With the ring glistening on your finger, you now have every desire to fulfill your childhood dreams of hosting a backyard wedding. You envision saying “I do” under a flower-adorned arbor with family and friends surrounding you and the lovely sounds of nature as the background orchestra of your big day.
There is no doubt that the moment will be perfect, regardless of rain, heat, or humidity – at the end of the day you will be married to your best friend. Nonetheless, while the vision you have polished in your head is most certainly attainable, there are certain precautions that should to be taken into account to eliminate bumps in the wedding bliss road.
The first item to consider when planning a backyard wedding is determining whether you have enough space to host your event. Start by compiling your guest list. Will there be enough room to set up your ceremony with aisled seating, the reception area with all the desired tables (head table, guest tables, cake, food, etc.), and parking for all that are attending?
In determining this, you will need to consider the amount of “usable land” that you possess. Uneven or hilly property is nearly impossible to set a wedding on. Tables would be tilted with the likelihood of contents falling off, guest seating could be sloped making for a one-sided table conversation, and a tent with an uneven posture looks flimsy and awkward in photographs. Flat land is the best solution for ensuring that everything stands and remains firm in its spot. The square footage of flat land that you have access to is the amount that you should consider in determining if you have enough space to host your wedding.
The most obvious item on your checklist is to rent the tables, chairs, and linens needed to decorate the ceremony and reception area. However, you will also want to get prep tables for the caterer, bar back tables for the bartenders, and a separate table (to be hidden) from which your vendors can eat.
Rain Contingency Plan
While it is obvious that you are hoping for a perfectly sunny 72-degree day for your wedding, Midwest weather is not reliable. Insure that you have all precautions in place so that your wedding can happen rain or shine. Rent a tent on a contingency plan that you can have installed just days prior to the wedding if it is needed. And don’t forget to consider the consistency of the ground after a week of constant rain. The soggy ground can lead to heels sinking in the grass, table legs plummeting into the ground, and cars getting stuck in your parking area due to the lack of traction.
Unless you plan to let crickets play your first dance, you are going to need to ensure that you have enough electricity to power your event. If you are pulling electricity from a building, ensure that you are hooking different vendors to separate breakers. If you are hosting the wedding where there is no power available, then you will need to rent generators (Honda generators are always the quietest).
In order to guide your guests efficiently to your wedding, you are going to want to organize the parking situation. Don’t leave this area of your wedding unattended assuming that your guests will figure it out on their own; you will have complete chaos as everyone pulls in three minutes prior to the start of the ceremony. To start this process, use Google to view an aerial view of your location and map off the best location for guests to park. Take a look at your guest list and get an idea of how many vehicles will be pulling into your event. When the time comes, create a sign leading to the designated area, use rope or cones to mark off restricted areas, and spray paint parking lines onto the grass.
If any part of your wedding will be taking place at dusk or after the sun goes down, you are going to need to consider adding a lighting component to your event. To determine the type of lighting you will need, you will want to check the time of sunset relative to the timing of your wedding events. If the sun sets before or during dinner, then you are going to need to arrange for more lighting than if darkness were to arrive around the time of dancing. You want everyone to be able to see each other, their food, and the special events (first dance, cake cutting, toasts) that will be taking place before the dance floor opens. Contact rental companies to review lighting options that can accent your theme. You may also think about illuminating pathways that guests will use away from the reception area, including a route to the restrooms or to their car. Don’t forget to consider how you will be powering all of these lights.
You can’t expect your guests to hold it all night long after enjoying cocktail hour. Portable restrooms are going to be a mandatory item on your checklist. On the elite side of restrooms are the lighted and air-conditioned trailers that make going to the bathroom in a field not all that bad. There is also the less-frilly option of the standard bathroom that you commonly see at ballgames, concerts, and constructions sites. You be the judge of your guest’s bathroom experience!
Events produce trash, and quite a bit of it! It would be best to have a company set a dumpster (out of view of course) at your wedding location to hold the evening’s garbage. Don’t forget to provide or rent trashcans and liners so that your catering staff has the right tools at hand.
Ice & Coolers
There is nothing better on a warm day than a refreshing drink. And your guests will feel the same after sitting in the sun at the ceremony. If you are responsible for providing ice for your wedding, then make sure you have someone designated to make a run the day-of and ample cooler space to store it. In this situation, it would be better to have too much than not enough, so make a plan for how much ice you will need and then add five more bags for good measure.
Critters are the worst component of any backyard wedding. You can only make the best effort to get rid of them, so have the ceremony and reception area sprayed the week before the wedding. Use citronella candles as much as you can in your decorations. And leave bug spray out for guests to use at their discretion.
Clean Up Crew
Lastly, after the vows have been exchanged, the cake has been devoured, and the last guest has departed, your backyard will still be there the next morning with the evidence of a good time. Make arrangements prior to the wedding to how the space will be cleaned following the event.