A backyard wedding is perfect for couples who want a uniquely sentimental feel, love to be outdoors, or want their dream wedding on a budget. There are so many benefits to a backyard wedding–including cost and convenience–but with those benefits come a few extra details you need to keep in mind and situations you need to plan for.
To keep you on track, we’ve compiled this comprehensive guide with everything you need to know about planning a backyard wedding, from logistics to design.
Benefits of a Backyard Wedding
Furry Friends Are Invited
A backyard wedding gives you the perfect excuse to include your pets in your big day! You don’t need to clear it with a venue or pay a deposit, your furry friend doesn’t need to stress over travel, and they can head back inside when they’re finished partying with your guests.
Money Can Be Saved
When you decide to have a backyard wedding at a family member’s or friend’s home, you automatically slash your wedding budget dramatically because you aren’t paying for a venue, security deposits, per-person fees, and all the other hidden charges that go along with it. You can also save money on decor since you’ll have the natural elements to add visual interest. Yes, you’ll likely need to rent almost everything else, but those rentals will not outweigh the cost of a venue.
Dates Are Flexible
This might seem like a small thing but having complete freedom to choose a date that works best for you and your fiance is actually a huge benefit of a backyard wedding. It’s especially helpful if you want to get married during peak wedding season when venues book up at least a year in advance.
You Can Have An Intimate Guests List
Because a backyard wedding tends to be naturally more intimate than a wedding at a traditional venue, this is the perfect reason to keep your guest list small. If you’re nervous about how your families will react to a small guest list, remind them that space is the main limiting factor in your decision. Unless you’re getting married in the backyard of a multi-acre mansion, there simply won’t be enough space to accommodate a huge guest list. (But, really, you don’t need to feel guilty about your wedding guest list, no matter where you decide to tie the knot.)
Recommended reading: The Ultimate Guide to Planning a Micro Wedding
There is nothing like saying “I do” in the backyard where you played as a child or getting ready in the room where you grew up. The sentimental factor of a backyard wedding can’t be recreated at any other venue and shouldn’t be underestimated. You and your guests will feel more comfortable in a space that feels like home and it will be a special memory your family and friends will cherish forever.
Logistics of Backyard Weddings
Power And Electrical
Between the extra lighting, the sound system, and the food prep equipment, you’re going to be using a lot more power than most homes can handle. To ensure you don’t blow a fuse or put the entire neighborhood at risk of an outage, rent generators to accommodate the extra power you’ll need.
After you check with your caterer to find out what equipment they’ll be using and your DJ to find out how much power their setup needs, ask your wedding planner and the generator rental company for help in choosing the power sources that will fit your needs.
If your guest list is larger than 20 people, you will need to provide additional toilet facilities. There are so many options for upscale portable toilet trailers that provide a comfortable experience, including lighting, mirrors, sinks, and–most importantly– more space than traditional port-o-potties. You can even add a personal touch by adding a small amenities kit to each bathroom with breath fresheners, Band-Aids, hand sanitizer, cotton balls, and safety pins.
Trust us, this will save a lot of headaches because you won’t have everyone walking through the house and you won’t have to fix an over-used bathroom system.
Yard Maintenance And Setup
You’ll want to plan yard maintenance in advance to give plants time to fill out, flowers to bloom, and space to be cleared, if necessary. You might even consider hiring a landscaper to take care of all the design and maintenance so it’s one less thing on your to-do list. At the very least, you’ll need to cut the grass a few days before the wedding.
One thing you absolutely can’t forget to check is that the ground is level enough for chairs, tables, and a dance floor. If you’re renting a tent, their professional team will be able to check and let you know if they need to lay a foundation so the dance floor is level. If you’re not renting a tent, a landscaper should be able to check.
As much as you don’t want to think about anything bad happening on your special day, it’s better to be safe than sorry if an accident does happen. Contact your homeowner’s insurance to see what is covered, such as property damage inside or outside the house. Then contact your vendors to find out what insurance they carry. You may have to purchase supplemental insurance, but your vendors’ insurance might also provide enough coverage for certain areas–such as bartenders.
