really strong wedding trend at the moment is that
micro-weddings, intimate weddings, and elopements
are becoming more and more popular. Hand-in-hand
with this is the growing popularity of getting
married at home in your own backyard (or in the
backyard of a generous friend or family member.
This photograph is of the ceremony space for a
recent wedding I officiated. The couple married in
the bride's grandparents' backyard.
Benefits of backyard
The benefits of holding your wedding in your own
backyard are many, and varied, but they all add up
to two things - a backyard wedding is easy on
the budget, and it gives you the ultimate
opportunity create a more relaxed, more personal
feel to your wedding. The ready availability of
civil celebrants means that you are not restricted
by the availability and requirements of a church or
Registry Office. And you are not competing with any
other couple for the venue.
A backyard wedding gives you the ultimate
flexibility when choosing your wedding date.
Not having to compete with others for your
chosen venue means that you do not have to book
months, or even years ahead.
You wedding plans are not going to be thrown
into disarray by your venue going out of
business or being unavailable on the day for
some other reason.
A backyard wedding is easier on the budget -
no minimum spend, for example, and no need to
lock up considerable amounts of money in
You have complete freedom of choice when it
comes to catering, styling, and other wedding
service providers. Many venues restrict couples
to use of the venue's preferred suppliers.
You have a homemade cake, food-favours,
and catering. Many venues, for legal reasons,
ban supply of any food, including wedding cakes,
that has not been prepared in a licensed
There are no venue rules you have to abide by,
so you can set up are far ahead as you wish,
leave removal of decorations or furniture until
the next day if you wish, and party on as long
as you like (observing local noise ordinances,
Assessing the space
One of the first things you need to do is to assess
the space for suitability and to consider how you
can make it both practical and beautiful on the day.
What will be blooming in your garden at the
time of the wedding? If you have any deciduous
trees, will they have leaves or not?
How big is the usable space? How many guests
will it comfortably hold? And how big a bridal
party will fit into the ceremony space?
What time of the day will the ceremony space
be shaded? Being in shade is very important to
ensuring the comfort of all concerned. Being in
full sun is not only bad for the photos (you’ll
squint!) but can lead to heat illness which is
dangerous. Check the ceremony space and set-up
at the time of the day you are having the
ceremony. A ceremony space that is beautifully
shaded in the morning could well be in full sun
and unpleasantly hot and glary for both wedding
party and guests in the afternoon.
Will you provide seats for all of the guests,
some of them, or will everyone be standing for
Will you be able to create an aisle to walk
Where will you put the signing table?
Is there space to create a backdrop, arbour,
arch, or altar? Which will work best?
Is there enough space for live musicians, or
will you be using recorded music?
Will your photographer be able to move round
the perimeter of the space in order to capture
al the action and emotion of the ceremony?
What other decorations would work?
Is there a space where guests can mingle
before the ceremony?
Is there space for a sit down meal?
Is there suitable space for the
Will you be able to supply electricity for a
sound system, mood lighting, and the caterers?
Are there any hazards that need to be fixed to
make the space safe for everyone?
How to ensure it all goes
smoothly on the day
Arrival and introduction of guests
If you are planning to make an entrance,
delegate someone to meet and greet guests as
they arrive. If there are to be a large number
of guests, it may be appropriate to delegate
this task to several people.
Ensure that someone is delegated to introduce
me, your celebrant, to guests who are mentioned
or honoured in the ceremony, so I can be sure to
look at them when I’m talking about or to them
during the ceremony.
The Ceremony Space
People, PA systems and musical instruments
all react badly to heat, direct sunshine, and
rain so you need to plan for both hot and wet
weather. There should be a suitable space either
inside or under cover in case bad weather or
heat prevents holding the ceremony
It is important that your guests are close
enough to where you and the celebrant will be
standing to form an intimate grouping and ensure
that everyone hears and sees the ceremony. The
layout needs to be in place before the guests
Ensure the table for the signing is big enough
to comfortably hold the register, certificates
and anything else that will be used during the
ceremony (candles, etc). A surface at least 60 x
40 cm is needed to comfortably hold the register
and the certificate for signing. If other
ceremony elements, such as candles, are used,
then extra space is required.
Outside ceremonies are subject to all manner
of external noise disturbances such as aircraft,
animals, lawnmowers etc. If holding your
ceremony during the day time, you might consider
asking your neighbours to not use their
lawnmowers or power tools for the period of the
ceremony (allow a little leeway either side).
Number of Guests
The maximum number of guests that can be
accommodated to ensure a successful ceremony
depends on both how many guests will fit into
your backyard, but also how many guests will fit
into your indoor/under cover alternative in case
of bad weather.
One toilet per 35 guests is the recommended
ratio. If you don’t have enough toilets to
accommodate your guest numbers consider hiring
portaloos, and placing them somewhere discrete.
Animals and Children
Any domestic animals that could interfere
with the ceremony, or become unsettled by the
guests, should be shut away or put in the
kennels for the day.
Small children can find it difficult to be
quiet and listen to the ceremony. In small
numbers that doesn't bother me one bit, but if
there are to be large numbers of small children
attending you may find it useful to delegate
someone to take care of them away from the
ceremony space. Provision of play leaders or
even a jumping castle has been very successful
in my experience, but something as simple as a
child-friendly video and a ‘sitter’ works well
Health and Safety
Entrances and exits to the property and to
the ceremony space should be clear and safe to
Constructions in gardens, whether temporary,
such as hired marquees, or permanent, such as
gazebos, should be well erected, properly
secured and safe.
Outside electrical equipment must be safe.
There should be no trailing leads, wires or
cables. Leads and cables should be kept well
away from walkway areas, and firmly taped down.
Garden ponds and pools are a potential hazard
for young children and thus access to them
should be made safe.
To prevent anyone becoming dehydrated, think
about making sure everyone has water or other
non-alcoholic liquid as they arrive.
And don’t forget that the hotter the day, the
more important it is to provide seating!
Check that the domestic insurance policy on
the property where the ceremony is being held
covers third party liability for any visitors to