Pro tips on transforming your backyard into a chic wedding venue


As the adage goes, “home is where the heart is,” and for couples who don’t want to postpone their big day any longer, looking to friends with backyards or transforming their own outdoor space into a chic wedding venue has become a great option.

Chances are your new guest list is significantly smaller than originally planned. You can use that to your advantage, from a budget perspective, to make the event even more special than originally planned. An outdoor wedding also can help to ease stress for guests who have reservations about being in a group, no matter how small.

“Having a wedding at your home feels more relaxed for your guests in a lot of ways,” said Kate Reavey, president and owner of Chicago Vintage Weddings. “Maybe they are familiar with your home, but they get to see it in a different light. People really feel like they’re coming for an intimate dinner party where all of their needs have been carefully considered, and it’s a lot less of a huge production than going to an event and being around hundreds of people,” she said.

Reavey, whose company produces highly personalized, “luxury on any budget events,” also produces budget-conscious, all-inclusive mini weddings that provide everything from hair and makeup to catering, photography and on-site event management.

“When you’re having an outdoor wedding at home, you’re starting from scratch,” she said. “You can spice up the grounds, like adding extra landscaping or a custom arbor that can stay on-site after the event.”

Aside from the all-important task of strategically trying to pick a rain-free day, there are other things to consider. Think about traffic flow. If you have space, designate different areas for various functions, like a table set up with a special mini cocktail for guests as they arrive, a focal point setting for the ceremony, or an area for a relaxing after-party. “When you’re later into the season, it’s really important to have heating elements when the sun has gone down,” said Reavey. “Fire pits can also be a great option for the end of the night if people might want a quiet place to sit and chat.”

Adding lighting from multitudes of candles to pathway lights is also an easy way to transform your space. “If it’s in your backyard, to make it really special, lighting is critical,” said Marina Birch, principal at Birch Design Studio in Chicago, whose boutique firm has been recognized on a national scale for producing inspired, bespoke events.

“When people think about decor, they usually think about flowers or whatever is going on the tables, but I think that the best bang for your buck is to bring in some lighting,” Birch said. “Lighting the existing landscaping that you have, whether its trees, grass, or flowers, is a great way to make it feel really special. Even color-changing lights, so that you come in and there’s one mood, maybe is very romantic, and as the night goes on, you can be more fun with changing colors, texture and pattern.”

Birch suggests putting down a floor in places like the cocktail area, under the dinner tables, or the aisle – if there’s going to be a formal aisle. “We always recommend floor aspects for an outdoor wedding, they give guests a reprieve from walking on grass,” she said. “Grass can hold water for a few days, so if it rained two days before, the yard could become muddy with even 50 people walking on it.”

She also recommends heel protectors that not only protect your guests’ heels and your grass, but also prevent people from sinking into the lawn.

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