Backyard Wedding Ideas + Our Top 10 Tips to Make it Dreamy

backyard wedding ideas

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

1. Set the Mood for a Dreamy Backyard Wedding

small backyard wedding setupYou want to be comfortable at your wedding…that’s why you chose a 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.

photo by Inna Yasinka from these Simple Styling Tips For A Stunning Backyard

2. Consider the Weather + Time of Year

rainy wedding clear umbrellasWhat 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 onto your invite list. Citronella candles might come in handy! Maybe you want to consider supplying hand fans, blankets, or umbrellas. Tip: these could also double as favors for your guests. But no matter the time of year, always plan for rain. A large white tent to cover the space can save the day.

photo by Kelly Ginn Photography from this Colorful Wedding at Home

3. Choose a Focal Point for the Backyard Wedding Ceremony

intimate backyard wedding with fall floral backdropDetermine where the ceremony will take place and where guests will sit or stand. Maybe there’s a large tree that can serve as a focal point — or are you working with an open grassy space? To set the ‘stage,’ you can frame the space with anything from florals to DIY installations. We’ve seen couples use old barn doors, tons of leafy greens, and even very minimal spaces with pretty potted plants. Figure out where you want the ceremony to happen and then work from there.

Next, consider your guests. Do you want guests to circle all around you or just be to the front? What is the terrain like? What about 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. A misnomer is that a backyard wedding reception dinner will be more relaxed and fun if everyone can choose their own seats. But this undoubtedly leaves some of your most important family members (even your elderly ones) 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 The Foxes Photography from this Sunset-Inspired Backyard Wedding

4. Consider a Few Rentals to Make it Special

backyard brunch micro wedding tableA 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 to create an eclectic mismatched design, others choose to rent. You can rent anything from lounge pieces, gorgeous glassware, or necessities to make the tablescape just right.

photo by Kadi Tobin Photography from this Backyard Wedding with a to Brunch Reception

5. Get the Yard in Shape 

intimate backyard wedding ceremonyYou 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 some heavy weeding, laying grass, or planting rows of florals, all of these little preparations will just add to the magic and you can embrace the natural décor.

Shout-out to Margaux at Harmony Creative Studio for this one:

Be sure to double-check that any set timers for sprinklers or lights are turned off for the entire wedding weekend, including any setup or tear-down days.

photo by Ashlyn Cathey Photography from this Floral-Filled Backyard Wedding

 6. Make Sure the Home Has Necessary Amenities

wedding at the Pollyanna Disney houseFor a small wedding, one bathroom is probably fine. But if you’re expecting 20+ people, look into 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? 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, help make things run really smoothly by hiring a valet or shuttle service.

photo by Eichar Photography from this Garden Wedding at a Beloved Disney Movie Home

7. Inform Neighbors About Your Backyard Wedding

skateboarding newlywedsLet your neighbors know in advance that you’ll be hosting a one-time special event. If they have any issues on the day of, provide them with the name and phone number of who to contact. Your neighbors are much more likely to let things slide (and possibly offer to help) if you fill them in. You don’t want to have to worry about noise complaints.

A few more things 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 into 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 Chrissy Gilmartin from this Last-Minute Elopement at Home

8. Power Up for Sound + Lighting

Backyard Wedding Reception IdeasWith 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 by Angela Mae Photography from this Warm and Eclectic Backyard Wedding

9. Bring in Some Good Eats

wedding reception boxed individual meals
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. If you’re going with a caterer who will prep in your kitchen, they’ll need to be made aware of cooking facilities ahead of time. For a backyard wedding, your first choice might be a BBQ-style meal, ordering large quantities of food to be delivered, or food trucks.

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

photo by The Foxes Photography from this Sunset-Inspired Backyard Wedding

10. Hire Outside Help

Backyard Wedding Confetti GetawayOne 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 and know when and where to cut the cake.

When most couples choose a backyard wedding, it’s because they want a casual, laid-back day. 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 be the one helping the caterer get set up or advising the DJ where to put their speakers. 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 into, as well. And finally, it might be helpful to hire a clean-up crew and/or rent a large trash bin.

photo by Ashlyn Cathey Photography from this Floral-Filled Backyard Wedding

Bonus Tip: Plan Photos Eary for a Backyard Wedding

Newlywed Portraits in Los AngelesSome parting advice from Sara at OneLove Photography:

Plan 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 by Heirlume Photography from this Live Streamed Backyard Wedding in Los Angeles