Want to say “I do” without thinking “I can’t” – finance-wise, that is?
With the cost of the average wedding between $25,000 and $30,000, much of it is spent on the venue say some leading wedding planners. But if you’re aware of and plan for the traps–such as bringing in all the vendors a la carte, for example, as most hotels and restaurants include them in the cost–savvy brides and grooms can apply the following ideas to exciting, very personal at-home weddings. In fact with a little research and planning, a great at-home wedding can often rival nuptials exchanged at haute hotels, restaurants, and resorts–with the added bonus that you may have more control over your special day.
For Rich Lawton and Karen Smith, an at-home wedding was the only choice. Together since college, the 30-year-old couple had purchased a mid-century fixer upper and spent two years doing just that. With space vs. the number of intended guests the first consideration of an at-home wedding, Rich and Karen had opened up warrens of rooms by bumping through walls, creating a 1,000 square foot great room/open kitchen space that would accommodate guests.
Three bedrooms would serve as adequate space for coats and offer privacy if someone wanted to use a phone, or for children of guests to play, and their two baths would also work (the rule is one bathroom per 35 guests) without having to bring in an outdoor portable potty. That said, sources claim the average wedding guest makes three trips to the restroom, and many septic tanks cannot handle that many flushes (check with your plumber), so bringing a portable potty to the backyard may be necessary.
As the wedding was to take place in late April, if it was warm enough guests would also be invited outside through a sliding great room door to mingle on the deck and in the yard, both of which would be decorated.
“We started out with a guest list of 40, which grew to 52,” said Karen. “The largest number of people we’d had in the past was about 20, around the holidays, but because we planned for everything, we knew we could make it work.”
According to experts, the general rule is 6 to 10 feet of floor space per guest if you are opting for row seating. For Rich and Karen, their wedding was to be quite informal, so guests spread around on couches, love seats, window seats, etc. was not going to be an issue. “We wanted a brief ceremony anyway,” Rich said, adding that their goal was to allow guests to move about and celebrate as soon as possible.
Friend of the Bride; Friend of the Groom
Pat Herman, a former Cape Cod, Massachusetts wedding planner now living in Florida, said it is important at the outset to determine how much of an at-home wedding is to be handled by the bride and groom, their families, and close friends, and how much is to be farmed out to professionals.
“For economy’s sake it makes sense to utilize the time and various talents of an uncle who may be an accomplished landscaper, a coworker who performs with a popular band, or maybe an old roommate who has cooked or baked professionally, if they are willing,” she said. “But bear in mind you may be opening yourself up to big problems if someone is inexperienced and called upon to attempt something for the first time, or on a larger scale, no matter how much they want to pitch in. The days leading up to a wedding are no time to experiment, so leave enough time to engage someone else if it isn’t going to work.”
Place Cards and Parasols
With a guest list of anything over 12 or so, chances are you don’t have all the necessary tables, chairs, linens, plates, silver, barware, etc. so you’ll have to rent them. Borrowing from friends and family can work, but you’ll end up with a mish-mash of items which will detract from the elegance of the wedding, no matter how informal.
Lighting the Way
Décor and lighting can mean the difference between a so-so and a spectacular wedding, and there’s not enough to say about ubiquitous Christmas lights–especially in colors other than red and green. Run strands of tiny white or clear bulbs along mantles, the bottoms of furniture, the tops of windows, along the sides of counters and tables, etc. Save on decorations by purchasing paper lanterns, flowers from a wholesale floral market or farmer’s market, and vases (some you can even spray paint and adorn with glitter or “jewels” from the hobby store) from big box or home and garden stores.
A Lot for All
Be sure to check with your city or town–and the neighbors– about parking. You may need a permit if parking on the street, or perhaps generous neighbors will let you utilize their driveways and even their lawns. A nearby school, church, library, store, etc. may also be willing to let you use their parking lot, and depending on how far away it is, a shuttle or valet parking service may be in order. Karen and Rich scouted the neighborhood and found a restaurant under construction. They contacted the owner who was willing to let them use the parking lot in exchange for each guest receiving a small brochure tucked into a tasteful envelope on their windshield about the new venture.
“Gearing up for that special day, no matter where it is celebrated, can be stressful,” said Herman. “But with enough research and planning, your at-home wedding can be an exciting time–and just as personal as it can be.”