How to make a wedding porta potty less gross and more awesome

a very romantic porta potty
Photo by Brandon Soder
To get away with the budget we've set our for ourselves, private property is a must for our location.

This means Honey Buckets for everyone.

If we go that route, how do we tactfully let guests know that's the deal?

Help!

-Jennifer E

Porta potties have gotten a bad rap at music festivals and campgrounds. Typically, the blue-water nightmares at crowded outdoor events are poorly maintained and abused by drunks, and you're more likely to find a turd on the toilet seat than you are a roll of toilet paper. But have you ever been in a freshly-delivered porta potty? They're actually just fine! Clean, unsmelly, and totally inoffensive. If you get porta potties for the property where you're hosting your wedding, you'll see that they aren't as bad as you thought. But porta potties are secretly hilarious to everyone, and your goal is to make the most of that.

THAT SAID! Guests could indeed be a little bit shocked upon arrival, so you're wise to let them know what to expect.

IDEA THE FIRST: HUMOR

A little humor can go a long way towards making it seem like, sure: you know this is a little uncouth, but we're all friends here and isn't this funny?! Because really: poo is always funny! Make the most of this comedic goldmine, but do it in a classy way if you can.

IDEA THE SECOND: POETRY

Might I suggest a poem? Because poetry always makes feces seem classy. Limericks, especially! Perhaps something like this could be included with your invites:

A note about the facilities:
Since our wedding is on lovely but private land,
Our restroom options are limited — but we've planned
To have porta potties for all of you,
To make use of whilst you do things like pee and poo,
And we promise the potties will be quite grand.

IDEA THE THIRD: DECORATE

Then of course you'll need to follow through on your promise — "grand" porta potties? Oh YES, darling. You really haven't done wedding decorations until you've spruced up a porta potty. You could go simple and floral, like this or this.

Perhaps a fish theme? (er, then again, perhaps not.) Make sure you include at least a couple strings of battery-powered Christmas tree lights, but don't go quite this over the top.

Put a few nicely scented candles inside the porta potty, and post more poetry or even the story of how the two of you met on the inside of the door where toilet-seated guests can read it and enjoy it.

But seriously: have fun with it. Go by the theory that if you make fun of yourself first, no one else seems to gripe on their own. You KNOW the porta potties aren't classy, so mock them and make the most of it.

Hell, cheezy bride & groom toilet paper anyone? Why not! Find a fun way to let your guests know in advance (my poem may be way over the top, but you get the idea), and then do what you can to add a little hilarious flair to the facilities themselves.

… And if your guests give you grief for using porta potties, you just tell about MY wedding, where guests pooped into sawdust-filled buckets using a composting system my mother calls "humanure." I am not kidding.

For a great example of an Offbeat Bride who had porta potties at her wedding, check out Katie's wedding.

sani setup
  1. I went to a wedding that had porta potties this summer, and they were actually really nice. They were very clean and decorated with flowers, and the water was cinnamony instead of having that overpowering disinfectant smell. It was even really hot outside and they never got stinky.

    4 agree
  2. Hi Ariel!
    I'm a wedding planner in Santa Barbara and I would LOVE to get one of your books – my brides are, by and large, semi traditional, but I always (strongly) encourage them to make some new traditions/fun touches in their weddings. If you've got any links for Seattle based paperies, I'd love to get them – I've got a cool couple up there right now and would like to direct them to a cost-effective and cool printer.

    Cheers and LOVE the flickr pool!

    1 agrees
  3. I'm getting married this summer in a beautiful grove of oak trees on a farm, but…gulp…porta potties! I am so glad to hear from someone else going that route too. We looked at a number of places that were more practical, but this place felt magical to us. However, since we met and fell in love at Burning Man, our impressions of porta potties are foul! My mom ended up convincing me that it would be fine and that clean ones really aren't that bad.

    We've decided, though, that we're not going to warn our guests. I don't want to hear it from anyone before the wedding, and once they are at the party they'll be having so much fun, they won't even think about it.

