13 Times Backyard Weddings Proved Staying at Home Is Fun


Plus tips for leveling up your backyard's game

by Stephanie Kaloi

View More: http://allisonandres.pass.us/non-floral-centerpieces

Once upon a time, having your wedding at home or in your own backyard was considered the height of unrefined: I mean, how could you ever make a backyard fancy enough for a wedding?! Luckily for everyone getting married these days, the Internet has made having the backyard wedding of your dreams easier (and more beautiful) than ever.

The perks to getting married at home go on forever. At least one of you is likely to know the spot incredibly well, and you’ll be comfortable there. You’re probably not going to deal with any decor restrictions, and can in fact do something like string up a whole bunch of confetti-filled piñatas from a tree because—hey—it’s your yard.

Of course, there are a few things to keep in mind too.

1. If you’re worried about late night noise, invite the neighbors! People don’t tend to complain about parties they are… at.

2. Don’t forget about things like porta potties. If your home has old pipes or your guest list is huge, it can be worth the investment (and avoidance of future plumbing repairs) to get the fancy kind. (And y’all the fancy kinds are F-A-N-C-Y.)

3. Remember that at-home weddings mean you’ve gotta bring everything in and take everything out yourself. And hauling trash the day after your wedding is zero percent fun. So if you’ve got a college-age cousin or sibling and that person has friends, don’t be afraid to hire out some help hauling things away. (P.S. This might be where our post on rentals comes in handy.)

But enough about logistics. We dug through our own backyard and at-home weddings to bring you some of the best ideas for leveling up your own backyard situation. If you’ve recently planned a wedding at your home we’d love to hear even more ideas for having a flawless wedding right where you live.

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1. Lean into the strengths of the space

Who: Abbie and Reid | Where: Oak Lawn, Illinois | Vibe: Relaxed poolside barbecue

Getting married at home doesn’t mean you have to turn your backyard into the Ritz Carlton. Have a pool? Make it look kick ass like Abbie did with this balloon installation. Lots of trees in your backyard? Hang shit from them. Work with the space you have, not against it.

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2. ARRIVE BY BICYCLE, JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN

Who: Kari and Duncan | Where: Mamaroneck, New York | Vibe: Handcrafted backyard New York wedding

Because you can and you should.

firepit

3. build YOUR OWN FIRE PIT

Who: Amanda and Wesley | Where: Knoxville, Tennessee | Vibe: Casual Friday backyard wedding

Win 1: You build your own fire pit and can have s’mores at your wedding. Win 2: The fire pit is still there after the wedding, which means you can have s’mores all the time.

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4. USE THE DRIVEWAY AS AN AISLE

Who: Kait and Bobby | Where: Seattle, Washington | Vibe: A front yard elopement in the Pacific Northwest

Kait and Bobby’s photographer, Jonas Seaman, found an awesome front yard for their ceremony—right down the street from where they were staying. Voila, insta-wedding aisle.

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5. SUBSTITUTE BLANKETS FOR TRADITIONAL SEATING

Who: Emma and Shanna | Where: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada | Vibe: A small, love-filled, doused-in-sunshine, at-home wedding

Keep in mind that various guests may have different needs than most and might require comfier chairs, but generally speaking, offering everyone blankets instead of seats lends a colorful, whimsical vibe to your wedding (and an excuse to buy cute blankets for your home).

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6. EASILY INCLUDE YOUR PETS

Who: Kathryn and Jeff | Where: Trout Lake, Washington | Vibe: A magical blend of simplicity and wildness

If you really want to have your dog in your wedding but you also really don’t want your dog to be on your mind the rest of the day, getting married at home makes it possible.

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7. ANY NOOK CAN BE A WEDDING NOOK

Who: Sarah and Selena | Where: Washington, DC | Vibe: Relaxed elegance

You don’t have to transform your home into a wedding venue for it to be… a wedding venue. Your favorite spot is your favorite spot for a reason already, right?

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8. JUST BECAUSE IT’S DIY, DOESN’T MEAN YOU CAN’T HIRE THAT ISH OUT

Who: Cat and Jonney | Where: Silverlake, California | Vibe: A Tuesday wedding planned in just seventeen days

When Cat and Jonney made the decision to plan their wedding in a hurry so that Jonney’s late mom could attend, they realized they couldn’t do it all themselves. So Jonney hired a house decorating company to deck the backyard out in twinkle lights. It took eight hours and cost a penny, but was worth totally worth it.

