Photo: Paper Antler
In 2016, hotels are out and non-traditional venues — think: a historic site, such as a library or museum, a private estate, a barn, or even your backyard — are very in. "Non-traditional venues are becoming more popular with millennial couples, as the pressure to throw an Instagram-worthy bash increases," explains Francie Dorman, co-owner of 42 North Weddings in Boston.
But for all their charms, non-traditional venues don't come problem-free. "While hotels, function halls and select restaurants are built to service large events, a non-traditional venue would be one where many of those core aspects need to be contracted and brought in separately," explains Britt Cole, co-owner of 42 North Weddings.
So before you plan your big day bash at a non-traditional venue, Dorman and Cole have seven things you cannot forget to consider.
1. Site permits
Dorman and Cole warn that you can't assume your site will hold its own event production permit — especially one that will appease local laws. "Every city and state has different site permit laws," Dorman explains, "so couples will want to consult the town or city hall permitting department to fully understand and complete paperwork needed to hold an event at their desired location." With official guidance, you'll know what you can do at the site and what simply won't fly. For example, Cole says, "if you are hosting at a historic barn or museum, there will likely be restrictions around open flames and temporary installations to ensure the integrity of the building."
2. Liquor liability and insurance
You'd be surprised how many wedding-ready sites are smack in the center of "dry" towns and counties. "In order to avoid a last-minute heartbreak over those signature cocktails you were planning on serving your guests, we suggest clients to take out a one-day rider with their insurance company to protect themselves and their property from damages," says Cole. "You will also want to check with your city and your caterer about liquor liability to be sure alcohol and bar service is going to be legal on site and what restrictions, if any, exist in that location."
3. Police detail
You probably won't need one. But in case of an emergency at your historic barn 40 miles from the nearest town, you'll be happy you hired a police detail, Cole and Dorman say. "That way, if anything happens you have a first responder on site," Dorman explains. "Also, this is a strategic way to get the police on your side, and make them aware of your event and ensure you are following protocol for a successful celebration." You may need the blessing of the fire department, too. "If you are planning on incorporating fireworks into your summer reception, you will need to comply with fire regulations and likely have a member of the department present," Cole says.
4. On-site vendors
When you're hosting your wedding at a hotel, you're surrounded by at-the-ready staff. But invite guests to join you at a private estate, for example, and you could find yourself alone in need of help. "While it may seem unnecessary, we always encourage couples to hire someone from the tent company to stay on site in case the lights are not working, the tent sides need to be brought down, or there are any other small malfunctions during the wedding," says Dorman. "We also suggest having someone on site to tend to the restrooms and take care of parking cars. Those details are the kind you may not think of right away, but will be a huge relief if managed by the experts."
A wedding is a party, after all, so it's bound to get a little loud. "But noise complaints can easily put a damper on your wedding celebration," Cole says. So before you host your wedding in your backyard, "you'll want to notify your neighbors well in advance to the party, so they are aware," she says. "Sometimes neighbors will make plans to stay out of town for the evening, or, at the very least, will know not to call the police. Depending on your relationships, we recommend a hand written note sent via mail to notify them."
Few brides actually want rain on their wedding days. But rain can be an even bigger deal if you're planning your event outdoors. "Because we believe in wedding superstitions, we always tell our clients to purchase umbrellas for everyone and keep them in their garage," Dorman recommends. "We find if we purchase them, we won't need them. We also go to great lengths for those outdoor weddings to ensure we have a back up plan that keep everyone comfortable during the celebration."
You may think that hosting your wedding at a non-traditional venue will save you beaucoup bucks. And you might be surprised to find out that's not always the case. "Your budget is something that should be considered from the very beginning when planning a wedding at a non-traditional venue," Cole says. "There is a common misconception that anything DIY equals a smaller budget, but that is simply not the case when it comes to planning a large wedding at a private home, because you have to bring in so many additional resources. Do your homework before diving in."