A Guide to Hosting a Backyard Wedding - baileyalexphotography.com

Hosting a backyard wedding can be amazing, but there’s so much to consider when hosting on your own property.

Backyard weddings are honestly some of my favorite kinds of weddings to photograph because I truly feel like hosting the biggest event of your life in a place you know so well is such a special thing! Many times, having a backyard wedding also makes your day much more go-with-the-flow, which I LOVE (hello stress reducer!). Having your wedding on your own property can also provide much more freedom to do things exactly how you want to. There are no venue restrictions such as preferred caterers, decor/candle restrictions, etc. AND you can set up however early you want and go all out!

While backyard weddings have so many pros such as much more freedom in your planning decisions, no guest limit, etc. there are a few things that really need to be considered before you decide on a backyard wedding vs. a venue wedding because backyard weddings are not always as easy as they seem. Once you decide to go ahead with your backyard wedding, theres a few extra steps of planning that need to be considered, so here ya go!

Step 1: Determine if a backyard wedding is actually feasible & plan out spacing.

This step really will determine if you have the capacity and ability to actually host your wedding in your backyard or on your own property. The first thing I would consider is if you are having the whole day on your yard or if you are just hosting the reception or the ceremony on your yard. In either instance, finding spaces large enough for either or both of those is priority number 1. The amount of space needed for each of those will really depend on how many guests you plan to invite.

You also will need a space large enough for everyone to park their cars. A good rule of thumb for that is to have enough space to park 1 car for every 2 guests you plan on inviting, plus room for your vendors vehicles (which may be bigger such as a van for the DJ or caterer). In all of these spaces, you also want to make sure that it’s accessible so that grandparents or those with disabilities could get to and from each space.

Other things that need to be considered and looked into are county or city permits or requirements, extra insurance such as an umbrella policy for the day, fire codes for indoor spaces, noise requirements or limits, transportation to hotels or letting guests camp in your yard, and alcohol serving permits based on your county or state.

Here’s an idea of spacing required for a ceremony and reception for about 300 guests as well as a ceremony for about 50 guests. The first three photos are from Heidi & Ty’s ceremony under a willow tree, and the second three photos are from their machine shop reception of about 300 guests. Their machine shop was about 100’x70′ just to give an idea of measurable size. The last three photos are from Brooke & Nick’s wedding. You can’t see the whole ceremony space, but they had about 4 rows of benches on each side. Their seating was much more spaced out than Heidi & Ty’s, but still used much less space.

Step 2: Plan the basics such as a tent, building, chairs, tables, etc.

Hosting a wedding without renting a venue brings on some challenges, one of which is finding all the rentals you’ll need. Depending on your yard setup and what buildings you already have, you may need a tent – this will likely require you to rent from a rental company, and likely the company will also have all the other rentals you will need such as tables and chairs. If you do not want to rent tables or chairs & you are having a relatively small wedding, you may be able to borrow them from someone local OR even buy them from Cosco or Sam’s Club or any other large department store. You will likely also need a generator if you don’t already own one. Weddings take a lot of electricity, so make sure to plan accordingly.

There are tons of rental companies such as Hahn Event Rentals in Moscow & Lewiston or Event Rents in Spokane. Most of these companies will also have heating options, table cloths, flatware, and almost anything else you would need for the logistics of a backyard wedding.

Rentals for a backyard wedding are typically the biggest cost of the event, right behind catering, so make sure to budget in a larger portion for rentals than you would for a venue wedding. A tent like the one pictured below runs anywhere from $1,500 for a small wedding to upwards of $5,000 for a large wedding. To add features such as side walls, drapes, or lighting is going to be additional costs as well. While not every backyard wedding requires a tent, they are a great option if you don’t have a weather backup plan or any shelter from the weather (sun, rain, or wind).

Below are photos from Shelby & Jake’s wedding so you can see just how massive this tent is. The first photo is from the front of the tent near the head table. The second is from the back after the party had gotten started. There were about 400 guests that attended Shelby & Jake’s wedding just for an idea of size.

Step 3: Decide on catering and alcohol services.

This step is the next part of the process, and again, is quite different than hosting at a venue. Most caterers are used to having plenty of space and outlets, and often times are used to having a kitchen available for setup. When discussing with your potential caterers, make sure they are aware of the limitations of space as well as any electrical limitations as well.

For alcohol, I have seen several options: the cheapest for you is to make your wedding a BOYB, however that isn’t always the most appropriate for a wedding. The next option would be to contact a local bar and see if they would provide alcohol and bartending and have a cash bar. This helps avoid any legal wrongdoings and puts someone else in charge of the situation who knows more about permits and requirements for serving alcohol. (This is what I did for my wedding, and I highly recommend it!)

Another option would be to buy and supply all the alcohol & just hire a bartending service, or even have a family member or friend serve. If you choose the latter of the options, please check into the requirements for serving alcohol and a potential liquor license. From my research, as long as your wedding is a private event and is not advertised, and is invite only, then a liquor license is not needed.

