A backyard wedding can be a wonderfully personal way to celebrate with friends and family. During the COVID disruption of the wedding industry, when the pandemic shut down traditional wedding spots, backyards became the option of choice for many couples. However, the trend has continued as wedding venues become increasingly booked for years in the future.
The good thing about a backyard is that it will never have a waitlist, will never unexpectedly close abruptly because of a change in the pandemic and will be there whenever you need it to plan and brainstorm your wedding ideas. But it’s much different planning a backyard wedding than it is an all-inclusive reception at a location that hosts hundreds of events each year.
There are essential distinctions that are important to understand. The last thing you want is your reception to feel like an outdoor party you’re hosting, stressing out about all the details. Instead, you want the same carefree feeling you would get at a venue where everyone is doing just what they need to in order to make the day as special as it can be.
Kellie Heinen is the owner and coordinator of Rustic Elegance Weddings in Plymouth, Minnesota, a wedding planning company specializing in backyard, barn and other outdoor wedding settings. She says backyard weddings offer unique celebration opportunities for couples to truly personalize. But she also advises that a backyard wedding requires more planning and logistical navigating than more traditional indoor locations.
With that in mind, here’s our breakdown of the top things to consider when planning your backyard wedding.
Begin by Assessing Your Backyard for Tent Space
Tents are popular backyard wedding additions and for good reason. They’ll shield guests from too much sun and give a great level of weatherproofing to your event in the case of showers. It is important to get the scope of your land first before reserving that tent. “The size, shape and levelness of the yard can definitely limit the options as far as the number of guests it can hold,” explains Heinen. She suggests when figuring out the tent size to look at levelness, tree placement, and obstacles like fire pits that might get in the way of a tent. “As you would guess a flat open space will allow for the biggest tent which allows for a higher guest count, but with a smaller backyard, multiple tents could be used together to create an enjoyable party atmosphere as well.”
If you’re going to have a tent, that’s a good place to start your backyard decorating.. “We love the Sail Cloth and Clear Top tent options for a classy/elegant vibe,” explains Heinen. “Pair the tent with classic draping, twinkle lights and chandeliers and you have the perfect setting for a rustic yet elegant vibe.” She says to take it to the next level by adding hanging greenery, wood tables for the guests to sit at along with a vineyard-style chair. Adding soft seating and furniture areas for mingling guests is also a great way to add to the elegant feeling. It will also soften the look of the outdoors and give a luxurious feel to the environment.
Make a List of Everything You’ll Need to Rent
For indoor wedding receptions, most venues have the majority of elements you’ll need, like flatware, napkins, tables, chairs, etc. A backyard however will need all these things (and more!) to be brought in, most often through rental vendors. “To create the overall desired look and feel of the day,” explains Heinen, “every chair, table, plate, fork, table linen, etc. will need to be rented or bought in. This is a great way to truly customize the space to fit the desired look and needs, but it is also a bit more work to source and pull together from different vendors. Don’t forget about the clean-up part after the party comes to an end.”
A Backyard Wedding Isn’t Always the “Cheaper” Option
A myth of backyard weddings is that they help you avoid the high cost of a traditional venue wedding. However when you factor in all of the items that are needed, costs can skyrocket. You’re turning an open space into a fully-outfitted weatherproof event venue. So it’s understandable why costs are comparable, sometimes eclipsing that of indoor receptions. However, there are options for trimming the budget. Heinen says buying your own alcohol can save you from having to pay keg/tapping and other fees. The same goes for dessert, where you can skip paying a cake cutting/plating fee.
Simplify to What Really Matters to Your Backyard Wedding
The great outdoors don’t demand lots of decorations, so keeping the accessories to a minimum can help simplify things. This allows you to focus on the things that really matter to you both. Prioritize the things that will make your day special and memorable. “We love when couples add elements to personalize the wedding to them as a couple. Like adding a sailing knot for the unity symbol because they love sailing. Or incorporating pizza as the main course because that’s what they ate on their first date,” adds Heinen. She also notes it’s important to steer away from elements that aren’t outdoor-friendly. Tall display pieces are prone to being tipped over in the wind. No one wants broken glass crashing the vibes of the wedding day!
Hire a Wedding Planner with Backyard Wedding Experience
We’ve all learned that wedding planners can be the piece of the wedding planning puzzle that brings it all together. However, it’s also important to seek out a planner with experience in the logistics of a backyard wedding. From connections to backyard-friendly vendors to knowing local noise regulations, a planner experienced in backyard weddings can be priceless. “Where will the bar be placed? Where will the bathrooms be located? Does the caterer have good access to where the food will be?” A coordinator can use their past experience to help advise what will and won’t work great. They will also look at power and lighting needs and be able to advise what will be required. A coordinator will help plan ahead to make a good back up rain plan. So in the case of not so great weather, the party will still be fabulous.”
Heinen says that a backyard wedding includes many more moving parts than a typical venue. So since you’re essentially creating a venue from scratch, there are going to be many details to think about. “Hiring an experienced professional to advise on these details will ensure the day is well thought out. Professional wedding coordinators are also connected with a large vendor community. They can advise on which vendors excel with outdoor weddings.”
Make Sure to Have at Least a Day-of Planner
Maybe you think you have all the planning parts down and won’t need to hire someone to guide you through? Heinen says having someone to be the main contact and host on the wedding day removes lots of stress. “A coordinator will help couples and their families be fully present on their wedding day. They will act as the “host” and manage vendors, greet guests, set up decor and handle all logistics on the wedding day to remove this stress from the couple so they can concentrate on getting married.”
Incorporate Backyard Wedding Outdoor Guest Experience Enhancements
Don’t forget to make the most of all of the wonderful and fun opportunities the great outdoors offers you. Unlike indoor venues, your backyard can present unlimited possibilities for games, entertainment and unique experiences that will make it all worth the extra work. Heinen says her team has incorporated plenty of non-traditional activities for guests to partake in, such horse and hay rides, bounce houses, coffee carts, fireworks, caricaturist and her personal favorite, puppy petting.
Heinen suggests beginning with making sure your guests always feel comfortable. That includes letting guests know to wear grass friendly shoes and providing extra “dancing shoes” or flip flops for guests who forget. Heinen also suggests having umbrellas, bug spray, sunscreen and plenty of water on hand is an absolute necessity. “Providing signage on where to park and guiding them to the ceremony location can be so helpful! And usually adding a late night snack is a good idea, everyone loves pizza at the end of the night!”
And don’t forget, for a great guest experience, bring all of your circles together beforehand with the virtual tool that allows your guests to break the ice before your big day. Guestie is easy to set up, just join and upload your guest list and get your celebration started today for a more fun, connected and memorable wedding experience.