Backyard Blues

Caroline Hax, who writes an advice column for The Washington Post, recently answered a question from a bride who wanted to have a “small backyard wedding with about 75 guests” in her grandmother’s backyard. The bride thought that such a gathering was no big deal, which is to say that she said that all they would need to do is “get some chairs and everything will work out.”

Can you see where this is going?

As it happened, the bride’s family was far more aware of what a wedding for 75 guests requires, as well as the impact that an event of that size can have on the property and the neighborhood. 

The bride didn’t like that thinking at all. So, with high hopes, she appealed to Caroline Hax to help her stop the family from complicating her “simple backyard wedding”.   

To her eternal credit, Hax set the bride straight on a number of things, with parking, peeing, and permission leading a long list of logistical concerns that need to be considered and managed.

In a world filled with fantasy visions that are reinforced by Pinterest and Instagram, it’s easy to imagine things happening magically. We think that everyone will be light as fairies (and dressed to match!), twinkle lights will appear all around us, and that food and drink service just, somehow, happens. We believe that our beautifully-attired, sweet, and considerate wedding guests will do all of the things that we want them to do, and none of the things that we don’t want to have happen. 

It’s a lovely fantasy. And so, so, not grounded in reality.

Size Matters

The greater the number of people involved in a thing, the more complicated the thing is to plan and execute, and the greater the impact of the thing on the venue. Weddings follow this rule in every way.

Details, Details, Details…

Planning for that backyard wedding needs to take into consideration the condition of the property prior to the wedding, what needs to be done to make it just so, what kind of wear and tear will result from even the most well-behaved guests’ presence under the best of conditions, and how to restore the property to its original condition afterward. 

All of those people need to be fed and watered, so the plan needs to include a food preparation space, a place to serve all of that food, and of course, trash collection and removal. 

What goes in must come out, so unless there are several bathrooms available (and even if there are), you’ll want portable facilites that are inviting enough to get people to use them. Fun fact: I was present for a backyard wedding where the septic system was overrun. We had the pleasure of watching the honeypot truck do its work while we dined al fresco in the Plan B section of the yard…

You’ll want to have tables and chairs, of course, and maybe a second set of chairs for your ceremony. While you can use plastic tablecloths (ick!), or bare tables (double ick!), it’s worth the expense to rent or borrow nice cloth table linens.

Parking is also a consideration. Wedding guests often arrive in pairs, so for that 75-guest wedding, about 35 cars would have to be put somewhere.

If it rains — and I assure you, it does — you’ll want to be ready. Perhaps a tent is in order. Once an event grows larger than a couple of dozen guests, the kind of tent you’ll want is best put up and taken down by a professional tent company. 

Many Hands Make Light Work

Someone, or more accurately, a group of someones, need to make all of this happen. There are things to go get, things to set up, and things to take down and return just before, on, and the day after the wedding. Someone has to prepare and serve the food and drink, manage the trash, and keep the party running smoothly. Anticipate whole days of preparation.

Of course, the people who are likely to be doing all of this work — your parents and siblings and besties — are also the people you’ll want front and center at your wedding, cool, calm and collected, and in their pretty clothes. Of all that’s required to create a great do-it-yourself wedding, getting everything done while not driving everyone you love to exhaustion is the greatest challenge. 

The Bottom Line

There’s more, but you get the idea. There is a lot to think about. Even the smallest of backyard weddings will take a fair amount of planning. And depending on the size of your backyard wedding, the costs can be minimal, or as much as or more than using a dedicated event venue. 

So, simple? No, hardly ever. Is it for you? Maybe. It’s all a matter of how you want to spend your time and money to create the perfect wedding for you and your beloved.

David L. Egan is the proprietor and steward of the castle at Chase Court, a wedding and event venue in downtown Baltimore. Visit, and follow ChaseCourtWeddingVenue on Instagram and Pinterest!