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20+ Tips for Planning a Garden Wedding Reception

Andrea planned her own wedding during the pandemic. She learned a few tricks along the way.

A garden reception takes extra work to make sure the space is right for the day of the party. Everything needs to look like it has been setup and considered.

A garden reception takes extra work to make sure the space is right for the day of the party. Everything needs to look like it has been setup and considered.

Garden Reception Planning Ideas

Whether you have a stellar venue or the perfect backyard, garden receptions can be memorable, sustainable, and elegant. It's important to respect a venue space and make it easy for your guests to do so.

The following article will look at how to make your wedding green, what you can do outside, and how you can keep the party alive.

I would recommend getting a wedding planner, rental company, or caterer to help you prepare for the event. They can help you discuss the layout, the size of the party and its needs, and any other ideas floating around in your head.

Have fun games out in the yard. People like games that make it easier to interact with other people. Giant size Chess or Checkers boards are popular. Croquet is a classic.

Have fun games out in the yard. People like games that make it easier to interact with other people. Giant size Chess or Checkers boards are popular. Croquet is a classic.

Adding Excitement

Receptions are all about the fun. Ceremonies tend to be more reserved and serious. Many of your guests are already in the mindset for nightly activities. They want to cut loose and have fun.

Incorporate Yard Games

Cornhole is easy to add into a yard and is simple for people to follow. All you need are cornhole stands and bean bags. This can be a nice leisurely way to play while also waiting for food or drinks. Games also help people to connect with others and feel more relaxed.

Other popular yard games include:

  • Ladder Toss
  • Giant Checkers, Connect 4, Jenga, Chess, or Tic Tac Toe
  • Horseshoes
  • Croquet
  • Bocce

Add Carnival Style Vendors

A reception can be given a little more charm by adding vendors that entertain your guests. People like to have the spotlight on themselves, so adding people like this can make things all the more agreeable.

  • A character sketch artist can leave people with an image of themselves that they'll always remember. This is a great way for people to fill up their time and to remember your reception.
  • A psychic can add allure. People are inquisitive about their future, and they like for people to dote on them. A psychic could read palms, read Tarot cards, or read people cold.
  • Consider stations for cotton candy, snow cones, pretzels, caramel apples, and the like.
  • Children like face painting, balloon animals, and opportunities for prizes.

Add Musicians

A garden party is made better with music. Violins and cellos always sound nice at a reception. I recommend live music. People enjoy watching musicians, and it can help liven up the night.

  • Look for musicians that go with the theme and style of your night.
  • Acoustic will be easier to control than electric.

Look for Unique Guest Book Options

Instead of the old guest book, try something more engaging.

  • Have people write their name or a message on a canvas.
  • Have people write on wooden heart shapes that they can put into a box.
  • Have them color in different pieces of an image.

Look for Sustainable Options

It's all too easy to create a ton of waste with a wedding or a reception. There are some tricks you can use to help limit how much trash you and your guests create.

  • Rent as many items as possible. Look for a caterer who uses real plates and silverware instead of paper plates, plastic cups, and one-use forks and knives.
  • Rent linens and other decorations.
  • Rent chairs.
  • Get a caterer who will serve food and have an exact food count. If you have a buffet, have Tupperware so people can take the food home. You could also donate food.
  • Opt for more vegetarian items and reduce the amount of meat or have no meat.
  • Look for biodegradable items.


You want a setup that prevents food from getting eaten up by bugs. You want to have a space that's dedicated to keeping the food fresh. I recommend hiring a caterer even if you are doing this at home. They can help manage the food, prevent people from going hog wild over everything they see and make sure you have enough plates.

Caterers are experienced and know what all to consider. They know how to keep food warm and the best time to bring out the cake.


You want to have plenty of seating, not just for sitting at a table or for a ceremony. Consider adding other seats so people can enjoy different views.

  • Benches in scenic spots.
  • Hay bales around a campfire.
  • Rocking chairs.
  • Pillow cushions.
  • Bean bag chairs.
  • Inflatable chairs.


Flowers make for great centerpieces that are also biodegradable. It's easy to incorporate more flowers into a garden party. You could use flowers in pots rather than cut stems for centerpieces. You could also use house plants. Succulents can look extremely nice and don't require too much care.

Use native flowers and plants. Non-native or even tropical plants might cost you more and create issues for the environment.

Party Favors

Skip traditional party favors. Most people don't care or remember what your party favors were. Instead, opt for packets of seeds or offer fruit. Little shot glasses and other trinkets will likely end up in the trash.

Give People the Option to Recycle

Instead of trash cans, you can put out recycling bins. This is easy if you're doing a party at your home or a friend's backyard. You may want to talk to your venue owners to see if they'll help promote recycling on their property. They most likely will be willing to oblige.

Solar Lights

For decorative lighting, opt for solar lights. Christmas lights can be reused, but they use up energy. Solar lights are a more sustainable option and can look just as pretty.

  • Candles are another good option.
  • Consider lanterns.
  • A fire pit can be aesthetically pleasing. It's also a good spot for people to sit and share stories.

Avoid Messy Send-Offs

The appeal of a garden reception is the beauty of the landscape. You don't want to create a big, messy send-off that trashes the place. Look for ways to say goodbye without using toxic materials, like glow sticks that can sit indefinitely in landfills.

  • It's okay to hug people goodbye at the end of a party.
  • Throwing rice is a thing of the past because it makes birds sick.
  • Skip the fireworks. Sparklers sit in landfills. It's also bad for the air.
  • Floating lanterns can make for fire hazards.

Throw real flower petals. They're biodegradable and can be colorful.

People can hold candles. The wax can be melted down. Just don't get candle wax everywhere. Property owners won't like that.

Have people shake bells. Save the bells and turn them into an art piece later.

Create a Space for Dancing

You may have a dance floor already at the venue. If you're hosting the reception in your backyard, you may need to clear a space. This area should be near where music is held. You could highlight the space with lights or tiki torches.

  • Encourage people not to drink on the dance floor. It's all too easy to run into someone with a glass in their hand.
  • You should have a sizable space so plenty of people can dance.
  • Keep objects out of the way of the dance floor. The area should be flat and devoid of obstacles.
  • Avoid having a dance floor that's just in the grass. This will result in lots of tears to the ground, even holes from high heels.

Garden Needs

The garden is the main feature. If you're planning the event in your own backyard, you'll need to prep space in advance. You'll want to make sure the garden looks manicured, has plenty of flowers, and that people will have ample room to walk.

Avoid muddy patches, difficult terrain, and textures that will ruin people's shoes. You may have to put up signs to direct traffic and prevent people from walking into areas that could ruin your growing plants.

  • Mow, pull weeds, remove leaves, and let native plants be.
  • Prepare for it to rain: have a plan in case of inclement weather. A pavilion or outdoor structure with a roof will prove useful. A large tent can come in handy: you can rent one.
  • Stick to a theme: sophisticated, rustic, vintage, under the sea, Alice in Wonderland, whimsical.
  • Do consider the date. The temperature plays a big part in your party. People don't want to be too cold nor too hot.
  • Rental companies can make your life easier. They'll do the setup and tear down, so you don't have to waste time putting up chairs.

Lighting is important. Most garden parties go into the night. You want people to be able to see. You also don't want people creeping around in the shadows doing nefarious things.

Water elements and bridges keep guests entertained. Most people are looking for a spot where they can take pictures. It's a great idea to make an intentional spot for this. People like to have stations where they can do things and keep themselves busy; that way, they're not just sitting at tables talking to each other.

© 2021 Andrea Lawrence