Recommended reading: Everything You Need to Know About Wedding Insurance
Before you get too far into booking vendors, you must check with your city officials to find out if you need permits to host a large party at your home. There might be noise ordinances, fire codes, health department regulations, and zoning issues that you don’t want to violate.
In some cases, your vendors might need to file additional paperwork, so be sure to include your wedding planner in any meetings with or emails from the city clerk’s office. Your planner should either be able to coordinate with the vendors to file the paperwork themselves (usually for an additional fee) or file the paperwork for you.
A month or two before your wedding, notify your neighbors of your wedding plans. This will give them plenty of time to plan ahead, rearrange any plans, or plan a night away. Give them as many details as possible, such as the exact time of your ceremony–so they know when you’ll need some extra quiet time–and let them know where your guests plan to park in case they have concerns about street parking.
If you’re going to tell your neighbors in person, we recommend also giving them a written schedule so they have all the details for the day of. You could even include a small gift, such as a pair of earplugs, as a token of appreciation for their patience. A little consideration will go a long way in keeping everyone happy.
When you’re checking on permits, also check the rules for street parking in your neighborhood. Some communities have certain times that street parking is not allowed or even prohibit overnight parking. If that’s the case–or you don’t have enough street parking–consider hiring a valet service to park the cars at a nearby open lot. Just be sure to tell guests ahead of time so they don’t leave valuables in their cars that you could be held liable for.
This is one of the most important details to keep in mind when planning your space and your rentals. A group of 20+ people will produce a lot of trash over an entire day, so you’ll need to rent plenty of trash and recycling bins to collect it all. Your caterer might even take care of emptying the bins throughout the day, so ask if that’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 and cause an unpleasant sight or smell.
Couples often think that hosting in a backyard will change their guest list dramatically. That’s not always the case. Whether you’re looking to increase your guest count or simply remove the limitations that physical guests can provide, virtual weddings are a good solution. Our friends at Lovecast App have made it seriously easy.
Recommended reading: How To Host An Outstanding Virtual Wedding
Weather happens, so it’s best to have a plan B in case it rains or is unseasonably hot or cold. With enough planning, your plan B can be just as incredible as plan A. If your house is large enough, plan to move the party inside.
If you’d rather stay outdoors, put a hold on a tent early so that it’s ready to be picked up in case you need it. When using the tent, ensure that the sides are completely covered to protect against the rain, bring in small fans to beat the heat, or rent propane heaters to keep your guests warm. The hope is that you don’t have to go to plan B, but it’s best to have a plan in place ahead of time so you’re not scrambling at the last minute.
Backyard Wedding Timeline Suggestions
There are a few things to keep in mind when planning a timeline for a backyard wedding. First, and most importantly, you want to work around the light. Try to avoid having your ceremony during the harshest light to ensure you get beautiful photos.
Second, because guests won’t be traveling between events, you want to ensure there is no downtime. You might consider doing all your photos before the ceremony so you can go straight to cocktails with everyone else. But, if you’d rather wait, you can also plan an activity or set out yard games during cocktail hour to keep them occupied until you finish up.
Lastly, you want to be considerate of your neighbors. You might need to cut your party short–or ask everyone to head out to an after-party at a bar–so you’re not keeping your neighbors awake until the early morning hours.
Recommended Reading: 10 Creative After Party Ideas
Backyard Wedding Space Planning Tips
Whether your backyard is small or sprawling, you’ll want to pay particular attention to where you set up your ceremony. Large trees make for the perfect backdrop and provide shade from harsh sunlight. If you want to make the house a focal point, you could set up your ceremony so you, your fiancé, and the officiant are standing on the back porch with all your guests on the lawn, facing you.
