How to Plan a Backyard Wedding Bash

Partying en plein air—and chez vous—comes with its own set of challenges. Bicoastal event designer Lyndsey Hamilton shares how to play up your home advantage.

Photography by: Shawn Connell
Reserve a tent early, advises Hamilton. “In summer, tent companies often sell out—don’t wait until the month before.”

Set a Realistic Budget

“Hosting a wedding at your home, or someone else’s, is intimate and personal, but, contrary to popular belief, it’s unlikely to save you money. That’s because almost everything has to be brought in. Unlike for a venue with an existing infrastructure, you have to think about securing things like refrigeration, a caterer-friendly kitchen, and portable restrooms, all of which carry extra costs.”


Get Tips for Planning a Wedding on a Budget

Anticipate Rain 

“Unless you’re marrying in a place like Napa Valley, where it only rains about three days a year, reserving a tent is a must. My policy is, if there’s a 30 percent or higher chance of precipitation five days out, we’ll plan on putting it up. Tent-company reps can also help estimate how many people you can comfortably host, and ensure that the tent is placed close enough to power and water sources—a hose doesn’t count! If that’s not possible, you’ll need a generator and portable water.”


Prepare for Sun 

“A tent can also be useful on a bright and hot day to provide air-conditioning and shade. Station waiters inside to welcome everyone with iced tea and water. In a warm climate, avoid scheduling the event for the hottest part of the day (usually early afternoon). Instead, plan to have your cocktail hour near dusk—guests can mingle while watching the sun go down—and work backward from there.”


Get Tips on Renting a Tent

Choose Alfresco-Friendly Food and Flowers

“Consider catering options that can be prepared outdoors, like grilled fish and beef. For flowers, hardier is better. Work with your florist, who can suggest ones that won’t wilt in heat and humidity, such as orchids and potted plants. Have the grass cut short the day before so blades aren’t poking up through the dance floor, and, if guests will be walking on the lawn, put footwear recs on your website.” 


Keep Guests Comfortable 

“It’s always a nice touch to set out baskets of hand fans, plastic heel covers, and bug spray. For our events, we also usually spray the yard two days before, and surround the tent with citronella candles on the day of.”


See Wedding Program Fan Ideas That Will Keep Guests Cool

Prioritize Parking 

“First, contact city hall about any parking regulations. Then, spend the money to hire valets; they’ll ensure the parking operation runs smoothly. And don’t forget your neighbors: Let them know your plans in advance so nobody has a conniption on your day. If they’re friendly types, have them over for cocktails and ask if they’d be willing to offer use of their driveway or yard. Better yet, invite them to the wedding!”


Learn Everything You Need to Know to Pull Off an Outdoor Wedding