It's no secret that one of the first significant decisions you will face as a newly engaged couple is where to get married and celebrate with family and friends. Of course, there are many options for every couple and every budget: hotel ballrooms, vineyards, beaches, country clubs, rooftops, city halls, and for some, the backyard of a private residence.
They come in all shapes and sizes, and chances are that you grew up with one in your extended family, no matter where that was. And one thing that almost all backyards have in common is that they come with a sense of family. Backyards can be special places, connecting us to our childhood adventures and dreams and sharing those memories with our partners. From childhood forts and Easter egg hunts to birthday parties and stargazing, for many couples, a backyard can be the perfect spot to celebrate their future together.
Just because the venue is someone's backyard doesn't mean that your guests will turn up wearing flip-flops and be seated next to your cousin's old trampoline (although that would be a fitting punishment for wearing flip-flops to a wedding).
Depending on the number of guests, the time of the year, and the size of the yard, your wedding planner can create magical spaces while taking advantage of what a backyard has to offer. A new set of eyes is sometimes all that's needed to show us the beauty that's always there. For example, swimming pools can be covered and turned into dance floors, caterers can use outdoor kitchens to prepare late-night snacks, lighting can be used to transform how your guests see everything, and tents can be added for anything from dessert stations to hookah lounges.
Many venues that typically host weddings have a lot of things already in their inventory (e.g. tables, chairs, linens, tabletop items, etc.). Hotels, clubs, and restaurants also have menus with lists of items you can choose from for hors d'oeuvres, entrées, desserts, wines, and so on. These types of venues also have rules (e.g., what time your vendors can load in, when your event can start, and when it has to stop without your paying overtime). For businesses, these rules make sense, and while Directors of Catering and Events will bend over backward for their clients, they can only do so much.
With a backyard wedding, there won't be a wedding before or after yours. Your wedding planner will have the flexibility to schedule deliveries and installations without worrying that it will cost you more.
If you're thinking, Okay, but if we need to rent everything, won’t that cost too much? Here's the thing: it really won't. I've never planned a wedding where my clients looked at everything a venue had, from chargers to dance floors, and then didn't ask me if I could find another choice for something.
There are no rules about what you can serve with the right caterer in the right season. Wagyu beef from Snake River Farms in Idaho, king salmon from Alaska, and fresh berries from Thorne Family Farm? The answer is always yes. And when it comes to beverages, there's no such thing as a bar package. If you want a bar just for a mezcal tasting, why not? And when it comes to the wine served, you won't be paying marked-up prices because, like so much of what you'll be using at your backyard wedding, your wedding planner will be able to source it for you.
Photo by Lily Glass Photography; Planning & Design by David Pressman Events
You can, but I'm not suggesting that as a reason to have your wedding in a family backyard. On the contrary, the money saved by not paying for substantially marked-up goods and services will allow you to have genuinely great things that matter to you. For example, three vocalists with the band instead of two, five courses at dinner, the second dress you want but feel guilty about buying, or even inviting the cousins your grandmother thinks have been invited, but...
There's a feeling to backyard weddings that can't be replicated elsewhere, a comforting familiarity, and a sense of style that speaks to you as a couple. And just in case you need a place to hide from those cousins, you'll already know the best spot to slip away to with the love of your life.
Photo by Nicol Ragland; Planning & Design by David Pressman Events
This expert advice article was originally published in the Fall 2022 issue of Inside Weddings magazine.