It’s crazy to think it’s already been almost 8 months since Michael and I said “I do.” How time flies!
Since having our wedding, and sharing it with you all on here, I’ve gotten a lot of questions from soon-to-be-brides asking about our “backyard wedding” style. How to do it? How to pull it off? Chairs? Tents? Food?!
To catch you up to speed, Michael and I rented a house on VRBO, put a big tent out back, and got married there. It sounds simple enough in concept but turns out planning a casual backyard wedding can quickly become anything but low key. Unlike a normal venue, you’re pretty much 100% on your own to organize every aspect of the day. So, in order to help some more of you, and answer a lot of questions I get into my inbox, I’m going to break down some of the things you might want to know if you’re planning or considering a backyard wedding.
Tips For Planning a Backyard Wedding
1. You Have To Be Willing to Let Go of “Perfect”
This is the FIRST tip I tell someone when they say they want a wedding like mine. Something is bound to go awry with this kind of wedding. There is no planner and no one coordinating each aspect. And, even if you do hire a planner, things will go wrong at a place not designed for 100+ people.
At my wedding there was tons of mishaps…the food didn’t fit in the oven of the house and everything had to get warmed up on the stove-top and grill one tray at a time, causing hot appetizers to have to go out at the same time as dinner instead of before. The music didn’t start playing at the beginning of the ceremony. We blew a fuse, three times. These are all things that could have tipped a nervous, perfectionist bride over the edge. So, you need to know yourself and if these things would make you lose your cool.
For us, they were bothersome when they happened, but at the end of the day NONE of our guests even noticed anything was wrong. I remember talking to a guest a few weeks later and they said no one had a clue about any of it. Moral of the story is – as it is with any wedding planning – that you can’t sweat the small stuff. But, even more so with a wedding of this style, you need to make sure you’re someone who won’t let these things ruin your big day.
2. Hope for Sun but Plan for Rain
A backyard wedding is…well..in the backyard. You need to think about rain and other weather from the first day you plan the wedding. While our rain plan was fairly simple (we’ll just do it all under the tent!), we had to plan for rain even if we didn’t want it. For us this included ordering sides to go all the way around the tent even though we planned not to use them. It also included being willing to not have the ceremony how/where we envisioned if it did rain. If the perfect ceremony is really important to you, planning a wedding that could get rained out might not be for you.
Additionally, you also want to consider other weather issues such as high wind, high heat, and so on.
3. Food is Trickier
Planning food service for 100 (or more) at a residential house isn’t the easiest feat. As you saw in my notes above about the oven, these types of houses are not designed for large scale dinners. We had dreams of a sit down dinner, but realized it’d be too hard and too expensive to pull off in a backyard style. Instead we opted for a more “serve yourself” style.
Remember, if you’re getting married in the warmest months, heat does BAD things to food, and bugs will find it if it’s out too early or too long. Consider all this in your planning of food timing, and highly consider some staff to help man it. Waitstaff was what saved some of the biggest mishaps at our wedding and they were one of the cheapest vendors we had!
Think about how you’re going to logistically feed a large amount of people from a small kitchen. Some suggestions might be hiring a food truck or two, doing family style (with limited foods that need to be warm), or hiring a catering company that brings a truck with the needed equipment with them.
4. Less is More
We rented our house from Thursday until Sunday, with the wedding Saturday and a flight to our honeymoon Sunday night. I knew from the very beginning the last thing I wanted was to lug a ton of stuff to the house and then have to coordinate lugging it all back. Prioritize what things you really want and are worth it to coordinate bringing. Keep decorations you’re buying and bringing with you to a minimum if possible or assign 1-2 small things to each member of the wedding party to keep things simple.
We brought a few things but pretty much everything was rented from our rental company. Consider renting as much as you can as opposed to buying and bringing it yourself, so the rental company can just take it away for you. See more in my next tip!
5. You Have To Bring it ALL
You have to coordinate everything you’ll need…and I mean every.single.thing. Sure, tables, chairs, linens, duh. But also cups, chafing dishes, pitchers for water, tongs to serve with, garbage cans, can openers, lemon wedges for the drinks… all the little things you don’t really think about since they are usually at a typical venue, you need to provide.
Consider a rental company that can accommodate a lot. The company we chose not only brought our tent, chairs, tables and lines, but we were also able to get all our plates and cutlery from them. On top of that they brought chafing dishes and serving platters, as well as some of our decor including wooden crates and wine barrels for the bar. Having one company keeps everything, logistically, simpler, and will save you A LOT of headache and running around.
6. Hire Good Vendors
You’re going to need to put a lot of trust in your vendors to ensure things good smoothly. Take the time to research and hire vendors who know what they are doing. If they are professional and have been doing this a long time, they’ll know how to come in and do what needs to get done without the direction of a wedding planner. We had some vendors we didn’t even actually meet in person with until the end of the wedding (some we didn’t even meet at all – like the bus company that shuttled our guests). We had to trust they’d be able to get setup and functioning and keep everything moving smoothly without direction.
7. Don’t Forget About Light and Electricity
When you’re outside you need light for your guest. Obviously you need to light your tent but also any pathways people might need to get to the bathroom or around the space! We opted for a few extra rows of string lights and strung them between the house and tent to provide extra lighting.
And, as mentioned in my 1st point…also know about the electricity at the house you’re using. We blew a fuse three times. Had we taken the time to better know which outlets were on which fuses, we would have been able to avoid having our groomsmen run to the basement to reset the fusebox while others found a new outlet for the DJ.
8. High Heels Hate Grass
Dreams of walking around on your wedding day in Louboutin stilettos? Reconsider. Not only do heels sink into grass, but the outdoors isn’t exactly a smooth, even surface. You and your bridesmaids will want to opt for wedge heels. Also, I suggest you have everyone try their shoes out on grass before the big day. Even better, opt for flat sandals if you can. I wore a pair of flat sandals and most my girls swapped into flat shoes after the big walk down the aisle.
Additionally, I put a note in my invites to guests that the ceremony and reception would be on grass, so they could choose shoes accordingly.
All that being said, if you’re going to have a backyard style wedding, ENJOY! I wouldn’t trade our wedding day for a million dollars. Even with it’s quirks, it’s mishaps, and everything else, it was the perfect day for us. It allowed us to have a day that was truly ours and our guests all loved the personal, outdoor vibe.
Want some more wedding posts? Try these:
Tips for a Mismatched Wedding Party
Will You Be my Bridesmaid?
DIY Wedding Invitations
I’m Engaged! Our Proposal Story