Are backyard weddings a step down from traditional wedding venues? No. Here’s why backyard weddings are a uniquely intimate experience.
2020 has been a tough year for everyone in the wedding industry. For couples planning their dream wedding, it’s been a year of disappointment, stress, and frustration, with some brides and grooms opting to put-off their wedding to some hazy date in the future, while others have decided to dramatically and drastically change their wedding plans.
This year has been a whirlwind of backtracking plans for wedding planners, seeking out new vendors, working with couples to find compromises and solutions, all while keeping a watchful eye on their bottom line and trying, among with other small businesses, to survive these unprecedented times.
However, it hasn’t been all doom and gloom. Many couples have stoically changed their plans and forged ahead, their weddings different but no less wonderful. And many wedding planners have adapted, overcome, and even found their stride this year.
One of those wedding planners is Stacie Alldritt, the approachable, practical, and experienced owner of Love in Lawrence, based in Lawrence, Kansas. Stacie has been specializing in planning beautiful backyard weddings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meet Stacie: From a List-Lover To A Professional Wedding Planner
Before becoming a wedding planner, Stacie graduated from the University of Kansas in 2004 and worked for 13 years as a creative director. “I spent the beginning of my career in creative and art direction, and that creative energy has always been a big part of who I am,” Stacie says. “Throughout my career, I moved into project management due to my fascination and obsession with to-do lists and tasks and being organized.”
Stacie says that wedding planning found her naturally when she got married in 2015. “For my own wedding, I hit that point where I got inundated with tasks, and I felt overwhelmed. I had no idea how anyone was going to understand how to put my dream wedding together the way I had envisioned it. Eventually, we reached out to a wedding planner, and it was the best decision my husband and I could have made.”
Being in the stage of her life where it seemed like all her friends were getting married, Stacie was already thinking a lot about weddings when her husband’s friend got engaged. She recommended the wedding planner she’d hired to the newly engaged couple, but they had a different idea.
Taking The Plunge As A Wedding Planner
“They actually said that they thought I should just do it, so I guess I come off as an organized person who’s passionate about project management and creativity. I took it on, and that just so happened to be a backyard wedding at the groom’s parents’ house,” she remembers. “It was a big challenge for me to do that right out of the gate. When I was running that wedding, I suddenly had this moment of clarity where I realized that this was my happy place. I was shining, killing it, doing such a great job, and I realized I should do it for a living.”
With a little more encouragement from her husband, Stacie decided to take the plunge and become a wedding planner. “After I had my son, I was trying to get back into things, trying to find a little more contract work. I knew how to build websites, so I thought I’d build a website for wedding planning and see what happened,” she explains. “That was in 2017, and I’ve been picking up handfuls of weddings ever since, loving every one of them and just working hard to let this passion project of mine take over more and more of my day to day, year to year life.”
For Stacie, shifting from graphic design to wedding planning was a very natural change. And she says it’s this creative flair that’s so integral to who she is that’s helped make the transition so comfortable. “When I look at logistics and problem solving, I always take a creative approach to it. I truly think that wedding planning is both a creative and a logistical endeavor, and my approach to logistical problem solving is to think creatively, to think outside of the box.”
Hometown Pride: Working Within Your Community
When I asked Stacie what kind of clients she gravitates towards. While she enjoys working with out-of-town couples from the surrounding area, she was also quick to extoll the wonderful qualities of the people of her town. “Not only do I love the couples and the energy in Lawrence, but I also love the vendors in Lawrence. It’s just a really great group of talented people. So when I come across a Lawrence couple, I know that I’ve got a rockstar team to work with me, and I can recommend great people.”
Stacie says that working with couples who are eager to bring a personal touch or reveal something unique about themselves in their weddings is always a thrill for her. “I like to get pretty crafty with what we can do and find creative ways to really bring them into the room. But at the same time, I try not to break the bank. I like people who want to have a little bit of DIY elements to their wedding. Whether it be with the decor, favors, or signage, just some things that really help us add that personal touch.”
That being said, Stacie is also very comfortable working with couples whose ideal wedding is nothing like her own nuptials. “Sometimes people ask me if it’s annoying to work on weddings that aren’t to my particular taste,” she laughs.
“But I think it’s actually really great because it means I get to dive into someone else’s world and some else’s dreams and figure out how I’m going to bring those to life for them. Often, couples come to me and ask if their dream wedding is even possible, and I love being the person that says yes, of course, it’s possible! We just have to figure it out, but we’ll make it happen.”
