Is It Cheaper To Have a Backyard Wedding?

bride and groom in front of their house

If you are on a tight budget for your wedding and want to maximize the bang for your buck, you may look at alternatives to traditional weddings. A backyard wedding may seem like an attractive option, but it isn’t always as cheap as it looks. 

It is not always cheaper to have a backyard wedding, as renting the equipment you need to transform your backyard into a wedding venue can be expensive. You might also need to hire amenities such as portable bathrooms or generators, which will add to your costs. 

The rest of this article will discuss the cost considerations of backyard weddings and any concerns you might have, so you can decide if it’s the best option. 

Personally, I considered having a backyard wedding for my own wedding five years ago. When I looked into the costs of rentals and considered the stress it would add to planning, however, I ultimately decided against it. We found a gorgeous estate with a tent in upstate New York that gave us the same vibe as a backyard wedding but in a grander, and all-inclusive, package.

Keep reading for what I found when I was researching having a backyard wedding so you can decide for yourself what’s right for your wedding. And if you do have a backyard wedding, there are some helpful tips to help you get started.

Do You Need a Permit for a Backyard Wedding?

The topic of permits for a backyard wedding is a popular and scary one. And you might also think, “A wedding is essentially a party I’m having in my home. So, why would I need a permit?” 

You will need a permit for a backyard wedding depending on the amenities you choose to have at the wedding. Common permits you will need are for parking and noise, as there will likely be many cars parked on your street, and the party might get loud, which could cause disturbance to your neighbors. 

For example, if you have pop-up tents and an open flame present at the wedding, you might need a permit from the fire department. Additionally, if you have portable restrooms at your event, you could need a permit from the health department. 

It’s always safer to be prepared regarding permits, as the last thing you want is to get your event shut down. Therefore, you must check with your local laws or city hall on the permits you might require for your wedding. 

Calling your town or working with a wedding planner who has planned events in your city is your best bet to confirm what permits you need to have and how to get them.

Is It Possible to Have a Backyard Wedding on Uneven Ground? 

It can be hard to set up a dining area, chairs, tents, or a dance floor if your backyard is uneven due to rocks or hills, etc. And you might wonder if it’s even possible to utilize uneven ground for your wedding. 

It is possible to have a backyard wedding on uneven ground as the ground can be artificially leveled and smoothed out to provide a more stable base for things to rest on. 

However, this might mean spending more money on your wedding, which is counterintuitive if your purpose for having a backyard wedding is to be more economical. 

bride and groom with an intimate backyard evening wedding set up

How Can I Have an Inexpensive Backyard Wedding?

The key to having a successful yet inexpensive backyard wedding is to keep things simple. For example, have the wedding catered instead of hiring a chef or provide standard drinks for the party rather than having an open bar. 

If you’re not a person who is caught up in the extra bells and whistles of a wedding, keeping it simple should be easy for you. Your wedding day is about you and your partner, and as long as you two are happy, having an inexpensive and straightforward wedding is perfectly okay.   

Furthermore, a simple wedding will be more intimate and magnify the fact that the ceremony is a celebration of your love for each other.  

And the guest list is a major factor on the cost and simplicity of the event. If you keep it under 50 people then your wedding can be treated more like any other party at your home. But over 50 and you start to run into issues with bathrooms, power, and parking.

For more detailed information on why the guest list is a major factor in budgeting for your wedding, read this article on how much weddings cost per person.

Looking for alternative affordable wedding venues? Check out my full list of the best places to find cheap wedding reception venues here.

How Long Does It Take To Plan a Backyard Wedding?

It can take 6 to 18 months to plan a backyard wedding, depending on the number of guests you invite and the scale of the wedding you’d like to have. For example, if you’re only inviting 50 people and are keeping the festivities low-key, planning will not take too long. 

However, planning a backyard wedding can also take longer than a wedding at a traditional venue, as you’ll be doing most of the planning by yourself. Furthermore, your backyard needs to be transformed into a wedding venue, whereas a church or wedding hall already has the required amenities.

Here’s more information on how long weddings take to plan

Another example would be accounting for the weather on your chosen wedding date. If you’re planning a backyard wedding, it has to be on a day with no rain, meaning you’d have to look at weather forecasts months away. 

Need to plan something fast? For more information on planning a wedding at the last minute, check out this article.

backyard decorated for a wedding

How Many People Should I Invite to a Backyard Wedding?

You should invite 50-100 people to a backyard wedding if you want to keep the cost of the wedding under control. You’ll also need to consider the size of your backyard and home, as issues will arise by having too many people in one place. 

While not having every person in your life at your wedding may be a huge disappointment, the actual ceremony will be more intimate than one with 200+ guests. And your space might not be able to accommodate many guests as you’ll need to take bathrooms into consideration. 

Furthermore, the costs of inviting too many people can add up quickly. More guests mean more food and drinks, more seating arrangements, more space required for parking, etc. Therefore, consider your budget and space when deciding how many people to invite to your wedding. 

If you’re interested in planning a micro wedding, read this article on planning a wedding with less than 50 people.

What Do You Need for a Backyard Wedding?

