Backyard Wedding Checklist

A backyard wedding is an intimate, beautiful way to celebrate you and your SO’s love. Plan everything for the perfect experience with our backyard wedding checklist.

By The Zola Team

Backyard Wedding Checklist
Photo by Zola

The First Look ✨

The search for the perfect wedding venue can take weeks, sometimes months. But sometimes, everything you’re looking for is right under your nose… in your backyard.

If you and your significant other are considering a backyard wedding, take a look at our backyard wedding checklist. We’ll break down everything you need to know, including:

The Initial Decision: Opting for a Backyard Wedding

Before we discuss the extensive planning process for your wonderfully intimate wedding, you have a big decision to make: Do you want to get married in your backyard? Run through this decision-making checklist with your spouse-to-be to decide if this is what you want:

  • Are You Hoping to Save Money? A traditional wedding venue will account for a significant portion of any wedding budget. On average, couples spend about $5,000 on their venue alone. By hosting your wedding in the backyard, you can save thousands of dollars. That’s money you can put toward another aspect of your wedding, such as catering or live music. You can even use your savings to fund an exciting honeymoon for you and your soon-to-be spouse.

  • Do You Want Greater Flexibility With Your Date? You don’t need to worry about another couple booking the date you want. You essentially have exclusive access (talk about VIP treatment). This is especially beneficial if you and your SO want to get married during “wedding season,” which starts in the spring and ends in the fall, spanning a large chunk of the calendar. Save yourself the trouble by forgoing the venue reservation altogether.

  • Will You Be Hosting an Intimate Wedding? With a limited amount of space, a backyard wedding is naturally suited for a more intimate affair. If you were looking forward to welcoming just about everyone you know, this location may be limiting for you. However, with a shorter guest list, you can save money on catering, alcohol, and rentals, including seating, place settings, and dishware. Not to mention, you have an excuse if any extended family members or friends wonder why they didn’t make the cut.

  • Is Comfort Important to You? With a backyard wedding, you’ll feel right at home. The venue itself brings you and your wedding guests together to share in an intimate moment. Plus, the lack of venue rules allows you and your guests to relax and celebrate however you want—invite your pets, skip certain traditions, or put on sweatpants after the ceremony if you want. It’s your backyard wedding, and you make the rules.

  • Are You a Sucker for Sentimentality? Unlike other wedding venues, a backyard wedding adds a layer of sentimentality to your special day. This isn't just another banquet hall or winery—it’s home. And what better way to start a new chapter of your life than by sharing an old one with your loved one?

12 Months Prior: Choosing a Suitable Style

Before you can book a vendor, write a check, or select a single place setting, you’ll need to decide on a theme or overall aesthetic. Knowing what you want ahead of time will guide all of your future decisions and facilitate a smoother planning process.

You want to find a style that not only represents you and your significant other but also complements and enhances your backyard venue.

Fortunately, intimate backyard weddings naturally lend themselves to certain wedding styles. If you need help narrowing down your venue vibe, work your way through this list of ideas:

  • Rustic: Rustic weddings are all about using natural, raw materials and outdoor elements to create a charming, earthy feel. You’ve already nailed the natural, outdoor aspect, but you can enhance the rustic style by replacing your ceremony and reception chairs with benches made from reclaimed wood.

  • Vintage: For a vintage vibe that transports your guests back to a simpler time, incorporate your family history and sentimental items into the decor. Adorn your reception tables with old family photos placed in decorative frames, use complementary vases and tea sets as centerpieces, and decorate with antique quilts and heirlooms.

  • Bohemian: For a bohemian-style wedding, ditch your traditional aisle runner in favor of colorful Persian rugs. After the ceremony, combine these rugs with vintage throw pillows and poufs to create a groovy lounge area for your guests to relax and mingle.

  • Whimsical: To create a whimsical feel, use mismatched pieces of china for place settings and mismatched chairs for seating. To elevate your decor, hang antique birdcages from tree branches or the inside of your canopy tent.

  • Modern: Modern weddings find their inspiration in minimalism and geometric shapes. Instead of a lavish wedding arch, achieve a more modern look by committing to your partner in front of a simple wooden triangle arch.

