How To Plan a Backyard Wedding
Everything You Need To Make Your Big Day Great
So you're thinking about having a DIY backyard wedding. No, I'm not psychic; I just figure that's what brought you here.
Well, you're in luck! Not too long ago, I helped to plan my sister's backyard wedding, which was hosted at our parent's house. With a lot of preparation and hard work, the ceremony and reception ended up going off without a hitch. Not to say there weren't a few close calls - the iffy weather, for example, and the cupcake frosting - but in the end, it was totally worth it.
Step 1: Start Researching
Know What You're Up Against
Maybe you already know what a boutonniere is, and who is supposed to wear one. Maybe you're up on how to announce your engagement, what makes for an appropriate favor, and how long of a train your dress should have. Or maybe you're like I was, and you have no clue about any of this. That's where the research comes in.
There are plenty of great books on the subject; you can find a list of them below. You can also check out these wedding planning sites:
The Knot is one of the premiere destinations for all things wedding.
My Wedding provides checklists, budget tools, and more.
Onewed has access to local wedding vendors and can help you out with a free wedding website.
Brides is a wealth of photos, dress ideas, and more for your wedding.
Read more about backyard weddings
Real Wedding: Catie + Ben's Vintage Inspired Backyard Wedding (includes tons of great pics)
The Young House Love Wedding (includes great pics and budget information)
Step 2: Choose a Location
Just because it's a backyard wedding doesn't mean it has to be in your own backyard! Friends, parents, and distant cousins with beach houses all make great prospects. Just make sure that you have a full staff (paid or volunteer) to take care of all the setting up and cleaning so you don't impose on your generous hosts.
Step 3: Create a Budget
Don't Spend Without a Plan
Okay, so this definitely isn't the most romantic part of the wedding planning process, and it might not be what you want to hear. But with the average modern wedding costing around $26,000 (source), it's definitely something you need to think of, at some point.
Maybe you want to spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. And maybe you have that money to spend. But trust me, racking up tons of credit card debt is not a great start to your marriage. The wedding that I describe on this site cost less than $3,000, and an amazing time was had by all.
I'm not saying that you need to plan every purchase to the last nickel. Just have an idea of how much the big items (tent, DJ, catering, if you're using any of those) will cost, and have a set upper limit that you absolutely don't want to cross.
Step 4: Fill In Your Calendar
When Do Things Need To Happen?
Some things need to be done weeks, if not months before the wedding. If you're doing it in your backyard, you won't need to worry about renting a venue. But things such as tent and table rentals, catering scheduling (if using), and sending out invitations shouldn't be put off.
Starting your planning early also means you have a chance to throw in some fun things. For example, we wanted to try growing some flowers for the wedding, so we started them two and a half months before W-Day.
While you're at it, don't forget to schedule essential landscaping tasks that you'd likely put off otherwise. Now is the time to have everything ship-shape!
Planning a Backyard Wedding: Wonderful or Woeful? - Time To Throw Down
Anyone is free to share their opinion (you don't need to be logged in).
Is planning your own backyard wedding a good idea?
Backyard Wedding Tip: The Officiant - Will Someone Come To Your Home?
- People have been getting married in backyards for a long time. There are plenty of officiants who are more than happy to come to you. Check out the site WeddingMinisters.com to get started, or do an internet search for "wedding officiant" and your local area.
Step 5: Start Gathering Decorations and Other Materials - Spread Purchases Out Over Time
Buying everything at once is likely to give you a good case of pricetag shell-shock. Spending a little at a time can help you ease into the process. It also gives you a chance to think about purchases, get new ideas, and take things back if needed.
Having a backyard wedding means that you get to use the natural backdrop in your backyard, which can be both a blessing and a curse. Luckily, a little bit of creativity can make even the most plain backyards wedding-ready.
What Is Your Experience With Planning Backyard Weddings? - Vote Here!
Anyone can vote!
Have you planned a backyard wedding before?
Step 6: Do Test Runs...
... And Make Backup Plans
To the right is a picture of a practice version of the wedding cupcakes that we did in preparation for my sister's wedding (practice cupcakes are just as tasty as the real ones, just so you know!) It took us a few tries to get them just right.
Because a wedding is so important, you should do test runs of everything from food to decorations to wedding vows. You don't want to find out at the last minute that your battery-powered lanterns don't work, for example, or that your dishes clash with the tablecloths.
While you're at it, plan what you'll do if something does happen at the last minute. Do you have enough space in your home to host the wedding in case of a downpour? If not, and if postponing isn't an option, you might want to reserve a nearby indoor venue.
Need a Hand? Check Out This Book
A backyard wedding is a perfect example of a practical wedding. What could be more practical and affordable than celebrating your nuptials in your own backyard?
Step 7: Don't Forget the Food!
Sustenance Is a Must
Here is a picture of the smoker we used to smoke a pig for the wedding reception, with a nice backdrop of the backdrop for the wedding ceremony.
Catering is definitely an option for a backyard wedding. However, you can also choose to cook the food yourself, or have a potluck affair. Whatever you do, remember now is not the time for time-consuming dishes or cooking experiments. Stick with what you know! And do as much as you can ahead of time; the less work you have on the day of the wedding, the better!
Step 7: Planning Someone Else's Wedding? You'll Still Need to Give Gifts!
Unfortunately, planning someone's wedding doesn't excuse you from giving a gift :)
Step 8: Document for Posterity
The Event Must Live On
Pictures at a wedding are some of the most important images people want to capture of their lives. After all, it's the beginning of a partnership that's supposed to last for a lifetime.
That being said, there's hot debate about whether professional photographers are necessary. While you surely don't want to have your cousin who just got his first digital camera do the job, there are plenty of people out there who take amazing photos as a hobby, and who are willing to capture your wedding for little or no money. It's up to you the route you choose to go... as long as you don't rely 100% on the "cameras on the tables" method!
If You're Looking For More Help... - ... Check Out This Handy Guide
At almost 500 pages, you can't hope to find a more comprehensive book about wedding planning. It's not specifically geared towards backyard weddings, but there is enough detail here that you should find what you're looking for. And with celebrity wedding planner Mindy Weiss holding your hand, you can't go far wrong.
Or just let us know you stopped by to share in the lovey-doviness.