Best Backyard Wedding Planning Guide (And Checklist)

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Are you thinking about having your wedding in your backyard (or in someone else’s backyard)?

Backyard weddings are amazing!

I feel like I can offer some unique insight since I planned my own backyard wedding (85 guests)

Here is what we will be covering in this article:

  • How do you plan a backyard wedding?
  • Figuring out your wedding budget
  • Making a guest list
  • Sample wedding planning timeline
  • Things to consider when planning a backyard wedding (space, permits, lighting, bathrooms, parking, power, tent, etc.)
  • The benefits of throwing a backyard wedding
  • Things to consider for your ceremony and reception
  • Rental items you might need
  • Frequently asked questions (FAQ)
a couple getting married in their own backyard. This is the wedding ceremony

How Do you Plan A Backyard Wedding?

Planning a backyard wedding (big or small) is pretty much the same as planning a regular size wedding at a wedding venue.

You will want to think about the following:

  • Location
  • Budget
  • Guestlist
  • Must-haves for your day
  • Food/drink
  • What rentals you might need
  • What vendors you need to hire to complete your vision
  • Planning timeline
  • Day of timeline

Location for the wedding

If you are hosting the wedding in your own backyard (or on the property of a friend or family member), you will want to make sure it’s a useable space before you get too involved with the planning.

If you know that there is enough space for the number of guests you are hoping to invite, the very first thing you want to do is find out if the location you are considering is allowed to host an outdoor/backyard wedding. Check with your local city/county/township.

A few things to ask them:

  • Are there any permits that I need?
  • What is the maximum amount of guests/vendors that would be allowed on site?
  • What time would the event need to be finished (most neighborhoods have a 10pm quiet time ordinance, but double check to make sure your area is not even earlier).
  • Ask them if there is anything else you need to provide to them. You want to make sure this is done legally and by the book. you do not want the police showing up and shutting down your wedding at 6pm because you didn’t follow the rules.

Wedding Budget

When setting a budget for your wedding (no matter how big or small), you will want to sit down with your partner and ask each other a few questions:

  • How much money do we already have saved for the wedding?
  • Are we able to save anything else each month between now and the wedding date? If so, how much?
  • Are there any family members contributing to the wedding fund? If so, who and how much?

Add up those 3 categories and this will show you how much money you have to spend on the wedding.

a fmaily having dinner at a backyard wedding

Figure out what’s important (and what’s not so important)

A really great exercise is to figure out your list of priorities when it comes to the wedding day (this can be totally different for each of you).

Get out a piece of paper for each of you. Spend a few minutes writing down the top 3 most important things for your wedding day.

Maybe you have your heart set on a specific dress. Maybe there is a local food truck that you know needs to be a part of your day. Or maybe you have been stalking a certain photographer on Instagram for the last 2 years, and you know that nobody else will capture the day the way they can.

These priorities will be different for everyone. Figure out the most important things for each of you and then make sure to set aside enough of your budget to include them in your day. Then you can go down the rest of the list and do what you can. Once you get your must-haves taken care of, everything else is just icing on the cake.

Who to invite?

Deciding on who to invite (and who not to invite) is always one of the toughest decisions when it comes to wedding planning.

Are you having a backyard wedding because you like the idea of a small intimate ceremony and reception with your closest family and friends? If so, keep the guest list to parents, siblings, grandparents, a few best friends, and maybe aunts and uncles who you are close to. This could end up being a list of only 10-20 people (A micro-wedding). That might be the perfect size wedding for you.

Or maybe you were hoping for a wedding that is a little bit bigger. If so, figure out how many guests are allowed at the location. Then figure out how many people you can afford to feed. Then start going through the list and crossing people off who you have not talked with in the last year or so.

Just remember that it is your day and the guests at your wedding should be people that you actually want to hang out with.

Planning timeline

One question that we get asked all the time is “when should we book our vendors?”

If these vendors are on your must-have list, you should book them as soon as you have confirmed the location and date. The best wedding professionals book up fast, and you do not want to risk losing them to another couple.

