I know that destination weddings are all the rage, not to mention a great excuse to treat yourself to a vacation. But I prefer the opposite. A backyard ceremony is a great way to emphasize the family aspect of your wedding. It’s fun, it’s intimate, everybody is already comfortable there, and any kids can run themselves ragged. Plus yards are pretty much inherently pretty, even before you start to gussy them up.
Here are a few things to think about after you get the Slip n’ Slide all packed up.
Don’t count on the weather.
Even if you’re really, really, really, really sure it won’t rain, have a backup location. Keep your backup location in play right up until the reception is over, and make sure your guests have good directions. Should the worst happen, they’ll want something more than “Run!” If you can’t find an indoor backup location, think about renting a tent. It can also come in handy if the sun gets a little too cooperative.
For the first and last time in your marriage, think about size.
First and foremost is the size of your yard. You don’t have to be able to erect a circus tent or have a track meet, but you do need to be able to fit your nearest and dearest and make an entrance. Think about how many chairs you can fit for the ceremony and how much space you’ll have for reception chairs and tables.
Think about chair rentals even if you’re on a budget.
Some people won’t want to stand during the ceremony, and if you have elderly relatives during the mix, they may not be able to. Renting chairs is a kind way to go. And, while it’s more expensive than borrowing from the neighbors, renting chairs will give your wedding a unified look.
If you have a big yard and you’re not on a tight budget, you’ll most likely be able to rent a whole lot more than chairs – everything from linens and lanterns to a gazebo. Check with party suppliers in your area and they’ll help you design your look.
Food can be as formal or casual as you want it to be.
If you want to hire a caterer, that’s great – he or she can probably help you come up with a surprisingly elegant backyard menu if you want it. But don’t worry if that doesn’t fit your budget or your vision. Nobody really expects caviar at a backyard wedding. A casual buffet or barbecue will be fun and easy and keep your guests happy. Enlist a few friends to help you keep the buffet replenished or the grill hopping and you’ll be fine.
Don’t forget the juice.
You’ll need power for the DJ, for lights if the reception lasts into the evening, and possibly to keep food hot or cold. Make sure you know how many outlets (and extension cords!) you have. Don’t take a chance on overloading them. If you’re nervous about it, consider renting a generator. (If you do, get a good idea of how loud the generator will be. You’ll probably want it far away from your music and your guests.)
Don’t bug your guests.
Consider citronella candles or torches to keep gnats and mosquitoes away. They’ll add a pretty touch and beat dousing your guests in stinky bug repellent. DON’T get an electric bug zapper. Though the crackling noise can be sadistically satisfying, it doesn’t really set the right mood for your wedding. And electric bug zappers actually draw more insects to the area – exactly what you don’t want.
Tell your guests where to park it.
Don’t assume that everyone will be able to find street parking. Your neighbors may get annoyed at the sudden influx of cars, and you may be forcing your guests to hike a couple of blocks in heels.
Sometimes just talking to your neighbors is the solution. Let them know it’s a wedding to get them all sentimental, then ask if it’s OK for your guests to park on the street. Your neighbors are less likely to be annoyed by the inconvenience if they know what’s going on and have been given the chance to say yes to it.
If parking in your area is tight, try asking a local church or business if you can use the lot. If it’s more than a block away, think about renting a shuttle van or asking your ushers to help car pool guests to and from the wedding.
Make sure your guests get information about parking with their directions or you’re back to square one.
Make sure your guests know what to wear.
Backyard weddings can range from black tie to barefoot, so make sure your guests know what you have in mind. If you have out-of-town guests coming in, make sure they know what the temperature and humidity will be like. Give specific degree ranges if you can: As a rule of thumb, out-of-place Southerners will be wimps about fall chill, traveling Northerners will be complete babies about summer heat, and Westerners will not understand the full horror of humidity until they actually experience it, so give a few pointers.
You might also do a test-run walking around your yard in heels. You’ll want to know how feasible it is for your wedding, but you’ll also want to warn your female guests if they’re going to be sinking into the yard all night. Though it does add extra fun to suddenly toss the bouquet and watch everyone try to rip themselves free.
A backyard wedding is terrific fun and can be very low-maintenance, so get out there with your guests and enjoy yourself.