Why Backyard Weddings Matter In The Midst of COVID-19
There’s possibly never been a more difficult time to turn a couples’ wedding dreams into reality than this past year, but Stacie has practical ways to alleviate any wedding planning stress her couples face. “The first thing I tell people is to find their venue. You want to make sure it doesn’t get booked up for your date, and we’ve had so many cancellations in 2020 that for 2021 we’ve got double the amount of people fighting for the same amount of space. People either need to book way, way early, or be open to other options.”
Enter Love in Lawrence, Stacie’s company specializing in garden and backyard weddings, creating intimate, meaningful weddings. “Some couples I’ve worked with this year had these giant venues for their 200-person wedding, and now they’re having a 50-person wedding. You really don’t want to feel like a tiny fish in this giant ocean of a venue where you can’t really fill the space anymore because of pandemic regulations,” she affirms.
A Room Full Of Love
“And while it’s good to be able to space out and ensure social distancing, at the same time you really want to feel like you’re in a room full of love, not like you’re in a room that’s so spread out and bare that doesn’t give you as much warmth as you were hoping for.”
Having a wedding planner like Stacie, whose comfort zone is already outside the box, means that couples can feel assured if they decide to go with a backyard or garden wedding. It’ll have all the magic of their original idea coupled with a space that’s often intensely personal and meaningful to them.
“A backyard wedding is always going to be super unique to you. If it’s at your home or somewhere special to you, that’s always going to be a part of your life. My husband and I got married in a friend’s backyard out in the Wakarusa Valley, and they’re still a very close friend of ours. We go there every year on our anniversary to either spend the night or just drive by and revisit those memories,” she fondly recollects.
“If you’re getting married in your backyard or your parent’s backyard, then you always have that. It’s in your life forever; it’s a memento that you can take with you, and I really like that.”
The Many Benefits of Backyard Weddings
While there are certainly benefits to opting for backyard weddings, such as lower costs and fees, it can be a little bit more tricky on the logistical side of things. According to Stacie, there are a few things wedding planners and couples need to be aware of when planning a backyard or garden wedding.
The first one is power. If you have enough, and if it’s outside, you may need to run an extension cord from inside, or consider using generators. Food is another important thing to consider. “You want to think about if you have the right access and storage facilities for food and catering staff. You need to know if you need kitchen space for the caterers to work out of, or what accommodations they need to operate a buffet line,” Stacie says.
“Foodservice is such a huge deal. If you’re going to do a buffet line outside, you want to make sure you have a good way to cover your food and deal with bugs and flies. If you’re doing a full-service dinner, then you definitely need to offer the caterers some sort of indoor space to work out of.”
Discuss Your Personal Comfort Level When Hosting At Your Home
Speaking of space, I asked Stacie if accounting for people going in and out of private homes is something that she discusses with her clients hosting a wedding on their own property. She said access to the house is something that definitely needs to be addressed.
“If I’m working with you as your planner, I want to know if you’re going to let any catering staff into the house, if you’re going to let me have access to your house for any storage, or if the doors are just going to be locked down and off-limits for everybody. I want to respect your space, but I also need to know, logistically, how I can plan for that.”
Bathrooms, Booze And Backyard Weddings
Stacie says that access to washrooms goes hand in hand with discussing access to the house or property in general. “You’re either going to have a bunch of people in your house using your restroom, or you can go with portapotties or outdoor bathrooms. The thing with outdoor bathrooms is that usually, you think of them as being gross and disgusting. Still, when you have a bunch of formal guests attending a formal event, and it’s family and friends, people are much more inclined to be mindful of their manners. They stay clean and nice, so outdoor bathrooms are definitely a good option.”
Planning on what kind of alcohol you’re going to serve, and how, is also integral to making sure your backyard or garden wedding is a fun time rather than a stressful one. “Bar service is a sticking point, and not just for backyard weddings,” Stacie says. “You could hire a bartender to work out of your house, which works really well. But if you’re not in a venue, you likely don’t have kegs or things on tap set up, or house wine or anything like that. So the bar order is all up to you to manage. You need to keep the bar stocked, so you’re going to want to either hire someone to work your bar or work with your planner and delegate a friend to make sure that drinks are staying iced and cold.”
