DIY Backyard Wedding: A Complete Planning Guide

So you’re considering a backyard wedding? You’ve come to the right place! In this article, I’ll share what I learned through planning my own DIY backyard wedding, including tips on space planning, essential items to rent for your backyard wedding reception and ceremony, logistics tips for your buffet, bar, and music and more. Once we’re done here, you too will be able to plan the backyard wedding of your dreams with ease.

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So, are you ready to learn how you can transform your backyard into your wedding venue? Read on!

IS A DIY BACKYARD WEDDING RIGHT FOR YOU?

Backyard weddings are perhaps the most intimate way to say your “I dos.” Not only are you professing and celebrating your love for your significant other in front of all of your family and friends, you’re inviting them all to a place that is incredibly important to you. That place might be the home that you’ve made together, or a close family or friend’s. Before it became on trend during the pandemic, my husband and I decided to host a backyard wedding. Why?

DIY Backyard Wedding How to Guide

For one, it was a place we were proud of that we wanted to share with our friends and family. For another, we saw it as an opportunity to save money while having complete flexibility over our wedding vision. Afterall, according to the Knot, the national average cost of a wedding (reception and ceremony) was $28,000 in 2021.

That said, even with 10+ years of event planning experience, there were still logistical hurdles to overcome that I did not anticipate. We’ll get into all of my learnings in just a minute.

KEY BACKYARD WEDDING CONSIDERATIONS

First, here are three backyard wedding considerations to think about.

  • What’s your why? Choosing a backyard wedding wasn’t just a money saving decision for my husband and I. For us, we wanted to share a place that was extra special to us with the people we loved most. In fact, depending on your guest count, choices of food, music and rentals, the costs can quickly add up. So, it’s important to know your why. If you’re doing it mainly for the cost savings, be sure to set a budget early and make choices that align with that budget. And, maybe skip the 7 piece band…
  • Do you have a support team? Transforming a backyard into your wedding venue takes real effort, no matter how low key your vision. Build a team you can turn to for support in tackling the big projects.
  • Can your backyard support your vision? For the style of wedding you want to have, take a hard look at the space your working with. Can your yard be transformed to fit your vision? And can it comfortably host the amount of people you’re inviting? To make that call, there’s a bit of homework you and your partner need to work on.

CONFIRM YOUR GUEST LIST & RECEPTION STYLE

1. Draft your guest list: Get a guest list drafted, even if preliminary so you can get a sense of how many people you’ll need to accomodate.

2. Decide on your vision: The set-up can vary depending on whether you want a more casual, simple wedding vibe, or more traditional and formal  (i.e. full service, buffet, hors d’oeuvres only, etc.? 

3. Space plan: For whichever style you decide, you’ll want to consider where and what you’ll need to source to create spaces for both the ceremony and the reception, either through rental or purchase. We’ll talk tools to do this next!

guests seated at dinner at a backyard wedding reception under tent with bistro lights.

DIY BACKYARD WEDDING SPACE PLANNING

DIY BACKYARD WEDDING RENTALS & CHECKLIST

OK, next, let’s go over some of the essential items you’ll need to pull off a DIY backyard wedding, so you can transform your space from just an average backyard into the wedding venue of your dreams like we did (see before and afters below!).

Move slider left and right to compare the before and after.

What you’ll need will depend greatly on the style of wedding you are after; however, here are the top items you’ll need to consider sourcing.

  • Tables – consider your needs not only for food service for your guests, but also any back-of-house vendor needs (such as catering set-up, bar, etc.)
  • Tent(s) – Highly recommended securing at least one to cover most of your reception space
  • Bar – Consider 1 or 2 depending on your guest list.
  • Dance floor – Completely optional…Our guests danced on the grass… and though the lawn suffered just a few minor casualties, no one seemed to miss it.
  • Arbor for Ceremony
  • Seating – Consider both ceremony and reception seating, unless you have a good plan to transport them from one spot to the other and have them pull double duty.
  • Linens – tablecloths, runners, napkins, etc.
  • Place Settings & Glass Ware – plates, glassware, silverware, etc.
  • Serving Ware – platters, stands, warmers, carafes, utensils, etc.

Budget Savvy Options

While you can rent most all of the above items, here are a few alternative routes to sourcing budget-friendly backyard wedding supplies and decorations.

