I can’t tell you how many times I have been in a consultation with a potential couple, and they say “I just really want an easy, relaxed, outdoor wedding. We are hoping to save some money by having our wedding at our family estate, lake house, backyard, insert private property here.”
When I hear these words, and I look across the table at my precious swoonies, my heart hurts. Outdoor weddings are rarely less expensive. More often than not they end up being more expensive, and here is why.
Rentals: Rentals are startlingly expensive. You are working with an empty space. You will need to bring in EVERYTHING. Tables, chairs, linens, glassware, china, utensils, a bar, tables for the caterer, etc. Most venues have these items already worked into their pricing and you aren’t responsible for delivery fees.
Labor: You and your family will need to set everything up, and then clean everything at the end of the night. You can of course hire someone to do this for you, or pay the set up fee from your rental company, but most of the work will fall on you and your family. I will say this though, you will never regret the setup and teardown help of a respectable rental company, so if it’s in the budget, outsource.
Space: You will need to get the space ready to entertain. That may mean fixing the fence that has been on your list for years, updating the landscaping, cleaning out the septic tank, putting in lighting, leveling the lawn, the list goes on. It’s always a good idea to have an event planner and your catering/rental company come and walk the site before you commit to the space. They will find things that you may not have even considered.
Restrooms for your guests. As a general rule of thumb, you will need one restroom for every fifty guests. If the house on property doesn’t have enough, you will need to rent in bathroom trailers. As with everything there are nice ones and not so nice ones. You will also need to provide more TP, soap, hand towels, etc.
Electricity. There is a lot of power that is used at weddings. The caterer, the band, dj, lighting, and climate control. You will need to make sure that the power source is strong enough, and rent a back up generator.
Climate Control. With outdoor weddings you are at the mercy of mother nature. Your guests will be much more comfortable if you are able to bring in fans or heaters. You should also have a tent on hold. If you don’t end up using the tent the deposit is lost which I know is a huge bummer. However if it starts pouring, your whole wedding won’t be ruined, and you’ll be really glad you had that tent.
Dancing. I know that several people just want their guests to dance in the grass. There are women who guaranteed will wear heels to your wedding. You should bring in a dance floor. It will help define the space, and keep everyone happy and dancing for longer. It will also prevent damage to the lawn, muddy shoes, and rolled ankles.
Parking. What are you going to do with all of those cars? Most private residences don’t have the capacity for 100+ guests and all of their vehicles. You will most likely need to work out a parking situation with a nearby hotel and shuttle your guests in. If you do decide to allow your guests to park along the street please check with your HOA and neighbors before doing so. You don’t want the police called or unhappy neighbors as you start your married life.
Insurance: You will need to take out event insurance to protect your event, but also liability insurance. If someone gets hurt on your property that could come back on you.
Licenses/Permits: There are several laws, and each place is different, about noise ordinances, alcohol distribution, fire safety, etc. Check with your county and state to make sure you are covered. Some places even require you to have an inspection done. If these things are not done the fire marshal or police can shut down your event.
Some other things to consider are that all of your guests will know where you live, and some people may not take your wedding as seriously as you had hoped.
If you have read through all of this and you can make the budget work here are some of the pros:
Complete Control of your space. Its your house. No one can tell you that you can’t hang something on the wall, or hire flame throwers.
If done smart it can be less expensive. Of course this depends on several factors as listed above.
Everything is in one location. You won’t have to worry about someone leaving their shoes at the house, or their earrings in the hotel room.
You can set up and break down whenever you want to. You are on your own time. You can spend weeks setting up your event, and you won’t have to rush everyone out at the end of the night
It’s intimate, it’s personal, it’s special, and it can be really nice.
You won’t have site fees. You will be able to allocate your funds elsewhere.
It won’t be booked on your date. If you have a private residence as your venue, you are the only ones who will get married there. You can select any date you want.