The average wedding planning timeline is 1 year. that doesn’t mean that 1 year is what you need. It’s just the average. you might have longer, or you might be getting married in a month.

No matter how long you have to plan your wedding, here is the recommend timeline order for a backyard wedding:

  1. Secure location (make sure you can have your wedding here and get all permits needed)
  2. Set a budget
  3. If using a planner, hire them now so that they can help throughout the entire process
  4. Make your guest list (figure out if you are sending formal invitations)
  5. Book/secure a tent rental
  6. Hire your must-have vendors
  7. Make a food/drink plan
  8. After talking with your hired vendors, secure any extra power that is needed for the day
  9. Book/rent a bathroom if needed
  10. Design the space on paper
  11. Figure out what decorations you need (do you need to do any special landscaping)
  12. Book your rentals if you did not do this through your tent company or caterer (tables, chairs, linens, glassware, dinnerware, etc.
  13. Figure out what you are wearing
A bride and groom getting married in their own backyard

Day of wedding timeline

One of the main benefits of having your wedding in a backyard or on private property is that you have much more flexibility with your schedule for the day.

With many venues, your ceremony has to be at a specific time. If things are running late, too bad!

By having the wedding at your own house or at the home of a family member or friend, you don’t have to stress as much of your hair and makeup run 20-30 minutes late. you will still want wan’t to keep your guests waiting for a long time but there is a lot more wiggle room in the schedule when having a backyard wedding.

A sample timeline for a backyard wedding would look like this:

  • 1:45 pm – Hair and makeup complete (photos in robes with the bridal party)
  • 2:00 pm – Bride into her dress (if there is a bride)
  • 2:15 pm – Groom and groomsmen dressed (if there is a groom)
  • 2:15 pm – Photos of the bride and bridesmaids
  • 2:45 pm – Photos of the groom and groomsmen
  • 3:00 pm – Bride and dad first look
  • 3:15-3:45 pm – family and friends arrive
  • 4:00pm – wedding ceremony
  • 4:30 pm – cocktail hour and photos
  • 5:30 pm – Guests are seated for dinner and the wedding party and couples are announced into the reception
  • 5:45 pm – First dance, parent dances, and toasts
  • 6:10 pm – Dinner is served
  • 7:15 pm – Cake cutting and sunset photos
  • 7:30-10 pm – Dancing and mingling

Download our free backyard wedding planning checklist (printable):

This free guide includes a printable checklist and budget worksheet for your backyard wedding.

Things To Consider When Planning An Outdoor Backyard Wedding (The Logistics)

a backyard wedding near a cornfield. This is an overhead view of the ceremony taking place.

Space (how much space do you need for a backyard wedding?)

The first thing you should figure out is how much space will you need for the entire event.

  • How big is the tent?
  • How much room does the catering team need for trucks and/or equipment?
  • Where will the ceremony take place? How much room is needed for chairs or benches?
  • Is there enough space to have a separate area for the ceremony, cocktail hour, dinner, and dancing?

Spend a little time at the space with your parents and a few friends. Having more eyes on the space will give you more ideas. Someone else might see something or think of something that you missed.

Power

Bringing in a generator for outside power might be something that is needed depending on the specifics of your event.

Are you bringing in vendors that require power (a band, DJ, lighting, catering, etc.)?

If so, ask each of them what they need for power. Once you have all of that info, head on down to Home Depot or Lowes (or somewhere else that rents generators) and ask them what they recommend based on the power needs of your vendor team.

If you need to rent a generator, plan on spending between $250-$1,000 depending on how much extra power you need.

For my backyard wedding, the catering team had their own extra power source. We rented a small sound system and played our own music. We also hung up some nice string lights. We did not require extra power from a generator and we had 85 guests.

We photographed and helped plan a different backyard wedding that included a 15 piece band, 350 guests, custom event lighting, a photo booth, heated tents, and trailer bathrooms that were nicer than most hotel bathrooms. The power bill for that wedding was close to $12,000.