There are clearly a lot of options available and plenty of decisions to make. Once you’ve narrowed down your desired style, you can search Zola’s pre-screened lists of vendors, from bohemian florists to documentary-style videographers to modern invitations and save the dates.

6 to 9 Months Prior: Essential Backyard Wedding Vendors and Rentals

If the benefits of a backyard wedding appeal to you and your fiance, and you know of a backyard you can use, then congratulations—you’ve officially found your wedding venue.

But the venue is just the beginning of any wedding planning process. To throw a successful and memorable backyard wedding, you need to transform your backyard into a proper locale, complete with all the fixings of your favorite wedding venues.

Hire Top-Quality Vendors

To ensure availability, reach out to wedding vendors at least six months before the big day, though more time is always better.

To make sure you get everything you need, use this wedding vendor checklist:

  • Wedding Planner: While a backyard wedding may be less extravagant than a hotel or banquet hall wedding, it still requires a significant amount of planning and coordination. For extra help, you can always hire a wedding planner. Not only can a wedding planner manage your budget, your wedding decor checklist, your wedding vendor checklist, and handle any last-minute issues, but they can also offer advice for how to best set up your backyard for efficiency, comfort, and style.

  • Caterer: If you want to match your natural backyard vibe, hire a local caterer who offers fresh farm-to-table ingredients. With Zola, you can search specifically for the meal experience you want, including buffets, passed appetizers, plated meals, or family-style dinner service.

  • Photographer and Videographer: By hosting your wedding in a familiar backyard, you forever imprint the space with the memory of your special day. But to relive the moment and share it with future generations, you’ll need to hire a professional wedding photographer and videographer. Some videographers specialize in artistic, film-style wedding videos, which can complement the intimate feel of your backyard wedding. Before hiring a photographer and videographer, take a look at their previous work to decide if their unique style is right for you.

  • Hairstylist and Makeup Artist: Celebrating your big day at home doesn’t necessarily make it a casual affair—you can still go all out on your wedding day look with professional beauticians. For a truly stress-free wedding day, leave your hair and makeup in the steady hands of a professional.

  • Wedding Band or DJ: When deciding whether to hire a live band or dj for your backyard wedding, take into account the amount of space you have available. A band will typically require a larger setup than a single dj booth. Check out our wedding dj checklist for more details. To save on space (and money), you can always choose to rent professional quality speakers and create your own wedding playlist.

  • Officiant: Although they can’t offer a tasty meal or a keepsake album of wedding snapshots, your officiant has the most important job of all—marrying you and your fiance. If you’re having a religious wedding, confirm that your officiant can perform the ceremony outside of a traditional house of worship, as some ministries don’t allow this. To maintain intimacy, you can always ask a close friend or family member to get ordained online and perform the ceremony themselves.

Secure Your Wedding Rentals

Once you’ve locked in your vendors, you can determine what additional supplies and equipment you’ll need to rent for a flawless backyard wedding.

For your ceremony, chairs are the main necessity, but you can also choose to add aisle markers, an aisle runner, a wedding arch, or a wedding backdrop. While all these decorations can be rented, you can also save money by utilizing trees, flowers, and branches from your backyard as natural DIY wedding decor.

For your reception, check the following potential rental items off your checklist:

  • Chairs
  • Tables
  • Table linens
  • Dishware, drinkware, and silverware
  • Serving tables
  • Dessert table
  • Gift and guest book table
  • Bar
  • Centerpieces
  • Dance floor
  • Lighting

While your caterer may be able to provide reception chairs, tables, linens, and dishware, their options might be limited. If you want to create unique place settings, with details such as metallic silverware, patterned dishware, or lace table linens, find a rental company with a wider selection of reception decor.

In addition to these wedding day staples, a backyard wedding may need more to turn it into the space of your dreams.

Follow this optional rental checklist to make sure you haven’t missed anything:

  • A Tent: Not only will a tent provide coverage from any inclement weather, but it will also allow you to incorporate hanging decor into your reception, the way you could in an indoor venue.

  • Yard Games: Giant Jenga, oversized Connect Four, and cornhole can provide entertainment for your guests during your cocktail hour, as well as your reception.

