Looking for ideas on how to host a farm wedding on the homestead? Here are some practical ideas for us practical homesteaders – with a lot of whimsy and beauty thrown in!
This article is an excerpt from our newest book, Homestead Holidays, which takes homestead families like yours around the year with festivals, feasts, holy days and more. With advice, recipes, tutorials, crafts, goal setting and more, Homestead Holidays offers you practical and enjoyable opportunities to grow your homestead family. And isn’t family your most important harvest? To learn about the book’s release and even receive special deals and discounts, please join the book’s newsletter below.
For the Homestead Moms
This article is really for active homesteaders, gardeners, DIYers – everyday moms on the homestead. I appreciate the creativity of designers and lifestyle experts, but I’m not one of them. My homestead has kids, chicken poop and weeds.
Having said that, however, the homestead is a wonderful place to host your farm wedding! There’s so much beauty and potential on a homestead. Plus, given the average cost of most weddings in the US, the homestead offers practical savings so that the happy couple and their families don’t have to go into massive debt.
Planning a backyard homestead wedding may be the last big thing you do with together before your child goes off to form a brand new family. (I hear these new families produce grandchildren which are, I’ve been told, the whole point of having your own children in the first place.) Even if you’re only daydreaming at this point, here are a few ideas to help you brainstorm this lovely event on your homestead.
First Things First – Stay Focused
I worked in floral design for several years and ran a small design business that catered to brides. During that time I learned a few things about successful weddings as I watched those brides plan, budget for and produce their special days.
Across the board, the happiest brides were those who were more focused on the point of the day, rather than the day itself. One bride was so laid back she let her soon-to-be mother-in-law plan the whole thing and just showed up when it was time. She was pleased with the results, too! (I admit I was a little nervous standing there with a bridal bouquet the bride had never even seen before.)
The point is, stay focused on the new family that’s being created while you plan and prepare. Don’t let nerves, raw emotions, budgets, and late nights rob you of the joy of this time. Because this time will never come again.
Planning a Farm Wedding on the Homestead
The following is not a step by step to-do list for your farm wedding event planning. There are professionals who can help you with that, if that’s what you need. This article is meant to provide a framework for you to begin your farm wedding preparations.
Homesteads are unique places and will require some preparation so they can best serve the needs of your special day. After the “brain work” of the article is completed, I’ve included some fun links to various article on DIY items like floral arrangements, party favors, and more.
Work With the Land You Have
There’s no sense beginning this farm wedding planning by being upset that you don’t live on a pristine ranch in upstate New York on rolling green acres that spontaneously produce gorgeous wildflowers and where sheep idyllically frolic in the background at all hours.
That sure ain’t what my homestead looks like!
Be happy and grateful that you have any kind of land with which to work, even if you’re homesteading on less than an acre in the city. Hosting a wedding on your homestead is all about sharing the feel and spirit of what you’ve been building on your homestead.
Your child could have picked a upscale, modern events center for their special day, but they didn’t. They asked to come home and they did it for a reason.
Analyze the Homestead
So, working with the land and home you have, one of the first things you’ll need to do is determine what’s going on around the homestead during the month of the wedding.
- Are there homestead projects that need to be put on hold or quickly finished before that day comes? If you’re growing out a batch of broilers that will be ready to harvest around the wedding date, you may want to rethink the plan for meat birds this season.
The first rule of wedding days is that there’s ALWAYS way more left to do than you think there will be and something ALWAYS goes wrong near the event date. Just accept it now and clear your homestead schedule as much as you can.
Another thing to determine is where the wedding will be held on the land.
- Will the service be outside?
- Will it be in the barn? In the house?
- Where will guests mingle afterward?
- How will they use the bathroom?
- Where will they leave dirty dishes?
- Through where do you not want them bringing their foot traffic?
