10 Tips to Throw Your Dream Backyard Wedding

Have you + your love tossed around the idea of throwing a backyard wedding? Maybe you’re after the sentimental factor of having the big day at a place you grew up, or somewhere that means so much to the two of you. Perhaps you want to gather your family and closest friends around for an intimate day that feels like more of a celebratory dinner party. Or, maybe you’d like to have it at home to cut the cost of a traditional venue…and choose whatever date you so desire (and not waiting until a spot on the calendar opens up in three years). Whatever the reason, we LOVE all the customization that can go in to a backyard wedding.

At GWS, we’ve seen quite a few nuptials held in backyards and received tons of advice from vendors and couples about the experience. A backyard bash may seem like the epitome of laid-back vibes and casual bliss, but there is actually quite a bit of planning involved to make the day as dreamy as possible (we’re talking weather preparation, clean up crew, and the things easily forgotten…like having more than one bathroom available for a party of over 20!). So, we thought it would be helpful to create a list of our go-to tips for hosting an outdoor occasion. Whether you’re already in the planning process, or still figuring out IF your backyard is the place—we’ve got a few things for you to consider!

{above photo photo by Ellie Koleen as seen on GWS here: Daughters of Simone Co-Owner’s Backyard Bohemian Bon Voyage Party!}

1. Set the Mood

You want to be comfortable at your wedding…that’s why you chose your backyard, right? So, make sure to set whatever mood you’re after! Do you want it to be playful and fun with lots of lawn games, intimate and cozy with string lights, or do you want more of a daytime garden party affair? Consider the mood and theme you’re after and then you can start to figure out ways to tie it all together.

Part of setting the mood is figuring out the music: are you going to have a live band? Will there be a DJ? Maybe you’ll opt for a low-key playlist via your phone…the thing is, you’ll need to figure out a sound system of sorts.

photo courtesy of Pablo Laguia // event design by Paloma Cruz Eventos

2. Consider the Weather + Time of Year

What time of the year are you having your wedding? Will it require renting heaters or misters? We’re guessing those pesky mosquitoes didn’t make their way on to your invite list—so Citronella candles will come in handy! Maybe you want to consider supplying hand fans, blankets or umbrellas—these could also double as darling favors for your guests.

Always plan for rain. While you might get lucky and have sunshine throughout the day, talk about a Plan B and what would happen if it were to rain—a large white tent to cover the space can save the day.

photo by Kelly Anne Photography as seen on GWS here: Cozy Wedding in the Woods Inspiration from the Vero Workshop

3. Set the Stage

Where is the ceremony going to take place and where are guests going to sit/stand? Is there a large tree that is a focal point of the backyard, a cool fence, or is it an open grassy space? To set the ‘stage,’ you can frame the space with a floral arch, something fun made out of fabric, or a brilliant balloon installation. We’ve seen old barn doors brought in, tons of leafy greenery installations, and even very minimal spaces with pretty potted plants. Figure out where you want the ceremony to happen and then work from there.

Do you want guests to circle all around you or just be to the front? What does the ground look like—is it flat or are there slopes? What about for the reception—do you want tables scattered about the yard or a long family-style table? Additionally, do you want to have a dance floor? Is there a space for that or do you need to bring in a floor?

Sara at OneLove Photography shares: Make table assignments. Another misnomer is that a backyard reception dinner will be more relaxed and fun if everyone can choose their own seats casually that day. Nope! This undoubtedly leaves some of your most important family members (even your elderly ones) sometimes without a comfortable seat. Or, they are left to sit in the far back corner since they didn’t find a seat as fast as your younger friends. You want your closest family and friends surrounding you in the heart of the action, not stuck on the fringes, or uncomfortable.

photo by Heather Waraksa as seen on GWS here: All the Details of Rocky Barnes + Matthew Cooper’s Seriously Stylish + Dreamy Bohemian Wedding

4. Rentals

A traditional venue comes with all the necessities that you don’t normally think about: chairs, plates, tables, flatware and glasses for the number of guests you have. While some couples opt to search vintage stores and Goodwill for a treasure trove of items and create an eclectic mismatched design, others choose to rent those pretty pieces from companies who specialize in just that: items to create a photographable lounge, gorgeous glassware and necessities to make the tablescape just right.

photo by Ellie Koleen as seen on GWS here: Daughters of Simone Co-Owner’s Backyard Bohemian Bon Voyage Party!

5. Get the Yard in Shape 

You don’t want to be scrambling the day before to get the yard ready. We’d suggest starting to get the yard in shape MONTHS before. Whether this means you need to do some heavy weeding, sprinkle more seeds, or plant rows of florals, all of these little preparations will just add to the magic and you can embrace the natural décor. We’ve talked to several couples who wanted to get married at a family member’s unused greenhouse—so they put in the WORK! (Read about how this couple transformed an abandoned greenhouse for their dream wedding!)

Do you have any differently-abled guests coming? Consider what the senior crowd requirements might be and is the ceremony space accessible?

