Choice of venue plays such an important role in planning the perfect wedding. From the logistics (size, location) to the ambiance (décor, light, feel), your venue sets the tone for the entire night, and as such, should be selected with care. It should be personal, special, and the ideal canvas upon which you and your loved ones can paint incredible memories that will last a lifetime.
So, where can you find such a special place to host your big day? For many, it’s as simple as looking out their back door…
That’s right, backyard weddings are all the rage right now - and for good reason! They’re intimate, personal, and the perfect blank page for your event. And if that weren’t enough, when done correctly, they can also be much more cost effective than a traditional wedding venue.
With all of these amazing benefits and more, it’s no surprise backyards have become one of the most popular wedding venues. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t present a bit of a planning challenge. Thankfully, the Team at Plum Polka Dot is taking our experience and sharing a few tips on how to plan your perfect backyard wedding.
Unless you’re tying the knot on a sprawling estate, most backyard weddings will become a battle for space. Not only do you need to account for all the people, but since you’re literally building a venue from scratch, you’ll need to think about space for caterers, buffet and food stations, bars, cocktail tables, reception tables, dance floor, DJ’s and more.
If you’re working with an experienced wedding planner, they should be able to help you understand exactly how much space will be available for guests after accounting for all the vendors. And if you’re planning on your own, not to worry – reputable vendors will be able to give you an estimate of space requirements as part of their quotes.
Once you know how much space you’ll have left over after vendors, you’ll need to figure out who makes the Guest List. Conventional wisdom dictates that seated receptions require approximately 10-12 square feet of space per person. Meaning you’d need at least 1,000 square feet of backyard space for a 100-person wedding.
One last thing to think about is whether or not you’ll be hosting your ceremony in this space as well. If so, you’ll further be reducing the space available for potential guests, and will need to plan your numbers accordingly.
Even with an intimate backyard wedding, there is still a lot to consider in terms of production that you wouldn’t normally need to think about with an indoor wedding venue. Let’s walk through each in a bit more detail to make sure you don’t encounter any surprises:
Most backyard weddings will require more power than a single house can handle. Between DJ’s and caterers and lights, the last thing you want to do is to have an outage during your big day. Talk with your vendors about their power needs, and then speak with local rental centers about gas-power generators that can handle the increased load for your wedding.
Similar to power, most homes aren’t equipped with enough bathroom facilities to accommodate an entire wedding reception. Save yourself the hassle (and long bathroom lines) by looking into portable restroom options. Thankfully there are many elegant options to fit all sizes and budget. Some even come equipped with air conditioning, lights and running water!
Even if a few guests carpool (which you should always encourage!), you still need to plan for approximately one car per every two guests. Every city has different regulations on street parking, so be sure to look into yours early in the process in case you need to make other arrangements. If it turns out that parking cars on your street will not be allowed, a nice alternative is to find a nearby lot that will be empty on the day of your wedding (e.g. a local school or a church) and have guests park there and walk/shuttle over to the home.
Whether the backyard you’ll be using belongs to you, your parents, your grandparents, or someone else entirely, you’ll want to sit down and discuss a few matters early in the process to ensure everything is in order prior to the wedding. Some of the biggest items you’ll want to review include:
Whoever owns the home should consult with their insurance agent ahead of the event to see if there are any gaps in their homeowner’s coverage by hosting an event of this size. If so, many companies offer event insurance policies to cover such gaps, making sure no one is put at risk by hosting your big day!
Whether it’s planting new grass seed, laying down sod, evening out rough patches, or planning the colors of the flower beds, landscaping should be discussed as soon as Spring arrives. If you’ve already selected a wedding planner, caterer, and/or band, you should try and include them in this process via a backyard “venue walk-through,” as they may have some thoughts and suggestions you might not have considered.
While looking into local regulations for parking, you’ll also want to check and see if there are any other permits that might be required for an event of this size at a local home. The last thing you need is the Police or Fire Marshall shutting your wedding down because you failed to secure a simple permit!
Don’t forget the neighbors! A backyard wedding of any size will likely bring a little noise and chaos to an otherwise quiet suburban street. That in mind, you’ll want to inform your neighbors of your plans at least 8 weeks ahead of time, and provide them with a schedule of events so they know not to turn on the mower right in the middle of your vows. A little gift or party favor can be a nice touch to thank the neighbors for their patience on your special day!
The Rentals & Vendors
With a backyard wedding, you are creating a venue entirely from scratch. As such, you’ll find yourself having to rent far more than one would normally rent. Though this may seem expensive, just remember that what you are saving on venue fees and upcharges should more than cover the difference!
No matter where you live, a tented space for dinner/dancing is always a good idea. Unless the home hosting your wedding has more than enough space to welcome all your guests in case of inclement weather, a tent is the ultimate insurance protect against rain, excessive sun and more. Not to mention, tents provide a great opportunity to incorporate elegant lighting and décor into your event, making it all the more memorable and special.
Nothing will kill a dance party faster than a heel in soft grass. Consider investing in portable flooring for the dance area (or even the whole tent if it’s financially feasible). Shoes stay clean, the yard stays protected, and people can dance worry free all night long!
There are no house lights to bring up in the backyard, so you’ll want to be sure you have plenty of lighting set up for your event. Christmas lights are a great, inexpensive way to bring soft white light to your backyard, and can be wrapped around tree trunks, tent poles and more. Also, your tent provider may have some lighting packages available for you to review (or a vendor they work with and can recommend). You’ll want to be sure there is plenty of light available during dinner, and nice accent lights once the D.J or band gets going afterwards.
Don’t forget to set aside space for drinks. If working with a bartending service, they will likely have some portable bar options to show you. If not, a 6ft. folding table and clean table cloth does just fine as well. Be sure to work with the homeowner and catering/bartending company to account for ice needs as well. Storing ice in coolers in the garage will keep it close-by, yet out of sight of guests.
The Little Details
The best part about having a backyard wedding is the opportunity to make it your own, so have fun with it! Here are some of our favorite ways to make the space (and the day) uniquely your own:
If you and your significant other are a fan of traditional backyard fun, why not embrace it with a few games during cocktail hour? A special wedding-themed bag toss, honeymoon horseshoes and more are all a great way to spice up your cocktail hour and reception.
Since you’ll be designing a beautiful, natural space from scratch, why not think about a few Insta-worthy photo spots for your guests? Whether it’s a bench in one of the flower beds or a rustic tire swing, keeping space open for guests to snap and tag will ensure you have a full album’s worth of amazing wedding photos to enjoy.
Personalized Wedding Favors
With such a personal, intimate wedding, you’ll want to be sure to send guests home with a unique, personalized party favor. A set of fun wine charms with a customized card is a great way for them to remember your amazing backyard celebration each and every time they kick back with a bottle of their favorite red or white.
While backyard weddings may have a lot of little details that need to be thought through and organized, the end result is an evening that you, your significant other, your friends and your family will never forget. So follow these guidelines, and start planning the backyard wedding of your dreams!