December 11, 2022

How to Plan a Small Backyard Wedding at Home


I married the love of my life in 2021. We had a small backyard wedding at home (my childhood home on Cape Cod to be exact!) with our immediate families and a few dear friends. We said “I do”, drank champagne, ate oysters, and dove in the sea. It was absolutely perfect.

So many sentimental details went into planning our dream day. But at the core, it was the people who made it. Even though we planned this shindig in about a month, there were elements that made it feel extra special. I hope these tips are helpful to any newly engaged couples just embarking on how to plan a small backyard wedding at home!

Our decision to have an small wedding

We made the decision to have our tiny ceremony while planning our larger wedding reception in Edinburgh, Scotland for June 2022. In order for my husband, Max, to apply for his Green Card, we needed to sign papers in the US to make it official before heading to the UK the following summer. The COVID restrictions at the time complicated things a little, but as soon as we knew that Max’s parents would be able to make the trip to the US from Edinburgh, our hearts were set. We planned our small backyard wedding at home in a month. And to this day, we wouldn’t change a thing!

1. The morning of

One of my favorite parts of the day was the way we spent the morning. Max started his day with a bike ride and I went to get my hair done with my mom and sister. When we both got back, we spent the rest of the morning getting ready together and hanging out with our best friends. I definitely recommend starting your wedding morning intentionally and incorporating things you love if you’re able to! It sets the tone for the whole day.

2. A small guest list

When I say we had a small backyard wedding at home, I really mean small! We celebrated with 15 guests and it couldn’t have been more perfect. Only our immediate families and a few close friends surrounded us. We even had our close friend Ben, officiate the ceremony — which was only fitting since he was the one who introduced Max and me in 2015! So we tied the knot in a total full circle moment with our closest people cheering us on. We loved how very personal the whole day felt to us as a couple.

If you’re hoping to plan a small backyard wedding at home, I highly recommend an intimate guest list! Otherwise, costs for bringing in equipment and all vendors necessary to making your celebration happen start to add up quick. Plus, larger guests counts can sometimes take away from the ease of your day – if that’s something that’s important to you.

3. Intentional details

Our family and friends played a big role in the details that made up our day. Whether it was my siblings making our hors d’oeuvres or incorporating a treasured family memento – each was just as important to us as the other.

Every detail was imbued with love, warmth, and meaning to Max and me. Having a small backyard wedding at home was special in that it let these details shine in their own way, while highlighting the stories behind them.

Some of our favorite details from our day:

The flower backdrop made by my best friend.
The ceremony benches from my childhood home.
The bottle of Lagavulin 16 that I saved from the first time I visited Max in the UK (and we all got to share a few drams from!).
Oysters from our family friends’ farm, which Ben (our friend & officiant) picked up for us.
The charcuterie board made by my siblings.
The old champagne bottle saved from my late grandparents’ first anniversary in 1948.

4. Relaxed timeline of events

One of the perks of having only 15 guests at your wedding is that you don’t really need the traditional timeline. There was no rush to get things done in a certain amount of time. Instead, we just blissfully coasted through our wedding day, enjoying every small moment to the fullest.

When we were imagining our day, Max and I basically asked ourselves, “how would be want to spend our most perfect day?” For us, our “perfect day” is being with friends, drinking Negronis, eating oysters, and swimming in the sea. So that’s exactly what we did!

If you’re going to plan a small backyard wedding at home, I recommend asking yourself this same question! Our relaxed timeline allowed for so many in-between moments that turned out to be some of our favorite parts of the day.

For example, our first dance in the lawn turned into a funny scene where everyone got up and started dancing with us. Later in the afternoon, Max and I went swimming with a couple of friends off the dock. My family has lived in my hometown for generations, so we have a hundreds of photos of my parents, grandparents, and other relatives swimming at the same spot. Being in that same water felt like the perfect way to begin the first chapter of our marriage, and was just another special detail that meant so much to us.

5. Documentary-style wedding photography

As a documentary-style wedding photographer myself, this was a no-brainer. I hired my dear friend, Emily Boudreau Photography to capture every little detail as it naturally unfolded. All the laughs, tears, moments that I didn’t even realize were happening, and all the overwhelming love we feel for each other – were all beautifully documented. Not a moment was missed and we will forever cherish these photos and the memories connected to them for the rest of our lives.

Planning a small backyard wedding at home?

If you’re hoping to plan or in the process of planning a small backyard wedding at home, congratulations! For more backyard wedding inspiration, check out some of my recent work here. To inquire about my documentary-style wedding photography process, you can contact me here!

Don’t miss our small backyard wedding at home also featured on Anti-bride‘s Real Weddings here!

small backyard wedding at home on cape cod
small backyard wedding at home
small backyard wedding at home