Although my husband and I had originally planned on holding our wedding in a different venue, after long consideration we decided to hold our wedding at home. We had considered other venues, including historic Art Deco buildings, but decided that my family’s ranch was the perfect place to say our vows.
First off, unless your home or private residence is accustomed to holding events or you have a wedding planner, it will take quite a bit of forethought when planning a home wedding. You will need to consider what style of wedding you want, how many guests you will have, where your wedding will take place (outside or inside?), and what your budget is. Once you have this base figured out, you can start laying down the roadmap for your wedding.
Mapping Out and Cleaning Up Your Venue
I had a year and a half to plan my wedding, which gave me plenty of time to figure out what I was going to do and to do it. Not everyone has a ranch handy with a lot of land to work with as I did, but you will need to figure out where you will have your ceremony and reception and decide what you will need to do to pretty up your space. As I had an outdoor wedding, that meant that I had a lot gardening to do. We have a lot of flower gardens and flower beds on our place, so I made sure that I kept on task with weeding and planting. We also had some trees trimmed. We did a little painting and a lot of cleaning up. This process took the most time out of all the wedding planning process. You will need to figure out where you’re going to set up your tables and chairs and where your guests will park. I found the best way to do this was to walk around and make a map of where everything would be held and to make lists — LOTS AND LOTS OF LISTS! If you have it written down (typed up ) and a plan and an order of how you will do things (checking each off as you go), it will help you to be organized and assure that you will get it done. If your wedding is inside, you’ll have to figure out how that will work out and if you have to move out furniture and put it in storage to accommodate seating and such. If you’re holding it a barn or a garage — get to cleaning! Just ensure that you give yourself plenty of time for this part of the wedding planning and enlist your family and friends and to help you. We ended up also hiring a handyman and gardeners to help out as it got to be a little overwhelming when our wedding date loomed closer. Make sure that you consider this prospect when planning your budget.
Where will your guests stay?
You will need to figure out where your out-of-town guests will stay when they come to your wedding. I live out in the country, so nothing is within walking distance. There are also no taxis in my area. I do live in a touristy area, so there are plenty of hotels and bed & breakfasts’ within 10-15 miles of our ranch. There is also public transportation with a bus stop about 3 miles from us. Consider these factors when deciding to have your wedding at home. I booked a block of rooms at a local hotel for our guests and also had a list of hotels on our wedding website. We also arranged for several guests to be picked up at the airport and helped with travel arrangements. We also had several people in our wedding party staying on our place and with friends in the vicinity. There was also the option that guests could set up a tent out in one of the pastures if they chose to. It made it much easier for my bridesmaids to stay at our place as they were all there to help out, plus it was cost-effective. If your wedding is going to be inside your house, you probably wouldn’t want too many people staying there as they may get in the way.
You will need to figure out where your guests will park. Not everyone is blessed as I am to have a lot of land in which to park cars on, so if you have neighbors, you will need to figure out in advance where everyone will park. Perhaps you will need some valets or transportation from a nearby parking lot. We parked cars in a pasture off the driveway that was clearly identified as a parking area, plus had two ushers showing people where to park. This is an important factor of your wedding, unless everyone is within walking distance.
Wedding Decor and DIY
After you have the groundwork layed out, figure out what decor you want to do. I did a lot of DIY projects and had a lot of time to do them. Decide on your decor for your ceremony, reception, dancefloor, guestbook table, gift table, etc. As my wedding was outside, I the outdoors were my decor which was why I spent more time planting flowers and prettying things up outside. Make a list for what you want to do with categories for each area of your wedding and categorize each one of your DIY projects. I also found it useful to put stars next to the ones I found more important, as there were a few that I did not get around to doing. Get help from your bridesmaids, family, and friends and it will seem easier. If you’re buying decorations, do it much the same way. Some wedding decor planning (like a DIY arbor for your ceremony) take more planning, thus the reason why this is my next step in this process. Use sites like pinterest for inspiration and to keep track of your ideas.
Food, Drinks and Rentals
I considered having family and friends cook the food for our reception, but decided against it. This was the most costly aspect of our wedding, but our caterers were a godsend. Our caterer came out to our home venue and met with me and we walked around and plotted out where things would be set up and they gave advice on where and how to do things. Caterers do weddings all the time, so use their knowledge to your benefit. The caterers also help to run things at your wedding and will keep things moving as you had planned. We found that is was less costly for the caterer to order our party rentals (tables, chairs, plates, silverware, glasses, etc) than for us to do it ourselves. I would definitely suggest asking them and it’s also possible that they own all of the above, so you may get a good deal with them. Just ask! My maid of honor also owns a restaurant, so she ordered our linens through their company and it was an excellent deal. We had a local cake baker create our wedding cake and cupcakes and she delivered it and set it up on our wedding day. We ordered paper plates and cake forks which was cheaper than having the caterer do it. Plus, if you’re having cupcakes, most people don’t use a plate or fork to eat it. Ask around when looking for vendors — your friends and family are a treasure trove of ideas! I would have never found our cake baker if I didn’t ask around! Instead of having our caterer supply our beer, wine and champagne, we opted to purchase it ourselves, which also saved money. The caterer supplied coffee, iced tea and lemonade, while we bought the rest. We picked up our cases of wine at Trader Joe’s, bought our cases of champagne at BevMo and got our cases of beer at Costco. This option saved quite a bit of money, plus there were plenty of leftovers that my family and I enjoyed for several months afterward.
