Sometimes, the traditional wedding venues just don’t cut it. With wedding planning season in full swing, many of us have opted for a more unique setting – our own backyards. What better place to celebrate lifelong commitment with your partner than the home where you’ll be building your life together? While the effort might be greater, the payoff is surely worth it. To help ensure your special day goes as smoothly as possible, we’ve rounded up wedding experts from Philadelphia to Sacramento. Read on for tips and tricks for your backyard wedding, straight from the professionals that know best!
The perfect backyard wedding starts with letting the space speak for itself! Let nature be the decor and for an added spin, ask all of your guests to dress in a color palette that compliments your wedding colors. Your guests’ coordinated attire will complement the backdrop of your wedding and become a natural decor element! (Meghan’s photo featured above.) – M. Klein Photographer
Secure proper permitting. One of the most crucial, yet overlooked, items on a backyard wedding checklist is securing necessary permitting and insurance. The types of coverage you’ll want to consider are: Homeowners Insurance and Liability, Liquor Liability, Special Event Insurance, and possibly an Umbrella Policy. Your vendors, especially caterers and bartenders, may carry enough insurance to cover you in these areas, but if not, speak to your insurance agent or go through a wedding insurance carrier like WedSafe or WedSure. If you plan to have a band or DJ for your reception, be sure to apply for and secure a ‘One Time Outdoor Amplified Sound Permit,’ to ensure your party doesn’t get shut down just as guests are hitting the dance floor. If you plan to light candles in the backyard, the local fire department will need to approve a permit. Check all local ordinances to see what permits may be required for your big day, from the health and zoning departments, to the fire marshal, and anyone in between. – Joy
Our best tip: Consider how much of your event will take place after the sun goes down. Cafe or string lights are both functional for your guests as well as being beautiful in photographs. String lights over the dance floor for beautiful dancing photos, but also around gathering places like dinner tables and the bar for your guests to see. Candlelight is also especially romantic in photographs. (Clear vases keep fire danger low!)
What will make your backyard into a venue for a wedding? Perhaps a tent would welcome those wedding vibes, or maybe dressed-up farmhouse tables. Make sure guests have plenty of space to sit, and set down drinks. String lights around main areas for a romantic vibe, and for light once the sun goes down. This will bring your event from backyard gathering to wedding! – Salt and Pine Photography
Ceremony light: When it comes to backyard weddings, the best thing is that it’s a place you know intimately and visit often. One of the most important things when considering where you’ll set up your ceremony in a backyard is where the sun will fall and at what time of day that is. For a romantic evening wedding ceremony, typically you’d want to have it begin 1.5 hours prior to sunset. I would recommend setting up the ceremony so that the sun falls either directly behind the couple or behind the audience so that you have even light across everyone. When you have side lighting, typically half the wedding is in direct sunlight and the other half is in shadow.
Rainy day plan: Another great tip for backyard weddings is to have a rainy day plan! Whether that means bringing in a tent rental or buying a bunch of cheap white/clear umbrellas on Amazon, Mother Nature has been known to throw curveballs at weddings and you want to be prepared for it all. I’ve had a wedding party bust of two dozen umbrellas so that guests could dance through a rainstorm. It made for some amazingly unique photographs and memories for the couple. – Sarah Anne Photography
Simplicity & Elegance. When it comes to a backyard wedding, sticking with simple decoration that enhances your space will transform it into a beautiful event space.
Try hiring a rental company that does it all to avoid multiple deliveries. A company that can deliver the day before and pick up the next day will also help alleviate day-of stress!
Restroom Trailers will keep guests out of your house & reduce the need for next day cleaning.
Don’t forget the little things to make your guests comfortable: blankets & heaters for chilly nights or sunblock & bug repellent for those hot California days. String Lighting & LED candles are a great (and safe) way to illuminate pathways & outdoor spaces.
