You know that saying about office romances? “Not in your own backyard!” It means that if you have to carry on an office romance – an illicit one especially – try to do the hanky panky outside of the confines of the executive boardroom.
However, if you’re finally tying the knot and you want something more personalized and more intimate instead of celebrating in the antiseptic and cold hotel ballrooms, then getting married in your own backyard – or that of your parents – isn’t such a bad idea. There may be more logistics involved because the area is right on your property, unlike holding a reception in an inn or hotel where every little detail is taken care of by hotel staff. The thousand and one details in planning a backyard wedding is worth all the trouble, though. It is one of the most exciting but solemn life events you can have. Years after the wedding, when you’re lazing by the pool or watching the flowers grow as you relax on your hammock, you’ll have fond memories of your backyard wedding. And if you’re a sentimental lark who vividly remembers every detail, you’ll know the exact spot where you exchanged vows, where you and your father danced the first number, and how the canopies and huge umbrellas were set up so flawlessly.
Backyard weddings are held “au naturel”, where the flowers and leaves sway with the breeze, where the blue of the water of the swimming pool makes gazes linger.
Backyard Weddings – Think “Logistics”
Most people who love their homes and who prefer intimate gatherings for special occasions would like to be wed in their own turf, so to speak, but you’ll have to crunch the numbers to decide if you still want to go through with it. The truth is, backyard weddings could be way costlier than the $20,000.00 average amount that one normally spends for a wedding held in a church or social hall or hotel. This comes as a surprise to most people because they don’t realize what type of detailed planning goes into backyard weddings.
Next to cost, there are physical considerations: how many people can be accommodated comfortably in your backyard before it gets too cramped and there is no elbow room left? What about parking? Where would your guests park without encroaching on your neighbors’ private spaces? If you are thinking of solving this parking issue by hiring a shuttle to ferry your guests from an agreed point to your house, how much would the shuttle cost?
No one can predict the weather at 100% accuracy. You may want to think of rain and mud when you decide on a backyard wedding – even if you’re getting married during the hottest day in summer. Many geographical areas tend to be fickle when it comes to Mother Nature. The day could start out sunny and bright and then turn to gray and ominous with threats of thunder and lightning in the afternoon. Do you have an alternative area in case it rains?
Naturally, you’ll want the wedding and reception grounds to be spic and span. Make sure that the contracts you sign with the landscaper, the tent providers, the florists, the pest company and the décor artist have a cancellation provision or a refund policy should you decide to cancel the backyard wedding a month before the date. In fact, it might be a smart move to make reservations with a hotel just in case the backyard turns out to be a disaster area after a heavy storm.
Of course, if you’re getting married in the winter months…well…let’s forget about the backyard, okay? Your guests won’t be saying “what a wonderful backyard wedding!”. They’ll be crying “what a foolish and backward wedding – standing in the cold like that with stilettos!”
There’s more to backyard weddings than cost, space and weather issues. Just because it’s a backyard wedding, it doesn’t mean you’ll have to overlook the house. You may need re-decorating or adding improvements to the house as well.
If you have a large estate with a dozen washrooms, you have nothing to worry about, provided they all work. Check that your restrooms can accommodate your guests. Is the plumbing system up to par? If there’s anything that is unpleasant is to have toilets that don’t flush properly because of frequent use. You’ll have to make plans for portable toilets (but make sure they’re not eyesores);
You will have guests who need to be on the phone or who need to check their e-mails once every hour. Do you have a sufficient number of phones and an internet facility? People also worry about babies left alone with the babysitter so they’ll need to check on that as well.
Your tables and chairs would add a more festive tune to your backyard wedding if you picked out flowers with non-offensive smells and with bright, subtle colors. Make sure the table flowers don’t obstruct the view of the guests or that they take up too much space or have falling petals that could land on your guests’ plates!
Will the dancing be inside the house or in the backyard? If it’s going to be outside, do you have a good dance board that can be rented so guests can dance to the tunes of George Gershwin or the Dixie Chicks without tripping? Backyard carpets are also “a la mode.” You can rent them for the convenience of your guests.
Water, water, water everywhere!
If it’s a warm, sunny day and guests are enjoying the overflowing champagne, they may need water to hydrate at some time so make sure you have pretty pitchers of water at strategic points of the bacyard.
A Note About Attire
If you’ll be kind enough to slip a note in your invitation that guests could wear casual clothing because it’s going to be a backyard wedding, or that they’re welcome to bring their bathing suits if they want to splash in the pool, we think that would go a long way with guests. At least they’d be relieved knowing they don’t have to wear a stiff tuxedo or a cumbersome flowing gown to your wedding.
Friends like to actively participate in the planning process, but you can’t afford NOT to have the best. You really should set aside cost worries and hire only experienced professionals. If you have a large guest turnout, professionals are imperative.
Sit down with your caterer and provide essential parameters: number of guests, extra plates, appetizers, main meal, dessert, coffee, equipment, utensils. Make sure there is enough food and beverage. Will your caterer see to it that food is not served too early to avoid spoilage and the salad greens don’t wilt?
Service Providers (invitations, wedding cake, favors, music, photographer, tents, carpets, flowers, pest control, yard furniture, linens, etc)
Chances are you’ll be having lots of discussions forwards and backwards with a handful of providers. Study their contracts and pay attention to their cancellation and refund policies. Have them put everything in writing, down to the last detail. The last thing you want on your wedding day is to find out that a particular service is not included when you thought it was.
Pool and landscapingNeedless to say, the pool is an attention-getter so make sure there are no floating creepy creatures and if guests intend to go for a splash, make sure the water’s sparkling clean! As for landscaping, your backyard could use some grooming, especially if the shrubs and weeds are out of control!
Don’t Neglect Your Neighbors
We don’t mean invite them, because you’re in no way obliged. But do have the courtesy to inform them well in advance that there’s going to an “invasion” in the neighborhood, that a band will be playing until a certain hour and that there may be some 20-30 additional cars parked in the community.
That way, they won’t think that your house is a crime scene worthy of a visit from Sherlock Holmes. And of course, they’ll think you’re a well-bred citizen with the most charming manners!