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 Events, 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 explains that there are many advantages to hosting a backyard wedding, one of which is having the the freedom to get creative. "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 elegant, formal looks and statement entrances to romantic tablescapes and natural décor.
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 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. When you make your guest list make certain that you can “fit” everyone," 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. Potted trees or topiaries can make for an unexpected addition inside or outside of a reception tent, or as aisle markers, while tying in with the backyard.
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.
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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.
Use Plants for Your Centerpiece
Potted flowerless plants mimic the shrubbery of a backyard and make for stunning centerpiece displays. 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.
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 oversized Jenga set by painting it in your wedding colors and setting it on a polished side table.
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Make a Picture-Perfect Display
Stack white crates filled with black and white photos of the newlyweds, eucalyptus, and lanterns for a personal décor statement that’s both refined and rustic. Or add a sentimental twist by displaying family wedding photos that go back generations.
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.
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Let nature work its magic—greenery is all you need for a breathtaking, backyard 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 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.
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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.
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.
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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.
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 so you don’t have to worry about cleaning."
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, as well!"