Ultimate Guide for Planning the Perfect Backyard Wedding


Planning a wedding can be a daunting task, but planning a backyard wedding can be even more overwhelming. However, it can be a beautiful and intimate way to celebrate your special day with the right preparation and organization. In this guide, I will share my tips and tricks for planning the ultimate backyard wedding.

First and foremost, having a backyard wedding reception can be a wonderful option for those who want to save money on venue costs and create a more personal and unique experience. Whether it’s your own backyard or a friend’s, there are many ways to transform the space into the perfect setting for your special day. From simple backyard weddings to dream backyard weddings, there are endless possibilities for creating a memorable and meaningful celebration.

All the guests seated for dinner under the tent at the backyard wedding.

With a smaller guest list, an intimate wedding can be a great way to focus on the love and connection between you and your partner. It allows for a more relaxed and comfortable atmosphere where you can truly enjoy the company of your loved ones. I’ve hosted both a large wedding and an intimate backyard wedding. We have also hosted a 50th Anniversary Party that included a vow renewal. So, let’s dive into the details and start planning the perfect backyard wedding!

the bride with her floral bouquet which was a mix of pink flowers to match the mood of the intimate vintage backyard garden wedding.

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Choosing the Right Date and Time

As someone who has planned a backyard wedding, I can tell you that choosing the right date and time is crucial for a successful event. When it comes to outdoor weddings, you want to ensure that the weather is on your side and that your guests are comfortable. Here are some things to consider when picking your wedding date and time:

Handy” and me at our Wedding in 1993

Weather Considerations

One of the biggest factors to consider when choosing a wedding date is the weather. You want to make sure that your big day is not ruined by rain or extreme heat. Ideally, the best time to have a backyard wedding is during the spring or fall when the weather is mild. If you’re planning a summer wedding like I did for all three events, consider having it in the late afternoon or early evening when the sun is not as strong.

It’s also a good idea to have a backup plan in case of inclement weather. Consider renting a tent or having an indoor space available in case of rain.

Peak Wedding Season

Another thing to consider when choosing a wedding date is peak wedding season. This is typically during the summer months when many couples choose to tie the knot. Not only can this make it harder to find vendors and venues, but it can also drive up prices.

If you’re looking to save some money, consider having your wedding during the off-season. This can be a great way to get better deals on everything from catering to flowers.

Overall, choosing the right date and time for your backyard wedding is all about balancing your personal preferences with practical considerations like weather and peak wedding season. By doing your research and being flexible, you can plan a beautiful and memorable outdoor wedding that you and your guests will cherish forever.

a vintage chair in the outdoor living room at our home which was the site for our daughters intimate vintage backyard wedding

Understanding Legalities and Logistics

As much as we would like to think that planning a backyard wedding is as simple as setting up a few chairs and an altar, several legalities and logistics need to be considered. In this section, I will cover some of the most important factors to keep in mind when planning your ultimate backyard wedding.

Noise Ordinances

One of the most important things to consider when planning a backyard wedding is the noise level. Most cities have noise ordinances that prohibit loud noises after a certain time, usually around 10 pm. It is important to check with your local authorities to see what the noise ordinance is in your area and plan your wedding accordingly. You don’t want to be shut down by the police in the middle of your reception!

We luckily live on a dead-end street with very agreeable neighbors. “Handy” also happens to be our Village President, which has its perks. 

Parking Solutions

Another important factor to consider is parking. Depending on the size of your wedding, you may need to arrange for additional parking solutions. You can hire a valet service or rent a nearby parking lot to accommodate your guests.

It is important to ensure your guests have a safe and convenient place to park so they can enjoy your wedding without worrying about their cars. For our small wedding, parking wasn’t an issue, but for our larger events, we hired valet parkers who moved the cars to a large parking area and shuttled them back and forth. 

boat house and boat

Event Insurance

Finally, it is important to consider event insurance. While we all hope that our wedding day will go smoothly, accidents can happen. Event insurance can protect you from liability in case someone is injured, or property is damaged during your wedding. It is important to speak with your insurance agent to see what type of coverage you need and what your options are. In total transparency, I didn’t have this for any of our events, and we got lucky, but it does really make sense not to hedge your bets. 

Planning a backyard wedding can be a lot of work, but with the right preparation, it can be a beautiful and memorable experience for you and your guests. By keeping these legalities and logistics in mind, you can ensure that your wedding day is a success.

