Introduction: Backyard Wedding

About: Building design/consulting in Vancouver, WA. Resource based problem solver... in other words, I always take a minute to look in construction dumpsters :) ---the way some have to workout everyday... i have to …

So happy to share our Backyard Wedding!!

We may have pulled off one of the most low stress celebrations in history! Thanks to a simple plan and some good friends :)

Goal. Wedding planning can be overly stressful, complicated, and expensive. We hope this post can help easy some of the pressure....

  • Invitations - how to print invites for 10% the cost of discount online sites
  • Flowers - simple approach to arrangements
  • Tables/Atmosphere - re-purpose materials for table displays
  • Food - efficiently grill for 40+ people
  • Ceremony - our outline

Throughout the instructable you'll see how we personalized the wedding details to make it special for us.

Step 1: Venue + Colors

We had two starting points. Our Home. Warm Colors.

Our Home.

  • Neighbors - we are so blessed to have the most wonderful neighbors. They provided the beautiful space for the ceremony, didn't mind the chickens walking through their yard and said a beautiful prayer to open the ceremony.
  • Weather - we had a lingering chance of rain all week but were fortunate to have a beautiful day!
  • Yard - the garden can get out of hand... that said, a little TLC and it cleaned right up!
  • Garage/Basement - this was very helpful for accumulating/prepping the items that helped keep down cost.

Warm Colors. As long as my bride had a nice day and a warm color scheme we were off on the right track.

Step 2: Invitations

A little graphic design went a long way.

Graphic Design. Working as a designer it was a fun exercise to put together these invites. Jess was able to share a few examples she liked pulled form online sites. From there it was a matter of working through colors, fonts, language... all the details that tend to take more time than you think.

Working with a local printer... so many people order online at a significant premium. each card cost us an average of $.20... the insert fit around the large ones and were effectively free. same printing on minted/zola/etc would cost after their 30% discount around $2.00... that's 10x the price.

Step 3: Gathering Flowers

The first photo shows our flowers the day after the wedding. The other photos are from the day before. The actual arrangements show up throughout the post and in the next step I walk through the bouquet and boutonniere.

Gathering Flowers. Most of the flowers came from abandoned medical buildings in our very hospital focused town... there are a also a few public trails and neighbors who contributed. Below are the types of flowers we prioritized:

  • Brush/Foliage - Leafs and branches go a long way when creating centerpieces. We didn't have any formal seating so much of the branches were used for a few welcome tables. Had we planned for seating I would have gathered a lot more branches.
  • General Flowers - Fortunately the timing was right for a tree we have everywhere in town to gather the white flowers that look like lilac. Don't know the name and they didn't flower last year but they are beautiful. I incorporated them into every table setup and bouquet.
  • Accent Flowers - Roses, Peonies, Daffodils. These were the real stars. The Peonies came from neighbors who had a few that were still in bloom. The rest were found at the vacant buildings I mentioned.

Step 4: Bouquet & Boutonniere

Arranging. This seems very simple to me... gather general flowers and a few fillers + leaves. Add accent flowers. Tie together with wire or floral tape--apparently they sometimes to sell it at dollartree.

For the boutonniere. Simply use one or two flowers... include a few leaves.. finish with wire or tape. Any old pin works to fix it to a lapel or shirt. ---we recently learned it's not a wedding without a boutonniere!

Step 5: Decorating Supplies

These are the materials I used to make the table displays and personalized details that gave our backyard wedding the homemade feel. The next few steps walk through the preparation and completed tables. ----these details are also everywhere on instagram/pinterest... they are almost worn out (and some probably think they are) but they get a great response!

Most of these items were effectively found or gathered from our local Habitat Restore.

  • Cabinet Door Fronts. Awesome material. The were in a free pile at the restore. They served as table runners and were used to create a tiered setup for our serving table.
  • Pine Cones. These are all over pinterest/instagram. people paint and bleach them... that seemed like a lot of work. Timing was right to pick the green young pine cones as well as collect the mature ones. That worked for us!
  • Lamp Shades. Our Restore throws these out daily. I wasn't able to find any for free but at $.25 they were a real deal. Had we hosted at night they would have been perfect covers for tea candles.
  • Shutters and Frames. We didn't end up using shutters but frames were a huge value. We painted them and didn't hold back on painting over the glass/acrylic

--see next steps for painting and details

Step 6: Frames & Chalkboards

Chalkboard frames are so useful!

We painted mirrors, frames and a few signs. The chalkboard paint was easy to work up against the edge of the painted frames. Primer would have been a better base but semi-gloss interior paint worked fine for this project. ---i've had the chalkboard paint for 5 years! holds up well and I find a use for it about every 6 months... still sitting on 1/2 a can if anyone needs any!

Step 7: Welcome Sign

Probably the hardest part...

Freehand painting isn't easy when you don't have any practice. I used my two finest brushes. The real challenge was matching the size of the names. Fortunately the semi-gloss base was forgiving and I was able to wipe away a first attempt with a wet cloth.

