Looking for small backyard wedding ideas? After the recent world-wide events in 2020 and 2021, a lot of people were forced to cancel their wedding at a traditional venue. Even if you still want to have a wedding somewhere special, they typically limit the crowd to 25 to 50 people, depending on the space that is available. This is why so many people are beginning to transition to having a small backyard wedding and reception. A wedding like this can be beautiful, and feel far more intimate and romantic than a large wedding. Here are some amazing ideas to help get you started.
30. Invest the Venue Money Into a Backyard Makeover
According to the Motley Fool, the average cost of a wedding in the United States is $33,900. Yikes! A lot of people receive money from their parents in order to have their wedding, or they might go into credit card debt trying to make it happen. Now that so many people are forced to cancel their wedding venue, they most likely lost their initial deposit. But they still have extra money sitting in their wedding budget. Even if your budget was a fraction of the national average, those dollars will stretch incredibly far when you put that money towards landscaping instead.
Your wedding is only one day, but giving your backyard a makeover could last for years. If you’re planning to landscape for a backyard wedding, I highly recommend planting grass, or even paying a sod farm to bring in a perfect lawn. You might need more privacy for your ceremony, so the budget could be used towards installing a privacy fence. Even on a much smaller budget, you could still plant flowers, purchase a new lawn mower or sheers to manicure the garden, or even hire professional landscapers to come in and make sure everything looks great the weekend of the ceremony.
If you’re choosing to have a backyard wedding, you can likely only invite people in your immediate family, and closest friends. This can actually be a very beautiful and loving thing that you and your partner can look back on with joy. Even before the current restrictions, plenty of people chose this style of wedding because of its intimacy. Instead of feeling sad about all of the people who can’t be there on your special day, try to fully embrace and appreciate the people who can. That’s why I love this idea of having photographs of your relative’s weddings.
By displaying photographs of both sides of the family, you’re paying homage to the people who came before you. If you have a small enough guest list, you can have a framed picture of your parents, grandparents, siblings, and cousin’s weddings on both sides. One of my favorite elaborate photos displays is in the image we included here, which is the literal family tree. Or, you could keep it simple by keeping photographs of both sets of parents near the guest book.
Traditionally, there are rows of seats on two sides of the aisle. One side is for the groom, and the other side is for the bride. However, things are changing in the world, and this tradition seems to be very outdated. That’s why I love this idea of a “Don’t Pick a Side” sign. A couple who is getting married might have been friends for years. They could have met through mutual friends or family members, so the dividing line of which people belong on either side doesn’t always make sense. And the whole point in getting married is to bring both sides together so that you have one big happy family.
On top of that, there is no longer an expectation that everyone getting married is going to be a bride and groom. There might be two brides, two grooms, or people who are non-binary. Coming out of the closet causes a lot of complicated family relationships. Someone might be estranged from their family, and only have friends to support them. In the past, it was blatantly obvious to see which person had more people on their side of the aisle than the other. For someone whose family has abandoned them, it can be a painful reminder of that. So it only makes sense to ask your guests not to pick a side.
When you have a wedding, a table assignment chart is necessary to let your guests know where they are going to be seated during the reception dinner. Even during small backyard weddings, you still might have enough space to seat your guests at individual tables. If you’re on a budget, you might want to find ways to save money for all the little things that you need to make your wedding day special, including the table assignment chart.I love this idea of taking an old window, and adding the names of the seating chart to each pane of glass.
You might get lucky if you already have old windows on your property, and you can upcycle them right away. These are also easy to find for free on Craigslist or Habitat for Humanity Restore. If you have beautiful handwriting or practice calligraphy, the text can be added to the glass using a paint pen. Alternately, you could create your own vinyl decals using a Cricut or Silhouette sticker printer. If you’re not very crafty or you don’t want to invest in buying those machines, you can also pay someone on Etsy to create those decals for you.
No matter where you have your wedding, a photo booth is always something fun for your guests to take their pictures. This is even more true in the era of Instagram and other social media platforms where your friends will want to show off what they look like in a suit or dress. There are plenty of companies out there who you can hire to set up a photo booth for you. However, this is easy enough for you to accomplish on your own especially if you are on a budget with your backyard wedding.