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9. PARK A FOOD TRUCK IN YOUR YARD

Who: Nat and Juni | Where: Miami, Florida | Vibe: A forty-person at-home wedding planned in twenty-one days

Sure, you could offer a plated meal or buffet… or you could mix it up and bring a food truck to your home. Options, people! Options. (Note: If you’re planning a food truck wedding, be aware that, depending on the food type, your guests might end up spending some serious waiting in line. To avoid food truck backup, stagger your meal, or choose a food type that can be prepared in advance and only has to be assembled on site.)

10. BREAK OPEN A MATRIMONIAL PINATA

Who: Kaitlyn and Nick | Location: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada | Vibe: A romantic and intimate backyard wedding

If you don’t care that confetti and candy will be all over your yard, then popping a piñata or two is a really fun way to celebrate getting married. Unity candles be damned!

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11. PUT EVERYTHING UNDER ONE AMAZING TREE

Who: Vanessa and Jesse | Where: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada | Vibe: Small on funds, big on heart

Trees are backyard wedding magicians. They keep you from getting too hot and from getting sunburned. Plus, there’s all that pretty. With the help of cinder blocks and willpower, Vanessa and Jesse’s entire wedding (ceremony, eating, and dancing) took place under one gigantic, incredible magnolia tree.

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12. TAKE PHOTOS IN a sentimental spot

Who: Brian and Genevieve | Where: Santa Rosa, California | Vibe: A raw, poetic, family-filled, at-home wedding

Speaking of trees. The best part of getting married at home? You get to visit your wedding site over and over again. Brian and Genevieve shared their first look (and therefore first kiss) under the same trees they later took wedding photos under. Perfection.

View More: http://photokisses.pass.us/shope

13. GO OUT WITH A BANG

Who: Mary and Michael | Where: Seattle, Washington | Vibe: A laid-back community-made block party

That thing about fewer restrictions? Means you can get away with stuff like sparklers and these amazing fire lanterns. (P.S. You can get eco-friendly ones right here.) Since there is no one to kick you out at the end of the night, these make a great symbolic gesture to end the evening. Also, let’s be real, the photos are dreamy. I said it.

did you get married at home? What worked for you? What tips and ideas do you have for other APW couples who are planning their own backyard weddings?

Stephanie Kaloi

Stephanie is a photographer, writer, and Ravenclaw living in California with her family. She is super into reading, road trips, and adopting animals on a whim. Forewarning: all correspondence will probably include a lot of punctuation and emoji (!!! ? ? ?).

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  • Rose

    Our reception was in my parent’s yard (we live in an apartment, so it’s not like that was an option), and it was really lovely! Things that were particularly great: We had an informal rehearsal dinner the night before, everyone invited, in the yard with the chairs and tables, because they were there already so why not? We had plenty of space to spread out, and plenty of time to decorate (the lights started going up days in advance). And, honestly, it was just beautiful.

    One thing that we did that I think worked well: we had our ceremony at my mother’s church, which is fairly nearby, and we rented out their hall for the rest of the evening as our weather back-up. It cost about the same amount as renting a tent would have (or maybe a bit less), because it’s just a church hall and not a fancy wedding venue, but it was in my opinion better insurance against worse weather (sure, a tent can help with rain, but in Colorado in September you could also get snow, or 40 mph winds). If you’re having your ceremony at a church and they have a hall, or there’s a community hall or something around, I would suggest looking into it. It definitely gave me more peace of mind coming up to the wedding, even though in the end the weather was perfect.

    • khshire

      Yep, our backyard wedding was in California in June, so the chance of rain was pretty slim. But we did put a $150 deposit on a community center in case of a 1,000 year storm. This made a lot more sense than $1,200 for a tent that would be less comfortable.

    • VKD_Vee

      Yes, definitely do this. We had a backyard wedding (number 11 above!) and my husband talked me out of renting our local community centre as a “rain backup plan”. Fast forward to 4 days before the wedding day and it was forecast for heavy showers ALL DAY. It cleared up for us on the day by some miracle but I still would have rather paid a bit extra $$$ to avoid all of the crying/anxiety…

      • Eenie

        One of my friends told me her backup plan was originally umbrellas (plus they doubled as favors!). Her mom reserved a hall as backup. And it was a gorgeous day.

