Planning a backyard wedding this summer or fall? Here are the tips you need to know to do it right. Subscribe here for the latest!
Hi, lovelies! Did your wedding plans change due to COVID-19/Coronavirus? From changing the date to bridal shower cancellations — even virtual bridal showers — it is clear to see a lot of couples making last-minute changes to prior wedding plans.
When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade — or a lemon marg!
When things don’t go as planned, just yell “PLOT TWIST!”
Life is unpredictable, but your wedding is going to still totally rock. :)
Here’s what we’re hearing from YOU, our readers:
-Most couples rescheduled weddings at the same venue, later this year or locking in a date for 2021
-Other couples were unable to lock in a new wedding date at the same venue and ceremony site, as one was available while another was booked, changing the venues altogether or waiting until next year to make “official” plans
-Many couples decided to postpone their wedding from March and April to later this summer/fall, citing August and September as the most popular rebooking months (provided everything is back by then), planning a backyard wedding / outdoor wedding / small wedding instead
The couples who want to get married this summer or fall — again, given everything is open and back to “normal”, we encourage safety first! — we’ll tell you the best tips on planning a backyard wedding and reenvisioning your wedding day with more meaning and less frills.
It’s not a bad thing to realize that your wedding day can be simpler, with more emphasis on meaningful details and less worry on how over-the-top it will be.
Life throws us things like this to prove what is important… and at the heart of it all, weddings are and should be all about love.
So, today we’re showing you some tips on re-planning your wedding: we’ll tell you tips on how to focus on what you really need for your wedding and see how easy it is to plan a backyard wedding / outdoor wedding / smaller venue wedding you will truly be proud to call your own.
Let’s get started!
Planning a Backyard Wedding
There are ten important sections to consider when planning an at-home / outdoor / backyard wedding and we’ll walk you through each one here, beginning with the venue.
1. Pick a location
Where can you get married? Anywhere!
Outdoor Wedding Venues
But realistically, choose a place that offers the space you need/want to include the size of your guest list. Do you have space in your backyard? Do your parents own a large backyard? o you know someone who has property, acreage, a large backyard, a farm, etc.? If yes, it will serve as a great location for your backyard wedding.
Backyard weddings are easy to plan!
Another option: parks! We have Metroparks in Michigan that cost around $200 for a permit for the day to rent a covered party area. You can bring in any outside catering, set up your own tables and chairs, decorate, etc.
Indoor Alterantive Wedding Venues
If you’re worried about weather / rain / cold temps, consider other alternative wedding venues that may not be booked yet. Some alternative wedding venue spaces include…
-a small banquet hall / venue space
-conference room at hotel
Just call, ask if they’re able to book your wedding, and go from there!
Try to think outside the box on location. Perhaps it is not the ballroom of your dreams, but you can make the space your own with decorative accents (we’ll prove it later in this list).
You’ll also want to figure out the ceremony location vs. the reception. When planning a backyard wedding, this is usually the same space: the ceremony takes place with chairs in rows, an aisle, a backdrop / arch for the ceremony, and then everything is moved over to a tented space for the reception.
You can also get married in a place of worship and then plan the reception outdoors.
ANYWHERE you get married, keep this in mind: have a backup plan in case of rain or poor weather. For larger outdoor spaces, a tent can be quickly used for a covered ceremony; at your mom’s house, a backyard wedding that turns rainy can mean everyone gathers into a cozy living room.
And if you’re just worried about cold weather outside for the ceremony itself, provide these blankets to guests!
They’ll love it.
Just roll with it! :)
2. Finalize Your Guest List
You may need to make changes to your guest list. Use this chart to help. If at all possible, maintain the same guest list you had if you already sent out save the dates / change the dates / wedding invitations. It’s a lot easier to keep with the same guests than have to cancel the wedding and hand-pick guests; those who are not invited will feel hurt.
However, if you can’t plan the same large wedding you envisioned last year, or even a few months ago, sometimes plans just need to change and loved ones will understand if you decide to elope or go with a very small wedding instead.
3. Send Invitations
Okay, invitation time! Send invitations to guests to announce the exciting news!
I’m so in love with these garden invites! They’re perfect for planning a backyard wedding.
Browse 9 Best Places to Buy Cheap Wedding Invitations for tons of inspiration, even last-minute! There are huge sales happening right now on Minted, Zazzle, BasicInvite, and Etsy, just to name a few.