Remember that a photo booth backdrop doesn’t have to be expensive. There are people who have created them out of balloons, flowers, strings of light, cardboard cutouts, and so much more. Check out Pinterest for ideas on DIY photo booths for your wedding. Also check out websites like Oriental Trading in Dollar Tree, because they sell very affordable accessories and props that your guests can use to add to the fun.
No matter where you have your wedding, string lights always make it feel more magical. This is especially true if you are planning to have any part of your ceremony outdoors. With a backyard wedding, it’s almost completely necessary for you to fairy lights. They come in all shapes and sizes, but it’s most common for you to go with white lights. Strings of light can be hung on the ceiling of your outdoor tent, along the fence post, near the food table, and especially in the dancing or reception area.
While strings of lights are not expensive on their own, it can add up if you are going to eliminate a lot of places on the property. If you’re planning your wedding months ahead of time, consider buying lights when they go on clearance after Christmas. Stores like Dollar General will mark down their holiday products all the way down to $0.25 each in January. Usually, you can buy strings of light in brown, green, and white wires. If you’re doing a backyard wedding, you might want to buy strings of light in all three of these colors because it means that you can string them in more places around your property.
If you’re having a backyard wedding, the best thing you can do is to find a spot that offers beautiful natural scenery. Some people are incredibly lucky to have a view of mountains, a lake, or a forest in their own backyard. If you plan to rent a house to have a backyard wedding, this is something that you should really keep in mind when you are looking for a venue. The more beautiful the natural scenery is, the less you have to do to decorate. Even if you can’t find something magnificent on your own property, consider planting a tree or doing the landscaping to help the natural surroundings.
Once you have identified the most beautiful natural feature on the property, try to arrange the ceremony so that you have it as the backdrop while you say your vows. This way, your guests can be impressed by the beauty of nature and focus on the happy couple. When something is naturally beautiful, there is no need to pay for a lot of decorations or an expensive altar. In fact, people are far more likely to remember a gorgeous natural background than a wedding hall.
At a traditional wedding venue, you usually rent the table settings. This is because most people don’t have 200 sets of plates, bowls, forks, knives, sand spoons just ready to go at any moment. However, if you’re going to have a backyard wedding, you might as well take advantage of the setting. Most mothers and grandmothers have a set of “family china”- plates that were passed down from generation to generation. In my family, I inherited my great-grandmother’s plates from France. These are very special, so they are usually kept on display, rather than being used.
What better time to use these plates for a “special occasion” than your wedding day? In most cases, you might have special sets from both sides of the family, as well as your partner’s family. It doesn’t matter if they don’t match. The fact that you bring together to mix and match all of the special table settings from your family together is a lot of fun, and it is something your guests will surely remember. However, I recommend that you only allow adults to handle the family china. if you are letting young children come to the wedding, I recommend you give them cheap pieces, like the white sets available at Dollar Tree. This way, if something gets broken, there is no need to worry.
A lot of people like to use chandeliers on their wedding day because it adds a sense of elegance to your lighting. However, chandeliers can be expensive, especially if you buy more than one to illuminate your barn door outdoor tent. Normally, this is rented from a wedding business, since most people can’t keep or store chandeliers afterwards. A great alternative that you might want to consider is creating a flower or balloon chandelier. Flower chandeliers can be suspended above a table and LED lights can be incorporated inside of them.
If you pay a professional florist to help you, this might be expensive to get a flower chandelier together. But if you’re trying this on your own, make sure that you get the flowers on the day of the wedding or the day before. Cut flowers wilt very quickly, and you don’t want them to be falling into your guest’s food. Balloon chandeliers are a lot of fun, and they’re cheap and easy enough to have at every table. One of the biggest plus-sides to having these types of chandeliers is that they will be taken apart at the end of the night, instead of keeping up space in storage.