    3 agree
  4. Aha! Julia, I see you're using the ol' "Don't ask/don't tell" method, an extremely effective way of minimizing pre-wedding back-talk from guests. What they don't know about, they can't gripe over! Excellent advice. :)

    8 agree
  5. I went to a wedding last summer here in Phoenix. It was in the evening, but even so, the temperature was probably 100 degrees. They had something I had never seen before, a portable toilet trailer. It was air conditioned, had decorations, stalls, lights, sinks and even the radio playing. I found a site that had similar ones:

    http://www.partypop.com/Vendors/4113087.htm

    6 agree
  6. Porta Potty trailers are the bomb! But if you can't afford that, Porta Potties are really not so bad. We have our permanent one (yeah, don't even ask; it's for our "pretend nightclub" strung up with lights and sometimes candles and make it always smell good. It's nice to know ahead of time so you a) know to bring something to wrap around you to go outside to use it if it's not an outdoor wedding and b) know not to wear heels if it's in dirt or grass.

    BTW, I love invites that specifically tell you that you might want to avoid spike heels. I'd always rather know ahead of time what to wear and not to wear.

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  7. I would think it would be helpful to rent at least one of the disability-accessible double-wide type porta potties, if it doesn't cost a ton more. It could be easier for older family members who have less mobility, and they're less claustrophobic than the normal size ones.

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  8. the port-a-potties at my sister's wedding doubled as the perfect venue for a clambake, if you know what i mean…

    1 agrees
  9. Thanks using my Christmas port-a-potty as a visual aid. I'm glad it continues to entertain past the holiday season!

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  10. Much love for a well-placed port-a-pottie, here. One of my brides looked somewhat askance at me,

    "You. Are. Not. Taking. A picture. Of the portalet, are you?!"

    I thought it was awesome, and the mirror hanging in the tree next to it was just too fabulous.

    1 agrees
  11. we're have porta loos & that xmas portaloo rocks. we're going for full on cheese for the decs on em. heehee

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  12. At our beach wedding on 07/07/07 We created a "necessary room" with a charming sign. We used bright fabric hung from ribbon on trees – we rented handicapped porty potties – we upgraded to the flushable and sink inside hand washing units. No problem!. We added hand towels, lights and mirror fabulous and no complaints!

    2 agree
  13. Great tips. My June wedding is scheduled now for a state park… which means no porta-potties, but *gulp* the standard state park latrine (2 seater hole in teh ground type). Thinking about carpet squares, plenty of scented candles and such. Hopefully it won't be horrible.

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    • OMG- you actually make me wish we had porta potties! This is probably the best set-up I've seen. I especially like the shaded waiting area.

      6 agree
  14. Oh My God! Lindsay, that is so frikken cool!

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  15. My cousin did an outdoor wedding with Portapotties, and he had a small vase of flowers inside and a basket of free "helpful items" like mosquito repellant, perfume, lotion, hand sanitizer, free combs, tampons and condoms. It was nice, and the flowers went a long way toward cheaply dressing up the porta potty

    1 agrees
    • Condoms! Of course, what a great idea to provide safer sex supplies at a wedding. I had only gotten so far as hand sanitizer & baby wipes.

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  16. i think shelling out for the portable sink (usually foot pedal powered) makes the difference.

    2 agree
  17. Lindsay's post above with the white tent over the white portable toilets is AMAZING! What a GREAT idea! At our wedding on a farm, we rented a big white bathroom trailer (called a vip bathroom i think) from http://www.aysrentals.com and surrounded it with white painted tiki torches and a dozen or so rented trees and flower pots from the local garden center. This made it blend in (sortof) with the woods behind it. We also did the same trick of loading up the bathroom with flowers and candles to make it a 'romantic' bathroom (well, as close as you can get to romantic given that it is a public bathroom). Ours looked really nice, but I think Lindsey definitely raises the bar!