Don’t Stress The Weather Too Much
One of the biggest challenges that can come up for any backyard wedding is definitely the weather. You can obsess all you want over a 10-day forecast, but Stacie says that even if the weather looks perfect, you need to have a backup plan. “When I’m working with clients, I tell them that I’m only going to talk about plan A – their picture-perfect plan – but I’m always going to have plan B in the background,” she notes.
“But people shouldn’t let the weather deter them. Your wedding can change a little bit and still be great, and you’re not going to lose the essence of it. If you experience less than ideal weather, you’re in your own space, so no one is telling you that you have to start and end at a certain time. It’s a lot easier to shift things around and work around the weather. Although I’ll remind everyone that rain is good luck – it rained on my wedding day, and I’m happily married, so maybe pray for rain on your wedding day.”
A Decor Difference
The creativity that bubbles up in Stacie’s mind when she’s planning these beautiful backyard weddings must be a sight to behold. I asked her to tell me about some of her favorite ideas, and she was happy to share just how much she loves to repurpose and reuse things.
Repurpose And Reuse Your Decor
“I hate when you get to the end of a wedding, and you just throw a bunch of stuff in the dumpster. I try really hard not to do that. So for outdoor weddings or weddings at your house, I love using houseplants or things that you might keep with you for a longer time than just the wedding,” she notes.
“With backyard weddings, you have a lot of natural aesthetics going for you. If you think about what time of year and what will be in bloom, you can even plan ahead and plant the flowers in your garden that you’re going to be using at your wedding and have an abundance of blooms.”
Take Advantage Of The Disruption
Stacie says hosting a backyard wedding is also a great excuse to get some home renovation projects completed. “I’m doing a wedding on Saturday where the couple is having a privacy fence installed to create an intimate setting for the wedding and to enjoy as a part of their new home. So it’s good to think ahead about any of these things on your roadmap for your living space that would elevate it a little bit — it’s a good time to get those projects underway.”
Nature And Lighting In Backyard Weddings
And when it comes to lighting, Stacie says backyard weddings have a distinct advantage — beautiful sunsets, moonlight and starlight, and the glow of flickering candles and fairy lights. “If you’re going to do a dinner wedding, I think it’s fine to keep lights turned on throughout the backyard wedding. Votive candles can sometimes be a challenge outside because they might blow out, so wait to light those until dinner service. You want them twinkling and sparkling through dinner and through dessert. When they start to go out later in the night, no one’s really going to notice.”
“So feel free to light them early on and let them twinkle as long as they last – you can even buy some that last ten hours these days. And if you do get inclement or windy weather, have someone checking on the candles right before dinner so you can have a nice candlelit dinner.”
Consider Landscape and Accessibility In Garden & Backyard Weddings
When hosting a backyard wedding, Stacie says, the final things to consider are resources, landscape, and accessibility. These are things that need to be discussed, not just with your planner but also with your vendors. “You need to over-ask the questions of what your vendors need because you’re not at a venue where you can assume they’ll have power, a ladder, or tools. When you’re in someone’s backyard, either you are the resident of the house, and you have those things on hand, or your planner is going to make sure that everything you need is at the house. So I always make a supply list of what I’m bringing in and what the couple is responsible for bringing in.”
When it comes to landscape, if the ground is sloped or has any lumpiness, you need to consider it. “A slant can actually work in your favor for a ceremony. If you get married on the lower end, you have a natural angle for your guests to sit at and have great visibility. On the other hand, you’re not going to be very happy setting up a tiled dance floor on a slanted yard. If you’re working with a rental company for a dance floor, find out if they have any products that can handle a slope and have them come out and do a site visit to evaluate.”
Ask About Mobility
One thing Stacie always asks her couples is if they have any guests that have mobility issues. “I’ll typically ask about grandparents and whether they’re mobile, and if they’ll be okay getting to their chairs. I’ll also ask if there’s anyone in a wheelchair that we need to help get through. We really need to think about that. You might need to make accommodations, like taking a section of your fence out or laying out your floor plan so that guests with mobility issues can move around and be comfortable,” she explains.
“You also want to consider the mobility of your guests if they’re in the photographs. Where is your photography location going to be? Suppose we’re going to do a couple of offsite photos at some parks nearby. In that case, you need to be cognizant of all guests and if they can keep up and move to a couple of different locations within an hour.”
The Value Of A Wedding Planner
With all of these things to consider, it seems to me that although backyard weddings might mean a smaller budget, they’re just as complicated as traditional ones. I asked Stacie what she thinks are the benefits of having a wedding planner for garden or backyard weddings. She says that the biggest one is that they help everything to run a whole lot more smoothly.