This step might seem obvious to some people, but renting a tent is probably a good idea if you were having a backyard wedding. Unfortunately, we can’t control the weather. There is always a chance that there may be rain on your wedding day even if it’s typically sunny. And if it gets too hot, your guests will also need a place to hide in the shade. If you look for large wedding tents online, you’ll find that they range between $100 and $500 depending on the size. For anyone who throws annual backyard parties for their family and friends, it makes a lot of sense to invest in something like this. You can put it in your garage or barn and bring it out year after year.
The only obvious downside to buying a large tent is that you have to assemble it up on your own, or recruit family and friends the day before. When you get one through a rental company, it’s often with a package that includes assembly. They will also take the tent down when the wedding is over, and store that tent in their own facility. For those of you who live in an apartment and you’re borrowing someone’s house to have your wedding, renting may be the only option. These rental tents are also usually made of a higher quality material, so you can feel confident that you’re getting what you pay for.
One of the greatest parts of having a backyard wedding is that you can bring your dogs and cats to the ceremony. Obviously, this would never be possible if you had a traditional venue somewhere like a hotel or grand estate. But if you have your ceremony in your own backyard, your dogs and cats will easily be able to incorporate themselves into the wedding day. Some people like to use their dogs as the ring bearer, or dress them up in a little tuxedo. If there are kids coming to your wedding, they will gladly play with the dog during the reception.
However, you should always plan to have a designated person taking care of your dog, just in case they have an accident, need to be fed, or walked. You will be so busy on your wedding day, you can’t stop to worry about the well-being of your pets. Usually, a parent or sibling is more than happy to watch after the dog during the ceremony. They can also be left in a crate in the house until it’s a good time for them to come out and join the rest of the party.
When you’re having a simple backyard wedding, there are a lot of different options you can go for in terms of the altar. Some people have a simple alternative altar made of logs or driftwood. But an option that really caught my eye was this huge wreath altar. If you hire a florist to make something like this, it would probably be in the $100 range at the very least. However, if you watch some tutorials online, you can find videos out there where people share how they made a giant wreath.
If you live in a wooded area, it should be easy for you to gather the natural materials to make this wreath for free. Whatever you have growing locally is always going to look best on your property, anyway. The great thing about using an altar like this is that it is completely biodegradable. If you have woods or a compost pile on your property, you can easily disassemble it and scatter the remains of the wreath for mulch.
Some people make the mistake of trying to turn their outdoor wedding into something really elegant and pretend like it’s not happening in their parents backyard. While it’s possible to make a backyard wedding elegant, it’s sometimes a better plan to lean into the rustic vibe, instead. When searching for wedding ideas on Pinterest, it’s best to look for keywords like country, rustic, or cottage wedding. The aesthetic of these styles are more likely to fit cohesively into a small backyard wedding compared to some style that would typically be done indoors.
Most of the time, embracing the rustic vibe means that you are also going to save a lot of money. In the photo examples that we’ve provided here, you can see that some of these people used slabs of wood as serving trays. Logs were also used as a makeshift able to place beautiful candle settings. If you live in a wooded area, own a chainsaw and a sander, all of this can be accomplished for free. There are also a lot of other rustic elements like pitchers and buckets that you might have on your property. If not, they’re easy enough to buy online, or from places like At Home or Home Goods.
One of the most common DIY projects that you have probably seen on the internet for weddings is using mason jars. This can be a very cheap project for you to do considering that mason jars are available in 10 packs for $10 at Walmart. However, if you need a lot of jars, the cost can add up. And if you’re buying your jars brand new from the store, you might hesitate to recycle them at the end of the ceremony. A plan you might consider is to start saving your glass food containers leading up to the wedding, instead.
Pickle jars are usually the same size as a standard mason jar. There are all kinds of food in jars at Dollar Tree for just $1 each, but you’re getting the added bonus of having actual food to eat instead of just the glass door itself. In most of these projects, you leave the lid off of the Mason jar. So it doesn’t matter if the jar of food used to have an unattractive top. This is a good project to ask your family and friends to see if they’re glass bottles after they’re done eating the food inside. Over the course of a few months, you should have a variety of glass jars for free. And when the ceremony is over, you won’t have any guilt about putting them all in the recycling bin.
