Wedding planners are more than just event planners. We're designers, problem-solvers, coordinators, budgeteers, part-time therapists, and friends to the couples and families who are entrusting us to help them with their events. Since we're on friendly terms now, here are some tips and tricks to the trade of navigating wedding planning!
Advice for your Backyard Wedding
Thinking of getting married at home? Firstly, congratulations on getting engaged! What an exciting experience to share with loved ones. Hosting your wedding at your own house can be a lovely affair. There can be some benefits to a backyard wedding, one of the main ones being, it may be a very meaningful location to you. Inviting loved ones to space that holds so many fond memories can give your wedding such an intimate and special feeling. But if you are planning on hosting your wedding at home in order to save on cost, there are quite a few things to consider. Generally, it is much more expensive to rent all the items needed, like tables and chairs, restrooms, and a remote kitchen, than it would be to book a wedding venue that provides most of these items included in their rental fee.
Is there an emotional connection to the property?
Make sure when you are weighing your venue options, if you’re considering getting married at your house, that you’re doing it for the right reasons. If you are wanting to get married at home because it is a special place that you want to share with your family and friends, then absolutely go for it! It is important, though, to have enough space for everyone to fit comfortably. Most often, homes turned wedding venue end up as an outdoor event, which is my favorite backdrop for an event! Whether your property is surrounded by woods, gardens, vineyards, ocean, or mountain views, setting that perfect backdrop can be whimsically magical, warm, and romantic. Does your property already set the perfect dream wedding backdrop? If yes, check that box and we’ll move on to what other things you need to consider. If your property is pretty enough, but not really what you were picturing, and you’re just doing this to save money, let’s look into the possible additional expenses so you can make an educated decision.
Things to consider
Personal spaces and personal belongings
Your house is your personal space, and your loved ones are obviously welcome there, but having everyone you know on your property at the same time can be overwhelming. Locations that are private to you, like your bedroom, may end up as a coat closet. Make sure to be clear which spaces are off limits, especially if guests will be welcome inside the house.
Your house is also full of your personal décor and belongings. I would love to be able to promise you your wedding guests will be respectful of your things, but that is not always the case. If you have valuables, you should think about whether they should be temporarily relocated to keep them safe from breakage. I think we are all familiar with the possibilities of accidents when alcohol is involved. It’s better to preemptively limit the wedding day “hiccups” before they occur.
There will still be things gotten into if you’re inviting guests into your house. Likely, they will grab wine glasses or water, etc. Consider putting courtesy signs saying “please don’t use” or “private” on any areas you are wanting to remain untouched. (Maybe protect your crystal glassware, for example).
Does your property have adequate parking? If so, great! Depending on the guest count and parking lot size, you may want to hire parking attendants to ensure the cars are parked in an orderly manner. If you don’t have parking available to your wedding guests, let’s discuss alternatives. You can think about renting shuttle buses. The buses can pick up your guests right from their hotel and drive them directly to your property. If this is the plan, make sure there is enough space for the bus. Can they turn around easily? Are there limitations on buses lengths set by the county or state? Are the trees trimmed high enough to clear the top of the bus and the width of the bus? If you have a parking space nearby, but further than you would prefer guests to walk, you could hire a valet company. Make sure you don’t forget to rent lighting for the parking lot or walkway to the buses! Side note: be careful about the parking location. If you are blocking driveways, neighbors will possibly complain or have vehicles towed. Check to see if you need permits for parking in your area.
Speaking of neighbors and the possibilities of complaints, cover your bases. Make sure to check with your City/County and get the necessary approvals to host a private event. You likely have noise ordinances in your area that you should adhere to. It’s ideal to be a good neighbor and give your neighbors appropriate notice of the event so they’re mentally prepared. You don’t want a noise complaint called on you and have to shut down your wedding. If you have an HOA, be sure to check their bylaws about private gatherings.
I recommend you also get Liability Insurance. Hopefully it won’t be necessary in the end, but better safe than sorry, and it is not very expensive to obtain.
Still hire professionals!
Your wedding day is a big deal. Yes, I’m sure you have had other large gatherings over the holidays or for family reunions, but these gatherings generally don’t come with the same expectations. Your wedding day is a special, once in a lifetime event, and should be treated as such. Treat yourselves and your loved ones to a special experience, where they get to arrive and be a guest, rather than overseeing a bunch of tasks. Hiring professionals for setting up, running the day, and cleaning up will be completely worth it.
When choosing the perfect backdrop for your ceremony, think about the photos, and your guests’ experience. Does the location make sense with the flow of the cocktail hour, dinner, and dancing? Each area should be organized to have a natural start and end. Wedding guests should come to the ceremony location first, and ending in the dancing area, rather than zigzagging around the property.
Providing shade on a hot day would be appreciated by your guests as well. If you have a well shaded area available, consider the ceremony chairs there. Or you can always provide your guests with umbrellas, parasols, or fans.
Check to make sure the area is level enough for the ceremony chairs to sit without tipping over. You may need to grade the area you are using. Also, you’ll want to be mindful of nature. Are there gophers, nesting birds, or insect problems such as bees or mosquitos? Is there poison oak? Plan ahead by choosing a safe location.
