Whether couples want an outdoor wedding or a relaxed celebration, their backyards are proving to be more attractive than renting a venue’s ballroom. In terms of planning, a home wedding at a private residence often allows for more flexibility. There are no specific venue restrictions beyond the control of the bride and groom and no one-time, non-refundable deposit that would be forfeited if the event were to be cancelled for one reason or another. However, they also require a little extra work to turn a residential space into one ready for a major event.
“In-home weddings have been a favorite for some time because there are so many opportunities to personalize the wedding and create a very intimate experience with a couple’s nearest and dearest,” says wedding planner Virginia Frischkorn of Bluebird Productions in Aspen. They can also be very personal and unique to you in a way that a standard wedding venue can’t be. “You have the opportunity to tie in personal details (maybe even from childhood!), and your guests will feel connected to you as a couple,” says Tessa Brand of Tessa Lyn Events.
While a home wedding may seem simple enough on the surface, weddings at home come with their own set of challenges and considerations worth making to ensure the event runs smoothly. “Some of the less glamorous things to consider when hosting a wedding at a private residence include whether the restrooms fit the number of people, whether there is enough electricity to support the demands an event places on a home, whether the kitchen or garage can handle the cooking, and whether there is enough on-site waste disposal,” says Frischkorn. “The impact on a property’s flooring, lawn and general wear and tear is also worth considering.”
Whether you’re thinking of hosting your wedding at a private residence or are knee-deep in the process of planning one, here are some important do’s and don’ts recommended by wedding industry experts.
How to host your wedding at home
Do: Hire a team of professionals
Even if you’re hosting your wedding at home, it’s a smart idea to hire a team of experienced vendors to make sure everything goes smoothly and take a lot of the 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 event designer Beth Helmstetter of Beth Helmstetter Events.
If you’re hosting your wedding in a backyard, consider hiring a professional service to come in and do a walk-through, accurately measure and tell you what’s possible based on your property, notes Chanda Daniels of Chanda Daniels Planning & Design. “They’ll handle the installation, the breakdown and work with your designer on the design.”
No: Forget to check city and county rules
“Many residences fall under noise ordinances that you may never realize if you don’t regularly entertain in your home, and others require permits to have more than 100 guests or to have vendors set up things like tents, catering kitchens and more,” Helmstetter says. 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 down your party at 10 p.m. when a neighbor complains about noise,” she adds.
Do: Consider the elements
Consider how the weather might affect the series of events. “Heaters work wonders near tables, bars, and even near restrooms, and misters are a great solution if you anticipate a very hot day,” Helmstetter notes. “If temperatures will be milder for most of the day, but you anticipate a time of harsher temperatures, you can address this with simple but charming details.”
She also recommends having temperate accessories such as blankets, pashminas, and umbrellas on for guests, so you’re fully prepared – even for the unexpected.
No: Assume your bathrooms will be sufficient
Chances are your home isn’t equipped to provide bathrooms for a crowd of 50+ people. And, depending on the number of guests, your home may not have a sewage system that can handle the level of traffic a wedding commands for several hours, Helmstetter notes. If you’re not completely sure you have enough restrooms for the number of guests you’re hosting, she recommends renting portable toilets. “Even if it’s just as a backup plan or just for vendor use, that one rental can bring so much peace of mind,” she says. “Find a place to put the trailer that’s out of sight, but not so hidden that guests can’t find it – and don’t forget to light the path to the restroom.”
Do: Build a catering kitchen
Depending on the number of guests, chances are your home kitchen won’t be suitable for your reception. For this reason, Helmstetter suggests renting a kitchen and setting it up in your garage, driveway, or other large space for your caterer that is accessible and can be hidden from guests’ eyes.
“Once you’ve determined the flow of your event and hired the 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 on time or, better yet, simply turn that order over to your planner or ask the caterer to handle it on your behalf.”
No: Don’t skimp on lighting
Even if your wedding takes place in broad daylight, you don’t know how long your guests can stay. So it’s worth thinking about what lighting you might 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. “Beyond that, you need to illuminate pathways to regularly traveled areas, such as from the dining space to the restrooms to the kitchen.” She also reminds her clients who host weddings at home to remember to light a pathway from the backyard to the front yard, so guests can see them leave your home at the end of the event.
Do: Consider the flow of events
If you’re hosting your wedding at a full-service venue, this probably isn’t something you should even think about. However, when hosting a wedding at your own home, you need to make sure you plan the flow of events on the wedding day from the perspective of your guests. “It’s important to use this as the basis of your planning and then build all of the experiences from there, including how guests will arrive (maps, signage), what guests will see when they arrive (valet parking), where they will go before the ceremony, and how they will transition from ceremony to dinner,” says Daniels. “Lay it all out and present it to your creatives for input.”
Don’t: Assume guests will find their own parking
Unless you don’t have public parking nearby to accommodate the number of guests, it’s worth considering how many cars your guests and vendors will bring and making sure there’s enough parking available. If you have limited parking at your home, there are a few options Helmstetter recommends. The first is to rent a nearby lot and have shuttles bring guests to and from the house. You can also hire a valet to make this process easier for guests. Another option is encouraging arrival by taxi or rideshare. “If you suggest rideshare, both Lyft and Uber offer code options where you can accommodate 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 power device that’s used in case the electricity runs out. Even if you think your home has enough power for everyone, it’s a good idea to have this backup device, Brand notes. “Think of the disaster if the power went out in the middle of the first dance,” she says. “Work with your rental company to choose a powerful generator that’s quiet enough not to disturb. When pitching the vendor, choose a location that isn’t a nuisance, but is convenient for running a cable to the bars, band and kitchen.”