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.
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.
What you wear on your feet definitely depends on the flooring. Feel free to step out in stilettos if you're holding the reception in your living room or in a tent with a wooden floor. Planning an open-air affair? Give high heels the boot (you'll sink into the grass all day long) and opt for shoes with a wider width that are lower in stature.
Even a small influx of people—and cars—can cause a big commotion in the neighborhood. What's the best way to ensure that the block association doesn't revoke your membership? Invite your neighbors to the wedding. Even if they don't come, the gesture of goodwill will go a long way toward ensuring their cooperation (maybe they'll even volunteer to help out with the parking situation). Let them know as soon as you've set a date, and offer to accommodate them in any way you can.
Next, consider parking. Your first call should be to the local police. They'll advise you on parking regulations and whether or not you need to obtain any permits. If guests will be parking at a nearby school or church, you might hire a valet service and even a shuttle van. Otherwise, post brightly colored signs to let guests know exactly where to leave their cars once they get close to your house. You don't want Uncle Joe pulling his Hummer onto your neighbor's lawn because he didn't know where else to put it.
Supply and Demand
Often, home weddings can be more expensive than even a lavish bash at a hotel. How's that possible? Blame it on rental costs, which can take your cozy gathering from cheap to steep in the blink of an eye. The list of supplies you'll need may be a long one. Make sure you have extra extension cords, generators (a must if you're having a band), and climate-control equipment (air-conditioning, fans, or heaters) for a tented reception. You'll likely also need basic dinner party items like linens, silverware, barware, tables, and chairs. And don't forget lighting.
"Expect to spend at least $2,500 on rentals per hundred guests," says Joyce Scardina Becker, president of Events of Distinction in San Francisco. It's also a good idea to reserve your rentals early—at least three to six months prior to your date. Call the American Rental Association for referrals (800-334-2177). When you approach rental companies, have the date, time, address, and square footage of your location at hand, as well as an estimate of the number of guests. You'll also want to describe the kind of event you're throwing (seated dinner versus cocktail reception).
Bowl Them Over
If you want to score a royal flush at your party, invest in portable toilets. "They'll prevent guests from wasting time waiting in endless bathroom lines, no one will track mud into your living room, and your septic tank won't overflow," points out Anderson. Porta Pottis have improved a lot since your last Lollapalooza concert. These days, you can get everything from the basic construction version (the big, green closet style found in parks) to the Rolls-Royces of portable bathrooms, which come in a trailer with several separate stalls, sinks with running water, and mirrors.
Ask your wedding planner for a recommendation, or try 888-porta-john (767-8256) or toilets.com. "Plan on renting one unit per 50 to 75 guests," advises Laurel Szeto, of Laurel and Party, a Santa Monica-based event-planning company. The no-frills version will run you from $300 to $500 each. Posh versions cost closer to $5,000. Consider hiring someone to replenish the supply of toilet paper, hand towels, mints, bobby pins, and hair spray.