Tips from the outdoor wedding experts at Shelter Co.
backyard wedding
Credit: Bellalu Photography

As founder of the luxury camping company Shelter Co., Kelsey Sheofsky has planned numerous backyard weddings and events of various sizes and budgets. Here, she's breaking down the ins and outs of planning a private property wedding. Before you decide to throw your wedding at home, read her sage advice.

What should couples plan to bring in for an at-home wedding?

"Most homes are not designed to accommodate an influx of 100 people, so I recommend bringing in additional power for lighting and catering needs," Sheofsky says. You'll also likely want to bring in portable restrooms, which will protect your plumbing or septic system and keeps the home off-limits to the majority of guests. "The last thing you want after hosting a huge weekend party is a trashed house." Lastly, Sheofsky recommends couples bring in a satellite catering kitchen so that they don't have to relying on the house for anything.

For couples with property in a small town or rural area, do you have any creative lodging recommendations?

"I recommend furnished rental tents, as it's a very cost-effective way to sleep a lot of people in a high level of comfort," she says. "RVs are also a great option that reduces the need for additional restrooms but they can be a bit of an eyesore."

How much land do you think is necessary for a wedding with a camping setup?

The short answer: It depends on the guest count. "If you have 100 guests and all events are happening on property for the entire weekend, for infrastructure needs alone I'd say you want a minimum of five acres," Sheofsky says. "But a big thing to keep in mind is neighboring properties-five acres feels pretty small if it's overlooking a neighbor's dirty garage."

How important is a rain plan for a backyard wedding?

When you're tying the knot at home, having a rain plan in place is just as important as it would be for any other event. "You want your guests to feel comfortable and the event to be successful," says Sheofsky. "Not planning properly for rain can not only be a bummer to the flow of the event, but can also damage your property." No one wants to spend their first week of married life repairing ruined grass that was used heavily as a walkway in the rain.

How can couples create good event flow on a small property?

There are pros and cons to both breaking up your wedding and keeping everything in one place, Sheofsky explains. "Depending on the layout of the yard, sometimes doing one large tent can make the space feel larger than trying to break it up into smaller zones. Small lounge tents and hang out areas can be tucked into hidden corners of the property for guests to escape to. This also encourages people to enjoy different areas of the property."

Any other bare-bones needs for a private property wedding?

"Lighting and restrooms are the most important aspects," says Sheofsky. "Landscape lighting is not sufficient for a large party. There are inexpensive ways to light pathways for safety and add light to trees and shrubs for a more ambient glow." And no matter how beautiful and fun your wedding is, if you don't have enough restrooms or the ones you do have aren't functioning properly, Sheofsky bets that's all guests will really remember. "It's not the place to skimp."

How should couples handle parking?

Sheofsky highly reccomends brides and grooms hire a valet service if the couple has the space to park cars on the property. This team will ensure every vehicle is parked in a logical manner, maximizing space and allowing for easy exits. "If you don't have the space, contact local schools or churches to see if you can use their lot for parking and then shuttle guests to the house," she says.

Can you offer any advice regarding noise complaints and how to deal with neighbors?

"I always recommend either inviting the neighbors to the dancing portion of the evening or sending them a gift box beforehand with a note explaining what's happening," says Sheofsky. "If there's a particularly persnickety neighbor, you might offer to put them up at a hotel for the night."


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