Small backyard weddings aren't new, but they've definitely become more common in the last couple of years! By skipping the hassle of booking a wedding venue, you get a lot more freedom in the planning process. Rather than sticking to venue policies and restrictions, you get to plan a wedding on your own terms, and potentially save a lot of money. If you have the space in your backyard (or a friend/family member) then it might be a good option to consider. In this post I will be going over how to plan a small backyard wedding in 2023 and beyond!
My Personal Small Backyard Wedding Experience
My husband and I wanted an epic adventure elopement (obviously!) BUT we also really wanted to include our families in the celebration of our marriage. So we did both! We had an incredible elopement with just us two and our photographer in the Canadian Rockies, and then hosted a small backyard wedding at our home a couple weeks later. This gave us the adventure of a lifetime, and the most intimate wedding with our loved ones without compromising what we wanted! We were lucky to have a supportive family, and the space at our house to host such an event.
How to Plan a Small Backyard Wedding
Planning a wedding can get overwhelming really quickly, no matter the size. Everyone may be trying to put in their opinions before you can even catch a breath after getting engaged. Before jumping into booking vendors just to secure them for your date, take the time to slow down, set boundaries with your relatives, and enjoy this season of being a fiancé! It goes by so fast!
Find the time to sit down with your partner establish a baseline for your wedding planning by doing the following:
- Cast a vision for your day. Take time to sit down with your partner and dream up your ideal wedding. Is there a lot of people there, just a few? Is it a short day, or an extended weekend? How do you want to feel?
- Set a budget. Planning a small wedding isn't always about the cost. Some couples choose to have an intimate wedding and spend the same amount as they would on a traditional/large wedding. Either way, taking time to go over the financial side of planning your wedding is a key step in the beginning.
- Decide Priorities. After going over your vision and budget, pick out your top priorities for the day. Is it the food? The photos? The decor? Or hosting a weekend experience with family?
If you've come to the conclusion that a small backyard wedding is what you both want - it's time to dive deeper into the planning process!
What Vendors do you Need for a Small Wedding?
Once you've gone over your vision, budget, and priorities, it's time to set the date and find your vendors! If you're wondering what vendors do you need for a small backyard wedding, let's dive in! Having a small backyard wedding means you have the freedom to completely customize your day! This also means there may be a few more details to iron out that a venue would otherwise provide.
Things like tables, chairs, linens, dishes, candles, arches, etc. Some venues have all-inclusive packages that provide these. But no need to fret! There are so many affordable options for renting decor, and you can also try and re-sell the items you no longer need afterward! If you have the time and want to get more creative, you can furnish the decor and details yourself, from thrifting, to resell shops online, or ask friends/family to borrow things!
TIP: Write down absolutely everything you may need, then start favoriting your items to order for black friday! That's a great way to save on cost if you're not willing to thrift or rent.
Most weddings will have flowers in some form, big or small. You may opt for just a bridal bouquet or boutonnieres. Or you may want floral arrangements on tables and the altar. Hiring a florist can really help make your vision come to life! If florals are low on the priority list, you can DIY and make some arrangements yourself.
TIP: There are flower farms all around the world, and depending on the season, most allow you to pick and bundle. This is a great way to save cost and keep it simple.
Depending on what kind of food you want, catering is pretty common at most weddings big and small. However, another option that can be great for backyard weddings is potlucks, BBQs, or having a friend/family member be in charge of the meal. It's a great way to get exactly what you want, so be creative! This may be more feasible for smaller weddings where the guest count is lower. Same goes with desserts.
Photographer and Videographer
A must-have, in my opinion (but I may be biased)! Hiring a professional to document your day makes a world of difference. Big or small wedding, you WILL want high-quality images to look back on! The day can go by so quickly, and the food and flowers will be thrown away, but the photos/videos will last forever. Ask around for local recommendations, and look for someone who is experienced with smaller weddings.
This depends on where you live and any noise restrictions there may be for your backyard. Most often it's okay to have music as long as it isn't too loud, on late in the night, and as long as your neighbors like you! You can hire a professional DJ/band to perform at the ceremony or reception, or have a friend/family take on the role! It's not uncommon for a couple to simply create a playlist and someone sets up a speaker and is in charge of queuing up the songs.
TIP: It's fun to get your guests involved and ask their favorite songs to include in the playlist. Also, we had my brother in law play "DJ" and he crushed it!
Hiring a professional hair and/or makeup artist is pretty normal for a wedding, but not required. You can also ask a friend to help out, or if you're comfortable you can do it your own! Some people may like being pampered and not having to worry about getting ready, while others prefer having the control to make sure they look most like themselves.
If you want to have specialty drinks and not just self-serve beer/wine, hiring a professional bartender or service to handle your alcohol can be a good idea. There are lots of fun bar carts or trucks you can book, or you can delegate someone to be in charge of the drink station for the reception.
A vendor we sometimes might forget about, the person who marries you! Wedding ceremonies are now performed by most anyone who gets ordained; pastors, priests, family, friends. You can search for local officiants in your area if you don't have one you know in mind to perform the ceremony. Make sure to check the requirements for your state well beforehand to have all the documents in place.
Something that may not be needed if you have sufficient plumbing and bathrooms at your house. However, if you have a larger guest-list or large property, you may need to consider renting out port-a-potties! You'd be surprised at how fancy they are now, they can come in min trailers decked out to look like a legit bathroom!
Another last thing to consider when hosting a backyard wedding is the clean-up! Since most wedding venues have a staff to break down the event, hosting it on your own means delegating a crew to stay and clean up. This could be your guests or immediate family members. But make sure you plan this out ahead of time so you're not stuck with it all at the end of the night!
If going over the list of vendors and logistics that are required for planning a small backyard wedding stresses you out; I strongly recommend hiring a wedding planner! Even though the wedding may be on a smaller scale, having someone help you plan your day can be such a relief. If anything, have someone be the designated coordinator on the day of so you're not running around as the point of contact! I have found that this is such a huge game changer in the stress of your day, no matter how big or small. Have a wedding planner on your team from the beginning and you will have the absolute best wedding experience.
Planning a backyard wedding can come with it's own set of overwhelm. However, sticking to your vision and delegating tasks can make the experience much easier! Remember to give yourself enough time to enjoy the process, and not worry about what other people think. It will absolutely be worth it in the end!
I hope this guide on how to plan a small backyard wedding helped in some way! Head over here for more of my wedding and elopement planning tips, and be sure to follow me on Instagram for more behind-the-scenes look at intimate weddings! Happy wedding planning!
Hey, I'm Kelsey!
A New Hampshire based adventure elopement and intimate wedding photographer for the adventurous souls. I travel throughout New England and worldwide, empowering you to create the most beautiful, adventurous day and give you the memories you'll be able to look back on for all the years to come.
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