So...how do you plan a backyard wedding?
It's not an easy question to answer, but today is going to be all about how to do just that. Don't feel left out if your wedding is not being held in a backyard, because a lot of these details are going to pertain to any venue that would be considered to be a unique space.
And what I mean by "unique space," is any space that you rent as a shell, and then you're responsible for bringing in all rentals, catering and other services. The one thing I find in common about many of these spaces is that couples find that it can be an easier or cheaper option than renting a more traditional banquet hall or hotel venue. And then they find out that there are a ton of extra details that they need to worry about.
Before we get into it, make sure to grab the FREE GUIDE that goes along with this post. It's going to outline the step-by-step details that we're talking about here, but you'll also get a copy of the checklist that I'm going to reference here. (More on that later).
All right, let's get started. Our first two steps are going to sound pretty familiar.
Step number one, set your wedding budget. Just like any wedding, you must discuss the budget first before you commit to anything else. The difference here is that a backyard or a unique wedding venue typically requires more vendors and logistics that you need to budget for. We'll get into the specifics with steps four and five, but the biggest cost for a backyard or unique venue are going to be the tent costs or the venue, the hard rentals (tables, chairs, etc.) and then the catering and bar service that includes the staffing that you'll need. These items combined will typically make up about 40% to 50% of your budget.
Step number 2, create your guest list. Again, this one sounds a little bit familiar, but it's really important to make sure that you know how many people you'll be inviting to your wedding and if your space can accommodate it. If you're unsure if your backyard or space can accommodate the guest list that you're thinking about, have a rental company come out and determine the layout and capacity for the area. They can come out and measure the space and let you know what size tent you'll need, and how many people can fit under that tent.
For step number 3, we need to determine your location needs. Most couples planning a wedding at a unique venue start with a specific location in mind, like your backyard or a certain space at a family home. People often underestimate how much room they're going to need, and forget key elements that you need to host an event at home. Let's talk about some of those now.
First, we'll you need different areas for the ceremony, cocktail hour, dinner, and dancing. How will the guests transition from one area to the next? Do you have room for food service, like a catering prep area or buffet tables? I typically recommend a separate tent, but some caterers are able to work out of the house or their catering trucks. Either way, the area needs to be easily accessible for them and easy for them to leave after dinner and not have to drive across a dance floor or a packed tent.
Will you need to bring in restroom trailers? I recommend one toilet per 50 guests. And if you don't want people inside the house, or maybe you're going to have more people than the bathrooms in the house can accommodate, you will need to bring in trailers. I will say that the portable restroom industry has significantly upped their game in the last few years, and there are some really nice restroom trailers that you can rent. Your guests won't even know that they're in a bathroom trailer.
Now, of course these come at an extra cost, so we'll want to make sure to add that into the budget.
Next up is a very important one: is their electrical and water access in the spots that you need? So for catering prep, those restroom trailers, the band or DJ lighting for the tent, lighting for main pathways, etc. Make sure you know where those electrical access points are and let your vendors know.
Next up, is there an accessible parking area for the guests or for valet to park? You'll typically have one car per two guests, but don't forget the vendors will also need their cars close by. Next, check with your city for details on noise ordinances. You'll typically find that amplified music needs to stop at a certain time, but you can continue the party a little bit after that. Honestly, it all comes down to your neighbors, which brings us to the next point. If you're worried about crabby neighbors, get ahead of it by offering them an invitation to the party.
Chances are though, if they're crabby neighbors, you don't want them at your parties. So what we've done in the past is we've offered to pay for a hotel for them for the night so they can enjoy a nice staycation and you can avoid the noise complaints, shutting down the party.
And lastly, make sure to have a backup plan for bad weather. Ideally you will not need to use it, but if you don't have a plan for where the guests will go if mother nature does not cooperate, you're taking a huge risk that can't easily be addressed last minute.
Okay. Step number four is determining what rental items you need. Organizing and booking your rental items is one of the biggest challenges. When it comes to hosting an event at home or a unique venue, here's a list of the items that most couples will need, but make sure you grab a copy of the guide. Again, you can find it at www.planningcollective.com for the full list.
