You’ve scoured the internet searching for that perfect venue and have done what feels like 100 site visits and you still can’t find anything that quite has that perfect cozy and sentimental feeling like home. So why not just have your wedding at home? We love the idea, you love the idea, but can it actually work? The answer: yes! There are lots of things to consider so with the help of this guide, and your wedding vendors, let’s throw the backyard wedding of your dreams!
Backyard Wedding Hall of Fame
1. Colorful Backyard Wedding with Mixed Vintage Furniture
2. Contemporary Montecito Wedding at Home
3. Whimsical Backyard Wedding with Southern Charm
4. Modern Shabby Chic Wedding with Tacos and 50 Shades of Pink
5. Wooded Backyard Soiree with a Tuxedo-Wearing Alpaca
These at-home weddings totally nailed the cozy chic style vibe. But you’ve got to get up close + personal with your priorities to determine if this is the right format for you.
So consider these things: you might be a backyard wedding bride if…
- Nostalgia is your love language
- Fur babies will be a part of your celebration
- Other categories in your wedding budget are worth splurging on over a venue
- You want a guarantee that your wedding date is available (without having to put down a deposit)
- Your ideal guest list is on the smaller side (tips on shrinking that down this way!)
- Venue limitations are a concern for you
Now don’t mistake the moony, laidback vibes typically associated with backyard weddings for little responsibility or prep. If you’re going to be planning a wedding at home, there are a whole lot of things to consider. We always recommend hiring a full-service event planner to help you dot all your i’s and cross all your t’s (at the very least a day of coordinator!), but to give you an idea of exactly what you’ll want to think about, we’re gonna break it down for you from a wedding pro’s mindset…
I’ve got three words for you: Rent a generator. You’ll be running a lot of extra power through your house for the DJ’s soundbooth, food prep equipment for the caterer, additional AC units for the tent… you get where we’re going with this. Most houses won’t be able to accommodate the surge of power needed for professional event equipment, so you’ll want to put a generator on your must-have list to avoid any power outages on your big day. Of course we recommend talking with your vendors before making any additional purchases to ensure you are getting what you need.
One thing that many people don’t consider is the amount of trash a large group of people can make in an evening. And also how much might pile up throughout the day from setup to bread breaking. So don’t forget to plan for it! You’ll need lots of trash cans and recycle bins for those that will be cleaning up – you might even want to consider renting a large bin for loading everything into at the end of the night. More often than not, the cleanup crew is typically a combination of your caterer, your coordinator and your friends/family designated to help, but either way, all that trash needs a place to go.
Ever seen a wedding with 200 guests and 1 long buffet? Do you have that traumatizing mental image in your mind yet? Yep. That same kind of linear chaos is what happens when you have more than 20 guests and only rely on the restrooms in your home. There are some pretty snazzy restroom trailers out there for rent, ladies and gentlemen. I mean, I have seen it all from portable restrooms with fancy red carpet to full-sized mirrors illuminated by ambient light. You can elevate them even further by including some amenity baskets on the counters inside or even on a small side table located by the stairs. Hello, classy!
You have a vision of your big day, and the best way to share that with your vendors is to sketch it out and measure it! Do you want to get married in front of that giant tree with the willowy branches? How many seats can that location hold? How about that giant grassy area for the reception? Were you planning on a giant tent maybe with AC or heaters? Well, let’s measure it out, compare it to our guest list and see how big of a tent it can fit! One of the reasons many couples opt for a backyard wedding is that it gives them an excuse to keep their guest list small. Keeping that in mind, try not to push the limits with your number of invitees and be realistic about how many people can sit, stand, dance and interact comfortably in any given space.
When your countdown says you’re about 2-3 months away, it’s time to get the yard prepared for fab-u-lous! You’ll want to start trimming those trees, start planning your mosquito control strategy and replant flowers that will be at their peak bloom on your wedding day. Maybe add in additional grass patches where it’s missing, and any other lawn maintenance needed to make it a beautiful and easy day for you and your family. This is definitely something you don’t want to leave until the last minute to allow your plants and flowers to grow in and look natural.
