What’s not to love about a backyard wedding? They’re intimate, convenient, and—perhaps best of all—often a budget-friendly (if not free) venue. But before you write off a backyard wedding as an overly casual affair that welcomes a rustic vibe only, know that there are endless backyard wedding ideas to transform it into anything you want it to be. After all, there is no place like home.
"For us, it was all about sharing our home with our family and friends, and inviting them into this day with us," says wedding planner Alicia Fritz of her own wedding. "Our guest list was very diverse. We wanted to bring the level of comfort and familiarity to a group that was unfamiliar with each other, and we thought there is nothing better to break down barriers or ingratiate our guests than inviting them to our home."
Meet the Expert
Alicia Fritz is the founder of A Day in May, a luxury event planning company. She has been planning, designing, and producing weddings for over a decade, including her very own at-home backyard nuptials.
Fritz says the freedom to get creative is one of the greatest advantages of a backyard wedding. "Aside from our own wedding, A Day in May Events is often working with blank canvases, like an empty and sprawling lawn or landscape, to transform into a wedding venue," she says. "The ability to build the venue the way you want it, or envision it, is a gift." So let your creativity run wild with inspiration.
From a wild organic feel to a classy tented reception, these 40 fresh backyard wedding ideas prove that an at-home wedding doesn’t have to be laid-back.
Create a Chill Lounge Area
Pair airy, wicker accents with gilded tones and tons of lush greenery for an elegant, summer vibe. Bringing the indoors out in the form of a luxe lounge area will elevate any cocktail hour or reception, and it can easily be achieved with outdoor furniture you already own or by creatively repurposing indoor furniture. You can even cluster mismatched furniture in various textures or tones for a more eclectic take.
Have a Rain Plan
"While we all hope for sunny weather it’s not always the case," says Fritz. "Make sure you have a rain plan first, before you have your sunshine plan. This will help you mentally prepare for any disappointing weather on the day of the celebration, but it will also help you critically think through what to do if it rains and how you will keep your guests and vendor teams comfortable, safe, and dry." For many outdoor at-home nuptials, this means having a tented area preplanned just in case.
"Be realistic about the space that you have in your backyard," advises Fritz. "If you need a tent due to a rain plan (or your design vision), make sure your guest list marries with your tent size."
Bring Trees Inside Your Tent
Bring trees inside your tented reception for a magical forest vibe. Pair with reception tables laden with gold candlesticks and foliage, and you’ve got an elegant backyard wedding. Plus, potted trees or topiaries can make for an unexpected addition inside or outside a reception tent, or they can be used as aisle markers.
Feature an Outdoor Gelato Bar
An outdoor gelato bar gets a rustic Italian feel with wooden elements and leafy branches. Guests will be completely smitten with this interactive sweets station. If gelato isn't quite your thing, you can always substitute with ice cream for a more Americana feel.
Illuminate With String Lights
"Chances are your home is not equipped with glamorous outdoor lighting to really make the property shine," says Fritz. "You don’t have to break the bank on lighting if it’s not in the budget, but making certain you create the mood and set the scene is critical for creating an ambiance." It's simple to create a welcoming display with very little effort or cost. Illuminate an alfresco dinner setting with a few overhead bistro lights or wrap them around the beams of a tent to highlight the structural grandeur.
Elevate the Entrance
Make a grand entrance for a tented backyard reception with curtains elegantly pulled back by foliage and accented with topiaries and candles. If you choose to have a tent for your reception, drapes can easily be attached and pulled back to create an inviting entryway.
Take in Your Surroundings
Take full advantage of the natural splendor around you by modeling your decor after the surrounding landscape. Sans tablecloths, the bare wood and vases of lush eucalyptus perfectly blend with the scenery, practically growing from the environment itself.
Display Baked Goods
A backyard wedding isn’t complete without a baked pie for dessert—it’s the epitome of grandma’s kitchen. And let's not discount homemade cookies and cupcakes while we're at it. Add these decadent options to your dessert bar for a homegrown approach that will leave your guests smiling.
