“Let’s put on a show!”
Many an old-fashioned movie musical features these hopeful words. The hero and heroine throw together a sensational performance, wherever they are—maybe a college campus or a barn—and the show is so successful that a happy ending is guaranteed.
Maybe you have the same thought as you start your wedding planning. No need to rent a venue—after all, you, your parents, your friend, or grandma, have a nice big backyard. Problem solved! Easy, cheap DIY wedding, here you come!
Or not. There are so many potential additional expenses and logistical concerns with a backyard wedding. If you don’t look before you leap, big problems can occur. Ask yourself the following questions to make sure you, your budget, and your venue can handle a special event.
Can Your Backyard Accommodate Your Expected Number of Wedding Guests?
The first step in this process is to hire a rental company to measure your property. These companies specialize in providing tables, chairs, and other required elements for a wedding and can even develop a to-scale floor plan designating your ceremony and reception areas. I can’t stress how important this is. If you invite 200 guests, but your backyard can only house 100, you’re going to have a catastrophe on your hands.
Did You Budget Enough for Rentals?
Along with a thorough analysis of your space, a rental company can also price out your exact needs for the event. Inclusive venues such as hotels provide tables, chairs, linens, cutlery, lighting, china, glassware, and all manner of other infrastructural items. These elements all become a brand-new budget line item when you are responsible for the venue, and the cost can add up. Pay special attention to kitchen needs. Typically, caterers will not use an existing kitchen for a wedding, as residential kitchens are too small, and the team needs a large area for plating up food before service. Renting a pop-up kitchen can cost thousands.
Is There Enough Street Parking?
Is the house in an area with little parking, or is it controlled by an HOA with strict rules on outside vehicles? If so, you may need to hire a valet. Note that you can actually require guests to Uber or Lyft. I’ve done this before for clients’ weddings; the couple will alert guests that there will be nowhere to park and ask them to use a rideshare service. It works! Just be militant about keeping to this rule (except for guests with specific mobility requirements) and consistently communicate this requirement in your invitation, wedding website, and email blasts to guests.
Do You Need Additional Restrooms?
You thought being a wedding planner was glamorous, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve discussed plumbing! An older home may not have a plumbing system that can stand up to an avalanche of guests. I always instruct clients to hire a plumber to check their system, clear their pipes, and pre-empt any potential issues with their restrooms. Otherwise, you may need to rent exterior porta-potties. We’re not talking about the kind you see on construction sites. These days, portable restrooms are elegant and upscale. And yes, that’s yet another line item on your budget.
Will Vendors Have an Issue Unloading?
Vendors all tend to arrive around the same time, causing a caravan of vehicles to line up while everyone unloads. Do you have a long driveway, or can you cone off parking spots for your vendors’ vehicles without annoying your neighbors?
Have You Discussed the Event With Your Neighbors?
Speaking of, be sure to talk to neighbors about your upcoming celebration. They may ask for a hard-out end time on the earlier side, like 9 or 10 p.m., or they may be concerned about parking on the street. Or they may be as excited as you are and offer their driveway for vendor parking—you never know! As long as you have an idea of their tolerance for such an event well ahead of time, you’ll ensure an uninterrupted celebration.
Are You Planning To DIY Everything?
Assembling framed photos of your family to display around the house or even building your own chuppah can be great ways to DIY elements of your wedding, but don’t let a non-professional provide any item or service that relates to electricity, food, or other crucial infrastructural elements of the event. Your aunt can’t cook a two-course meal efficiently and safely for a large number of people unless she’s a licensed caterer with certifications in food safety, and Uncle Joe may love DJing friends’ parties, but he might blow a circuit if he’s not experienced in providing sound for large events. Working in a backyard requires professional vendors because of the uniqueness of the space. Tread carefully and use common sense when drawing on your or others’ elbow grease to make your wedding special.
Did You Factor a Wedding Planner Into Your Budget?
Listen to me and listen closely: You absolutely must have an experienced wedding planner coordinate your event. You don’t even have to pay for a full wedding planner—a partial planning package can be enough if you strive to be organized and easily reachable for any questions or concerns. Planners will understand exactly what you need to have a successful event and will look for anything lacking logistically. They will truly save the day and ensure the wedding itself goes without a hitch. There are too many outside variables when hosting an event in an out-of-the-box space. Plus, they will know vendors who are capable and experienced, and these vendors will likely give you better pricing due to their relationship with the planner. Most of all, hiring a planner will give you something priceless: peace of mind.
By researching the ins and outs of backyard weddings, you’ll understand exactly what a backyard setting requires to enable a smooth wedding without big-day surprises. Ultimately, you may find that having a backyard wedding is the perfect choice for you and your partner. There’s no place like home, and the memories of your big day will feel even more special by celebrating in your backyard.