Having an intimate backyard wedding can be an absolute dream for most couples. It allows you to create everything from the ground-up, just the way you like, and there’s nothing like natural light for pictures! But if you don’t plan it well, a backyard wedding can also turn into a nightmare before, during, and after the event. This article is meant to give you a good general idea of what it’s like to plan an elegant backyard micro-wedding or elopement.
In summary: Plan, organize, coordinate, and plan some more!
Even if you’re planning an intimate backyard micro-wedding or elopement with a very small guest list, you must plan everything as early as you can, 6 months prior minimum as long as you are flexible with your details and vendors, and have a very small guest list. If you have your heart set on certain vendors, you’ll need to book them as soon as you can since most vendors are booked a year ahead, so don’t wait too late or you risk not being able to have the vendors that are important to you, or the items you want will be sold out, or take too long to be shipped to you.
Walk through the space you want to use and visualize your whole day, moment by moment, through your perspective and through your guests’ perspectives, and see what you will need along the way to create the wedding you want. Write absolutely everything down, then calculate the costs of everything you thought about. Then triple it, because you’ll most likely spend that, or more!
It may be helpful to have some vendors such as your tent specialist and wedding planner join you for the space visit. Some questions to consider: Where can vendors unload their equipment? How much space does the caterer need? Where can guests park? Where will guests enter from and what path will they take?
As with any outdoor wedding, you’ll also need a large amount of rentals. So be sure to put together a rentals checklist that covers everything from tables to chairs, linens, decor, place settings, food prep/storage equipment, etc.
A backyard wedding sounds inexpensive and easy, but it couldn’t be further from the truth, even if you have a small guest list. It’s much more than just a simple dinner party.
With that in mind, decide on a budget that you and your spouse (or your family if they’re paying for it) are comfortable with, and see which areas are very important for you, and which other areas are not as important, and where you might prefer to save on costs.
You will need to decide on a theme/feeling and colours, and write down all the decor items you need. If you cannot rent them, you’ll have to buy them, either at the store or online, or second-hand. Keep in mind the number of items you’ll need in order to have an impact. A few candles might look good on a small dining table, but they get lost on a large table or in front of a large arch/arbour, so you’ll need a lot more than you might plan, then multiply that by however many tables you have. Decor for a wedding is just like makeup: you need to put on more than you might think to look naturally beautiful on pictures! The same goes for decor and accessories, they get lost on the pictures, so you’ll need more of them.
Details Are Important
Don’t forget the small details, like ordering a beautiful ribbon for your bouquet(s) and/or boutonniere(s). Do you want your details and stationery suite to be styled in a flat lay for photographs? If so, don’t forget to order an extra suite, a few extra flowers and greenery from your florist, and make sure you keep a list of all the elements you want included. Then you can either style it yourself ahead of time (if you’re up to it), or ask your wedding planner/coordinator or the photographer to style it for you. Either way, make sure your photographer knows this so they plan their timeline/schedule appropriately. They might also have professional styling surfaces to loan you; otherwise look for something to use as the background, like a nice velvet or linen fabric large enough (24” x 36” is a good size).
Small details can also mean having pretty soaps and linens in the washroom, or special signs such as a welcome sign or directional signs or even lovely drink signs for your bar, or fun games/entertainment, small details that might mean a lot to you, etc. All of these small touches add-up and create your special day.
You’ll have to create a realistic timeline for your day and coordinate all the various vendors so that each of them has enough time to do what they do, and for you to do what you need to do, like getting your hair and makeup done, getting dressed, take pictures, etc.
No matter how much you plan and how organized you are, hiring a wedding planner will be invaluable, especially one that has experience with backyard weddings. If hiring a planner isn’t in your budget, you must absolutely hire a day-of coordinator, at the very least. You don’t want to spend your special day running around and worrying about all the many details, and you don’t want your family or your guests to do that either. This can be the difference between having a beautiful and memorable wedding day or being stressed out and not enjoying what is supposed to be the best day of your life! Things need to be set, candles need to be lit, flowers need to be arranged. You don’t want to spend all your time doing everything.
Choose your location carefully. Is the backyard large enough? Large enough to accommodate a tent with tables, chairs, flowers and decorations (including your ceremony arch and guest space), a lounge area or dancing area (if restrictions allow dancing), and for people to walk around comfortably (especially if health restrictions demand for physical/social distancing), as well as having enough room for vendors to walk around without bumping into your guests (and maintain physical distancing), such as the photographer, the videographer, musicians, servers, caterers, etc. Don’t forget that rules about social distancing can also apply to each table, and how many people can sit at the table (check your local health department). Is the ground level enough for chairs, tables, and the tent? If not, you’ll need to hire someone to build a platform to level your area, and rent a floor. Are there any utilities or septic elements in the way? You might need to choose a different location.
Depending on how many guests you have, will you need to rent portable washrooms, or is your guest list small enough that they can use the ones in the house? Are the owners of the house okay if guests go through the house to access the washroom? You’ll probably need to rent a portable washroom or two, even if you have less than 25 guests.