Guests will want easy access to the bar, restrooms, shade, and lounge seating and cocktail tables. Create the perfect space to mingle and relax, with beautiful views and good company.
Dinner & Dancing
Such as with the Cocktail Hour, guests should have easy access to the bar, restrooms, and a lounge area. Of course you'll have the dinner tables and chairs, but offering something a little more comfortable for after they have eaten is always appreciated. It'll create a nice space for the guests to enjoy chatting if they're not inclined to dance. It's fun to people watch the dancers too!
Suggested Wedding Professionals:
Amenities you’ll need: Rentals
You may not immediately think of restrooms when you think wedding, but believe me, they are important! The wedding guests generally remember thing from your wedding day, whether It was phenomenal food, or the flowers were exquisite, but you definitely do not want them to remember that there weren’t adequate bathrooms. You want to rent from a company that is not a just a standard porta-potty that you would see at a construction site. For your wedding day, I recommend getting something that allows you to flush and wash your hands. Having a mirror and nice lighting is a huge bonus as well, since you and your guests are wanting to look beautiful and handsome all evening. Fancy Flush Inc, the leading expert in the Napa, Sonoma, and Bay Area, recommends having one stall per every 75 guests. That way you don’t overwhelm the restrooms and have long lines. You must keep in mind, guests will all be ready to use the restroom at similar times. In the beginning of cocktail hour, right after the ceremony and also right after dinner and toasts. Of course, they can wait in line for a bit, but you do not want them to have to wait too long and have a poor guest experience. Keep in mind, similarly to the shuttle buses, the trees will need to be trimmed high enough to clear the restroom trailer upon delivery. They will need to have an area that is level and easily accessed by a truck for delivery.
You may already have a space in mind that would be perfect for dancing, like a beautiful stone patio. If you are planning on setting up the dance floor in a grassy meadow or lawn (or sometimes even a dirt clearing) consider renting a dance floor. Dancing on uneven grass or on dirt, which causes dust clouds, is not ideal. There are a lot of amazing dance floor options, in virtually any color, or there are even LED Dance floors that light up!
Yes, of course you will need electricity for your event. You will need it for the lighting, possibly the catering, the coffee makers, the DJ, or Band, and possibly even the hair dryers and curling irons if you’re getting ready in a rural space. If you do not have access to outlets, or if your outlets don’t have an adequate amount of wattage, consider renting a generator. This does present other logistical problems, but it is do-able. Just make sure you know who is picking it up, and returning it, you will need to get gas for it too, if the rental company does not pre-fill it. Placement at the property matters as well. Generators are not silent, and you want it far enough from the event to not be a nuisance and to be safe, but close enough to reach the power cords. Make sure to pay attention to all the safety warnings about well-ventilated areas, and do not link too many cords together, causing a fire hazard. Safety first!
Plan for Weather
Depending on the time of year and location of your event, you will need to consider renting a tent. Tents are great for multiple types of weather. They protect, not only from rain, but other elements like heat and wind. Clear tents are gorgeous but may not be an ideal choice for a hot day. They tend to heat up like an oven. Contemplate renting a solid topped tent (white is a popular choice) to protect against harsh rays of the sun. Tents can be incredibly beautiful if you add draping and lighting as well. Not all tents need side paneling, especially if you want to enjoy the view, but on a windy or rainy day, side paneling will be very appreciated by you and your wedding guests.
For cocktail hour, you may want to look into getting umbrellas as well. I usually recommend getting umbrellas that are separate from tables or wine barrels because you will need to adjust the umbrella placement to compensate for the movement of the sun.
Later in the evening, as the sun sets, temperatures may drop, and you may need heaters. Even setting up a fire pit with some lounge furniture could be a real crowd pleaser. S’mores anyone?
Depending on the type of food you have selected for your wedding day and the method of service (buffet, plated, or family style), you’ll need different catering equipment. Discuss the specifics with your selected caterer, but here is a list of items you may need to order:
*Side note: You will want to confirm with the caterer or bartender who will be bringing in (or if you are providing the following) drinking water, ice, coffee creamer, sugar, stirring sticks, garnishes, gloves, towels, trash bags, etc.
Other rentals or items you will need
This is just a list of rentals or items commonly needed, but again, each wedding is different, and each property is different, so you may not need everything listed.
Ultimately, getting married at home can be extremely personal and emotional venue option, but it does take quite a bit more planning than booking a professional venue. It will likely cost more as well, depending on what you already have onsite. Use this list to evaluate your personal space to see if getting married at home is right for you!
Tara Ybarra, Co-Owner and Event Planner for Ybarra Events, has been in the Wedding Industry for over 20 years. From Photographer, to Wedding Cake Artist, to Florist, to Officiant, and now Wedding Planner, her accumilated experience, paired with her College Courses in Event Planning, have given her the experience she has today. Blogging gives her an opportunity to share that knowledge with her readers.
Ybarra Events is located in California’s spectacular Napa Valley. Ybarra Events are the pièce de résistance of wedding planners. Run by the dynamic duo of Tara and James Ybarra, they help couples organize, design, and plan their nuptials at some of the most fabulous and luxurious wedding venues in Napa, Sonoma, San Francisco, and Beyond. Chat with them today to start planning the wine-country wedding of your dreams.