At-Home Weddings: Dos and Don'ts to Consider While Planning

Including fun ideas and not-so-sexy details.

at home wedding

Photo by Jenn Emerling Weddings; Planning & Design by Ashley Smith Events 

For so many couples planning a wedding amidst a global pandemic, their very own backyards are shaping up to be more appealing than hiring a venue’s ballroom. For starters, a home wedding at a private residence allows for more flexibility as far as planning goes. There are no particular venue restrictions outside of the bride and groom’s control and no single and non-refundable deposit that would be lost should the event have to be canceled for one reason or another. 

“At-home weddings have been a favorite of ours for quite some time now as there is so much opportunity to personalize the wedding and to craft a very intimate experience with those nearest and dearest to a couple,” says Virginia Frischkorn, wedding planner and owner of Bluebird Productions in Aspen, Colorado. 

Meet the Expert

Ast-home weddings can also be very personal and unique to you in a way that a standard wedding venue cannot be. “You have an opportunity to tie in personal details (maybe even from your childhood!) and your guests will feel connected to you as a couple,” says Tessa Brand, the California-based wedding planner and owner of Tessa Lyn Events.

While a wedding at home may seem rather simple on the surface, at-home weddings do come with their own set of challenges and considerations that are worth making to ensure that the event runs smoothly. “Some of the less-than-glamorous things that one must consider when hosting a wedding at a private residence include whether the restrooms accommodate the headcount, there’s enough power to support the demands an event places on a home, the kitchen or garage can handle the cooking and there are enough waste removal services on site,” says Frischkorn. “The impact on flooring, grass, and general wear and tear to a property are also worth considering.”

Whether you’re considering hosting your wedding at a private residence or are knee-deep in the process of planning one, here are some important dos and don’ts as recommended by wedding industry experts.

Do: Hire a team of professionals to guide you

Even though you’re having your wedding at your home, it’s a smart idea to hire an experienced team of vendors to help ensure everything runs smoothly and to take a bulk of responsibility off your shoulders. “Whether it's a full-service event producer, an interior designer who specializes in creating spaces for entertaining, or even a catering manager who has a lot of experience working in private homes, you’ll appreciate having a team to guide you through things like flow, power, restrooms and kitchen placement,” says Beth Helmstetter, event designer and owner of Beth Helmstetter Events in Los Angeles. 

If you’re hosting the wedding in a backyard, consider hiring a professional service that will come out and do a walkthrough, measure accurately and tell you what's possible based on your property, notes Chanda Daniels, event planner, and founder Chanda Daniels Planning & Design in San Francisco. “They will handle the installation, the breakdown and will work with your designer for design.”

Don’t: Forget to check city or county rules

“Many residences are under noise ordinances that you may never realize if you don't entertain regularly in your home, and others require permitting to have more than 100 guests or to have vendors install things like tents, catering kitchens, and more,” says Helmstetter. She recommends researching the rules in your area well in advance of your wedding date and following them closely. “You wouldn't want to hire a band until 1 a.m. only to have law enforcement shut your party down at 10 p.m. when a neighbor complains about the noise,” she adds.

Do: Factor in the elements

Consider how the weather may impact your series of events. “Heaters work wonders near dinner tables, bars, and even near the restrooms, and misters are a great go-to if you’re anticipating a super hot day,” notes Helmstetter. “If the temperatures will be milder for most of the day, but you do anticipate a moment of harsher temperatures you can address this with simple yet charming details.” 

She also recommends having temperate accessories such as throw blankets, pashminas, as well as umbrellas handy for guests so that you’re completely prepared—even for the unexpected.

Don’t: Assume your bathrooms will suffice

Chances are, your home is not equipped to provide bathrooms for a crowd of 50-plus people. And, depending on the number of guests, your home may not have a sewage system in place to handle the level of traffic a wedding commands for several hours, notes Helmstetter. If you’re not completely confident that you have enough restrooms for the number of guests you’re hosting, she recommends renting portable bathrooms. “Even if it’s just as a backup plan or solely for vendor use, this one rental can bring so much peace of mind,” she says. “Find a spot to place the trailer that’s out of sight, but not so tucked away that guests can’t find it—and don’t forget to light the pathway to the restroom.”

Do: Build out a catering kitchen

Depending on the number of guests, chances are your home kitchen may not be suitable for your reception. For this reason, Helmstetter suggests renting a kitchen and setting it up in your garage, driveway, or any other large space that’s accessible and can be tucked away from guest view. 

“Once you determine the flow of your event and hire your caterer, make sure someone from their team visits the property to explore the kitchen location with you,” she says. “From there work closely with them to execute the rental order to the tee or better yet simply hand this order over to your planner or have the caterer handle it on your behalf.”

Don’t: Skimp on lighting

Even if your wedding is happening in broad daylight, you don’t know how long guests may stay, so it’s worth it to consider what lighting you may need. “Not only do you want the space to be beautifully lit, but you also want guests to be able to see what they’re eating,” says Helmstetter. “And beyond that, you need to light the pathways to regularly traveled areas such as from the dining space to the restrooms or to the kitchen.” She also reminds her clients who are hosting at-home weddings not to forget to light a path from the backyard to the front yard so that guests can see as they’re leaving your home at the end of the event.

Do: Consider the flow of events

If you were hosting your wedding at a full-service venue, this would likely not be something you’d even have to think about. However, when hosting a wedding at your own home, you want to be sure to plan the wedding-day flow of events from your guests’ perspective. “It's important to use this as the base of your planning and then build all experiences from that, including how guests will arrive (maps, signage), what guests will see when they arrive (valet parking), where they’ll go before the ceremony, and how they’ll transition from the ceremony to dinner,” says Daniels. “Lay all of that out and present it to your creatives for input.”

Don’t: Assume guests will find their own parking

Unless you have a public parking lot nearby that will accommodate your guest count, it’s worth it to factor in how many cars your guests and vendors will be bringing and making sure that there are enough parking spaces available. 

If you have limited parking at your home, there are a couple of options that Helmstetter recommends. The first is to rent a nearby lot and have shuttles bring guests back and forth to the home. Another option is encouraging arrival by taxi or rideshare. “If suggesting rideshare, Lyft and Uber both offer code options where you can host this expense for your guests both to and from the wedding,” she adds.

Do: Rent a generator

If you’re not familiar with a generator, it’s an external energy device that’s used in the event that your electricity runs out. Even if you think your house has enough power for everyone, it’s a good idea to have this backup, notes Brand. “Consider the disaster if the power went off in the middle of your first dance!” she says. “Work with your rental company to choose a powerful generator that’s quiet enough to not disrupt and, at your vendor walkthrough, choose a location that is not an eyesore, but convenient to run a cable to your bars, band, kitchen, etc."

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