  • Borrowed – Ask family and friends if they have any supplies they’d be willing to loan you such as tables, chairs or small tents.

Wedding Tent Types

No one wants to think it’ll rain on their wedding day, good luck be damned… BUT, it’s an unfortunate necessity to consider an outdoor wedding back up plan in case of inclement weather.

Securing a tent to provide cover for your primary outdoor wedding spaces is a solid plan. And there are a variety of party tent options you can choose from to fit your aesthetic. Each style has its pros and cons, and specific set-up requirements, so consider the style that will work best for your space.

We had coverage for both dinner service and the dance floor. Our Plan B was to move the wedding ceremony under the tent, if needed. Lucky for us, we didn’t need it, but we were covered either way.

Backyard Wedding Checklist

To keep track of all these details, including logistics planning we’ll cover next, subscribe to access the free printable Savvy Backyard Wedding Planning Checklist.

DIY Backyard Wedding Checklist by The Savvy Swarey

BACKYARD WEDDING RECEPTION PLANNING

A backyard wedding reception calls for some detailed logistics planning. No matter what style of wedding and reception you’re hosting, there are a few key fundamentals to consider for hosting a backyard bash. That’s what we’ll cover next. Food, bar, and music.

Backyard wedding reception photos
Photography by Anastasia’s Photography

DIY or Catered Food ServiceDo you want to cater or DIY your food for the reception? There are pros and cons to each choice and logistical details you’ll need to consider with both. The biggest things you’ll need to think about are:

Backyard wedding buffet set-up

Food Preparation & Staging
Is your wedding food being prepared remotely and brought in? Are you using your own kitchen? In either case, what will you need to ensure this goes smoothly?

Service and Clean-up
Unless you are catering your event and they’ve confirmed they are providing full service, including water service and bussing of plates, you’ll need to figure out how these important tasks are being managed. You may want to appoint or hire a few people you trust for these tasks. A friend of a friend is always a good choice – someone you trust but wouldn’t feel guilty not having asked to be a guest at your wedding!

Trash Service – In addition to planning for a formalized table bussing to clear plates, there will also be a need to have at least a few trash receptacles available to your guests throughout the reception space. These disposable and reusable cardboard trash bins are a solid choice for this purpose.

DIY WEDDING BAR PLANNING

DIY Backyard wedding bar
  • Decide if you want to offer a full bar or a soft bar. A soft bar is beer and wine only, with the option to add a signature drink.
  • Next, determine what kind of drinkers you’re inviting. If you’re not sure, I recommend adding a question to your RSVP about their drink preference so you can get a gauge on the mix of alcohol you’ll need.
  • Don’t forget to stock your bar with drink supplies, including cups, ice, stirrers and any accoutrements needed for your bar selections. A menu is always a nice touch as well!
  • Last but not least, make sure you’ve got the appropriate licenses to serve alcohol at your event by checking in with your local town/city on what permits they require. You can find more information on Backyard 54’s Liquor License for backyard weddings article.

MUSIC & SET-UP PLANNING

Whether you go the DIY Spotify playlist route, or spring for something more robust like a DJ or a band, a couple considerations you’ll want to think through:

stage and tent set-up for backyard wedding band
  • Set-up: For a DJ or band, what set-up requirements do they have? Some may require that they can set-up on a hard, dry surface, like a stage or patio, and each will have their own specific electrical needs. Set-up time to discuss this with them directly to ensure you’ve got the right space and power requirements to suit their needs.
  • Town/Neighborhood Restrictions: Most jurisdictions have restrictions in place for noise decibels and quiet hours. You’ll want to make sure you are aware of this ahead of time and plan your music accordingly. We pushed this just a bit, but went around our neighborhood with letters letting everyone know we would be having a band and provided them with a contact name and number to call if there were any issues (just an extra measure to avoid unwanted guests with flashing lights showing up to crash your party!)  
  • Lighting the dance floor: Bistro lights offer a great, low cost way to provide soft nighttime lighting for large spaces, such as your dance floor and bar. Lighting is also a great opportunity to thrift through a source like Facebook Marketplace or purchase for a resale opportunity.