No matter which way you go, here are some great bar set up ideas from a couple of my backyard weddings this summer! In the first photo of Shelby & Jake’s outdoor area, the bar is located in the tin grain bin that is lit up and they provided spools for people to mingle at. In the second one, the bar is set up under the tent at Rachel & Derek’s wedding.

Step 4: Find and book other vendors.

You will need all of the typical wedding vendors, but you may also need some extra vendors that are easy to forget. Here’s a comprehensive list of vendors to look into if you are hosting your wedding in your backyard:

  • Wedding planner or day-of coordinator: one vendor to heavily consider that isn’t always necessary is a wedding planner or day of coordinator since there are a ton of moving parts. Generally, you can also add on set-up and tear-down of decor for your wedding day, which can take a lot of stress off you and your family/friends. They also will help a ton with coordinating any other commonly forgotten things on your day as well as making sure everyone that was given a job is doing the job. If you are more like me & want to take on the planning on your own, check out this Simple Wedding Planning Course that will give you all the resources to be your own wedding planner for a fraction of the cost!
  • Rentals: Discussed above, but this vendor is incredibly important as you likely don’t have enough tables and chairs for your event size.
  • Photographer: pretty self-explanatory, just make sure they are comfortable getting to your location, and offer to let them visit your property prior to your wedding day. Make sure you find someone passionate about capturing intimate moments; I, for one, am a fan!
  • Videographer: same as above, if you need recommendations for amazing videographers that will work great with a backyard wedding, don’t hesitate to ask when you inquire with me!
  • Florist: A florist may want to visit your property to get a glimpse of your vision so they can plan accordingly. One of the best ways to up-level a space in your yard, tent, or building is to add florals!
  • Hair & Makeup: make sure they are aware of space limitations as well as know what lighting is like so they can bring any they might want or need.
  • DJ: Making sure that your DJ has plenty of outlets and power is a very important, but often overlooked part of a backyard wedding. You also want to give them a heads up of what the space will be like as well as lighting – they will probably recommend different lighting packages based on your property and what the conditions will be like!
  • Bakery: Pretty self-explanatory, just make sure you have enough space prepared for the dessert table.
  • Transportation: Making sure your guests have a safe way to get back to the hotel from your property after the wedding is a really important, so make sure to consider booking a bus or other means of transportation for the later hours of your wedding night.

Basically, as long as you communicate your plans to all your vendors *before* you book with them, you will have a smooth time making everything work smoothly on your wedding day.

Step 5: Prep and clean your yard and buildings.

Each yard is going to take a different level of preparation, so make sure you have a plan and give yourself plenty of time to get those spaces in line for the big day! The last thing you need on your wedding weekend is an all-nighter the night before your big day to get the spaces ready.

This one takes some major time and effort, especially if you are using a building that is already on your property. I would suggest starting on this as early as possible, and if you can’t do it more than a month in advance, make sure you have a few family members or friends enlisted to help you with this. Don’t forget to make a plan for getting power to all your spaces for your DJ and any other vendors that may need it!

As you can see, for Rebekah & Zach’s outdoor ceremony, they had to clear a path for the ceremony space through the leaves. And for Hanna & Logan’s shop reception, they had quite a bit of cleaning and decorating to do prior to hosting. Each space looks amazing, but hosting in buildings you already have can take a lot more preparation.

Step 6: Host the backyard wedding!

Other things happen in between, but for the sake of keeping this relevant to your situation, I skipped all of the general wedding planning things (if you want info on that kind of stuff, head to the tips & tricks category of my blog) and just gave information specific to hosting a wedding in your own backyard.

This is the MOST fun part, but it only goes smoothly if there’s a detailed plan and you have a really great support system for the day. There are many moving parts for a backyard wedding, so make sure you have plenty of trust-worthy people to help you out with jobs such as parking, cleaning, keeping the yard up-kept, and more based on your day’s requirements.

Having people to help out who know what they are doing prior to the wedding also takes the stress off of you and your parents so that you and your closest loved ones can be enjoying the day to it’s fullest!

Tips for Hosting a Backyard Wedding

This year I have had the amazing opportunity to be part of some amazing backyard weddings and I have compiled some of my best tips for hosting a backyard wedding – from logistics like parking to decor, I have seen some things done really well and some things that I would adjust. Let’s dive in!

Tip #1: Have a mingling area outdoors (weather permitting).

One of my favorite mingling spaces was from Shelby & Jake’s wedding this summer. They had large spools set up, a fire place available, and even had a grain bin bar set up outdoors as well! Having a space for people to mingle outdoors just provides an elevated experience, as long as the weather is permitting! I love being able to photograph your guests interacting, you and your new spouse interacting with your guests, and all the mingling happening during this time!

Tip #2: Accessible bathrooms are a must.

If you don’t want your guests traipsing into your house, rent a couple port-a-potties, and make sure that at least one of them is accessible – not only to make sure all your guests are accommodated for, but they are much more comfortable to move around in, especially if you will be using it as well.

Tip #3: Have a plan for parking.

