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Wedding & Party Network Newsletter

by Christina Friedrichsen

Is An At-Home Wedding for You?

Whether you're saying 'I do' in your living room, or you're having a backyard wedding, at-home weddings are a challenge. A couple of weeks before our at-home wedding, our neighbor placed a big, honking boatlift on his beach. This wasn't any old boatlift. It was a rickety, rusty eyesore.

I wouldn't have cared. Honest. It's just that my husband-to-be and I spent months getting our lakefront home ready for our backyard wedding. This involved adding flowerbeds, planting a truckload of ever-thirsty impatiens (more on those later), power washing, and even painting.

I envisioned my guests mingling on the spotless deck, cocktails in hand, a soft breeze from Lake Erie cooling their sun-exposed skin. I pictured sailboats in the distance, a beach free of garbage and smelly dead things and an unobstructed view of Fermi II (that's the nuclear power plant across the lake). I did not forsee a rusty, contraption of a boatlift to be part of the picture.

So, I traipsed on over to my neighbor's house and told him we were getting married and we were having an at-home wedding. And by the way, can you move your boatlift, because it won't look nice in my wedding photos? (The nerve of me!)

Our wedding day came and went, and the boatlift didn't budge. And you know what? It didn't matter. Not a single bit. I did not harbor bad feelings towards my neighbor, and he did not hold my temporary lapse of reason against me. In fact, the day before our wedding, he offered us the use of a wooden platform that we ended up using it as a stage for the Irish band!

Looking back, I can't believe that I was so petty. But that's what planning a wedding can do to you. Even a small wedding. It can make you crazy. Unrecognizable. The evil twin sister you didn't know you had can suddenly rear her ugly head. Heck, there are even TV shows about this kind of thing.

And having an at-home wedding can intensify the symptoms -especially if you are a perfectionist. There are so many extra details involved with planning an at-home wedding that it can be overwhelming for anyone – but especially those who have a penchant for perfection.

Not only will you be running around like a hen with her head missing trying to cross off the zillion things on your to-do list, you'll also want to make sure your home is extra-tidy, extra-lovely, extra-special for your extra-important big day. And that will take Effort. (Note the capital 'E' for emphasis.)

One of the first things Darin and I did when we decided to have a backyard wedding was head out to a local nursery to load up on flowers, and other bedding plants. In fact, we spent the entire spring and summer landscaping our property, which included planting dozens of flats of impatiens, as well as an assortment of perennials.

Through it all, I discovered a new passion – gardening, and I lost weight without even trying! (Hauling wheelbarrows full of earth day after day will get you in shape pretty fast!)I also discovered that impatiens and a scorching hot summer climate make for a very LARGE water bill.

Even though we were having our at-home wedding outdoors, Darin and I decided not only to landscape the yard – but also fix up our house before the wedding. This included stripping wallpaper, painting, stripping more wallpaper, and did I mention stripping wallpaper? We had plenty of help from family, but Darin and I truly busted our behinds trying to get things in order.

Of course, not all couples planning an at-home wedding spend months fixing up their place. Some people don't lift a finger on home improvements. If that's the case, planning can be a whole lot easier.

However, there are still things to keep in mind if you are planning an at-home wedding.

1. Toilets. It's probably the least romantic thing about your wedding, but it's probably one of the most important. No matter where you decide to have your wedding, you're going to need at least one. If you are having your wedding at home, you might decide that guests can use the washrooms in your home. But after giving it some serious thought, you might change your mind. If you are having an outdoor wedding, do you really want your guests traipsing in and out of your home? Can your plumbing system take the wear and tear? Is it possible that your septic system will be overstressed, causing a plumbing nightmare on the biggest day of your life? (Ever see Meet the Parents?) After doing some research, we discovered that port-a-johns definitely aren't what they used to be. There are new user-friendly models in a variety of colors. Not only are they more pleasing to the eye, they have sinks and flush toilets. Even though they are more expensive, they were definitely worth the splurge.

2. Neighbors. Warn them in advance and give them a heads up closer to the big day. They might even offer up their driveways for parking – or a portable stage! Be extra kind to them as you get close to your wedding day, so that they will put up with potentially high noise levels from your happy wedding guests.

3. Invite your caterer over before the big day so s/he can scope out your kitchen. S/he'll need to know how much space there is to work in – as well as fridge and stove details.

4. If you are doing the outdoor thing, rent a tent. That is, unless you have a huge tolerance for risk. (Which I do not.)

5. Hire a cleaning person to clean your home thoroughly prior to your wedding – not to mention after your big day. Unless of course, you have a lovely friend or relative who has kindly offered to take on this task.

6. Have bug spray handy. Citronella candles might provide ambiance, but they are useless when it comes to fending off hungry 'mossies'.

7. If your guests like to over-imbibe, be prepared: some might want to crash at your house. We had a pretty tame crowd at our wedding, but like any good party, there's a chance this will happen at your wedding. If you're not equipped for sleepovers, be smart and call a cab.

8. Enjoy the journey. Easy for me to say – I got married eight years ago. But, really, try not to sweat the small stuff – like boatlifts.

9. Give yourself a pat on the back for pulling it off. Planning a wedding at home is no small feat, but it's one of the most rewarding things you will accomplish. Raise a glass to yourself – (and to your neighbor) for a job well done!

Christina Friedrichsen is the author of Intimate Weddings: Planning a Small Wedding that Fits Your Budget and Style and owner of, a website dedicated to small weddings.

A special thanks to:

Photography by memoriesINtime, a Milan MO photographer, for the beautiful photo of a wedding ceremony in front of a lake.

Hollyhock Flowers, a Weare NH florist, who create the fabulous flowers decorating the wooden bridge in the second photo.

Petals-a-Florist, an Atlanta GA florist, who designed the sensational pew markers in the third photo.

3 Responses to “Intimate At-Home Weddings – What You Need To Know”
  1. Brynn Jackson Says:

    I love these ideas! My friend recently had an outdoor wedding at her lakeside home in Missouri. I'd been in that backyard a hundred times and have still never seen it as beautiful as it was then. Great ideas, Christina!

  2. Juleswirth Says:

    1Every little girl dreams of having a fairytale wedding with their prince charming and in a castle. However as you get older you realize prince charming doesn’t slay dragons or wicked witches.. and castle weddings don’t exsist. .. or do they? I don’t know about prince charming.. thats up to you, but the castle is a definate possibility there is a place called the “castle” and its speciality is weddings. It is reasonably priced and has all the accomodations and services needed for the perfect fairytale wedding. It is a beautiful place.. you could almost say it is like a fairytale. Check it out.

  3. Celebration Advisor – Wedding and Party Network Blog » WPN Newsletter: Summer Weddings! Says:

    […] Intimate At-Home Weddings – What You Need To Know […]