Getting married is a lot like buying a house in that everything costs lots of money. In order to save some dough on a venue, which is the most expensive part of a wedding, my husband and I got married in our back yard in May of 2018. We were able to throw the whole shebang for under eight grand, but there are a few caveats.
First of all, we live in a small town in Kentucky where everything, including catering, is more affordable than in a big city. Plus, we live on 35 acres, so space was not an issue. It also helped that we had family and friends nearby. Lastly, it didn't hurt that I'm pretty thrifty and super crafty. I was working part-time, so I had plenty of time to DIY. Even if these circumstances don't match yours, you can still throw a backyard wedding on a budget—here's how.
I am a do-or-die DIY-er. From the flower girl's tutu to the signage lettering, my wedding literally had a personal touch. My mom and mother-in-law both helped me tie on dozens of fluffy hanging tissue paper pom-poms to a display rack that my MIL already happened to own. We scored the pom-poms at the dollar store for a steal, but you can craft them yourself as well. After we used our creation as a photo backdrop, it doubled as a backdrop for the cake table!
Get creative with what resources you have and use your imagination. I threw a brunch so all my friends and their moms would come help me craft my centerpiece flowers out of tissue paper. No telling how much that saved me at the florist, and we all had a good time together.
In addition to borrowing the display rack from my MIL, I borrowed a dozen vases from a friend and drink dispensers from my old roommate. Don't be afraid of donations. One of my besties had just gotten married the previous winter, so I scored a bunch of decor from her, which I repurposed for my own uses. She had used some sheer curtains as tablecloths and I was able to fashion a bride and groom's table background using her curtains and a curtain of twinkly LED lights I found on Amazon.
Instead of spending $50 on a coat hanger, shop used wedding decor on Facebook Marketplace, eBay, and Etsy. You never know what kind of treasures await at a yard sale or flea market. Wedding dresses have particularly offensive price tags. Many brides, including yours truly, save in this department by buying a white dress that isn't necessarily a bridal gown.
Enlist the help of your talented and generous network of family and friends. I mentioned how my tribe assisted with the floral arrangements, but I also got my sister to officiate the ceremony (gratis, of course), and my girlfriends concocted the margaritas and sangria the night before the wedding while I took care of last-minute details. My MIL is a hairdresser, so she gave me a side bun, while my beautiful, cosmetically skilled buddy did my makeup as a wedding gift. It was truly a homemade affair.
Another way we saved was making the difficult decision not to hire a band. I love live music, but we had a lot of family on our guest list and it just didn't seem like the cut-a-rug crowd, which was fine since we didn't spring for the outdoor dance floor either. My musically talented cousin played a couple songs on the ukulele to kick off the ceremony and as I walked down the aisle. I did hire a solo guitarist to play during the cocktail hour, which was only $200 as opposed to the $1200 it would have been to have an entire band perform. My buddy DJ'd, and by that I mean he oversaw the Spotify playlist I created. The cool thing about a Spotify playlist is you can make it collaborative so your guests can "request" songs beforehand. I enlisted yet another cousin who had bartending experience to sling drinks during the reception.
If you have to make major improvements to your yard, you may not be saving that much money on a venue, but at least they are lasting improvements you can enjoy for years to come. We had to rent an excavator to fix our creek so it would quit flooding the yard and we bought materials to build a bridge over the creek, both of which needed to be done anyway. This is yet another area where green-thumbed friends and family can pitch in. I rented this willow tree arch from some local artisans, but many people choose to build an arbor or buy one.
It rained on our wedding day, which was fine because first of all it's good luck, and secondly, we had a tent. The only problem was that the parking was in our side yard and our neighbor's field, so everyone had a pretty muddy departure in their dress clothes. Also, think about photos when you're planning parking. Some of the pictures of me walking down the aisle have vehicles in the background because some people parked in our driveway, which was visible from the ceremony site.
Port-a-Potty: We rented a port-a-potty for a $100 for the day, but I'm not sure if anyone actually used it as there were plenty of people trodding through the house to the toilets.
House Cleaner: Hire someone to give your place a good once over before the big day.
Bug Spray: Depending on the season, you might want to spray your yard for mosquitoes, but at least have some OFF around for your wedding guests.
It was Cinco de Mayo, so we had tacos at our reception, but this is another area where you can skrimp a bit. You may not be able to get around shelling out the dough for an expensive wedding cake, but you can save on catering by serving hors d'oeuvres and appetizers as opposed to a full meal.
Do your friends a huge favor and skip the whole bridal party ordeal. My hubs didn't want to ask his friends to go through the rigmarole of renting or buying matching suits. He said, "We're adults, we can stand up there by ourselves." Never one to shy away from the spotlight, and having spent thousands of dollars as a bridesmaid myself, I concurred. Instead of having everyone fly somewhere for my bachelorette party, I made it easy and we all got together for a fabulous dinner at the local country club. We're all in our 30s, so it's not like we were going to do body shots or anything anyway. Since hubs and I were really the only players in the production, we didn't have to rehearse, ergo, no rehearsal dinner. Another chunk of change in the bank!
You are going to have regrets. You are going to have to compromise. But at the end of the day, the only thing you really need to have a backyard wedding is two people who love each other.