Keep in mind that, if you’re getting married in warm months, you’ll want to keep your guests’ chairs out of direct sunlight before the ceremony or, ideally, choose a shaded spot to set up chairs. If you’re getting married in cooler months, you might consider setting up your ceremony in a non-shaded spot so you and your guests can enjoy some natural warmth.
Tents are perfect for designating a reception space in a backyard and make space planning a breeze. Before you rent a tent, work with your wedding planner to decide how many tables and food/drink serving stations you need and how large your dance floor should be. You don’t want to overcrowd the space and you want to ensure your guests have plenty of space to dance–even if that means you’ll need to move tables/chairs at certain points of the day.
Because your reception will also include food and drink, your caterer and bartender should visit the space so they can let you know what extra equipment they’ll be bringing and how much space they’ll need. If your kitchen isn’t large enough, you might need to set up another food prep area, which is something you’ll need to account for when planning your space.
Backyard Wedding Decor And Design Inspiration
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 love the earthy feel, draw colors from the flowerbeds, grass, and trees in your backyard. You can also go for a bolder look by adding vibrant pops of color in florals, linens, bridesmaid’s dresses, or accent decor.
If your backyard has distinct architectural elements, choose colors that complement and highlight those unique aspects of the space. If you still need a little help, we highly recommend creating a wedding mood board to help you get a sense of the colors and decor that you tend to lean towards.
Setting the Scene for Your “I Dos”
Your ceremony will be the highlight of your day. After you’ve chosen the perfect location with either a natural or architectural backdrop, you’ll need to decide whether you want to frame the space with an arch or artsy backdrop. We recommend ceremony arches and backdrops for every wedding style because it adds dimension and creates a defined focal point, ideal for wedding photos. We also can’t say enough about aisle markers for adding visual interest without too much fuss.
Styling Your Reception
We’ve already mentioned that a tent is a perfect way to designate a reception space. It gives you a way to hang lights or larger-than-life floral installations, plus it adds texture and depth while providing set boundaries for your tables, dance floor, and serving stations. But, a tent isn’t the only way to go. There is something uniquely romantic about dining under the stars.
If you’d rather keep your backyard wedding reception uncovered, you might want to use tall centerpieces that will take up vertical space and hanging decor in the trees to fill out the design. The benefit of an open reception is that you have more space to spread out tables and serving stations.
Recommended reading: The Ultimate Guide to Your Wedding Reception Bar
Planning the Perfect Cocktail Hour
You might be wondering whether you should plan a cocktail hour since your guests won’t be leaving your backyard between events, and the answer is yes. The cocktail hour is the perfect time for your guests to mingle in a more casual way and allows everyone–including you–to transition from ceremony mode to party mode. If you plan to take couple portraits and wedding party photos after the ceremony, this is also a great way to keep your guests entertained while you’re away.
Lighting Up the Night
Lighting is one of the easiest and most dramatic ways to create a certain mood for your wedding, especially for a backyard wedding where there is little to no built-in lighting sources. Twinkle lights or strings of cafe lights in the trees, lanterns with candles, marquee signs, chandeliers, and clusters of votives are all great ways to add some romance to your look while providing enough light for you and your guests to party safely. If you’re curious about how your photos will look in different lighting, get inspired by the gorgeous ambient light in these wedding photos.
Preparing for Nature And Weather
While you can’t control nature or the weather, you can prepare to keep your guests comfortable in all scenarios. Provide insect repellent and sunscreen for your guests to apply—and re-apply—as needed. Incorporate citronella candles into your decor to keep bugs at bay. Set out blankets if it will be chilly or provide hand-held fans to help guests beat the heat.
If your guests will be sitting in the sun, consider providing sunglasses in case they forget their own. If there is even a slight chance of rain, make sure to have plenty of umbrellas on hand, as well. The bonus is that, if you’re purchasing items that guests will want to keep, they can double as wedding favors.
