Backyards have become an increasingly popular and common venue for everything from birthday parties to weddings this past year. Many have spent a lot of time (and money) renovating their outdoor spaces, and with summer almost here, and COVID restrictions decreasing, your backyard can be the perfect space to safely reunite with your friends and family.
A backyard event can quickly add up and cost you a ton of money in food, decorations, and drinks—but only if you let it. The important thing is to set a budget beforehand. Setting a budget will help you map out exactly what you need and show you where you can potentially cut costs. Coming up with a budget will also make it easier for you to stick to one, instead of waiting until the last minute and overspending.
"Review the big picture and put your dollars into what is really important in building value into the backyard event," says Greg Jenkins, co-founder of Southern California-based event planning company, Bravo Productions. "Last-minute planning will always result in overspending."
Whether you're planning a simple get-together in your backyard, or a fancy garden party, here are ways to plan an event that your guests—and your wallet—will love.
Stick to simple, DIY decor.
Since you're holding your event outdoors, take advantage of it and keep your decor simple. Plants and flowerbeds in your backyard can serve as natural decor, and you can even plant new flowers that will last long after your party. You can enhance the natural beauty of the space with some colorful backyard DIYs such as paper lanterns ($13, Wayfair). "You also can find inexpensive fabric, colorful throw pillows, and accessories to jazz up the patio," says Jenkins.
Another tip? Make a trip to the dollar store for cute, budget-friendly decorations, says Leah Buehler, founder of cookie-decorating blog Buttercream Parties. You could also repurpose some of your old furniture from inside the house—an old vanity could be a dessert table, or some shelves could serve as a way to show off party favors and other decor. "There's something unexpected and fun about using indoor furniture outside," says Nikki Wills, owner of home entertainment blog Tikkido.
Have people bring their own drinks.
Remember those college parties where you had to B.Y.O.B? Well you could use the same rule here and save a ton of money on alcohol. "The cost of alcohol for a party can quickly knock your budget for a loop," says Tana Williams, personal finance blogger at Debt Free Forties. Plus, everyone will bring something they like and probably take it home with them after, which leaves you less to clean up. For non-alcoholic options, make drinks like lemonade, iced tea, and refreshing flavored water with fresh berries in it and serve them in decorative drink dispensers, says Jenkins. This way, you will save money on bottled water and canned soda. Plus, it's healthier and adds a nice personal touch!
Make your own fruit and snack platters.
Pre-sliced fruit platters might save you some time, but they're definitely a lot more expensive. Look for seasonal fruits and veggies to make your own fruit and crudites platters for people to munch on. Serve them with easy party dips that you can make at home. You can even get creative and put together something like this delicious vegan charcuterie board that is sure to be a hit with your guests.
Related: Host a Summer Party on a Budget
Keep the food menu simple.
Speaking of appetizers, don't go overboard on the main menu either. Hosting a potluck is a great way to throw a backyard party on a budget. Host a nice summer potluck and have your guests bring in a dish of their choice—this way, you'll save money and you won't have to worry about cooking up a storm. Buehler suggests having a "Build Your Own" bar as a budget-friendly option for dishes like nachos, tacos, or baked potatoes, which will give your guests plenty of options at the food table—perfect for any picky eaters on the list.
Where to splurge:
If you're planning a more elaborate event in your backyard, but still want to stay within a reasonable budget, the key is to identify the things that you can find cheaper options for, and any areas that you want to splurge on. This really depends on the guests you're inviting and your personal preferences, says Williams. For example, if you're throwing a kids party, you can spend less on food and focus more on games and activities. But if you're hosting a soiree for your book club, you're probably going to spend more on food and drinks and less on decor.
Splurge on seating if you have limited options for your attendees. "If you need to rent chairs, do it. Don't expect people to take a seat on the lawn or patio floor," says Buehler. If you take a look at your budget and find that you have saved money on things like decor, food, and desserts, and have some money to spend, Buehler says drinks are a good thing to splurge on. "Everyone knows that a drink with an umbrella in it puts you into that party mood." Other ideas include drinks with edible flowers, colored ice cubes, or fancy paper straws.
If music is going to be a main part of your event, then a DJ may be something you could splurge on. A backyard DJ with equipment and four hours of performance ranges from $300 to $850, according to Lee Dyson, owner of Los Angeles-based DJ and event production company, Hey Mister DJ. "If you are going to buy or rent a sound system, it may cost you anywhere from $100-$400," says Dyson. "For a few hundred more, you can get a DJ to bring gear, setup everything up, and play the party." He suggests looking through local Facebook pages for newer DJs if you're on a tighter budget and looking to spend under $500.
No matter what your event is, you can make it fun and memorable and still stick to your budget. There are plenty of options out there that are easy and cost-effective—you just have to have a clear idea of what you want the focus of the event to be. Set a budget, get creative, and throw a post-pandemic backyard party your friends and family will remember for a long time.