Planning a Backyard Wedding? Read This First

The word echoes through every newly-engaged person's mind: location, location, location. Arguably the most important part of the planning process, the wedding venue sets the tone for the entire affair. Church? Nix the backless bridesmaid dresses. Destination? You need to give your guests as much advance notice as possible — flights to Punta Cana don't come cheap. Hotel? Be prepared to use their preferred catering service. And all this before you've planned the flowers, cake, music, invitations.... need we go on? So it's completely understandable that many couples opt for more low-key venue that also has sentimental value (and essentially no cost). Whether it's your childhood home, a farm that's been in the family for generations, a beloved beach house, or any other family property, a "backyard" wedding may seem like the perfect way to pay homage to your past as you begin your new life as a married person. But before you set the date, there are some crucial aspects of an "at-home" wedding to consider:

Guest List

Many people begin their wedding planning with the intention of having a smaller, more intimate affair. But wait, what about the co-worker you eat lunch with sometimes? Your father's cousin in Ohio? And don't forget to count your friends' spouses and dates. Before you know it, you've got a list of 175. While your home comfortably accommodated a family of four growing up, it could be a tight fit for a hundred of your closest friends and relatives. Nearly every subsequent decision about the wedding (food, drink, flowers, seating....) will take the guest count into consideration, so think carefully about the space constraints of a private home. Your backyard may be able to hold a hundred guests standing, but once tables and chairs enter the mix, you'll have to cut that number in half.


Speaking of tables and chairs, booking a professional venue almost always includes such amenities, plus dishes, glassware, a dance floor, and more. If you're getting hitched at home, you'll have to rely on a rental company to provide these essentials. Be sure to get quotes from several companies, and compare their prices those of established venues. The cost of labor and transportation alone could be steep, and you may not want to pay more to transform your backyard than you would for a ballroom or museum that comes with its own chairs and forks.


We all know what they say about the good luck a rainy wedding day brings. But when you're tying the knot outside, precipitation is often less than ideal. If you're unable to comfortably relocate guests and festivities inside the home, a tent (without leaks) is a must. In addition to rain on the wedding day, consider a contingency plan for rain leading up to the wedding. If you plan to assemble tables, chairs, and other furnishings on grass, then soggy, muddy ground won't cut it. Diligently check the forecast and consider assembling a tent several days in advance to keep any spontaneous showers from dousing you and your guests.


Your guests are there to celebrate with you — not wait in line to use the restroom. Chances are that your home won't have sufficient amenities for everyone present, resulting in long lines, guests wandering the house, inevitably clogged pipes, and potentially disastrous effects on the septic system. Besides, to where will the bride retreat if all the private bathrooms are already taken? Everyone knows that peeing in a wedding dress is far from easy, and there's no better way to kill the mood than by cutting 20 of your guests in a mad dash for the restroom. Portable facilities are an absolute must, and luckily there are now lots of discreet, relatively attractive options. No bright blue Porta-Potty required.


Remember that scene in Father of the Bride when Steve Martin parks cars on the front lawn? Don't put your father (or anyone) through that. Before assuming guests can find street parking, be sure to check neighborhood or homeowner's association parking guidelines. While there may be space along the street, a large number of cars could result in a violation. Be courteous to neighbors by searching for an alternate location, such as a nearby vacant parking lot, and arrange for a shuttle service back and forth before and after the festivities.

Choosing a familiar, meaningful location will undoubtedly add a special element to your wedding, and it's certainly possible to create a beautiful celebration, tailored to you and your significant other, with a backyard feel. Just remember to research the details above before committing. Trust us, your big day will be much better for it.