If you’re joining the hordes and attending a wedding or two this hot season, chances are good you’ll be toasting at least one happy couple in their very own home—or maybe the home of a family member. No matter where you look, from Facebook to People magazine, it’s clear that the intimate backyard wedding is having a big moment.The latest celeb couple to exchange vows at home? Model Miranda Kerr and Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel, who were married on May 27 at their palatial place in Brentwood, CA. Approximately 50 guests were gathered in the backyard of the home they purchased for $12.5 million just a month earlier.
In 2012, the New York Times credited the surprise backyard wedding of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan as playing a major role in stoking renewed interest in homebound weddings.
Getting married in the comfort of your own backyard—whether or not you have a palatial estate and a tech billionaire fiancé—is hardly a new concept. So why are so many couples opting to tie the knot on their own turf?
Benefits of having a backyard wedding
All the experts we spoke to mentioned cost—first and foremost—as the top benefit for hosting your celebration at home.
“Venue fees are one of the biggest wedding costs,” explains Janessa White of Simply Eloped, a company that produces weddings in New York City and New Orleans. “So getting married in your backyard leads to major cost savings.”
Other advantages include having the flexibility to secure any date you want and the convenience of getting ready at home.
And, of course, welcoming friends and family into your home will make the event feel more intimate. Even if it’s actually huge.
Downsides of an at-home ‘I do’
You might assume that hosting at home is the cheapest route for a wedding, but there might be costs you haven’t considered. Anticipate the possibility of having to pay for extra generators, landscaping, and lawn care (that will likely get trampled either way), and renting portable toilets, heaters, and a tent.
“If a couple is looking to party all night outside, hopefully they don’t have nearby neighbors,” says Southern California–based wedding coordinator Tobey Dodge, who says she’s been a part of at least 200 home weddings. Most cities or counties can slap a fine on you if you disobey their noise restrictions or curfew.
Plus, Dodge says that with setting up the space before the event and breaking it down afterward, you’ve got at least a three-day process—further adding to the bill, as well as amping up the chaos at your home.
So if your backyard is your ideal wedding venue, be sure to get clarity on those items before sending out the save-the-date reminder.
Get wedding liability insurance
You’ll likely be spending a nice chunk of change on your event, so taking out a wedding insurance policy will protect you from financial losses related to last-minute problems. What if your four-tier wedding cake topples, or a parent falls ill and you have to postpone the celebration (you’ll still need to pay the caterers, photographer, DJ, and more)?
Event planner and designer Alison Laesser-Keck of Santa Barbara, CA, recommends getting $2 million in liability insurance. For a 120-person wedding where alcohol will be provided and sold by a caterer, a $2 million liability limit can be purchased for around $260, according to WedSafe, a wedding insurance specialist.
Also, make sure your home insurance policy has sufficient liability insurance attached for a single special event. Don’t ignore this step. Stuff happens at weddings.
Get your neighbors’ blessing
It’s a good idea—and good etiquette—to let your neighbors know you’ll be hosting an event with a lot of guests. You’ll want to quell every concern they’ll have about noise, car congestion, and random people walking around your neighborhood.
“Most neighborhoods have a noise ordinance of 10 p.m., so you would need to plan on having everything wrapped up by then,” says Dodge. Be sure to check out the rules on noise in your city and county.
Arrange a parking plan
Unless a majority of your guests decide to take Lyft or Uber, you’ll have to consider where everyone will park their cars.
“If you are expecting even 50 people, you will most likely have between 25 and 35 cars,” says Veronica Thompson, owner of VIBEvents Group in Chesapeake, VA. “You will need to provide a central location for your guests to park and perhaps even shuttle or bus people to your home.”
To make things easier, you might consider hiring a couple of valets. And if guests will be using street parking, it’s crucial that you let your neighbors know.
Provide plenty of bathrooms
You don’t want guests to miss out on the cake cutting because they were waiting in line to use the bathroom all night.
“If you have lots of guests and only one or two bathrooms at your house, anticipate long, uncomfortable lines,” says White. “Avoid that sensitive issue by renting an appropriate amount of portable toilets.”
Thompson suggests you provide at least one stall per 35 guests. Portable toilets can range from nice-looking trailers to the basic single-toilet units. And the actual toilets aren’t the only thing you need to worry about: Make sure your guests have a place to wash and dry their hands.
Consider where the food will be prepped
You might choose to make the food yourself or have a caterer take care of the cooking. Either way, you need to plan where all this cooking will take place.
Some caterers prefer to cook all of the food off-site, but will need to use your refrigerator, oven, and other appliances to get it ready to serve. It’s a good idea to clean out your fridge and freezer, and clear off your countertops to maximize efficiency.
Dodge says some caterers also like to work out of the homeowner’s garage. “If you have a lot of stuff jammed into your garage, it may take a lot of effort to clean the space to work,” she says.
Plan for the weather, and then have a Plan B
Depending on the season in which your wedding will take place, make sure you’ve accounted for likely weather patterns when planning the big day, says White. For example, if you’re getting married during a potentially hot summer, consider holding the wedding in the evening or creating shade with a tent.
She also urges couples to create a contingency plan for bad weather.
“Oftentimes, this can be as simple as moving the ceremony inside the house, but just be sure to think through the nuances of that before the ceremony,” White advises.