Backyard weddings are appealing to many couples as they consider where to marry, but there are a fair number of planning aspects to consider to ensure a truly successful and pleasantly memorable day.
The good news is that home weddings, if planned well, can save you a lot of money while allowing you to have a personalized, convenient and sentimental event exactly to your liking! This article will cover an array of tips, ideas, logistics and advice for planning your backyard ceremony and reception.
If you are on a fixed budget, it's definitely worth your time to research what it might cost to bring in everything you'll need or want for a wedding in your backyard or friend’s backyard versus the cost of having the wedding at a traditional venue like a hotel or golf club or catering hall, etc.
Outside venues may seem expensive at first, but costs can quickly add up if you are not careful. Our wedding budget calculator can help you with this. Typical costs may include rentals for a variety of items such as tables and chairs, tableware, decorations, lighting fixtures, generators, bathrooms and catering requirements.
HIRING A WEDDING PLANNER
Seasoned wedding planners know what is involved with planning a backyard wedding, but they can also give you a different perspective on your property and provide some fresh ideas you may not have considered.
They will help you plan the guest flow and cover basics like table placement, food service, vehicle parking and clean up requirements for the day of but also help with ideas for getting the property ready in advance. Also, a professional has vendor contacts, such as caterer’s and officiants that can save you research time. They also help ensure that everyone has a great time without incident.
Basically, they help everything run smoothly and on time so you can really enjoy your day. Our advice is to hire a wedding planner!
Here are some important questions to ask yourself about the property you are considering. More details are in other sections of this article.
- Will the space accommodate the guest list?
- Is there sufficient level ground? This is very important for chairs, tables and a dance floor!
- What will we do if it rains?
- What rentals will we need?
- How will we set up the buffet/catering?
- Is yard maintenance required?
- Is there adequate parking available for our guests?
- Are there adequate bathroom facilities to meet the needs of our guests?
- For the reception, how can we be conscious of noise levels so as not to disturb the neighbors?
Be aware that getting your backyard ready for a wedding may take months of advance preparation. If you want to give the space a more manicured look, that may mean hiring a landscaper so that everything is in peak form. If you're planning a spring backyard wedding, for example, it’s best to start preparing in the fall so plants have time to mature.
Talk to a professional landscaper about what may be needed to achieve the look you want and also check to see that the yard is level. This may involve reseeding, replanting, pruning and sodding. Cutting the grass a few days before the wedding is recommended.
YOUR GUEST LIST
The bottom line is that the property size will determine your guest list size. It’s time to be really honest about how many people your property can accommodate. Take into consideration whether you are having a sit-down function, buffet or simple cocktail service. Do you want a dance floor or bar? Where will they go? Entertainment? Where will they set up?
Thinking about these things will quickly tell you if you have enough room and how many guests will comfortably fit in the space. Try to keep your head count realistic to avoid overcrowding and guest frustration. The general rule is 6 to 10 square-feet of space per guest. Smaller head counts will naturally keep wedding costs lower too and give you a good reason to decline if relatives want to invite more people.
There is an important list of people and organizations you must contact before hosting a backyard wedding such as:
- Your city officials. A permit may be required for the event and you will want to find out if local noise ordinances require a permit or place restrictions on noise. You may also need a permit to park cars along your street. Apply for permits as soon as you decide to get married.
- The local fire department. They will want to inspect the grounds.
- An electrician to see if you will require a generator or extra outlet capacity, etc.
- Your homeowner’s association if you have one.
- The neighbors, because it’s polite and you will want to avoid them calling the police or possibly mowing their lawn during your wedding. Yikes!
- Your homeowner's insurance company. Your home may be damaged, so find out exactly what your homeowner's insurance covers. Check if your policy covers third-party liability, and with your vendors to make sure they have their own insurance policies. You may want to invest a few hundred dollars in wedding insurance just to be safe.
Unexpected weather, like rain or excessive heat, can be a challenging problem for your backyard event. Always plan for the worst by making sure guests will be covered in the event of a sudden downpour. Consider a tent at the ceremony area if rain is a possibility.
If there is even a slight chance of rain, make sure to have plenty of umbrellas on hand, as well. In some cases, a heatwave can pose just as many problems as rain, so make sure ceremony chairs are out of direct sunlight and that there are plenty of shaded areas, cool drinks available.
Items like insect repellent, sunscreen, citronella candles (for mosquitoes), and/or sunglasses may be options. Offer blankets if it will be chilly or provide hand-held fans to help guests beat the heat, for example. While you can’t control natural events or the weather, you can be prepared to keep your guests comfortable in most scenarios.
