When you’re engaged, you might start wondering how the cost of backyard weddings stack up against a tradition venue wedding. This post breaks it all down for you. With different expense types laid out and real case studies of some of my clients’ backyard weddings, this post can fully equip you with the knowledge to adequately budget for your backyard wedding.
How the cost of backyard weddings compare to venue weddings
Pre-pandemic, the average venue-based wedding in the US was around $35,000.* Since 2020 that figure has been trending downward and now the average wedding costs $25,000.* This is attributed to most couples choosing to keep guest counts down, with the venue and catering still dominating the majority of the budget.
It should be noted that this national average is significantly lower than the average cost of a New England wedding, which is just shy of $40,000.*
Many couples choose to go with a backyard wedding with the intention that they can save money and be more flexible with how they want to celebrate their day. But, backyard weddings can cost just as much as venue weddings if you aren’t careful because of extra things you need to contract out for, or because you want to create a really luxurious experience. Despite some of the hidden costs, backyard weddings are still preferred for some couples over a venue wedding because of the significance of the location and the ability to be more flexible in what they want to do for their wedding day.
The true cost of a backyard wedding is really going to depend on two things: guest count and décor/rentals. If you want to really transform your space, that’s going to mean spending more on florals and rental/décor items. If you want to have more guests, that’s going to increase many of your costs in rentals and catering.
As a safe average, couples should consider the cost of a backyard wedding to be around $16,000 or more for a great experience with 30 or more guests.
*Figures sourced from this 2021 article from Business Insider
Typical expense costs for backyard weddings
These categories are the different kind of expense costs for a backyard wedding. In addition to detailing what they are and why they’re important, I’ve also provided an average or starting price couples should expect to pay for the service.
- Wedding Insurance – $250+ : Don’t skip getting this for your backyard wedding! This is something that venues require you to have, but even for a backyard wedding it’s a must! You’re investing a lot into the day, and due to the location you might be on the hook if someone gets hurt. You can buy it through your homeowner’s policy or from a trusted wedding insurance provider, like Wedsafe.
- Rentals – $30/person or more : This is your tables, chairs, plates, flatware, barware and any other décor items you might want to rent to fill out the space.
- Tent – $1000+ : If you aren’t going to be able to host all your guests in the dining room, a tent is a must for shade or inclement weather.
- Planner – $2500+ : Whether it’s a day-of coordinator or a full-service wedding planner, having a dedicated point person is essential for an enjoyable, low-stress backyard wedding experience.
- Catering & Bar – $50/person or more : You need to feed your guests, and fortunately with a backyard wedding there are lots of options to choose from! You can do food trucks, delivered catering or on-site catering. Don’t go DIY with the bar. If you’re having guests, it’s important to hire a professional bar service to be in charge of the alcohol. In some states, it may be illegal for you to DIY your own bar at your wedding.
- Photographer – $2500+ : This expense is kind of a no-brainer and applies to any wedding type you choose.
- Videographer – $3500+ : Many couples nowadays consider a videographer to be an essential vendor like their photographer, though many couples have it as their splurge item after most of the rest of their budget is accounted for.
- Entertainment – $2000+ : Whether it’s a DJ, a live musician, Spotify or lawn games, you’re going to want some kind of entertainment at your wedding besides eating and talking.
- Flowers – $2000+ : For this you could go DIY or hire a pro. Either way, your flowers help set the mood for the day.
- Celebrant – $250+ : If you’re getting married, you need someone who is legally able to perform your marriage and send in the paperwork.
- Hair & Make-Up – $175/person or more : Some people DIY this aspect and others go for the full experience.
- Attire – $2000+ : It’s strongly recommended that you wear clothes for your wedding day. Most ladies get a fancy new dress and some guys rent suits. Other people choose to repurpose items that are already in their wardrobe for the big day.
- Stationery – $250+ : These are things like your invitations, menus, seating cards, etc.
- Power Supply – $200+ : Don’t rely on your home’s power panel to carry the load of a DJ with lights, catering and anything else. You’ll need an additional generator. Renting a generator also cuts down on loose power cords hanging around.
- Bathrooms – $1000+ : Instead of having 75 people tramp through your home to use the bathrooms, contract for a nice restroom trailer.
- Miscellaneous – Wedding party gifts, favors, and other incidentals to your wedding day.
Backyard wedding cost breakdown
In this section, I’m providing real case studies of backyard weddings my clients have had, ranging in total budget from $6000 to $20,000.
The Backyard Micro-Wedding Budget
This small wedding had a total of 15 guests, including the couple. The attendees were immediate family only, had no tent and went with delivered catering. The biggest expenses for their day were florals and the photographer, both coming in at $2000 each. Décor and styling were very important to this bride, and her florals are where she felt they really splurged and spent more than they intended to. She also opted for the full experience with hair and make-up for all the ladies in attendance.
|Biggest Expense – Florist||$2000|
|Smallest Expense – Officiant||$100|
|Biggest DIY Expense – Favors||$500|
When asked what vendor helped the most in planning their day, they had this to say: “Our photographer (Emma Thurgood Weddings) helped out a lot! From helping us find any vendors we were having trouble finding ourselves and helped me plan out how everything for the day should go.”
The Lush & Intimate Backyard Wedding
This small wedding had a total of 40 guests, including the couple. They had a tent with luxury farmhouse tables and chairs and went with on-site catering. The biggest expenses for their day were catering, tent and rentals, which they were able to get as a package deal through the caterer. Décor and food were very important to this couple, and they wanted to go all out with the decorations of the wedding to really transport their guests, making this their splurge item. for entertainment there were lawn games and a Spotify playlist for ambiance music.
|Biggest Expense – Catering||$8500|
|Smallest Expense – Cake||$500|
|Biggest DIY Expense – Décor||$400|
When asked what the most difficult part of planning their backyard wedding was, they said: “Coordinating everything and everyone day of!”
The Traditional Backyard Wedding
This wedding had a total of 85 guests, including the couple. The wedding was held on a family property with a large outdoor space for a ceremony site, tented reception and portable bathrooms set up out of site of the wedding spaces. Their biggest priority was making sure they and their guests had a fabulous time. While the bar was their biggest DIY expense, the décor and set-up was their biggest DIY project for the day, with the groom and wedding party all chipping in to set up the tables, place settings and centerpieces before getting ready for the day.
|Biggest Expense – Photographer||$4200|
|Smallest Expense – Cupcakes||$100|
|Biggest DIY Expense – Bar||$1500|
When asked what their least favorite aspect of their backyard wedding was, they said: “Feeling like the final set up was rushed. [The bride] would [want to] be more involved in the day-of set up to make sure the final touches were added correctly.”
Some common themes
In reviewing the answers that clients sent back to my backyard wedding surveys, there were a few repeated themes.
- Spending over their planned budget by at least 20%
- Scaling back on DIY alcohol purchase
- Better pre-planning for set up and coordination on the day of
- Splurging on items that reflected their biggest value & priority for their day
- Their photographer (Emma Thurgood Weddings) was a helpful to them to figure out the timeline of the day and other details.
- None of them planned a backyard wedding initially, but they’re all happy with how their day came together and wouldn’t go back and change much.