Typically, for a wedding, there needs to be 1 parking space for every 2 guests (ex: for a guest list of 250, plan for 125 parking spaces). If you are having a large wedding, or if you have a long walk from the parking area to the event spaces, you will definitely want someone with a golf cart or similar that can bring people from their car to the wedding. At the very minimum, you will need a couple people directing traffic and making sure the rows stay decent.

Tip #4: Have a plan for garbage.

The few garbage cans you do have at your house will not be enough for the amount of garbage that your wedding will create (unless its a super intimate one!). Check with your local disposal company to see if they have any options for you, or plan to take a trip to the landfill.

Tip #5: Provide any items needed for a guest’s comfort.

Guests may appreciate that if the day is super sunny & hot that there is sunscreen available, or if it’s going to be cold that a shall or blanket is available for their use. Not only will helping your guests feel comfortable make them feel even more welcome, but giving them something to stay comfortable can also knock your wedding favors off the list of things to do – blankets are the perfect favor!

If you are still considering hosting a backyard wedding, make sure you take a look at some galleries from some of my favorite backyard weddings I have been a part of!

Shelby & Jake got married in their home church, but hosted their reception under a tent that was beautifully decorated in a warm orange color palette. If you want to get major backyard reception inspiration head strait to the reception section of their gallery!

Heidi & Ty hosted the whole shebang in their backyard with a gorgeous ceremony outdoors under a willow tree and then the reception in their machine shop. They had about 300 guests, so if you are having a large wedding and you want to do it all in your yard, head to their gallery to see how beautifully it can be done!

Autumn & Ben hosted only their ceremony in a grassy area on their property, but it was absolutely stunning. They only needed to rent chairs to host their wedding ceremony as they had beautifully sunny weather so no tent or shelter was needed! If you want to see a beautiful outdoor ceremony, head to the ceremony section of Autumn & Ben’s wedding.

Tammy & Kevin hosted their whole day in their backyard with the ceremony backdrop being a large red barn and the reception being hosted just behind the ceremony space. Their day was rustic and elegant, so if you are looking for rustic backyard wedding inspiration, head Tammy & Kevin’s gallery!

Brooke & Nick did not have a backyard wedding, as they hosted it at a local village museum, but their wedding was hosted all outdoors with beautiful fall trees & leaves as the ceremony backdrop, and their reception used the picnic tables that were available at the museum. My favorite part of their wedding was the dance that took place in the gazebo. If you want ideas for an all-outdoor wedding, this is the gallery for you!

Rebekah & Zach had the most beautiful, intimate, rainy day ceremony outdoors in their backyard. They created a beautiful arbor and had so many fall leaves as their wedding was at the peak of fall colors. If you are having a small wedding in fall, Rebekah & Zach’s ceremony will be great inspiration for you!

Hanna & Logan‘s wedding was my very first backyard reception. I fell in love with hosting a wedding on your yard at this wedding because I could tell it was so nice to not have to worry about cleaning up a venue the same night and they had so much more freedom to do whatever they wanted at their wedding. They used their shop as a reception venue and it was so perfect! If you want a rustic backyard wedding, this is your go-to gallery for inspiration.

You can tell from each of these weddings that each couple was able to make their wedding uniquely represent them & their relationship. I think that is what I ultimately love most about backyard weddings – they are so personalized and unique to each couple. Heres a few of my favorite photos from all of the backyard weddings I have been a part of!

A Guide to Hosting a Backyard Wedding

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  1. Molly says:

    Wow! Great content! So many couples thing backyard wedding = budget wedding but that doesn’t have to be the case! I also think so many couples don’t realize it’s more work than a regular venue!

  2. Jessi says:

    Wow, what an awesome topic to cover! There are so many moving parts to a wedding day that a lot of people don’t think about, and you did an exceptional job of laying them out. Planning something like this can be a lot of work, but as you’ve witnessed, can be SO amazing while still being more budget-friendly. Awesome photos as well!!!

  3. Aimee says:

    Backyard weddings are the best! This is such a great resource for anyone wanting a backyard wedding 🙂

  4. Tom Waldenberg says:

    Great info! Backyard weddings can be so sweet and beautiful but also lots of things to consider!

  5. Ann Marie says:

    This is such a great resource!! Backyard wedding can be amazing!! But yes – getting everything organized goes a long way in making it so great. 🙂 And those bathrooms and parking – crucial but sometimes so overlooked. All around fabulous – love this!!

  6. Heather says:

    All amazing and important things to consider for couple’s going this route. Thank you for putting this together! 💖

  7. Claire Hunt says:

    It is so amazing how many backyard weddings you have captured! It’s truly one of my favorite ways for couples to celebrate. These are lots of great tips!!

  8. Wow, this was so informative! This is so helpful, backyard weddings are some of my favorites but there’s definitely a lot of moving parts to consider. Once you’ve got it all together though they’re such a blast!

  9. […] public space (think local park with a shelter). If are considering the backyard option, head to this blog post for more info on a backyard […]

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