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Planning a Backyard Wedding

photo by @megangoetzphoto
This photo was taken of the wedding party at my son’s wedding; this was an area very close to where we had the ceremony

With the price of wedding venues being what they are, have you ever thought about having a backyard wedding and what that would entail? Have you wondered if a backyard wedding is something you should even consider or if it’s just too much to take on?

Some Questions to Ask & Answer:

  • How many guests will you invite, and do you have room for that number of people?
  • Considering the number of guests you’ll be having, do you have available, legal, convenient parking for all of the cars?
  • Are there any HOA rules that might prohibit large gatherings at one of the residences?
  • Do you need any kind of special permit for the number of cars parked for the event or even for the number of guests that are attending?
  • What is the restroom situation like at the house? If too many guests to use the restrooms in your home, do you have space to put a rental restroom (they come on a big trailer) on the property?
  • Do you have the appropriate amount of electricity available outside for things like microphones, speakers, music, lighting?
  • Speaking of lighting, if the wedding/reception will happen after dark, do you have enough lighting available?
  • If you are not planning to make the food yourself, do you have room for a caterer to set up?
  • What is your “Plan B” in case of weather issues? (rain, wind, heat wave, etc)

These are just some of the questions that you need to answer before deciding that a backyard wedding is going to work out. It’s not meant to discourage you, it’s just some important things to consider when making your decision.

Is Your Backyard Big Enough?

So, let’s assume that you are still on board with the backyard wedding idea. Obviously, my advice is going to be different for a backyard wedding with 40 guests versus a backyard that has some acreage and guests upwards of 100.

 A fairly large wedding is even possible in a neighborhood that just has a big backyard. We used to live in a house that was on 1/3-acre lot, and we had parties with up to 100 guests. These were summer, outdoor parties, but we were able to have catering, a bar set up and a small area that we turned into a karaoke stage.

What’s Included in the Price of the Venue?

When you are having your wedding at an actual wedding venue, there are many things already included in the price. Usually, you can look at their websites to see what packages they have available, but I strongly suggest you ask as many questions as possible so there’s no miscommunication.

Make Sure That Your Venue Will Accommodate Your Guest List

Last year (2021), our son and daughter-in-law got married. Originally, they had a beautiful venue picked out and even had their deposit put down on it. Because of COVID, many venues were forced to limit the number of guests they would allow, and some venues were even requiring masks at their outdoor events.

 The guidelines for gatherings seemed to change rather frequently, so there was just no way to predict if their venue would even be operational by the date of the wedding. I know that my daughter-in-law was under a lot of stress not knowing what would happen. In a few conversations with my son, I remember telling him that, realistically, they needed to have a solid Plan B, and I remember him saying, “I agree, Mom, but there’s no way I’m telling her that right now! She’s definitely already on the edge.” Understandable.

 We have over 5 acres of land that we live on, so when they originally got engaged, we made them the offer that they could have the wedding at our place, if that’s something they wanted. I know they appreciated the offer, but we weren’t a real wedding venue, so we didn’t have any of the amenities that the actual wedding venues offered.

 As I previously mentioned, they had a beautiful venue chosen and secured, however, about four months before the wedding, the venue was informing them that they would have to cut their guest list by about 75%. This made things so hard because they had been a couple for 7 years, and a lot of people wanted to help celebrate this wedding. On top of that, the bride and groom both have large families, so family members would have to be cut from the guest list, not to mention all of their friends.

 So, after probably quite a few sleepless nights, they came to us and said, “Remember that offer you made about having the wedding at your house? Is that offer still open?”. It was slightly terrifying to think that we would be having nearly 200 guests at our house for a wedding in three months, but we didn’t even hesitate to say yes. There was a lot of work to be done to make our property (our backyard) ready for all of those guests and all of their cars. AND, it needed to be absolutely beautiful, of course.

