How To Have A Summer Camp Wedding

—by Becca Ballenger, Production Assistant, proud cat mom + explorer of wild places

When we decided to get married, my then-fiancé and I realized that we wanted our wedding to have the same warm, earthy, and intimate vibe as a perfect vacation day.

5 Tips for Hosting a Summer Camp Wedding | Newlyweds paddling in a canoe

Private Camp in Saranac Lake, NY | All images by Deborah Huber Photography

If you asked us what our ideal vacation day would look like, we'd both say that it would start with drinking coffee on a porch overlooking water and end with drinking a cocktail on a porch overlooking water. The in-between? Anyone's guess. For our wedding, we wanted to give our friends and family the gift of an Artie & Becca-style vacation: an idyllic couple of days of drinking coffee and cocktails on porches overlooking the water. Camp wedding it is!

There's a reason camp weddings are becoming so popular: They often last a full weekend, which means more time to hang with your closest friends and family…and they're also in a stunning rustic location—perfect for nature-loving couples. Picture canoeing away from your ceremony or roasting marshmallows around a campfire—both of which we totally did!

My husband and I couldn't have been happier with our decision to get married in the middle of nowhere—among 30 of our closest friends on a windy September Saturday.

If you're thinking of hosting a camp wedding, here are some tips from my perfectly-imperfect wedding to yours:

Tips for Hosting a Summer Camp Wedding | Rustic cabins at a private camp in Saranac Lake, NY

1. Pick the kind of "camp" that's right for you.

Finding the perfect venue is always a challenge (though Here Comes The Guide sure makes it easier!). When you're looking for a camp venue, though, you suddenly realize how undefined the term "camp" is. Some venues are full-service, with weekend-long rentals that include catering, housing, and even some activities (archery, anyone?). Others are not much more than a beautiful open field with a BYO tent policy.

Consider your priorities and get really clear on what each venue offers. For example, we wanted to be able to self-cater, house around 30 guests comfortably, and have a canoe exit from our ceremony. Identifying just those three priorities helped us narrow down the list of potential venues significantly. Other things you might consider:

How To Have A Summer Camp Wedding | Private camp in Saranac Lake, NY

2. Stay local.

If you're getting married in the middle of nowhere, chances are your options for vendors are more limited than if you're tying the knot smack dab in the center of Manhattan. The good news? Local vendors are likely used to working in this kind of environment. Our caterers were totally nonplussed by the dearth of potable water sources and having to grill kebabs on a windy porch two cabins away from the party. Our rental company was like, "Oh, three miles down an unlit, unnamed dirt road and over a rickety bridge? Sounds like any other Friday delivery."

Summer Camp Wedding Ideas | Field Notes Programs

3. Consider guest comfort.

My husband and I are totally at home sleeping in a tent that's floating on an inch of rainwater in the Rocky Mountains (yes, we have literally done this), but many of our city-slicker friends are not exactly outdoorsy types. It was important to us that everyone felt comfortable, even in a civilization-challenged environment. Our online RSVP included questions like: "Do you need to have a bathroom in your cabin?" and "Are you okay sharing a room with a friend?" Based on the answers to these questions, we figured out a housing plan that would keep everyone feeling cared for and at ease.

Summer Camp Wedding Tips + Ideas | Cozy cabin wedding reception

4. Plan a lot, but then let it all go.

This holds true for any wedding, but it's particularly applicable when you're subject to the whims of Mother Nature.

We planned a canoe exit from our ceremony, but on the day of our wedding the wind was wild. There was no way we could have a ceremony in the spot we'd originally chosen, much less get into a canoe in our finery without being ungracefully dumped in the lake. I had a quick cry, and then we brainstormed. Ultimately, we let go of our planned ceremony site and went to the other side of the peninsula where the wind was minimal. We had our ceremony on the dock, while our guests looked on from their front-row seats in a rowboat and on the porch of one of the cabins. We did get our canoe exit, and I will never not giggle thinking about my chic best friends gamely wobbling out of that rowboat like baby deer.

Tips for Hosting a Summer Camp Wedding | Lakefront ceremony on the dock

5. Embrace your break with tradition.

Our wedding didn't have a lot of the "normal" stuff. There was no WiFi, but there were new friends playing tennis together. We didn't have toasts or speeches, but our Quaker-style ceremony made space for our family and friends to share some words of wisdom. There was no dancing, but there was a fireside jam session. The sky was cloudy, but around the time we stood up to say our vows, the clouds parted and we got a beautiful slice of sun—and that was more than enough. As non-traditional as it was, our camp wedding was absolutely perfect for non-traditional us.

Summer Camp Wedding Inspiration | Newlyweds and guests in canoes
Summer Camp Weddings | Guest jumping into the lake
How To Have a Camp Wedding | Golden hour photos in front of the lake
Camp Wedding Decor Ideas | Cabin map + rustic dessert tray
Camp Wedding Inspiration | Bride blows out fire on marshmallow

Venue: Private Camp in Saranac Lake, NY
Photographer: Deborah Huber Photography
Caterer: Lakeview Deli and VanBee & Co.
Flowers: Little Farmhouse Flowers (Bouquet, boutonnière, and arrangements by the bride's mom!)
Desserts: Enuf Chocolates
Rentals: Taylor Rental

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Some clients may have paid to be placed in our editorial and some of these links may be affiliate; however, we never include a venue, vendor, or product unless they have a proper place here. This is part of our Core Values. We create our website first and foremost to be good for the couples using it to plan their Big Day. We won't stray from that for a few advertising dollars. #scoutshonor

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