Add Color to Your Outdoor Tables
Add visual depth to your alfresco cocktail hour by draping tables in printed linens. Nautical tones are quintessentially coastal New England, whereas floral prints have a charming country quality.
Transform Your Pool
Transform your pool into the visual focal point of your wedding. During the ceremony, a makeshift walkway can serve as the aisle. Afterward, it can double as the entrance to your reception. You can also go full glam and have a dance floor built over the pool.
Make Framed Wire Chic
Framed wire has roots in farm life but makes for a surprisingly chic escort card display when shrouded in white buds and boasting pops of blue. All you need for this easy DIY are some escort cards and miniature clothespins. Tuck in some stems of greenery, et voila!
Use Plants for Your Centerpiece
Potted flowerless plants mimic the shrubbery of a backyard and make for stunning centerpieces. Cluster a few plants, baby fruit-bearing trees, and herbs from a local garden store for a visual masterpiece that will smell just as good as it looks. Bonus: The plants can live on as landscaping for the backyard instead of meeting a quick demise.
Drape Some Greenery
Tents have the perfect structure for soaring decor. Take advantage by creating a whimsical canopy of draped fabrics and lush, interwoven greenery for added softness and intimacy. Keep the rest of the color palette neutral to allow the exquisite ceiling decor to shine.
Lawn Games Are Always a Good Idea
Cocktail hour gets a lot more fun when there are lawn games to be played. Lend them an air of sophistication with your own personal touch—stamp your initials on croquet balls or have cornhole sets customized with your wedding date. Elevate an oversize Jenga set by painting it in your wedding colors and setting it on a polished side table.
Bring the Bar Outside
Nothing puts guests in a good mood like self-serve beverages on ice. Stock up a bar cart with bottles of bubbly for a quick and stylish refreshment. Want to kick things up a notch? Bring in a vintage car or truck and set up the basins of ice in the trunk.
Make a Picture-Perfect Display
Stack white crates filled with black and white photos of the newlyweds, eucalyptus, and lanterns for a personal decor statement that’s both refined and rustic. Or add a sentimental twist by displaying family wedding photos that go back generations.
Small Accents Go a Long Way
Small leaves make a big statement in a simple place setting, bringing the backyard straight to the table. You can also use fresh herbs like sprigs of rosemary for an artisanal flair that hints at the culinary delights to come.
Park a Cart With Fruity Drinks
Fruity drinks are a must for a summer backyard wedding. Display them in a bespoke wagon for a bit of vintage flair. Add some Southern charm by filling adorable mason jars with iced tea or lemonade. You can also have a self-serve bar with glass beverage dispensers or a mimosa station brimming with different garnishes.
Let nature work its magic: Greenery is all you need for a breathtaking ceremony backdrop. This simple design is bursting with boughs of fresh green leaves and white buds, creating a tranquil scene. Two stumps exploding in an array of ferns are placed on either side to balance out the symmetry.
Add Some Garden Romance
A lush garland with pops of pastel florals and vintage candelabras create a dreamy scene of garden romance. Soft, powdery tones look exquisite with the richness of the sturdy wood furniture.
DIY Leaf Escort Cards
Leaves as escort cards not only complement a backyard wedding, but also they’re a budget-friendly DIY. Pull leaves from a tree right in the backyard—with a bit of calligraphy, they transform into escort cards. Give them a feminine touch with pretty pink bows.
Add a Touch of Lavender
A bundle of lavender brings a French touch to the aisle next to modern acrylic chairs and guarantees wafts of the heavenly scent as you make your grand entrance. You can also substitute with local flora for an organic, foraged aesthetic or bunches of wheat for a rustic, autumnal vibe.
Set Up Banquet Tables
Backyard weddings are all about family and friends that have become family. Your seated dinner reception should celebrate that by bringing everyone together, family-style. Long banquet tables or the slightly more narrow king's tables set a warm, communal tone that is often lost with other seating styles.
