Backyard weddings can be completely magical and unique. I'm sure you already know that if you're here, but breaking out of the box is something we love to do here at Venuelust. We can count a million reasons to host a backyard wedding (here's 12), but the decision is the easiest part of the process.
If you’ve decided to turn your own backyard into a wedding reception venue or perhaps you’ve even rented someone else’s home for your soiree, we’ve compiled a list of items to review prior to the big day to ensure that all goes smoothly.
Choose a Date
Choosing a wedding date isn’t rocket science but there are definitely some times of the year that will make the most sense depending on where it is you’re getting married. What is the weather like throughout the year? Are there certain times of the year when the lawn and flora look best?
Choosing a date goes beyond seasons too. What else is going on in your life at that time? Can you dedicate the time (and money) to fix up anything that needs fixing or updating prior to the date? Give yourself an ample time frame to make sure all projects (construction or otherwise) can be completed in time.
Capacity isn’t quite so black and white as you’d think. Some questions to ask yourself when evaluating the capacity of your home: How large is your property? Have you ever hosted a party here before? How many people can you accommodate? What worked? What didn’t? Were there bathroom lines or did everything feel too cramped?
How many people are you comfortable having at your home? Does this number differ from how many can actually fit? You may find you can accommodate 300 people if you want, but maybe you only feel comfortable with about half that number. That’s ok! Just figure out a happy medium that works for you and what you think you and your home can handle.
Are there particular areas that are off limits? Will you be hosting everything outdoors or will you have some seating available indoors?
When you’ve gone through all these self-evaluations your yard and what you feel most comfortable with, you’ll need to start bringing in the professionals for their expertise.
Have a professional rental company come out to measure the space so they can tell you how many guests you can accommodate for a ceremony and reception based on the tables and chairs you’re planning to use.
Arranging the Space
Not only can a professional rental company assist you with calculating the capacity, they can recommend the best arrangement of tables and chairs for the space you have available. The size of the space obviously dictates how large of an event you can host, so you may have to cut back that guest list quite a bit. But maybe that’s what you’ve wanted all along!
If you can’t make cuts, you may have to get a bit creative with arrangements. For one, you can seat people in different areas of the property. Some people can be seated in the backyard and some on the side or front lawn, or even inside depending on the property. If you don’t want to break up the seating areas, you may have to transition the space completely between the ceremony and reception if your backyard isn’t large enough to provide seating for both. This can be a bit of a logistical puzzle, and you will need all hands on deck to move tables and decor into the yard after the ceremony has taken place.
Breaking through Limitations
Not every yard is perfect for entertaining from the get go. Sometimes modifications can be made to make it work - both permanent and temporary!
Does your lawn slope? You can rent staging which can extend from your lawn to create one large flat space.
Have a pool? Cover it! Covering the pool will create more event space. If you choose a clear cover your pool lighting can make things more colorful and interesting. Especially if you make the pool your dance floor!
Don’t have any shade in the backyard? Rent umbrellas. Lots of them.
Worried about rain? Rent a tent if you have the space. A tent can be a great way to keep guests covered in case of bad weather. Tents can come in a number of shapes and sizes so ask a professional about what they recommend for your yard. Some tent options can extend from your own roof, others are freestanding.
If tenting isn’t an option and you want to gather everyone indoors for the reception, call on your local furniture removal specialists. Get a quote for the removal of your furniture in the spaces you would like to use as dining areas.
Now that you’ve figured out your capacity, is there enough space for your guests to park in your neighborhood? Think about how many cars may be arriving for this occasion. If you have 100 guests, it may be safe to assume you’ll need space for about 50 cars. Beyond guest parking you’ll also need to consider that your vendors and the catering and bar staffing will also require parking.
In order to make things simple for guests, offer valet services or shuttle options to arrive at your home. If you have elderly guests, this is especially helpful so they don’t have to park several blocks away from your home. If you have a nearby parking lot that belongs to a school or church, you can contact them to see if you can offer a donation to rent the lot so valet can park cars here or guests can be shuttled in from this lot. If neighborhood parking is limited, your neighbors will certainly appreciate this.
Declutter your Space
Do you have tons of potted plants or lawn furniture that you can move out of the way? Keep the space open and neat because chances are you’ll need to bring in a lot of other rental items and decor.
Put away any valuables indoors that could be broken or stolen. Lock any doors to rooms that don’t need to be accessed during the party to prevent prying eyes.
Sometimes temporary even alterations aren’t enough and you need some more permanent solutions.
Do you have a hole in your fence? When was the last time your gardener trimmed trees and hedges? Do you need to power wash the patio? Now is the time to start fixing what is broken or finishing up that landscaping project that you forgot about. Now is the time to water the lawn to get rid of dead patches, remove any weeds, and fill in flower beds with new blooms!
Rent what you don’t have
Now that you’ve fixed up the yard and had the space measured, you’ll want to rent anything that you don’t already have. This includes anything from tables and chairs, linens, lounge furniture, and decor.
How many bathrooms do you have at your house? Will they be able to handle high traffic? We recommend 1 restroom for every 60 guests, but even that means your guests will often be waiting in a short line at any given time. While no one likes portable restrooms, there are luxury restroom trailers that can be a bit relief for both guests and your home’s plumbing system.
Don’t forget to rent heaters or air conditioning if they’re needed. Nothing ends parties early quite like an overly hot or cold event space. Rent plenty of heaters for cool evenings and if you have a tented reception in the peak of summer, you want to be sure that tent has an air conditioning unit. Without these, guests may be inclined to head home early out of discomfort.