Be sure to notify neighbors in advance to avoid noise complaints – if they seem apprehensive, a few more guests couldn’t hurt! – The Abbey Catering
From a logistical standpoint, planning backyard weddings can actually be more complex than ordinary venue weddings, so having support and thinking through potential problems are key elements. Hire a month-of coordinator or a full planner if you can, or at least make sure to delegate responsibilities to your community so that everything on the day-of comes together smoothly. The two major things couples forget to do for backyard weddings involve weather and bathrooms! Always plan for the WORST case scenario, not the best-case scenario, and make sure to have a major weather event backup plan (tenting, tenting sides, and even a separate venue if it makes sense). And definitely embrace the notion of renting portable toilets (there are really nice ones!); the only thing worse than a line at the buffet is a line at the bathroom :) – City Love Photography
Decor: To be frank, this totally depends on your budget and your desired aesthetic. There are so many different ways to save money – and just as equally – there are so many ways to spend it. Think about your wedding venue when you are planning out your design, and play up the natural aesthetics of the environment. And if your budget allows, hire a professional wedding designer to guide you along the way. After all, it’s what they do for a living. But if you’re on a budget, simple and earthy elements can add a beautiful flare – like lavender, eucalyptus, and similar sorts of soft tones. – Luma Weddings
Interesting wedding lighting has the power to truly transform the look of your wedding. Thoughtful illumination can elevate the appearance of everything and everyone, from your cake table to your bridal makeup. Specialty wedding lighting adds more than just drama and style; it also gives your space dimension, either through the fixtures themselves or the light they cast. This is especially important if you’re working with raw space or high ceilings, like in a converted warehouse or farmhouse. When planning out the lighting that’s best for your wedding, visit the venue at the same time of day or night when your wedding will be to get a feel for the natural light you can expect. – Your Lovely Wedding
Whether it’s a game everyone participates in—or one that only some can play—games are a great way to boost the fun at a wedding and get people mingling. The games can revolve around the happy couple, or just be a fun thing for guests to do to pass the time. At outdoor weddings, I’ve seen corn hole, ring toss, and horseshoes. I’ve also seen trivia about the couple—and my personal favorite—the Shoe Game.
Games can vary in formality but are always fun. Best of all, some of them (like the Shoe Game) are 100% free!
Statement lighting: Lighting is more than just string lightbulbs or chandeliers. It can be a way to enhance the atmosphere of your wedding. Too often couples forget how powerful statement lighting can be when it comes to creating a mood, or setting a scene. Lighting is atmosphere. It’s just as much a part of your décor as a centerpiece. In fact, I’d argue that it plays a bigger role than most centerpieces. – DMR Wedding Entertainment
Make sure you are using vendors that are insured and can provide you a copy of their insurance certificate. Hire a month-of-coordinator. You may think having an at-home wedding is easy. But you will be happy you hired a professional to keep you organized and to a manager the day for you.
If you are having your wedding on a Saturday, rental companies generally like to drop off home rentals the day before and pick up on Monday. After hours delivery/pick up can be expensive, so you will save money if you can accommodate their schedule which is when they are less busy. Have a contingency plan if the weather gets bad. Can you move the wedding inside if it rains? If not, you will need to rent tents and heaters. – Annemarie Donaker Wedding and Events
Things that couples always forget to do when planning their wedding: Budget for gratuity! Gratuity is one of the most often overlooked items in the budgeting process. When you’re looking at your total cost of catering, for example, keep in mind that you’re going to want to include an 18-22% gratuity on top of the final bill (some vendors even require a certain percentage of gratuity to be added in their contracts). Keep in mind that you may also want to arrange tips for your day of vendors. While this isn’t required, it is always certainly appreciated. Consider preparing tip envelopes and designating someone to distribute them on the day of.
Don’t sleep on thrift shopping! Thrift stores aren’t only a great spot to find unique dinnerware and decor, but by using second-hand decorations you’re minimizing waste. If you’d like to really step up you’re environmental-friendliness you can make biodegradable confetti by using a hole punch and florals or leaves! – Lindsey Paradiso Photography
On your wedding day, have a dedicated person (or small group) to act as a greeter, traffic director, emcee, to direct guests and keep everything moving smoothly, whether that’s a hired coordinator or planner or a very capable friend. You will have a more enjoyable day if that person is responsible for all the small and large logistics of even a small wedding.
Greet your guests with food and drinks. Even a few appetizers or grazing stations before your ceremony will put your guests at ease.
Accept the beauty, and limitations, of your backyard. In the weeks before, a little extra planting and sprucing up is all you really need. Instead of bringing in lots of big furniture, wall installations, etc., focus on making your tables shine with bright blooms, colorful glassware, and linens. – Nimble Well
When planning a backyard wedding, the layout and function of the space are really important. Start by drawing out a fairly detailed diagram that flows well and works for your space. If you’re bringing rentals in, make sure to point out specifics like which way you will be facing for ceremony or how large of a space to leave for dancing. Something to also keep in mind is where the sun will be throughout the day. You don’t want to be squinting in your photos, so plan the day and photographs with where the sun in mind. – Milk Events
Hire a lighting company (so you basically rent lighting) or buy/borrow enough bistro lights to light your backyard up for after hours. Your reception will look magical with lights in the trees, any kind of bushes, helps the photographer maintain the ambiance without adding flash (which puts a different feel to your photos).