The Farm Wedding Look Through a Lens
From a design standpoint, a good exercise to run through is to take a quick tour of your land looking through the lens of a camera. You may have a favorite spot you think will work really well for the wedding. Go to that spot and start snapping photos of it from various angles:
- up a nearby tree
- laying down on the ground
If you already have a photographer that won’t charge you a huge fee to do this, have them come help you with it.
You’ll See the Weeds!
You might start discovering flaws and fixes that need to be seen to that you might not have noticed before. Remember, a homestead is a raw, organic place where people come to feel real and close to nature and family. The setting does NOT have to be without flaw.
However, we often get used to the pile of poultry netting next to the shed and the burn pile next to the barn. Using a camera can help you zero in on unwanted mess and help you identify places that can be spruced up.
We don’t want to stress out over every imperfection, but we do want to represent our family and our land as well as we can.
Pick the location as soon as you can, and then pick a back up location in case of weather or a bridal couple’s change of mind. Run through the camera exercise with your secondary location, too, and make plans to likewise tidy it.
Budget and Plan
We have a whole section on homestead finances in our book, The Do It Yourself Homestead, and we refer you to it for making wise plans for resource management on the homestead. To get a free sample from that section, simply email me at Tessa@homsteadlady.com.
There’s more to a homestead than just money, but money is an important asset to learn how to handle well.
Having said that, the only thing I’ll really add about budgeting for a homestead wedding is to be as frugal as you can. There’s a temptation to go all out and make it a special day by this added touch and that added touch.
There’s no harm in making the day lovely, but there’s a great deal of harm in unnecessary debt.
So, just be careful.
Keep the Farm Wedding Simple by Design
When planning a backyard homestead wedding, there are really only a few things you need to organize. Homestead weddings are supposed to be kept simple – that’s the whole point of hosting them on the homestead!
Here are some areas to think and plan for and to assign out to family members and members of the bridal party like the Best Man and Maid of Honor. Remember, these are only ideas for the actual event on the homestead, not all the hooplah that might take place with bachelor parties and bridal showers.
- Set Up
- The Service/Marriage/Ceremony
- Party Favors
- Clean Up
See, not too overwhelming, right? We’ll discuss a few in this article and refer you to Homestead Holidays for the rest of the discussion.
A Little Note:
It’s poignant for me to think that Homestead Holidays can take you from bed and bath-time rituals and holiday celebrations with your children, right up to the time you send them off to start their own families.
I’ve been personally invested into each book we’ve written, but this one is really my favorite. I truly hope it proves helpful to your family because there’s nothing more precious you’ll grow on your homestead.
Set Up and Clean Up
Ideally, you will have two different sets of people helping with these jobs simply because of fatigue. Setting up chairs and tables is tiring; taking them down equally so. If you can, have a different crew for each time.
A Special Word for Seats
If you’re setting up folding chairs and tables on grass, be sure to pick the driest time of year you possibly can. Mud is a bear to clean off table legs, chair feet and people feet.
Scattered straw in walkways can help provide traction if you do end up with soft ground. Wood chips are also helpful, but usually cost more. Pine straw will work, too, if it’s available in your area.
You always need more seating than you think you will. I have no idea why; it’s just a hard and fast rule of wedding receptions. Chairs and garbage cans – you can never have enough.
To circumvent chairs all together, use hay bales draped in calico cloth for your guests. The Natural Wedding Company has a really fine article on using bales for your ceremony (I’m seriously in love with the bale half-moon sofa!).
Hay bales are very versatile and it’s quite possible you already have them on hand. PLUS, you can use them in the barn after the ceremony.
Or, you can use stacked pallets for communal seating. You can similarly use stacked pallets as display and food tables. Even if you don’t use Pinterest much, you may want to consider browsing there for a myriad of ideas, especially if you’re a visual person like me.
Reception Line for Traffic Flow
I don’t prefer doing a reception line just because I think it detracts from the feel of an outdoor, homestead-y type reception. However, if you’re going to do a reception line, be sure to have your Maid of Honor and Best Man help direct traffic immediately following the ceremony.
