Chris & Lisa’s Wedding in Temecula, California, USA – Photo Courtesy: Eileen Rivard
If your dream wedding venue is, in fact, your own back yard, then live the dream and just go for it. Your garden can be transformed into a gorgeous wedding reception right outside your door. You’ll save money, feel comfortable in your surroundings and have a wedding that is totally unique to you.
From the ceremony to the reception, here are my tips for the perfect wedding in your own back garden:
Prepare for all weather
Marrying outdoors in the UK comes with its fair share of risks – mostly weather related ones. It usually doesn’t matter what time of year it is, the weather is notoriously unpredictable. However, marrying in summer is your best bet for a dry sunny day. Even if there are showers, the heat in July or August generally dries things out again quickly.
You and your guests will need shelter either from rain or from high sun, so hire a marquee or hang a covering from the side of the house out over the garden in a gazebo-esque style. You don’t need to use this area for the entirety of the day if the weather is fine. Make this the dining space, which can be used for all other activity in the event of rain. Hire flooring to reduce the impact of many feet on soft grass or you’ll quickly end up with muddy shoes and a ruined lawn.
Another factor to prepare for is the wind. Even a light breeze can disrupt things such as your hair or have all the ladies clinging to the bottom of their dresses. Decorations, including table clothes, should be secured tightly. Choose a dress that hangs well. Dresses with beading tend to hang well and stay put in the wind. However you don’t have to compromise on design; instead have your seamstress sow small weights into the hem of your dress and those of your brides’ maids’. FYI, this is the secret to why Coco Chanel’s famous suit always falls so nicely.
Be aware that a wedding in your garden isn’t legally binding (at least not in England). You’ll also need to organise the registry portion of the wedding which most couples choose to arrange for the day before or the morning of their ceremony. This is fairly straight forward; notify your local registry in good time that you are getting married. Marriage banns still have to be displayed for 15 days prior to the wedding. You can apply for your marriage certificate online. You then need to go to the registry office at your appointed time with your fiancé and your witnesses to perform the formalities.
Chairs for guests at a wedding in Palos Heights, Illinois, USA – Photo Courtesy: John
Once these basic practicalities have been accounted for, you can get on with the dream wedding of your own design. Make the most of your garden and pick the most intimate spot to hold a blessing. If you have an area of trees, stream or water feature, set yourselves close to this spot. If you don’t have a focal point then you could commission a leafy bower to be made as a backdrop.
Rather than placing chairs all over the lawn in formal rows, simply arrange your guests around or in front of you, standing to view the blessing. Blessings are generally shorter than traditional church ceremonies, so your guests shouldn’t get tired but it’s a good idea to provide chairs for elderly or infirm guests.
Don’t forget the power
Even if your garden is close to your main house, you’ll need a dedicated power supply for the outdoor wedding reception. Don’t simply use extension cords passed through windows and doors; this isn’t safe for a number of reasons. Firstly you need special extension cords for outdoor use and secondly you may overload the plug board with the demands of your reception.
You need power for lights, music, the bar and potentially the catering. Generator rental is pretty much the only way to go if you don’t want to be left in the dark. Ask the hire company about how noisy the generator will be – older models are very loud. Try to account for everything that will require power and then convey this to the hire company; they should be able to advise on the best package for your needs.
When setting up, make sure all wires are safely out of the way. In the dark these can be very hazardous!
Food and drinks
Now that you’ve got a generator organised, making provisions for keeping food and drink hot or cold is much simpler. You can now hire a mobile bar equiped with refrigeration units and your caterers can bring hot cupboards and fridges.
Choose a dining style that suits the informality of an outdoor wedding. You could have a buffet but this tends to take up a lot of space and means your guests have to queue for food. Instead arrange for food to be placed on the tables in large sharing bowls and on platters so that guests are still helping themselves but remain seated. This is a very social style of dining that should get all your guests interacting with each other.
An outdoor summer wedding is crying out for light wholesome food like Mediterranean or Middle Eastern spiced meat and fish served alongside substantial salads.
To drink, provide chilled bottles of white wine and Mexican or Spanish bottled beers to keep everyone refreshed. Traditional cloudy lemonade is an appropriate summer soft drink. If hiring a mobile bar, the hire company will provide a list of their regular drinks. Ask if they can accommodate some signature cocktails made with your favourite tipple e.g. whiskey or gin based cocktails.
Provide something to do at your drinks reception. Lawn games are a perfect accompaniment to an outdoor wedding and won’t cost much to implement. Boules, ring toss and giant chess can either be hired or made.
Dance & fun start at the Gordillo wedding with David kissing his beautiful bride Elideth in Houston, Texas – Photo Courtesy: David Gordillo
Speeches form part of your entertainment. Most couples choose to schedule these for just after dinner while everyone is still seated. It’ll be more entertaining for you if you don’t know what is going to be said, so trust your speakers and don’t ask for a sneak peak. The set up for your band will also be useful for the speeches. In an outdoor setting, it can be harder to hear as voices get lost in the wide space so make sure that even if the dining space is small that speeches are made with a microphone. Your vows and any readings during the ceremony would also benefit from microphones.
Position the band or DJ near to the dining area, then after dinner move your guests onto the lawn so the dining area can be cleared to create a dance floor (remember the flooring I recommended earlier). Dance the night away!