Opt for Family-Style Service
Take that heartwarming intimacy to the next level by incorporating it into your dinner service, too. Instead of individualized plating, have the meal brought out family-style so guests can pass the dishes to one another and interact as they do so.
Choose a Focal Point
The best part about having a wedding in your backyard is that you already have a pretty good idea of the area's strengths and weaknesses. Pick your favorite spot, whether for sentimental reasons or because of its visual impact, and make that the focal point of your celebration.
Create a Path
Assist your guests in navigating their way through the nuptial festivities by carving out a path for them. "Pay attention to guest flow," says Fritz. "Think critically about how your guests will arrive at your home and where they will depart from." Use lanterns to light up their trail, layer rugs for a bohemian passage, or have signs made out of reclaimed wood to point the way.
Build a Honeymoon Suite
Instead of a hotel suite or your childhood bedroom, have a luxurious glamping tent erected for your first night as newlyweds or as a space to get ready with your bridal party. Make the setup super chic with cushy upholstery, comfortable furniture, and even a chandelier.
Plan a Creative Getaway
One of the best things about a backyard celebration is that you don't have to travel very far between events or to get some rest. But don't let that deter you from having a cool getaway vehicle like this adorable golf cart.
Curate a Glow
While nothing can rival your newlywed glow, there is a loveliness in creating a warmly illuminated scene for your nuptial fête. Pull together elegant lanterns and comforting pillar candles in various sizes to create pockets of light throughout the space.
Consider a Rental
Who said your backyard wedding had to be in your backyard? Rent an estate property with killer views for a larger-scale celebration with all the trappings of home.
Keep Guests Comfortable
Backyard weddings are all about building an intimate and comforting atmosphere. Help your guests cozy up as the temperature drops throughout the night by providing shawls or blankets for them to wrap up in. If you plan on winding down around a bonfire later, these favors are an absolute must.
Hang Rattan Chandeliers
These woven rattan pendant lights have all the makings of a languid summertime daydream. Weave in some greenery and you have a soft, earthy installation to lighten up any tented reception.
Indulge in Local Delicacies
The great thing about having a wedding at home? You know all the best local food. Why not pay tribute and incorporate these gems into the festivities by having them cater or set up a late-night food cart?
Upcycle That Clothesline
Turn your clothesline into a statement escort card display with a super-easy DIY. Simply attach each card to a dangling tassel, and let it all hang. The visual is quite striking when it all comes together.
What's a backyard wedding without your furriest family members? At-home nuptials are the ideal environment for including your pets because they're already familiar with the setting and won't be anxious or uncomfortable.
Throw a BBQ
Set up outdoor grills and have your catering team, or your favorite grill-master, cook the evening meal on site. Warning: Your guests may be a bit distracted during the cocktail hour with the delicious smells of fire and smoke permeating the air.
"Make sure you have a clear and spacious area for your caterer," advises Fritz. "If they are cooking out of your home, consider a cleaning service or extra hands to put your home back together."
Hire a Live Band
Since backyard weddings tend to err on the budget-friendly side, you can splurge a bit and hire a live band for the soundtrack to your celebration of love. There's nothing quite as dreamy as live music gently wafting through an outdoor setting.
Construct a Rustic Wedding Arch
"If you envision a beautiful arbor or trellis for the ceremony, consider building this piece and then using it for your backyard after the wedding," says Fritz. "It will serve as a great memory of the special occasion that you can see daily." This particular arch was built by the bride's father from fallen oak branches and decorated with bouquets of eucalyptus and garden roses by the to-be-weds themselves.
Landscape the Grounds
"Think about your backyard wedding as good motivation to spruce up the garden beds and lawn," suggests Fritz. "Whether it’s planting new flowers or fertilizing the lawn, these will last long after the wedding and be a good home investment."