Small Backyard Wedding Ideas on a Budget

Shannon Quinn - January 30, 2021
Tents are perfect for hosting a small backyard wedding. Credit: Shutterstock

21. Rent or Buy a Tent or Canopy

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.

These tiny tables are great for cocktail hour. Credit: Shutterstock

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.

Your dog might look good in a tux. Credit: Shutterstock

20. Get Your Pets Involved

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.

Some people use their dog as the ring bearer. Credit: Shutterstock

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.

This wreath serves as the wedding altar. Credit: Shutterstock

19. Large Wreath Altar

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.

A natural foliage wreath is beautiful for outdoor weddings. Credit: Shutterstock

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.

This rustic wedding table used cut logs to display the food. Credit: Shutterstock

18. Embrace the Rustic Feel

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.

These logs are a beautiful way to display candles as the evening grows dark. Credit: Shutterstock

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.

It’s possible to make beautiful centerpieces out of glass jars and flowers. Credit: Shutterstock

17. Mini Vases Made out of Recycled Jars

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.

These floral arrangements are simple, using recycled jars as vases. Credit: Shutterstock

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.

Plan your wedding menu beforehand to make it easy to make with local catering. Credit: Burst by Shopify

16. Hire a Local Restaurant to Cater the Event

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.

Many restaurants no longer accept indoor dining, which is hurting small businesses. Credit: Burst by Shopify

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 you’re working with a budget, things don’t have to be perfectly matched. Credit: Shutterstock

15. Mix and Match

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.

This bride encouraged her brides maids to wear whatever they want, as long as it was purple. Credit: Shutterstock

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.)

People love dancing in backyard weddings. Credit: Shutterstock

14. Assemble a Portable Dance Floor

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.

There are a number of different materials you can use to make a backyard dance floor. Credit: Shutterstock

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 desserts are so cute, they’re like a decoration of their very own. Credit: Shutterstock

13. Make Your Food Double as Decorations

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.

This snack table looks beautiful, and adds to the aesthetic of the wedding. Credit: Shutterstock

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.

This wedding gave out blankets to their guests. Credit: Shutterstock

12. Blankets to Help Guest Keep Warm at Night

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.

Note the mother with the blanket wrapped around her. Credit: Pexels

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.

Take photos in places in your home that mean a lot to you. Credit: Pexels

11. Use Spaces That Have Special Meaning

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.

If you’re lucky enough to live near a lake, be sure to take advantage of that. Credit: Pexels

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.

Some couples like to go glamping for their honeymoon. Credit: Shutterstock

10. Set Up a “Glamping” Tent for the Honeymoon

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.

Camping outdoors could be a safer alternative than going to a hotel or resort. Credit: Shutterstock

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.

There are food trucks available in any type of cuisine. Credit: Shutterstock

9. Hire a Food Truck

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.

At night, lights can make a food truck glow in a magical way. Pinterest.

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.

These balloons bring a pop of color to an otherwise black tie affair. Credit: Shutterstock

8. Colorful Decor

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.

Tossing flower petals can be a great send-off for a backyard wedding. Credit: Shutterstock

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.

This couple had both a VW bus and beetle at their wedding. Credit: Pexels

7. Rent a Vintage Vehicle (Or Two)

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.

This vintage car has been decked out with vintage luggage and flowers. Credit: Shutterstock

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.

This pool has been transformed at this backyard wedding. Credit: Shutterstock

6. Turn Your Pool Into a Focal Point

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.

This altar has been placed in front of the pool for a dramatic reflection effect. Credit: Shutterstock

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.

You might as well make your privacy fence part of the wedding decor. Credit: Shutterstock

5. Make The Fence Part of the Decor

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.

In a backyard wedding, small details will add up. Credit: Shutterstock

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.

Thus table is hanging from a tree at a backyard wedding. Credit: The Wedding Chicks

4. Tables Hanging From Trees

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!

A close-up on the desserts of this beautiful hanging table. Credit: The Wedding Chicks

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.

The “Mr. and Mrs.” corn hole is a great way to bring a classic game to a backyard wedding. Credit: Shutterstock

3. Lawn Games

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.

These kids are playing with a giant Jenga game at this backyard wedding. Credit: Shutterstock

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.

This wedding had a full-on pig roast in their backyard. Credit: Brackish Photography

2. Have a Backyard Barbecue

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.

The backyard barbecue menu. Credit: Normandy Catering

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.

These spinning sparklers are a magical way to bring joy to your backyard wedding. Credit: Shutterstock

1. Fireworks

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.

If you have a large property, you could set off fireworks. Credit: Shutterstock

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!