This will help the guests know where to go after your vows have been given and will lead them into the socializing area after they make it through the line. A homestead is less straight forward a space than a reception hall.
Don’t be timid about using signage, if you need it. Pallet wood can be upcycled into sign posts for the event so that people know where they need to go. Here are some usable ideas for pallet wedding signs from Big DIY Ideas. (FYI, there’s this weird break at the beginning of the article; just keep scrolling and you’ll get to the pallet sign ideas.)
This is the whole point of the event and you need to make a personal goal to savor it. If something breaks or someone says you’re needed right away any time before the ceremony, you be sure to use my favorite word.
The word goes like this: NO.
I love this word and the older I get, the more I use it.
You’ve worked your whole life to get your kid this far (or maybe yourself, if this is your special day). You do not want anything to distract from this moment. The best way to give yourself this oasis of enjoyment is to plan thoroughly before the day comes.
If this is a religious ceremony, make sure that a properly reverent atmosphere has been established so the spirit of the moment can be honored. Ushers are great for letting everyone know it’s time to start sitting and finishing our conversations.
As long as the goats and pigs are properly corralled for this day, the people should fall in line.
Farm Wedding Food
Everyone has their own personal tastes, so this really won’t be a list of menu ideas. However, here are some things to consider as you make decisions about food.
- With budget in mind, how many menu items can you produce from your own gardens, canning stores and root cellar?
- Are there local growers and artisanal food craftsmen that you can work with to provide what you aren’t producing yourself? It often happens that growers will offer discounts on bulk purchases.
- If you keep your menu simple, can you produce the crunchy sourdough breads, cheeses, salads and preserved fruit jams and jellies yourself? Do you have raw honey to provide for those breads and fruits from your hives?
- If your guest list is smaller, is it possible you could brew enough kefir soda or switchel to satisfy thirst? If your farm wedding is happening in the fall, are you able to make your own cider in the quantity needed? What about summer herb-infused lemonades like this one from Simply Beyond Herbs.
Because homesteaders lives often revolve around food – growing, harvesting, processing, cooking with, preserving – we have a special skill set that can serve us in good stead for a farm wedding.
This will ALL take planning and preparing ahead of time, of course.
However, if you can plan your seed starting, broiler harvesting and cheese aging on the homestead, you can certainly plan this!
If you need a simple post with many recipes, here’s Bliss Health Coaching’s post on Healthy Picnic and Potluck Meals. You can trust these ones to be healthy AND feed a crowd.
To help you, I suggest Shaye Elliot’s cookbooks. I actually like her first book, From Scratch, best, but Family Table is also worthwhile. Her food is basic, wholesome, grow-able and photo-worthy. And it tastes good.
For more drool-worthy homemade recipes, I recommend Alana Chernila’s book The Homemade Kitchen. I’m including another of her books here because I love it for those just making friends with their kitchens. (You can read a review of Homemade Pantry, here.)
Remember, I place high value on simple, nourishing foods. If you prefer something fancier, go for it!
A Little Note:
I believe in the DIY lifestyle but don’t kill yourself trying to hand-make blessed everything on your own. Call in favors, ask for help, involved as many people as possible. Most homesteaders place a high value on community and I bet yours is bigger than you think.
Ask for help!
Whatever you or your tribe can’t do, hire out. A wise homesteader learns what she’s willing to pay other people to do.
Flowers, Favors and Fun Stuff
Alright, this article is already over 2,000 words so enough with the thinking – here’s some fun!
Farm Wedding Flowers
I won’t say too much here simply because we have a sister article with tutorials on assembling your own centerpiece and bridesmaid’s bouquet. There are also two videos to help you get an idea of what’s involved.
—>>Read DIY Wedding Flowers<<—
Growing your Own
One of the best things you can do to cut costs for your farm wedding is to grow some or all of your wedding blooms. For example, Chris at Joybilee Farms recently grew the gorgeous sunflowers her daughter used for her wedding. She has some great advice here, if sunflowers are your chosen bloom.
