The Ins and Outs of At-Home Weddings - Spring 2005
Chances are, the home you grew up in is not wired for wedding. But don't let that stop you. Simply proceed with caution - and stock up on insect repellent.
You imagine your family and friends gathered for your wedding in the place where you grew up - amongst your fondest memories... not to mention the stained carpet, mismatched sofa pillows and leaky plumbing.
Having an at-home wedding ceremony may seem like a marvelous and intimate gesture, but it's also an anxious one, as brides struggle to mesh their romantic visions with the realities of the setting.
"We thought it would be so easy to have our June wedding in the yard of John's parents' Michigan home, a beautiful, old converted barn," says Casey Cooper. "But a week before the wedding John's parents were panicking about having the entire barn repainted... and two hours before the wedding his mother and I were still weeding and transplanting perennials."
Although couples such as the Coopers who married at home don't regret their decision, most will tell you it's far more work, and often more expensive, than they anticipated.
"There was no question of where John and I would be married. Both his sisters were married outside the barn. But we had to go back and forth from Chicago to Lakeside to make the arrangements for the wedding that included 140 guests. Some of our biggest shocks were in terms of expenses," says Cooper, owner of Botanicals, Inc. a Chicago floral design company.
"We had to bring in every single spoon, fork, glass, napkin and chair. We forgot to rent a dance floor and had to do that at the last minute. It was so cold we were afraid we'd have to rent heaters, but fortunately it warmed up at the last minute," she says, recalling the logistical headaches.
Also unforeseen: Mother Nature invited herself to the affair. Just before the wedding, the annual kill-off of hundreds and hundreds of alewives, a small fish found in Lake Michigan, took place over several days, scenting the air with the smell of dead fish. "We raked and buried fish twice a day the week before the wedding, but still, the smell of dead fish was quite prominent during our rehearsal dinner beach party," says Cooper. After the fish fiasco, the mosquitoes that swarmed the day of the wedding were a minor event. "We had a whole table full of OFF! for our guests," she says.
Acts of nature aside, knowing what's involved before you say "I do" to a home wedding will eliminate unpleasant surprises.
Decide how much you want to do to get your house ready; create an adequate budget and make sure the layout of your home and landscaping will allow for the number of guests you're inviting.
As you imagine people gathering, you start to view your home with a more critical eye.
"Time and time again I see people put things off, and then decide to refurbish the house and marry the daughter at the same time," says John Kowalenko, co-owner of Art of Eating Catering and Event Planning in Amagansett, Long Island. "You may say this is the time to get the landscaping or lighting done or the driveway paved."
If you can't stand the way your house looks, bring in a crew, but schedule your remodeling so you're done at least a month before the event. That way you're not panicking over delays.
Do overlook the little irritations such as chipped paint, says Cooper "Don't try to retouch or landscape every corner of your home and yard. Be realistic, set a schedule, stick to it and relax. Many of the people coming to the wedding have been to your home before. And remember that the focus of the event is not the shrubbery but the celebration of two people in love," Cooper says.
Make a critical assessment of your home as one of the first step in your wedding plan.
Here's what you should take into account if you're having an indoor home wedding:
While outdoor weddings shift the focus away from your home's interior, they present other challenges. A comfortable backyard environment that includes a tent with flooring and decorated poles; portable bathrooms, water and electricity for the caterers can cost about $50,000, says Cooper.
It may sound like a lot to deal with but if you're still enthusiastic after reading all the caveats you should also know the payoffs are well worth the effort.
"There were so many things I loved about it," says Cooper. "I loved not having to having to travel to a wedding site. I loved not having to leave at a certain hour when the venue shut down. I loved the home, how gracious and warm it was. I loved not having a lot of restrictions about what we could and could not do," she says.
"You're doing one of the most intimate things you can do in your life in your own space."
In Closing: Do Not Forget
John Kowalenko, New York event planner, recommends you not overlook the following:
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