It’s your special day. Everyone is aflutter with excitement. You’re getting your hair and makeup done in your bedroom and guests are gathering in the backyard to see you and your spouse-to-be exchange vows. There is no reason to be thinking about lawsuits and legal complications, right?
While the financial incentives of backyard weddings are certainly very tempting, there are some legal issues to consider if you’re going to have your wedding at home.
Personal Injury Liability
Suppose that during your reception, someone gets their foot caught on a dip in the ground, falls on your property and injures themselves. While it’s an uncommon occurrence, the injured party is within their legal right to sue you based on premises liability. This is an older concept based on the idea that guests on someone’s property are entitled to protection from known hazards. If you have known dangers on your property that you haven’t remedied before your special day, you’re legally responsible for any injuries they cause.
Before your wedding, conduct a thorough inspection of your property, especially in areas where you anticipate guests gathering. This should include the more secluded areas that are prone to wandering footsteps. If you come across any holes, animal habitats, streams, steep drops, or other hazards—both natural and manmade—it’s your duty to ensure they’re fixed or properly cordoned off. Either rope off the area or hang conspicuous signage to alert your guests to the dangers in the area. Otherwise, you might be contacted by a personal injury law firm hired by one of your guests who was hurt on your special day.
If you’ve ever attended a wedding before, you know that the alcohol tends to flow freely, even before the actual ceremony. After all, it’s a celebratory day. While there’s nothing wrong with sipping champagne with your wedding guests as they slip into their bridesmaid dresses, the drinking at your wedding should never get to the point where it’s excessive. If a guest at your wedding leaves your home while intoxicated and gets into an accident, it’s likely that their personal injury lawsuit will name the property owners and the bar staff as the responsible parties.
Regardless of whether your wedding is BYOB or professionally catered, appoint a handful of responsible, sober individuals to monitor alcohol intake. If any of your guests act belligerent, they should be cut off immediately. If you hire a professional bartender, exchange waivers of liability to protect you in the event of an injury caused by a drunken accident. Also, always set a dedicated time for last call as well as a procedure for cutting off any drinking past that point.
Your Local Ordinances
Ever had to file a noise complaint? You know the frustration and annoyance it entails. When you’re hosting a major event at your house, you need to be aware of how your surrounding neighbors might feel. It’s a good idea to read up on local ordinances as well as the provisions set forth by your homeowners association, if applicable.
Important things to keep in mind are curfew times, noise regulations, and parking considerations. If you’re serving liquor at your house for a large number of people, you need to check with your city council to see if you need a permit for alcohol distribution. If you don’t follow through with local regulations, expect to deal with fines from the city or police interrupting your nuptials.
Make Your Day Special
Getting married in your own backyard can make for a special, beautiful day. While your mind will primarily be on your upcoming vows, don’t neglect the legal ramifications of having a wedding at home. To make sure your special day runs smoothly, have all your bases covered from the get-go. That way, you’ll be free to focus on your wedding and not on legal difficulties.