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How to Plan a Backyard Wedding in Portland

Backyard weddings in one of my favorite places, Portland, Oregon, seriously take the cake for me as a wedding photographer. The amount of personalization and creativity you can incorporate is one of the BEST parts about them. In this guide, I’ll be walking you through all the necessary steps to plan a rad (and legal) backyard wedding in Portland.

Choosing the Perfect Backyard Wedding Venue in Portland

The first and most obvious step to planning your backyard wedding in Portland is to choose whose backyard you’re crashing. If you have friends or family members that have enough property to host a wedding, they would probably be a good place to start. Kaylee and Charles hosted their backyard wedding on their family’s property and it really made their day even more sentimental and special. Just make sure the location is big enough to accommodate your guest count unless you’re willing to build your guest list around the size of the property.

Another thing to consider when choosing a venue is the need for additional rentals. Most traditional venues come with chairs, lighting, tents, etc., but if you’re planning a backyard wedding, you have to take care of that on your own. If there’s a property available that already has ambient lighting and a covered area, that will save you $$$ in the long run. If not, that’s okay! You can get creative and curate a backyard wedding space that’s completely unique.

One couple I photographed planned their wedding around the purchase of their new home and (literally) designed the backyard with the wedding in mind. If you have the means to do that, DO IT! They landscaped a stone path throughout the yard and laid down a white fabric carpet for the bride to walk down. The altar florals were this gorgeous tropical monstera arrangement - the vibes were vibing, okay? Feel free to use their ideas as inspo for your own!

Set Your Date + Budget for Your Backyard Wedding

Once you’ve determined where your backyard wedding is being hosted, it’s time to set your date and budget. Since we are in the Pacific Northwest, the weather/season will be one of the main factors in choosing a date. Having an outdoor wedding in Portland can get a little tricky - we’re trying to keep your guests dry while also not wanting them to scorch. The months of June and September are usually the most reliable - before June you’ll most likely get rain, and before September will most likely be too warm. If you’re providing shade to your guests for your ceremony + reception, then you have a little more wiggle room with the summer dates.

After your date is set and confirmed, you’ll need to chat with your partner about how much you’re comfortable spending on your backyard wedding. I know, I know! Talking about budget doesn’t seem the most exciting, but I promise it’ll be so worth it, and you’ll be glad you got it out of the way early on. The most important thing is being honest with your partner and family about how much you’re willing to spend. Kaylee and Charles DIY’d most of their backyard wedding and it was literally so cute! No matter what your budget ends up being, just know that your wedding will be everything you want and more because you’re marrying your favorite person.

When building your budget, be sure to allocate $$$ for different elements of your backyard wedding. We’ll get into specific vendors later on, but having your budget split up by your priorities will make things a million times easier.

Guest List + Invitations

Alright, who are we inviting to join the party? Like I mentioned before, you can build your guest list to fit the space, or you can choose a space to fit the guest list. Keep in mind that the higher your guest count is, the more mouths you have to feed, and the higher the cost will be overall. If you prefer to keep the guest list intimate so you have time to spend with each and every one of your people (or even just because you have a smaller budget), I totally encourage you to do that.

The next step once your list is curated is to send invitations. There are a million and one ways to go about your save the dates/invites - you can go the digital route with a wedding website, you can design them yourself and have them printed, or you can hire someone to custom design them for you. Whatever feels right to you and is within your budget is the way to go.

Catering + Menu Planning

One of my favorite things about backyard weddings is that there’s so much less pressure for everything to be perfect. One way you can incorporate a more relaxed vibe is by having a potluck meal during your reception, whether that’s catered or homemade. If you have friends and family who are willing to bust their asses and make your backyard wedding dinner, then HELL YEAH! You could even promote someone to Grillmaster if you want delicious BBQ for dinner (I’m personally a fan of barbecuing some ribs, just in case you’re wondering).

On the other hand, if you’d prefer your family and friends to be able to be fully present, then I’d recommend contacting your favorite local restaurant or food truck and seeing what they can do. Who wouldn’t want buckets of their favorite food at their backyard wedding?!

For dessert, consider having something handheld like cupcakes, mini pies, donuts, etc instead of one big cake. This way your guests and graze the dessert table at their leisure and you can have more of a variety to choose from.

