Whether it’s the spot where you’ve spent countless summers, your groom’s family residence or the house of a close friend, a private home makes an ideal wedding locale. Set the tone before the big day by choosing an invitation with an emblem or color relating to the spot—such as a flower found on the property or a fresh, grassy hue—and carry the motif through in your reception decor and even your cake.
Capture the Mood
Plan the seating. One of the challenges of a backyard wedding is the absence of equipment—fortunately, this also means you have the freedom to style the space from scratch. Most couples rent tables seating eight to 12, but you can also go smaller for an elegant twist (four or six settings at each), or bring the whole group together at one long banquet table. Steer clear of bulky chairs to keep the look light and airy.
Top the tables. Linens in summery patterns, like eyelet or madras, are a nice complement to a lush lawn. Keep centerpieces low to promote conversation&mash;and consider using unexpected vessels, such as watering cans or brightly colored wellies, to play up the alfresco theme.
Add eye-catching accents. The tableware you rent doesn’t have to be ultraformal; rattan chargers and brightly patterned plates and linens are just right for a lawn party.
Plan a Creative Menu
Offer clever cocktails. Passing herb-infused iced teas or gourmet limeade is a refreshing way to welcome guests to an outdoor ceremony. Jazz up the cocktail hour with sophisticated seasonal drinks (watermelon margaritas, blueberry mojitos) or even a bar of assorted sangrias.
Include family favorites. Connect the wedding meal to your locale by serving dishes or desserts you or your fiancé have enjoyed there in the past. You can explain the significance on menu cards or give the recipes to guests as favors.
Put a picnic-y spin on serving. Encourage conversation among your crowd by having food served on large platters, to be passed family style or arranged on a buffet. Vary the heights and types of containers you use (wicker baskets and tiered stands along with the more typical silver trays) to add visual appeal.
Lock up the Logistics
Do a "sound check." Before booking entertainment, look into the noise ordinances for the area so you can be sure your band or DJ will comply. It’s also a good idea to let the neighbors know the date and hours of your wedding; they’ll appreciate the advance notice, and hopefully this will prevent any unpleasant confrontations on the big day.
Plan for parking. If you’d like to have guests park on the street, first contact the town to find out whether this is allowed and if you need a permit. Many couples who have backyard weddings hire a valet service; you may need a permit for this as well.
Prepare for multiple scenarios. An outdoor reception requires a backup plan for inclement weather; if you don’t have the space to bring the party indoors, you will need to rent at least one tent, and possibly flooring, to provide coverage. Regardless of the weather, you will most likely need portable bathrooms to accommodate all of your guests. (We advise ordering three or four stalls for 100 to 250 guests.) And to ensure that your guests are comfortable at all times, have pashminas on hand in case the air becomes chilly, and insect repellent should mosquitoes strike.