Planning a Campground Wedding

Hello! I’ve tried searching for this subject, but primarily found questions about remote locations and concerns about whether or not guests would be comfortable camping out. My questions are a bit more specific, I think…please bear with me. I hope for some great advice, if I can express the situation well enough!

So, here’s the deal. We are hoping to plan a destination wedding at a campground in Northern Wisconsin, which is a location that has special significance to us. Guests would be traveling from the Chicago area, from Central Wisconsin, from Central Ohio, and from Eastern Pennsylvania. The campground is very, very near to a resort (as in walking distance via hiking trails or a short drive via roads!), which is convenient for guests who may not wish to camp out, though we both come from outdoorsy families. My rough vision at this point is to have people come in on a Friday, hang out with us, have fun, cook out on the grill, play camp games, have campfires, etc. Get ready Saturday morning, then have the ceremony outside in the afternoon, followed by photos and by a reception at the resort (casual dinner, drinks, dancing). Then give people time to change into casual, camp clothes before heading back to the campground for more fun, food, drinks, and a big bonfire in the evening!

Here are my questions:

Is this vision kind of crazy? Since the resort and campground are so near each other, it would not be difficult to travel back and forth between them. However, I would be perfectly happy having the entire shindig held at the campground, if they will let us! But since the resort is all set up with a banquet hall and even a restaurant of its own, it seems easier to do a reception there than to have dinner catered to the campground, have chairs and tables set up, have to set up a dance floor, etc. But that would actually kind of fit more with what I want…What makes more sense to you?

How many guests is too many? He and I come from big families and have many friends. The resort and campground have accommodations for enormous amounts of people. If we are having everyone pay for their travel and their own stays, we should only be limited by the number of rooms and campsites at the location, correct? And on that note…is it rude to expect people to pay their own way?

How should we handle reservations for our guests and for our ceremony location? Do we just let the campground and resort know how many guests will be coming once people have RSVP’d and told us where they plan to spend the weekend (campsite or resort)? Do we let people make their own reservations? Do we simply attempt to reserve a section of the resort and a section of the campground specifically for our guests? How do we go about doing that if each of our guests will be paying for their own stay? The resort offers hotel-like accomodations, as well as larger cabins that sleep groups of people (8-14). The campground offers cottages (4-6 people), electrical sites (campers and RVs), and tent sites (no electric).

I am so sorry if this post is very convoluted. This idea is very new and we’re just not sure how to go about making the vision a reality, or if it is even feasible! We think the location is perfect, since those coming from afar and those who dislike camping will be able to stay at the resort instead of “roughing it”…I’m just afraid that it will be horribly complicated and/or expensive to attempt to reserve the spaces and bring the idea to life!

What do you think? Is it do-able? Or is it crazy?

Brittany Allen, Executive Wedding Planner of Beautiful Beyond Dreams, LLC

First and foremost, Congratulations on getting engaged! Secondly, your vision is pretty awesome! I love what you want to create and it is doable and possibly even expensive. To answer a few of your questions; you can get married outdoors and have your reception in the ballroom. This will save on the high outdoor costs that come with doing an outdoor wedding of that extent. Having it in the ballroom will become more cost-effective (if that is one of your concerns, if not, go for it!). As far as guest count, that really depends on what your budget is. The more guests, the higher your budget will be.

Last and most important, to have your vision created is achievable, but I highly recommend you seek & hire a Wedding Planner. Now whether, you do a hourly consultation so you start out on the right track and have a Month of Planner or do a Partial or Full Planning Package, you will want to have a Wedding Planner. When you have multiple locations, any number of guests, many vendors and aspects (like no electric, etc.) you will want to have a professional there. Destination Weddings require a lot more detailed planning and having that peace of mind on your wedding day and enjoying the wedding planning process is priceless! I hope this information has helped you in some way!

Brittany Allen
Beautiful Beyond Dreams, LLC

Joyce C Smith, MBC, President and owner of Weddings Unlimited, Inc. and Ohio State Coordinator for Association of Bridal Consultants

First, let me congratulate you on thinking out side of the box for your wedding idea. The choice of a camping experience is wonderful, and giving your guests the option of camping or staying in the resort is brilliant! I suggest you send out a “save the date” and request input on how many will be joining you at either the resort or campgrounds. Then you could work with the venues to set up blocks of camping space and/or rooms in the resort. Check to make sure that you are not responsible for any unused spaces.

The idea of hosting the reception at the resort will save you lots of headaches. Have an after party at the campsite for those interested in prolonging the day’s events.

Sounds like a lot of fun.

Emmanuela Stanislaus, Precious Occasions, Wedding and Event Planner

Congratulations on your engagement! You pose some great questions for the unique wedding that you are planning. It really does sound like you could benefit from higher a wedding planner to help you sort out a lot of the details. There really isn’t an answer for how many guests is too much but it really does depend on your budget since feeding them takes up between 50%-60% of your budget. The amount of guests is also dependent on what both venues is able to accommodate for the ceremony, reception, and lodging. Guests expect to pay for their own lodging so if you do not cover that cost, it is fine. However, you should cover the meals for the guests at any official wedding events. Just like any other wedding, your guest would make their own reservations but it is important that you share all of the lodging options to them with the save the date information. If I were you, I would check to see if the campsite allows you to set up a block to have all of the guests that plan to reserve a camp site be placed close to each other. For your budget, you will need to factor in the cost of reserving RV spots for the Friday night events, ceremony, and bonfire.

I think that your idea is definitely do able.

Good luck!

Deborah McCoy, President, American Academy of Wedding Professionals™

Hi… Here are my concerns overall. You say this affair will be held in Northern Wisconsin, yet you don’t say what time of year. I would imagine that even in summer the weather could be less than warm.

Also, you don’t speak of contingency plans. What happens if the weather turns sour? What is there to do at the resort for the weekend for your guests and I’m assuming their children? And more importantly, what happens to your outdoor ceremony? Or the festivities you plan around the campfire the night before and afterward? Does the resort have the capability to move all of these events indoors?

And what about the cooking, other than the reception (which will be held at the resort)? Who will provide the food, liquor, do the cooking and then the clean-up? And you’re talking two affairs, besides the reception—the one held Friday night and the one held after the reception.

You say also that you have large families and lots of friends so anyone you invite will have be invited to the reception also. Does that include children, or are there babysitting services available at the resort?

This is just the tip of the iceberg, but I’d say you’re hosting a very expensive affair, as you’ve described it. If I were you, I would definitely hire a wedding planner who is very familiar with the resort, their amenities, their policies and who can help you plot the logistics of your plans so that you know that they’re do-able. The planner will also assist you in calculating the total cost realistically.

Good Luck!