The Ultimate Guide to Planning a Backyard Wedding

Image by Ariana Tennyson

A backyard wedding is perfect for couples who love to be outdoors, want a uniquely sentimental feel, 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. Planning your backyard wedding has never been easier with these tips.

Image by The Portos

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 Intimate Guests Lists

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.)

Sentimental Factors

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 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.

Restrooms

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.

Insurance

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 might have to purchase supplemental insurance, but your vendors’ insurance might also provide enough coverage for certain areas–such as bartenders.

Permits

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 on 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.

Neighbors

A month or two before your wedding, notify your neighbors of your backyard 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–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.

Parking

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 near your home–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.

Clean-Up

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.

Plan B

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 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.

Backyard Wedding Space Planning Tips

Ceremony

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.

Reception

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’ve got some pro tips for choosing your wedding colors. We also 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 to an open reception is that you have more space to spread out tables and serving stations.

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 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.

Rentals Checklist

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:

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!