  • khshire

    The “sani-hut” was actually the first thing we rented for our wedding in my mom’s backyard! The trick is to make it easy to get to, but still a little hidden. We put down brick pavers and solar powered lights to guide the path. We also put a small light and some flowers in the sani-hut. We told older guests that they could use the bathroom in the house.

    The best parts about a backyard wedding were that we could leisurely set-up and didn’t have to worry about forgetting to pack something for the trip to the venue. Also, it’s beautiful, personal, and you should definitely hang things from the trees.

  • TeaforTwo

    These are gorgeous, but when were backyard weddings considered tacky? My parents and my mother’s four siblings all had their wedding receptions in their parents’ yards, because that was just what people did in the pre-WIC ’70s.

    Now, living in one of North America’s more out-of-control real estate markets, a backyard wedding would be a huge class marker (in the sense that the backyard is worth at least a million dollars). But getting married at home is a pretty traditional thing to do – it’s certainly where people got married for many, many years before the advent of the banquet hall, or before anyone thought up the idea of getting married in a microbrewery.

    • Maddie Eisenhart

      I think it was right around the time the wedding industry started going crazy (80’s and 90’s). I just remember that scene from Father of the Bride where Steve Martin suggests having a wedding at home and Diane Keaton looks at him like he’s crazy. That whole exchange was definitely supposed to imply that he was too cheap to do it “the real way.” And I think that messaging pervaded until the last few years. I know when I got married the most important thing in the indie wedding space was to find a “unique” venue. But getting married at home hadn’t made its formal return into coolness yet.

      • VKD_Vee

        Ahhhh! While engaged, I watched Father of the Bride (to get amped up, naturally) and THIS SCENE made me get a lump in my throat…! I never even THOUGHT about backyard weddings (I’m number 11 up there, BTW) being tacky before! “Steve Martin’s off the guestlist!”

        • scw

          we watched father of the bride while engaged, too! the scene where he is parking cars at the wedding convinced me NOT to get married at my parents’ house.

          • VKD_Vee

            I love that scene! Keiran Culkin! Oh who am I kidding? I love FotB and can’t stay mad it!

            I heard a rumout a while ago that they were making a third movie which involved (the son) Keiran Culkin in one of those newfangled “gay weddings” for a modern reboot… Dare to dream!

    • AP

      I thought the same thing! Maybe because I had my reception at home:)

    • Meg Keene

      Oh, when I started the site, and the wedding industry was at it’s height, FOR SURE it was a thing. Back then, the “rule” was that if you had your wedding at home, you should invest the cost of a venue in landscaping and upgrades. #HeadDesk

      It’s a very traditional thing to do though, Chapter 3 of my first book has a full footnoted defense of that. <3

  • pajamafishadventures

    A note on porti-potties: Consider the time of day your wedding is running. My cousin’s awesome cornfield wedding had the fancy porta-potties with running water and all that and they were great until about 9pm when the lights went out and there was no way to see inside them!

    • laddibugg

      Why did the lights go out?

      • pajamafishadventures

        There just were no lights to be had in the porta potties, period. During the day enough was let in but not enough at night, even though the general area was well lit

    • Megan

      my bestie got married in the woods and the only bathrooms available were outhouses. We strung lanterns leading up the path and filled the inside with fake candles to provide some light.

  • Amanda

    Hey, number 3 was my wedding! We lived in an apartment at the time, so my best friend/maid of honor let us use her house and now every time I go over there I still get warm fuzzies. And yes, we’ve made more s’mores in that fire pit since our wedding as well. Win!

  • laddibugg

    The pool terrifies me! I know I’d fall right in just because it’s there!

  • Sara

    My parents eloped and my grandparents threw a reception when they returned home in their backyard. That was my idea party – just a backyard bbq with a nice cake in the middle.

  • Amanda

    I priced out a backyard wedding–my partner’s grandparents have a vineyard on the side of a mountain in New Hampshire. Absolutely beautiful. But by the time we took account of all the extra bathrooms, tents, lighting, generators, plates, tables, chairs, linens, it set up as much to accommodate the property as it did to rent an all-inclusive NYC historical venue *with food.* I was shocked!

    • Maddie Eisenhart

      Yes! Backyard weddings aren’t always the most affordable option. I think they’re really great for A) People who really want to pick all the components of the wedding themselves and put them all together. B) People who live in super consistent climates. California is great for backyard weddings because it basically doesn’t rain for 80% of the year. Also, I think you hit on something important here. There’s a difference between having a backyard wedding and “turning a property into a venue.” The former doesn’t necessarily have to equal the latter.

