Backyard weddings are a popular choice for engaged couples who want a cozy, at-home feel for their celebration, but many people are surprised to find that they’re often more difficult to plan than a traditional wedding. While some event professionals caution against backyard weddings due to financial and logistical constraints, many embrace the challenge as an opportunity to get creative and find innovative solutions.
So whether you’ve always pictured tying the knot at your childhood home or if you and your partner want your wedding to feel like a casual family reunion, a backyard wedding can certainly be in the cards!
Rely on the experts for guidance and follow these best practices for a backyard wedding that is as safe and comfortable as it is sentimental.
Be mindful of your budget.
Backyard weddings often carry the misconception that they are more affordable than a traditional celebration, but that isn’t the case most of the time. Making a home “event-ready” comes with many considerations beyond the scope of typical wedding planning, so prepare your budget and your timeline accordingly.
“When you’re not at a venue set up for events, you will often find that you need to pay to rent items that would otherwise be there,” explains Laura Maddox of Magnolia Celebrates. “Often there are several unforeseen costs either during, before, or after the event itself. From landscaping, and general home repairs, to actual event needs like tables, chairs, and even industrial ovens!”
Janice Carnevale of Bellwether Events echoes this sentiment, confirming that “tents, generators, restroom trailers, and lighting are unsexy things that will take up a big chunk of your budget. Renting a venue is often 10-15% of a wedding budget. Backyard wedding infrastructure is often 15-25% of a wedding budget. My home wedding couples easily spend 10-20% more overall than my couples who rent a venue.”
If you’re working with a tight budget, a backyard wedding is still within reach. However, it may be wise to consider extending your planning timeline to allow for home improvements and spread payments over a longer period of time.
Pick the right time of year.
Backyards are subject to the same weather risks as any outdoor venue, except they likely aren’t equipped with backup solutions like water diversions or large covered spaces. So if your heart is set on backyard nuptials, plan around the seasons to mitigate risk.
“Choose the season when your backyard is at its finest,” encourages Steven Feinberg of Bunn DJ Company – San Diego. “Think about the background for your ceremony and take advantage of what photographers call ‘the golden hour’ for beautiful photographs.”
A perk of saying “I do” in a backyard is that you’ll know exactly when the flowers bloom, when the sun hits the perfect angle, and when the neighbors’ kids tend to get noisy. Familiarity helps you plan wisely!
Expect a days-long process.
When you get married at a wedding venue, you don’t have to worry about vendors dropping off equipment in the days leading up to the celebration. However, when it’s your (or a loved one’s) home, it can be inconvenient to have people coming and going from your property for nearly a week — especially when you’re preparing to get married!
As Maddox notes, “Keep in mind that you may have an event on a Saturday, but you’ll likely have teams loading in all day Friday and maybe even the Thursday before. You’ll also likely have items still being picked up the Monday after the event, as you can save a good deal on delivery and pick-up fees if you avoid weekends/late nights.”
Work closely with your vendor team to coordinate drop-off and pickup schedules to reduce confusion. And if you’re hosting at a friend or family member’s house, be sure to pick up a thoughtful thank-you gift to show your appreciation!
Plan ahead for energy consumption.
A standard home’s electrical system isn’t strong enough to power a large event, so don’t expect to simply plug everything in if your wedding is anything more than a family dinner.
“To handle your entertainment, lighting, catering, and a bit more, you will likely need a 45KW generator,” Carnevale states. “This needs to be one of the first things delivered/installed, and make sure you schedule the pickup to coincide well with the rest of the removals.”
Ask your wedding planner, lighting designer, or entertainment provider for recommendations. Otherwise, you’ll risk shorting the power source — and dancing under the stars isn’t as fun as it sounds when it means guests can’t find their way around!
Protect your interests.
Wedding venues carry a significant amount of liability for events that take place onsite, but they are typically well-protected by insurance policies. Hosting a wedding at a residence means liability falls on the homeowner, so do your due diligence to cover all of your bases.
“Give your neighbors plenty of notice and check local or HOA ordinances regarding parking and noise,” Feinberg recommends. “Be sure to speak with your insurance agent about your homeowner’s policy and liability coverage, and make sure your vendors carry liability insurance. And always have a Plan B in case of rain.”
Just as you would insure a car or a home, event insurance is a must-have to protect your investment and safeguard yourself from potential loss.
Mitigate parking challenges.
The average home doesn’t have an open parking lot as most wedding venues do, so you’ll need to consider how your vendors will unload and load equipment upon arrival.
“You will have a dozen or more cars coming for your vendor team,” Carnevale reminds. “You don’t want to annoy any neighbors you might have with a lot of chaotic street parking. There should be a plan on where they will park, and you may need a parking director on site to ensure they park in the correct place.”
But vendors are only one piece of the puzzle. You also need to consider how many guests will drive to your wedding! Providing group transportation can solve this problem, but often brings new questions to the table.
“How many will come by group transportation?” Carnevale poses. “Can the roads and driveways to your home accommodate a large bus, or do you need to utilize smaller 14-passenger vans? If you think some guests will drive to the wedding, you may also want to offer valet service. And you may not want to leave your guests to self-park in a wide open field – especially if the ground is soft and if it’s very dark in that area after sunset.”
While the logistics of a backyard wedding might have you searching for nearby event venues, don’t let a complicated process get in the way of your perfect wedding. A great team of vendors experienced with backyard events and other non-traditional spaces can apply their expertise to bring your vision to life without the headache!
Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.