How to to Host an Incredible Wedding in Your Own Backyard
I’ve always dreamed of marrying at my parents' house. But how do I pull it off?
So you’ve always dreamed of marrying in a meaningful place — like, that big field behind your parents’ house where you used to play tag. We get it: the history of a location can make your day extra special, as well as unique to you. But, it’s important to remember that there are more logistics to consider in a bespoke backyard wedding than a wedding at a traditional venue. Weddings at home can be magical — and a lot of work, too. Here, event planner Susan Norcross of The Styled Bride explains everything you need to know to throw an incredible one.
Prepare to budget up.
There’s no way around it: Weddings in spaces that weren’t built to host weddings require much more planning and forethought. That’s because all those necessary items you might take for granted at a traditional venue (think unsexy stuff like parking, restrooms, industrial kitchens, etc.) aren’t included in your backyard, no matter how spacious or elegant it might be. You’ll essentially be building a venue from scratch, and those costs add up quickly.
“Most of the time when you want to do a beautiful at-home outdoor tented affair, you’ll need to double your budget,” says Norcross. “That’s because you don’t have anything there. Every little thing needs to be brought in, and that can be costly.” For help making your outdoor space look fabulous, Norcross says Eventions Productions in Aston is one company that can transform the inside of your tent with elegant lighting and draping to suit your vision.
Set the ground rules. (Literally.)
“The first thing to look at is the location for the tent,” says Norcross. “You need to know where stake lines need to be. You need to be aware of underground utilities. These things aren’t common knowledge, so you want to have a tent company come out and survey first to make sure everything fits”—beyond the reception space, you might also need a cook tent and a green-room tent for the band—“and the ground is flat.” Some couples try to go tentless, but Norcross says this is often foolish. “Remember, you’re not in California,” she explains. “We’re on the East Coast. We have rainy summers. And in the heat, people need to get out of the sun.”
While assessing the grounds, it’s also important to consider accessibility issues for guests. “Think about Grandma or anyone with a disability,” Norcross says. “How easy will it be for them to navigate the area?” One of her go-tos? EventQuip in Montgomeryville can build a beautifully enclosed — and fully functioning — space on your open field, including tenting, restrooms, and power generators.
Talk to your neighbors.
Once you have your facilities in place, check in with your township to make sure the police won’t shut you down in the middle of your dance party. “Be sure you don’t have any significant noise ordinances or concerns,” says Norcross. Next, let those living nearby know about the wedding as soon as permits are secured. “Noise is one issue, but you definitely don’t want to have a neighbor plan a huge event for the same day as you!” she adds.
Don’t forget about restrooms.
You won’t want dozens of tipsy guests traipsing through your house in search of a bathroom, so be sure to budget for a restroom trailer. Worried this approach might feel a little déclassé? There’s no need to be. “Restroom trailers are very upscale and clean these days,” assures Norcross, who mostly books trailers for her clients through tenting companies. Still, there are issues to consider: “You have to run power and water to the trailers,” she says.“You can rent a water tank with it, or you have to have access to water that’s within 50 to 100 feet of the trailer.”
Put things in park.
After sorting through how the tent and restroom will work, the next to-do to tackle is parking for your guests. This is the time to utilize local resources. “We’ve had people say, ‘We’ll just park them in our field,’” says Norcross. “You certainly can, but are you okay with your field getting completely ruined—and guests walking through the mud—if it rains a day or two before the wedding?”Instead, Norcross recommends that you ask the local township for permission to park at a nearby pool, park or municipal building and arrange for a shuttle service back and forth.
And remember: It’s not just your guests that will need a place to put their vehicles. “Your vendors will have a lot of stuff with them, and trucks will be coming across your property,” says Norcross, who creates detailed load-in, load-out schedules for at-home weddings so vendors aren’t on top of one another. Norcross says Glenside-based valet Alber-Haff Parking Service is one great local service that will make sure all of your guests’ vehicles are safely tended to in the lot of your choosing.
Take care of your crew.
Vendor comfort is important to consider throughout planning. “I’ve had couples bring in big, fancy bands, which is great,” says Norcross. “But band members have to have a green room, a place to put their equipment, and food and beverage.”
Beyond entertainment, your caterer will be the vendor with the most needs. Think “back of house” items like propane burners, stoves, potable water and hand-washing stations to abide by sanitation rules, as well as the “front of house” items that make a wedding beautiful: tables, chairs, plates, etc.
Lock it up.
On the day-of, Norcross suggests, lock the house to simplify things—and give keys to your planner, a family member and the caterer, just in case. “I don’t recommend allowing guests to go through your home looking to use a bathroom instead of the trailer.” If there’s a portion of the residence you’d like to keep open, Norcross says to rope off the area and secure bedroom doors. “Lock away valuables and private alcohol stores to prevent potential problems,” she adds.
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