DIY BACKYARD WEDDING LOGISTICS

OK, so we’ve talked space planning, essential rentals and food and beverage considerations. Now, let’s get into the weeds on some DIY backyard wedding logistics details. In this section, we’ll cover guest parking and facility planning, water and power logistics, and set-up and tear-down. Not as much fun, but hugely important nothetheless.

GUEST PARKING & PERMITS

Unless your backyard is in a fairly rural location, chances are parking may be at a premium around your immediate abode. In that case, you’ll want to make a game plan for where guests can park.

directional sign for backyard wedding

Restrictions – Consider any parking restrictions for the time of day of your wedding and reception. Will parking be limited with these restrictions?

Off-site Options – You might consider nearby schools, parks, or churches for off-site parking. For my wedding, many guests parked directly on our street; however, I also contacted a nearby school to secure permission for my guests to park there as overflow.

Attendant or Directional Signage – An additional consideration here is to provide either a person or signage to help direct guests from your parking to the ceremony if you end up needing to secure off-site parking.

GUEST FACILITIES

If you prefer guests not to have direct access to your home for whatever reason (old plumbing, security concerns, kooties, etc.), you’ll want to think about bringing in outside reinforcements… and by that I mean porta potties.

  • Set-up Needs – Depending on the porta potty style you choose – from your most basic, to your most luxurious – you may need to consider water or electricity hookups.
  • Guest Considerations – For our wedding, we went with a luxurious trailer restroom set-up (just considering people in dresses may not want to do their business in a crude porta potty situation… so that meant we needed to think about positioning it near a power supply). I have to say, the decision was well worth it. For a hot summer day, it became a raved about destination with the refreshing AC and little amenities we stocked them with. To this day my family still talks about it!

POWER & WATER SUPPLY

Power and water supply needs will be dependent on what you plan to do for your food and beverage, music, restrooms, etc., but you’ll want to consider all of your vendors’ power and water supply needs well ahead of time. My recommendation is to ask each and every vendor for their set-up requirements, including space, power, and water so you can plan accordingly.

For ours, as a point of reference, we had a live band as a fully catered buffet, so both vendors needed power to the locations we had planned for their set-up. Our caterers also needed water access. We ended up needing to put in an extra electrical box outdoors to accommodate – a definite unforeseen logistical expense when we went into it. (Cheers to electrically savvy family members in my case!)

SET-UP & TEAR-DOWN

Last but certainly not least is considering who will be setting up and tearing down. With most venues, this is either fully or partially provided by the assigned wedding planner. Not so when you are the venue owner! Some tips here:

DIY wedding decor and tablescapes
  • Build a Team – Remember I mentioned above to build a support team. This is essential to support you in the pre-wedding set-up and post-wedding tear down.
  • Day of Coordinator – Better yet, put in charge a day-of coordinator or hire one! For a relatively small fee, it’s a big assurance knowing someone else is in charge of putting your plans into action while you’re primping and pampering for the big day.
  • Pre-staging – No matter your decision,  I highly recommend doing a little pre-staging. Take photos of how you want things set-up and give those to the people you’ve wrangled for set-up. There will be less chance of your wedding vision being left up to other people’s ideas.
  • Rentals and returns – For tear down, you have a bit of lee-way here since there isn’t necessarily a date you need to be “out” of the venue. However, be sure to consider rental return timing to ensure everything is packed up and delivered in time to avoid penalties.
  • Make a Game Plan – Finally, meet with your team and make a game plan. Create a timeline to ensure you’re covered all pre-wedding set-up and post-wedding tear down plans. 

READY TO PLAN YOUR DIY BACKYARD WEDDING?

Phew! That was a lot. And perhaps unexpectedly so? Most people think, ah a backyard wedding, so low key and easy breezy. Yes, backyard weddings are a budget and DIY-friendly way to have an intimate and special wedding. That said, no matter how easy breezy you make it, there are logistics involved to ensure you and your guests have a great experience. That’s why it’s important to build a support team to help you with the transformation process.

planning an intimate wedding ceremony

The good news? It absolutely can be done and what’s more, you’ll have so many amazing memories right in your own backyard. Don’t forget to also consider the needs of any pets you may have. By considering all of these factors, you can have a successful, memorable and budget-friendly backyard wedding. So, have fun, and know you’ve got this!

Happy planning!

XO,

The Savvy Swaréy

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