17 Steps to Having the Backyard Wedding of Your Dreams
Its not everyday that I'm at a wedding, nor is it everyweek (I may work hard but I'm no workaholic - work/life balance woot woot #intentionallycharged ). But the weddings I am lucky enough to be at... I LOVE. I literally love love, and I will say it over and over again. And it's not like I compare one wedding to another. Comparisons can be deadly, toxic and really not useful in any way whatsoever, but I do take note of how I feel amongst all the emotions of the day. And every. single. damn. time. I find myself just really and sincerely enjoying, not just the bride and groom - who I've grown a little attached to, and not just moms and dads, who I call 'mom' and 'dad' and tell them I'm moving in, and joke about never leaving their family; but ALSO other wedding guests and especially the bridal party (cue angelic harp sounds).
I love love the weddings I get to be a part of, thank you strangers that become my frients (friends that are clients)... thank you.
SO the following tips come from a place of love, with true experience injected from a real professional (that's me) who's obtained a strong sense of attachment and comes from a place of sincere love. Not just the couple's love for each other, but love bursting from every person for every other person, whether its siblings, parents, friends, best friends, bestest friends forever (*Meara), vendor friends or every sort of related family member.
The NUMBER ONE way to do any wedding right: Have an abundance of love that exudes from selfless and unyielding hearts.
There's other ways too, so read on for my 17 tips for doing a backyard wedding the right way!
Light off fireworks (state dependent of course), have a pool party after late night dancing on a hot summer night. Literally have a fricken parade for your wedding. It's all possible if you just get married at your house (and have nice neighbors that let you celebrate your hearts out!). There are a ton of images in this one, scroll slow homie.
1. Find a backyard with room for your party. It's usually easiest to use a parent's backyard, because they love you and stuff and won't charge you or resent you for long. But also viable options: kind aunts, loving grandparents, or a weird distant cousin who is tolerably generous. Make sure you ask for expert advice about capacity.
2. Get help from friends, or friendors. You'd be surprised how many talented people you know that are willing to lend a hand. You'll need help doing the things that ordinarily banquet staff at a venue would do: set-up and decor, take down and clean up.
3. Rent chairs, an arbor, tents, lighting and tables if necessary. Unless you have a friendor that has seating for the number of people you plan on inviting, you'll need to think about shelter, seating, and a place to set drinks and plates. The higher the number the more this is a necessity. Parties under 25, no biggie you can all stand and eat; parties more than 75 - oh yeah. You'll hear complaints if you don't step up your game (or serve amouse-bouche items only - that means eating sans-silverware). Having decor to jazz up the tables (that you rent) and the chairs (for people to sit on) can be an opportunity to stretch the fancy-ness of your wedding, but lighting so that one can see once inside of the tent (which don't all have skylights or clear ceilings) should probably not go overlooked. Decor, can really transform the space, add ambience, and give your guests a place to retreat to when they are not on the dance floor, that you've also rented (all from Aprés = one stop shopping = kicks ass).
4. Think about parking. Think about where people live, how they will get to your backyard, if they will carpool (if you can encourage them to do so), how many vehicles and where said vehicles will park. If you live in uptown -- backyard wedding = everybody ubers there. If you live in Northfield -- backyard wedding means everyone can stay the night, weather-permitting, amongst hay fields and horses (and mosquitos...)!
A really cute option when guests have to park a distance from the festivities = renting golf carts.
5. Arrange for catering and beverages. If you have a large party don't think for one second that you, the unexperienced catering chef, knows how much to make and when to make and what to make for 75+ guests. That's why barbecues and potlucks were invented: so you could invite more people than there is fridge space for. I suggest a food truck, they are casual and cool at the same time; personal favorites: O'Cheeze or Gastrotruck. Picking a caterer that will provide linen can also save you a dollar sign or two, but one that brings their own silverware, serving dishes, plates etc. that is an absolute must. Even if you have a preference for some kind of fancy place settings (which is fine by me, go for it! Plug: Aprés... again.) you'll need something for people to place their food on and their drinks in. Depending on your catering situation you may also need help serving. I suggest spending the money for a licensed bartender (see Liquid Motion), so you don't get into a sticky situation as it pertains to liquor and licensing and liability. La la la.