As you can see, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to anything related to weddings.

Start by talking with your vendors to see if you even need to bring in extra power. Even if you do not need the extra power, you might consider renting or borrowing a small backup generator that can run your lights and sound system (just in case).

A bride and groom getting married in a backyard. The bride is laughing in this photo.

Permits

You should find out all of the information about permits before you finalize the wedding plans. Every area will be different.

We recommend filing the necessary papers way ahead of the due date. Local permit offices and townships are notorious for running behind. You do not want to risk not having the proper permits.

Bathrooms

If you are having a smaller intimate wedding, you might be fine with 20-40 people using the bathrooms inside the house. If you are having a larger outdoor event (or if you simply don’t want people peeing on your toilet seat), you will want to look into renting a bathroom or 2 for the wedding.

Pricing for these bathrooms is just like everything else in the wedding world (all over the map).

A typical single unit portable bathroom with a flush toilet will run you between $300-$500. A trailer-style bathroom with multiple stalls and lighting will cost between $2000-$12,000 depending on how big and fancy you want to get.

We recommend having 1 bathroom stall for every 25 guests.

Weather

Does it rain a lot where you are having your wedding? Is it really humid in the summer? The answers to these questions should not stop you from having your wedding; it’s just something that you should think about and plan for if it’s an issue.

For detailed weather information (average monthly rainfall, number of days per month it rains, average humidity, average temperatures, etc.) check out the FAQ section below. We link to a site where you can find all of that info for your location.

A wedding ceremony taking place in a backyard. This is a wide angle view of all the guests

Tent

If you live somewhere like California, a tent might just be for aesthetics. But if you live in a place like Pennsylvania, you would be running a big risk by not having a tent for an outdoor wedding.

We once worked a wedding in PA where the couple decided last minute to cancel their tent in order to save a little money because the weather forecast looked clear. It ended up pouring all day and the ceremony ended up being in the living room after putting all of the furniture in the garage. A tent is a must if you live in a rainy area.

The price for a tent can range from $500 to over $10,000. For a small micro backyard wedding (under 50 guests) plan on spending between $800-$1,500 depending on the tent and accessories.

When getting quotes for a tent, ask the tent company if the price includes delivery, setup, teardown, taxes, fire permit, etc.

Another thing to consider is renting a tent from a company that also rents other items that you need (tables, chairs, glassware, etc.). You could save a lot of money by getting everything from the same place.

Parking

If you’re lucky, there will be space to park all of your guests. If there is not a lot of extra space for parking you might have to get a little creative.

Find a location close by where guests could park (maybe a neighbor has a large field, or consider using a local public parking lot). Then hire a shuttle do pickups and drop offs.

Another thing to think about when planning out the parking is your wedding photos. We have talked to couples who were so disappointed after seeing their wedding photos because there were lots of cars in the background of their ceremony. It was something that they did not even think about.

Think about all of the photo locations that you want to use, and then make sure that parked cars will not be in the background of those locations. It might be something that can’t be helped, but it’s something to avoid if possible.

Insurance

It’s always better to be safe than to be sorry.

Have the property owner check with their homeowner’s insurance to see if they can get special day-of coverage for the wedding. Or ask your wedding planner or other vendors. They might have some great information specific to your area.

Neighbors

Be a great neighbor and let the other people around you know what is going on.

We recommend letting your neighbors know at least a month beforehand (and then reminding them again a few days before the event). This gives them time to plan a night away if they choose.

You could send each of them a lighthearted card with earplugs or something funny like that.

Cleanup

You would be really surprised how much trash a group of people could produce (even small groups of 20-30).

Make a plan ahead of time on how you are going to collect and get rid of the garbage.

Ask your caterer if they do any of the trash removal.

If it’s up to you, you have a couple of choices.

You can go to your local home improvement store (like Home Depot or Lowes) and purchase a few extra-large trash cans. Or you can buy some pop-up trash and recycling bins like this or this.

