Homeward Bound

An at-a-glance guide to getting hitched at home

Short of writing your own vows on handmade paper, blending a special wedding-day scent, or insisting that your bridal party get your monogram tattooed on their arms, there's no better way to personalize your wedding than to have it at home. Whether you choose your parents' sunny backyard or your own downtown loft, having your celebration at the same place where you eat, sleep, and dream can be intimate and sweet.

Home Front Security

Before the gang's all there, do a walk-through of your house, noting any objects you want to move out of the way of uncoordinated dancers, curious children, or (horrors!) light-fingered service staffers. Place valuables in a safety-deposit box. Also note any areas that need to be cleaned, painted, scrubbed, or hosed down.

If you're having a seated meal or dancing and the party will be indoors, you'll probably have to clear furniture out of the house. Good storage options include a covered garage, neighbor's pool house, or a temporary rental space. Next, decide where to have your aisle. "It should lead to a fireplace, window, or another focal point suitable for the ceremony," says Jennifer Anderson, who owns a Chicago-based event-planning firm bearing her name. "The bride could also walk down the stairs into a large foyer."

Outside, you might choose to use a stone path in your backyard or create an aisle by dotting a stretch of grass with flowerpots.

Under the Big Top

If you're having your wedding outside, a tent is de rigueur for protecting you and yours from the elements. Have it put up at least two days before your ceremony. "And be sure to order a tent with a floor—if it rains, the water will run underneath it and not over everyone's feet," says Andersen. "A floor is also a must if you're hiring a band or DJ, so that they will have a solid surface over which to run the electrical cords." The big trend in tents is making them an extension of your home. If your budget permits, fill yours with rugs, chandeliers, mirrors—anything that will make the space more luxurious.

Prices vary widely depending on the kind of tent. Generally, freestanding styles, ranging from $1.50 to $2.50 per square foot, are more expensive than models supported by poles, which can cost between 60¢ to 75¢ per square foot. "Allot 15 square feet per person for a seated dinner; you can get away with 7 square feet per person for a cocktail reception," says Mike Holland, of the Chattanooga Tent Company in Tennessee. If the action isn't taking place right next door to your home, you may also need a service tent where the caterer can prepare and plate the food.

Domestic Dressing

We know, we know. It's your wedding and you'll wear a cathedral train if you want to. However, there are a few general guidelines you should follow when dressing the part. First, consider the kind of reception you're having. If it's a summer garden party, try an ultrafeminine slip dress made from a lightweight fabric like organza or chiffon. For a formal tented affair, an A-line gown in satin or silk-charmeuse is charmingly chic.

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