Having a backyard wedding means you might have to rent more items and equipment to transition from a yard to a wedding venue. Furthermore, you’ll probably also want to hire a landscaping service to make your backyard more visually appealing for the ceremony and all of the pictures. 

Some items you’ll need to rent for a backyard wedding include: 

  • Tables and chairs 
  • Crockery and cutlery
  • Items required to run a bar 
  • Tents 
  • Audio equipment
  • PA system for music and announcements
  • Power generator 
  • Portable bathrooms 
  • Dance floor

As you can see, the costs of a backyard wedding can add up quickly and make your wedding extremely expensive – especially given that most traditional venues are already outfitted with most of these amenities. 

bride and groom walking in a field past an empty barn

Do I Need A Tent for My Backyard Wedding?

Tents, or another covering such as an awning or pergola, are a good idea for backyard weddings. The obvious reason is that in the case of rain or other bad weather, the tent can provide some shelter from the elements. However, that’s not the only reason to rent a tent for your backyard. It can also provide shelter from the sun for guests. And it can break up the space in your yard so guests know exactly where to go for the dinner and dancing portion of your event.

Make sure when you rent a tent you choose one that’s the right size for your guests, food, tables and any other activities you plan on happening within the tent (e.g. the dance floor and DJ equipment.)

Need more information about renting a wedding tent? I have an article all about how much it costs, what to consider, and how to rent one.

Do I Need A Generator for My Backyard Wedding?

A generator is needed for a backyard wedding if you have significant power needs that could tax your home system. If you’ve ever had your power go out after plugging in your hair dryer and running the AC at the same time, then you know your electrical system is not set up to run multiple things at once. You don’t want to have to run back and forth to the circuit breaker in the middle of your ceremony or reception.

You should consider a generator if you’re having a DJ, lots of lights, or anything else that uses up a lot of power and is more than your normal usage. Generators can be rented out for a less expensive option. Or you can buy a generator and keep it as a backup for any future emergencies.

Generators run on gas so make sure you’re fully fueled up and ready to go for your event. And keep some back up fuel on hand in case you run low later in the night.

Do I Need Portable Bathrooms for My Backyard Wedding?

You need portable bathrooms for your wedding if you’re having a lot of guests and don’t have enough bathrooms to accommodate them all. Or if the bathrooms are far away from the main area.

Here are the two problems you want to avoid. First, you don’t want long lines of people waiting outside your only guest bathroom in the house instead of enjoying the festivities of your wedding. Not only does it make for a bad guest experience, but important family members and friends may miss out on important wedding events because they were stuck in line for the restroom!

Second, you don’t want guests to have to make a huge trek back to the bathrooms if your yard is large. For example, if you live on multiple acres of property and people have to walk 10-15 minutes back to the main house for restrooms, you’re again going to have people missing major milestones because they were on a hike instead of enjoying the event.

Because you’ll be serving food and drinks for multiple hours at a time, people will have to use the bathrooms a lot more frequently. Plus, don’t forget about yourself! Do you really want to wait on line or walk a large distance in a wedding gown or suit every time you need to go? As a former bride, let me tell you. The dress is not so easy to maneuver when nature calls.

So do yourself a favor and if you’re having more than 50 guests, rent out some additional bathrooms. You can go for port-a-potties if you’re on a budget. But there are also much nicer options to rent these days if you can splurge. Like this trailer bathroom from A Royal Flush for example.

VIP bathroom trailer

Should You Have a Backyard Wedding?

You should have a backyard wedding if you have the budget to rent the items and equipment required and if your backyard is a good size that can cater to your guests. 

Remember that a backyard wedding might be difficult logistically as you’ll need to add extras like portable bathrooms, lighting, PA systems, etc. Furthermore, you’ll need to consider parking accommodations and permits. These additions might raise your wedding budget. 

But if you can keep things simple with fewer than 50 people, a backyard wedding is an excellent choice for an informal affair. It can be quick to plan and simple to execute. It might even save you some money if you don’t need to rent a tent, bathrooms, or other supplies.

I have a full list of backyard wedding pros and cons that you can check out here if you’re still deciding whether a backyard wedding is right for you.

Budgeting for a Backyard Wedding

Ready to jot down some numbers and see if a backyard wedding will work for you?

You can check out my free budget guide if you sign up for my newsletter. It automatically calculates what you should spend where based on your budget and guest count and helps you stay on track. It’s like the fairy godmother of numbers.

Final Thoughts 

On the surface, having a backyard wedding seems more inexpensive than a traditional wedding. You might think you will save money by not having to rent a venue. However, while you may save that money, you will essentially be spending that money on the equipment required to transform your backyard into a wedding venue. 

If you have your heart set on a backyard wedding, keep things super simple. Or hire a planner who has experience planning events on raw space without the usual amenities and be prepared to spend some extra money getting the space wedding-ready.


Jaime is the owner of Loud Bride and Coast Designs LLC. She got married in 2017 in Geneseo, NY and designed her own wedding invitations and programs for the occasion. Now, she designs bespoke wedding stationery and affordable templates for other couples. She lives in New York city with her husband and two children.

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