10 things to Consider When you are Planning a Backyard or Estate Wedding

I don't know what it is, maybe the familiarity or the intimacy, but I just LOVE planning estate and backyard weddings. There are a few key things to think through if you are planning one! I have outlined several things I think through as a planner who commonly works on estate weddings, and think you should too if you are planning a wedding like this: 

1. Power

You didn't think that would be the first one, did you? Power is literally the first thing I mull over when someone tells me they are planning an event in their backyard. Will we get it from the house? A generator? Can we use a spider box? How many watts of electricity does a band set up need? What about a DJ? Oh and BISTRO LIGHTS!!! Is a 20 amp circuit going to cut it? What about 40 amp? (pause: if you are googling any of those terms, you should maybe consider hiring a planner...) You might even need one for the restrooms.... which leads me to.... 

2. Restrooms

That's right, you need a place for those people to do the business side of the partying. It's best to have it there for at least one day prior, and usually needs a water source and electricity to work. They have really nice portable toilets these days that come on trailers and actually look like a bathroom inside. Pretty cool! You should consider that normally women need more toilets than men, so plan accordingly, and don't be scared to ask what the vendor recommends for your guest count!

 photo by  charity maurer  

photo by charity maurer 

3. Noise

Guess what neighbors hate most about backyard weddings?? If you aren't inviting them, a courtesy call or plate of chocolate chip cookies with an in-person greeting and informative discussion is a great idea here. No one wants the cops called on their party! Its a good idea to check with your city or county regulations about the local noise ordinance time, which is why I typically get a....

4. Permit

Depending on the city or county you live in, they may have specific regulations you should know about and adhere to for a larger party or gathering. They don't cost too much, and if the cops are called, in the worst case scenario, there really isn't much they can do about excessive noise if you have a permit, it is earlier than the noise ordinance, and you have a company serving alcohol with a liquor license and liability insurance. 

5. Insurance

Make sure ALL of your vendors have this, and I even recommend you get it yourselves through websites like www.wedsafe.com (just google wedding insurance and a few sites will come up) That way if anything crazy happens, everyone is covered by general or event insurance policies. 

 photo by  sarah kathleen

6. Parking

Valets and shuttles are great for this problem. Most backyards don't have 50 car spaces nearby so a valet service is a good bet. They are pricey so please make sure to budget for them in the very beginning of you planning process. Shuttles typically cary a minimum amount of hours you can hire them for (I usually see 3-5 hour minimums for larger shuttles) so if you plan to have a majority of guests stay in one nearby hotel, the shuttles might be worth considering as well. Just make sure if you have to plan for the shuttle to make multiple trips that you allow for about 10 minutes of load in/load out time and that you don't have guests arriving 2 hours before the wedding just so the shuttle can make another trip!

7. Set up, Strike... and Garbage!

I love that rentals can be delivered and picked up on non-standard days of the week for estate weddings. Should you be wise enough to hire a planner, it is a good idea to plan for them to be there when the rentals arrive so they can account for all of the items. Hopefully between your catering crew and planner, a majority of strike (clean up) should be managed or at least in stacks/crates but the time the event concludes. Oh, and that lovely MASSIVE pile of garbage and recycling needs to go someplace, and usually people don't think about that. If you have a legitimate caterer they might remove it for you, but if you are doing something like a food truck at your wedding, I would HIGHLY recommend you come up with a plan for the waste disposal. No, it's not your planner's job to take it to the dump....yes I have done that before... 

8. Yard Maintenance

If this is your home or the home of someone you know, they may feel some burden of making the yard nicer than it is, or make improvements. Your wedding might be a great excuse to do what the hosts have wanted to do for a long time, but it might not. I recommend offering to put some of the budget towards helping with those items as a courtesy so you know where the hosts stand. Especially if you plan to make fun requests like, "Please plant 40 white rose bushes back in that corner so all you see is white roses when we get married!"

 photo by  Rachelle Derouin

9. Kitchen

Not all kitchens are suited for a full scale catering kitchen. Even with 25 guests, they might still need to bring in some equipment. In an ideal world, you don't have to do what they call a "kitchen build-out" which means a tent, lighting, stoves, hot boxes, etc depending on what they are catering. Oh and LOTS of tables - you will be surprised how many they need prep, platting, bussing, etc. 

10. Alcohol

Please PLEASE do yourself a big favor and have someone serve alcohol who has a liquor license. It could save you so much headache if for some reason a guest becomes overly intoxicated or heaven forbid gets into a drunk driving accident on their way home. Licensed bar tenders are trained to know when to cut people off, and as a planner, I have my eyes out for anyone who appears to have had too much to drink. I always have a plan for an Uber or Lyft if I have cell reception, and like to arrange for a small van or sedan to have in the later hours of an event where there is no reception or wifi just in case we need to give a ride to someone in need. 

Did I say 10 things? I meant 11... this one is important!

11. WEATHER PLAN B

Watch the weather report like a hawk! You can look up historical weather patterns on the same day you plan to get married in that area of town. I recommend you at least have a plan in case something crazy comes out of left field. If you are getting married din a place that s known to be windy, maybe think about having low, heavy centerpieces. I have literally had tables fly across an event space and everything comes crashing down (and breaking) which is why you should always order at least 10-15 extra of everything tableware on your rental order BTW!) If it rains, will it be OK for everyone to go inside? Have you ordered heaters in case it is cold? or fans in case it is hot? Certainly a lot to think about!