As a floral designer, I can tell you that there is enormous benefit to having fresh blooms to examine, harvest and work with on site. Ah, bliss!
A good book to get your started down the road of growing design-worthy flowers is this one, Growing Heirloom Flowers, by Chris McLaughlin. Heirloom flowers are worth our time because of their value in the garden, let alone as cut flowers. They attract pollinators, propagate well (often on their own!) and bring joy to the homestead.
I can also tell you that the mark up on floral arrangements is significant. That’s not to say that your florist is robbing you blind!
They work hard – seriously, for weddings, you have no idea how hard they work – and they’re dealing with a highly perishable product. They deserve to charge what they need to in order to make a living.
However, if you CAN design your own AND grow your own flowers, yippee! That’s like money in your pocket.
For a few more practical and earth-friendly wedding ideas, please visit Growing Wild Roots here.
Farm Wedding Favors and Fun
Wedding favors are just a little something to say thank you to your guests for sharing this special day with you. There are several ways to provide these without breaking the bank or adding more plastic doodads into the world.
- How about small, handmade grapevine wreaths with their names or simple fabric scraps attached? Here’s a tutorial on How to Make Grapevine Wreaths
- Handmade Soap is an incredible gift to give your guests – here’s a basic tutorial.
- Let’s face it, these gifts are really for the women and children in attendance, so how about some bath salts?
- Anything involving seeds – here are 3 Seed Gifts to consider for a gift that keeps on giving
- How about pint-sized homemade jams in a variety of flavors (in this case, strawberry – a favorite) – yum!
- Decorate pre-made candles – tapers work nicely and are a bit cheaper
- Homemade vanilla in small bottles for each adult guest is a delicious and practical gift. Or, similarly, vanilla-infused raw honey!
- If your guest list is smaller, consider these Re-Usable Lavender Sachets stuffed with lavender that perhaps you grew!
For the Kids
Please don’t forget the kids that might be in attendance. Weddings can be super boring from their perspective.
The beauty of hosting a farm wedding on a homestead is that there’s infinite variety of things to look at and explore. HOWEVER, you do NOT want your kids or anyone else’s running amok during the event. They can cause harm to garden beds, livestock and themselves.
Give them something to do instead!
My wedding reception was a costume party since I got married around Halloween – we had a costume contest with prizes! We also had various stations set up for craft and game activities for kids.
I had been working with the children in my congregation before my marriage and anticipated a high volume of kiddos in attendance. Plus, I specifically welcomed them on the invitations, so parents knew they could bring them along.
And we had SO much fun with them!!
Here are few ideas for kids activities at your farm wedding:
- Bees wax candle rolling – hands down a favorite with the very little ones.
- Simple games like ring tosses and carnival fishing pools will keep the coming back for more.
- Don’t underestimate the appeal of a good, old fashioned Nature Scavenger Hunt (this one courtesy of Natasha)
- Have a basic coloring table set up with crayons, markers, scissors, glue sticks. You could even assemble crayon and paper party favors just for the kids.
- Lego stations never, ever go wrong. Ever.
- Have a hair wreath-making station with leftover blooms from your garden; you’ll need a volunteer to help run this, but that’s what your siblings and all the cousins are for, right?
- A bubble station with bubble solution and a variety of bubble wands is always a hit. Be sure to supervise.
However you decide to host your farm wedding on the homestead, be sure to add the most important ingredient – love.
Love for your child. Love for your family. Love for the new in-laws. Love for your friends.
Just fill yourself up with it!
“’Love is an actual need, an urgent requirement of the heart,’ he read aloud from an old essay on marriage that he found in his files.
“‘Every properly constituted human being who entertains an appreciation of loneliness…and looks forward to happiness and content feels the necessity of loving. Without it, life is unfinished…’”
― Jan Karon, A Light in the Window