Transforming your backyard into a wedding oasis By Rachel Kelly
So many fond memories take place in our yards. As children, we climb the branches of our favorite trees, or search for frogs with our feet in the cool grass. Having your wedding at home brings those memories full circle. Truly, what could be more intimate and romantic? But as the big day gets closer and closer, you might find transforming that space a little more difficult than you originally thought. Don’t sweat it! Here are a few things to keep in mind when preparing your yard for the big day to make it all you dream it to be, while not being too labor intensive.
The first thing to think about, before you even start setting up, is the garden itself. Nothing really much has to be done in backyard spaces that already have lots of green. No special color is needed. If anything, the beauty of the grass or simplicity of the trees will speak for themselves. The only real thing to do is to clean it up a bit. Clear off dead foliage, put in new mulch, and trim flowers and hedges. Your ceremony can be focused around your favorite spaces, such as the old apple tree, and the ceremony itself can be held in between two large flower pots. Nothing much has to be done to nature to make the effect enchanting, so don’t worry too much about perfection in the yard.
One of the problems that everyone experiences when holding events in large open spaces is distinguishing space—where to gather, eat, dance, and hold the ceremony. Pick a distinguishing factor from your yard. Maybe it’s a favorite tree or a patch or rose bushes. Maybe there’s some lovely ivy growing along the fence. Whatever it is, have that be the backdrop to the ceremony. Here you can place an archway, two groups of chairs to create the aisle, and an aisle runner. Rugs work well as aisle runners because they sit well in the grass without shoes going through them and look stunning. Consider renting a dance floor for dancing, and designate tables and chairs close by for the reception. Large white tents (with heaters for evening weddings) or runner lights strung across the yard and trees can both designate a reception space, or unify activities separated around the yard.
Distinguishing space makes for natural gathering places for friends and family to keep themselves happy as they wait for the main event, or keep themselves occupied while the photographer takes family photos.
If you have some space after deciding on your ceremony and reception, or if you’ve decided to not do a reception at all, consider filling up the outer edges of the yard with transitory spaces. This will be where people hang out as they transition from one activity to another, and where they’ll connect if they’re not watching the dance floor. Things like cocktail tables and a bar would go here. Other ideas for transitory spaces include couches and board games, yard games, a picture booth, or a signature/gift table.
With all that’s going on and a large yard full of people, the last finishing touch would be to make sure your guests know where to go and what’s going on there. Traditionally this might mean handing out a schedule of sorts upon entry, placing friends at the entrance to guide guests, and placing meal placards at the reception table(s). In a yard space, knowing what to do and where to go is achieved by clever little signs and strategic placement of activities.
The cake, for instance, might be right beside the reception area, and the meal might be advertised by small sandwich boards. Signs meant to direct could be as simple as chalkboards or as complicated as arrows labeled and docked on lantern posts. There can be a lot of formality at weddings, with very little or a lot of activity. No guest will be in any way eager to offend, which can make people hesitant. Clear communication, signs with directions markers, and activities that clearly hedge in the yard space will clear up this small snag in what will otherwise be a clearly laid-out event.
Keeping these things in mind, do whatever makes this day uniquely you! Allow it to be as relaxed, as organized, as traditional or untraditional as you want it to be. The dance floor and the ceremony space could be one in the same, as they are both platforms. The reception space could be in a separate long tent with seating arrangements, or organized according to a smattering of circular tables on the outer edge of the ceremony space. You could have a large meal served at the tables or served buffet style. Or you could scrap the meal entirely and serve small appetizers and drinks. Whatever you feel comfortable with!
It’s your wedding, and you should both be the happiest people there. If you’re having fun, then your guests will too!