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Weddings and wedding receptions at home

Weddings and receptions at homes or private venues: Free -- or not?

Are you thinking about having your wedding and reception at your home or at a family or friend's private backyard? It's free to you -- right? Yes, there may be no venue rental fee. But review the other rental fees you will incur. Plus there will be logistical issues.

I recently talked to two brides-to-be who realized, after they were committed to hosting their wedding at home, that the rental fees and other work associated with having a wedding at home -- or a friend's property -- were far more than what they anticipated.

While I don't want to discourage you from your backyard wedding, please consider the pros and cons before launching into full wedding and reception planning at a place that will most likely create a lot of work -- and possibly cost more than if you had rented a full-service venue.


  • Location has special meaning to one or both of you
  • No venue rental fee
  • You will have the space for as much time as you need before the wedding
  • You can prepare and create the space as you wish, including growing flowers and landscaping

Logistics and other planning to address

  • Ceremony: Rent, borrow, buy or build chairs or benches, ceremony arbor or table, and other furniture or props.
  • Reception: If you are serving food, you will need to provide the caterer a staging area.
  • Tent: Rent a tent for the ceremony and reception to protect guests from the sun and rain.
  • Rent tables, chairs, linens, table service and china (or paper products). If you are hiring a caterer, ask the caterer to rent these items for you.
  • Bathrooms for guests: Most homes are not set up to handle 120 people using the bathroom. Rent port-a-potties or the fancy mobile bathrooms with carpeting; they are very nice.
  • Parking: Do you have parking for 60+ cars? If not, consider renting a shuttle bus and park cars at a local park or school, but ask permission first.
  • Set-up / tear down: Consider hiring people to set up and tear down the rentals, if the rental company won't do it. Don't ask your bridal party or parents to do it as they want to celebrate -- not work! Leave clear instructions about which items are to be returned and which belong to you. Ask one reliable person to be responsible, and ask more people than you think you need to help.

Advantages of booking at full-service venues

  • They produce hundreds of weddings and know how to help
  • Tables, chairs and other wedding-related items are readily available. Often they have staff that will set-up (included in the fee or some charge a fee) and tear down tables and chairs.
  • If there's an in-house caterer, they supply the food, servers, buffet table, tables, chairs, linens and sometimes the table decor
  • Parking is available and often free
  • Bathrooms are accessible and ready for 120 people

These are a few tips. Talk to a wedding coordinator to help you with the details. Better yet, hire a wedding coordinator to help organize your wedding and reception. Find more ideas in South Sound Wedding & Event magazine -- print or digital (find link on home page).

Photographs by Tasha Owen Photography.

Click on a photo to enlarge.

Published on April 30, 2016.

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