How to Plan a Backyard Wedding

What you need to know to stage a celebration in the most personal space of all

By Chanize Thorpe |

Photos by Edwin Fotheringham

Envisioning a Father of the Bride–style wedding in your parents’ backyard? Great! A celebration on familiar turf can be charming and totally customized. But throwing a wedding isn’t the same as having the gang over for a cookout. Not only is it more complicated (in addition to the party, you have a ceremony to consider), but there’s likely a multigenerational cast of guests to care for. And it often has a higher sticker price than you’d imagine. Here’s what you need to know.

Wedding Countdown

Several Months Before: Evaluate your yard. You may need to have a landscaper fill in uneven ground and plant grass seed or lay sod.

Several Weeks Before: Decide where the best places are for an aisle—which you can create with rose petals, potted plants, or large stones—and for the vows. For the latter, think about a terrace, a majestic tree, or Dad’s prize rosebushes. Map out the reception and find the best level spots for the dining tables, bars, food stations, band or DJ, dance floor, cake table.

A Week Before: Have a landscaper do a general yard cleanup, trimming limbs and shrubs. Hire movers to put the swing set in storage.

The Day Before: Declutter the yard&mash;move the grill into the garage, put the bikes away, and mow the lawn. Day of: Dress up the yard. Easy ideas: Add a daisy chain to a railing; put a wreath on a garden statue; hang a “Carrie & Joe’s Wedding” sign.

Timing Tips
Before choosing a caterer or the dress, figure out the best date and time to wed. Think about:

Rain and Humidity: Check an almanac and avoid months with heavy precipitation.

Temperature: The hottest time of the day is usually 4 p.m.; plan with that in mind.

Insects: Bugs can be a bother in certain seasons and specific times of day (mosquitoes at dusk, for example).

Allergies: Pollen peaks in early spring and late summer. Got sneezers? Avoid an outside affair.

Lawful Behavior

Keep It Clean: If your caterer isn’t going to dispose of the garbage bags, phone your local trash collector and inquire about special pickups.

Don’t Block the Block: Depending on the neighborhood, you may need a special permit from the local police precinct to allow so many cars to park on the street. Another option? Look into having guests park at a local school (with permission) and hiring a shuttle van for transfers.

Avoid a Disturbance: Besides informing neighbors ahead of time about your event, ask the police about any noise ordinances or curfews.

Dos and Don’ts

DO think about how guests will access the yard without traipsing through your home. Don’t put up too many houseguests. Since your home will be the center of operations, the less people afoot, the better.

DO consider the neighbors. If you don’t want them mowing the lawn during the vows, invite them to the wedding!

DON’T let anyone who comes to the house early, like the maid of honor, park in the driveway. You’ll want to keep it open for deliveries.