Is a picnic wedding reception that difficult?

Kicking off the first official Wedding Wisdom Wednesday - where your wedding planning and styling questions are answered - with this cracker of a question:

I am hoping you can help. My Fiancé and I are trying to plan our perfect wedding, however we are having issues locating an appropriate venue.

We are looking to have a picnic reception. We’d love a leafy grassed area with plenty of shade but also sunshine. We’ve considered a large public garden in the middle of the city but feel that this might be logistically challenging with our large guest list and not as intimate.
We have put inquiries into some venues that have large lawn areas. However either they don’t allow self-catering (we have already arranged the picnic baskets through a catering company) or offer a limited two hour window for use.  I have contacted several private homes to no avail.
We want it to be in the city because we’ve traveled for other people’s weddings and we don’t want to load that expense on to our guest.
Any help you could give would be appreciated.


Thanks so much for the question! I absolutely love your picnic reception idea. After reading your question my initial gut feeling is this: 

You may need to compromise. 

Yuck! I know. You didn’t want to hear that. 

Don’t fall into a puddle of tears, all is not lost! The key is you need to change your approach slightly. 

First - take a look at your whole list of priorities and pick the number one must have and focus on that. It is likely that something will have to give whether it’s privacy; travel; expense or limited timings.

Second - think of the atmosphere you’re looking to create rather than a specific check list sheet of requirements. What do you love most about the picnic reception? Is it being outdoors? Is it the casual vibe? You can achieve this in a variety of settings.

As you will find in my suggestions below, having an open mind may help you find a location that is everything you wanted and more.

Ask your caterer

Getting in to the nitty gritty of your planning it can be easy to forget that you don’t have to find all the answers yourself. Ask your catering company the location their previous clients have used. I bet you will get at least one location idea that you haven’t considered. 

*UPDATE Love My Food on the Sunshine Coast contacted me to let you all know they do picnic basket catering for weddings and would be more than happy to share with couples their favorite locations!

I must say their handmade, locally sourced food looks delicious. Contact Alisa-Ec on or visit their website

Council Parks

I know many city councils have a ton of information on their websites regarding the hire of council parks. You have already crossed off one, but I’m sure there are a lot more to choose from. 

In my home base of Brisbane, Australia our city council have an amazing search feature that includes videos of the parks available to book.

Assessing your requirement that it be ‘intimate’. I sense you mean somewhere where you won’t be in the eyes of the general public. 

There is not a lot you can do to get around this. It would be an area you will have to compromise with booking a park location for your dream picnic reception. 

I expect you will be so loved up and in the moment on your day you won’t even notice.
Community Halls

Community Halls are another hidden gem. If you look around you’ll find at least a handful of options that have a garden or lawn area.  

Bonus is you get a wet weather back up option right off the bat! 

You will also find most halls will have tables and chairs available also - another bonus for your older guests who may not be able to sit on the ground for too long (or even at all).

Private Properties
You may still have some luck if you continue your search for a private property. I expect you will have more success with properties that are outside the city. These properties don’t have as high of a booking turnover and have a larger backyard / acreage for you to use. Thus they may be more open with coming to the party (well, wedding).  
There are some wedding planners who have a portfolio of private properties with arrangements already in place to accommodate wedding receptions. Booking a reception search with a wedding planner is a great way to get the professional assistance you need without breaking the bank. You also get a taste with what working with a planner is like should you need assistance down the track. I do not doubt you will also pick up other valuable advice from your planner along the way! We Heart Events can custom quote a reception search, enquire here.
This option requires the compromise of asking your guests to travel. Perhaps ask a handful of friends and family if this is a concern for them.

As you have demonstrated yourself most people will go above and beyond to be present on your day. You never know, your guests may love an excuse to get away from their day to day.
…. and one that might surprise you: ceremony locations

Cast your mind to outdoor ceremony locations you have possibly come across already. You may find a blank canvas that is already set up to accommodate weddings thus will be more open to your request. Not all will allow you to serve food. Those that do will probably only allow plastic cups and cutlery. You never know your luck! 

BEFORE YOU GO… watch out for this hidden expense
Community Hall, Parks and Private Property bookings may require you to take out public liability insurance. This has become virtually an essential requirement at some venues for weddings. Be sure to investigate this first before putting down a deposit. 

PHEW! Who needs a margarita after that? I hope that helps you along your way for finding the perfect wedding picnic reception. 

What about you? Do you need some wedding planning or styling help? Leave a comment below and I’ll be sure to catch you next time. 

Ciao and happy planning,