Shout-out to Margaux at Harmony Creative Studio for this one: Be sure to double check that any set timing for sprinklers, lights, or anything else is turned off for the entire wedding weekend, including any set up or tear down days.

photo by Mary Costa Photography as seen on GWS here: A World of Color: Vibrant Pink + Orange Backyard Wedding with Tons of Balloons! // balloon arch: Cyn Moreno

 6. Amenities, Parking + Bathrooms

For a small wedding, one bathroom is probably fine. But if you’re expecting 20+ people, look in to renting portable bathrooms. While this might not sound like the chicest thing…you can actually rent nice restroom trailers! This will alleviate any queueing up for the bathroom and prevent people from continually asking you where the bathroom is.

Valet and parking! This is HUGE. Consider where people are going to park—is there ample space on your block for 20+ cars, are there tricky ‘No Parking’ zones? See if you can find a nearby parking lot (perhaps a school closed on the weekend or a public park) where guests can leave their car. You could encourage guests to Uber if they aren’t coming from too far…or, to help make things run really smoothly by hiring a valet or shuttle service.

photo courtesy of Lev Kuperman Photography

7. Inform Neighbors (+ Possibly the City)

Let your neighbors know in advance that you’ll be hosting a one-time special event, and if they have any issues on the day of—provide them with a name and phone number of someone to contact (a relative, someone in your bridal party, a coordinator…just not you! This is not something you want to deal with on the big day!). Your neighbors are much more likely to let things slide (and possibly offer to help) if you fill them in, that way they won’t make complaints…or worse—call the police about loud music.

Another thing to check on: fire codes, noise ordinances, zoning issues and permits. For smaller gatherings this usually isn’t an issue, but if you’re expecting 50+ guests, we’d suggest looking in to these things. Some places are stricter than others, so it’s better to be prepared than run the risk of having your event shut down.

photo by Ashley Paige Photography as seen on GWS here: Stylish Bohemian Backyard Wedding

8. Power Up

backyard wedding

With the sound system and lighting comes the need for an added source of power. We’d advise getting a real generator so you don’t lose power right when things start to heat up. The last thing you want to deal with is a power outage in the middle of your wedding! Typically, the existing power from your house will not cut it for professional-grade rentals and equipment.

photo courtesy of OneLove Photography 

9. Good Eats

Do you want a grazing table of sorts or different food stations all around the backyard? If you’ve got a favorite restaurant with a food truck, those can be a ton of fun (hint: for CA locals and Texas, In-N-Out has food trucks available!). If you’re going with a caterer that’s prepping things in your kitchen, they’ll need to be made aware of what cooking facilities are available for them to use. Usually BBQ-style, ordering large quantities of food and having it delivered, or food trucks work best for a backyard wedding!

As for drinks—are you going to have a bartender or let guests craft cocktails themselves? Another option is to let them self-serve and choose from a selection of wine, beer, or soda.

first photo by Ashley Caroline Photography as seen on GWS here: Fruit-Inspired Backyard Wedding // second photo by Ashley Paige Photography as seen on GWS here: Stylish Bohemian Backyard Wedding

10. Get Outside Help

One of the NUMBER ONE things we hear from GWS couples after the big day is, “Hire a coordinator!” Coordinators make everything run smoothly, they direct people when and where to be, they make sure everything is on time, they know when and where to cut the cake.

When most couples choose a backyard wedding, it’s because they want a sort of casual and laid-back day. Super, that can be done! Sara at OneLove Photography shared with us: The thing is, you need to plan for “zen.” Too many couples make the mistake of not hiring a professional wedding planner for their backyard wedding. They are committed to how “zen” and how relaxed their wedding will be, so they avoid hiring a planner to help facilitate the process between the home and the vendors. The reality is: you don’t want to (and can’t really) be the one helping the caterer get set up, or advising the DJ where to put their speakers that day. Hire a professional—and let them take that responsibility from you so you can truly be zen + relaxed.

Liability insurance is also something to look in to, just in case. Another thing, you’ll be enjoying all the merriment and festivities…so, it might be helpful to hire a clean up crew and/or rent a large trash bin.

photo by Lara Hotz Photography as seen on GWS here:  ’70s-Inspired Disco Vibe Wedding in Sydney

The Main Takeaways:

1. Set the Mood
2. Consider the Weather
3. Frame the Space
4. Source Pieces or Get Rentals
5. Prepare Your Yard Early
6. Parking + Bathrooms Are Crucial
7. Talk to Your Neighbors
8. Power Up with a Generator
9. BBQ, Delivered Bites, or Food Truck
10. Get Outside Help + Hire a Coordinator

backyard wedding

Some parting advice from Sara at OneLove PhotographyPlan your photos EARLIER than you think. Most backyard weddings are somewhat limited in space for photography. If your guests are arriving and you are still taking photos, it will be cramped! There will be less available space for your photo backgrounds if guests or vendors are setting up in that space.

The setup process of a backyard wedding (for your rentals and vendors) will be more involved than at a wedding venue. Since the vendors have never worked there before, they are all likely setting up together for the first time on that property. This can cause unexpected delays as they navigate that process together, and can be a little busy! Plan to end your photo at least one hour before your ceremony time to prevent any stress in this area.

photo courtesy of OneLove Photography // florals by Juliet’s Garden 

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