We like weddings, but we love back yard weddings. There’s a certain kind of charm in walking up to a property that you know in the next few hours will transform into a temporary wedding venue. It’s something very special to meet the bride’s mother amongst family photos and the evidences of love and support lasting a lifetime. On a day as important as this, it’s a heartwarming thing to overhear friends and family talk about their other experiences right here on this same plot of land.
As an industry, the plurality of wedding professionals out there would like weddings to be as consistently packaged and delivered as possible. Your wedding is their product, and they don’t want to have to reinvent the wheel. The wedding venue market is not just about being able to host 150 people at the same time, it’s also about keeping things tidy, from a cost perspective (their cost). Photographers, I think, are often the oddball in this regard. In some respects, we have to ‘reinvent’ our product for every single wedding. So, in general, I think we’re much more eager to see something new, and different and meaningful than are other categories of wedding vendors, for whom such things often mean a smaller profit margin.
You might be rolling your eyes at the perceived hassle or potential cost of all of this, but stick with me for a moment. There are other reasons you might want to go this route. Now, obviously, a prerequisite for this is that you have a back yard you can use. Be it yours, or your parents, or a best friend.
They can be less expensive
Yes, you read that right. A backyard wedding (and I don’t mean something sloppy or just get-it-done quality), can in fact be less expensive than a professional wedding venue. A professional venue, ripe with the services you’d expect, is going to cost at least six or seven thousand dollars—on the low end. Then there’s still catering and rentals. Most couples end up spending around $20k for these things alone, and the venue often makes up the lion’s share.
With half that much, you could do some landscaping to liven up the property, have some light remodeling done to spruce up the interior, and maybe even cover the necessary rentals. And you’d still have $10k to budget for a planner, a killer wedding band, or your dream photographer.
Of course all of this is keeping in mind that if you spend less you’ll probably have to do more, but that’s maybe not such a bad thing, because…
Back yard weddings are the ultimate DIY
Why is DIY such a craze at weddings right now? Two reasons, first it’s cost. It’s cheaper to make something yourself than to buy it from someone else. And second, because after a couple decades of weddings being this prepackaged affair, complete with soft-focus glamor portraits and neon lights, everyone is trying to make this event their own. Everyone wants to infuse as much of their personalities and values into their wedding celebrations as they reasonably can.
It’s not just the bride making invitations or the groom building a unique greeting table out of scrap wood. Consider the popularity of the ‘commemoration table’, where couples are setting up historical portraits of their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and so on. It’s not just about saving money or making something yourself, it’s also honoring personal histories, values and relationships, people.
When seen this way, your own back yard, which in many ways DIY’d you, is practically the ultimate DIY venture you can undertake. Literally everything around you on the wedding day will be of personal significance. Everything will be laced with some history, and memories that, in some respect, make you who you are today. And, perhaps more importantly, it will leave a mark on you, your friends and family for many years to come—maybe forever. When you visit that back yard in the future, it will forever be the place you got married.
It’s over when you say it’s over
In as much as the back yard wedding highlights who you are, it also gives you maximum control over how this day unfolds. When it starts, when it ends, where you can and can’t go. What you can and can’t do.
A professional wedding venue is going to give you a certain slot of time, and when it’s up, you’ve gotta get out of there. If you’ve ever been in a reception hall at the end of the night, with bright florescent lights blaring and guests still dancing, you know how much it sucks to have to close down a wedding before it naturally comes to and end. In fact, a great deal of your planning efforts will be aimed at making sure these timetables are met perfectly. The venue is the reason the first dance has to happen at exactly ‘8:05pm’, and the reason the cake must be cut no later than ‘9:15pm’, rather than just ‘when the moment feels right’.
A backyard wedding hardly even needs a ‘timeline’ (though, we strongly suggest you have one any way). Because you’re calling the shots. Perhaps you’re starving by the time you get to the reception, and maybe you do the father-daughter dance a little later. Maybe the kids are having an anxious panic attack looking at a cake they get to eat a little later, and you decide to go ahead and cut into it now. Do that at a professional venue and their day of coordinator’s hair starts falling out. Do that at home and who cares? It’s your wedding.
A Caveat: Hire Experienced Professionals
When you plan a back yard wedding, it becomes more important to hire experienced professionals in the other areas; people who can maintain professionalism while going with the flow.
Your DJ needs to have an idea of what’s going on, but ready to change course at any moment. Your filmmaker and photographer need to be easy going, but strong willed enough to get the shots they need, and you’re expecting. This shouldn’t be your caterer’s first rodeo. This is not the job for someone new, it’s a job for someone who has been around the block a few times and knows the many ways things can go wrong—with or without a plan. And, they need to be organized enough not to forget things as demands shift around organically through out the day and evening.
We’d love to work with you on your back yard wedding!
Like I said, we absolutely love back yard weddings. Sure, they’re a little more challenging from our perspective, but it’s 100% worth it. The images, even when they’re a little imperfect, carry a significance and sentimentality that’s almost never reproduced on the generic properties of professional venues.