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Backyard BBQ Wedding: The Ultimate How-To Guide & Menu

Gettin’ married soon and thinking of having a backyard BBQ for your reception? Join the club!

When I was doing research for my backyard wedding menu, I read a book by Michael Flowers and Donna Bankhead called Catering Your Own Wedding: Easy Ways to Do it Yourself in Style, which inspired me to write this post. I highly recommend getting this book for more details on how to cater your own wedding and for a lot more recipes and menu ideas… But for now…

In this post, I’ll talk about how to throw the ultimate backyard wedding reception barbecue! Catering your own backyard wedding barbecue can save you thousands of dollars, is extremely crowd-pleasing, and can even be a fun way to bring your friends and family members together in the planning process. It’s win-win-win!

This process won’t require you to run around cooking on your wedding day, don’t worry. But it will require a lot of pre-planning and assigning jobs to your special inner circle.

So sit down, relax, and start taking notes. Here I’ll share what I’ve learned from the experts on how to plan your own backyard BBQ wedding reception from start to finish!

Related Post: How to Cater Your Own Wedding: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide

Getting Started Planning Your Backyard Barbecue Reception

Once you’ve decided on how many wedding guests you’ll be expecting, you need to assign some jobs to a reliable group of friends and/or family members. You’re really going to need their help to pull this thing off!

And don’t feel bad asking them to help (like I always do!) because I’m told that most people love being asked to help out with weddings, and will even feel honored to be included! 🙂 If you’re not convinced, tell them that this can be their wedding present to you!

For your backyard barbecue, depending on the number of guests you have, you’ll need between 13 and 21 people to help you.

This includes help with setting up and breaking down. If possible, get your crew of people together a couple of months before the wedding for a little meeting, and let them know their responsibilities.

Here’s the menu for your backyard barbecue wedding:

The Menu
Barbecued chicken
Deviled Eggs
Flame-roasted corn on the cob
Green Beans
Pork and Beans
Potato Salad
Bread and Butter Pickles
Yeast Rolls and Butter
Iced Tea and Coffee

Tools, Equipment, and Furniture to Rent or Buy

Make sure and put together the tools, equipment, and furniture you’ll need for this operation. It’s not too complicated but requires a bit of organization. See if you can borrow some things from friends or family members before shelling out cash to rent or buy.

Here’s what you’ll need (varies depending on the number of guests you’re expecting):

25 Guests50 Guests75 Guests
8 foot by 30 inch banquet table81016
54 inch by 120 inch tablecloths (can be white for a classic “wedding” look or checkered for more of a backyard BBQ feel)81016
Folding chairs255075
Dinner plates255075
5 oz. fruit bowls255075
Water glasses255075
Coffee cups255075
Coffee saucers255075
Salt and pepper shakers4 sets6 sets10 sets
Glass sugar bowls4610
Glass creamers4610
3-gallon tea dispenser111
25-cup coffee urn200
50-cup coffee urn020
90-cup coffee urn002
8 inch (small) glass plates255075
Cake knife and server1 set1 set1 set
Wedding cake111
Cocktail napkins65125200
Toasting glasses1 set 1 set1 set

For this operation to work well, your helpers will be making much of the food beforehand and bringing it to the reception site, where they’ll be heating it up. So, either make sure that you have enough space in your oven to heat everything up before the reception, or get some big coolers on hand (with no ice) to keep hot food in. It will help keep the heat trapped and keep everything warm while waiting to serve it.

The 10 Mini-Teams of Helpers You’ll Need

You’ll need to assign jobs to 10 “mini teams” of 1-3 people per team, depending on the size of your wedding (how many guests) and the skill sets of your helpers. Most of these jobs (except for set up and break down) can be done by just one person.

Pick reliable friends and family members that will be happy to help you, and yes– let them know that their help is a wedding present to you!

Give each “team” a list of their responsibilities, a recipe, and a shopping list of ingredients and tools. You can get their receipts after and reimburse them afterward or give them the money for the shopping lists upfront.

