Weddings

July 30, 2020

How to Host a Backyard Wedding Ceremony: 30+ Practical Questions to Consider

Wedding Arbor

So you’ve decided to hold your wedding ceremony in a backyard. 

Maybe it’s your backyard. Maybe it’s someone else’s backyard. (Presumably you know the person whose backyard it is…)

Maybe you’ve always wanted to get married there.

Or maybe you just got so sick of waiting on freakin’ COVID that you and your partner decided you just want to be married and a backyard ceremony is the way to go. In Washington state specifically, I know that the latest round of restrictions on gatherings has made things MUCH harder for couples who want to be married.

First of all, kudos to you! I’m sure this was an extremely difficult decision. But I truly believe you can still create the most memorable and special day.

Yes, it might feel more casual than a wedding venue and it certainly may not be the wedding you dreamed of. But that doesn’t mean you should treat the day like some willy-nilly backyard get-together.

You and your partner are getting MARRIED. It’s a special day to celebrate your unique love story and the beginning of your lives together. And think how you’ll be able to share this story with your grandchildren some day – how you chose to honor your commitment to each other in spite of this pandemic. (That’s a good a** story if I’ve ever heard one!)

All that being said, there’s obviously a reason we have and need wedding venues – they literally specialize in hosting weddings! In opting for a backyard ceremony, you’ll have a few considerations and things to think through (which a wedding venue might otherwise take care of or make super easy for you.)

So while you are absolutely able to create a memorable ceremony in the comfort of your own backyard, don’t forget to think through the logistics!

To help you, I’ve created a list of some questions to consider about…

The Backyard Space

  • How many guests could safely and comfortably attend? (While accommodating social distancing restrictions.)
  • Is there a particular spot in the backyard that stands out as a perfect place to exchange your vows? 
    • If not, look into creating or renting an arbor or arch, even some light landscaping can make a world of difference.
  • What will be in the background of the photos? Are there any eyesores that stick out?
    • Try taking a few photos from different angles of the spot you are looking at and see if anything stands out to you that you didn’t notice before. (Some eyesores will probably be unavoidable, but you can at least be prepared for them!)
    • Also see if your photographer is willing to scope out the backyard before the big day. They’ll be able to give you ideas (and tell you if they can crop or edit something out of the photos.)
  • If you want that ‘walking down the aisle’ experience, will you have room for an aisle? Will you be able to easily access the aisle? 
    • Make sure to figure out your path ahead of time.

Seating

  • Do you have enough chairs for the ceremony? Will guests be seated on blankets? Or will everyone be standing?
  • Are there older guests who might not be able to stand or sit on the ground?
  • If you don’t want a hodge-podge of seating, can you consider renting matching chairs from a local rental company? (Costs are as low as a couple bucks per chair.)
  • Are there higher-risk guests who should be seated separately from the rest of the guests to ensure better social distancing?

Music & Noise

  • Have you and your partner made your ceremony playlist?
  • Do you have someone who can handle the ceremony music?
    • Is there someone you can REALLY trust to play the correct song you’ll be walking down the aisle to?  
  • Are there any outlets you can access outside to plug a speaker into? Or do you need to look into wireless speakers? 
  • How close are the neighbors? Do they know you’ll be getting married?
    • It doesn’t hurt to give your neighbors a heads up! That way they can hopefully postpone all of their lawn-mowing activities until after the ceremony is over….

Lighting

  • If you’re getting married closer to sunset, will there be sufficient lighting in the backyard?
  • Can you add some string lights or lanterns to the backyard space to jazz it up a bit?

Bathrooms

  • Will you be fine with guests accessing whatever bathrooms are available in the house? (You’ll probably have to be!)
    • Make sure you have enough soap, paper towels, etc. available for guests.
  • Do all the guests know where the bathrooms are? If not, maybe just put a sign on the bathroom door!

Parking

  • Is there parking available near the house? How many cars could possibly fit?
    • Make sure to communicate parking information to any guests ahead of time. You probably don’t want someone calling you in the middle of your first look because they don’t know where to park. 
    • If there’s any neighbors you’re on good terms with, it might not hurt to ask if they have any parking space available they’d be willing to share.

Weather

  • Backyards are not immune to bad weather! Do you have a back-up plan in case the weather takes a turn for the worst? Will you and your guests be able to move inside if needed? 
    • If you’re really concerned about rain, do you have space in the yard to put up a small tent or canopy? 
  • Is there a chance the weather is going to be HOT? 
    • Provide some paper fans and make sure there’s cold water available for guests.
  • Is there a chance the weather is going to be COLD?
    • Maybe have extra blankets available for guests.

Garbage & Recycling

  • Even without a reception, there’s bound to be items that need to be thrown away. To make it easier on guests, just have a small trash and recycling bin located outside (so they don’t have to go scavenge inside the house like a band of raccoons.)

Vendors

  • Do any of your vendors need to see the backyard space ahead of time? Or have they at least seen photos of the space?
  • Do your vendors know where to park or drop off items?
  • Do they have the contact information for someone they can call if they have issues parking or accessing the backyard?

Special Details

Even without a full reception, you can still incorporate unique details and touches. Have you considered…

  • Setting up a small memory table to honor loved ones who have passed?
  • Displaying a custom welcome sign? Do you have a place you can display it?
  • Providing flower petals for guests to toss as you walk back down the aisle together?
  • Leaving guests with a small favor to thank them for attending?
  • Asking guests to sign a guestbook? (Make sure to set out hand sanitizer if guests will be signing the same book and sharing pens.)

Attire

  • Have you communicated the dress code to everyone attending?
    • Some guests might assume that since the ceremony is in the backyard, the dress code is ‘anything goes.’ If this is not the case, make sure to communicate to guests how you would like them to dress. It’s still your wedding, after all.

Health & Safety

  • Are your guests prepared to wear masks (if currently required?)
    • It’s a nice gesture to provide extra masks for everyone attending. 
  • Are there any high risk guests attending (such as grandparents) who you’ll need to exercise extra caution around? 
  • Do you have enough supplies on hand?
    • Make sure there’s hand soap in the bathroom and hand sanitizer available.

The Non-Reception

  • How do you want to send your guests off after the ceremony?
    • Although all receptions are currently restricted in Washington State, you could still provide your guests with a little piece of a reception to go. Maybe it’s a boxed meal, individually packaged cookies or cupcakes, or even a mini bottle of champagne.

Set-up & Coordination

  • Who are you going to enlist to help with the ceremony set-up and coordination? (Because it certainly should not be on you as the COUPLE to set-up and coordinate your own wedding.)

Just make sure to consider these details ahead of time to make sure the day is as stress-free as possible for you. 

For couples who plan to hold a backyard ceremony and don’t want to spend the day worrying about the logistics (or force their friends and family to do so,) check out my Minimony Service to see how I can help.

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