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Spring wedding, backyard disaster

  • Story Highlights
  • A home wedding can be more complicated to plan than one in a rented space
  • Tents can stay up for a few days, wilting turf
  • Compaction is nearly unavoidable, in wet or dry weather
  • Spray or bomb-type insect control treatments will kill honey bees, butterflies
  • Next Article in Living »
By Ann Hoevel
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(CNN) -- The promise of saying vows in an intimate setting and under springtime foliage can be a dreamy inspiration for brides-to-be, but for homeowners hosting a wedding in their back yard it can turn into a nightmare.


Setting up a large tent in your backyard for a wedding can be a lavish affair for guests, but spell disaster for the grass.

"The logistics of it can certainly be challenging," said Sophia Lin, the wedding sales manager for A Legendary Event, an event, design and catering company in Atlanta, Georgia.

"I would definitely say there are some hidden surprises," she said, "sometimes [clients] don't realize how involved it can be."

Whereas rented spaces often have tables, chairs and bar services included in the cost to rent, at-home weddings need to budget for those kinds of amenities separately, Lin said.

And then there are the bathrooms.

Jiwon McCartney, the managing director of Allure Event & Meeting Productions, a boutique event and meeting planning company said, "Everybody thinks, 'well, we have plenty of bathrooms.'"

But McCartney pointed out that even larger homes could have big problems when there are 50 people needing to use the bathroom at once.

"They don't realize how much toilet paper goes down," she said.

Residential areas are equipped with a certain amount of sewage or septic capacity, she said, and if a homeowner's land is unincorporated, they might have less capacity than they think.

There have even been times that McCartney has added a bathroom for a home wedding.

"You can't have a Port-O-Potty," she said, "you have to have an executive bathroom, and that's a whole other ball of wax."

Extra toilets bump up the cost of an at home wedding even further, she said, with water, sewage and power costs.

An intimate wedding at home is not always the most affordable option. Lin said that sometimes clients choose to host the wedding elsewhere when all the numbers are added up. But if the home setting is important enough to move ahead, then Lin said clients will most likely need the ultimate plan B: a tent.

Aside from the licensing fees and permit paperwork involved in erecting a structure big enough to contain 150 to 200 guests -- what Lin calls the average amount of guests at a wedding these days -- there's the problem of making a back yard flat enough for a large tent.

"The types of tents we put up always have floors," Lin said, "so definitely we let our clients know that there may be some grass that gets a little bit yellow or a little bit brown in those areas."

If the cost of tenting, outdoor bathrooms and county permits isn't enough to send a wedding budget spiraling out of proportion, Walter Reeves says to factor in the cost of renting an aerator or even investing in new sod.

"Compaction is the biggest enemy of lawn grass," said Reeves, a retired horticultural agent of the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service, who now hosts radio and television shows about lawn and garden interests.

"All those feet stomping on the ground make it hard. That keeps roots from the grass being able to penetrate, and if the roots can't penetrate the top of the grass plant can't grow easily," he said, adding that a wedding party can significantly compact the dirt in a yard, especially if it rains.

The answer is to poke holes in the ground with an aerator after the wedding ends, which relieves the compacting.

For all the effort many homeowners put into their turf, dead grass may be the last straw. To minimize the damage to that precious green stuff, Reeves suggests a few tricks to put into play before the wedding starts.

"If you think that it's going to rain the day before, you need to high-tail yourself down to Home Depot and get a bunch of plastic, and do just like they do at the ball parks," said Reeves.

"When they think it's going to rain they pull the tarps up over the whole field. And with a little judicious planning ahead of time to raise the plastic in the middle of the yard so the water runs out to the sides into the shrubbery and gutters and things like that, you can conceivably keep the ground dry."

Reeves cautions not to use clear plastic tarps, which can actually cook the grass on a lawn if left out for a day or two.

To help avoid compaction around tree and shrubbery, Reeves recommends mulching. For trees especially, he said to mulch the ground surrounding the trunk as far out as the end of the tree's branches.

There is one last precaution that wedding planners suggest: taking care of the bugs. Nothing makes an evening outside more miserable than being eaten alive by mosquitoes, or having to constantly swat away flies.

" We get a service to get out there and pretty much bomb the area," said McCartney.

"It's a gaseous production that happens, it kind of smokes everything out. And it still doesn't kill the mosquitoes, because if you have any kind of moisture, mosquitoes are just out," she said.

In order to accommodate guests, McCartney also places Citronella candles around the space, and keeps calamine lotion on hand.

Although Reeves is not in favor of using yard-wide insecticides because they kill beneficial insects as well as the mosquitoes, for special events he relents.

With reluctance, Reeves recommends, "a yard-wide spray with one of the leaf-toxic insecticides that include pyrethrin -- it's considered organic and doesn't smell," he said.

"It will knock down mosquitoes, midges, flies, things like that. It will kill your honey bees and butterflies too," said Reeves

Reeves also suggests placing fans around the outdoor areas of the wedding.

"A current of moving air moves a weak little old mosquito far and wide," he said.

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