Team #1: Set-up and Break down Team

This team should be 2-3 of your strongest helpers! They’ll need to set up tables, chairs, centerpieces, etc. Here’s the list of responsibilities for Team #1:

  • Clean out and bring 2 large trash bins that’ll be used during the reception and bring 6 liners to use to refill them.
  • Arrive at the reception about three hours early to set up the tables and chairs.
  • Set up tablecloths if the couple wants to use them.
  • Set up the centerpieces.
  • Set up the glasses, dishes, and flatware on the buffet tables.
  • Keep an eye on the area throughout the reception and help keep it neat and tidy.
  • Help clean up after the reception.

Team #2: Barbecued Chicken Team

This is a job for your friends who love to barbecue. Ask if they’d prefer to barbecue before or during the reception so you know whether or not to provide grills. Here are your options:

  • Plan A: Grill the chicken the day before the reception. Wrap it in tin foil and refrigerate it. Warm it up in the oven before the reception.
  • Plan B: Grill the chicken at the reception and serve it right off the grill. For this plan, the couple will need to provide a grill on site.
  • If you’re cooking the chicken on the grill at the reception, run over there right after the ceremony. The chicken will take about an hour and a half to grill, which is about how long it takes to do photos during cocktail hour.
  • At the end of the reception, help with clean up.

Shopping list for the barbecue chicken:

25 Guests50 Guests75 Guests
Ketchup3 cups4.5 cups6 cups
Orange juice3 cups4.5 cups6 cups
Honey1 cup1.5 cups6 cups
Soy sauce.5 cup.75 cup1 cup
Garlic cloves (chopped fine)6912
Salt1 tbsp.1.5 tbsp.2 tbsp.
Pepper2 tsp.3 tsp. 4 tsp.
Chicken breast halves255075
Serving trays246

Barbecue chicken recipe:

  • Combine and mix all ingredients except the chicken in a large bowl.
  • Place the chicken breasts in large shallow pans and pour the sauce over them. Cover them in tin foil and let them marinade over night.
  • Heat grills to 300 degrees. Cook slowly for 45 minutes, turning and basting the chicken
  • If grills aren’t available, you can bake them in the oven for 1.5 hours at 300 degrees.

Team #3: Deviled Eggs Team

This is a job for your friends who are comfortable with boiling water! Because that’s all it really takes. Here are the responsibilities for Team #3:

  • Make the eggs the day before the wedding, but don’t garnish them until right before leaving for the reception.
  • The eggs should be refrigerated at all times.
  • Arrive no more than 30 minutes before the ceremony to put the eggs out on the buffet table.
  • Replenish them throughout the evening as necessary.
  • Help with clean up after the reception.

Shopping list for deviled eggs:

25 Guests50 Guests75 Guests
Large fresh eggs2 dozen3 dozen4 dozen
Coleslaw dressing1 cup1.5 cups2 cups
20 inch round trays123
Serving spoons246

Recipe for deviled eggs:

  • Boil eggs.
  • Let them cool in ice water.
  • Remove the shells and cut them the long way in half.
  • Scoop out the yolks and place them in a mixing bowl.
  • Add coleslaw dressing and whip them.
  • Replace the mixture back into the egg white halves.
  • Garnish them with paprika and parsley flakes.
  • Cover and refrigerate.

Team #4: Corn on the Cob Team

Here are the responsibilities for the corn team:

  • Cook the corn as close to the reception time as possible to make sure it tastes fresh.
  • Bring it to the reception covered in foil. Warm it up in the oven.
  • Place it on the buffet table and replenish it as necessary.
  • At the end of the reception, Help with clean up.

Shopping list for corn on the cob:

25 Guests50 Guests75 Guests
Medium-sized fresh yellow corn255075
Salt and pepperto tasteto tasteto taste
Butter1.5 pounds2.75 pounds3 pounds
Large bowls123

Recipe for corn on the cob:

  • Remove the husks.
  • Boil the corn in unsalted water for about 30 minutes.
  • Remove from water and place directly on a hot grill.
  • Roll around until grill marks appear.
  • Remove and season with salt and pepper, and butter.
  • Place on tray and cover with foil until time to serve.