The main items that couples need are going to be a tent for possible rain, but also for shade on sunny days, tables, cocktail tables, chairs for both the ceremony and the reception linens, both tablecloths and napkins, and set up for the catering team. This can mean any number of things. Most commonly, it's a table space for prep plates and dishes, silverware, flatware, and all of those details that you'll need for the actual food service. For the full list, again, make sure to grab the free guide. You can find it at www.planningcollective.com.
Step number five is something that a lot of people do not think about, and that is determining what staffing help you will need. When your wedding is being held in a traditional venue, like a banquet hall or a hotel, you don't need to worry about staffing for the event. When you opt to have your wedding in your backyard or a unique space, you will need to bring in all of those staff members.
Now, sometimes most of this is going to be covered by your catering team, but make sure that you have this conversation with them ahead of time to ensure that everything is covered. You're going to need a catering company and a chef, wait staff that stays through the end of the night to bus the tables and clear the trash, bartenders.
I recommend one bartender per 75 guests. You're going to need to make sure that you have somebody to set things up and to tear it down. If you're having the event at your house, I would highly recommend hiring a team to clean the house. Earlier in that week, you may also want to consider a valet team, somebody for coat check depending on the season of your wedding, and security if applicable.
Step number six, and this is going to come in a little bit later in the game, but you are going to need to master your layout. This is another component of a backyard wedding that's going to fall on your shoulders. There are free software tools out there, but if you're a member of www.planningcollective.com you'll have a layout feature within your Aisle Planner account. Please do not just sketch out a layout by hand! It's likely that things will take up more space than you anticipated. So while that's a great way to start, make sure that you do have some kind of system that is putting things together by scale, because likely you're going to think you can fit a lot more items in the space than is actual reality.
While you're putting this together, I want you to remember these things that are commonly left off of layouts: a gift table, a place card table or a spot for your seating chart, the bar and space for a bar back table and guests traffic (so make sure the bar isn't put right next to one of the guests tables), a dance floor or space for dancing.
Typically I recommend you start with a 12 by 12 space and anywhere up to 30 by 30 would be a very good size dance floor. Also a catering prep area; check with the caterer to see how much room they need, and if they need any tables for their prep. If you're assigning seats for the guests, make sure that you assign table numbers on your layout because it is a very easy thing to miss coffee and water stations, as well as a dessert station. Make sure you put those in there, as well as a table or a spot for your DJ or your band.
Step number seven, let's talk about your setup and tear down logistics. When you're getting your quotes from the rental companies, you're going to see that most companies will include drop off only, except for the tents. This means that you'll be responsible for setting up and tearing down all of the tables, chairs, and other rentals. It seems simple, but it can be a very time-consuming task. Here's some tips to help you save either money, time, or sanity, hopefully a mix of all three.
For setup, you can typically arrange to have the delivery of the main items (the tent, tables, linens, chairs) set a couple of days before the wedding and picked up a couple of days after. If you have family and friends around, you can save quite a bit of money by doing the setup yourselves. If not, it is worth adding in that extra setup fee so you're not running around and doing that last minute on the day of the event. Make sure that you give a copy of the layout to whoever will be in charge of the setup, and discuss any possible alternatives that may need to happen for tear down.
Make sure to clarify with your rental company what their expectation is at the time of pickup. Do the tables need to be stacked by the driveway, or will they take them and fold them down from under the tent? Can the chairs be left set up under the tent? Many companies have extra fees if they arrive and they're not ready to be loaded up on the truck.
Don't forget about the trash at the end of the night!
It may be tempting to say you'll take care of it the next day, but the mess that a few critters can make overnight can be significant. So if your caterer is not staying to handle this through the end of the event, make sure you have a plan for where the trash will go and who will be taking care of it throughout the event.
If you are at a unique venue, make sure you have a clear understanding of what their setup and tear down timeline is. If you only have a couple of hours for setup and an hour or so for tear down, you'll most likely need to hire somebody to help make it happen in that lot of time. The tasks often take much longer than you anticipate, and you don't want to be running late on the wedding day or be hit with additional fees at the end of the night if you go overtime with your venue.
Okay, now I know I just threw a lot of information at you guys. So many checklists and things to consider, but don't worry because that guide has all of this information in it for you to follow along with. It's one of those checklists that you absolutely must get if you're having a unique venue wedding.
Again, make sure that you grab your free copy of the backyard wedding guide. If you are having your wedding in your backyard or at a unique venue, it will be an absolute lifesaver.