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Planning a Backyard Wedding

How to host a wedding in your own backyard

By Shealyn Angus

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Exchanging vows in your own backyard can be overwhelming, but it can also be quite rewarding. Tying the knot close to home is a reflection of the couple’s willingness to be creative and to keep their big day personal. It also allows the bride and groom the opportunity to customize details regarding décor and food that may not be possible with a public venue. And while homegrown weddings may not have as many restrictions and rules as say, a hotel or hall, there is still a lot of planning, negotiating, and measuring to do, not to mention, making a high-stakes deal with Mother Nature.

First steps to organizing your backyard wedding

The first task in organizing a beautiful backyard bash is to decide what kind of a wedding you want. Is this going to be a one-venue celebration, where the ceremony and reception take place in the same area? What kind of reception do you envision? A cocktail soirée, where guests are invited to walk around, socialize, and snack on foods from stations or passed hors d’oeuvres? Or is a seated dinner more your style? The overall vision for the fete is an important place to start, as it will factor into table and chair rentals.

Now that you’ve decided what type of event want, Mother Nature should be the next detail on your list. In short, a tent is a must if you’re planning a backyard wedding. Whether you decide to tent the entire event space or simply the reception area, it is important to have some shelter from the elements. In order to install a tent, however, the ground must be level. Whether you decide to bring in flooring or not, rental companies will insist on level ground to guarantee the tent is stable. They will also need to ensure your space has the capacity for tent installation and tear down. A tent not only gives you peace of mind, it can also introduce ambience-creating décor options like lanterns to the event. In addition, lighting and sound equipment can be incorporated into tented structures, and your DJ or band will love the fact they don’t have to perform exposed to the elements.

This brings us to the technical elements of a backyard party. There are some critical electrical requirements when it comes to a wedding, such as providing power for the DJ or band, lighting, and/or catering equipment. Ask yourself whether there are enough outlets to provide electricity for the event or if you need to rent a generator. The size of the party space must also be taken into account, as well as how far it is from the house. Will power cords even reach the outlets, or will they just create tripping hazards throughout the yard? Have a discussion with both your caterer and entertainment provider to determine the best option. Also, be sure to discuss laws regarding noise and after-hours events with the DJ or band, as most cities have a cut-off hour for outdoor amplified music/disturbances, especially in residential areas. It would be disappointing to have the wedding shut down by the authorities because of noise violations.

Another significant consideration for a backyard soirée is the presence of water features, such as a pool, hot tub, and/or pond. It is important to make specific decisions regarding whether to include these features in the party’s framework, or to block them off completely. A pool can make a wonderful flat surface for a dance floor. Plexiglas dance floors placed over pools are easily rentable and are installed and taken down by professionals. Incorporating lights can create great ambiance and inject the party with even greater personality. If you decide to allow guests to use the pool, consider hiring a lifeguard to keep everybody safe, and the worry out of your mind. Water features can be beautiful, but also a danger to young children; having a lifeguard around can ease the minds of parents, and keep the party a safe and happy gathering.

Planning the food for your wedding

You may be thinking that home cooking and a backyard wedding go hand in hand, and there is no need for a caterer. However, ask yourself who will be doing the cooking and who will be serving it.

Yes, there is more expense in hiring a caterer, but not doing so may only cause bigger and unwanted hassles. Your big day should be all about having peace of mind. Hiring a caterer can give you that, as well as confidence in the food and service your guests will be experiencing. Most caterers have their own serving staff, or can provide referrals. (Your planner can also assist with this.)

If you decide to go with a caterer, it’s important to determine where preparation and service will take place. Make sure the prep area works with their needs, whether it is in the house, the garage, or somewhere on the actual event space. You may also want to ask about a live food demonstration. What about an oyster bar? A sweet station?

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