Gift blankets or throws as wedding favors! Throw some on the grass as well for extra seating on those brisk summer nights. Looks really cozy.
Get a donut/dessert/ice cream cart to come later on in the evening for a midnight snack. Always such a nice surprise. – Jenn Tai Photo Artistry
At Anticipation Events, we believe in using what you already know and love to bring the inside outdoors (weather permitting of course.) Do you have a table and chairs you love? Bring it outside! A color scheme you adore? Bring it to NEW life to incorporate the indoor decor outside. No need to change the game for your wedding. Most of our clients have been living together for years and already have a look and a style they gravitate towards…Anticipation Events can help you bring your indoor vibes – outside! – Anticipation Events
For a backyard wedding, it’s easy to overlook the people that may not have been invited–your neighbors. For those you aren’t close with, I strongly suggest walking around the neighborhood two weeks out, knocking on doors, sharing details and having a smile on your face! A quick one sheet, with timing, a point of contact such as a wedding planner, and a bottle of wine or cookies will do wonders to make the experience pleasant even after the wedding. – I Do…Weddings & Events
Consider pulling in some personal touches by using some of your own home furniture. A great vase for your card collector, sofa or patio set for a lounge set up and frames and smaller decor to complete the look. Take advantage of the extra set up time by getting it all set up early, plus it will save on any rental costs while adding that unique flair.
Consider hiring a wedding planner or at least a wedding coordinator to help you in the final months. You’ve worked so hard to plan a personal and unique wedding at your home that you should protect that investment with someone who can help you stay on time, organize a timeline, and handle all of the logistics so you can enjoy your wedding at home. – Samantha Leenheer, Samantha Joy Events
When planning the perfect outdoor backyard wedding, do not forget to think about restrooms! Your home with 2.5 bathrooms works great for a family of 4 but when inviting 100 guests, the line can back up quickly! Think about adding some luxury restroom facilities that won’t look like a port-a-potty but will still provide the functionality you need. Bathrooms might not be a sexy wedding topic, but a very necessary consideration! – Ashley Nicole Events
PartySlate recommends skipping the folding chairs and elevating your patio furniture by contacting an events rental company. From on-theme chairs and tables to unique tablescape décor, rental and décor companies can transform your backyard into the most sought-after wedding venue around. One of our favorite wedding trends of 2020 is colorful lounge spaces for your guests to kick their feet up and relax — they’ll appreciate a place to sit after dancing all night. Think loungers, couches, pillows, layered rugs, and more. – PartySlate
Before couples begin to plan a backyard wedding, it is important they check the city regulations/ordinance on hosting a large party and send out a message to any near-by neighbors. This is not just a courteous gesture, but important to ensure neighbors do not complain about noise violations amongst other complaints on the special day!
As space can be a constraint depending on the guest list, it is imperative to think outside-the-box and strategically design the backyard, using every inch, as functionally as possible. For example: adding beautiful torches that would help create a romantic ambiance, but also repel mosquitos, especially if it’s a summer wedding.
Having a weather plan i.e. a tent on stand-by or indoor space as plan B, so Mother Nature does not come in the way of having the time of their lives!
Hiring wallet or a near-by parking lot is always advised to prevent parking frustrations and giving guests a VIP experience as every little detail matters. – Details for Days
We love private residence weddings! Be sure to think about how your space will transform at night! The “twinkle under the stars” effect is definitely considered, but guest safety and comfort also need to be considered once the sun goes down. We review all the pathways, such as to the bathroom or to the parking area and consider that from different angles such as – is the pathway well lit? Is it flat or made of something that’s difficult to walk on? Is it manageable in heels? Will it be slick or muddy if it rains the day before? These aspects all come into play when you’re creating your own custom environment to make sure that all your guests are comfortable and have a great time! – Bride’s Best Friend
Be sure to order a large enough tent with walls, fans, and dimmable LED lighting.
-Be sure to hire a wedding expert to coordinate the flow of the wedding in coordination with all the vendors.
-Properly size your dance floor.
