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The cost of a backyard wedding varies significantly depending on how many people you invite, which types of food you serve, and whether you hire professional photographers, caterers, or DJs. Here’s a breakdown of the typical expenses and how you can save money on your big day.
Average Cost of a Wedding Venue
In the U.S., the average cost of a wedding venue was $11,200 in 2022. That’s the mean average, of course — people who rent out New York’s entire Oheka Castle pay roughly $70,000 for 125 guests, skewing the average venue cost toward a much higher number.
In general, you can expect to save a few thousand dollars on venue costs if you do a backyard wedding. At the same time, you’ll pay more for things like lighting, furnishings, decorations, and even portable restrooms, which venues typically provide.
Breaking Down the Cost of a Backyard Wedding
It’s impossible to say exactly how much a backyard wedding costs because it depends on what type of event you want to have. The biggest determining factor is how many people you invite, with the average wedding having 100 to 125 guests. Couples who invite 50 or fewer guests spend an average of $14,400 on their weddings.
Food and Beverages
Catering costs an average of $75 per person. This price includes food, non-alcoholic and hard beverages, waitstaff, and sometimes dishes and silverware.
However, you can save money by serving a buffet-style meal instead of a formal, plated dinner. Another idea is to bring in a food truck to serve your guests. You can also choose a less-expensive menu featuring less meat and more fruits, vegetables, and pasta to cut costs.
If you don’t want to shell out for a multi-story wedding cake, a fun option is to buy individual cakes, pies, or other desserts. Guests will still get their sugar fix and you can save a lot of money on cake.
You’ll need to provide your own chairs, tables, portable bar, and gift table at your backyard wedding. Luckily, you can source some of these things from your own home. For example, a long table or vanity can double as a bar.
Additionally, it’s a good idea to rent a tent in case of inclement weather. You may also need fans or heaters inside. To save on the cost of a tent, consider holding the ceremony indoors if you have the space.
Lastly, you’ll need to rent or build an altar if you want a traditional ceremony with an altar overhead. It’s certainly not a requirement, and many couples forego the altar altogether at a backyard wedding.
The cost of illuminating your wedding venue depends on whether you’re holding the ceremony outdoors or in. Inside a canopy, for example, you’ll probably need extra lighting even if you’re getting married in the middle of the day. After the ceremony, a reception often stretches into the night, so you’ll need lights to help people see their food, drinks, and dance partners.
A few strands of string lights are relatively cheap — around $20 per string — and still make for a beautiful vibe. It’s also a good idea to illuminate walkways, with a set of eight LED walkway lights going for around $200. Don’t forget to buy extension cords as well.
Most people decorate the tables at a wedding with linens, place cards, and some sort of centerpiece. Flowers and candles make great, inexpensive table decor — you can buy them at a local home goods or grocery store. Look for inexpensive bowls and vases at thrift stores. Additionally, many people buy or rent an aisle runner for walking down the aisle outdoors.
Do you have a friend who’s always wanted to be a makeup artist? How about a cousin who excels at styling hair? Ask them to do your hair and makeup for your wedding.
Look for used wedding dresses and tuxedos on thrift store sites or rent one for just a few days. You might even have a friend or family member who wears your same clothing size — see if they’re willing to lend you their dress or suit.
To save big on your bouquet, choose in-season flowers. You can even make your own bouquet with blooms you bought at the grocery store. Or, buy a small bouquet from a florist and supplement it with your own hand-picked wildflowers to give it a personal touch.
These days, many couples forego the professional DJ and opt to hook up a smartphone to a speaker. Going this route means you can curate the perfect wedding playlist.
All you need to do is rent some speakers — often around $200 — and make sure you have extension cords long enough to connect them to the house. If you’re far from an outlet, you’ll need to rent a generator for an additional $200 or so.
Hiring a professional photographer can cost thousands of dollars. If you want to save money, you can assign this role to a friend or family member who’s good with a camera. You can also encourage all guests to take photos throughout your wedding and send them to you later.
If you’re hosting a backyard wedding, one unexpected cost may come in the form of portable restrooms. A good rule of thumb is to have one restroom available for every 50 people. However, it’s wise to have at least two bathrooms in case a toilet gets clogged or several people need to go at the same time.
A typical restroom trailer rental costs several hundred to a thousand dollars. Alternatively — if you don’t think your guests will mind — you could rent a porta-potty for around $80.
Remember to budget for trash cans, recycling bins, and bags for both. You can rent waste disposal bins for a few dollars apiece.
Don’t forget the little things!
First, many people still send physical wedding invitations in the mail. If you do this, there’s no need to spend hundreds of dollars on lavish cards and envelopes. You can get custom wedding invitations for less than $1 per card.
You also need a wedding license to make your marriage official. The cost depends on where you live — in the United States, each state charges a different fee, usually around $50 to $115.
Additionally, you need an officiant to legally pronounce you married. A professional officiant can charge upwards of $500, but if you can find a trusted friend or family member who’s willing to officiate your wedding, it will be free.
It’s customary to give your guests wedding favors on their way out. Favors are typically small and simple — think mints, magnets, or candles — but the more guests you have, the more you should budget for wedding favors. It’s typical to spend around $1 to $2 per guest on favors.
Preparing for Your Big Day
Hopefully, this list of ways to lower the cost of a backyard wedding inspires you. At the end of the day, your wedding is all about celebrating the love between you and your future spouse, and it’s all yours to personalize. Have fun with it and spend the occasion exactly the way you want!
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