Planning a Backyard Wedding May Not Be As Easy As You Think!

getting married at home

Some brides- and grooms-to-be, when confronted by the cost of the average wedding, begin to contemplate getting married at home… or at least in the home of a well-to-do relative with a house or property that makes a nice backdrop for wedding photographs. It’s what The Beard and I did, and we were able to save quite a bit of money by getting married on my grandmother’s water-front property in a very upscale area of Florida’s Atlantic coast. It worked for us, and beautifully so, though I’m quick to caution brides and grooms thinking of getting married at home that it’s not always the least expensive or even the less expensive option.

Why did we save money while others might not? For one thing, my grandmother’s house had four bathrooms, bedrooms enough for a bridal chamber, two refrigerators for food storage, a large screened porch that kept critters away from the buffet and wedding cake, and yard space enough for a big tent. We were saved from having to figure out how to keep food fresh and where to serve it, from having to rent upscale portable toilets, from cleaning or landscaping because my grandmother is simply immaculate to begin with, and from worrying about rain, because the house would have held everyone if things had gotten wet. Oh, not to mention my gram’s church connections meant we were hooked up with things like giant coffee carafes, and amazingly, there was plenty of room for parking. Best of all, after the wedding was over, my aunts, uncles, and cousins tidied everything up, meaning there was no need to hire a cleaner.

I’m not bragging, though I’ll admit I was pretty pleased with myself for choosing Merritt Island, FL over Boston, MA. I’m just trying to illustrate all of the things that the bride- and groom-to-be need to acquire when planning a wedding at home for a large number of guests. When you’re planning a wedding at a dedicated reception venue or a venue that frequently handles large events, there’s usually a manager who handles the details so you’re saved from having to track down linens and calculate how many tables you’ll need. And when you’re planning a wedding at home that’s tiny, you can work with what you have. Getting married at home when you want a biggish, traditional wedding is a whole other ballgame.

In fact, in an article I recently read, Katie Martin, a wedding planner at Elegance & Simplicity in Bethesda, warns that getting married at home may cost you 10-15% more than getting married at a wedding venue. According to her, brides and grooms “have to bring in all sorts of vendors to make it a reality,” which is true. All the things that an event venue manager would handle for you become your responsibility when you have your heart set on an at-home affair.

Here’s a short list of what you might be on the hook for when you’re planning a wedding at home:

  • A tent or shade or indoor space
  • A PA system if you’re outdoors
  • Tables and chairs
  • Linens and chair covers
  • Plates, glasses and cups, silverware, chafing dishes, and service ware
  • A safe space for food and drink and your wedding cake
  • Food prep supplies and coolers
  • Enough kitchen space for food prep if you’re not serving a cold buffet
  • A portable dance floor
  • Trash cans
  • A portable power generator
  • Parking and possibly a valet
  • Portable bathrooms
  • Decorations
  • Lamps
  • Bug spray and sunscreen
  • Wait staff for food service and bartending, if you’d rather guests not serve themselves
  • A cleanup crew

And that’s in addition to all the usual stuff brides- and grooms-to-be have to worry about when planning a wedding, like wedding favors, the wedding cake, the flowers, and so on. I wouldn’t suggest anyone up to the challenge not try planning a wedding at home for, say, 100+ guests, but I do maintain that it’s not the easiest kind of wedding one can plan. There may be noise-hating neighbors to contend with or even ordinances that can make getting married at home complicated. Some wedding vendors are unwilling or at least hesitant to work directly with brides and grooms holding their weddings at private residences. There’s a lot to think about and precious little professional help to be found for the DIY bride getting married at home.

So what’s the best advice I can offer couples thinking of planning a wedding at home? Enlist the help of family and friends! Trust me, you don’t want to be running around in your wedding dress, trying to hide from the groom while making sure that the cake has been delivered and the flowers are set up under the archway.

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