Tips for Planning the Perfect California Backyard Wedding

Backyard weddings are some of my favorite weddings to photograph! Especially in sunny California, where we get amazing summer weather nearly 11 months out of the year! Having a backyard wedding is one of the best ways to enjoy the beautiful outdoors in our Sunshine state. Plus, with so many weddings happening post-pandemic, tons of outdoor venues are booked out for months! Why not have a backyard wedding, where you can customize everything to perfectly fit your wedding aesthetic (and you don’t have to worry about all the venue rules)? Wondering what goes into planning a backyard wedding? Let’s walk through some of my tips for planning a California backyard wedding! 

Before the Wedding

You’re definitely going to need an indoor area for getting ready before you walk down the aisle! With a backyard wedding, the getting ready area can either be in a bedroom or the living room of the home. Choose a getting ready room that has plenty of natural light, your photographer will thank you for it! If you can’t use a room in the home, ask a nearby friend or family member if you can use their home. Or, rent a popup canopy to use as a getting ready area. Be sure to use one with sidewalls and windows, like this one (make sure to get a white one 😉 ), to allow plenty of natural light in! Feel like splurging? Rent a nearby Air BnB!

Photos Before the Ceremony

Set your first look photos and group portraits apart by creating a unique backdrop and space for these. Not only will this make your photos look amazing, but it will also provide you with some privacy during your session (no one wants great uncle Bob to barge in on photos of you and your mom). Tight on space? Don’t worry, you don’t need to create a separate area to set the scene. Use ceremony decorations, like a ceremony arch or barn doors at the beginning of the aisle, to create the perfect backdrop for your photos. Or, lean on the natural landscape of the backyard– especially if you have beautiful trees, a water feature, or a landscaped garden you love!

Ceremony & Ceremony Decor

With a backyard wedding, it’s important to make sure that all of your ceremony decor can work double-duty, especially if you’re trying to optimize the space you have! If your backyard is big enough for both the ceremony and reception set up at once, that’s great! But, it’s more likely that you’ll need to switch out the ceremony decor for reception decor between the two. In that case, it’s important to have a plan to quickly transition the space after you exchange your “I Do’s”. 

I recommend decor that’s easy to set up and functions as both ceremony and reception decor, like these beautiful chairs– perfect for guests to sit in while you walk down the aisle, and again as they enjoy their meal at the reception! Another ceremony decor piece that’s perfect for your reception? A beautiful accent wall backdrop complete with a neon sign! Not only is this the perfect spot for pre-ceremony photos, but it’s also a great photobooth backdrop for your guests, or a beautiful background for your sweetheart table at the reception. With a little bit of help from your guests and wedding party and some multi-use decor, your backyard wedding venue can easily transition from ceremony to reception!

Reception

With a backyard wedding, I think it’s important to let the beautiful California outdoors shine, so less is more! When you’re planning out your reception layout, be sure to have some shaded spots to keep the food, drinks and wedding cake! Use a sheltered patio area attached to the house, or add a temporary pergola structure to provide shade. I also recommend using plenty of signage to help guests navigate the backyard space– you can even use double-sided signs to cut down on environmental impact and cost! Florals and decoration are completely up to you and your dream wedding style, but I think greenery matches perfectly with a backyard-style wedding! Use it to spruce up accent tables, dining tables, the cake, and any surrounding decor elements that need something extra!

As far as what to serve at your reception– simpler is better! Take the backyard theme and serve backyard favorites like chips and salsa (homemade if you have time) and refreshing drinks. And if you think your wedding cake full of icing will last all night long, think again! Opt for a naked-style cake with minimal icing to make sure your cake stays picture-perfect for your reception!

If you’re loving the backyard wedding feels, check out some more outdoor wedding decoration ideas here

Want even more photo inspiration? Follow me on Instagram to see more, or head to Pinterest for more wedding ideas for your wedding inspiration boards! Need a wedding photographer in the Southern California area? Click here to book me. 

Have fun planning your backyard wedding!

Xoxo, Shelby

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