So, you’re about to tie the knot. First off—congratulations! You’re embarking on the best journey of your life. Now comes the fun part. That would entail planning the wedding, setting a guest list, choosing the décor, the menu and all of the other details that will combine to make your big day absolutely fabulous. Now, if you’d prefer to stage the wedding at your home or on a family member’s property, we highly recommend considering a backyard wedding.
These gatherings are intimate and can be customized to your exact needs. Who doesn’t want to look into that backyard for years to come and think about the amazing wedding that unfolded there? You’ll never forget your first dance, cutting the cake or the look on guests’ faces when Uncle Bob decided that the middle of your dad’s speech was the perfect time to deliver an intoxicated toast.
It’s all about the details
Here’s the catch: as much fun as backyard weddings can be, they need careful planning to avoid some very common pitfalls. Unlike engaging a wedding venue that has years of experience throwing events and has everything from seating to sound systems ready to roll out as needed, when the party’s in your backyard, it’s up to you to consider every tiny detail.
That’s why it’s so important to either build a team of friends or family members to help with planning. Or, as is the more common approach, engage the services of a wedding planner or catering firm (like Kiss the Cook!) who help manage weddings every day and can build and implement a strategy that ensures your nuptials unfold according to plan.
No matter how you choose to proceed, there are some key (and often overlooked) considerations to keep in mind when planning your backyard wedding:
Always think logistics first
Look around your home (or the one you plan to use for the wedding ceremony and reception). Now look at your guest list. Is the home large enough to accommodate the number of people you plan to invite? Is it suitable for your guests? If many of them are elderly or have disabilities and your backyard terrain is uneven, for example, will mobility restrictions pose a challenge?
Can your caterer access the backyard without having to trudge through the house—and if not, will that be an issue? Those are just a few of many important logistical points to consider. Overall, the key to staging a successful backyard wedding is to think of every possible scenario and how it can be proactively addressed to avoid crunch-time hiccups.
Remember to power it up!
Supplying electricity for a wedding is another logistical consideration, but one that I wanted to call out on its own because it’s so often ignored. Mobile kitchens, lighting kits and sound systems require lots of power.
Most homes aren’t designed to accommodate the energy requirements needed to turn your backyard into a virtual nightclub—and that can be a big problem.
In some cases, you may need to rent a portable generator to address electricity requirements, while smaller events may not require supplemental power sources. Work with your planning team (and potentially even a lighting or sound supplier with expertise in this area) to come up with a strategy to ensure the lights don’t go out until you decide to wrap up the party.
Know that Mother Nature doesn’t always cooperate
Nothing ruins a backyard wedding quite like high winds, torrential rain or a sudden cold snap—or some combination of the three. The reality of a backyard wedding is that it’s impossible to control the elements, and they’re nearly always unpredictable. Rather than pulling the plug on your outdoor knot-tying extravaganza, be proactive.
Make contingency plans for the worst possible seasonal weather, and hope for the best. That’s why we typically recommend using a tent system to provide shelter for dinner and dancing, or at the very least having a plan in place to move the fun indoors if Mother Nature decides to be difficult.
Oh the noise, noise, noise, noise!
Yes, I just made a Grinch reference in a summertime backyard wedding blog! Deal with it. The fact of the matter is that although you and your guests may want to party into the wee hours, your neighbours a few doors over may not be quite as enthused (which explains why it’s always a good idea to invite them to the party, too!). But in case you’re not besties with Beatrice from next door, at least inform your neighbours of the pending party to come. Most importantly, understand that backyard weddings will typically have an earlier cut-off time (typically dictated by local noise by-laws) than those staged at a dedicated wedding venue. That means a little less bass and a few fewer tracks, but still an awesome gathering, nonetheless.
Make sure parking isn’t a problem
This is especially important if the wedding is being staged in an urban area where parking is limited. The last thing you want is for your guests’ cars to be towed or ticketed simply for attending your big day—nor do you want them circling the block for an hour searching for a place to park. If parking spaces in the area are limited, and many of your guests live within close proximity, recommend a cab or Uber instead of driving. Other options include asking guests to park at a central location and then shuttling them to your wedding venue, or arranging for a valet service to handle the parking duties on their behalf, perhaps stowing vehicles at a local parking lot. Either way, just be sure to add parking logistics to your party planning checklist.
Be kind to the cook
Or at least consider where they’re going to prepare your delectable dishes. If you decide to include an outdoor kitchen, be sure that your yard is spacious enough to accommodate a chef’s needs. In many cases caterers will use a homeowner’s kitchen to prepare dishes or stage plates before serving guests.
That works in spaces with the right equipment and room to accommodate a chef’s prep equipment; in others, only limited on-site preparation may be possible.
Although we regularly cater fully-plated, multi-course, sit-down meals in the great outdoors (and they’re incredible!), in many cases we’ll recommend a buffet-style dinner service or our signature food stations (or a combination) to simplify and customize backyard food service.
Creativity is key when turning your backyard into a wedding venue. So, too, is taking food preparation logistics into account when planning your menu. A great caterer can make anything work, but the chances of success are far better if you’re realistic about your culinary vision from the outset.
Don’t flush your fun with long washroom line-ups
Last but not least, don’t forget that your guests are going to need to use the bathroom. Many couples now prefer to use semi-luxurious washroom trailers for their event rather than Port-a-Potties. Both do the job, but there’s a significant cost difference to go the more elegant route. Just remember that washrooms require adequate space, preferably stationed well away from the main festivities, yet close enough to be convenient, and are an added expense that needs to be addressed in your wedding budget.
Take our advice and resist the temptation to allow guests to use washrooms inside, unless it’s a very small gathering.
Doing so inevitably leads to unnecessary, messy traffic through the house, long line-ups and a homeowner constantly worried over whether they need to replace towels or replenish toilet paper rolls.
The bottom line is that backyard weddings can be a perfect complement to your big day—they just need to be managed well and executed properly. Taking a logistics-first approach will help alleviate many of the avoidable headaches to make your event even more memorable.
Fia Pagnello, Founder and CEO
Contact us now to book your backyard wedding!