Backup plan (in case of rain)

If you don’t live on the west coast of the United States, you have to have to plan for rain.

Is your tent big enough to have your wedding ceremony?

If it rains, one option would be to have guests sitting at their tables and then having the ceremony on the dance floor. We have seen this and it works great.

What if we don’t have a tent and it rains?

Get a tent. If it’s not an option, consider the living room if there is enough room. We helped with a fairly large backyard wedding (60 guests). The couple decided to cancel their tent rental because the weather forecast was looking good.

It ended up pouring all day. We moved all of the furniture to the other rooms and the garage and had the ceremony in their living room. It worked because it was a very large room.

Get a tent.

What Are The Benefits Of Throwing A Backyard Wedding?

a backyard wedding ceremony taking place near a pond

It is possible to save money

One of the main savings by having a backyard wedding comes from not having to book a wedding venue. The average wedding venue in the US costs between $5000-$18,000 (not including food or anything else). That’s a lot of money!

Of course, it’s possible to throw a backyard wedding that costs just as much money or even more than a venue wedding, but if you plan is to have a small backyard wedding with 50 people or less, you will save a lot of money (even after renting a tent and other items).

I can speak from experience. My wedding was in a backyard, and we cut our expenses by about 50% of what they would have been by having the wedding at a local venue.

You can invite your dogs!

Do you really need any other reason to have a backyard wedding?

Some venues allow dogs for the ceremony and for a few photos. But some wedding venues don’t allow them at all.

By having a backyard wedding, your furry friends can enjoy the party as long as you want them to.

There is nothing cuter than watching a pup walk down the aisle (A ring-dogger!)

Decorating the space can be a lot of fun (and you can get really creative)

You can get really creative with your outdoor wedding if you want.

Some ideas to think about:

  • Plant flowers (in nice pots will work) that match your wedding colors. This is very easy to do and will look amazing!
  • Organize your wedding ceremony seating in a way that is unique (in a circle could be a lot of fun)
  • Put up gorgeous string lighting in the dining area and around other parts of the yard. As the sun sets, your wedding reception will take on a whole new look.
  • Put up fun wedding signs throughout the property
  • Put the bar outside and decorate it with a fun custom sign for your wedding. Then you can put the sign in your own backyard forever.

We are working on a detailed post that will showcase ideas and photos for over 50 amazing things to try. The link will be right here the first week of March.

The date is completely flexible to accommodate your schedule

Some wedding venues sell out prime dates 2 years in advance. By having the wedding in your own backyard (or on the property of a family member or friend), you get to pick whatever wedding date you want. you don’t have to worry about another couple coming in and putting down a deposit before you make a decision.

The atmosphere can be really relaxed

Having your family and friends on private property will set the mood and allow people to relax a little more.

We recommend setting up a fun lounge area near the bar. Decorate it with some string/cafe style lighting and your guests will never want to leave!

Setting Up The Wedding Ceremony Site

a backyard wedding ceremony under the trees

When trying to decide the location for your wedding ceremony, think about the background.

Is this your childhood home that you is very meaningful? Consider using that as your backdrop.

Or maybe there is a large willow tree or something similar that would make the perfect backdrop.

When picking the location, think about the angles of the sun. Where will it be? You don’t want your guests staring into the sun as you get married. Try to pick a location and time of day that makes it comfortable for everyone.

We use an app called Sun Seeker. Check your app store. I think it’s $9.99. We use it at every wedding that we plan and/or photograph. You can see where the angle of the sun will be at any location. It’s my favorite phone app.

Setting Up The Wedding Reception Site

a backyard wedding reception taking place at night. This is a photo of the tent and dance floor lit up by lights

You can get really creative with the reception set up if you like.

A few ideas to think about:

  • You could do long tables (family style) with beautiful cafe lights.
  • Yard games like Giant Jenga or Cornhole
  • An outdoor bar and/or tea lemonade station
  • Make a family tree (hang wedding photos from other family members in a tree or 2)

We are working on a new article with over 50 amazing ideas for your outdoor reception. you can find the link here the first week of March.