NEED ‘EM RIGHT NOW? If you’re very short on time, there’s a digital invite for that! You can send digital wedding invitations at Joy or Greenvelope.
TIP: Here’s how many wedding invitations to order.
4. Order Wedding Dress, Bridesmaid Dresses, Groom/Groomsmen Suits
When planning a backyard wedding, what will you wear? Right now, ordering your wedding dress and buying online bridesmaid dresses and groomsmen attire is going to be your best bet. Lucky for you, ordering bridesmaid dresses is so easy now. When I got married, dresses were online but most were in-store only (and it wasn’t even that long ago, you guys!) But now, you can pretty much buy affordable dresses online and get them in time for your wedding.
A backyard wedding or small wedding doesn’t necessarily mean you need to sacrifice style. If you’re opting for affordability and want to buy a dress you can get in time for your wedding, browse these wedding dresses under $800, along with these boho wedding dresses under $200 (for real!), plus this list of the Best Etsy Wedding Dresses Right Now. You’ll also like short wedding dresses and these these 15 Best Crop Top Wedding Dresses for 2020. Whew! That’s a lot to look at, but you’ll definitely find the dress of your dreams there! :)
Oh! If you are after a wedding dress with pockets…. here you go! You’re welcome!
Those should all give you plenty of options for buying your wedding dress in a smaller timeframe, as most of the options are available to ship soon or can be made in a quicker timeline.
For bridesmaid dresses, choose unique and modern bridesmaid dress styles that reflect each woman’s unique style. The key here is to choose a color or range of colors and let bridesmaids choose the dress they love best from the same store.
As a solid example — I know you’ll love these — check out the Lovely Bridesmaid Dresses at Dessy. These dresses are available in the latest colors and trends, in short lengths, long lengths, various necklines, and more to show off her favorite style. You can choose one color and have bridesmaids choose any dress from the collection in that exact color (or even a range of colors for a coordinated look).
As a result, your bridesmaids will have a beautiful dress to wear to your wedding plus a dress they’ll actually like to wear again. :) That’s a win-win, we say!
Here are some examples of bridesmaid dresses to inspire you.
(Photos: Dresses by Dessy from Lovely Bride collection, Photos by Brooke Taelor Photography)
Also loving this color for fall:
And I love this dusty pink!
These are all available online. You can browse the collection + buy here.
SPECIAL DISOUNT FOR EMMALINE BRIDE READERS
Use offer code: EBLOVE20 for 20% off at Dessy.com + FREE shipping on $100+ orders. No expiration, share it with your bridesmaids + save money!
Will it be cold outside? Don’t forget pashminas or faux fur wraps!
Groom + Groomsmen Backyard Wedding Attire
For groomsmen, your best bet is to buy a suit online. You can buy dress shirts, suits, etc. from your favorite clothing store. I have heard great things from groomsmen ordering their suits at Kohls, Macy’s, Mens Wearhouse, Jos A. Bank, etc. A dress shirt, tie, suit jacket, and pair of dress pants — all in the same brand, color, and style — is all you need.
If you’re planning a backyard wedding, you can err on the side of less casual; men in khaki pants or grey dress pants, a button-down shirt, necktie or bow tie, casual sports jacket, etc. is all you need. Some couples even go with jeans and button-down shirts.
It’s all up to you! The formality you wish the wedding to feel, though, will depend a lot on the attire of the wedding party, so dress up a bit to up that formality factor a bit. :)
For flower girls and ring bearers, read: Where to Buy Flower Girl Dresses Online + 26 Most Adorable Ring Bearer Outfit Ideas.
For shoes at your backyard wedding, you’ll probably be facing dirt, grass, sand, etc. This means wear less heels, and opt for more flat and comfortable wedding shoes. These sandals are quite popular right now; brides are loving these ballet flats; and we’re seeing brides buying and wearing more of these Converse Wedding Shoes than ever before. (Yay, comfort!)
No matter what shoes you choose, read: 7 Wedding Shoe Mistakes to Avoid.
5. Rent What You Need
Planning a backyard wedding requires a little more rental on your part. But it’s not hard to do, as long as you know what you need.
Here are the rentals you’ll most likely need for any backyard wedding or outdoor park wedding.
