Backyard Wedding vs. Wedding Venue

Backyard Wedding vs. Wedding Venue

The enjoyment of guests at your wedding can be made or broken by the location. In some situations, the best choice is a backyard wedding. In other situations, you may be better off choosing a wedding venue. Listen as Maureen Woodman and Norman Lemcke help to pick the right option for you.

John: Hi, I’m John Maher. I’m here today with Maureen Woodman and Norman Lemcke, wedding planners and coordinators for on and off-site catered events at The Essex Room, in Essex, Massachusetts. Today we’re talking about backyard weddings versus wedding venues. Welcome Maureen and Norman.

Maureen: Hi John. Thanks for having us.

Norman: Thanks John.

Who is a backyard wedding for?

John: Do some wedding couples choose to have a backyard wedding that they host at home as opposed to renting a whole wedding hall?

Maureen: Absolutely. I think a lot of people- they go back to Father of the Bride, that famous movie, and all of a sudden their backyard’s going to turn into this gorgeous thing with swans floating in it. It really does become quite a pricey thing, which normally starts off you say, “You know what? We have a gorgeous yard. We have this great view. Let’s have the party here.” I think until they actually start to bring the stuff in, they don’t realize how costly it’s going to get, but I do think a lot of girls really want to get married at home.

John: Norman, maybe give us some of the pros and cons of having a backyard wedding, the way that you see it.

Norman: Again, it’s probably the intimacy. A lot of these young women have grown up in these houses and it’s cheaper.

John: Sure.

Norman: Plus it’s more unique. Throwing a clambake, having a Woodman’s clambake in your backyard is way more unique than having a reception in a big hall, because no one has ever had a clambake before. A lot of people have never eaten lobster.

John: Yes, especially if you have out of town guests coming in.

Norman: People from Nebraska.

John: Yes, yes. That’s true. It’s something different, like you said, other than the chicken cordon bleu kind of thing that you come to expect at a wedding.

Norman: Exactly. I think people walk away from a– I don’t want to say clambake, because there’s much more than that, because we do a lot of the food from The Essex Room with the clambakes, but it’s definitely something people remember.

Positives and negatives of a backyard wedding

John: Maureen, what do you think? Pros and cons of a backyard wedding.

Maureen: I think it’s private. I think there’s no time constraint. You can get married any time of the day. I think you can have that on-site ceremony, you don’t really have a problem with it. I think a lot of people, if you have a big enough house, can stay there, right there. You don’t have to pay for the alcohol service. You can go down the street to Kathy’s and buy a keg of beer. I think there’s a lot of stuff like that. I think it’s again this homey kind of thing, and the neighbors are all involved and it’s where you grew up. I really think it’s special if you can pull it off. It’s a lot of work to get married in the backyard.

John: What about that cost issue that Norman mentioned? It sounds like it would be less expensive, but then when you think about it, now you have to rent the trellis maybe, you have to rent all the chairs and tables and bring them all into your yard and it seems like a lot of work. Does it end up costing about the same or are you really saving something?

Maureen: I think the cost is tremendous. Everything you bring in, is that plus a fee for someone to bring it in there. What you’re saving is the venue rental. Some of these rentals on the North Shore are going out to $10,000 right now. You look at it like, “I’m going to save that if I don’t get a rental,” but then you’re bringing in a tent that costs $5,000. So, there’s other expenses and then, of course, the biggest elephant in the room is the weather. You’re outside in the backyard. Not too many people can house 150 people sit-down dinner in their house.

You also have to have the stomach for the weather, or you have to prepare with air conditioning or fans or heaters, in case you do get inclement weather, which does happen in the northeast quite often in the spring and the fall.

Why choose a wedding venue?

John: What about advantages or disadvantages of renting a wedding venue? What’s good about that?

Maureen: The beauty of the wedding venue is, it’s one-stop shopping. They have a roof. They have tables. They have chairs. They have linens. They have a kitchen. They have facilities for restrooms. They have parking. They have all these things, it’s built into the price, so they’re not bringing it in. Again, I think it truly comes down to money. Also, the people working there are very familiar with the site, so they’re ready to go into the crisis if something happens. Where when you’re off-site in your backyard, you don’t know what could go wrong, that you might need something. For example, a generator if you lose power.

Which option is best?

John: Right. Norman, any preference? Do you prefer a backyard wedding or do you prefer renting a wedding venue?

Norman: That’s a trap question.

John: Well, the good news is, you guys do both. You have the wedding venue. Of course, you have The Essex Room, but you do a lot of weddings in the backyards and at other facilities in the sector as well.

Norman: Right. We do. Woodman’s clambakes catering and Essex Room catering are kind of one in the same now. We’ve done probably a dozen or so, Maureen would probably know better than- wedding receptions. Personally, I think it depends on the size. If you’re having 150 people, I definitely think having a venue is probably better, because the venue- particularly, I know at The Essex Room, we manage. It’s more of a management issue. Whereas if you’re having 50 people, that’s much more manageable in your backyard with a clambake.

John:  Right, like Maureen said, 150 people, now you have to really be thinking about, “Where’s everybody going to go use the restroom? Where am I putting all of these tables? What do I do in bad weather?” That kind of thing.

Norman: Yes. It’s about logistics.

John: But with 40, 50, 60 people, that’s a little bit more manageable.

Norman: Right.

Maureen: I also think too what Norman’s saying there, we do a lot of second weddings. Traditionally, it’s kind of funny, we actually do a lot of second weddings with our clambake catering division, where most of our weddings at The Essex Room are first weddings. We have had some second but—so that’s kind of interesting too. Usually on a second wedding, it’s always smaller. I do think you really nailed it there Norman when you’re saying, a smaller wedding in your yard, as opposed to the larger wedding in the venue, is definitely a slam dunk.

John: You had a lot of those people with the second weddings, they just want to keep it simple, small, their closest family and friends, that kind of thing. That’s the ideal situation to maybe have it at home.

Maureen: Absolutely.

John: Any final thoughts?

Maureen: I think, again, depending on the food, if you’re at an on-site, I think you can have a lot more food if you’re at a venue. Where if you’re at your house, you really have to accommodate the on-site kitchen, the Board of Health rules, the ServSafe, how much you can really fit in the refrigerator in the kitchen. If you’re really a really big foodie, which seems to also be a trend of us right now, you probably have to limit your menu  a little more in a backyard versus a venue.

John: All right. That’s great information. Maureen and Norman, thanks again for speaking with me today.

Norman: Thanks John.

Maureen: Thanks John.

John: For more information, visit The Essex Room website at or call 978-768-7335.