10 Small Backyard Wedding Ideas Perfect for an Intimate Chicago Ceremony

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An intimate outdoor wedding in Chicago may be a small affair, but that can’t mean it can’t be packed with big small backyard wedding ideas. While that may seem contradictory, a small backyard wedding is an opportunity to plan a day with a unique style and flair completely focused around the newlyweds-to-be.

Small Backyard Wedding Ideas

Direct guests with stylish signs.

While the path to the nuptials may not be complicated, stylish signs are a great way to make a statement and give guests a sneak peak of what’s to come. Lighted signs are perfect for a nightly ceremony, while a rustic board sets the scene. Elegant signage sets the stage for an upscale and beautiful backyard wedding. These small backyard wedding ideas are stylish and functional, and can also be used to highlight serving stations, guest books, and other key items.

small backyard wedding ideas ceremony with black chairs and simple altar

Choose the perfect altar.

An altar creates the perfect focal point when it’s time to say, “I do.” For some couples, a beautiful shade tree is perfect for an outdoor wedding, while others opt for an arch or a more elaborate backdrop. To decorate the aisle and ceremony site, consider flower petals and other decorative items that add style.

Be creative with seating, both during the ceremony and reception.

Creative seating adds a unique touch to an outdoor wedding. Family seating around the ceremony site gives guests the chance to relax while they listen to the vows, then transition seamlessly to the meal. A long, narrow table gives everyone the feeling of being together while making a stylish statement. Best yet, these small backyard wedding ideas can be personalized to the location and wedding style.

Plan a wedding menu that coordinates with the wedding style.

There are so many small backyard wedding ideas for menus, and all of them can be catered to the wedding style. A casual wedding picnic is a fun chance to serve guests their favorite grilled items on huge grills and drinks from fun chill tables or portable bars. For a carnival-themed wedding, couples can rent cotton candy machines, popcorn machines, and other fun drink machines for a wonderful picnic menu. A more formal affair is the perfect site for portable bars serving upscale cocktails (with personalized recipes and names) and local brews.

Consider a clear tent to bring the outdoors in.

Chicago weather is the essence of unpredictable, which is why a wedding tent is a must for couples who want to keep guests comfortable and out of the elements. A clear wedding tent allows couples to experience the best of both worlds, giving them a chance to enjoy the outdoors while staying out of the elements.

wedding tent with paper lanterns

Use outdoor lighting to create a stylish atmosphere.

Outdoor lighting is a wonderful way to create a stylish wedding atmosphere. Lamp posts are an upscale detail that adds to a vintage or traditional scene. String lights are a beautiful way to make guests feel like they are under the stars, and can be added to a wedding tent for a stylish touch. Another wedding tent lighting idea are paper lanterns. White paper lanterns add to a crisp feel, while colored paper lanterns add a festive flair.

Go to great lengths to keep guests comfortable.

These small backyard wedding ideas are all about guest comfort (though they can be strategically placed so they are barely noticeable). Chicago summers—and even fall days—can be extremely hot. Some nights, temperatures can dip to a uncomfortable low. Fortunately, couples can plan accordingly so their guests are thinking about having fun and not about the steamy or cool weather. Couples should consider adding fans, portable heaters, or even tent heating and cooling for a comfortable atmosphere.

If there is a pool or lake, use it as a focal point.

A water-front wedding is a beautiful event, giving guests the chance to enjoy the scenery. Fortunately, there are types of tents perfect for these occasions—even on compact pool decks and on surfaces other than sod. If a couple wants to take advantage of these settings, they can contact a wedding tent rental company about a frame tent which requires little area around the tent for staking.

seating arrangement in wedding tent

Use comfortable seating so guests can relax and mingle.

An outdoor wedding in a beautiful setting is a wonderful chance to unwind. Lounge seating is the perfect way for guests to relax, and can contribute to a stylish wedding atmosphere. Vintage seating is a perfect step back in time, while the clean lines of modern seating blends seamlessly with an urban atmosphere.

Have fun with wedding entertainment.

There are so many small backyard wedding ideas for entertainment. For a casual wedding, yard games are a perfect way for guests to enjoy each other’s company. A dance floor is the perfect setting for an upscale wedding with upscale entertainment. (Find out how large the dance floor should be in this blog post.)

elegant outdoor wedding with how to decorate a wedding tent on a budget

How to Start Planning a Backyard Wedding

  • Discuss and set key details as a couple, such as the wedding date, budget, your wedding style, and wedding size.
  • Draft a guest list.
  • Create an organization system for wedding planning (with a wedding binder and/or one of these excellent wedding apps).
  • Contact the local municipality about whether a permit is needed and if there are any curfews to be aware of.
  • Use a backyard wedding checklist to decide what to buy and rent.
  • Contact a tent rental company to reserve a tent (and any other equipment, such as tables, chairs, lighting, etc.) to keep guests out of the rain and sun. (Also consider renting fans for a summer wedding in Chicago.)
  • Shop for wedding attire.
  • Set a timeline for the day and confirm key vendors: caterers, décor, bakery (for cake or wedding dessert), florist, entertainment (i.e. band, DJ, musicians), and photographer or videographer.
  • Create a wedding website or social media site. (Use this guide for creating a wedding website.)
  • Send out ‘Save the Date’ postcards approximately 4-6 months before your wedding date.
  • Keep checking off items on a wedding planning checklist…and enjoy an intimate Chicago wedding with wonderful small backyard wedding ideas.
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