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Where the Heart Is

Backyard weddings are made beautiful thanks to expert tips from these industry pros.

GLITZ AND GLAMOUR
A tented backyard wedding is a blank canvas for an expert planner, as this opulent and luxurious design by Birch Design Studio demonstrates.

INTO THE BLUE
An elegant tent, like this sailcloth tent by Blue Peak Tents, can help to create the perfect atmosphere for an outdoor reception while providing insurance against inclement weather.

OUTSIDE IN
Catering by Michaels suggests incorporating local, seasonal ingredients in menu items for backyard weddings, like this burrata caprese.

Sprawling estates, lush lawns, tony properties—when you live on the North Shore, your dream wedding venue might just be in your own backyard. We’ve tapped local experts for their best advice—from planning to tents to food—on how to pull off the backyard wedding of your dreams. After all, there’s no place like home.

1. THE DETAILS
“When you don’t have a venue with existing amenities like coat check, climate control and taxi stands, you need to ensure that those things are available somehow—even if your ‘climate control’ comes in the form of paper fans and Champagne slushies,” says wedding planner Marina Birch, principal of Birch Design Studio. “Another thing that’s often overlooked is lighting. Once the sun sets, trees, grass and water essentially fade to black outside, so a little bit of well-thought-out lighting brings them back to life and adds magic to the whole event.” 1117 N. Dearborn Parkway, Chicago, 312.280.6811

2. THE TENT
“There are many things a couple should consider when deciding on the style and size of a tent. Many clients don’t consider the extra room they might need for elements like seating, bars, buffets, dance floors and lounges—a cocktail reception has different size requirements than a sit-down dinner; a band takes up more space than a DJ,” says Dave Cesar, founder of Blue Peak Tents. “In the end, it’s always better to have extra room if you can. It will not go unused.” Rentals from $415, 1151 W. Atlantic Drive, West Chicago, 630.338.0288

3. THE FOOD  
“A great advantage to catering a backyard wedding is that you are no longer restricted by a venue’s rules,” says Lauren Bayer, senior culinary analyst at Catering by Michaels. “The caterer is provided with more opportunities regarding the menu, as they don’t have to follow any guidelines about open flames, using propane and electric. Imagine serving a duck dish on a plate covered with a smoke-filled glass dome or flaming bourbon glazed doughnuts for dessert. Couples have the opportunity to curate a menu that matches their vision.” From $85 per guest, 6203 Park Ave., Morton Grove, 847.966.6555