Par-ty in the A/C. That’s been my motto since OutKast first invited us to “shake it like a polaroid picture.” Similar to making arrangements for extra power and extra facilities, don’t let air flow be the area you tighten your purse strings. Your guests are gonna get hot. Especially if they’re partying all day in the great outdoors. You may want to bring in some extra fans or A/C units to keep everyone comfortable because the last thing you want is an empty dance floor surrounded by tired-as-the-dickens guests fanning themselves with their menus. Trust me on this one.
Before confirming your vendor team or sending out your save-the-dates, be sure to check with your city officials to learn all the deets on what your limitations might be for hosting a large event at your home. Even if you opted to skip a venue so that you have more freedoms, there will probably be fire codes, health regulations, zoning and noise ordinances to be mindful of. You might have to fill out some additional paperwork to get the official stamp of approval, but don’t let that scare you!
The biggest variable for this one? Guest count. If you have 50+ people and your caterer needs to prep, your kitchen might not cut it and you might need to pay for additional kitchen space for them. Another route could be to call up your favorite BBQ restaurant and have them deliver! Or hello… the magical world of food trucks! Some restaurants even offer a service where their servers can replenish food as guests are walking up to the buffet line and can clean up once dinner is done. For the bar, you can hire a bartending service, a mobile bar if you have the space, or you can run down to Costco and load up on beer and wine!
Remember the golden rule? Love thy neighbors. Trust us, this’ll come in handy come the time for the lights to go up and the music to start. You’ll want them on your side during the event and all the prep in the months leading up, so it’s not a bad idea to clue them in on the action and ask if there’s any concerns you can help alleviate for them. It’s always a good idea to share the important details with them, like the schedule of events so they can be aware of the ceremony time and keep things quiet on their end during that period. They may have dogs that scare with loud noises or small children that won’t be able to sleep under certain circumstances, so in some cases, they may choose to spend a night away. Whatever arrangements they need to make, they’ll be glad you told them ahead of time. Maybe save them a plate or a large piece of cake 😉
No one wants to think that a rainy wedding day might happen to them, but when it does, you best have a plan of action in place beforehand! Whether you have a tent ordered on standby, extra umbrellas for your less prepared guests, lots of towels or tarps for keeping things covered if it rains early, or heaters to make sure a rainy chill doesn’t create a party-dampering cast over your spaces, you’ll want to talk to your wedding planner about how to prepare for every scenario and when to make certain calls. Some of our favorite weddings featured here on Ruffled have happened on rainy days, so don’t get discouraged! You’ll just be oh-so-glad you had a strategy months in advance if you do get to wedding week and the rain, rain just won’t go away.
Many venues can provide you with standard tables and chairs, but since you’re having an at-home wedding, you will need to start from scratch (which honestly is so fun!) You are custom building your wedding from the ground up. There are companies that specialize in a creative mix of vintage, modern, colorful and chic supplies – tables, chairs, linens, and even flatware and glassware! We recommend choosing event professionals who can come in and set everything up for you making your wedding day a breeze. Just remember that while rental companies typically do deliver, you will still need a few people assigned to set every place setting, space every chair and steam those linens.
It’s a good idea to have your photographer swing by your house before deciding on the exact spaces you’re going to use. They can give some deep insight onto which spots will give you the best photos based on the natural light at a particular time of day, where shade might hit in a frame, etc. Let their expertise be your guide, and select those natural backdrops from there, whether it’s an ancient live oak you want to use for your ceremony or a row of olive trees you want to have a family-style feast beneath for your reception.
Just as you consider when working with a venue, it’s always good to design with the space, not against it. Try to choose colors that have significance to you, but that also blend naturally with the rooms in your digs. Contrast can be a great thing outdoors, but if you’ve got a funky Anthro-style wallpaper inside, try to think about what colors would marry well with it. Try to limit the number of hues in your color way to 2-3 statement colors and a couple accents for a stronger and more cohesive visual effect.