Marriage Certificate

Depending on where you live it might be different but our marriage certificates had to be from the county clerk in the county where our home resides. You want to make sure that your marriage is going to be legally recognized 🙂

small floral arrangement of pink peonies with a few sprigs of other pink flowers for the intimate backyard wedding

Budgeting for Your Backyard Wedding

Planning a wedding can be stressful, especially when it comes to budgeting. But with a backyard wedding, you can save a lot of money while still having a beautiful and intimate celebration. Here are some things to consider when budgeting for your backyard wedding.

Costs to Consider

Before you start planning your backyard wedding, knowing what costs you’ll need to consider is important. Here are some of the main expenses you’ll need to budget for:

  • Tent or canopy rental
  • Tables and chairs
  • Linens and tableware
  • Lighting
  • Decorations
  • Sound system
  • Catering
  • Alcohol and beverages
  • Wedding attire
  • Photography and Videography
  • Officiant and marriage license
  • Transportation
  • Portable Bathroom Facilities

It’s important to remember that the cost of these items can vary greatly depending on your location, the size of your wedding, and the vendors you choose. Be sure to get quotes from multiple rental companies and vendors to compare prices and find the best deals.

Annie and Tommy walking across the yard with the wedding tent as the backdrop

Saving on Expenses

While there are some costs you can’t avoid, there are also ways to save money on your backyard wedding. Here are some tips to help you cut costs:

  • Keep your guest list small: The fewer guests you have, the less you’ll need to spend on food, drinks, and other expenses.
  • DIY decorations: Get creative and make your own centerpieces, bouquets, and other decorations to save money.
  • Use string lights: Instead of renting expensive lighting equipment, use string lights to create a romantic and intimate atmosphere.
  • Serve buffet-style: A buffet-style meal is often less expensive than a plated dinner, and it also gives guests more options to choose from.
  • Rent a sound system: Instead of hiring a DJ, rent a sound system and create your own playlist.

By following these tips and budgeting carefully, you can have the backyard wedding of your dreams without breaking the bank.

a place setting with a rose gold charger, white plate, vintage salad plate and a vintage tea cup holding flowers and a wooden name tag for the meal at our intimate vintage backyard wedding for our daughter

Designing Your Space

When it comes to designing your backyard wedding space, there are a few things to consider. You want to maximize the area while also creating a focal point that will draw your guests’ attention. Here are some tips on how to achieve both.

Maximizing the Area

First things first, make sure you have enough space for all your guests. You don’t want people feeling cramped or uncomfortable. If you have a large backyard, great! But even if you don’t, there are ways to make the most of what you have.

Consider using a paved courtyard area as your reception space. This will allow you to utilize the space more efficiently and keep your guests from sinking into the grass. You can also use tables and chairs that fold up easily to save space when not in use.

bride and groom on a celebratory board ride after they were married

Creating a Focal Point

Every great wedding needs a focal point, something that draws your guests’ attention and ties the whole event together. This could be a beautiful flower arch, a stunning centerpiece, or even a unique backdrop for your ceremony.

Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something that fits your style and personality. Don’t be afraid to get creative and think outside the box. Your backyard wedding is the perfect opportunity to showcase your unique vision and make it a day to remember.

The trellis that “Handy” and his Dad made for our wedding has been the backdrop again for both my parent’s vow renewal and Annie and Tommy’s Wedding.

With these tips, you can design a backyard wedding space that is both functional and beautiful. From maximizing your area to creating a focal point, you can create a space that will leave a lasting impression on your guests.

Planning the Ceremony

Seating Arrangements

When planning the seating arrangements for your backyard wedding ceremony, it’s important to consider the number of guests you’ll be inviting and the layout of your backyard. You’ll want to make sure that everyone has a good view of the ceremony and that there’s enough space for everyone to be comfortable.

One option is to set up rows of chairs facing the ceremony site. You can also consider using benches or even hay bales for a more rustic feel. Another option is to have guests stand for the ceremony, which can create a more intimate and informal atmosphere. We opted for white folding chairs for all of our events.

To make sure that everyone knows where to sit, consider creating a seating chart or using place cards. This will help ensure that everyone is seated in the correct location and that there are no mix-ups.

Personal Touches

Adding personal touches to your backyard wedding ceremony can make it even more special and memorable. Consider incorporating elements that are meaningful to you and your partner, such as:

  • A special reading or poem
  • A favorite song played during the ceremony
  • A unity ceremony, such as a sand ceremony or handfasting
  • Tu B’Va – Breaking of the Glass, which we did at Annie and Tommy’s Wedding
  • Family heirlooms or other sentimental items

You can also add personal touches to the decor, such as using flowers that have special meaning to you or incorporating elements from your wedding theme.