Another overlooked item when creating a rental list: trash cans. Trash has to go somewhere so rent some trash cans and also be ready with a plan of disposal afterward. Because the last thing you want to have left at the house are a dozen trash bags filled with food scraps from the caterer and every glass bottle of beer from the bar.
Consider your Guests' Needs
Are there any special needs that need to be accommodated? If someone is in a wheelchair and your home isn’t particularly wheelchair friendly, you may need to rent a ramp to make it as accessible as possible.
Do you have pets that some guests may be allergic to? Take precautions and have the pets crated or taken to a daycare or overnight facility so that they don’t bother guests.
Elderly guests should have priority seating and parking if possible. Be sure to have a bathroom available on the ground floor of your home so they don’t have to take any stairs.
From bathroom materials, a first aid kit, flashlights, matches, ashtrays, etc., it is important to be prepared for anything! The last thing you want to do is have to make someone leave to go run errands during your wedding.
Power + Lighting
What items require power? Market lighting? Audio and visual equipment? Cooking appliances? Check to see how much power your home can provide. If it isn’t reliable, or not enough, you’ll face power outages. Renting a generator provides peace of mind and you won’t find yourself running around trying to find the power box in the dark.
Speaking of darkness, you want to make sure guests can see where they are going so you’ll need to look into the best lighting options. Chances are your porch light isn’t enough to properly light up the whole backyard. Market lighting is a great option, providing fun and efficient lighting for guests to dine and dance beneath.
If market lighting isn’t your style and you want a more upscale look, uplighting is a great option. Hire a professional to install all lighting. They know what they’re doing!
Follow the Rules
The last thing you ever want to happen when hosting a backyard wedding is getting your party shut down. The first thing you need to do when you decide to have a backyard wedding is learn about the local laws regarding private events in residential areas.
Are you part of an HOA that restricts events? Does the area that you live in allow you to host a wedding at your home? Is there a limit to how many guests you can host? Or how many events you can have per year? Do you need an event permit? These are just a few preliminary questions you will need to figure out right away.
What is the noise ordinance for your area? Often this will be 10pm. That means amplified music needs to be turned off outside at this time otherwise anyone is free to call and report the excess noise to the police. Even if it is before that time, the police can still come by and tell you to turn down the music due to complaints. It can be helpful to have a decibel reader on hand to be aware of how loud the music really is.
Did you rent a tent? If so you may have to jump through a few extra hoops regarding permits. The fire department may need to send someone out to approve the tent installation too.
Even if you’re following all rules, another proactive measure is to notify neighbors of your event in advance. Let them know any relevant information that may affect their night like limitations on parking, noise, etc. It is especially important to tell them the timing of your ceremony so they aren’t mowing their lawn at that exact moment! If your neighbors are particularly difficult, you may want to butter them up with a nice bottle of wine or treats that they can enjoy that evening.
Does your homeowner’s insurance policy cover hosting an event on your property? If not, you can obtain a special policy for the day of the event to protect yourself from liability.
Set up times for your vendors to walk through the space so that they know what’s what. What areas are off limits in the kitchen for the caterer? Do they need to prep everything and cook outside or will they have access to the full indoor kitchen. Provide instructions for any difficult appliances. Arranging a time when many vendors can be present is also helpful so you can answer each question only once, and they can work with each other to make sure everything goes smoothly.
You’ll also need to coordinate timing for vendors to set up and strike. Staggering their arrival throughout the day will prevent an influx of vendors all arriving at the same time and trying to move everything down the driveway at the same time.
Who is responsible for the house?
If you’re hosting your wedding at your own home, who is there to watch the house while you’re partying the night away? You need a point person (not a guest) that can oversee everything to do with the house. After all, the last thing you want to do on your wedding day is restock toilet paper, or worse, unclog a toilet or clean up after a sick person.
We recommend having two different key people there to help you. The first, a wedding coordinator who can help you with the logistics, timing and will work with vendors on your behalf. Second, you should also have a venue manager to handle all issues regarding the house.
Be prepared for Emergencies
Have a list of all emergency contacts ready to go. In addition to that list, it is also helpful to have instructions about the house written out for the house manager. Tell them where they can located the power box if needed, or how to work the lighting system in the house, or maybe how to get that door open that always seems to stick. Provide them with keys to rooms in case they need to get into a locked area. Provide them with a list of local stores in case they have to pick up some last minute materials.
Last Minute Prep
A few days before the big day, you will likely need to stop watering the lawn. The last thing you want is a muddy lawn and guests treading that gunk all over your freshly cleaned home.
Turn off the sprinklers the night of the event. Once again, you really don’t want to have to deal with wet and uncomfortable guests.
Clean out the fridge. Your caterer will probably need to use some of that space for ingredients, or maybe it can hold the cake so it doesn’t melt in the heat.
Review everything again with your venue manager, wedding coordinator, and vendors to be sure there isn't anything that you've forgotten to do.
The party is over! All is said and done and the last guest has just left your property. Now vendors are going to start cleaning up. Make sure they take all their trash with them at the end of the night or the next day.
If you have flower arrangements leftover, you can donate them to a local nursing facility or hospital.
Leftover food is unfortunately not able to be donated to shelters in most cases due to liability, but check with your caterer and local laws to see what can be done.
Have a professional cleaning crew lined up to come in and clean up the house and yard afterward because chances are the last thing you want to do on your first day married is clean up after 150 guests.
Congratulations! You Did it!
New that the wedding fun is all over, you can jet off on that long anticipated honeymoon!
Any backyard wedding tips that we overlooked? Please share them in the comments below!