Comfort and Functionality
Ahhh, the dynamic duo. Comfort and functionality. Designing a space and styling to perfection can be an exciting creative task. It can also be easy to get carried away with the visuals alone. Try to think about what your guests (and you!) will be feeling every step of the way. Will you be in a wooded area where lots of bugs might be present? Consider providing your guests with sprays to accommodate or scattering the table with bug-averting candles. Is your backyard a bumpy terrain? Have some Wobble Wedges available to keep tables level. Or set up a dancing shoes display that allows the ladies to store their heels while they dine, dance and walk through that grass. Will it be a little chilly? Provide some blankets or pashminas for your guests. The options are endless!
If a tranquil planning experience is what you’re after, leave the design details to the pros. Unless you want to go all out DIY (which can look totally amazing like this multicultural llama farm wedding!), you’ll be able to rest easy putting your faith in trusted experts who can execute your vision and share personalized design ideas based on your story that you may have never thought of. You don’t know what you don’t know! And these peeps live and breathe design.
The Holy Grail of wedding planning advice is this: always hire an event coordinator to keep your workload to a minimum. We know that you picked your backyard to make it easy, casual and just plain ole’ FUN! However, it takes a village and the wedding coordinator will be the ringleader. The last thing you want on your wedding day is a million phone calls from your different vendors with questions. Choose a professional wedding coordinator that can help you figure our transportation, juggling vendors and their requirements, plus the weather. There are a hundred different things to consider and having a professional wedding coordinator to handle that for you will allow that casual and cozy vibe that you’re going for.
Your Normal Routine
Okay here’s where you get to think about the most obvious considerations that are so in your face, no one ever remembers to consider them. What does a typical day at your house look like? What time do the sprinklers go on? Do you have lights automated to turn on or off at specific times of day? Do you have pool cleaning crews that come on regular schedule? Is there a school bus drop-off at a certain time of day that could interfere with an outdoor ceremony? Assign a family member who knows all of these things too to do a mental walk-through of all these considerations AGAIN on the wedding day (because you’ve already thought about this in advance and prepped accordingly, right?) to triple check that there won’t be any mishaps on the wedding day.
Event + Guest Flow
One important consideration is traffic control. When choosing your locations for the ceremony, cocktail hour, reception and dancing, be sure to think about how guests are going to get from one place to the next. From ceremony to cocktail hour, you’ve got everyone rushing into the same space at once. Think about which route can accommodate the most people and have a plan in place to direct them accordingly (signage, a coordinator, a line of servers with tray-passed beverages leading the way… you do you!) It’s also worth thinking about the diversity of your guests. Do you need to prepare an alternate path for anyone in a wheelchair? What if you have an elderly family member who cannot walk too far or too quickly? Is there maybe someone you can assign to transport them by golf cart from one spot to the next? Do you have seats assigned to ensure that your loved ones will be seated at places of honor, regardless of how quickly they arrive to their seats?
Remember that heart-breaking moment in Father of the Bride, where George Banks is FINALLY about to eat his $200/head meal and Franck pulls him aside because the police are waiting outside for him to explain the hundreds of vehicles blocking off the residential street? Don’t let that be you. If you have more than even 15 guests attending your at-home wedding, you’ll definitely want to consider where everyone is gonna park. And also, how + when they’ll be able to leave. Is there maybe an offsite location where everyone can park, and you can hire a shuttle service to move people back and forth? Or how about a valet service where they will again, utilize an off-site parking lot. Or maybe encourage your guests to take an Uber from their hotel if everything is pretty close by. If you do opt for a shuttle service, talk to them about having regular runs back and forth from the off-site parking starting from a certain time during the reception. That way your guests have a bit more flexibility on when they can depart.
In the words of Matthew McConaughey, alright, alright alright! Now that you’ve done the research, put on your planning belts and made some key decisions, I’m betting you’re readyyyyy to partayyyy. Or at least perhaps we can interest you in a backyard wedding playlist we whipped up for some laidback musical vibes to set the mood.
If you’re looking for even more planning advice, check out our best tips on curating your wedding guest list here!