There is something so meaningful about backyard wedding ceremonies. For us, having a wedding ceremony at home let us celebrate how wonderful life already is instead of celebrating somewhere unfamiliar. I hope our simple backyard wedding ceremony will inspire you to host a ceremony and wedding reception at home!
All photos in this post are courtesy of Lightwell Photography (Victoria, BC) and cannot be reproduced without permission.
Our Backyard Wedding
My husband and I were married in the summer of 2015. We hosted the wedding ceremony at home in the backyard. Our goal was to host a simple, relaxed event.
We invited friends and family, and we wanted our guests to have fun! We also didn’t want to spend too long planning our wedding (or paying for it!). Our backyard wedding turned into a garden party BBQ which happened to include a wedding ceremony :)
This post is all about how our backyard wedding ceremony and reception turned out. For the details about how we actually planned and hosted the wedding, plus what it ended up costing, check out this how-to post about hosting a DIY wedding.
Hosting a backyard wedding ceremony
Shortly before the wedding, we moved to the country where we were able to buy a family home for the price of a condo in the city. Our house is a heritage home with a yard full of trees and little gardens. Since we moved in right before the wedding, all we had time to do was put a fresh coat of white paint on the interior walls and the front fence. It wasn’t expensive or fancy, but it really did clean things up.
We are lucky to have a total of about 0.4 of an acre, which was enough to host about 100 guests. In our town that’s 2 city lots, but we are fairly rural so I think real city lots might be smaller. If we had a smaller yard, I would have done pretty much the same thing but just invited fewer people. The guest list tends not to get out of control when there is a limited amount of space!
Setting up a wedding ceremony at home
We held the wedding ceremony and reception entirely in the backyard without much of a fuss. There was even room to build a large dance floor out of plywood, which also served as a platform for the wedding ceremony to get us up off the grass.
We didn’t get too fancy with the wedding ceremony decorations, as the ceremony area became the reception area. We put up some timbers on either side of the aisle for a woodsy wedding vibe and added some fresh greenery right before the event. We hung some white linen from the treehouse in the corner of the yard as a backdrop. Our wedding ceremony decorations were not expensive, but they did make things look a little more festive.
The bridal party of lifelong friends
My bridesmaids were all childhood friends and family. I LOVE these girls! We kept it simple with cotton and linen dresses from one of my favorite clothing stores rather than formal bridesmaid dresses. It’s way too hot outside for synthetic fabrics anyways!
Garden wedding ideas
As an avid gardener, I tried to add little touches of nature wherever I could. I wore a sprig of rosemary from my garden in my hair. It complemented the dark green we used in the wedding decor and also smelled amazing! Hilariously I forgot to bring the rosemary to the salon in the morning. Thank goodness for bridesmaids who know their herbs (and small towns where everything is within walking distance)!
The boys wore herb boutonnieres made by a wonderful local organic flower farmer. They had a lovely scent and held up well throughout the day without wilting in the sun. I’m not sure that boutonnieres are entirely necessary for a wedding, but if you do have them, they don’t need to be a bunch of flowers! They can just be a few sprigs of greenery from the garden.
The perks of a wedding ceremony at home
One of the best parts about getting married in your own backyard is that you can get ready at home without the bother of transportation. I really liked the comfort of being at home getting ready with my bridesmaids while also being able to keep an eye on the setup happening in the yard.
Check out how beautiful my bridesmaids are! They are probably smiling because I let them choose their own dresses ;) Honestly, though, I think it’s important to really consider the well-being of your wedding party and guests. If no one had any fun at my wedding, I’d rather just elope and save everyone the bother. If you’re lucky enough to have the wonderful help and support of family and friends for your wedding, treat them well!
Simple backyard wedding flowers
Our flowers were in line with the informal vibe of a backyard wedding. The bouquets were pretty wild…full of dark green foliage and simple white flowers. Everything was local and organic, which made me feel good about the footprint of our backyard wedding.
I briefly considered trying to grow and collect my own bouquets but decided that the stress was not worth it! I’m so glad I didn’t put that pressure on myself and left the flowers up to a proper flower farmer with event experience. I’m not sure I could have properly captured the casual elegance of a garden party or the magic of a woodsy wedding with DIY flowers. Things were busy enough getting the backyard ready!
Garden wedding ideas: Fresh cut garden greenery
Wedding bouquets don’t have to be formal! I do love big, formal bouquets, but they didn’t really suit a relaxed backyard wedding ceremony. These garden bouquets were far more appropriate for a welcoming gathering at home. We put them out in vases after the ceremony where they doubled as wedding reception decorations.
My bridal bouquet was almost all foliage, with just a bit of Queen Anne’s Lace, some white Scabiosa, and a Cafe Au Lait Dahlia. I had originally hoped for peonies, but then we scheduled our wedding for August (definitely not peony season here!). The dahlias were gorgeous and ended up totally fitting.