Make sure to look into possible permits required for large gatherings as soon as possible as it might impact what you can or cannot do (noise, fire code, street parking, etc.). As a courtesy, be nice and let the neighbours know about your wedding a couple of months ahead of time to make sure everyone is aware and can plan accordingly (what if someone else is having a large gathering on the same day? That could create some real problems!).
At this point, you might be thinking “Do I really need a tent?” and the answer is yes. Unless the inside of the house is spacious enough to accommodate all of the same as the outside (furniture, decor, guest space, etc.), then you must rent a tent. It’s impossible to predict what the weather will be for your special day, and you’ll need to reserve your tent well in advance. You simply cannot risk it. The tent will usually be installed a few days ahead of your event, so if you want you could decide at that time if you feel comfortable enough with the weather forecast to not build it or go ahead with it (not recommended). Either way, you will have to pay for it. You should also have some pretty umbrellas for your guests, in case of rain.
If it’s a really hot time of year, you can rent portable air conditioners to keep your guests comfortable in the tent, and if you want your wedding reception to continue into the evening, you’ll also need to rent some patio heaters (don’t forget the propane tanks too!), and have a few pashminas for your guests. You might also want to hire a company to spray your yard before your event with a natural insect-repellent, and have a few cans of bug spray on hand for the day-of, just in case.
Nearly all aspects of your day will require power- from catering, to the sound system, washrooms and lighting. You’ll need to ask your vendors what equipment they use and how much power they require. You’ll want to contact an electrician to determine what generators are the best fit and make sure all the proper inspections are done. You may also want to keep a technician onsite to make sure everything works for the whole day!
Don’t forget the amount of garbage that can be produced by a wedding. No matter how much you try ti limit it, there will be some garbage that will need to be dealt with after all is said and done. Talk to your vendors to ask about their clean-up, garbage disposal, and take-down policies. You will need to rent extra garbage and recycling bins no matter what.
Book all of your vendors as soon as possible:
- Florist (bridal bouquet and bridesmaids if needed, boutonniere(s), arch/arbour arrangement, table centrepieces, extra arrangements, etc.)
- Caterer (do they provide full-service with servers, or do you need to hire your own? Do they offer bar service? Do they provide the dishes? If so, do you like them or do you want to rent your own?)
- Furniture and tableware rentals: ceremony chairs and decor (candleholders, candles, arch/arbour, lanterns, etc.), signature table, dining tables, chairs, tablecloths, runners, napkins, candleholders and candles, various decor items, flower vases/containers, dishes (dinner plates, salad or soup plates, dessert plates, appetizer plates for cocktail hour, coffee/tea cups, sugar/creamer, serving dishes, etc.), flatware (dinner forks, knives, spoons, dessert forks, dessert spoons, serving utensils, etc.), glasses (champagne flutes, wine glasses, water goblets, low ball glasses, high ball glasses, barware, etc.), cocktail tables, lounge area (sofa, armchairs, side tables, coffee table, decorative cushions, etc.), lights/chandeliers, rugs, etc.
- Tent rental with professional installation, floor rental if the grass/ground isn’t great or not level, patio heaters and propane tanks, lighting technicians
- Generator rentals for electricity + electricians to hook everything up
- Portable washrooms and hand-washing stations
- Stationer (save-the-date, invitations, reply cards, detail cards, announcements, day-of stationery like welcome sign, drinks sign, direction signs, place cards, menus, vow booklets, etc.)
- Calligrapher (if you want your place cards and envelopes written in calligraphy)
- Hair stylist + makeup artist
- Music (live musicians or singer, string quartet, DJ, etc.)
- Wedding cake artist
You’ll need to decide on a menu and what drinks you’ll want served. If you decide to serve alcohol, encourage moderation and make sure you have water and non-alcoholic options provided. Have someone available to order taxis for guests if needed. Talk to your caterer about this.
Where to save and where to splurge
When it comes to the photographer and videographer, choose someone whose style you love, even if it’s a little more than your budget. After the day is over, it’s the only memories you’ll have for life, make sure you love them!
The florist is also very important because that’s where most of your decor comes from. Themes and colours are created through flowers. Make sure you have a healthy budget for this.
Dishware can be a place where you want to splurge, or save, depending on how important the look of the table is to you.
The tent should be an important factor, because it’s a huge part of your decor, but you’ll need to add extra decor items and flowers to make it look even nicer.
Make sure you have an emergency kit ready. Things like bandages, stain remover, headache medicine, tissues, baby pins, bobby pins, duct tape, etc. can go a long way to avoid a disaster!
Having a fire extinguisher nearby is a good thing to have close to the kitchen/caterer, and outside as well. Better be safe!
Have extra face masks available for your guests, as well as hand sanitizer bottles throughout your space, and signs reminding everyone to maintain social distancing.
Organizing a backyard wedding is a lot of work, but can be incredibly special and memorable for you and your guests!
If you live in the Ottawa area, and would prefer to have the perfect elegant intimate backyard wedding without all the work and stress, then our all-inclusive luxury elopement package is perfect for you! Visit our Elopements page for more information, or send us an email at email@example.com