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  18. We hosted my sisters wedding in our backyard and found that some simple white christmas lights on a white porta potty looked surprisingly elegant. I dont think every solution to this problem needs to be expensive.

    1 agrees
  19. Wow – I love porta potty's idea of white lights! I think that would be, well I hesitate to say lovely, because it is a porta potty after all, but still… When we got married last October we had white portapotties with flowers and flushing toilets – they were really nice, and all our guests were happy with them . I wish I had thought of the white lights – if we ever do a backyard vow renewal, that'll be the way we go!

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  20. this was definitely the funniest post i have seen on this site! love the idea of putting the story of you meeting on the wall!!!! hahahaha

    1 agrees
  21. Yeah, properly maintained port-a-potties are fine. Just make sure you have enough for the number of guests and the duration of the reception (take into account imbibing for the number of uses). ;)

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  22. We are totally using port a johns. Most of our friends already use them regularly (Pennsic peeps). But I LOVE what Lindsay has done with them – keeping them cooler makes a difference in the aroma…for certain.

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  23. A lot of companies offer luxury restrooms to rent. They dont have to be as much money as Chelesa Clinton's but can be more upscale than a standard construction porta potty.

    I used them for my wedding: http://www.johnnyonthespot.com

    0 agree
  24. Thank you so so so so much for this post. I am in the process of trying to plan a wedding and we really want an old barn to hold the ceremony and reception at. I have had a few people I know say that we could borrow their barn but I have been a nervous wreck over the bathroom situation. I think however after reading this I'm way more comfortable and even a little bit excited about renting a portable bathroom unit, the luxury trailers are a little out of my budget so I became discouraged early. Looking at all of your posts and pictures however I realize even a simple port-o-john could be made to look nice with the right attitude. :) thanks again guys!

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  25. Great post especially at a time when portable showers, hand wash/ sink units, restroom trailers and laundry trailers are widely used.

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  26. You can always get a restroom trailer rental, or have your regular portable toilets wrapped in vinyl to make it look beautiful!

    2 agree
    • Not always. I'm out of the service area for *every* company I've contacted (6 atm) but have been offered portapotties instead by three of them. While the portajohns aren't expensive ($100 for 2 of them for the day), we'll be outside in potentially chilly weather, so I'm hoping for climate control and running water.

      0 agree
  27. thank you thank you thank you. we are an upstart venue/vineyard in the Texas Hill Country and we have also been stressing out about the restroom situation. We have two restrooms available on the house but were concerned about the load on the septic system. I had seen the post of the shading canopy adjacant to the white potties on another website and it peaked my curiosity! I'm thinking pretty floral plastic shower curtains could act as a "wrap" as well. and definitely white potties…definitely.

    0 agree
  28. We had to have porta potties for our backyard wedding so we rented the nicest ones we could afford. They had running water, flushed, and even had flowers. I also decorated the outside with cute little "men" and "women" banners.

    Even still, some guests still complained, so we jokingly explained that it was better than having the ancient cesspool explode on everyone!

    0 agree
  29. A friend for her Doctor Who themed wedding made cardboard covers for the portaloos to make them look like the TARDIS. There was eve a little sign pointing toward them saying "TURDIS THIS WAY". Trying to find photos for you all now!

    2 agree
  30. My husband and i stayed at a resort in the caribbean that identifies itself as geared toward VIP's and they had a large outdoor event where they used porta-johns. At some point in the evening, i had to use the facilities and felt that porta-john dread. I went back to the area and there was actually a person who was acting as the maitre de toilet. She was dressed in all black and would "show you to your prota-john, open the door, spray cleaner on the seat & wipe it down, and then spray a spritz of air freshener before stepping aside to let you enter. I had NEVER even considered the idea of a porta-john including service but it made the experience not only comical, but a whole lot better than anticipated. Outside, they had the hand wash station and a different person would hand you paper towels.

    I don't know if you could even find someone to pay to be the maitre de toilet in the US but if possible, i'd suggest it. It hugely decreased the "yuck factor" and gave me a chuckle.

    0 agree

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