-Make sure you order enough tables for all of your vendors; DJ, Photobooth, etc.
-Plug your musicians into a dedicated ‘house outlet’ not a generator. Generators are unstable and can cause issues with audio equipment. – Chicago Wedding Blog
What makes a backyard wedding special is that it allows you to have a venue that no one else has ever rented out before! It’s unique to you and your future spouse. That being said, we encourage couples to go the extra mile and provide some luxuries that larger wedding venues offer. Think about providing valet service if parking is tricky, spend a little more on lighting up your backyard with the perfect mood lighting, and create comfortable nooks and lounge spaces to make your guests feel right at home! – Cause We Can Events
Planning a backyard wedding is fun and exciting—treat the yard as a blank canvas just waiting to be painted with your favorite colors & textures. Always remember that guests want to be wined and dined just as much as they want to witness your new union. So, valet is always a good call—it’s the first impression you make, so make it smooth and easy. Have an ugly fence and really feel like covering it somehow? Don’t. The more you try and cover and hide objects the more attention you draw to it, so just let things be and work around them. But, the best advice we can give to anyone planning a backyard wedding is to hire a wedding planner—this is YOUR day and you should be able to sit back and actually ENJOY the day. – P.S. & Associates Event Planning
Have the ceremony where there will be even light on your faces. To make sure you look your best in your ceremony photos, it’s important to consider lighting — specifically, planning your ceremony spot where your faces will be evenly lit. Whether this means exchanging vows in the shade of trees during an afternoon ceremony, or having a morning or sunset ceremony when the light is more, is up to you.
Don’t forget to scout for portrait locations. While your backyard may be perfect for your ceremony and reception, stepping outside your backyard will give you an opportunity to get a variety of looks of your big day. You know your neighborhood best — is there a nearby park or street mural? A coffee shop or bookstore you two frequent? Talk through options with your photographer, who can help you optimize your itinerary without taking too much of your time away from family and friends. – Everly Studios
Tented backyard weddings offer amazing reception lighting for your backyard wedding as well as hanging ambient lights with the night sky above. Both offer a beautiful, romantic, rustic vibe to the special day. Adding lighting to the centerpieces such as candles, LED’s or such gives the decor that extra special look for the evening.
Always have a plan for guest parking or transportation for your guests. If your backyard wedding doesn’t have space for guests to park but they’re all staying at a nearby hotel, it might be a good idea to arrange a shuttle service to bring a guest to and from their hotel. Another very important sometimes forgotten is to plan bathroom accommodations for your guests. If the wedding is in your own backyard, I’m sure you’d like it if your guests had a bathroom to use without having to go into your own house. Hire a bathroom service company with boutique / high-end service where the portable bathrooms are comfortable, spacious and most importantly clean. – Richard B. Flores Photography
Backyard weddings are beautifully intimate. When deciding on the ceremony location, choose a site that will give you the best light at that time of day. Your photographer can be an asset in making this decision, ask them and they should be able to help you choose the best spot for the vows. – La Vie Photography
Having an experienced wedding planner involved in your backyard wedding will help to ensure you don’t forget any details along the way. Some notables are: plenty of bathroom options for guests (and not just inside your house!), collecting power and water needs from all your vendors, planning for a separate tent or area for the caterer to prepare food, making sure there is plenty of light as the sun sets, and parking places for guests. It’s also probably a good idea to invite all of your closest neighbors, as this reduces noise complaints as the party heats up. Once you have checked all the boxes you are free to enjoy your beautiful and personal celebration. – Five Grain Events
Power and electricity always seem to be a big obstacle when planning a backyard wedding, because your home was not designed to give off that much power at once. So be prepared to rent extra generators to power lighting, music, restroom trailers, food warmers, etc. I would recommend working with an experienced and reputable rental company that can walk you through the additional rental items and power needs you will have.
