For those couples who feel like a low-key party might be the wedding style for them, fear not—a heartfelt ceremony, stunning wedding decor, and a festive reception don't have to come with all of the formality of a traditional black-tie wedding. In fact, casual wedding celebrations can still boast all the energy and beautiful details that come with a dressy affair, but without the formality. Laid-back weddings typically put the emphasis on fun and a sense of togetherness, allowing couples to express their low-key style surrounded by those they hold dearest.
From relaxed ceremony setups to family-style receptions, these informal wedding ideas truly embrace a comfortable aesthetic. Examples include opting for a buffet-style menu with comfort food, a low-key setting like your own backyard, and cozy seating arrangements that'll make the guests feel right at home. But most importantly, the point of non-formal nuptials is to ensure that you and your partner can host a bash that's true to you.
If you consider yourselves to be easygoing and carefree, consider these 10 casual wedding ideas, straight from wedding experts.
Host Your Ceremony Outdoors
While an intimate courtyard ceremony allows both you and your guests to feel more relaxed, there are many ways to incorporate elegance and sophistication into your service without making anything feel too formal. “A floral arch and string lights are the perfect touch for an outdoor ceremony,” says Anna Griffith, senior event sales manager at Cannon Green. Lucite ceremony chairs add a modern touch to this classic setup.
Select Playful Signage
“Signage is a great way to communicate details and add some fun flair to your day,” says Stepahnie Cole, owner of Cole Drake Events. Add an element of sophistication by incorporating aspects of calligraphy throughout your different signs. (This will make for a stunning addition to your final photos and overall design.)
Sip on a Relaxing Drink
Offer your guests a cocktail pre-ceremony or pre-reception, but don't feel the need to do so formally. “This couple opted to have a drinks table rather than passed trays, giving guests the freedom to help themselves to one (or two!),” says Elisa Bricker, owner of Elisa Bricker Photography.
Integrate Plenty of Seating
We love the idea of informal seating for a more casual look. “Provided you have ample seating for guests so they can be comfortable while eating, why not mix things up a bit and use lounge furnishings as well as tables?” suggests Yumiko Fletcher, owner of Hana Floral Design. For this seaside reception, the couple opted for both comfy lounge seating as well as high-top tables and traditional rounds.
Set Up a Stress-Free Ceremony
Create a casual setting for your ceremony by using benches. “These dark wood benches were a perfect accent to this laid-back mountain town!” notes Heather White Sherrill, director of operations for Brooke Keegan Special Events. “The beautiful floral accents gave an elevated feel and dressed up the setting perfectly for the couple-to-be.”
Get Strategic With Lighting
“The key to throwing a beautifully casual wedding is having the main focus on your family and friends, and making sure everyone is having the best time,” says Katie Raymo a senior event designer and marketing manager for Ryan Designs. A simple way to orchestrate a fun, warm environment is through lighting. “Simple bistro lighting and focal point chandeliers are an easy way to create an inviting atmosphere where people are sure to keep their feet moving,” Raymo explains.
Cut Down the Guest List
To make your event seem even more relaxed, opt for a smaller guest list to ensure a more comfortable environment. “Small gatherings with all of your closest friends make the event much more intimate,” says Roey Yohai, owner of Roey Yohai Studios, who captured this couple’s intimate ceremony and walk down the aisle.
Serve Comfort Foods
Regarding food and beverage, consider a menu of southern comfort foods—but take it up an escalated notch. “For example, serve the John’s Island tomato pie tart (a southern classic), but in bite-size form,” suggests Graham Ervin, director of sales at The Cedar Room. “Or a crowd favorite, fried chicken and homemade biscuits, but presented in a sophisticated way.”
Go for Bold Florals
“We suggest stepping outside the box with some really fun florals,” advises Eatherley Schultz, owner of Floressence Flowers. Formal weddings can evoke images of all-white, structured florals, so bring in some whimsy with a unique color palette and some offbeat flowers and greenery.
Get Creative With Your Place Setting
“Using a textured placemat instead of a charger provides visual interest to the tabletop without the formality of china,” explains Gina Jokilehto-Schigel, owner of Shi Shi Events. When it comes to the design surrounding your casual tablescape, she suggests using “cafe lights and caged vintage Edison bulbs which lend an approachable, cool vibe to lighting plans.”