guests) can make a lovely outdoor setting where simple things like hand picked flowers and checked tablecloths don’t feel out of place.
If you are forced to host your wedding indoors due to the weather at the time of your wedding or any other reason, you can still hit that casual note by adding fun touches like lanterns, colored napkins and potted plants, and going with a serve-yourself-style buffet that allows guests to enjoy the food on their own terms.
Decide on the dress code ahead of time
Before you send out your wedding invitations, decide what type of dress code you would like, and be sure to make that clear to all who will attend. Casual is one thing, but you may feel a little less than delighted if some guests turn up in their scuffed jeans and tees.
The best way to encourage guests to put a little more effort into their casual outfits is to list some kind of theme on your invite. This could be anything from “summer at the seaside” to “flowers in spring,” but giving them some type of guideline to follow will ensure that everyone fits in well with the wedding you have planned and there is a somewhat uniformed look to it all (this is something you will appreciate later on when looking at your wedding photos).
Choose an appropriate menu
Just as your décor and dress code should go with the theme you envisioned, it is important to match your food to the occasion and, of course, environment. If you are doing an outdoor wedding at a location that is not your backyard, you will want to include plenty of foods that can be eaten cold or at least at a temperature that is less than piping hot. Think cold meats and salmon, olives, cheese, coleslaw, fresh bread and garlic butter, and even simple favorites like hotdogs and hamburgers that can be assembled by the guests themselves.
At indoor weddings it is generally easier to keep foods hot by using hot plates and other such devices, so you can include pretty much anything you want, as long as it will still taste good after sitting on a hotplate for more than an hour.
Drinks should also be self-servable, so make sure you have plenty of carafes for wine, water and non-alcoholic beverages. Don’t think you have to provide an open bar with every drink imaginable either. Simple staples like wine and beer are enjoyed by most people, and can easily be bought in bulk at any supermarket or wholesaler.
Aileen Pablo is a Filipina Event Management blogger from OpenColleges, one of the pioneers of Online education in Australia and one of the leading providers of event management courses. If you want to feature her on your blog, drop a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.