Team #5: Green Beans Team

If your friends can open a can of green beans, they can handle this! Here are the responsibilities for the Green Beans Team:

  • Make the beans the night before or the morning of the wedding.
  • Arrive at the reception no more than 30 minutes before the ceremony begins.
  • Place the beans in the oven to warm them up. Place them on the buffet table.
  • Replenish them as necessary throughout the evening.
  • Help clean up at the end of the reception.

Shopping list for green beans:

25 Guests50 Guests75 Guests
Italian green beans (15 oz. can)61218
Sugar1 cup2 cups3 cups
Vegetable oil3 tbsp.6 tbsp.9 tbsp.
Raw bacon strips, diced246
Salt2 tsp.4 tsp.2 tbsp.
Pepper1 tsp.2 tsp.3 tsp.
Large bowls123
Serving spoons246

Recipe for green beans:

  • Combine all ingredients in a large pot
  • Simmer covered for two hours.
  • Cover with foil and refrigerate.

Team #6: Pork and Beans Team

Another not-so-complicated job. Here are the responsibilities for the pork and beans team:

  • Make the beans early on the day of the wedding.
  • Arrive at the reception space no more than 30 minutes before the ceremony begins, heat the beans and place them on the buffet table.
  • Keep the rest on low-heat or in an ice-free cooler and replenish as necessary.
  • At the end of reception, help with clean up.

Shopping list for pork and beans:

25 Guests50 Guests75 Guests
Pork and beans (1 oz. cans)4812
Light brown sugar1 lb.2 lbs.3 lbs.
Medium onion, diced123
Green pepper, diced123
Raw bacon strips, diced4812
Baking dishes123
Serving spoons246

Recipe for pork and beans:

  • Mix all ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  • Pour into a baking dish.
  • Cover and bake at 325 degrees for 40 minutes.

Team #7: Potato Salad Team

Here are the responsibilities for Team Potato Salad:

  • Make the potato salad the night before the wedding.
  • Arrive at the reception no more than 30 minutes before the start of the ceremony and place your potato salad on the buffet table.
  • Keep an eye on the potato salad and replenish as needed.
  • Help with clean up at the end of the reception.

Shopping list for the potato salad:

25 Guests50 Guests75 Guests
Medium potatoes, diced8 lbs.16 lbs.24 lbs.
Mayonnaise4.5 cups9 cups13.5 cups
Sour cream1.5 cups3 cups4.5 cups
Yellow mustard1.5 cups3 cups4.5 cups
Fresh, chopped celery3 cups6 cups9 cups
Fresh, chopped green onion1.5 cups3 cups4.5 cups
Celery seed3 tbsp.6 tbsp.9 tbsp.
Salt2 tsp.4 tsp.6 tsp.
Large bowls123
Serving spoons246

Recipe for potato salad:

  • Prepare the potato salad a day before the wedding.
  • Peel the potatoes and dice them into .5 inch cubes.
  • Boil them about 15 minutes, cooked but still firm.
  • Drain them and let them cool for an hour.
  • In a large mixing bowl, whip together the mayonnaise, mustard, sour cream, celery seed, and salt.
  • Fold in the celery and green onion.
  • Pour the mixture over the potatoes, and toss until mixed.
  • Store overnight n the fridge.

Team #8: Coleslaw Team

This person will need a food processor, but it’s super easy to do. Here are the responsibilities for Team Coleslaw:

  • Make the coleslaw the day before the wedding and refrigerate overnight.
  • Arrive at the recption no more than 30 minutes before the ceremony and place the coleslaw on the buffet table.
  • Replenish the coleslaw as necessary thoughout the evening.
  • Help with clean up at the end of the reception.

Shopping list for coleslaw:

25 Guests50 Guests75 Guests
Cabbage, finely chopped20 cups (2 heads)32 cups (2-3 heads)44 cups (4-5 heads)
Carrots, peeled and shredded2 cups (4 carrots)4 cups (8 carrots)6 cups (12 carrots)
Green olives, chopped1.5 cups3 cups4.5 cups
Onion, finely diced.75 cup1.5 cups2.25 cups
Caraway seed1 tbsp.2 tbsp.3 tbsp.
Sour cream1.5 cups3 cups4.5 cups
Salt1 tbsp.2 tbsp.3 tbsp.
Sugar1 tsp.2 tsp.3 tsp.
Vinegar1/3 cup2/3 cup1 cup
Salad oil3 tbsp.6 tbsp.1/2 cup
Pepper1/2 tsp.t tsp.1.5 tsp.
Large bowls123
Serving spoons246

Coleslaw recipe:

  • In a large bowl, mix together the caraway seed, sour cream, sugar, salt, pepper, oil, and vinegar.
  • In another bowl, mix the carrots, cabbage, olives, and onion.
  • Pour the liquid mixture into the cabbage bowl and toss well.
  • Cover and refrigerate.