“Some people are entertainers, and can fill their house up, and it doesn’t stress them out. I had my rehearsal dinner at my in-laws’ house, and we packed sixty people inside the house for a sit-down dinner. But they throw a lot of parties, they like having people at their house. They like entertaining – they know how to operate their space. So I didn’t have to do anything — they took care of it. They knew where to put the tables; they knew how to host everything because they were used to doing that,” she explains.
“But there are also other people that aren’t used to hosting such huge events, and these are the people who especially should consider hiring a planner. If you’ve never brought fifty people over before, then there’s probably going to be some things you haven’t thought about.”
Related: Planning A Micro-Wedding
Wearing Two Wedding Hats: Planner And Coach
It was at this moment that I decided to ask Stacie something that really interested me – her role as a wedding coach. In addition to her services as a planner, Stacie also offers wedding coaching to her clients, and I was keen to hear about how this works.
Stacie says she got inspired to offer wedding coaching when COVID-19 hit. She realized that many people were facing some tough wedding decisions. “Suddenly we were in a whirlwind of people having to reschedule their weddings. These couples probably had 20 things checked off their list, and suddenly they had to turn around and uncheck those things. I couldn’t imagine the stress of having to do that. Wedding planning is daunting enough in and of itself, and then to have to redo things. . . a piece of my heart was definitely going out to those people. I wanted to figure out a way to help.”
The Vendor Shuffle
The first service Stacie offered as part of her wedding coaching package is what she fondly calls the “vendor shuffle.”
“It’s basically about helping people if they had to drop a bunch of vendors and rebook people. They’re thinking, ‘Please, don’t make me go through that again!” So I offered a few hours of help where we could pick those balls back up and get running again. From there, I decided to make it a standard offering, and not just as a response to COVID-19. I custom quote all my couples, which means that they don’t have to fit squarely into the day-of or partial or full planning package. I like to interview my couples and find out what they’re looking to get help with, and then I tailor a package for them. Often, I’ll meet someone who’s got a wedding that’s twelve months out, but really what they want is just day-of coordination. And so I tell them that’s fine, I can start working several months down the road.”
“But if they hit a stumbling block between now and then, I want them to be able to have the help they need. I tell them to give me a call, and we’ll schedule a two-hour block of time. That can either be a phone call, especially right now, but hopefully, someday it can be to meet up for coffee again. I also can go to local vendors on behalf of clients, or just help them through whatever the chunk of tasks is that’s been making them feel stressed or uninspired, so they can get a little help along their wedding planning journey.”
Are Backyard Weddings Here To Stay?
We’ve all been living through this pandemic for many months now, and I think it’s safe to say that everyone is looking forward to a time when things go back to normal. I asked Stacie if she thinks the rising demand for backyard weddings will fade once people can have big weddings again. She optimistically said no.
“I think people will experience the intimacy and the closeness of a backyard wedding and realize that you’re not missing out. The fear right now is that ‘Oh my gosh, there are so many people I wanted at my wedding that can’t be there.’ But I think people will realize that you can only focus on so many people, and have connections with so many people as the bride and groom. You’re going to be surrounded with enough love with a smaller group of people regardless. And it’s still your wedding, and it’s still beautiful,” Stacie enthuses.
A Backyard Wedding Is An Intimate Experience
“Whatever experience you have is your experience, only yours and nobody else’s. And so that’s what I’m reminding people who have had to re-envision or rebook their weddings – it’s still your wedding. It’s only your wedding, and nobody can take that away from you. I think people will realize that, and maybe friends or relatives who get married in the coming years will look back and say that it was a good experience. So maybe that will stimulate people to go in that direction.”
In the end, Stacie believes that the beauty and intimacy of backyard weddings are here to stay. And that more and more people will realize just how magical and memorable they can be. And after sitting down and talking to her about them, I couldn’t help but agree.
“I really hope that people who need to size down their weddings due to COVID-19 are inspired to go for it, and not feel like anything’s getting taken away from them. I hope that instead, they realize that just because their weddings are different than a big, 200-person wedding doesn’t mean they’re less special or less meaningful. Just go for it, enjoy it, enjoy walking into your backyard every day and remember envisioning where you stood, where you exchanged your vows, where you became Mr. and Mrs. That’s so touching. That will always, always be with you.”