The Estate of Marriage

Continued (page 2 of 2)

Finally, all couples want their wedding to be "different," whether it's the location, the dress, or the reception-dinner favors that set it apart.

"A lot more people are renting these big, beautiful houses to hold their receptions in," says Nantucket wedding coordinator Nicole Welden. "There's a more personal feel to a wedding if you have it at a house rather than a hotel."

It's not just about making money for the homeowners; some owners of luxury homes simply enjoy contributing to someone else's happiness. The Baker Estate-a seven-bedroom waterfront home on just over four acres in Hampton Bays, New York, that rents for about $20,000 a month-typically hosts two weddings a year, in May and September.

"It happened by accident," owner Beau Baker says. He originally bought the property for a weekend retreat, but when a friend's daughter was getting married, he offered the estate as a venue. "It was a huge success. Afterward, the caterer came to me and said, 'You should rent this out.' I just sort of went with it. It's a really beautiful place, and it's very rewarding to share that with people."

Many estates allow weddings only on a case-by-case basis, since the homeowner decides who can use the property for what purpose. "A lot of them have very strict rules about what can be done, what can't be done," says Gabrielle Longhi, a wedding coordinator in Maui. For example, there may be a limit on the number of invitees, or guests may be prohibited from using certain areas of the house.

Weddings at mansions tend to be more expensive than those at traditional venues, as everything—from food to tables to the occasional generator for extra electricity—must be brought to the home. And owners can generally command a premium over the usual rental price. "If you're having a party at a property, you're going to have dozens and dozens of people coming through," Carefree Lifestyle's Caporale says. "There's more wear and tear."

At the Arcus Estate, a one-week rental in the spring or fall costs $2,500, but a five-day wedding rental is $5,000. "It's not worth it for us unless we charge more," Kreye explains, noting the extra work involved in making the house wedding-ready, from painting to doing yard work to rerouting electricity so the patio is primed for music and lights.

But Ellis, whose wedding festivities totaled about $200,000, thought her wedding was a deal. "We had five parties," she says. "Working in P.R., I know that five parties for $200,000 is a bargain." —Lisa Keys

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