Broke-Ass Tag: backyard wedding



Photo: Beautiful Day Photography

I’ve coordinated three backyard weddings so far this season, with two more to go until Labor Day. Backyard weddings are conveniently located, they’re pretty, and you certainly can’t beat the venue fee. But along with the usual issues they can have, I’m noticing a brand new crop of  mistakes that couples are making that are creating even more … challenges on their wedding day:

Not enough setup time.

Your guests will start arriving 30 minutes before your stated ceremony time, I swear. I don’t  know why this is, but it always is. Again, again, again, this is why fake ceremony invite times don’t work. You tell them 4:30 so they’ll be there by 5:00 — guests will start showing up at 4:00pm, eating into your prep time. Either way, make sure they have some place to sit when they get there. Make sure they are not surrounded by setup chaos. Make sure you’ve finished any pre-wedding photos and are out of view. I’ve had to tweak a few vendor load-in times to avoid these problems. Liz rule #5: Nothing takes less time than you think it will. NOTHING.

 Not enough lighting.

It’s all well and good when your guests are coming in during the daytime, when they can see clearly and all around. In a few hours it’s going to get darker, and people are going to be drunker. And half of them are wearing high heels. Walk the perimeter of your backyard (doing so with your rental company would be better) to figure out what you need — is the entrance to your wedding also the exit? Around when are they leaving? Where are the bars and how late are they going to be open? What is the route to the restrooms? At what point will it be too dark for your guests to see what they’re eating or your catering company to see where they are serving and what they are bussing? You need ground lighting and lighting from above. String lights are good, but if you’re illuminating a large area choose lamps for them that are 50 watts or more.

Way too many plates and silverware.

I blame myself for this one, because I’ve been screaming “It’s better to have and not need than need and not have!” at you for years. But this is gotten a little out of control. 100 guests are going to use more than 100 plates, true. That number goes up if you have a buffet, true again. But it’s that’s like 15%-20%, NOT 100% more. All of your guests are not going to hit the buffet twice, all of your guests are not going to request more food from their server. Look at your menu and think about what your plates and silverware are going to be used for. For the most part, your guests won’t expect to reuse their salad plate or fork for dinner, or their dinner plate and fork for cake. So, yes, that’s three plates and three forks per person, plus another one or two per couple for breakages or second servings. Ask your caterer for count recommendations and then take those recommendations to your rental company and confirm them. If you’re still worried,  add either 10 or 20 more pieces each, whichever makes you more comfortable.

Anything you don’t know, ask your vendors — that’s what they’re there for. Anything you think you know, double check with them, anyway.

Not enough chairs.

One of the big memes in budget wedding world is getting one set of chairs for the ceremony, and then moving those over to the reception tables during the cocktail hour. Good on paper, logistically iffy, especially when it comes to the limited space in most backyards. Lots of times, you have to take those chairs through the cocktail area, and your guests. If your caterers are serving apps, pouring drinks and preparing for dinner, that turnover is going to be tough, unless you hire extra staff you wouldn’t need otherwise. You can ask your guests to move the chairs, but … then you’re asking your guests to work during your wedding. Be honest about what’s possible, what it’s going to involve, price out another set of chairs and make the decision from there.

No exit strategy.

Your wedding is over, and guests are either gone or on their way out the back gate. You? Have a big mess in your backyard. One wedding generates hoards of trash. Where is it going, how big is it and who is taking it there? What about the unopened alcohol, water and sodas? There will be some, possibly a lot. You can bring them inside, yes, but where are you putting them? When are your rentals being picked up, and who’s going to be there for that? Do you have to break them down or can you leave them as is? Be proactive, plan it out, and don’t leave an even bigger mess to clean up the next day. It’s the world’s worst hangover.

Do you have any questions about your backyard wedding? Let me know in the comments below, because that’s what I’m here for!

And, if you would like to find out more about me and my corner of Wedding World, go to

See you at the end of the aisle,

  • 7/29

    These summer nights sitting under twinkly lights at the local watering hole, kicking back with my favorite people and basking in the love and friendship around me had me majorly inspired to dream up a pretty backyard wedding inspiration board. A beautiful, light gown paired with muted and understated earrings and a simple headband. Eclectic table accents include a sparkly runner and a lacy blue runner to highlight the varied tableware patterns and colorful glassware with proper amount of gold and color to delight and luxuriate.

    Broke-Ass Hacks:

    Varied and gorgeous serveware and dishes can often be found for uber cheap at thrift or secondhand stores, and you can re-donate when you’re done. The table runners and paper lanterns easily translate into home decor items … or you can pass them on to a bride you know who would enjoy them for her wedding.

    outdoor wedding inspo.jpg

    Chinese Lanterns, Luna Bazaar | “Aurelia” Hoop Earrings, Ruche | “Marvelous Maven” Heel in Mint, ModCloth | “Inside Out” Bowl, Anthropologie | Sequin Table Runner in Gold, Koyal Wholesale | “A Lace for Everyone” Table Runner, ModCloth | “Mira” Gown, BHLDN | Brass Flora Indie Headband, Ruche

    What do you think of a pretty, intimate wedding under the stars with your nearest and dearest?

  • 12/5

    I'm about to tell you something you might find shocking.  But hold onto your hats, because our wedding is going to be a....MEAT FREE ZONE! That's right folks!  I am a longtime vegetarian and Zach rarely eats meat nowadays.  So we won't be serving anything that used to breathe and have eyeballs at our wedding.  I think a lot of our non-vegetarian friends and family…

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    Remember my state debate from this post?  Well, here's the follow-up... Time was ticking away.  More and more people kept asking me if we had set a date yet, as their calendars were booking up for next summer.  My online search for an affordable spot in California was proving fruitless.  More than anything, we just wanted to decide on a place and set a date…

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    Stacy and Marty had a gorgeous backyard bash filled with swank and sweetness. Their community of friends rallied around them to help them pull it all off for less than $17, 000. Name:  Stacy & Marty Occupation: Tailor and director Wedding location: Our backyard, Los Angeles, Hollywood Hills Wedding Date: July 19, 2009 Budget: $17,000 How would you describe your wedding: A mix of civil and…

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    Help!  I recently got engaged and, while searching through a wedding dress look book, I absolutely fell in love with two Claire Pettibone dresses that are way out of my price range.  My fiance and I are planning an evening backyard ceremony and I love the look of the lace in these dresses.  I think it's elegant without being too formal for our outdoor wedding.…

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    I've been vacationing in Colorado for the past week and the heat here has been killing us! It's been way too hot to cook or eat indoors so we've been at the grill cooking up some bbq for the past four nights.... which got me to thinking: how amazeballs would a backyard bbq wedding be?! Secretly, in the back of my mind I've been plotting…

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