Over the past few years, restaurants have struggled to stay in business, because indoor dining is restricted, or is at limited capacity. Even with the loans in place from the government, many of them have permanently closed their doors. If you plan to have a backyard wedding, it might be a good idea to ask one of these local restaurants if they would be willing to do the catering for you. This can be a great way to give back to a local business that you love, while having food you know that your guests will enjoy.
Hiring a local restaurant has other benefits, like the fact that they have a short distance to travel to your home compared to a designated wedding catering business. Just make sure to order this food with plenty of time to spare, and be willing to give a deposit or pay up-front for their services. And if someone delivers the food to your home, remember to give the driver a tip. Even if you plan to cook the food with family and friends, there still might be portions of the meal you could order from a restaurant. Having fewer dishes to cook on the morning or evening of your wedding can help to alleviate stress.
When most people have a wedding at a professional venue, part of the expense is paying to have everything uniform. All of the chairs are matching, all of the place settings are the same, and it all looks beautiful in the photos. However, it’s not a bad thing to mix and match. In fact, having a variety of styles at your wedding is quirky and cute in a very good way. Instead of renting tables and chairs, you can put on your Facebook status that you need to borrow kitchen tables and chairs from your family and friends.
Same goes with plates, wine glasses, cutlery and anything else that you would typically rent from a venue. If you alternate these mismatching pieces, it actually looks very cool to have a variety of styles. Your family is most likely going to compliment you for your clever idea. And the best part is that when the ceremony is over, your family and friends will take their tables and chairs back to their own homes with them. This can seriously cut down the labor cost that normally goes into hiring people to break down the tables and chairs. (But find a clever way to mark whose lent items are whose.)
Dancing is a very important wedding tradition for a lot of people. This is where many couples get to enjoy their wedding song, and a dance is shared between the bride and her father. However, in the wake of Covid-19, most traditional wedding venues have made it a rule that you can’t have dancing at all, because of the potential for people to get too close or for a mask falling off. When you have a wedding in your own backyard, it’s up to you if you dance or not.
If you choose to do an outdoor dance floor, you have a few options on how to make it work. First, you could use your wedding budget to create a large patio or porch. Or, if you’d rather create something more temporary, you could build a dance floor out of plywood. The only issue is that it doesn’t exactly look elegant, and someone might trip on the space in-between the pieces of wood. There are also companies out there who can place tiles that fit together on the ground. Look at the options in your local area, and weigh the pro’s and con’s of what your options are.
Sometimes, cake and dessert look so beautiful, they look like decorations by themselves. When you have such a small backyard wedding, there’s only so much room for you to set up the food tables, have places to sit, and use decorations as well. So it only makes sense to have your food look as enticing as possible. Many people decorate their food table with multiple levels to give a lot of varied interest. Signature cocktails are typically kept to the bar area, but you could also incorporate some drinking accessories, if at all possible.
When you have a really attractive table filled with food, it’s likely that people are going to take a photo and put it on their Instagram. Professional photographers will also take photos and it will become part of the memory of that day. Before the wedding day, do a practice run of your setup to make sure it looks as good as you imagined in your mind. Give yourself plenty of time to order new projects and make adjustments as needed.
If you plan to have an outdoor wedding ceremony that goes into the night, you may want to consider leaving out a basket of blankets to help keep your guests warm. This is especially important for older guests like your parents and grandparents, because they typically get cold more easily. If you have a summer wedding, it’s likely that these will not be necessary, especially if the temperature stays near 80 degrees even after night fall. However, you could always grab blankets just in case.
In the spring and autumn, it’s very likely that you’ll need some way to keep your guests warm, especially if you’re opting to skip the outdoor heat lamps. For rustic backyard weddings, you could save money by having stacks of blankets from your own home. Some photos of weddings show beautiful hand-knitted afghans that have been collected by the family throughout the years. Others will get fleece blankets customized for the wedding which doubles as a favor that guests can take home with them.
