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.”
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.
Travel and Delivery Fees: If you are in a remote location, the rentals, decor, vendors, etc. are most likely going to be driving out from the metropolitan areas. They will require travel compensation, but also over night accommodations.
Labor: You will need to hire a set up/strike crew, or pay the rental company their fee for set up and breakdown. Often times your full service caterer will have enough staff to handle this, but double check.
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 tent/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: 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 toilet paper, soap, hand towels, etc. Bathroom trailers do require a flat, hard, surface. Some require a reliable power source.
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, or a few. Opt for the quiet generators so that the loud sound of the motor doesn’t drown out the music or your toasts.
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 reserved. Tents book quickly. Once you have decided on your private property venue, secure the tent. You may also need to consider flooring, stairs, side walls, rigging points, etc. This is something your planner can help you with.
Dancing: I know that several people just want their guests to dance in the grass. If it rains, and the ground is wet, you will have a mess. You should bring in a dance floor, it may require a sub floor or a platform to be put down. 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 area 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. If you are putting up a tent, talk to the tenting company about the proper licenses.
Something else to consider, is that large groups of people may cause damage to the property. Trucks loading in over the course of the day may tear up the lawn if something is not put down for them to drive over. This is an easy fix, but it does require more time and labor.
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. It’s 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. You are not paying for a venue, but you are constructing one. It’s a slippery slope, but can be done based on individual event goals and the on site amenities.
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 because you have to rush to a second venue.
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 custom.
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.