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Whether you offered or you were asked, hosting a wedding at your home comes with a lot of considerations. From safety and accessibility to food and furnishings, preparing your home requires significant planning and preparation. However, there are some basic tips that, when followed, can help the special day go off without a hitch.
Before you commit to hosting a wedding at your home, you’ll want to ensure you can keep guests safe during the festivities. Perform a walk-through of your home before you agree to the event. Make a list of areas that may pose a risk, and identify ways to address them. Even seemingly innocuous features like pools and balconies can prove to be a hazard, especially to people who are unfamiliar with your home and/or guests under the influence of alcohol.
Make a safety checklist for the big day with some important reminders. You’ll want to ensure firearms are stored in a locked safe, and remove any medications from areas where guests will be present. Lock doors to basements and other rooms that should not be used. Install padlocks on pool gates or outbuildings where you store dangerous items. If young children will be present, consider investing in baby gates to block stairs and access to rooms like the kitchen. Furthermore, you should plan to complete any home renovation or remodeling projects well in advance of the wedding, giving yourself plenty of wiggle room for delays.
Keep it Simple
Remember: this is not about how big your house is, how high-end your furnishings are, or how your home compares to anyone else’s. The best backyard weddings happen when you stay focused on the things that matter. The first objective is to provide a beautiful, functional space for the betrothed couple to say, “I do.” The second goal is to make the wedding party’s family and friends feel welcome.
Accomplishing these tasks will be much easier if you let go of any expectations you might have of how the wedding should go. Once you’ve done that, you are free to listen to the couple’s ideas and make their dreams a reality. After all, while lavender with gold accents may perfectly complement your existing decor, the bride may have always dreamed of red roses and silver accessories.
Monitor the Guest List
Be honest with the wedding party about the number of guests you are comfortable hosting at your home, both indoors and out. Don’t forget to consult with your spouse and other family members, and be conservative with your estimate. Enough standing room, seating, and restroom availability should all be taken into consideration.
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You should also ask the wedding party to estimate the number of service personnel that will be attending, like clergy, caterers, photographers, videographers, and musicians. Though not technically guests, these bodies will contribute to the headcount. And, if you’re offering bedrooms, bathrooms, or common areas for members of the wedding party to dress and prepare for the event, be sure to address that as well. Finally, don’t feel awkward about double- or triple-checking with the bride and/or groom as the event gets closer. This is one area where you, the homeowner, are in complete control at all times.
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Stay Out of the Kitchen?
In the best case scenario, the couple will hire a caterer so that the food can be delivered, set up, and served by professionals. Caterers will use their own serving dishes, utensils, and manpower. This way, there is less to prepare and clean before guests arrive and after the party is over.
If the wedding party intends to use your kitchen, you will likely need help coordinating any preparation and serving that is required. In other words, the couple will need to enlist a few volunteers or hire someone to coordinate the cooking and cleaning. If your home features an open kitchen, the wedding reception menu should feature items that can be prepared ahead of time to avoid using the kitchen with guests nearby.
When it comes to beverages, the big question is whether to serve alcohol. Alcohol regulations vary greatly by location, so be sure to check your local laws. If you do provide alcohol, take care to ensure no one under age is drinking. To minimize the chance of a guest drinking and driving, it may also be a good idea to provide alternative forms of transportation like a taxi service, a Lyft or Uber voucher, or simply a ride home with a friend.
Go with Classic Decor
Start with a clean slate. Plan on removing almost all of your personal belongings from the spaces where you will host guests for the wedding and reception, including personal photos and decor that doesn’t match the wedding theme. You’ll also want to remove any items that cannot be replaced. Accidents happen. Things break. Drinks spill. Whether it’s a piece of antique furniture or a handmade tchotchke from your child, find a safe place for the meaningful item out of the way of guests.
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In most cases, you’ll also want to rearrange your furniture. Lining chairs and couches along walls makes more more room for standing (and dancing!). On the other hand, grouping furniture and angling pieces toward one another feels more intimate and encourages conversation. If the festivities will take place outdoors, you can rent tables, seating, and linens of all styles, shapes and sizes to coordinate with the rest of your furnishings. For lower-budget parties, consider using blankets on the grass, hay bales covered with fabric, or mismatched pieces on loan from family and friends.
As far as decorations are concerned, consider the classic combination of flowers and lights. Flowers and greenery can be real or fake, fresh or dried, in vases or as wreaths. Lighting can consist of candles in any color of the rainbow, gracefully-draped string lights, or simply existing lighting on a dimmer. No matter which option you choose, this combination will unify the different spaces, and is easy to install and remove.
Have a Plan B
You can’t predict the future — and that includes the weather. No matter how good the forecast looks, you’ll need to be prepared for the worst. This is especially true when the majority of your event is planned to take place outdoors. Too much sun or any amount of rain can ruin a special day, so it’s important to have a backup plan.
In lieu of an expensive, giant wedding tent, multiple pop-up tents are a great solution to block out the sun or the rain. Tents can usually be rented from local party supply stores, but don’t wait until the last minute to reserve them, or you may be out of luck. Other options to keep the heat at bay include umbrellas and hand fans. You can also rent industrial fans, but you’ll need a power source and extension cables.
Respect Your Neighbors
You don’t have to invite them to the party, but it’s a good idea to check in with your neighbors in advance of the event to let them know what to expect. Put them at ease with assurances you will keep the crowd under control and the noise at a reasonable level. Discuss issues that may come up like parking and property lines.
Go the extra mile by asking neighbors what concerns they might have about the event. For example, parents of young children may be concerned about loud music after 8 p.m. even though local noise ordinances don’t kick in until 10 p.m. Once you know the issues, you can figure out a plan that works for everyone. In the end, the party only lasts one night, but you have to live next to these folks for much longer.
Hosting an at-home dream wedding is one of the greatest gifts you can give to a couple on their big day. With a little planning and coordination, you can help your loved ones celebrate one of the most special days of their lives in a beautiful, unforgettable way.