Do You Need a Liquor License for a Backyard Wedding?

Bill Taylor
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Considerations About Having a Backyard Wedding

  • If you are planning a backyard wedding, it is important to consider that unlike a wedding at a hall, a backyard wedding may require additional planning and permits. It may even require a liquor license for your outdoor celebration. You may be required to obtain a permit from the local government before you can host your outdoor wedding.
  • In states that allow outside alcohol consumption, you may need to apply for a permit in order to serve alcohol at any location, outdoor or indoor. Call your local government and you may be able to obtain the information you need over the telephone. If you are planning to have a bar outside, then you should also consider that you may need to have an extra person on hand to serve only alcohol.
  • You should also be aware that you will be responsible for any damage to the property, to the people there or to any of the items on the property. While you are indoors, there is a higher likelihood of damage occurring and liability claims. By hosting your backyard reception outdoors, you agree that you assume all liability. Giving your guests a safe and enjoyable location can be a difficult task. You may want to purchase liability insurance to pay for repairs and with that insurance, you should feel more secure about hosting a large event in your backyard.

Issues with Serving Alcohol

While many people think nothing of packing a cooler of alcohol to a cookout at a friend’s house, the reasons why you need a license to serve alcoholic beverages are more subtle. Open containers are often prohibited, and public intoxication and other related offenses are illegal.

Further, state laws determine how much alcohol can be served at specific locations. Keep in mind that the majority of the laws aim to ensure public safety.

Most laws govern the sale of alcohol and the actions of those serving it to minors. They are designed to protect young people, often under the age of 21, from the dangers associated with underage drinking. The laws attempt to ensure that the drinks served at events where alcohol is available are served by a trained, licensed bartender.

A bartender limits the alcohol consumption of a group of people, and the drink menu is readily available for review. A bartender will also train her guests on how to have a safe and responsible experience with the alcohol consumption.

If you have a wedding coming up and want to serve beer, wine or liquor, a liquor license is the easiest way to go. The expense and headache of mistakingly serving alcohol to minors is generally avoided by purchasing a proper license to serve alcohol at a private event. This license also keeps you compliant with your state’s liquor laws and shows that you’re interested in preventing underage drinking.

Insurance for Your Wedding

Insurance to cover your wedding party can be confusing and overwhelming. There are certain laws when serving alcohol at your venue, and you should also cover yourself in case of accidents.

The best option is to speak to your venue and ask them what is required by state law. If you plan to serve alcohol, you need to make sure that you have the proper licenses and permits.

Have a Plan B

Let's start by assuming you have permission to have the wedding in the first place. The next question is whether you need a permit or license.

In some cases, the location or type of ceremony requires some kind of permit. The specifics vary from state to state, but here are some examples:

  • Outdoor weddings on National Park or National Forest land. In parks, you must use paper goods that are made from recycled products.
  • Outdoor weddings at a state or county fair. For some reason, you must be wed on the actual fairgrounds for this to count and not just in one of the surrounding rented buildings.
  • Religious ceremonies on private or public school property. This rule varies and sometimes exempts churches. But it's worth checking with your local municipality or school district.
  • Outdoor weddings anywhere near a body of water. This one is often overlooked, but if you're thinking of a dock, beach, or even a boat – it's something to be aware of.
  • Events on public or private land where alcohol is being served. Of course, it's not a problem if you're having a non alcoholic wedding. In fact, in some places, you don't need a permit to have a wedding ceremony. But if you are serving alcohol at your wedding reception, there are a number of legalities to be aware of.

Tips for Making it a Special Day

If your wedding plans call for the ceremony to be performed in your own backyard, there are a few things to consider before you contact the authorities.

To start with, don’t advertise it as a “backyard wedding”! A wedding license in any municipality will require you to apply for it at the town hall of that municipality.

You may be required to have certain safety features and facilities for your guests. Ask if you need tables, chairs, and electricity. Also, you are legally bound to serving food and drink to your guests. Make sure you’ll have enough space for ample food and drink service and that the food and drink is up to snuff … or consider having your caterer bring food and drinks to be served at the venue. You may also be required to have a security deposit.

Since these events are usually less official than a wedding on a piece of land zoned for such activity (like a hotel ballroom or banquet hall), you should take the time to decide what kind of tone you want your backyard wedding to have.

For example, if you've decided to have a ceremony outdoors, you may need to carry that through to the reception. Therefore, this type of event offers opportunities to give the event a cohesive and natural flow, and your guests will appreciate the opportunity to enjoy the surrounding garden landscape.

Final Thoughts

Knowing how many guests you have, of course, determines how big of a tent you purchase. If the wedding venue has its own tents, you need to bring your own just in case it rains, or for emergency situations. Plan well ahead to ensure that the location is dry and the wedding runs smoothly. Like most other wedding essentials, you can purchase a new or used tent online or in a store.

Remove distractions from the area where the ceremony will take place. The ceremony should be the highlight of the day. Ensure that only those who are invited to the wedding day can see the wedding location. You should also ensure that the ceremony will not be affected by any noise, music, children or pets. Another thing you must remember is to remove any unattractive and unnecessary items from the wedding location.

{{A tent protects the bride and groom from sunlight, rain, snow and other types of extremes. It is imperative that you get a tent big enough to accommodate all of the wedding party, family, friends, and relatives. While choosing a tent, make sure that it provides shade far enough for the guests. Consider the chairs, tables, dance floor, a stage and a dance floor.

Whether the wedding is formal or informal, the tent has to be properly placed to make the day special. In the case of outdoor weddings, the tent may need to be set up in advance at the desired location.