      Glad you guys figured all that out before you got too deep into it. :) Backyard weddings are AWESOME for lots of reasons, but they aren’t necessarily cheaper.

      • Amanda

        yes! i know myself enough to say that i would have been anxious over the weather until the reception was over (wait..is that a raindrop?). we have enough elderly guests who couldn’t have climbed up the mountain to get to the vineyard. i knew i would have be covered in insect repellent & dozy on benadryl for my own vows. i knew guests would get cold at night & we would need to figure that out or listen to a bunch of kvetching octogenarians. knew i couldn’t wear the shoes i really wanted because it would sink into the ground. if it was markedly less expensive, i’d have happily designed a scene out of a Monet painting & sourced the most badass wedges imaginable. it turns out, not less expensive at all, not worth the other concessions. i’ve been to some beautiful cozy, intimate, joyful backyard weddings–and kind of wish i could be the type of laid back girl who’d relish in all the splendid simplicity. but know thyself…

      • Meg Keene

        Currently: CA doesn’t rain for 100% of the year.

    • emilyg25

      Yeah, the only reason our backyard wedding was affordable was because we skimped on a rain plan. It worked out, but it could have been a disaster.

  • Ashlah

    I *wish* we had done a backyard wedding. Well, kind of. It would have had to be a lot smaller, and maybe the stress wouldn’t have been worth it. But what I would have loved is that it would have forced us to get our house and yard into shape! All the time and money we spent on wedding projects could have done double duty as home improvement projects, and that alone sounds like the perfect reason to have a wedding at home.

    • AP

      Yep! That’s a major bonus!

  • Reynard Muldrake

    I’m just over a month from my wedding. It’ll be in my brother’s backyard in Hawaii (my partner and I live on the mainland in a yardless urban condo), so it’s a destination backyard wedding/trip to visit family.

    We’ve been pulling up images from the amazing backyard weddings on apw to get amped whenever we hit irritating planning snags- effective!

  • Bsquillo

    Man, that “wedding planned in 17 days” is possibly still my favorite wedding ever featured on the site. And I’m getting all teary looking at it again…

    • Eenie

      Not to be confused with the wedding planned in 21 days…which is one of my favorites!

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  • Kayjayoh

    “BREAK OPEN A MATRIMONIAL PINATA”

    Regardless of venue, I think piñatas > bouquet tosses all the way.

  • AP

    We had our backyard reception three weeks ago and I learned a lot about what it takes to pull it off. I’m not sure I would do something of that magnitude again, but it definitely made me want to start throwing more parties at home.

    What worked:
    No venue fees, time limits, or crazy rules. We worked on and off all week to get the yard ready for our Saturday party, and we finished cleaning everything up Monday morning. The last people finally left around 1am Saturday night, and it was nice not to have to wrap up the party just because the venue needed us out.

    For us, the cost was cheaper than if we’d rented a venue. Rough total spent for 60 people was $3500 (this included catering, table/linens/chair rentals, cake, alcohol, flowers, outfits, decor.) We also spent some money on plants/pots/mulch/etc. for landscaping the yard, but since that is money we would have spent anyway down the road and wasn’t specific to the wedding, we didn’t count it in our total.

    The best thing we did was hire a caterer to do a taco buffet. The two staff people did set-up, serving (tortilla warming station!), clean-up and even did our dishes and left the kitchen spotless. They helped cut and serve the cake as well and even refilled drinks though it wasn’t in their contract. We helped keep our catering costs low by preparing the happy-hour snacks ourselves (chips and a few different homemade salsas, spreads, and hors d’oeuvres) and we didn’t have any desserts aside from wedding cake.

    We kept the decor pretty simple. Tons of string lights, burlap table runners, and DIY flowers using the APW hydrangea/alstroemeria centerpiece tutorial. LED tea lights and fairly lights on tables, and that was pretty much it. We let our landscaping, new deck, and oak trees be the “statement” decor.

    My family and a few friends really came through at crunch time loaning us decor/serving ware/plants from their yard. They helped set up lights, do landscaping, make food, set up centerpieces and decorate, clean up. Husband and I are really bad at asking for help, but the week of the reception, anytime someone offered to help I took them seriously and gave them a job. It was awesome and a good lesson in letting people show love by helping you out.

