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Planning a Beautiful Backyard Wedding and Reception

An Interview with Wedding Expert Rosemary Reed

Why are backyard weddings trending?  They are perfect for couples who are interested in the intimacy and cost savings that accompany a backyard wedding, but still want to enjoy the beautiful, refined elegance of a romantic wedding.  As a result, we have been receiving more and more requests for upscale backyard and outdoor wedding ideas than ever before.

Our resident wedding coordinator, Rosemary Reed, plans our couples’ outdoor receptions with plenty of added chic and sophisticated elements.  Below, she shares some of her favorite backyard wedding memories and ideas that she and our Tasty Catering clients have experienced in their own backyards.

Top 8 Upscale Backyard Wedding and Reception Ideas

  1. What kind of wedding menus make for the perfect upscale backyard wedding dinner?

I love the “Back-of-the-Yard” menu style.  In fact, my husband and I served guests this type of cuisine at our own wedding 18 years ago, and it is still my favorite style.  My husband’s British family was used to elegant wedding cuisine, which this style allowed, and my family was used to more casual and fun types of cuisine.  It meshed perfectly for us both.  Simple, yet elegant.

Actually, the evening before my wedding we had a Caribbean-style pig roast.  It was perfect.  Nothing welcomes guests quite like fresh aromas coming from a grill.  Our guests were also greeted with ice cold mojitos and mint juleps.  We dined, drank and danced all evening under the stars.  It was a magical way to start our wedding weekend, and after 18 years of marriage, it still makes me smile thinking about it.  I wish we could do it all over again!

pig roast bbq

  1. What outdoor décor trends have you seen at outdoor weddings lately?

Fire and flame elements are beautiful, emotion-provoking décor, and they are still—if not more—as popular as ever.

Some of my favorite “flame” elements include candles, tea lights, votives, hurricane candles, lanterns, chimineas and other contained and controlled fires.  These elements can be very cozy, intimate and romantic, and all have a way of drawing a group together.  There is something very ceremonial about an open flame.  In many cultures, it symbolizes the beginning of a long life filled with passion and love.

  1. Do you have any unique outdoor wedding bar recommendations?

Stay away from the same old generic options and have fun with your guests by offering some unique special brews—local, craft, etc.—and some specialty cocktails.  For example, I love the idea of His and Hers drinks.

  • His: Revolution Anti-Hero IPA (served in a traditional Pilsner glass)
  • Hers: Leinenkugel Summer Shandy (served in a mason jar with a fresh slice of lemon)
  • His: The perfect margarita made with fresh limes, shaken (served in a tall, chilled glass)
  • Hers: Blueberry martini with a splash of Limoncello and garnished with a few frozen blueberries (served in a cobalt blue martini glass)
  • His: 7&7, an oldie but a goodie (served in a good old fashioned glass)
  • Hers: Cosmo spritzer with a splash of champagne (served in a champagne glass)

Rosie - Summer Wedding Drinks

  1. What is your biggest tip for those planning an upscale backyard wedding?

Know your total budget and always start there.  When I say budget, I mean what kind of time and money can you spend on planning your wedding?  Figure them both out early!

You can build your vision and have the perfect ceremony and reception as long as you keep in mind what is most important—and your budget will likely help you make those classifications.  You should not start your lives together deep in debt—that’s just too stressful.  Having a wedding should mark the beginning of something wonderful!  And you shouldn’t be killing yourself to get your planning done when you’re trying to balance a million other responsibilities.

Great food, ice cold drinks and the important people in your lives should be your focus, and it should only cost what you can afford to spend (in both time and money).  I have worked with many couples (mainly brides) who DIY their own décor and just have us bartend and cater the food…and it turns out wonderful.  I’ve also worked with other couples who have extremely busy schedules and can’t afford to take the time to plan all of their wedding elements. So, instead, they ask our team not only to cater, but also to design the reception—décor, timeline, vendors, etc.  In either case, we are delighted to be a part of the wedding.

  1. What themes are best achieved in an outdoor or backyard wedding?

Less is more when you’re hosting an outdoor wedding.  I love the simplicity of just accentuating the beauty of Mother Nature by adding plants, flowers and soft lighting.  Natural, rustic or floral themes work very well.  I love using mirrors outside to reflect light, nature and flowers—it’s a simple addition to show off even more of the venue.

Sometimes simple ideas like bringing out your dining room table and using it as a buffet can look fantastic—and rustic, depending on the color of the table.  Farm tables with elegant English china and linen napkins are also great additions to a rustic outdoor theme.  Placing tiny flowers in unexpected places are also adorable additions to a tablescape or backyard.

Wedding dining table outdoor with china and flowers

  1. What are some of Chicago’s best outdoor venues for an upscale wedding?

I love being unique and different.  I married the love of my life at the location where the two of us first met.  It was a beautiful outdoor location and happened to be free!

When coming up with your outdoor venue, ask yourself a few questions.  What are some of your favorite places to go?  Where did you meet?  Choose a place that is special to you both and one with a beautiful view.

Prairie Production is also a beautiful venue, and it has an indoor venue just as beautiful as the courtyard area, so you can have the best of both worlds.  Also consider your own backyard (obviously), the beach or the forest preserves.

If you don’t have a “special place,” there are tons of great locations on our website, so you can use our venue locator to help you narrow down some of your options.  As an off-premise caterer, though, we can take the celebration wherever you want it to go.

  1. Do you have any unique entertainment ideas for an elegant backyard wedding?

Make it fun!  Think outside the box!   When you’re looking for entertainment, do a dance to a fun, meaningful song (like the “Let’s Get a Kikki” dance in David + Aigars wedding).  Perhaps you could plan a cute dance with your moms and dads, or with your grandparents.  Just remember to keep these dances to around two minutes.  The last out-of-the-box idea could be bringing in small performing acts, like fire dancers, to rove around the reception and wow your guests.

Dancing at the wedding

  1. What is something that many couples do not think about when planning an outdoor wedding that they should keep in mind?

BAD WEATHER!  Having a Plan B is just as important as knowing your budget.  Tents, indoor options, umbrellas, etc…be prepared!

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