The Official Backyard Wedding Checklist
The ultimate guide for your backyard wedding
Everything you need to know before throwing a backyard wedding
Understand the Cost
The biggest mistake when it comes to backyard weddings is thinking that you’ll save money. While venues can seem expensive, renting the the essentials to pull off a home wedding wedding will add up quickly. In the end, the cost of a backyard wedding is similar to that of a venue. Let’s also remember the extra work and time you’ll have to put in. This is why the next item on the checklist is:
Hire a Wedding Planner
Yes, you can do it without a planner, but hiring a wedding planner with backyard wedding experience will save you a whole lot of stress and anguish. A seasoned event planner already knows what you need, how to do it, and which vendors will work well for your wedding. From permits to parking, a wedding planner will help you save time and do it right.
Plan for Less Than Ideal Weather
Rain, thunder, hail, or snow, the show must go on. No one wants to think about rain on their wedding day, but it's important to have a plan B. A tent with heat or AC (depending on the time of year and climate) will do the trick. If you have enough space, indoor ceremonies can also work as a plan B.
Tell Your Neighbors
Some cities/counties require you to inform your neighbors when you are hosting a wedding at your home, but regardless of regulations, it's a good idea to let your neighbors know. Provide them with a contact person to call instead of the police or a tow truck if they are inconvenienced. You could even invite some neighbors so they’ll allow your guests to park on their property.
Have Adequate Bathrooms
Does your home have enough bathrooms for your guests? Probably not and even so, you likely don’t want your guests meandering about throughout the wedding. Luckily rental bathrooms can be nicer than your average porta-potty. You may want to consider bathroom trailers. You can even hire attendants to make sure your guests are comfortable and the restrooms are sanitary. A good rule of thumb is 1 toilet for every 35 guests.
File All Necessary Permits
Depending on your city/county, you may need certain permits to host a wedding in your backyard. The most common permits needed are for parking, fire, and noise. This is an area where an experienced planner can make sure everything runs smoothly. As a precaution, you may also be interested in event insurance.
Have a Parking Solution
Even very small backyard weddings have parking problems. You must also take into account all the trucks and cars your vendors are bringing. Not to worry, there are a few different solutions to ensure your guests won’t get towed. You could rent a parking lot and provide a shuttle service, hire a valet service to park cars in an appropriate area, or ask a neighbor with enough land if you could use their property for parking (they’ll probably expect an invitation in exchange). I know it sounds obvious, but make sure your guests are provided a shuttle or valet to get back to their car after the event (I say this only because I’ve seen guests stranded due to poorly planned parking accommodations). Depending on your circumstances you may have to spend more than you were expecting on parking.
Provide Enough Space
There are a lot of components to a wedding. You will have to budget your space appropriately to ensure all of your vendors and catering staff can do their jobs effectively while still providing enough room for your guests to dance, eat, and socialize. If space is tight, consider shortening your guest list or having the ceremony off-premise. Caterers will need a lot of space; it's important to develop a menu that they can pull off with the area and resources you’re providing them. Your caterer will likely require shade so be mindful that you will likely end up providing indoor space or a separate tent.
I would not recommend running extension cords and surge protectors from every outlet of your house to the backyard. Rent a generator to ensure your band, DJ, lighting company, videographer, photographer, and caterer have access to a reliable power source. Causing a blackout is one of the fastest ways to end your wedding early.
Hire a Lighting Company
Typically venues include lighting so hiring a lighting company for a wedding does not make it onto most couple’s checklists. However, properly lighting a backyard wedding is crucial. Make sure your lighting company tests the lights the night before to make sure there is adequate lighting throughout the yard. Lighting, flowers, landscaping, and tents can completely transform a backyard into your dream venue.
Bug and Pest Control
It's a good idea to hire a professional bug/pest control company as a preventative measure. Mosquitos and other bugs make terrible guests so be proactive to keep them away. Consult a professional early so they can spray your yard a few days before your wedding.
Covered Stage for Band/DJ
For outdoor weddings, bands and DJs will expect a covered stage to protect all of their expensive equipment in the case of rain. All of your vendors should have a dry, weather-protected area to store equipment, however, the band/DJ will likely require the stage to be covered.
Bonus Checklist Items
Provide a Green Room
Venues will have a green room for the vendors working at your wedding. It’s nothing fancy, just a tent or room with chairs, some food and refreshments if you’re feeling generous, and space for equipment/cases. This will help your vendors keep their equipment out of sight.
Avoid Slip N’ Slide Dance Floors
“Along Came Polly” (2004)
People do it all the time: use a lucite dance floor on top of grass. You can do this if you’d like, but if the grass is wet, you’ll be creating a slip n’ slide for you and your guests. Glossy/slippery dance floors on grass are still common practice. They look great in photos, but for safety, it may be in your best interest to go with something with a little more grip. Your theme is romantic modern not “Grandma on ice”.
Going beyond mowing the yard can add a lot to the aesthetic of your backyard wedding. Consider adding color by planting flowers and greenery. Coordinating your landscaping with your floral themes and wedding design is a small detail that will go a long way.
Every wedding is different so make sure to develop a checklist of your own and cross-reference it with this one. Seek advice from friends or family that have hosted a backyard wedding. Hire a backyard wedding experienced event planner to make sure you don’t miss a step and to help you find the right vendors for your special day. There are a lot of extra steps associated with hosting a wedding in your private backyard so be prepared to put in extra work. You won’t save much money, but if you follow the checklist and consult your vendors, you’re sure to be on your way to a successful wedding day.
It's a lot easier to book your wedding at a venue and it will cost about the same. However, having a backyard wedding can be very sentimental. It makes your wedding day unique and beautiful for you and your guests. There is nothing quite like having your big day at a place as special as your home.
Refer to this checklist throughout your planning to make sure you are not forgetting any steps.
Good luck with your planning!