  • A Generator: A standard home isn’t designed to handle the same amount of electricity as a wedding venue. With lighting, music, and food prep equipment to account for, you’ll want to rent a generator or two. That way, you don’t have to worry about a power outage abruptly ending your festivities.

  • Restrooms: Your home probably doesn’t have the same restroom facilities as a wedding venue either. Luckily, portable luxury toilet trailers are equipped with lighting, mirrors, sinks, and plenty of space for a clean and comfortable bathroom experience. You can even add your own amenities and decorative touches, such as scented hand soap, lotion, breath mints, and safety pins.

  • Trash and Recycling Bins: Ask your caterer if they can provide trash and recycling bins to accommodate the number of guests attending your backyard wedding. If they can’t, you’ll want to rent these bins yourself. You should also have a plan in place for trash removal throughout the course of the evening. This ensures trash bins don’t overflow and become an eyesore. Ask whether your catering staff is able to help. Otherwise, you may need to hire a service.

2 to 4 Months Prior: Finalizing the Logistics of a Backyard Wedding

Aside from electricity, restrooms, and trash removal, there are other logistical aspects of hosting a backyard wedding. Luckily, our handy checklist covers them all.

#1 Landscape Your Lawn

Any landscaping work that needs to be done should happen well before your wedding season. That way, flowers and plants have time to grow and fill out the space.

Consider what type of flowers are in bloom during your wedding month and whether you want to incorporate them into your backyard garden. For example:

  • If you’re having a spring wedding, you can plant tulips, daffodils, or hyacinths.

  • For a summer wedding, choose calming lavender, or plant yellow bee balm to attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

  • In the fall, soft goldenrod, delicate mums, and tall Russian sage are all in bloom, any of which can transform your backyard into an enchanting garden.

You can even save money on a florist by plucking flowers from your own garden to incorporate into your bouquets, boutonnieres, and centerpieces. Or, you could search from Zola’s long list of budget-conscious florists for a little extra professional help without the hefty price tag.

Aside from adding elegance, a landscaper can also ensure that the ground of your yard is level. This is essential for preventing wobbly tables, unsteady chairs, and dancefloor missteps.

#2 Plan Out Parking

Check parking ordinances in your neighborhood to avoid any issues with tickets, towed vehicles, or disgruntled neighbors. Depending on the number of guests attending your wedding, you may want to look into hiring a valet service to park cars in an open lot nearby.

#3 Secure the Proper Permits

Every county has unique requirements for hosting large outdoor events, even if the event takes place at your own home. Explore your county’s website to learn more about noise ordinances, fire codes, and any permits you need to obtain.

#4 Notify Your Neighbors

Speaking of noise ordinances, you’ll want to notify your neighbors about your big event well in advance. Not only is this considerate, but it also gives them ample time to prepare for the extra commotion. You can even provide them with a schedule of the day’s events.

After your wedding, remember to thank your neighbors for their cooperation with a handwritten note, homemade treats, or an extra wedding favor.

#5 Check Your Insurance

Reach out to your insurance company to ask if you’re covered in the event of injury or property damage. You can even look into more comprehensive coverage with specialized wedding insurance carriers.

But you’re not the only one who needs insurance. To further protect yourself and your guests, confirm that your vendors all have their own insurance coverage.

#6 Get Ready for the Great Outdoors

While its natural beauty and peaceful scenery are worth celebrating, the outdoors can also be unpredictable. Make sure you’re prepared to weather the elements by securing the must-haves on this checklist:

  • Insect repellent or citronella candles
  • Sunscreen
  • Bottled water or ice makers
  • Handheld fans
  • Umbrellas (that you hopefully won’t need)
  • Blankets or shawls for cooler evenings

For All Your Wedding Planning Needs, There’s No Place Like Zola

To plan the backyard wedding of your dreams, turn to Zola. With our wedding vendor search tool, you can find vendors in your area with experience serving backyard weddings. And since all of Zola’s vendors are pre-screened, you’re guaranteed quality and professionalism.

Zola also allows you to customize a free wedding website, design personalized wedding invitations, and purchase stylish decor to create an idyllic backyard wedding experience. For all your wedding planning needs, there’s no place like Zola—or home.