If you are having your wedding at your parent’s house, it would be a good idea to find areas of the home that have a lot of sentimental value to you. These special places can be used for your vows, reception, or even just places where you might want the photographer to capture images of you and your partner. If you and your partner have been together for a long time, it’s likely that you have already created beautiful memories in the home.
For anyone considering renting a house for a backyard wedding, you may want to choose a location that means a lot to you as a couple. Maybe there was an AirBnB where you two took a vacation, or you want to go to the town where you met. Just keep in mind that your state might have travel restrictions. It’s always a good idea to keep all of your guests local if at all possible.
There are some people who are afraid to travel right now, considering the state of the world. Unfortunately, this puts a huge damper on your honeymoon, because it seriously limits the options of places you can go. Even if you stayed locally, you would still have to go into a hotel. This is why you should possibly consider setting up a glamping tent in the backyard. Yurts are so nice, they practically feel like a house when you step inside. There are a lot of ways that people assemble tents to feel cozy and comfortable.
If you are having the ceremony at your parents house, do you really want your wedding night to be in your childhood bedroom? This isn’t exactly romantic, comfortable, or private. Staying outside is a good way to guarantee your privacy while also staying safe from a hotel. You can rent or buy a yurt, which is a much fancier version of a tent. This might not be any cheaper than the cost of a hotel room, but it ensures your safety. Alternately, you can consider going to a local campground for the night, which would be cheaper than a hotel.
If you want to support local businesses and get cheap catering, a great option is to hire a food truck. Food truck businesses used to operate by parking at public events. Usually, the types of foods that are sold at a food truck or a lot more casual. This fits in well with the casual vibe of a backyard wedding. Since we can no longer hold large public events like we once did, a lot of these people are losing money from their businesses. If you hire them for your wedding, you are helping a local business thrive.
Another great thing about food trucks is that they can socially distance much easier. All food trucks have mobile kitchens installed. So they don’t have to cook food inside of your house or the wedding venue that you have rented. This also eliminates the need for having waiters bring food to people as they sit around the table. Your guests can stand in line 6 feet apart and wait for their turn to have their food handed to them from the person in the food truck. Then they can make their way over to their tables and sit down at a safe distance.
When you have a backyard wedding, it’s likely but you’re going to have a lot of natural colors like brown and green in the background. And it’s traditional for the bride and groom to wear black and white. So you’re working with a lot of neutral colors as it is. During an indoor traditional wedding, the bride chooses a color scheme that she wants to work with. You might think that you should skip a color when you’re doing an outdoor wedding, but that’s not true at all.
Go ahead with whatever color you wanted for your original wedding. It doesn’t make sense to let these purchases and your planning time go to waste. However, your original color might clash with the colors you find in your backyard. This is why you might want to add a second or third color to the mix. Having multiple colors can bring a lot of joy and life to the party. Or, you can go all the way and have a rainbow of colors on your wedding day.
Traditionally, limousines are used for special occasions like weddings and prom. This is very common if you are transporting all of the bridesmaids and groomsmen from one area to the other. Being in a limo is also an excuse to drink without worrying about driving. However, in the wake of the pandemic, it’s no longer safe to have a party with your friends inside of an enclosed vehicle. It might be a better idea to rent or borrow a vintage vehicle instead. If you know a friend or family member who owns a classic car, you could ask if they would be willing to lend it to you, if only for the arrival and send off.
Remember that while this might seem like a simple request, this is asking a lot of someone who put their heart and soul into restoring a classic car. It’s best to tell them that this could count towards their wedding gift. And if they’re nervous to have someone else drive their car, they could be your chauffeur, so long as they’re willing to stay sober as the designated driver. Having a classic car parked at the wedding can also be a great photo opportunity. If you don’t know anyone, consider renting a luxury car instead.
If you have a pool in your backyard, some of you might be afraid of how you could possibly have a ceremony there. However, a pool can actually add a lot of style to a backyard wedding. This might be a good excuse to re-pave or add tiles to spruce up your pool. Some people have used their pool as the background behind the altar. Photographers who go on the opposite side of the pool can capture the moment when the image of the happy couple is reflected in the water.