Team #9: Yeast Rolls and Bread and Butter Pickles Team

This job requires zero cooking experience and is SUPER easy. Here are the responsibilities:

  • Bake the rolls as close to the wedding as possible so that they’re fresh.
  • Arrive at the reception no more than 15 minutes before the ceremony start time.
  • Place the rolls and butter on the buffet table.
  • Remove the pickles from the jars and place them on the table in bowls.
  • Help out after the reception to clean up.

Shopping list:

25 Guests50 Guests75 Guests
Your favorite frozen roll dough1.5 packages3 packages4.5 packages
Butter (4 oz. sticks)3 sticks6 sticks9 sticks
Butter dish235
Butter knives235
Bread and Butter Pickles (16 oz. jars)246

Recipe for yeast rolls:

  • Follow the directions on the package for preparing the rolls.
  • Cover in tin foil and bring to reception.

Team #10: Iced Tea and Coffee Team

Here are the responsibilities:

  • Make little signs for the regular and decaf coffee.
  • Make tea no more than 6 hours before the reception.
  • Stop and get ice on your way to the reception, Break the ice and put it in the ice chests with a scooper.
  • Arrive at the reception with plenty of time to brew the coffee… It usually takes 30 minutes to an hour to brew.
  • Ten minutes before the reception, fill all your glasses with iced tea to prevent a hold up in the line. Guests can just grab a glass and move along.
  • Refill the dispenser and leave the ice scooper visible to guests.
  • Keep an ice on the table and replenish coffee supplies as needed.
  • Help with clean up at the end of the reception.

Shopping list for sweetened iced tea:

25 Guests 50 Guests75 Guests
Plastic 1-gallon container369
Family sized tea bags of your favorite brand153045
Water3 gallons6 gallons9 gallons
Sugar9 cups18 cups27 cups
Glass bowls4812
Ice chest222
Ice scoop222
Ice15 lbs30 lbs45 lbs
10 to 12 cup coffee maker111

Shopping list for coffee:

25 Guests50 Guests75 Guests
Regular coffee5 oz10 oz15 oz
Decaf coffee5 oz10 oz15 oz
Water25 cups50 cups75 cups
Sugar1/4 lb1/2 lb3/4 lb
Artificial sweetener (Packets)224466
Cream (hand and half)1/2 qt1 qt1.5 qts
Glass bowls666
Signs for the coffee1 of each1 of each1 of each
12 foot 3-pronged extension cord222

Recipe for one gallon of iced tea (for 25 guests, make 3 batches; fro 50 guests, make 6 batches; for 75 guests, make 9 batches):

  • Fill coffee pot with water and brew 5 tea bags.
  • Pour the tea into a 1-gallon container and fill the container with warm water.
  • Add sugar and stir.
  • Refrigerate.
  • Cut lemons into wedges and wrap them up to bring to the reception and add to the drinks on site.

Coffee “recipe”:

  • Make the coffee, set out the signs, and the sugar, creamer, and cups.

That’s it!

That’s all you need to put together your own backyard BBQ wedding reception! Consider putting your most reliable friend in charge, so you don’t have to stress about everything getting on the table the hour (or half hour) before the ceremony… while you’re concerned about other things! Keep it simple, lean on your loved ones, relax and enjoy! 🙂

Source: Michael Flowers and Donna Bankhead – Catering Your Own Wedding: Easy Ways to Do it Yourself in Style


Brittany is a writer and teacher in Vancouver, Canada. She started the website Wayfaring Weddings as a way to share her research on affordable, eco-friendly, and less stressful approaches to wedding planning.