The scene: an emerald-green meadow dotted with tepees. Girls don flower crowns and macramé dresses. A band takes the stage. It may sound like the beginning of a music festival—but these days, it could also be the start of a wedding. Inspired by the laid-back spirit of events like Bonnaroo and SXSW, couples are throwing tradition out the window and creating boho wedding weekends in the great outdoors, complete with glamping tents, live performances, DJs, and yoga sessions. "The best part about a music festival is the feeling of freedom, so we wanted to center our wedding on that essence," says Brit Castanos, who married Jeff Osborne at Beasore Meadows near Yosemite National Park during a weekend of hiking, star-gazing, and music. "We knew we didn't want any rules."
Similarly, Coachella-loving couple Chloe Moore and Taylor Sinnard took the festival vibe up a notch at their off-the-grid wedding in the desert of Moab, Utah, with a beer-tap wall, live bands, laser tag, and a silent disco. Guests bonded over hot-air-balloon rides, speedboats down the Colorado River, and hikes in Arches National Park. "Dancing in the middle of the desert with our friends and their fur babies is totally us," Moore says.
In addition to letting couples show off passions and interests, there's another advantage to a festival-style gathering: It's all about maximizing the time you have with your loved ones. "At a traditional wedding, the details are crammed into this small period of time, but some brides and grooms want something more experiential," says Melissa Strukel, owner of San Diego–based event-design-and-rental company Pow Wow Design Studio. This way, everyone stays together all weekend, rather than heading off to separate rooms—at Castanos's festival, for example, after the rehearsal dinner, guests spent the night telling stories while lounging on the grass and sleeping under the stars. "Our guests got to know each other better than they normally would have, because they were in the middle of the desert together," Moore adds. "We still see the friendships—and babies!—made over that epic long weekend."
Ready to book the nearest meadow and start planning your festival wedding ASAP? It's important to consider the idea carefully first, as the trend is definitely not for everyone. "Some people like the look of a remote field, but they're annoyed by bugs," Strukel says. And even if you and your partner are outdoorsy, you need to consider your guests, too—are they more likely to find camping in the wilderness exciting or terrifying? Then there are the logistics and the expenses to keep in mind. You need to find out what's allowed (and what permits you need); you'll also be bringing in generators, bathrooms, and tents. Be sure there are water stations, showers, shade, first aid, and protection from the elements—including wildlife. "The best thing we did was partner with the right vendors," Castanos says. "This type of wedding requires flexibility, hard work, and good attitudes. It's a true team effort, so get people on board who will give it their best."
But with the right mind-set and crew in place, it can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. "What makes a festival wedding so magical is the vibe of everyone together for an entire weekend," Strukel says. "Everyone's there for one thing: love."