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  • Christina Hubeli

Ideas to Fit the Vibe of Your Wedding: Chill

Wedding reception games
Photo: Sean Cook Weddings

In the last few weeks, we talked you through important questions to figure out the kind of wedding that you want and brought you unique and entertaining ideas if you want your wedding to be a huge party. This week, we’re kicking things down a notch and showing your ideas for a laid-back, casual reception!

Now, before we get started, my most important point here is that “chill” does NOT necessarily mean cheap! If you’re thinking about hosting a backyard wedding, for example, the logistics are so important to think through. There may be added costs if you want to tent the area, need to set up an additional area for the catering staff to prep from, need to bring in portable bathrooms, provide vendors with generators, etc. These additional costs can add up quickly, so it’s key to chat with a wedding pro before getting involved with a backyard wedding to have a full understanding of the costs involved.

On the flip side, you may be hosting your laid-back wedding at a cool venue. In this case, you’ll still have the associated costs of the bar, catering, rentals, etc., all of which may vary depending on if your venue requires you to source these from an in-house vendor.

I’m not saying a chill wedding can’t be lower budget! It certainly can be; just don’t assume that having a more laid-back affair means you’ll naturally come in way under budget.

Okay! Now that we have our not-so-fun-but-necessary budget conversation out of the way, let’s get to the exciting part!

Cocktail Hour

If your chill wedding is happening outside or has an outdoor element, the weather will likely be warm, so you’ll want to keep guests well-hydrated (especially if alcohol is involved). Set up a serve-yourself drink station with options like fruit-infused water, iced tea, and lemonade. On that note, if it is an extra hot day or your wedding will be entirely outside, consider setting out items to keep guests comfortable like sunscreen, handheld fans, and bug spray. If your wedding is happening on grass or another uneven surface, make sure to give guests a heads up about that on your invite or wedding website so they don’t arrive wearing their best stilettos.

For your glassware, have guests each pick up a mason jar with a chalk label where they can write their name. They can use this all night for their beverages, and it doubles as a wedding favor they’ll actually use. If you’re hosting a backyard wedding, consider setting out your alcohol selections in a creative item, like a beer and wine canoe! It’s an easy grab-and-go option for guests and will play to the theme nicely.

With a backyard or outdoor wedding, lawn games are always a hit with guests! There are so many ways to incorporate games into your wedding (and personalize them with your names, initials, wedding date, theme, etc.), but here are a few of our favorites:

  • Tic-tac-toe using your and your partner’s initials

  • Ladder toss

  • Pong

  • Horseshoes

  • Cornhole

  • Ring toss

  • Bocce ball

  • Giant Scrabble

  • Giant Dominos

  • Giant Jenga

  • Giant Connect 4 (sensing a theme here?)

  • Badminton

And of course, the games don’t have to just be for the cocktail hour! Keep them out all night for guests to enjoy.


For your dinner service, a buffet is a great way to keep things casual by allowing guests to serve themselves and try the foods they want to try. Touching back to that starting note about budget: a buffet is not necessarily going to be cheaper than a plated meal IF you’re going through a traditional full-service caterer. With a plated meal, we know exactly who is going to eat what, so it’s easier to control the costs in this way; whereas with a buffet, the caterer has to ensure they’re providing enough food for everyone without knowing if Uncle Joey is going to go back for three plates.

If you’re opting for a buffet but want to cut back the costs, we recommend drop-off catering, especially if your venue has an open catering policy or you’re hosting a backyard wedding. We’ve talked about this option on the blog before, but just a quick refresher. This is when a caterer or restaurant (with a catering unit) drops off the food that you’ve pre-ordered to your venue. It’s already completely cooked, so you would just need to hire an event staffing company for set-up and serving.

Another fun and casual option for dinner service is a food truck! If you’re having your wedding at a venue, confirm with them first that this is allowed and chat through the logistics to ensure guests have easy access to the truck. If you’re not wanting to go the food truck route for dinner, they’re also the perfect option for dessert or a late-night snack.

With either a buffet or a food truck, you won’t have to worry about assigned seating, which keeps the casual theme going. Guests can choose where they want to sit and with who. Plus, you can get really creative with your table and chair options! Consider benches, cushions or blankets on the ground, picnic tables, etc.

As the sun starts to set, make sure your area stays well lit! Hang bistro or twinkle lights for some great ambiance, light lots of candles, and/or scatter lanterns around your venue. And then have fun dancing the night away under the stars!

Wondering if you need a Wedding Planner?


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