Consider who you do or don’t want going in and out of your house all day. Some guests will take it upon themselves to use your personal bathroom vs. the restroom trailer you rented or your caterer may take over your kitchen. If you would rather not have guests and vendors in your home, make sure you keep the doors locked and only hand out keys to those you trust (i.e. immediate family, wedding planner/coordinator, etc.) – Stellaluna Events
Planning a backyard wedding can be so romantic! The decor, the string lights, a beautiful evening…but with the absence of a venue, there is much to consider. What would a venue handle that now falls into your lap? Neighborhoods often have parking restrictions or require permits for large events. How many bathrooms are in the house? You’ll likely want to rent a few classy portables, particularly those with a working water supply! Talk to the neighbors and prepare them, discuss options for street parking nearby. Most of all – hire an event planner, and especially a Day of Coordinator – the expert assistance will be crucial to an event with so many moving parts. – An Event Less Ordinary
Make sure that you have a rain plan, especially if you live in an area with unreliable weather. Renting a tent is the easiest way to make sure
that you won’t get rained out (and they can provide some nice shade if the weather is hot, too). Also, if you don’t have a lot of scenic areas around the home to do photos, consider picking a nearby pretty location to visit before the festivities for taking portraits. – Melissa Miksch Team
My best tip would be to have a first look! There are two reasons for this. One: it helps the day flow so much better because you can do all the family & wedding party photos before the ceremony and go straight to mingling and celebrating afterward. Two: it is a beautiful, private moment for the wedding couple and allows them to be more expressive with their emotions because they don’t have dozens of people looking on! – Jamie Buckley Photography
Outdoor weddings are different than indoor events because you have to be aware of the elements. If putting up a tent, you have to check the footing… you do not want to get flooded and may opt for flooring. Centerpieces need to consider wind when doing candles and high arrangements. A clear top tent can create a greenhouse effect and burnout your flowers. There are many things to take into account and that is why it is always best to hire an experienced wedding planner who will address these issues.
Lighting is one of the most important factors in planning an outdoor wedding. Tents do not have lighting built-in so we design the lighting to be added to the tent. If it’s a late June wedding, the sun could be up until 9 pm and if much time and resources were devoted to the lighting, then they might go to waste on the guest experience. Also, if you have a sunset time at 8 pm and you haven’t installed enough lighting, you could be in the dark by entrée. – North Shore Events
The biggest mistake that I see most amateur photographers make when taking outdoor photos is how they place their subjects relative to the position of the sun. They place the subjects so they are facing into the sun (sun behind the photographer), and this means they end up with a lot of photos of very “squinty” people as well as lots of harsh shadows and hot-spots.
A knowledgeable pro photographer will turn the subjects so the sun is BEHIND them (photographer facing into the sun), and then use what is called fill-flash to take the photo. The result is photos where the subjects look like they are being lit evenly by the sun, but no problems with squinty eyes or bad lighting. A good photographer will even be able to catch some great backlighting using this technique. – Tom Ellis Photography
Another important part of making your home work as a venue for your wedding is electricity. You will need plenty of electricity for a band or DJ, and for tent lighting, which you likely need a lot of in your backyard. Therefore getting a power generator is a must!
Depending on your guest count, you will likely want to plan on renting portable bathrooms so that guests aren’t wandering through the home or waiting in line to use the indoor bathroom. Even if you rent some luxurious portable bathrooms, adding a touch of floral to them not only adds a nice pop of color but also some much-needed fragrance. – Life in Bloom
Many couples underestimate the amount of time makeup and hair take. Delay of makeup and hair from our experience causes over 80% of schedule delays. We recommend padding the preparation time and starting it earlier than what the artists recommend.
Work with your photographer on when to allocate time for your portraits. If possible, avoid doing it in the middle of the day when the lighting is the least flattering. Of course, top professional photographers can create beautiful portraits at any time of the day, but the results will be even better when you do your portraits when the sun isn’t at the highest point in the day. – Wasio Photography
If you are renting portable bathrooms for the wedding, set up an empty table nearby so that guests can set down drinks, plates, bags or whatever before they start using the facilities. You might even want to include a sign to give people the hint, but it lets you do all the needed business and have clean hands before picking back up food or drink. – Joe Tobiason Photography
It’s important to consider the lighting in your back yard at the time of the day when your wedding will be held. If possible, avoid having your ceremony in an area that will be in direct sunlight since this will be uncomfortable for guests during the Summer months. If you have an open shade area you can benefit from the look of the beautiful trees to keep guests comfortable. Open shade is also great for photos! If trees can’t create a natural canopy a tent is also a good option. Just make sure that the sun isn’t directly backlighting you during the ceremony since this will make your photos dark. – IJ Photo
Always be ready 1 hour before guest arrival. Most people are on time for weddings, and when they are at home, people tend to come early. After the ceremony, be sure that you can retreat to a private space – just the two of you savor the moment, have a toast, make sure you eat something and drink plenty of water. – George Abrams Events