DIY Backyard Wedding Checklist & Useful Planning Guide

Intimate, homely, and a hell of a lot cheaper, there are so many reasons why a DIY backyard wedding is an ideal way to celebrate your nuptials. 

Cocktails under the stars, a smoking BBQ lit by fairy lights, and that cozy feeling nowhere but a family home can provide, it is no wonder this style of celebration is blowing up in popularity!

There’s just an informal and laid-back vibe about a backyard wedding that isn’t easily replicated. We may all be wearing smart clothes, but it’s not black-tie. There’s a sit-down meal, but it’s fun. And because the space is ultimately going to be smaller than your average wedding venue, the guest list is more selective.

And don’t even get us started on how budget-friendly these weddings are!

However, putting together an epic backyard wedding is not as simple as just propping up a flower arch and throwing on a wedding dress. It takes as much, if not more, planning than a traditional wedding day!

Today we’ll explore just how to get that perfect backyard wedding…

DIY Backyard Wedding Checklist

The Benefits of a Backyard Wedding

Cost

When choosing to DIY a wedding, backyard or not, you would expect to save quite a few dollars on the overall budget.

When deciding to celebrate at a family, or friend’s home, savings can be quite dramatic, this is because one of the biggest expenditures couples normally have is the venue.

Think security deposits, fees, plus all those other little costs that venues love to add on. Take all of that away, and suddenly, you’ve got a whole chunk of your wedding budget back. 

Moreover, you’ll be providing all, or most of the ceremony decor and reception dressing. While everything can be rented, the overall cost will never be more than that of a traditional venue! 

Flexible Dates

The difficulty of reserving a date is a thing of the past!

Backyards offer a lot more freedom and allow you to pick and choose the best date for everyone with very little constraint. You want a weekend in the middle of July, you got it! 

The Sentimentality 

Getting married in a place that feels like home will always make things feel more comfortable.

It’s a feeling that can never really be re-created in a corporate venue, or even somewhere more casual. Nowhere quite feels like home, and that’s what makes a backyard wedding truly special. 

Intimate Guest List

Unless your uncle is on the Fortune 500 list and has a backyard the size of a football field, you’re likely going to need to downsize your guest list.

Now, we’re not saying that’s a negative, far from it. We love an intimate wedding! Narrowing down the numbers, and selecting only the people you truly want there on your big day can bring so much more joy to proceedings. You’ll know everyone, really well. They’ll be no awkward conversations with plus-ones or catch-ups with distant relatives. Just good times with your favorite people.

Your Ultimate DIY Backyard Wedding Checklist

The Chosen Backyard

Firstly, you’ll need to check that you have chosen the right backyard for your special day.

Is there enough space for your number of guests? Ideally, you want space for a tent or marquee that can comfortably fit everyone.

Plus, you’ll need room for your vendors such as a catering truck and portable toilets. You’ll need to take solid measurements of all areas. 

How Will It Be Powered?

Even a super low-key outdoor event will need some additional power. Extra lighting, sound, and the equipment needed to prepare large quantities of food normally require juice that the average home can’t spare.

Try it, but don’t be surprised if the whole street goes dark when you switch on those string lights. To stop this from happening, you’ll have to rent a generator/s to provide the extra electrical power.

This may be a DIY wedding, but when it comes to something as pivotal as power, it’s useful to talk to your vendors or wedding planner to find out what everyone requires electricity-wise. 

Where Will the Bathroom Be?

Even if your auntie is worryingly super-chilled about 50+ guests using her en-suite bathroom, it’s not a good idea. Just imagine all those people walking in and out of the house throughout the day and night, it would be chaos.

Instead, portable restrooms are a necessity. But before you close this tab, and forget all about your backyard wedding dreams, they’re not as bad as you think!

These days, a portable bathroom stall can almost be considered luxurious, if you shop around. Often they come with plumbed-in sinks, mirrors, lights, and toilets that actually flush. And considering that you’ll only be hiring 2-5 of these things, you can customize these additional bathroom facilities to fit your theme. Both inside and out. 

Is the Ground Level?

The last thing you want on your wedding day is to put the tables down outside, start to lay them with dinner plates, and then realize the earth isn’t flat. It’ll create a very unbalanced reception setting, and may even stop you from having a dance floor.

Again, this is another good time to speak to an expert. If you’re hiring a tent company for the day, ask them to visit before the wedding and check if anything needs to be done. 

Warn Your Neighbors!

Neighbors have to be warned. And not like when you rented your first apartment, and stuck a note under the next-door neighbor’s door, apologizing for your loud party that was already going on.

It has to be done as far in advance as possible, especially if the private property is very close to where you’re planning to party.

The last thing you want is noise complaints on your wedding day, or feeling like you need to shush people all the time.

Make Parking a Priority.

You’ll also want to think about space for parking. If there is plenty of space – phew. If not, you will want to check out nearby spaces that could double up as a parking lot for your wedding day.