Remember, your backyard wedding is a special event; adding personal touches can make it even more unique and memorable.

Organizing the Reception

Dance Floor Setup

When it comes to a backyard wedding reception, you’ll need to make sure you have a designated area for dancing. The first step is to decide on the location of the dance floor. It should be easily accessible, but also not in the way of the dining area.

Next, you’ll need to decide on the type of dance floor you want. For Annie’s intimate wedding “Handy” made a dance floor down by the water that was perfect for our small event. For our own wedding and my parent’s party, we rented a dance floor. 

To add some extra flair to the dance floor, consider adding some lighting or decorations. String lights or lanterns can create a romantic ambiance, while a disco ball can add some fun and excitement.

Dining and Catering Options

Food is a crucial part of any wedding reception, and there are many options to choose from for a backyard wedding. Food trucks are a popular choice, as they can offer a variety of options and can be parked nearby for easy access.

If you prefer a more traditional catering option, you can hire a catering company. Make sure to have enough seating and tables for all your guests, and consider renting or purchasing linens and tableware to add some elegance to the dining area.

For the cocktail hour, consider setting up a separate area with some seating and a bar. You can hire a bartender or have a self-serve bar with various drinks and mixers. Don’t forget to provide some non-alcoholic options for guests who don’t drink.

For our wedding, we hired caterers and bartenders. For Annie and Tommy’s event, we made and catered it ourselves but did hire servers and a bartender. At my parents’ event, we made some of the food and catered some of the food. It was buffet-style, so everyone served themselves. 

Overall, organizing the reception for your backyard wedding requires some planning and attention to detail. With the right setup and catering options, you can create a memorable and enjoyable experience for you and your guests.

Entertainment and Activities

Music and Sound

Music and sound are an essential part of any wedding, and a backyard wedding is no exception. I recommend hiring a string quartet to play during the ceremony and cocktail hour. They add a touch of elegance and sophistication to the event. We did something like this for our wedding. For Annie and Tommy’s event we used customized play lists and played them from wireless speakers. 

A sound system is a must for the reception. You can rent one or hire a DJ to play music through out the night. Make sure to have a pre-plan your playlist to be ready with your favorite songs and some crowd-pleasers to keep everyone dancing.

Games and Fun

One of the perks of having a backyard wedding is the opportunity to incorporate fun yard games into the festivities. Cornhole, giant Jenga, and ladder toss are all great options that guests of all ages can enjoy. You can even personalize the games with your wedding colors or monogram.

In addition to yard games, consider setting up a photo booth with fun props for guests to take pictures throughout the night. For Annie and Tommy’s wedding we hung vintage frames from the trees for a photo op. It’s a great way to capture memories and entertain your guests.

Dealing with the Unexpected

As much as we plan for our big day, sometimes things don’t go exactly as planned. That’s why it’s important to have backup plans in place for any unexpected situations that may arise. Here are a few tips for dealing with the unexpected on your wedding day.

Backup Plans for Weather

Mother Nature can be unpredictable, so it’s important to have a plan B in case of rain or other inclement weather. If you’re planning an outdoor wedding, consider renting a tent or having an indoor backup location in case of rain.

Make sure to communicate the backup plan to your vendors and guests ahead of time so everyone knows what to expect. We had rain at both of our weddings but we got lucky in that it was both before the festivities began and after. Luck was on our side. 

Handling Last-Minute Issues

Even with the best planning, there may still be last-minute issues that arise. Whether it’s a vendor cancellation or a missing wedding party member, it’s important to stay calm and have a plan in place to handle the situation. Make sure to have a contact list of all your vendors and wedding party members, and designate someone to be in charge of handling any last-minute issues that may come up.

Remember, the last thing you want to do on your wedding day is stress about things out of your control. By having backup plans in place and staying calm in the face of unexpected situations, you’ll be able to enjoy your special day to the fullest.

Decorating Your Wedding Venue

As I planned my backyard wedding, I found that decorating the venue was one of the process’s most fun and creative parts. Here are some tips for creating the perfect atmosphere for your special day.

Lighting and Ambiance

One of the most important aspects of decorating your wedding venue is lighting. String lights are a great option for creating a warm and romantic atmosphere. I hung them above the dance floor and around the tent’s perimeter to add a soft glow to the space.

To add some extra ambiance, we set up several intimate seating areas for guests to relax. We used a lot of flameless candles around the yard. I also placed photo frames around the venue with pictures of my partner and me. This not only added a personal touch to the decor, but also served as a conversation starter for guests.