Wedding Insurance and Permits
If you’re planning a home wedding it is very important to get wedding insurance to protect you in case of an accident. I had read that there were special event “riders” for your existing home insurance, but we looked into that and it wasn’t possible for our insurance carrier. Instead, we did some online research and bought some insurance. The insurance not only covered our property, but also covered my wedding dress, the caterer, our rehearsal venue, etc. It cost us a few hundred dollars, but when you think about the possibility of someone getting hurt and suing us or having a natural disaster or tragedy, it is a godsend. You may also need a permit to hold your wedding at your home. I didn’t need one with mine, but you may want to check if you live in a city.
Unless your house has several bathrooms and is attached to a city sewage system, you will need to rent portable restrooms. The ones that you rent will be clean and nothing like ones you find at public venues. You can pretty them up inside and decorate them, too! And make sure you order enough — we had two for 100 people. Make sure you also factor in the caterer and their employees to that number.
Dancing and Music
You can opt to hire a DJ or go the route we took which was to rent a mic, PA and music system and attach a computer to it. We rented it from a local music store and just hooked up a computer to it. One of our talented friends was the MC and DJ. He played 1920s music before our wedding and during the reception and handled the dance music. I had looked into renting or building a dancefloor, but we already had the perfect place between our ceremony/reception area. We used the concrete patio under our large deck and it was the perfect place to set up the music and to decorate. We had this previously unfinished area painted and complete long before our wedding in preparation for the festivities.
There are a plethora of wedding planning tools on line to help you organize and plan your wedding. My favorites are on Martha Stewart Weddings. I used a managing tool on there where I could map out my venue and arrange the tables and guests just as they would be at my wedding. It was the best way to do my seating arrangement. I then printed a few of them out that everyone knew where and how to set up the tables and where everyone would be seated. This tool helped immensely with seating cards. You can also manage your guest list and wedding gifts.
Hair, Makeup and Nails — Let them come to you!
This is a more costly option than going to the salon, but it worked out much easier for us. On the day before my wedding, we had a manicurist come to our home and set up shop in our unused formal living room the day before my wedding and everyone got manicures and pedicures. On my wedding day, a hairstylist and makeup artist came out to do me and my bridal party. It was all much more convenient than having to drive us all somewhere and wasting precious time in the car. I had a few appointments with my hairstylist prior to my wedding at her salon and then made an appointment for her to come out to us.
Lists, lists and more lists — and enlisting help!
My whole bridal party plus family and friends helped to set up my wedding. They started two days before and had it all set up and ready by the time I walked down the aisle. They did all of the cleaning, setting up and decorating. We definitely could not have pulled it off without them. If you’re not hiring a wedding planner, you definitely need to enlist plenty of help as you will need it! I kept everyone on track by making lists and categorizing everything. I wrote down everything that needed to be done and where it needed to be done. I had all of the decor in boxes and labeled everything. Plus, I gave everyone jobs. One of my dear friends also stepped in to be the day of coordinator and kept it all moving. Without all of these wonderful people, my wedding would not happened. 🙂
The Contingency Plan
This is a must, especially if you’re having an outdoor wedding. If you hadn’t planned on renting a tent, you will need to know where to get one in case of rain. Don’t forget to think about the flooring as well. If you can bring guests inside, have a plan for that. Also, it would be a good idea to have a local hall ready in case you had to move your wedding there. I was fortunate that the weather was sunny and clear on the day of my May wedding, but I had a backup plan in order in case it did rain.
As you are probably hiring vendors and there may be people at your home that you don’t know, you will want to think about keeping your home and valuables secure. If you are having your wedding outdoors and your home is off-limits, put a sign on every door saying that the residence is “private.” Lock rooms and doors and put valuables away. Put keys away. Lock up outbuildings. Make sure that guests know what is off-limits. Hire a security guard or two. It’s important to ensure the safety of your home and valuables. I was fortunate that nothing was stolen nor did anything bad happen at my wedding, but it’s always good to think about what could happen and plan for the worst.
Make Sure Guests Know Where to Go!
I painted several directional signs so that guests knew where to go and where everything was. I even sectioned off an area for smoking with safe places to deposit their cigarette butts to ensure there wouldn’t be a fire. We set up recycling bins and labeled them. We put markers down by the road so guests could find our place. If you put signs up and label things there is a lot less confusion.
Having your wedding at home can be costlier than choosing a wedding venue, but there are many advantages. For one, your wedding will be SPECIAL. Most likely, no one has ever been married at your home. You are not sharing your venue with ANYONE. As for me, my family’s ranch has a lot of significance to me as my grandpa built everything there. As he had passed away a few months before my wedding, I was able to have him with me even though he was not physically there. He also had helped me to plan my wedding and figure out where everything was going to be set up. There is nothing more priceless than saying your vows in your family home.
You can decorate your home the way you want and do what you want. You can also do it several days before your event instead of only being allowed to do it the night before or the morning of. You don’t have a bunch of limitations like a traditional wedding venue and can personalize your wedding your way. You have all of your supplies at hand and don’t have to worry about carting them to another location or forgetting anything.
You can stay the night before your wedding in your own bed and you don’t have to pack or worry about forgetting anything. If you need to touch up your makeup and sew something up, you have all of the supplies that you need. You can use your own bathroom instead of a public restroom shared by others. You have everything you need instead of having to run to a store. You don’t need to worry about your purse or your gifts or anything because they are at home.
Your wedding photographs will be more personal as they are taken at your home. You will have a special keepsake to keep forever with a photos of your wedding in front of your favorite trees, rocks or flowers or in front of buildings or antiques that are special to you and you didn’t have to go anywhere to take them. Also, there won’t be a hundred brides at the same venue having the same background in their photographs.
Our guests raved about how beautiful, personal and special my husband and I’s wedding was and about all of the attention to detail. We could not have achieved all of that if our wedding was at a hotel or a community hall or a park. I could not have asked for anything more. ❤