Gather a Team of Friends & Family to Prepare the Backyard

Fortunately, the bride’s dad and step-mom and the bride’s mom and step-dad all came together with my husband and myself to work on preparing everything. As soon as we knew the wedding would be here, I called a meeting of all the parents, along with the bride and groom, Marissa and Kevin. We sat down at our dining room table with note pads, pens, and a calendar and started figuring everything out.

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Stay Organized & Keep Track of the Budget

Luckily, since they had already been planning this wedding for a year already, they had some of the vendors already booked, so we just needed to give them the new location. When they got engaged, I had given Marissa a wedding planner book so that she could stay organized. She’s very much like me, in the fact that she likes to make lists and have a book with tabs that keeps everything in a system. (I will put a link to that book below because it’s a very complete planner.) Marissa kept very close tabs on the budget, and she knew exactly which vendors had been paid, which vendors still had a balance and the dates that all transactions occurred.

Wedding Planner Book

Create a Map of the Wedding Site

Due to the change in location, there were some vendors and accommodations that we needed to add to our list of things to find. The way our house sits on our property, there is a long driveway and then our house, and then directly behind our house is more of a typical backyard, with patios, a lawn, a rod iron fence with gates so that our dogs stay in and the deer stay out. Directly behind the backyard is a flat, open area and then there are a bunch of huge oak trees surrounding another flat area.

 An important tip is to draw out a map of the backyard, no matter how large or small, and note exactly where everything will go. You will need to have places for vendors, chairs, tables, food, etc.

photo by @megangoetzphoto
A photo of our adorable niece as she walked down the aisle, dropping flower petals along the way. This ceremony area was separate from the area we had set up for tables and chairs for eating.

We knew that we could essentially create a makeshift parking lot in the bare area directly behind our backyard, and then the ceremony and reception would take place behind and among the big oak trees. My husband and son worked hard to clear the area around the oak trees, removing fallen branches, large boulders, etc, and then Marissa’s dad came in to help them plant grass seeds all over the ground to make it look pretty but also to keep dust and dirt minimal as guests walked around the area.

If You Don’t Have What You Need, See if You Can Build it

We came across a monumental problem, though (in the eyes of the father of the bride). For the day of their wedding, there wasn’t a single dance floor in all of Northern California available for rent. Marissa’s family is a bunch of hard-core dance fiends, so this was absolutely unacceptable. So much so, that her dad was going to create a 20 foot by 14 foot dance floor for us. He happens to work for a company that also works with concrete. Although normally the company does projects like highways and bridges, this time it was going to be a dance floor for his daughter’s wedding. They even tinted and stamped the concrete for us.

Additional Items We Needed to Rent/Acquire:

  • Tables, chairs and tablecloths
  • Bathrooms – don’t picture those port-a-potties along the highway. These were 4 bathrooms that came on a giant trailer and looked like normal bathrooms, complete with a sink, mirror, nice flooring, lighting and some decorative items.
  • Electricity generators
  • Lighting for the dance floor, reception area, walkways

Be Neighborly

Another thing we did to get ready for this wedding was to personally walk around to all neighbors whose property touched our property and explain to them what was going to be happening. We knew that we would have a DJ playing music, nearly 200 loud guests and possibly some extra cars would be parked along our street. This is something that needs to be done, because every person we talked to just congratulated us and told us to have a wonderful event. And I believe that all or most people would have been fine with us having this huge gathering at our home, but you don’t want to take a chance that someone isn’t very understanding and you end up with the Sheriff’s Department walking up on your wedding reception asking you to keep the music down or get the cars off the street.

Come Back For Part 2 of “Planning a Backyard Wedding”

I hope this post has helped give you a lot of information that will either help you in deciding whether or not to have a backyard wedding or it will give you some good advice in planning a backyard wedding. I couldn’t possibly cover all of the information you need in this one post, so I will post a Part 2 of this “Planning a Backyard Wedding” next week. In the next post, I will give more examples and ideas for details that really helped make this wedding special and personal.

 Thanks for stopping by my website and reading my words. And, as always, I hope you find something wonderful to celebrate this week!

Xoxo Teresa

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