Thematic Decorations

To tie the overall theme of my wedding together, I incorporated thematic decorations throughout the venue. For example, since I had a nautical theme, I used navy blue and white striped tablecloths and placed seashells and starfish as centerpieces.

I also rented a Sperry tent, which added to the overall aesthetic of the wedding. The tent was perfect for creating an outdoor feel while still providing shelter from the elements.

By incorporating these tips into my wedding planning process, I was able to create a beautiful and memorable atmosphere for my backyard wedding.

Finalizing Details

The Day-Before Checklist

As the big day approaches, it’s important to have a day-before checklist to ensure that everything is in order. Here are a few things that I always make sure to do the day before the wedding:

  • Confirm final details with vendors, including delivery times and setup needs.
  • Pack a wedding day emergency kit with essentials such as a sewing kit, stain remover, and extra makeup.
  • Make sure all wedding decor and supplies are organized and ready to go.
  • Set up any necessary wedding signage, such as directional signs or a welcome sign.
  • Check the weather forecast and prepare accordingly.

Coordinating with Vendors

Communication with vendors is key to ensuring that everything runs smoothly on the day of the wedding. Here are a few tips for coordinating with vendors:

  • Provide vendors with a detailed timeline for the day of the wedding, including setup and breakdown times.
  • Confirm any special requests or requirements with vendors, such as specific music or lighting.
  • Discuss photography needs with the photographer, including any must-have shots or specific locations for photos.
  • Make sure all vendors have the necessary contact information for the wedding coordinator or point person.
  • Thank vendors for their hard work and dedication to making the wedding day special.

Overall, finalizing details is an important part of planning the ultimate backyard wedding. By staying organized and communicating effectively with vendors, you can ensure that everything runs smoothly and that you have the wedding of your dreams.

Making It Personal

As I planned my backyard wedding, I knew I wanted to make it as personal as possible. After all, this was a celebration of my love with my closest family and friends. Here are some ways I made my backyard wedding unique and special.

fireworks at the end of a beautiful intimate vintage backyard wedding

Involving Family and Friends

As much as possible, I involved my family and friends in the wedding planning process. My sister-in-law provided the music for the service at our wedding. Kenny and his best friend were an important part of the wedding service. At my parent’s event, we had a beloved pastor from their church flown in for the event, and their original maid of honor and best man stood next to them again.  It was truly a family affair for Annie and Tommy’s wedding since we had just immediate family in attendance because of COVID-19. 

Capturing Memories

I wanted to make sure I had plenty of memories to look back on from my wedding day. We hired a photographer to capture all the special moments, 

To make it even more personal, I created a guest book with pictures of my fiancé and me throughout our relationship. Our guests could sign the book and leave us a special message.

Overall, involving my family and friends and capturing memories made my backyard wedding feel uniquely personal and special.

charcuterie board appetizers which was perfect for an intimate vintage backyard wedding

Conclusion: Your Dream Day at Home

Planning an at-home wedding can be a daunting task, but with the right preparation and organization, it can also be the wedding of your dreams. With your backyard as the venue, you have the opportunity to create a unique and personalized experience for you and your guests. The key for me was starting the planning well in advance and making timelines and spreadsheets. 

On your big day, you can have the wedding venue of your dreams right at home. You can decorate your backyard with flowers, lights, and other decorations to create a romantic atmosphere. You can also set up a dance floor, a photo booth, and other fun activities to keep your guests entertained throughout the night.

One of the best things about having an at-home wedding is the flexibility it offers. You can choose your own vendors, caterers, and other wedding professionals to ensure that your wedding day is exactly how you want it. You can also save money on venue fees and other costs associated with traditional wedding venues.

In conclusion, an at-home wedding can be the perfect way to have your dream wedding while staying within your budget. With the right planning and preparation, you can create a memorable and unique experience for you and your guests. So why not consider having your wedding at home and make your dream wedding a reality?

Peace and Love

Photography: www.chelseybarhorst.com

Giveaway Winner!

And the winner is….. CJ Keen! Thanks to everyone who entered this amazing Dixie Belle Giveaway!

CJ, please contact me via email lynn@livinglargeinasmallhouse.com within 48 hours to claim your $200 shopping spree.

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Meet Me

I’m an Interior Designer, Professional Organizer, and Party Planner who lives in the suburbs of Chicago in a 1,300 sq., ft., home with my “Handy” husband, Keith.

I’m an open book about my life on my blog. Find out more about me by tapping the button below.

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