    One of our practical considerations was how to keep the flies/mosquitos down. We have a giant live oak tree right out our back door and flies lay eggs in the ground near the roots. We bought one of those hanging traps with fly bait in a bag of water and hung it about 10 feet from where we set up the buffet (away from where people would be and hidden behind a shed) and we didn’t see a fly all night. It’s full of flies now, which is gross, but it worked like a charm. And luckily we had a cool snap so the mosquitos weren’t a problem. We had bug spray at the ready just in case, though, and tiki torches/citronella at the perimeter of the yard.

    What did not work:
    Finishing some major house projects up through the week before the reception was the WORST idea ever. We’ve been renovating our house ourselves over the last two years, which was a big part of why we wanted to have the reception there. For various reasons (mostly work-related), some big projects (*cough* THE DECK *cough*) kept getting pushed back. So yes, we were finishing the deck the weekend before the reception. We built a fireplace surround the Wednesday before the reception. We finished painting trim, installing fixtures, setting up our guest bedroom, and a ton of other minor things all throughout the week. It was madness. On the bright side- the reception was the kick in the pants we needed to actually get the house finished and now it’s smooth sailing from here on out. But it was NOT worth the anxiety and stress. I’m only just now leveling back out. Lesson learned: Finish all major house projects AT LEAST a month before the party so you can focus on the party and not the house!!

    Honestly? House renovations aside, having our reception at home was an awesome experience. We got to treat it like a housewarming, so we had a slideshow of all our before/progress/after pics going in the living room (which people loved.) Guests dressed however they were comfortable (and there was a wide range of attire since some came dressed for a wedding reception and some came dressed for a backyard barbecue). It was pretty kid-friendly. We had corn hole for the older kids and our friends with a new baby were able to stake out space in our bedroom to feed and put her down so they could party as long as they wanted. Family with kids and older guests left right after cake cutting, so by about 8:30-9pm it was mostly just our friends and it started to feel more like a casual house party. We’d had a lot of family drama in the weeks leading up to it, so that’s when we could finally breathe and just enjoy ourselves. I’d recommend it for someone who doesn’t mind making most of the logistical decisions themselves. (But there is something to be said for a venue with a coordinator, especially for busy folks!)

  • meleyna

    We didn’t exactly have ours in a backyard, but in the courtyard of a bed and breakfast, which is actually an old home, so it technically was a backyard.. I guess?

    The biggest thing I would stress is lighting. It’s no fun once the sun goes down and you can’t see anyone. We hired out for ours, but it’s totally something you could DIY with some planning.

    At the end of the day, our “backyard” wedding didn’t save us any money vs having it in a resort or whatever, but that’s not the kind of wedding we wanted.

  • Lauryn Pregoni-Camara

    My husband and I got married at his parents house this August. I would highly recommend a backyard wedding to anybody contemplating it! It was definitely a ton of hard work on our parts – much more than for couples who plan it at a regular venue (and I know this because I also work in the wedding industry), but it was so worth it.

    His parents have a large backyard next to a small lake (that only they have access to, it is on their land and no other houses near by) and the lake even has a waterfall! (WHAT!) simply amazing. We originally wanted to go with a venue that had that ‘backyard look’ but for the ideal place we were looking at close to a $5000 price tag and that was our of our budget (that also didn’t include food, alcohol either!) So we didn’t initially see his parents backyard as the aesthetic we were going for but one day of being up there and just shifting our vision to envision our day there – we fell in love! And I am so happy we had it there.

    It was so nice to see both of our families blend together on his parent’s property. My husband and his best friend made an AMAZING dance floor out of pallets and plywood, with string lights hung from the top, we had corn hole and bacci ball and our photographer was able to take the most amazing photos in ways we would have never seen the backyard. It gave the property so much more sentimental feel and it was so nice to have our wedding on our terms and time. It was a dream!

    The cost was considerably cheaper, we were able to have the things we wanted (barring difficult conversations with both parents – because obviously there was some) we had an amazing ice cream cart there parked next to the lake as well!

  • Fantastic! Love these gorgeous backyard weddings :) I sang at a fantastic backyard wedding summer before last, right before the bride’s parents sold up the family home. It was the perfect send off, but it did get very, very hot! My tip would be to have sun umbrellas on hand to provide shade if needed.

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