You can rent a ton of things from Rent My Wedding, like this wedding arch we talked about earlier.
What to Rent for Backyard Wedding
–Arch or Arbor
You can rent an arch here; if you prefer, you can buy an arch here and rent it out after the wedding or sell it to another couple to recoup costs.
For a rustic wedding arch, something like this would look amazing for a backyard wedding. You can even buy the draping from here, too!
For a boho or modern look, this elegant copper arch is a great choice.
Read: How to Decorate a Copper Arch for more inspiration.
You can rent a tent for the most affordable price locally; choose a place that also offers tables and chairs, in order to maximize delivery costs. Many tent rentals also offer upgrades like walls, dance floors, and more.
If you prefer to purchase one, you can buy a wedding tent here.
You’ll need chairs for the ceremony, one chair per guest, arranged on either side of an aisle. Optional: aisle runner.
Note: This is helpful for guests to sit on either side! Sign by The Rusty Woodmill.
You’ll need round or rectangular tables for your guests to eat dinner. Typically, you can fit 8 to 10 guests per standard round table. Rent from a local party rental place near you — simply Google to find them and call to request pricing and details.
You’ll want/need a dance floor. Most tent rental companies offer a dance floor package.
A round cake table makes a great place for guests to see your cake — and for you to do the cake cutting.
–Three Long Rectangular Table
This will be used for 1) seating cards or a seating chart, 2) decorations and card box, etc., and 3) head table.
–Buffet Food Tables
You’ll need extra tables to create a buffet food line.
For specific questions and sizing, consult your rental company. They’ll know how much space you have, how many guests you plan to serve, how many guests can fit, how many tables you need, etc.
–Chair Covers and Linens
You’ll need table linens, including table cloths, table runners, and napkins. We recommend standard white tablecloths, paired with table runners like these or these trendy gauze table runners.
Want to cover your chairs? Try these chair cover ideas, or rent them from here.
To gauge how many table linens you’ll need, try this helpful tool.
–Serving / Plates
Silverware, glassware, plates, and serving ware, as well. Your caterer can work with you on those. :)
If you’d like, here are some “extras” you can rent:
6. Plan Your Bar / Beverage Menu
You’re having an open bar, right? ;) You’ll definitely want to hire a bartender, order plenty of liquor, beer, and wine, and have non-alcohol drinks available: soft drinks, water, and coffee. (TIP: Make this super easy + fun coffee bar!)
Here is a helpful tool to determine how much alcohol you’ll need to buy depending on your guest list.
If you don’t have money to hire a bartender, make your own bar and have guests take drinks on their own. Helpful things to have include drink dispensers, tons of coolers or galvanized tubs filled with ice, like this:
… and couples love these mason jar mugs for guests to take + fill up (and then bring home).
Tip: Here’s how to stock the bar at your wedding.
7. Hire The Best Vendors
OK — now, who do you need to hire to help you at your wedding? This list may vary, but we highly recommend you hire the following vendors:
Your officiant will be the one who marries you! And don’t forget to get your marriage license in time, 30 days before the wedding date.
You’ll definitely want photos to capture your beautiful wedding day!
You’ll need a catering company that handles the cooking and delivery of your food. If your budget allows, a crew hired to help serve is helpful to have.
You’ll need flowers!
As a shortlist, here’s what flowers you need when planning a backyard wedding: bouquet for you, bouquets for bridesmaids, boutonnieres for groomsmen and fathers, petals for flower girl, boutonniere for ring bearer, corsage for mothers. Highly recommended: decorate your tables with flower centerpieces in simple vases to make everything so much easier for you!
A day-of wedding coordinator is helpful to have for the setup, coordination, ceremony lineup, wedding timeline, and more. He or she will keep your day running smoothly.
YOU NEED MUSIC! Hire a wedding DJ to handle music of your ceremony, reception, and dancing, as well as a sound system so guests can hear speeches during dinner. The DJ is so important — he or she acts as the Master of Ceremonies and ACTUALLY keeps things moving; this is a must.
Note: Some neighborhoods or parks have rules on sound levels, music at certain times of the evening, etc. Just check your local laws/codes/ordinances to make sure you can have a DJ, and most likely you can, and get a permit if needed.
