I think it was when I first saw Father of the Bride that I started dreaming about having a backyard wedding. Something about it seemed so intimate and special, especially if the backyard belonged to you or a family member. Alas, if you’re like me and a) don’t have a house, let alone a backyard or b) know any family members with one to use, your dream of having a backyard wedding did NOT become a reality. (*Wipes away tear*) But that, my dears, does not mean your backyard wedding dreams have to go unfulfilled like mine! If you’re one of the lucky ones who thinks you found the perfect location for a backyard wedding–whether it’s literally right out your own back door, or a friend/family members OR you’ve found a great estate to host your wedding at–this guide will help get you started.
Determine Your Budget and Guest List
If you’ve read our handy wedding checklist before, you’d know that we recommend getting a general sense of your budget and guest list BEFORE you decide on your venue (AKA the backyard). This will give you an overview of what you can do with the space given your budget (as well as catering options) and also if it will even work given the number of guests on your A and B list. If you know you have to invite 100 of your closest family and friends and your backyard can only fit 60 people max, then a backyard wedding might not be right for you. And yes, while some backyards are large and can accommodate hundreds of people (apparently even the Banks’ backyard in Father of the Bride could fit 572 guests, which seems impossible to us looking back at that movie now!), most backyard weddings are on the smaller side, so just be aware of that before getting your heart set on one.
How Many People Can Fit in a Backyard Wedding?
How many of your BFFs, family, and third cousins twice removed can you actually pack into your backyard? Well, grab your yardstick and calculator because it’s time to do some math.
When planning a backyard wedding, the key elements to consider are the ceremony and the reception. Now, here’s the juicy bit – you can flip the ceremony space for the reception to save some serious square footage. Let’s go into detail:
Each of your guests will need about 5-6 square feet for their chair and a bit of personal space. Don’t forget to set aside some room for the aisle, the altar/arbor, and any musicians or DJs you’re planning to have. This could range from 50-100 square feet each.
Flip The Space:
Once the vows are exchanged and the confetti has flown, it’s time to transform the ceremony area into something for the reception. You have a few options:
Dining Area: Convert the ceremony seating into dining seating. Tables can be set up during a cocktail hour elsewhere in the backyard, while guests mingle and toast to your happiness.
Dance Floor: If the ground is suitable, why not turn the ceremony area into an open-air dance floor? You could lay down some temporary flooring to make it more comfortable for your dancing queens and kings.
Lounge Area: Create a cozy space where guests can chill out, chat, and enjoy the night. Add some comfy seating, a few tables, and maybe some string lights for that warm, inviting atmosphere.
Now, since you’ve repurposed the ceremony space, the reception needs are a little different. You’ll still need space for the buffet area and bar area, each taking around 200 and 100 square feet, respectively. Also, don’t forget about restrooms, with each portable unit being about 25 square feet.
Let’s break it down:
- Seating for guests: 750 square feet (for 125 guests)
- Aisle: -100 square feet
- Altar/Arbor: -100 square feet
- Musicians or DJ booth: -50 square feet
- Remaining Space: 500 square feet
Reception (with flipped ceremony space):
- Seating for guests: Flipped from the ceremony
- Buffet Area: -200 square feet
- Bar Area: -100 square feet
- Dance Floor/Lounge Area: Included in the flipped space
- Restroom Facilities: -100 square feet
- Remaining Space: 600 square feet
Reception (without flipped ceremony space):
Each guest will need approximately 8 square feet. This includes space for tables, chairs, and room for servers to move around.
- Seating for guests: 1,000 square feet
- Buffet Area: -200 square feet
- Bar Area: -100 square feet
- Dance Floor: -400 square feet
- Restroom Facilities: -100 square feet
- Remaining Space: 200 square feet
Set the Date
While you might not have to book your backyard like a traditional wedding venue, the sooner you set the date the sooner you can send out your Save the Dates and start booking hard-to-find wedding vendors (like photographers) if hiring them.
Start Prepping Your Backyard (and House)
Chances are you’ll have to do at least SOME work to your backyard to make it wedding-ready. That could mean putting new pavers down, planting new flowers and shrubs that will be ready on the big day, tending to your grass, paving your driveway, and more. This will help ensure that the area is ready for guests and has even surfaces to walk on (and put reception tables on), and will look the way you want it to in time for your wedding.
Decide How DIY You Want to Make It
Once you’ve figured out your wedding budget you can start to prioritize the areas that mean the most to you and your partner. Is a farm-to-table, chef-made dinner a big priority? Or would you rather have a backyard cook-out with burgers and grilled veggies manned by your Uncles more your style? Also, it’s not just food you have to think about. When it comes to music are you thinking a band or DJ? Or maybe you just want to create a playlist of your favorite wedding songs to play throughout the event? Decide just how DIY you want to make your backyard wedding, and then you can hire your wedding vendors and rentals accordingly. We’ve made a big list of the different vendors, rentals, and other supplies you might need, below.
One thing we will say is we highly recommend hiring AT LEAST a wedding coordinator. You don’t want to have family members and friends running around on your wedding day and not enjoying the party. A wedding coordinator will make sure everything is running smoothly (and that you’re having fun). A wedding photographer is also always worth the splurge. You don’t want to rely on guests’ photos to remember your wedding day. Instead, hire a professional to take frame-worthy photos that you’ll love.