Step 8: Guest Book Table

We had four main tables setup around the house.
This first one was home to the guestbook and a message board.

Guestbook. No one wrote in it... ha!! That's because the message board was more fun!

Message Board. We used a old corkboard, pins and paint samples! The paint samples were gathered from a big box store and made for a fun way to add color. This came out of our initial planning where we used paint samples to pick our color scheme. ---doing building design work I loved fitting in the paint samples

Step 9: Welcome Table

The welcome table was the first thing guests saw as they walked up to the house. It was a nice way to share the wedding spirit with flowers and a few wedding favors.

Step 10: The Bar

We had a huge amount of help here from a couple of friends who love hosting a bar!!

A few details that went a long way...

  • Drink Menu - this was the main use for the chalkboards! It made it super fun to be able to have a few cocktails ready for people to order. There were other mixers but it was very easy to stock two types of lemonade and simple syrup.
  • Drink Service - our friend Alex really was incredible. He had fun serving up drinks. That's the best part about a homemade wedding is you get to have fun with it! Alex even came with his own bottle top pourers! ---they are super easy to pickup and I've learned shouldn't cost more than $1
  • Costco Alcohol - so reasonable... we aren't big drinkers and were super impressed with the very good and very reasonably priced selection
  • Cut Fruit - such a simple way to add color and freshness to the drinks
  • Homemade Ice - We have a lot of mint...
  • Pitchers and Dispensers - the pitchers and dispensers make it very easy for the bartender so that there is never a line.

Step 11: Buffet Table

More on the food to come!

It was great to be able to pass food and drinks our our kitchen window. We simply propped a hallow core door on tall saw horses.

Yes, the table clothes are bed sheets... old sheet from hosting airbnb years ago... simply tie the ends or use a few pins to hide the edges.

---can't believe we didn't get a picture of the wedding cake Jess made. A portion of the lemon cake shows up in the second photo behind the black sesame buns.

Step 12: Procession & Ceremony

Probably the reason we hosted the wedding!! We had our backyard chickens walk down to the aisle. We also had help from some very lovely flower girls.

Music... we used a bluetooth speaker to play a mix of wedding songs. A friend jumped in as dj which made it very easy... He just needed a cue to begin.


  • Guests first walked over to our neighbors yard.
  • Flower Girls - We had two friends daughters walk down the aisle. They used peony flower petals we gathered together from our neighbors bush when they arrived.
  • Chickens - Yes! Our ladies walked down the aisle. A few friends kids who are very comfortable with chickens used mealworms to keep the ladies moving along and occupied during the ceremony. The ladies wouldn't tolerate the little neckties another neighbor had made.
  • Groom + Bride


  • Welcome
  • Blessing
  • The Bride spoke beautifully!
  • ----Excitement for life together!!

The Aisle. A couple of dowels were spaced about 4'. From there old dock lines from a boat we sailed in Chicago were used for the runner.

The Pergola. The structure on our neighbor's yard is something we helped build back in 2017. The experience makes the wedding even more special for us.

Step 13: Food Prep - Day Before

We started food prep a day before. If we'd had a deep freeze we would have used the weekend before but were out of space. Here's the quick list of food we made.


  • Bean Dip - White Bean Hummus
  • BBQ Chicken - the photos show a test of the chicken... they didn't last long enough for a photo
  • BBQ Ribs - a photo is shown in the next step. there's also a post from last summer on how to grill ribs


  • Wedding Cake - Jess made a beautiful lemon cake with a white frosting topped with candied lemons
  • Lemon + Poppy Bunt - yes, we like lemon
  • Rhubarb + Blueberry Cake - very similar to Jess's blueberry cake just with half rhubarb.

We setup the celebration as a potluck. On the invite we added, 'no gifts. please bring a side dish or a drink'.

Step 14: Food ---didn't Last Long!

The action made it difficult to take photos...

Here are a few shots form the table a friend was able to take... you can see the ribs, lemon wedding cake and me getting started on the grill.

Quantities... Happy to say that we still had 1/2 a slab of ribs leftover after making 4 slabs... we were 40 adults and 15 kids... I think the 4 slabs, 10lbs of drumsticks and unlimited hummus + pita was a good starting point. We also had a lot of fruit and cake.

Step 15: Final Thoughts

Hope you enjoy the post!! We love our backyard wedding and found it to be remarkably easier to host than the full wedding we have planned for the fall.

Friends are always happy to get involved with weddings and when you can use your house it is so much easier to incorporate details that mater to you than at a 'proper' wedding venue.

We are not professional wedding planners but Jess keeps joking that my building design firm name lends itself to wedding planning.... PlanTheSpace!

Thanks for being apart of our big day!
If you reach this page while planning your own wedding - good luck! Happy to address any questions or help with anything specific you're working through... we are actually starting to enjoy wedding planning :)

The Newlyweds!!

Jeff & Jess

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