As with any outdoor event, you’re going to need to rent a lot of items for your backyard wedding. You might end up not renting everything on this list if you decide to use DIY or repurposed decor and furniture, but it’s a great checklist to have handy when you need to double-check that you have everything you need.
Here are the rentals you’ll need for a backyard wedding:
- Ceremony Chairs
- Ceremony Decor
- Reception Chairs
- Dinner Tables
- Cocktail Tables
- Ceremony Backdrop
- Serving Tables
- Gifts Table
- Guest Book Table
- Dessert Table
- Place Settings
- Centerpiece Vases
- Table Decor
- Dance Floor
- Overhead Decor
- Photo Booth
- Food Prep/Storage Equipment
- Portable Restrooms
- Trash and recycling bins
And that’s it! Now you are ready to plan the backyard wedding of your dreams. Want to make your backyard wedding special to who you are as a couple? Check out our guide on how to host a unique wedding!
We had a backyard wedding last October, and this list is very accurate! It was the best way for us, and I highly recommend it for anyone who doesn’t mind a little planning and hard work before hand. It makes a very unique day that represents you, and everyone will love! Check out our day and our amazing photographer here: https://www.lcallison.com/single-post/2017/12/07/Sean-Erica
Such great tips!
You got me when you said that it’s best to add additional restrooms if your guests are more than 20 people to ensure a comfortable experience for your guests. This is something that I will make sure to remember because I’m organizing my son’s wedding. He is expecting more than 50 guests, and we don’t want our newly restroom to be heavily used. Maybe, we’ll find a portable restroom provider as early as now.
Thanks for sharing this wonderful article.
It sure got my attention when you said that in order to have the perfect backyard wedding, you have to make a rentals checklist to make sure that you have everything you need and not forget about any details involved in the success of your wedding. My fiance and I are planning on getting married next year. That is why we are already planning and finalizing our guest list in order to make it go a smoothly as possible. We are on the lookout for event chair rentals who can help us seat and accommodate all of our guests comfortably. Thanks for your tips on how to plan a backyard wedding!
This is a great post, thank you for all of the work you put into this. This information will help a lot while we plan our backyard wedding.
Does anyone have any tips for featuring pets in outdoor weddings? I want to have our dogs be the flower and ring bearers.
Shot a few backyard weddings during COVID, what an amazing time we had.
Love these ideas.
Excellent article with good tips. Thanks for sharing!!
Great idea for saving a lot of money.
Check list you have given is very informative and needed to everyone planning their backyard wedding.
Truly inspiring article.
Thanks for sharing.
It really helped when you said to have string lights or lanterns with candles around the yard. My sister is getting married in a couple of months and she wants to have good outdoor reception. She should look for a good wedding tent to rent for her big night.
My mother and I were spending a couple of days celebrating her 82nd birthday and it was wonderful. Everyone at the Heiwa Heaven The Resort was just lovely to hear. We made special memories. As always, thank you. What a beautiful environment you get to work in every day….the island, the hotel, and the people all make it so very special.
Awesome article, it was exceptionally helpful! I simply began in this, and I’m becoming more acquainted with it better! Cheers, keep doing awesome!
I love the part where you mentioned that we can include our pets in the ceremony if we were to have a simple backyard wedding. My fiance and I met in a dog cafe and I think it would be symbolic to include the golden retriever that we adopted together. I’ll start the preparations by looking for a wedding tent to rent and see what else I can take care of.
Thanks for the tip to book a rental tent early to make sure it’ll be ready when we need it. My brother and his girlfriend of three years are planning to get married in her parents’ backyard early this fall. I’ll share this info so they can prioritize finding an equipment rental service to work with to book necessities like tents and tables.
I find it helpful to know that I should check the ground of the backyard wedding venue to ensure that it’s stable enough for chairs, tables, and a dance floor. If not, it would be wise to lay a foundation for the event. My brother plans on having a backyard wedding this fall. I’ll share this article of yours with him and suggest he contact a party equipment rental service soon. Thanks.
