There are many reasons why you might plan a casual wedding reception. Perhaps you don’t have the funds to throw a large catered party. Maybe it’s more your style to be low-key and outdoorsy. Whatever the reason you’re thinking of a casual reception, rest assured, there are some great ideas to make your day lovely. Just because you’re going casual doesn’t mean you can’t have memorable and elegant.
First decide how casual “casual” is to you and your groom. Does it mean shorts and flip flops or a sit down family style meal in a vineyard? This will determine how you go about planning the whole event.
Most casual weddings are smaller affairs with a more intimate guest list. This isn’t always the case, but remember that managing a larger crowd can be harder if you’re opting for a less formal setting. You want to be able to tend to everyone and make sure they’re having a good time, so create a guest list that will allow you to do just that.
The venue you host a casual reception in can be anything from your mom and dad’s backyard with a port-o-potty to a country estate with a vineyard. You want to make sure your idea of casual coincides with the setting. Are paper plates your idea of a good time? Go for it! Don't want to splurge on a DJ? Then why not host your wedding outdoors with your mp3 player hooked up to speakers as your soundtrack? You can do a classy barbecue. Just be clear what the dress code is. If you intend a more dressy casual attire and want to wear an elegant dress, let guests know on the invitation. No one wants to be the one to show up in cutoff shorts if everyone else is in Dockers and collared shirts.
Your DIY wedding invitations will give your guests the first impression of the reception. Make it a funky computer printed card if you want a more laid back and summery vibe. If you want everything to be comfortable and yet still high-end have your invitations printed. That alone will help set the tone. Include specifics on the invitation such as “outdoor barbecue, bring the kids” or “sit down dinner in the park, dressy casual attire.” The more information your invitation includes, the more comfortable everyone will feel.
You don’t have to spend a bundle to have a great casual wedding. And these days, everyone is looking for ways to pull off a classy event in an affordable way. Try warehouse stores like Sam’s Club and Costco for items you can buy ahead of time in bulk. You can get everything from all your non-alcoholic drinks and mixers to the appetizers, cold cut trays or racks of beef, and even the cake. Often, there is a manager designated to help customers plan for events, so they can guide you through the process of deciding how much food you’ll need. You can even stock up on plastic silverware that’s got a metallic finish that makes it look real and tablecloths and plastic wine glasses.
Guests will be expecting a more serve-yourself atmosphere, so relax and set out tubs with cans of soda and beer on ice, finger foods on trays and other self-serve goodies. No one’s going to expect an open bar with every liquor choice imaginable. Just opt for a few great beers and choice wines and some non-alcoholic choices. Or you can even do a BYOB where everyone comes with their own favorite drink to share.
Casual these days can mean just about anything you want it to. If you want to wear a simple white dress to the ankles, go ahead. If you’re more of a shorts and t-shirt gal, no one’s going to stop you. If you’re having a pool party, you could even show up in your bathing suit. As long as you are comfortable, your guests will be too.
Just be sure you have adequate access to restrooms. Will people be invited to go through mom’s house to use the bathroom or are you going to rent outdoor portables? If you’re asking women to come dressy casual, you may want to consider an indoor bathroom facility for their comfort.