Planning a backyard micro wedding in Portland OR

Decor + Aesthetics for Your Backyard Wedding in Portland

One of my favorite things to talk about… the decor and aesthetics aspect of your backyard wedding in Portland. Coming up with a cohesive theme can be so much fun if you’re into that sort of thing. One of my past couples went with a colorful Alice in Wonderland-style backyard wedding and I was so here for it. They had lots of colorful paper decorations in the threes throughout the venue with different colored tablecloths with unique floral arrangements. There were yard games, great food (yes, it was BBQ), and they even included their dogs.

All of this goes to say that your theme doesn’t have to be traditional or dare I say boring just because you’re having a backyard wedding. In fact, that’s even more reason to think out of the box. If you’re a DIY queen, use that to your advantage and include some really personal and nostalgic touches to your decor. Don’t be afraid to get weird.

Entertainment + Music

We’re planning on getting down on the dance floor, right? There are plenty of options when it comes to your backyard wedding entertainment situation - hiring a live band, hiring a DJ, or taking charge and putting together the ultimate Spotify wedding playlist. One of my past brides actually played a song on her violin during the ceremony, so if you’re musically inclined, spice things up that way! Just figure out what your music/entertainment vibe is going to be, and keep in mind local noise ordinances if you’re getting married in a residential neighborhood.

Weather Contingency Plans

As much as I’d love to tell you that the weather will be absolutely perfect for your backyard wedding in Portland… that shit is unpredictable. It’s always best to have a weather contingency plan when possible. This can look like renting tents or canopies for protection, having a backup location, or making sure there’s enough room to move the party inside. I would recommend coming up with a plan and communicating it to your guests in advance so they know what’s up.

The Legalities of Hosting a Backyard Wedding in Portland

Let’s have fun, but also be legal while we’re at it! Here is a brief breakdown of the legalities to consider when planning your backyard wedding in Portland, Oregon specifically:

Permits and Regulations: Before hosting a backyard wedding, you should check with the City of Portland or the relevant local government agency to determine if you need any permits or approvals. Depending on the size of your wedding, you might need permits for things like loud music, parking, tents, and food service. Contact the city's Bureau of Development Services or a similar department to inquire about specific requirements!

Noise Ordinances: Portland has noise ordinances that restrict the level of noise generated by events, especially during nighttime hours. Be sure to understand these ordinances and inform your vendors and guests about any noise limitations. This is particularly important if your event includes live music or amplified sound.

Parking and Traffic: Consider the impact of your backyard wedding on the neighborhood in terms of traffic and parking. If your event is expected to bring in a significant number of guests, you should plan for adequate parking arrangements and inform your guests about parking options to minimize disruptions to the neighborhood!

Alcohol Service: If you plan to serve alcohol at your backyard wedding, you may need a special permit. In Oregon, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) oversees alcohol licensing. Depending on the scale of your wedding and whether you plan to sell alcohol or provide it for free, different permits might be required.

Rental Agreements and Insurance: If you're renting equipment such as tents, chairs, or tables, make sure to understand the terms of the rental agreement. You might also want to consider event insurance to cover any potential liabilities associated with your backyard wedding! Also, check with the owner of the property (even if they’re a friend or family member) to discuss liability insurance early on!

Waste Management: Plan for waste disposal and recycling during and after the event. Make sure to provide ample trash and recycling bins to keep the area clean and in compliance with local regulations.

Neighborhood Consideration: Let’s be considerate of our neighbors! Let ‘em know about your plans in advance and provide them with contact information in case they have any concerns. Minimize noise, disruptions, and traffic congestion as much as possible.

Fire Safety: If your backyard wedding includes elements like open flames, candles, or outdoor cooking, be mindful of fire safety regulations. Ensure that you have the necessary equipment on hand, like fire extinguishers, and follow safety guidelines. The only fire we’re trying to bring is to the dance floor!

Consider Hiring a Day-Of Coordinator

Most backyard weddings don’t require a full planner (unless you’re down for that, by all means!), but consider hiring a day-of coordinator to take care of any wedding day logistics. You definitely don’t want to be the point of contact when your only job should literally be to get married, you know? If you’re having more than 50 guests, I would recommend having a coordinator there to keep things organized and running smoothly.

Hell Yes, You’re Ready to Plan Your Backyard Wedding in Portland!

Okay, you made it. Now you know just about everything you need to properly (and legally) plan a backyard wedding in Portland. I’m sure you’ll need an epic Portland wedding photographer to capture all those candid and creative moments. To get in touch with me and get the ball rolling, you can inquire via my contact form on my website and I’ll get back to you with details soon!


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