There’s almost nothing more gracious and charming than a backyard wedding on a sunny day. It’s much more personal than a reception at a hotel or other public space, and there are almost no rules about what you can or can’t do, including having your canine best friend be part of the party. But whether your style is rustic or sophisticated, and whether you’re going to have a small or large guest list, there are still a lot of things to consider. Here are some of them:
Is The Backyard Ready?
This is first on the list because a backyard wedding calls for your lawn and flower beds to be in their best condition, and that takes time. Hiring a professional lawn care service is the easiest and most effective way to level the ground so that tables and chairs don’t wobble, and to get the lush green grass you want without worrying over what products to use and how to use them.
As far in advance as you can, you also want to plant new flowers and prune the existing ones so they can bloom prettily in time for the reception. Have trees trimmed, too, to allow them time to grow out of that “new haircut” stage.
If you’re lucky enough to have been invited to use someone else’s backyard, giving them the gift of professional lawn and gardening services for the months leading to your wedding — and a touch-up visit afterward — would be a wonderful way to say thank you!
How Many People Will Fit?
The size of your guest list will be determined not only by the size of your backyard, but by the kind of event you have in mind. If the ceremony will be at home, too, you’ve got to decide how you’re going to set that up, as well as whether you can afford (in time or budget) to use the same chairs for dining after the ceremony. If you’re planning a simple reception with finger food and cake, you can accommodate more people than if you want a full-on seated meal because you can use smaller tables — but still, you should have seats for everyone and spots for them to settle their plates and glasses.
While you’re plotting the layout, remember that you’ve got to allow space for serving or buffet tables, the bar, musical entertainment, and somewhere to dance if that’s part of your plan.
What Will You Have to Rent?
If you’re serving a meal, the short answer is: almost everything. Even if you’re only having a cocktail buffet, you’re going to need a lot of things. Chairs and tables for sure. Linens, too. Silverware and serving pieces. Plates in several sizes for food and cake, as well as coffee mugs or cups and saucers. Wine, water, and bar glasses. Chafing dishes, pitchers, coffee urns, platters, and trays — the list goes on.
A full catered meal for a reception that exceeds the capacity of your kitchen will also require rental of a portable refrigeration unit, cooking equipment or hot boxes for food not cooked on site, and most likely a generator. Pay special attention to where the generator will go, because some hum quite noisily.
Your caterer can arrange for all cooking and serving-related rentals. But there’s more! Musicians may need rentals, too. Some groups own their own mics, amps, and speakers, and others may need you to supply them. Even DJs may require rented speakers, and they’ll generally also want you to supply a table or two. For dancing, if there’s no patio or other appropriate solid surface in the backyard, you can rent a dance floor in just about any size you’d like. These are all issues that would be taken care of for you in a hotel ballroom or other public venue; just be aware that you have to plan for them.
If you’re having more than a few dozen guests, it’s a kindness to them and to your neighbors to hire a valet service. And do remember that your caterer will need to park cars and equipment close to the house.
What About the Neighbors?
Absolutely let them know in advance so they can plan their own day accordingly and not interfere with yours. You don’t want someone using a power drill all afternoon, for example. Ply them with treat bags, or invite them if you must, but make sure no one is surprised that a wedding is happening next door.
OMG What if it Rains?
Letting a smile be your umbrella may not be sufficient if the skies open up. Have a contingency plan you can put in place within a few days if the weather report isn’t promising. Just be prepared and then don’t sweat it. Some of the most memorable and loving celebrations have taken place under what might have seemed like the most dismal conditions.