If the party goes well into the night, adding lights to your pool can also have a magical effect. You might also want to buy special pool floats in the shape of a heart, or something else that matches the theme of the party. Just be careful, because it’s likely that someone might get drunk and want to jump in the pool at night. If you have a group of people anywhere near your pool, it’s best to keep someone on hand who is trained in CPR and lifeguarding.
A lot of backyards have a privacy fence surrounding the property. In fact, if you don’t already have a fence, you should probably consider building a new one with the money you set aside for your original wedding budget. You want to be able to enjoy the ceremony without the curious eyes of your neighbors staring at them. With a fence, it’s much easier to feel like you are having a private, intimate and enclosed ceremony that is just being shared with your family and friends.
Some of you out there might already have a fence. Whether your fence is new or old, you should always consider it part of your wedding decor. Give it a new coat of paint, or clean it with a power washer. Leading up to the ceremony, you can cover the fence with strings of light. Solar powered lights might be a good option if you’re far away from a source of electricity. Garland, balloons, and flowers are all great ideas for decorating a fence. And if you’re open to painting the fence later, a mural might even be a great option to try.
A unique outdoor wedding idea that you might want to consider is hanging a table top from a tree. This looks almost like a giant swing, so it’s perfect for a backyard wedding where you might be tapping into happy childhood memories. This might be a good option if you have uneven ground. If you decide to do this, make sure it’s suspended from an older tree with thick, strong branches. You don’t want a weak branch snapping in the middle of the ceremony!
For some people, this table idea may not make sense compared to buying a normal table. In some cases, it would be more expensive and difficult than getting a wooden table from your local thrift store. First and foremost, consider this a stylistic choice over something budget-friendly. However, if you recycle an old door or use inexpensive plywood from the hardware store to create a farmhouse style table top, this could be done very cheaply. At the end of the day, choose what makes your heart sing.
Backyard weddings are a great opportunity to have some fun lawn games to keep your guests entertained. If you are holding the wedding at your childhood home, this will likely have plenty of happy memories of playing in the backyard. This is especially important to have games if there are kids at your wedding. It’s important to keep them occupied, since kids usually get bored at weddings if they aren’t given enough to do.
Some of the most popular outdoor yard games are corn hole, croquet, badminton, and horseshoes. These are all great options, and it’s easy to purchase any of these kits for around $50. Some of you might already have these games in your garage. Since we are worried about social distancing, it’s best to skip games like Twister, or anything else that would require people to be in close proximity. Try to stick to carnival style games where guests can throw from a distance, or approach the game one at a time.
If you’re going for a very casual backyard wedding, you might want to consider having a barbecue. This is a very fun and easy way to cook food for a lot of people at once. You can even turn this into a potluck style dinner where multiple members of the family bring dishes for everyone to share. This can eliminate the need for you to hire a caterer. If fact, there’s probably a father or uncle in the family who would gladly take charge of arranging to cook the meat.
Another great thing about a backyard barbecue style wedding is that you can get away with using disposable plates and cutlery. No one will think twice if you do this over a traditional table setting. This might not be the most elegant wedding in the world, but it is fun, memorable, and easy to keep on a small budget. Remember to rent a tent to help keep your guests shaded in the spring and summer, and to protect anyone in case it rains. Check out the Dollar Tree website for their barbecue products, and you can really stick to a small budget.
Being in love is often described as “sparks flying” or “seeing fireworks”. So it only makes sense to bring that sparkle to your special night. Having fireworks at your wedding can be a really beautiful way to wrap up the end of the ceremony. In most places, you can really only get away with using something small, like sparklers. Fireworks typically need to be done on a very large property like a farm. These need to be set off at a safe distance away from houses and trees. You might also need permits in your local area to do this, and notify neighbors and law enforcement.
Always make sure to follow local regulations. The last thing you want is for the police to show up to your wedding. Even if you spent a lot of money buying fireworks, skip them all together If the weather has been hot and dry leading up to the ceremony. The last thing you would ever want is to accidentally start a fire. In fact, one of the California wild fires was started because of a gender reveal party. Please don’t put your idea of a “perfect wedding” above the safety of others. Be safe, and have fun!