In November 2017, high on a hill in Queanbeyan, 160 people converged on a backyard to watch my husband Mark and I declare a commitment to each other for life. The vows were packed with Metallica lyrics. The reception, a 90s RnB dream.
Our wedding venue was my parents’ massive backyard on Surveyor Street; about 350sqm decked out in wine barrel tables and hay bales. I loved the idea of a backyard wedding; my parents were married in a backyard in 1980 and I loved that I could have our ceremony, photos and reception in one place.
It was an incredible event but I learnt some things along the way. Here are my pros and cons of a backyard wedding.
Pro: No venue hire cost.
Probably the number one reason couples opt to exchange vows in a backyard, and it was certainly ours. Even though you purchase food and drink packages for hundreds of guests, the venue still wants to charge you around $1500.
Con: So. Much. RUBBISH.
But what happens when you forego paying for a venue is that you also forego venue staff. Which means someone has to clean up as the party progresses, and, even worse, someone has to clean up the next day, probably while nursing the hangover from hell. We paid a cleaner to clean up as we partied, but mum and dad still had to do a phenomenal amount of work the next day as my husband and I slept in and ate breakfast in our newlywed bubble.
Pro: Free creative reign on venue decoration.
Want to put some retro lounges in the corner of the yard? Sure thing. Want to hang fairy lights from trees to balconies and back again? Go right ahead. A red carpet and a media wall? Done. You can do whatever you like (with the home owner’s permission, of course) when you decorate a backyard and this was by far my favourite part of hosting at home.
Con: The home owner becomes first aid / barman / concierge.
From ‘Where’s a mirror?’ to ‘There’s no wine left!’ (there was) and ‘Where’s the toilet?’ my poor mum spent most of her night inside the house, fielding questions from our more than 160 guests. I was oblivious, of course, but be conscious that the home owner is going to cop every question, including first aid queries.
Pro: A super casual vibe that feels like a warm family embrace.
There’s honestly nothing more beautiful than being welcomed into someone’s home, being fed and watered, and meeting the other people important to the host family. In that sense, our wedding was perfect. People could come and go as they pleased, make a cup of tea if they wanted one, and the children we did allow to come could be put in a comfortable bed with an iPad.
Con: Your neighbours call the cops.
Despite placing courtesy flyers in neighbours’ letterboxes in the days leading up to our wedding (in fact, we did the first run about two months out so they could opt to go away for the weekend), they were still pretty annoyed by the noise. The police were called and attended at around 11pm, but we finished up at midnight anyway. If you think a backyard wedding means staying and partying until the wee hours of the morning, you’re wrong.
Pro: You can select your own food and drink suppliers.
If you’re not a fan of the sit-down prawn cocktail / beef roast / wedding cake for dessert combo, a backyard wedding means you can design your own food experience. And please don’t think you’re limited to a spit roast; we actually had Mr Papa’s and his famous Peruvian street food van parked in the driveway and it was amazing. We also bought cases of the beer, cider and wine we knew our guests loved.
Con: Fridges and electricity need to be sourced.
Keeping the drinks cold, and the DJ and fairy lights powered is a major challenge in a backyard.
The verdict: For me, atmosphere is everything. And a backyard wedding captured the informal, fun and creative approach I try to take to pretty much everything in life. I’d definitely have a backyard wedding over a venue wedding again (not that there’ll be another opportunity!)