Backyard weddings are intimate and cozy, but it can be challenging to get that wow factor in a yard you’ve seen a dozen—maybe a hundred—times. Of course you have a vision for your special day. But how do you transform your parents’ backyard into the wedding spot of your dreams? What can you do to elevate the space where you play morning fetch with the dog? Well, we’re here to answer your burning backyard questions.
Hosting a backyard wedding has lots of benefits. For starters, you can save big on venue space—especially for smaller weddings. At a traditional venue, all the chairs and tables are provided along with, well, a spot to get married! You’ll have to make up for all of that in your own backyard. But if you’re willing to DIY and get creative, you can save a pretty penny. Second, a backyard ceremony is one of the most intimate spots to tie the knot. It’s secluded, private, and often smaller than rent-able space. All perfect ingredients for a small gathering.
Before you get planning, however, don’t forget to let your neighbors know and check any local ordinances. For example, you may need a permit to light a post-ceremony bonfire. And you may need the flexibility of your neighbors to coordinate parking. We recommend notifying your neighbors in person with a special treat. If you’re close with them, you can certainly invite them. Otherwise, it’s best to show your appreciation for their patience and respect during the process.
After you’ve done all that, it’s time to start sprucing!
1. Make Sure the Grass Is Green
The grass really is greener sometimes—but only when it’s properly maintained! Your lawn might not be the focal point of the day, but it’s the backdrop. And it will certainly impact your guests’ comfort level. Dry or patchy grass will be uncomfortable to walk on, and it won’t look pretty in pictures, either.
So make sure your lawn is well-maintained before the big day. This process might start a few weeks or months before you tie the knot. You may need to reseed or put down fresh sod. If you have some stubborn troublesome patches, cover them up with the stage or put it under the gift table.
2. Create an Outdoor Lounge Area (or Two!)
No, don’t take your living room furniture outside—guests may mingle inside during the cocktail hour! Instead, you can thrift or visit nearby estate sales for gently used couches, chairs, and tables. Don’t be afraid to give your items a fresh coat of paint or new upholstery if they’re a little worn or don’t match your wedding colors. In general, the more guests you have, the more lounge areas you’ll need. So don’t be afraid to set up two or three, not counting the reception tables. And you can always donate or resell any of the pieces you don’t want to keep!
3. Consider a Canopy Frame
At a backyard wedding, there aren’t any rooms to distinguish the ceremony from the cocktail hour. So you’ll just have to create your own! Putting the tables and chairs for the reception under a canopy frame will create a whole new room for your celebration.
Guests can transition from the ceremony seating to the canopy “room” for the reception. After meandering the yard during cocktail hour, of course! Suddenly your backyard is transformed into sections for a unique experience for your guests. (Especially if they’ve been in your backyard before.) Plus, it will look stunning, too.
4. Break Out the Lawn Games
There may not be room for a full game of cricket, but what about giant Jenga or cornhole? Maybe magnetic darts or a board game area? There are plenty of outdoor games for every backyard size that your guests can enjoy. It’s a fun twist on the typical cocktail hour of standing and socializing. You can rent or purchase these games, but you can also ask your guests if they own these games, too. If they’re willing, ask them to drop off the games the day before and pick them up the day after. You may even ask a member of the wedding party to be in charge of game pick up and delivery.
5. Use Plants During the Day and Lights at Night
Backyard weddings are all about ambiance. And ambiance is all about timing. Plants and lights are both great ways to create magic at your special event. But timing is key. For sunny afternoon weddings, use plants. They make perfect centerpieces, you can hang them from the canopy frame or tent, and you can even arrange them around the lounge areas. It will really tie your location to your celebration.
On the other hand, for evening weddings, use those lights! Light your archway with them, hang them from the tent. Line the pathways with lighted (non-fire) lanterns and create soft glows around the lounges. Both options are inexpensive ways to bring that wow factor—it just depends on the amount of sunlight that you’ll have.
6. Offer Cozy Favors
Will the day be clear, but breezy? Are you planning an evening bonfire or dusk exchange of I do? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then your guests need cozy favors at your backyard wedding. That could include blanket scarves, shawls, or beanie hats. It’s a useful gift that guests can use again and again—like right now during your wedding. However, we don’t recommend customizing them with names or dates, like you might with bottles of maple syrup. This will discourage guests from wearing them in future.
7. Don’t Forget the Front Yard
The wedding may be hosted in the back yard, but your guests will still arrive at the house from the front! Or the side, depending on the setup of the home. Consider bringing the decorations out front, too. You can set up an archway at the end of the driveway as guests enter the backyard. Or you could line the driveway with lights or even move some games to the front or side. The main event may be taking place out back, but first impressions are important—the wedding starts when guests walk up to your house.
Your backyard wedding will be magical because you’ll be marrying the love of your life. But of course, you want your guests to feel the magic, too. After all, they’re not the ones tying the knot! These seven tips will help you transform your backyard into your dream venue. From lounge areas to outdoor games and lots of plants (or lights!) you won’t be able to recognize the space once you’re done.
What time of day is your backyard wedding? What yard games will you have for guests to play?