6. Check with the neighbors about noise (or just invite them). Check on your neighborhood noise ordinances by calling your local police department or city hall. You don't want the cops showing up to rain on your wedding-parade.
7. Where's the garbage at? Oh boy. This is like the LEAST romantic phrase ever. So have garbages that are easily visible, but still blend in to the general decor.
8. Get ready in your childhood room. Bring on the nostalgia! Give mum a hankie before she sees you doing this, give me one too if I'm invited.
9. Include your pets! Just because you can damnit.
10. Personalize everything. Easy to do if it's your parents house... because mom's keep EVERYTHING. I really like the following ideas: bridal party wears big sister's old flannels, hanging photos of places you've traveled to on the old fruit trees, using old windows to decorate with your favorite love quotes, using an old globe as a guest book... leave a comment below if you've thought of others, preferably if they use something old!
11. Have a back up plan. Backyard is usually synonymous with uncovered, roofless or exposed. This means knowing what weather could or might do and being prepared for a plan b. Lucky for me I no longer have to worry about earthquakes, but instead tornados may be an imminent threat - oh joy. My favorite plan B? Heading to the nearest VFW. Thank you Veterans for your service and for providing shelter. *house with heart window emoji*
12. Prepare for the weather. You might not need the back up plan (think torrential rain, extreme wind, thunderstorms), but it may just be hot, breezy, cold-ey or buggy. Have a backup rain plan FER SURE; you know in case it rains and you don't have a house big enough to hold 150 muddy, sweaty strangers. And even if you do have the space (spatially) to hold said bodies, however would you perform a ceremony (logistically)? You're foyer better be spacious. My best suggestion: a tent. One of my favorite tent rental companies? Aprés, doy, ask for Nikki or Shereé.
Prepare for those minor inconveniences as well; have bug repellent spray, a basket of blankets, weights to keep plates or decor from blowing away and think about renting a fan or mister from OnSite (ask for Tom). This should keep judgmental grumblings to a soft whisper, or at least the fan will drown out the naysayers. Hello, weather is not predictably under human control... yet.
13. Speaking of Toms... or is it Johns... Whatever you call it, Jerry or Jericho or my fave, the loo - make sure you have a #1 plan (and #2). The aforementioned, OnSite, has excellent options for portable restrooms and literally the fanciest Johnny's on wheels you've ever used. Ever.
14. Plant a tree. Again, it's your house (or your parents, so close enough), think about planting something memorable and long lasting (so maybe not an annual?). And how adorable, Megan and Andrew planted a tree from where they met, with soil from where he grew up, at the place where she grew up... AUHGHAUGGGGG. #cutenessoverload #cuterthanbunnybackpack
15. Think about a ceremony location. Out in the field, amongst the garden. Wherever it is, make sure chairs enough for the people invited can fit. Or if your ceremony is short, have people stand! I know my grams might think this is ludicrous, but if you have seating for the elderly and a smaller wedding guest list, it can work! I've seen it with mine own two eyes.
16. Smoking Zone. I know!! I cannot believe people still smoke! Didn't like everyone under the age of 35 take D.A.R.E.??? But to be respectful of everyone let's just set aside an area for the cool kids (read: smokers). Either have a bucket with sand in it, or rent a receptacle from, you guessed it, Aprés. Be sure to place it down wind.
17. Use the garage as a dance floor. It's about the only thing 'venue-ey' that's built into houses (that and running water), so take advantage of it! Or if dad refuses to clean his out Aprés (who is that again?) can drop off one, which is convenient since they'll also be dropping off a tent, tables and linen, and cafe lights... and high top cocktail tables, and napkins... you get the picture. It would seem as though I really like Aprés. Like an obnoxious amount.
No, backyard weddings are not easier, nor are they necessarily cheaper. This holds true if you live anywhere that experiences inclement weather (i.e. anywhere but Arizona) or invite more than 20 people, or if you don't have a barn wedding venue on your property. Backyard weddings really stretch me to be a better, smarter, more prepared planner... and I am up to the challenge!
Prosperity, Love & Happiness,
Header photo and trio of garage dances photos by Amy Anderson Photography.