My parents want to have a garden ceremony to renew their wedding vows and asked me to plan the entire event. I really appreciate your tip about providing additional toilets if the guest list has more than 20 people. Getting a portable toilet for the event sounds like a good idea so I’m going to try and look for a company that rents out their portable toilets within this week.
Wow cow, very detail article I guess my chance of ranking for this term is not really ideal haha. Good job on the details thou :)
Thanks for pointing out that you will need to provide additional toilet facilities if you are expecting more than 20 guests to ensure a comfortable experience for your guests. I will share this with my parents who are planning to have their vows renewed on their 25th wedding anniversary. They want the event to take place in the backyard, and I am expecting a lot of visitors. We will consider renting portable toilets. Thanks!
Great article with good tips. Thanks for sharing!!
Thanks for the tip to rent additional toilets if there will be more than 20 people there. Additionally, you can even rent hand washing stations to go with your rental toilets. This will offer guests a more thorough cleaning option than simply using hand sanitizer.
Thanks for reminding me to provide additional toilet facilities for a guest list above 20 people. My sister is getting married soon and her reception will be at our farmhouse. I think it would be best to rent out portable toilets for our guests so they won’t have to worry about their bathroom needs.
I have friends who ask me for advice about a wedding in the backyard. I’m glad I found this article. He is very comprehensive and answers any questions that may arise.
My husband and I are doing a vow renewal at the same island that we eloped at. It’s a tiny island in the middle of a lake near our home, so it needs some amenities like toilets for guests. We loved your tip about making sure to prepare for all kinds of weather for your guests.
This is the best most extensive blog I’ve found on planning a backyard wedding. Thank you id certainly recommend it to anyone planning this type of wedding. Love that pets can be a part of the day. The tips and advice could be adapted to lots of outdoor events also.
You have covered so much more than I had thought of a great check list of things to do for the backyard wedding.
Thanks for sharing this blog.
Wedding planning in the backyard can be too difficult sometimes. but, This blog will really help out those who wanted to plan it.
You made a good point when you said that you must provide additional toilet facilities if your guest list is larger than 20 people. With this in mind, I will be sure to rent portable toilets for my 35th birthday celebration. I am planning to invite at least 50 people. What I want to ensure the comfort of all my guests, especially when they need to use restrooms.
This post comes at the perfect time. This will be extremely useful since I have a few weddings coming up.
Thanks for the tip to use a mobile restroom to avoid having guests move through your house. My daughter is getting married in our backyard next spring and I will absolutely consider this option. I will consult a professional soon about all my mobile restroom options.
My sister would like to plan a wedding this year, and that is why she has decided to start looking for the perfect wedding package for the lovely guests. Thank you for sharing here as well the importance of booking in advance. I also agree with you that it would be smarter to have a portable toilet for outdoor events.
It sure was nice when you said that choosing a backyard wedding could allow you to bring your pets with you. This is something that my fiance and I will consider since we are planning to get married next June. We have 5 dogs at home, and I want to ensure that they would be part of our most special day.
Thanks for sharing this blog.
I like simple yet elegant weddings like this one. Thanks for sharing this here. Great post!
OMG, thank you so much for taking the time to write these tips. Some of these tricks will come in very handy!
I am hosting a backyard wedding this spring. Thank you for the advice to rent portable toilets. I think that this solution would really help reduce the number of people entering and exiting my home.
Definitely a super helpful article. A friend of mine does catering for weddings so this will help a lot
Thank you so much for sharing these tips. We are planning an outdoor fall wedding for our daughter. There will be an indoor element of it too which is requiring us to resurface our hardwood floor. Needless to say, our budget it a bit tight and your tips are definitely going to come in handy. Thanks again!
Thank you for explaining that you should look into portable restrooms if you are planning to have more than 20 people at the wedding. My sister is planning to have a small backyard wedding this summer and has been wondering what things she may have overlooked so far. I’ll have to share this with her, since I don’t think something like this has crossed her mind yet.