Backyard Wedding Dreams: Pros and Cons Worth Considering

Sentimental? Yes. Simple? Not always. Here's what you may not know about planning a backyard wedding celebration.
The Knot
Updated Sep 10, 2020
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There really is no place like home. Whether it's your childhood backyard, your partner's parents' lakehouse or your grandparents' country cottage, planning an at-home, backyward wedding is an amazing idea—but remember, it's not an actual wedding venue (yet). Basically, the average home isn't quite prepared for 150 wedding guests, 75 cars and 20 tables needed for a full-on backyard wedding.

While it may be more work (and more expensive) than you probably anticipated, we can tell you this much: You won't regret saying your vows in a place that means a lot to you. It's all about being prepared for what it takes to throw a backyward wedding—either in your own or a loved one's. So here's everything you need to know about planning an at-home wedding.


Home Weddings Can Save Cash

Budgetary restrictions often drive the choice to host a home wedding. While traditional venues may seem expensive at first glance, it's worth doing your research into what it might cost to bring in everything you'll need for a wedding in your actual backyard. Since you're so accustomed to your home, hiring a wedding coordinator will give you a fresh perspective on the property and what you can and can't do. You'll also need pros to cover all the basics: setting up, cooking, serving, parking cars and cleaning up (hiring a cleaning crew may be the best decision you'll make). In the days leading up to your backyard wedding, the last thing you (or your parents) want to have to do is a massive house-scrubbing.

To fully appreciate your blank canvas, consider what decor you have in place to set the atmosphere for your Big Day. What makes a private residence unique? (An elegant dining room, a massive oak tree in your backyard or a spectacular view, for example?) Play up that feature to create a homey feel. It adds to the trend of making it look like you've emptied an eclectic china cabinet of all its unique and beautiful pieces. Use different centerpieces and mix-and-match vases. Bring in fresh, home-grown-type flowers or play with outdoor lighting possibilities. Decorating with garden lamps, paper lanterns and tiny white string lights draped on branches will create the perfect atmosphere.

You'll Need to Get Permission Before Proceeding

From the city permits to fire department inspections, you'll need to make sure everything is in order. Bring in an electrician to inspect your area, find out if local noise ordinances require a permit or place restrictions on noise, and determine if you need to file for a permit to park cars along your street. The last thing you want is cops crashing your wedding.

Your wedding officiant may also need to stop by to confirm the location. Make sure they will give you their blessing to say "I do" in a backyard or at-home ceremony. Some aren't able to perform the ceremony outside their place of worship because it's not recognized by the church. You'll want to give yourself plenty of time to find a licensed officiant who will do the honors.

It's also a good idea to chat with neighbors about your event. Let them know of your home wedding plans well in advance. Make sure they know the ceremony time so nobody's mowing their lawn during your backyard vows, and ask if they'd offer their driveways for extra parking space. But you can't rely completely on neighbors' generosity. Make sure there's enough street space for parking, or arrange for guests to park at a nearby lot like a school or church, then provide round-trip shuttle service. If you want valet parking, hire a reputable company.

Reach out to your homeowner's insurance company to loop them into the plans, too. From guests dancing on your lawn to vendors traipsing in and out, your home may take a bit of a beating (all for a good cause, of course). Find out what your homeowner's insurance covers. You may want to consider getting a supplemental policy. Check with your domestic insurance company to see if your policy covers third-party liability, and with your vendors to make sure they have their own insurance policies, as well.

Your Backyard Wedding Will Demand Serious Space

You need room to say "I do." Does your setup have enough space for all your guests? If not, you'll have to start trimming the list. Don't mistake overcrowded for cozy. If you plan to use a combination of indoor and outdoor space, know that if the weather takes a turn for the worst, everyone might need to fit indoors if you don't have a tent. Will there be enough space in, say, the living room to set up white folding chairs with a wide enough aisle? The general rule is 6 to 10 square-feet of floor space per guest for row-seating.

Consult with the professionals about the realities of hosting a big event on property. They'll give you insight into the possibilities. For instance, the ground may not be level. Chairs, tables, the dance floor—you definitely don't want any of these items to be on uneven ground. Professional tent companies can ascertain whether or not they need to put down a foundation or if they'll be able to lay a dance floor directly on the ground. Your other vendors (caterers, florist, band and so on) need to determine what's necessary to keep floral arrangements and the cake table from tipping.

Your pros will need to check out the property. In order to determine what extras they'll need to bring, vendors should stop by for a visit. Have your caterer survey your kitchen to make sure it is well-equipped and large enough to prepare the menu. Otherwise, they may need to bring in a completely functional traveling kitchen.

