Backyard weddings are romantic, intimate, and always memorable, but they come with their fair share of challenges. Opening up your home (or the home of a generous friend or family member) for a big day bash means dealing with logistical considerations you wouldn't encounter at a traditional wedding venue. But, in some cases, it can be cheaper to host your wedding at home (no venue fees or time restrictionsx) and you'll create wonderful memories in your most beloved space. Here are some things to keep in mind if you choose to invite everyone into your home...
Start with the logistics.
First things first, determine your guest list and decide whether or not your home or yard is even big enough to accommodate your closest family and friends. If not, can you cut down the guest list, or might a close friend be willing to play host? Consider whether there is enough parking for all of your guests, whether you’ll need to acquire any permits (some cities require “party” permits), if your homeowner’s insurance covers third parties, and if there are any noise restrictions you need to know about.
Tell your neighbors.
The last thing you need is the neighbor’s dog barking during your backyard vows or an agitated neighbor coming by during your dad’s tearjerker of a toast. To avoid this and other related snafus, alert your block buddies of the upcoming nuptials’ date and time. Maybe even invite them to ease any related tension. They’ll appreciate the heads up and might even offer their driveways for guest parking.
Consider the bathroom situation.
If your wedding is small (30-50 people) and your home offers 2 or 3 bathrooms, you won’t need to rent port-o-potties. But if your guest list gets any bigger than that, or you have just one bathroom in your home, it’d be wise to consider some alternatives so things don’t get, well, backed up. Luckily, you can rent some pretty fancy bathrooms nowadays. Yucky plastic box, be gone!
Catering, home-cooking, or potluck?
Hiring a caterer takes a lot of pressure off the marrying couple — you won’t have to worry about cooking or handling food — but not every catering company can work in a private home. Get price quotes and details from a few caterers to find one who can accommodate. Alternately, you could also order in catered food from your favorite restaurant or ask a friend or family member to assist with the barbecue on-site. If you have friends and family who like to cook, go the potluck route (with guests contributing dishes) for a low-key and low-cost option.
Decide what to rent and what to borrow.
You probably don’t have a wedding’s worth of dishes, flatware, stemware, tables or chairs just lying around your house, which means you’ll need to rent some necessities. But beware, the cost of those rentals can add up quickly. If you can borrow platters, serving utensils, vases, glasses, and other items from your nearest and dearest, do it! Embrace the mix and match look with an eclectic array of dishes.
Make a bad weather back-up plan.
Planning to marry in the backyard? Great! But what if rain or a freak snowstorm hits on your wedding day? You’ll need a back-up plan if you’re marrying outside — just as you would if you were marrying outdoors at a traditional wedding venue. Plan to host your wedding indoors in case of bad weather, or rent a tent to have on hand if an indoor wedding is just not in the cards.
Consider your pets.
If you live with furry friends, consider their comfort on your wedding day. Will your dog get nervous having so many strangers in his/her home? Will your cat decide that your wedding ceremony is the perfect time to bring out the claws? You may want to consider boarding your pets somewhere nice for the weekend or bringing them to a friend’s place for the day. You’ll appreciate not having to worry about them while you’re entertaining all your loved ones. If you want your animals included in the day’s festivities, ask a friend of a friend (or some animal lover you know that’s NOT invited to the wedding) to jump in after your pup walks you down the aisle or poses for pictures with you and bring him/her somewhere safe, quiet, and comfortable.
Clean up, prep, and decorate.
Clean up your yard, paint the garage, fill the flower pots, and string the lights. Clean your home thoroughly, or have it done professionally to ensure every room is in tip-top shape. If you’re DIYing any of your decor, ask friends and family to help roughly six weeks out. Be sure the cleaning is done and the house is decorated at least five days in advance!
Think through your event flow.
It’s important to walk through the day’s events once or twice before the big day arrives. You need to consider the timing and the flow of people from room to room starting once guests arrive (parking, entering the house, seating for the ceremony) through the end of the reception. If you’re having your ceremony and reception in the backyard, how will you reconfigure the space? Will you need to hire someone to help move tables and chairs while guests are entertained elsewhere? Your guests will appreciate the ease of smooth transitions from ceremony to cocktail hour to reception.
Don’t forget the officiant!
Seems obvious, but you don’t want to overlook this detail. Help a friend get ordained, book a justice of the peace, or ask your religious leader to preside over the ceremony. Whatever you decide, make sure there’s someone there on the big day who can pronounce you legally wed.
Organize a clean-up crew.
There will be cleaning to do right after the wedding as well as the next morning, but you and your new spouse definitely will NOT want to do it (nor should you). Let someone else deal with the mess! Organize a clean-up crew — whether hired or bribed — to do the essentials immediately after the wedding. Also consider bringing someone in BEFORE the event to clean your house from top to bottom.
Happy planning, Loverlies!