Planning a wedding can be tricky. The recent bankruptcy of Noah’s Event Venue nationwide has sent couples scrambling to find their next dream venue. Often, the perfect place can be right in your own back yard. Literally! Backyard weddings are becoming trendy. However, they are not without their own challenges. What better place to celebrate lifelong commitment with your partner than the home where you’ll be building your life together? Or a childhood home with hundreds of memories.
While the effort might be greater, the payoff is surely worth it. To help ensure your special day goes as smoothly as possible, I have teamed up with Redfin and wedding experts from across the country offering our advice when planning a backyard wedding. Together, we can find your perfect home and plan the perfect wedding!
Salt and Pine Photography: 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 dining 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 a wedding!
Sarah Anne 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.
Luma Weddings: Decor: To be frank, this totally depends on your budget and the 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.
DMR Wedding Entertainment: 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 the 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.
Annemarie Donaker Wedding and Events: 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.
Lindsey Paradiso Photography: 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.
Nimble Well: 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.
Milk Events: 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.
Anticipation Events: 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!
I Do…Weddings & 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.
City Love Photography: 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.
PartySlate: 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.
Bride’s Best Friend: 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!
Chicago Wedding Blog: Be sure to order a large enough tent with walls, fans, and dimmable LED lighting. Plug your musicians into a dedicated ‘house outlet’ not a generator. Generators are unstable and can cause issues with audio equipment.
Cause We Can Events: 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. 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!
P.S. & Associates Event Planning: 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.
Everly Studios: 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.
Richard B. Flores Photography: 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.
La Vie 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.
Five Grain Events: 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.
An Event Less Ordinary: 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.
Melissa Miksch Team: 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.
Jamie Buckley Photography: 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!
North Shore Events: 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.
Tom Ellis Photography: 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.
Life in Bloom: Another important part of making your homework 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!
Wasio Photography: 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.
Joe Tobiason 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.
IJ 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.
Finally, wrapping up all of these important tips is my advice. “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!” Also, check out these other amazing vendors from across the country. You are in good hands with this group of professionals!