Guests May Try to Crash

Slumber parties are fun, but adding house guests to your home wedding will only further complicate an already detail-driven day. Try to dissuade them from this idea. Unless you're marrying at a 25-room estate, the only people who should be staying at the wedding site are the homeowners and their immediate family (the couple and any siblings, for example). You don't want to be fighting your cousin for shower time the morning of your wedding. What you should do is recommend a hotel that's as close to the wedding property as possible.

Vacation rentals, like on AirBnB, are a good option for guests to consider, too. There may be home rentals available in your very neighborhood, giving friends and family quick and easy access for your home wedding. Some couples prefer to keep loved ones at a distance the night before the big day, so a hotel may very well be the better option. Consider all options before pitching a solution to your guests.

Factor Rentals into Your Plans

A backyard wedding reception inevitably requires bringing in enough rentals to throw a party. Your must-have items are tables, chairs, dinnerware, napkins, table linens, place settings, barware, portable bathrooms and a tent. Rent enough chairs so everyone can be seated for the ceremony. If you need more room for the reception, remove most of the chairs after the meal, keeping just enough around so half the party can sit during the festivities.

You'll probably need a generator too. Most homes can't accommodate the amount of power necessary to light a tent or provide power to a catering kitchen. You don't want to risk a power outage—or worse, blowing out the whole neighborhood. Check with your caterer to see if you need to rent extra coolers, grills or roasters. Don't wait on this. You'll want to start researching and reserving equipment six months before your wedding.

You'll also likely need to evaluate your bathroom options for guests. The average home simply cannot accommodate the increased bathroom usage a wedding typically requires. Thankfully, portable bathrooms have gone luxe. These aren't your average port-a-potties. You'll want to account for three bathroom trips per guest, and since most septic tanks can't handle that many flushes, portable bathrooms are a must. A general rule of thumb is to have one toilet for every 35 guests. Keep in mind that your guests will need a place to wash their hands and do a mirror check, so keep the area well lit. Upscale portable bathrooms are now available that have lighting, sinks, heated water and even air-conditioning. Don't forget to make them even more home-like by including an amenity basket filled with hair spray, tampons, Band-Aids and breath mints in the ladies' room.

Outdoor Maintenance May Take Months of Advance Preparation

With your entire backyard will be on display, you'll probably need to give the space a more manicured look. Whether that means dragging out the lawn mower or hiring a landscaper, you'll want your lawn to be in peak form. If you're planning a spring backyard wedding, start preparing in the fall (yes, really). Talk to your professional landscaper about reseeding, replanting and sodding.

You'll need to think about florals (and plant them) as early as possible. Most perennials need a winter to take hold, and it takes some time for annuals to fill out. Make sure to find out the appropriate planting times for the flowers you'd like, so they'll be in full bloom on your wedding day. For a spring wedding, cool-season flowers like tulips, daffodils and lilies of the valley will be in bloom (which need to be planted the autumn before). For summer, try annuals like geraniums, Gerbera daisies and African daisies, which should be planted after the threat of frost. You'll probably want to plant perennials for fall, like Japanese anemones, chrysanthemums and blue salvia—these should also be planted the fall before.

Weather Can Disrupt Carefully-Laid Plans

Unexpected weather can bring about unique challenges—especially at a backyard wedding reception. Always plan for the worst by making sure guests will be covered in the event of a sudden shower. If there's no way to pitch a tent at the ceremony area, arrange to have the ceremony at a house of worship in case of rain—make sure to have an insert in each invitation that gives the alternate address and a number to call to find out if the ceremony has moved, plus keep your guests posted via your wedding website.

If a tent is your Plan B, make sure it has sides to keep out a downpour. Stifling heat can pose just as many problems as rain, so make sure ceremony chairs aren't in direct sunlight and that there are plenty of shaded areas, cool drinks and even hand fans available (your ceremony program can double as fans). If it's a warm day, extra electric fans and portable air conditioners can be brought in; on wintry days, propane heaters will warm up the place.

Start Planning the Perfect Backyard Wedding Reception

Having a backyard wedding at home—even at your new home as newlyweds—is an amazing idea, and an event your family will always remember. The best thing about having your wedding at home is how personal it can be. Nothing compares to getting ready in your childhood room and coming down the staircase in your wedding dress or suit. Find the right wedding pros to help, and you'll walk down your homespun aisle stress-free. Get started now by personalizing our wedding checklist for your ideal home wedding

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