Hire a baker to do your wedding cake! If you prefer, buy a fake wedding cake and use sheet cake in the kitchen to be cut up and served to guests; no one will even know. :)
8. Decorate + Add Extras
While you could go nuts on decorations, here are the things you ABSOLUTELY need to have for your backyard wedding.
– Card Box
You need a safe, secure card box with a lock for guests to place your cards. This is helpful to have.
Here’s a rustic option by HoosierWoodbox:
Or an acrylic option for a more modern look and feel (by Save the Date Designs Co.):
You may also love this mirror card box (couples are going nuts over it!)
Browse other styles here. There are SO MANY beautiful card boxes to choose from!
– Seating / Escort Cards
Guests need a designated place to sit. Make a seating chart and display it for guests, or use escort cards to show guests to their seats.
You’ll want centerpieces on your tables, so the key here is to keep it simple on yourself when planning a backyard wedding. Choose flower centerpieces ordered from your florist, make your own flower centerpieces and buy in bulk for cheap, or use these wood slices and add lanterns like this with candles.
Done! So easy.
– Guest Book
It is nice to have a guest book at your wedding for guests to sign in. You can browse these fun guest book alternatives to inspire you.
– Table Numbers and Day-Of Decorations
Here are table numbers and day-of accents you’ll need for your wedding.
– Lots of Lighting
Garden lights are a DEFINITE PLUS! These will add a very romantic and warm look to your wedding. By YiLighting.
– Pampas Grass
We talked a lot about pampas grass before, but it’s worth noting: this is SO EASY to decorate with! You can buy these from ForTheLoveofPampas.
– Table for Kids
Read: How to Entertain Kids at Weddings for helpful tips. Also, these coloring books — a must!
– Outdoor Games
Backyard weddings are synonymous with fun outdoor games! Larger-than-life versions of your favorite games — i.e. life-size Connect Four, a giant Jenga tower, and cornhole/corn toss are just a few of the games guests LOVE to play!
Read: How to Entertain Guests at a Wedding.
What’s for dinner? It’s helpful for guests to have this wedding menu as a guide.
– Bar Menu
Also helpful: a bar menu is also great to have. A signature cocktail sign? Even more fun + personalized for your backyard wedding! This one is by IvoryandSAgeCo.
– Wedding Welcome Sign
A wedding welcome sign tells guests they’re in the right place! Plus, it adds a special personalized touch to your decor — and it’s easy! This one is by OAKYDesigns.
You can browse more wedding welcome signage here.
Whether you’re planning a HUGE wedding bash or a small backyard wedding, you need wedding favors to thank your guests. Browse this HUGE wedding favor list — it features the best wedding favors for 2020 (all under $5!)
– Fun Extras
Add some fun details to your day! Here are some of our favorite ideas to add to your backyard wedding plans:
– Bubble Wands for After the Ceremony
– Plan a Sparkler Send Off
– Plan a fun Polaroid inspired photo booth
– TRY THIS, NOT THAT: 12 Fun Alternative Wedding Ideas to Try
– Blankets for Guests
9. Plan an Itinerary/Wedding Timeline
It is helpful to have a timeline for your wedding. What time will the ceremony begin? What time will dinner be served? Are you having speeches immediately before dinner? Is there travel time between the ceremony and reception? Figure this out and prepare a wedding timeline to help your day run smoothly. Whether your wedding is large or small, having a timeline makes things look cohesive.
You can edit and print your own timeline from Elmwood Paperie:
TIP: Create a FREE wedding website here and update it with your latest wedding day details! This will be a helpful place for guests to see any new changes to your wedding plans.
When you’re planning a backyard wedding, it may seem overwhelming to do it all yourself. But really, it’s not! Take it all one step at a time and relax. Your wedding day — whether large, small, or in-between — will be beautiful because all that matters is you’re marrying the love of your life. Friends, family, good food, dancing, and fun is all the icing on top. :)
Keep things in perspective and focus on the joy that comes from unexpected memories, like perhaps planning a backyard wedding that you didn’t plan originally. You may be surprised at how lovely it comes together and how memorable it is when you focus on what truly matters.
Hope it helps! :)
Tell us: are you planning a backyard wedding? Are you planning a wedding at an alternative venue, like an outdoor park, the beach, the zoo, a museum, etc.? Tell us all about it in the comment box below! We’d love to hear from you.