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The Ultimate Ranch Wedding Planning Guide

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Bride and groom sharing a kiss in a lush green location at a ranch; image overlaid with text that reads The Ultimate Ranch Wedding Planning Guide

There’s an undeniable charm to ranch weddings – couples from all over the country, whether they have roots in agriculture or farming or not, are choosing to celebrate their love on beautiful ranches. If this is something you’re dreaming about, read on for my guide on planning a ranch wedding!

First things first: define your vision for your ranch wedding

One of the great things about a ranch wedding is that there are so many different ways you can style them. Do you want to really lean into the ranch aesthetic and have a Western-themed wedding? Or do you want to play with a contrast between the rustic surroundings and a polished and formal atmosphere? Are you looking for something warm and down-to-earth or a more pretty and whimsical aesthetic?

Bride and groom share a kiss under a makeshift wedding arch in front of a ranch as their guests look on

You have so many options open to you, so before you start to look for venues, make sure you’ve got a firm idea of the kind of event you want to create – that will help you assess how well each venue would lend itself to the look you’re going for. Here are few examples of aesthetics that would be perfect for a ranch wedding:

Cowboy Western

This is a classic theme for a ranch wedding. Cowboy hats, roast hog, and saloon drinks could all play a role. If you want to feature horses in your wedding, check out my guide to the perfect horse wedding.

Shabby Chic

When rustic charm meets beautiful taste! 

Floral Boho

The big spaces – meadows, barns – that you have access to as at a ranch wedding make these venues perfect for you to create gorgeous floral installations. You can really put your own stamp on the venue.

Seasonal

A Christmas wedding would be so wonderful on a ranch! You could have full-sized Christmas trees, bonfires, mulled wine, and, depending on your location, a layer of snow.

Location, location, location

Location is everything when it comes to planning a wedding, and that is particularly true with a ranch wedding. If you’re lucky enough to live out in the country with ranches and farms in your area, you can probably stay local. But plenty of couples who plan a ranch wedding are looking at a destination wedding. If you’re going to have to travel out of your area for your wedding and you’re on the fence about whether or not to hire a wedding planner, I’d really suggest that you go for it. A wedding planner is going to be invaluable in helping you choose the right location and navigate local vendors.

Now, as you search for venues, think about what you want in your day. A key decision to make is whether you want to be married on a working ranch or on a dedicated wedding venue. Working ranches have an unmatchable atmosphere, and many of them will have very polished wedding packages – but some of them will have lower rates but fewer amenities. You may have to hire things like tables and chairs, flatware, and sound systems for yourself. A venue that is dedicated to creating gorgeous weddings will have thought of all the little details that make your day go smoothly – but you might lose something in atmosphere and creative freedom. It’s all about what works for you!

Pick your season for the ranch wedding

For a ranch wedding, you’ll want to choose your time of year carefully. When you look into venues, talk with the venue manager and ask them what the weather is like around your date. If you’re going to spend any time outside – and in a ranch wedding, you most certainly are – it’s doubly important to be prepared. Heat is your main concern, but be sure to ask about wind – you don’t want fragile decorations or flimsy tents to be blown away, and no one wants to spend their wedding day fighting to keep their veil on!

Make sure that you, your wedding planner, and the vendors at the venue have a clear backup plan for if it rains – you want the peace of mind of knowing that if the heavens open over your cocktail hour, there’s a plan to move the event inside so that the fun can keep flowing.

Make sure you double-check the amenities that are available – what parts of the ranch have AC? And if you’re looking at a summer or fall wedding in higher temperatures, make sure you plan for that for your guests – with lots of hydration stations and shady spots for people to enjoy.

Choose a realistic wardrobe for your ranch wedding

This brings us to your wardrobe. A ranch wedding offers so much scope for fun outfit choices for you and your wedding party, but remember to keep it practical. If you want to wear heels, make sure you have some flats too to change into for walking through muddy paths or long grass – many brides opt for cowboy boots, which can be the perfect touch!

In the evenings it will likely cool down significantly, so if you’re going for an outdoor meal or a bonfire, make sure you have a jacket to go over your dress! For men, keep in mind that a full tuxedo might be too hot for the full heat of the day. The key is just to be fully informed on what you can expect on the day, and then plan accordingly!

Stay local with catering

Having a ranch wedding usually means that you have an abundance of fresh produce and products on your doorstep. Take advantage of this! Serve up locally reared beef or regional whiskey.

Whether you want to serve up a gourmet meal or keep it to simple, hearty food, it’s going to be so much better – and more special – if you know it was grown right where you’re celebrating.

Think about the flow of the weekend

One of the incredible things about choosing to have a ranch wedding is that you usually have a lot of space to work with – barns, meadows, saloons, porches.

Black and white photo of the bride and groom dancing under fairy lights after their ranch wedding ceremony

This opens up so many opportunities to create lots of special moments in the day. Think about moving through the ranch throughout the day – welcoming guests, ceremony, drinks, dinner, and dancing all in different spots. If you’re spending a weekend there with your guests, so much the better! Schedule various activities according to your theme for everyone to enjoy.

Final thoughts on planning a ranch wedding

As you can see, a ranch wedding has the potential to be a truly striking event for you and your friends and family! For more inspiration, check out my gallery of the gorgeous weddings I’ve photographed. And if you have any more questions about planning your own ranch wedding, get in touch!

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Bride and groom share a kiss in a baby blue pick-up truck; image overlaid with text that reads The Ultimate Ranch Wedding Planning Guide
Bride and groom sitting at the back of a baby blue pick-up truck as the groom cups the bride's face while they look into each other's eyes; image by Makayla McGarvey and overlaid with text that reads The Ultimate Ranch Wedding Planning Guide for 2021

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Specializing in Elopement & destination wedding photography

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