MENU SELECTIONS & CATERING
There are several options for offering food at your back yard wedding or event.
- Catering – If you plan to hire a caterer, have them check your kitchen in advance to make sure it is well-equipped and large enough to prepare the food you plan to offer and accommodate their staff. A completely functional traveling kitchen may be needed.
- Restaurants – Consider hiring a local restaurant to deliver ready-made food.
- Food Trucks – On site food trucks are very popular these days.
- Self-Catering – Have family and friends create some special dishes and desserts.
- The Wedding Cake – Any style wedding cake will do for a backyard wedding, but remember that buttercream icing does sweat and can even melt in the sun! If you opt for a buttercream-iced cake, keep it out of the sunlight, either under a tent or in the house until cutting time.
MUSIC & ENTERTAINMENT
Music is extremely important to have at your wedding for creating a festive atmosphere.
- Make your own play list (using Spotify, etc.) and broadcast on a loudspeaker.
- Hire a band – There is nothing like live music.
- Cocktail hour
- Cotton candy machine
- Dancefloor & DJ
- Photo booth
- Ice cream station
- Outdoor liquor bar
- Candy buffet
- Dessert buffet or Donut Wall
- Lawn games
LIGHTING & DECORATIONS
Depending on how lush your backyard is, you can let nature be your primary wedding inspiration. Here are some tips for styling your backyard area:
- Creating a ceremony focal point – When thinking about your wedding from a design standpoint, the prettiest area (best tree, beautiful home or lake view, etc.) will serve as your ceremony’s focal point. From there, you will create the ceremony space. If you don’t really have a focal point, you will need to create one with decorations. Aisle markers, such as hanging pots of flowers, also add visual interest. Use Pinterest to gather ideas.
- Lighting – First, and most importantly, you want to work around the natural light. Try to avoid having your ceremony during the harshest light to ensure you get beautiful photos. After the sun sets, lighting is super important for both ambiance and guest safety.
Lanterns, torches, candles, string lights or even chandeliers will do the trick. String lights are inexpensive, always give off the right mood, and look beautiful wrapped with greenery (real or artificial).
- Reception Tables – Choose centerpieces and décor that fit with the vibe of your wedding.
- Create a Lounge Area – A comfy lounge area is a must-have at any backyard wedding. Both you and your guests will likely be spending a lot of time there. Think comfy sofas, blankets for the evening, and some sort of shelter from the sun or wind.
- Choosing Your Colors – One of the best parts of having an outdoor wedding is that you have the freedom to choose any color palette you like! You aren’t restricted by a venue’s decor, colors, or style. If you need help choosing your colors, please visit our color article.
- Factor Rentals Into Your Plans – A backyard wedding reception inevitably requires bringing in enough rentals to throw a party.
POSSIBLE RENTALS FOR A BACK YARD WEDDING
- Ceremony Chairs
- Ceremony Backdrop
- Ceremony Decor
- Reception Chairs
- Lounge Seating
- Dinner Tables
- Cocktail Tables
- Serving Tables
- Gifts Table
- Guest Book Table
- Dessert Table
- Liquor Bar
- Place Settings
- Centerpiece Vases
- Table Decor
- Dance Floor
- Specialty Lighting
- Overhead Decor
- Photo Booth
- Food Prep/Storage Equipment
- Portable Restrooms/Upscale Trailer – A general rule of thumb is to have one toilet for every 35 guests. The average home simply cannot accommodate the increased bathroom usage a wedding typically requires!
- Trash and recycling bins
Clean Up – This is an important detail to keep in mind. A group of 20+ people will produce a lot of trash over an entire day, so rent plenty of trash and recycling bins to collect it all. Your caterer might even take care of emptying the bins throughout the day but only if it’s a service they offer. If not, you might want to designate or hire someone to monitor the bins so they don’t get too full.
Ask your garbage collection company if they can schedule a pick up the next morning, and find out if there will be any fees you’ll need to pay since the amount of garbage will be a lot more than the usual amount. Security – Just because you’re inviting friends and family to your home to celebrate your backyard wedding that doesn’t mean you’re okay with them giving themselves a private tour of the house.
Place a decorative ribbon across entrances or staircases, with or without a friendly “Do Not Enter” message to discourage anyone from exploring. If you’re hosting your wedding outside, you can keep everyone out of the house by locking the doors or hiring security.
WEDDING AISLE DECOR
WEDDING DESSERT BUFFETS
WEDDING DRESS IDEAS
WEDDING TABLE DECORATIONS