Easy greenery swags and table runners
We did have some lovely floral touches around the house and the yard, including this foliage table runner in our office. It was made by the same organic farmer/florist who put together our wedding party flowers and foliage bouquets.
My aunts put together an absolutely stunning greenery swag for the front of our house. I could see the greenery swag in my mind in the weeks before the ceremony…and reality totally outdid my dreams. I LOVED it! The swag ended up being one of my favorite garden wedding ideas. Now I put up an evergreen swag on the porch for the holidays because it reminds me of our wedding.
Backyard wedding ceremony
We held the ceremony in the late afternoon. It can be quite hot in our area in August, especially during mid-day, so I wanted to let the real heat of the day pass before we started the ceremony. The boys wore suits, so it was good that we didn’t hold our wedding at noon!
I wasn’t at all nervous before the wedding, and I think that half of that was because we were at home rather than in some strange place. We were in a comfortable setting surrounded by our closest family and friends (and my garden lol)…what could be better!?
Another perk of getting married at home
When you have a wedding at home, you don’t forget that you’re actually hosting guests rather than just smiling for the camera all day. Having a backyard wedding ceremony in the late afternoon also got rid of that weird gap between the ceremony and the reception. Since we did a lot of our photos before the ceremony, we were able to start the party as soon as we walked back down the aisle! Yay :)
Dark green photo backdrops
One of the benefits of getting married outdoors is that many of the photos have a nice blurry dark green backdrop. We chose dark green as the color for our wedding ceremony decorations because I love dark green, but also because it would be easy to coordinate. The foliage is dark green, the photo backdrops were lush greenery, and the herbs and other decor were various shades of forest green. Easy peasy!
Hosting a wedding reception at home
Here’s the whole wedding party on the front steps of our house. Most of the wedding activity happened in the backyard, but we did use the front of the house for photos and as a welcome reception area when guests first arrived. In the photo above you can see the foliage swag that my aunts made! I love it still…so much.
Backyard wedding food and drink
Immediately after the ceremony, we had trays of appetizers available for guests on the deck. We set the tables up like a “Farmers Market”, with local fruit and vegetables in market boxes with little market cartons that guests could use to collect their snacks.
We also had charcuterie boards of cheeses and meats to go with the wine that was served. Everything was super simple…no fancy canapés…just fruit, veggies, charcuterie meat, and cheeses. Having a wedding reception at home means that you can serve whatever food you like from whatever stores/restaurants you like rather than going with a set menu. There’s a ton more about the food and drink for our backyard wedding reception in this behind-the-scenes post.
Hosting a casual wedding reception at home
Dinner was served informally over an hour or two. Rather than having named place settings for everyone, we just set up some long white tables where anyone could grab a bite and sit down for a few minutes.
We didn’t have speeches or a flower toss or that sort of thing, so missing the formal dinner was a non-issue for us. We served dinner in this way to keep our backyard wedding feeling more like a party than like a stuffy reception.
Garden wedding ideas: A simple cake decorated with foliage and flowers
My aunt and my mom made a garden party cake for us. It was perfectly simple, with just a bit of foliage around the base and some tiny white roses from the local flower shop on top. I completely left them up to their own devices on the cake, and am so glad I did! It matched the wedding ceremony decorations perfectly.
Backyard wedding reception: The party starts
My brother was in charge of drinks and he did a great job. Guests had a choice of prosecco or sparkling water before the ceremony as a welcome drink, then local sparkling wine after the ceremony, followed by a selection of mainly local beers and wines for the rest of the evening. We did have a scotch bar later on in the evening, but for the most part, kept the drinks simple.
And yes, rather than having a bunch of coolers around for the drinks, my brother filled our entire hot tub with ice and bottled drinks….and it worked. It worked well! (We did pre-cool everything in borrowed fridges).
Backyard wedding party!
Another fun thing about getting married in the backyard was that we could make a giant photo backdrop and put it up well before the wedding day. One of my lovely bridesmaids created it for us out of green astroturf with white tissue paper flowers. It was off to the side, so people could take a few minutes and snap some photos. It was hilarious to see the photos on Instagram afterward!
I came up with the astroturf photo backdrop months before the wedding, but kind of put it out of my mind (who has astroturf at their wedding!?). Then, by chance, I saw a fancy garden party window at Brooks Brothers when we were getting Kyle’s suit…with an astroturf backdrop. That made me feel a lot better somehow.
Our backyard wedding reception
After dinner, we partied on the dance floor that my husband built with my dad and brother. I am so glad we had a backyard wedding reception because it was just what we needed. It was nice to be outside where the air was cool and with the twinkling lights. It definitely wasn’t a fancy party, but it was the perfect backyard wedding reception for us :)
So there is just a little hint of what our wedding was like. Thank you to everyone who made our backyard wedding possible!
xoxo Mary Jane and Kyle