Have Your Vendors Visit the Property
This especially applies to any caterers you might choose to bring in, as well as tent rentals (which you should definitely consider if you have the space, not only for rain but for shade if you’re getting married on a hot summer day). A caterer will need to look at your kitchen-setup and determine if they need to bring a portable caterer’s kitchen or other warming devices for food, and a tent/lighting company will be able to give you a more accurate quote if they can visit the property first.
You should also do your own run-through of the property to see what you might be missing. Start from the guests’ arrival on your wedding day to the time you say goodbye. This will help ensure you’re covering all your basis (such as whether you have enough bathrooms in the house for guests, or if you need to rent a luxe Port-o-Pottie…yes, nice ones exist!). Also think about whether you want to make certain areas of the house or furniture that is off-limits (signage will help with this) or if there are areas that guests need to be aware of, safety-wise (such as step that might need anti-slip tape). You’ll want to be extra aware of guests’ comfort at your party, and make sure you’re bringing in all the necessary rentals to make that happen such as heaters, fans/portable AC’s, etc.
SEE MORE: How Much Do Wedding Tents Cost?
Check on Permits (and Your Insurance Policy While You’re At It)
You’ll want to check with your county website or office to see if you need a permit for your backyard wedding. While not typically required, you’ll want to make sure you know and follow all rules surrounding noise, parking, and fire. This is especially true if you are renting a tent, so make sure to talk to the tent company as well. It’s also always a good idea to inform your neighbors of the wedding (and even invite them over for dessert and drinks if you can!). Letting neighbors know you’ll be celebrating ahead of time (vs. finding out when your DJ starts blasting Beastie Boys at 10 p.m.) is always a good idea. You should also make a quick call to your renter or homeowners insurance company to make sure you’re covered in the event you need any post-wedding repairs, or that you have liability insurance in case any accidents happen. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
Save on Wedding Decor
Whether you’re DIY’ing a lot of your decor or working with a professional florist and planner, the beauty of a backyard wedding is that you can keep it simple and homey without having to break the bank. While you’ll want to figure out the appropriate supplies and rentals you’ll need from the list, below, take time to visualize what you want your backyard wedding to look like. Are there lots of flowers and and flowy linens everywhere? Or are you more interested in spending money on one focal point, like a lounge area with vintage furniture or a ceremony arch draped with floral and greenery? Pick one or two areas you want to splurge on when it comes to decor and then go budget with the rest. For example, if you want to spend more money on your ceremony flowers instead of the reception, one of our favorite inexpensive centerpiece ideas are bowls of fruit for an easy, cheap pop of color. Lemons and limes, oranges, apples, even bowls of fresh berries work. Just pick your color/season and go from there.
Planning a backyard wedding also gives you time to start collecting thrifted items such as vintage carpets (for your wedding aisle), small plates (for your dessert), antique serveware, linens, and more. Have fun going to your local flea market or antique stores to find pieces that will not only decorate your wedding, but your home after.
Setup Deliveries as Far in Advance as You Can
This is where your wedding coordinator will really step in, however if you’re doing it all yourself (or with family) you’ll want to definitely take note of this! For whatever rentals, supplies, or other pieces you buy for your backyard wedding, you’ll want to try and arrange for deliveries as soon as possible so you’re not scrambling the morning of your wedding. The more things you can get set-up ahead of time, the more relaxed you’ll be on your wedding day.
PLUS: Don’t forget to setup your wedding timeline!
Hopefully this hasn’t scared any of you away from throwing a backyard wedding! While it’s true that they can feel like just as much work as a regular wedding, the result is a wedding venue that you will truly remember forever…especially if you live there! 🙂
Below you’ll find the decor, rentals, supplies, and other miscellaneous items you might need for your backyard wedding. Are we missing anything? Let us know in the comments section!
Backyard Wedding Checklist
|Rentals||Tent, Dance floor, Lounge areas, Reception tables/chairs, Port-o-Potties, Generator, Heaters, Fans|
|Vendors||Wedding officiant, Wedding Planner/Coordinator, Setup/Cleaning crew, Wedding Photographer, Photo booth, Wedding DJ/Band, Caterer, Waitstaff/Bartenders, Food trucks, Valet|
|Supplies||Plates/glasses/cutlery, Serving platters, Bug-repellant sprays or candles, Coolers/buckets for drinks, Flip-flops for guests, Bathroom essentials|
|Decor||Seating chart, Signage, Table numbers, Wedding arch, Centerpieces, String lights/paper lanterns, Candles + Candleholders, Torches, Vases, Wedding favors|
|Misc.||Permits, Hotel room blocks, Check insurance policies|
Backyard Wedding FAQ
An outdoor wedding allows you to be much more flexible than a traditional venue, so you have more opportunities to create unique food, drink, and decor options as well as lounge areas. To make a backyard wedding even more special, consider hiring local food trucks to cater your wedding reception. For the ceremony, bring in hay bales draped in vintage blankets for guests to sit on during your nuptials. You can also line the aisle with vintage rugs that you can use at home after.
Because the wedding will be outside, you’ll want to be aware of the elements. Opt for a time of year in your area that isn’t too hot or cold. You’ll also want to have a weather backup (like a tent) in case your wedding day forecast calls for rain. Just be sure to ask about the cancellation policy, as some tent companies require you to decide if you need it a few days before.
Yes and no. While you save by bringing in your own wedding alcohol and not paying a wedding venue fee, the cost to make the space wedding friendly can add up quickly. That’s because you’ll have to use a rental company for everything from the tables and chairs to the glassware and more. Considering some venues include these items in your fee, you might end up breaking even if you overdo it.
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