Backyard Wedding Rentals Checklist

Here are some of the items that you might need to rent:

  • Tent
  • Tables (for dinner, cocktail hour, desserts, favors, photo booth props, etc.)
  • Chairs for dinner
  • Linens for tables
  • Dishes/glassware
  • Place settings
  • Portable restroom
  • Generator
  • Extension cords
  • Centerpieces
  • Bar
  • Trash and recycling
  • Lights
  • Ceremony backdrop
  • Chairs for the ceremony (we recommend using the same chairs for dinner and ceremony to save money)
  • Dance floor
  • Lawn games
  • lounge furniture

Frequently Asked Questions About Backyard Weddings (FAQ)

How much does a backyard wedding cost?

A backyard wedding can definitely save you a lot of money, but you can also go all out and spend a fortune.

If you are having a backyard wedding to keep costs down, you could easily do a backyard wedding for $4000-$10,000 for around 50-60 guests (depending on what you want to include/exclude).

We will be doing a full article on how to put together a wedding for $5,000 and $10,000 in about a week (you can find the link here in early March)

Is a backyard wedding tacky?

Not at all! Backyard weddings can be just as beautiful and even more amazing than any wedding thrown at a wedding venue. There is so much personality to a backyard wedding.

We love them. And based on the number of requests we are getting for planning and photography, it is obvious that more and more couples are loving them too.

Should we hire a wedding planner or do the planning ourselves?

It all depends on your budget.

A wedding planner can definitely take the stress out of wedding planning but it does not mean that you can’t do it without one.

If planning your own wedding, just get organized from the start.

Another thing to consider if a wedding panner is not an option is a day-of-coordinator. This is someone who takes all of the day of to-do’s and gets them done for you. They make sure everything stays on schedule. If problems pop up, they are there to fix them for you.

What is the best month to have an outdoor wedding?

It honestly depends on where you live. A February wedding in Miami, Fl would be amazing since the average temperature is 75 degrees. That same month in Duluth, MN would only be 20-25 degrees.

We recommend going to Google and typing “average rainfall in city,state”

In the search results on page 1 click on the result from https://www.weather-us.com (Obviously nothing is exact, but these are the most accurate results based on what we have seen over the past 10 years)

You will be able to see the average rainfall per month for every single month. You will also get to see how many days it typically rains per month, what the average temperature is, what the average humidity is, etc.

Is it cheaper to have an outdoor/backyard wedding?

The answer is yes and no. If you are having a small intimate micro-style wedding, you can definitely save a lot of money. When we say small we mean around 50 guests or fewer.

If you are having a big 150 person wedding, you might end up spending the same (or even more) than you would have at a wedding venue.

When I got married, we had a backyard wedding with 85 guests. We definitely saved a lot of money. We included a lot of DIY elements in our day.

Is it possible to have a cheap/inexpensive backyard wedding?

Absolutely! If you go completely DIY (food, decor, photo/video) and rent a simple tent with tables/chairs, you can do a backyard wedding with 40-50 guests for around $3,000.

What kind of food do you serve at a backyard wedding?

One of the awesome things about the casual feel of a backyard wedding is that you can get really creative with your food.

Here are a few options:

  • Fully catered (like you would find at a wedding venue)
  • Food truck (tacos, sandwiches, pizza, ice cream, etc.)
  • Completely DIY. You and a few family members can make everything or you can even do a potluck where everyone brings their favorite dish.
  • BBQ
  • All appetizers (you can have a bunch of fan favorites)

What do you wear to casual backyard wedding?

You can stick to tradition and wear the dream dress that you have had your eye on for a year, or you can make it really casual and get a beautiful white dress from Forever 21 or Lulus for $50-$100. Or you can skip the white dress and wear whatever you like. Make this wedding day about you and your partner. Do whatever makes you the most happy.

Follow us on Instagram for lots of wedding photo inspiration, planning tips and funny wedding memes.

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