Do any neighbors have fields or driveways you could use? Make a plan and make sure you signpost where people can park to avoid any confusion.

Don’t forget to leave ample parking for the residents too!

If you fear this will be an issue, or that overnight parking simply will not be possible, consider a valet service. It might sound a bit much for a budget backyard wedding, but that little expense could save you a fortune in fines, and stress. 

Do You Have a Permit To Do That?

When you take on the responsibility of complete wedding planning, you realize how many little boxes need to be ticked, and sorting out your permits is a major thing that must be dealt with!

Depending on where your backyard wedding reception location is, you may have to obtain a permit to host the party. Is there a limit on the number of people attending? Are there any noise restrictions you need to be aware of?

We suggest contacting them as early as possible – there may be some paperwork you need to fill in – and you want to make sure you are legally compliant to avoid any issues on the day. 

Failure to do so could land you in hot water with several departments, so don’t avoid getting a yes from the boys at the city clerk’s office.

Moreover, your wedding vendors may need certain permits, or have inspections before they can work at your event. Normally, this is dealt with by the vendors, but it’s up to you or your wedding planner to check that they have the necessary paperwork. 

It’s also wise to take out special insurance for the event or get your backyard wedding host to organize something on their homeowner’s plan. Vendors also each need insurance, and you need to make sure they have it in place. 

Weather: Figure Out Your Plan B

Even the driest corners of this country experience a little rainfall now and again, and you need to be prepared for that possible eventuality.

But it’s not just the rain, it’s the sun too. Is there enough room for all your guests to shelter from the rays during a scorching hot day?

A Plan B is always necessary and can save your wedding ceremony if suddenly the weather forecast is not working in your favor.

If the homeowners are cool with it, and the space inside is big enough, consider moving the reception inside.

If not, make sure that the tent company either has another tent on hold for you that has sides. Or hire a simple tent that has roll-up sides, and only unfold them if nature demands it. 

Have You Rented Sensibly?

When faced with a large, empty yard with plenty of space. It can be tempting to start filling it with every rental item you can find. Doing so, however, will turn a once spacious area capable of hosting 40-50 guests, into a cramped junkyard of stuff!

Think wisely, especially when looking at tables and chairs for dinner. These items will take up considerable space, and if not thoughtfully placed, will either leave your guests feeling squished or not leave you with enough extra space for cocktail tables, yard games, and that build-your-own taco station you’ve been dreaming of. 

Have You Made a Seating Plan?

You may be choosing not to have a seating plan for your backyard wedding but if you are, don’t forget to host your large printed seating plan somewhere near the main entrance.

Catering Options

This is a biggie. Depending on the size of your backyard wedding you may go for a low-key BBQ, a buffet, or even a potluck, where your guests bring a dish themselves instead of a gift.

But just because you’re having a backyard wedding, this doesn’t mean you can’t have a fully catered three-course sit-down meal in your garden. It is down to your personal preference and what suits your unique wedding wishes.

Shop around for catering companies and explore what extras they can offer – you’ll find some will provide just the food whilst some will provide everything from the plates to the forks to the serving staff.

If you can do a food tasting trial before confirmation then this is always a good idea!

Do You Want a Bar?

The number of guests you have will determine whether you rent a bar. If it’s a small affair under 30 people then you can easily set up a self-serve bar – just make sure you have plenty of ice buckets and glasses to hand. 

A professional company will give you the full works – a bespoke drinks menu, fridges, ice, glassware, bar staff, and hopefully the option to have your favorite cocktails.

Remember to talk to them about how much space they need and whether they would prefer to be under the cover of a tent or outside.

Liven It Up With Some Music

Whether you are choosing a DJ or a live band, make sure you have planned the space out within the backyard, plus think about their power requirements and whether they need to be covered by a tent or not. 

If you are choosing to put on a brilliant playlist instead then ensure your speakers are set up properly and test them first. You want large speakers so the music is loud enough!

Delegate the role of music to someone trustworthy, and if they are using a cellphone make sure they know they are responsible for keeping it charged! You and your partner do not want to be worrying about the music during the day.

Do You Have Enough Trash Cans?

All of us have thrown a party at some stage in our lives, however small. Therefore, you’ll know that once everyone has slumped off home, and the dust has settled, some kind of clean-up operation always needs to take place.

Now imagine that scenario times 50! Your loved ones are going to create a lot of mess, and it would be wise to make sure you have enough trash bins. In fact, you should probably rent a dumpster, as you’ll certainly overfill a domestic waste step-up. And that’s not what you want your guests to see! 

Backyard wedding or not, it’s always a good idea to organize a little clean-up crew to help you clear things away the next day.

Harness the love your wedding party has for you, and strongly suggest they fight their hangover and assist you in some yard maintenance the day after. Make it fun though, put on some music and share some cans and a few stories from the night before. 

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