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Backyard & Outdoor Weddings & Receptions   

by Judith Rivers-Moore, The WeddingLinks Coach

Planning and hosting a backyard wedding and reception can be very enjoyable and, to some degree, less expensive. A great deal of the plan is very similar to a backyard party. It gives you several freedoms, yet can add to your frustrations and work list. The following are the major concerns when planning an Outdoor or Backyard wedding and reception.  We advise you check on some of the local halls that have most of these ingredients to compare the cost.   By the time you add up the costs, a hall or event space may be less hassle.

CONSIDER ...  WHY you want to host a home or outdoor wedding and reception.

  • Decide why you want to host this in a backyard. Some couples choose from family or friend’s lovely homes while other couples have purchased a home and want to do some landscaping – so the wedding serves two purposes.
  • Does the yard have ample room for the event's guests, tables, chairs, etc.?
  • Add up the costs of party rentals, portable potties, yard improvements, umbrellas, a possible generator for extra electricity for the music, lighting, and caterer's use.
  • Draw a diagram of where items will be placed to grasp the flow of the area. 
  • If the yard is lovely, well suited to the event, hinged with a special memory, or you are planning to use the hall funds on a landscaping project, then maybe this is a very wise decision.

Immediate Items To Consider

  • Is there a parking problem or can you bring people in on a shuttle from a nearby parking area?
  • Gauge the time of year for the best weather conditions, and still prepare for heat with umbrellas and an alternative area of tent or indoor if it does rain.
  • Enough Electricity to keep this additional power use going.
  • Make a list of the party rentals you require; tables, chairs, extra power, lighting, dishes and serving Items etc.
  • Do you have a focal point for the ceremony large enough for people to sit or stand and watch the ceremony?
  • Are there any animals in the household who will get into your food or be underfoot?
  • Does the yard enjoy easy access from the kitchen and serving of food?
  • Will the toilet facilities hold up for the extra guests, or will you require Porta- Potties?
  • Understand the laws which govern events and alcohol for your county as they may require permits and added insurance on the property for the event.
  • Check out the nuisance issues in the neighborhood: Will your neighbors be a problem about the noise for the day? Are their planes flying overhead? Does the dog bark incessantly next door? Do you have a rude neighbor? Is there an engine repair shop next door? 
  • Is the yard free of insects? Bees, flies, fire flys, ants, June Bugs, Locusts,  from farms etc., or an evening wedding and reception with May Flies or Mosquitos spoiling the ambiance.

The Benefits

  • You will have a choice of caterer, pot luck, (your family-friends creating the foods)
  • A memorable and different backdrop than a hall or event location
  • You have no in and out time limits, except for area restrictions (noise curfews). Some areas state 10: PM
  • The ability to serve all types of alcohol and drinks. (If you serve alcohol drinks, you may need a special permit from ABC in the U.S. or some other country’ official permit.)
  • You have the ability to host a unique theme or ceremony.
  • Things to Help Get the Project Going and Keep It Moving
  • It is important to create a project timeline and stick to it.
  • Keep a list of who is responsible for what, and remember, Mom should not be creating deviled eggs for three hundred guests the day before the wedding -- nor serving the day of.

Ask Questions Of The PROS

  • Line up some help. Find out early, who can help set up, breakdown, refresh the tables, watch over any dangerous area for children. (pools, cliffs, street access etc)
  • Ask each of the professionals you hire what they require regarding the electricity and where they will be set-up on the property: have enough wiring, purchase extra fuses or plug into your neighbor’s electricity for a fee, so then, when it is all going at one time, you do not blow a fuse.

Your Invitations Should Include

  • The knowledge that this is being held at the private home of"............................" with the exact address, time and place of the ceremony/reception or exact address of each site when they are different. Include a map on how to get there and where to park their cars.


  • The focal point can be embellished with an arch of flowers and ribbons or a canopy decorated with ribbons, banners, vines/ivy. Herbs, wild flowers, vineyard vines, and grapes are often used. 
  • We do see people grow a sunflower circle in their yards for the occasion. (Begin early spring for an autumn stand.) 
  • Also, corn husks and wheat shafts provide fall decor. 
  • If you have a gazebo in the yard, it may be a lovely focal point. 
  • Remember to canvas a lattice roof or the couple, etc. will be checkered in the photos. 
  • Butterfly and dove releases after the "I dos" are especially beautiful.

Choosing Your Garments

  • Outdoor events do require breathing fabrics such as summer satin, airy tulle and styles of strapless that are in. If an evening wedding, consider a lovely shawl to match your dress. 
  • Men's wear should allow the guys (after the ceremony) to take off jackets and enjoy a vested formal look. Backyard weddings are also known for more casual attire. 
  • Remember to have sun block products on hand. On hot or humid days, the misters and portable fans help to keep the air moving and the insects away. Most ladies bring items to refresh with.

Helpful Tips

  • If this is a country farm with a septic tank, have it cleaned out a week ahead.
  • Have people come through an attractive side gate or yard to enter the back instead of through the house. This area can be cleared and decorated nicely.
  • When your yard is smaller than your reception guest list, create the invitations with a staggered time of arrival (more of an open house for a flexible time concept).
  • Cakes are fragile and should not be left in the sun but kept indoors as long as possible. The cake table should always be set with nice linens and fresh serving plates, forks and napkins.
  • Ask your servers to please clear plates, etc, when the guest is complete with the meal.
  • Think environmentally. Paper in one type of trash receptacle, cans or glass in another.
  • Adding Elegance
  • Rent floor length linens and covered chairs (or chairs that all look the same), adding an elegance to a wedding and reception. Plant rental services can help you create a focal area or rent an arch you can decorate for the ceremony area. If using umbrella tables, decorate the posts with flowers on the umbrellas instead of table centerpieces.
  • Play relaxing music as the guests enter and have someone take their wraps etc.
  • Choose flowers that hold up well in the heat of the day.
  • Foods and servers should be shaded. Ice carvings melt fast. Always have plenty of water and ice.
  • Using rose petals and/or edible flowers brings the garden into the theme.
  • Take a walk-through of your serving areas. Look at what your photographers will see through a camera lens. Make corrections to backdrops as needed or when possible. (Don’t put your cake in front of a backyard telephone pole.)
  • Have a “Nanny or babysitter” in charge of the children with games and play area. Safety secured around a pond, pool or stream. Understand, children are drawn to water.
  • Provide a first aid kit in the kitchen and a fire canister on hand. Post emergency numbers next to the phone.
  • Have a special area for changing diapers in the house far from the view of the guests.
  • Have a special area for coats and purses, with someone to keep a watchful eye.