What better place to have a wedding than your own home, especially if you’re on a budget. After all, home is where the heart is.
You’ve finally snagged the perfect partner. You’re wearing the ring and you’ve picked the date, but the hotel ballrooms and country club spaces don’t feel quite right. Maybe it’s time to look closer to home, like in your own backyard.
“Home weddings are very personal,” says Cathrin Crampton, owner of Boulder’s Mosaic Interiors. But your grounds will need to accommodate the kind of ceremony or reception you want to have.
“The space determines what you can do,” says Kathy Vaughan, a Boulder wedding consultant and owner of A Beautiful Memory. The lack of a meadow behind your house doesn’t have to squash your dreams, but you may need to downsize them. “If you don’t have a lot of flat ground for tables and want to keep things outdoors, lean more toward a cocktail reception where not everyone has to be seated,” Vaughan suggests.
“Of course, you want to have an indoor space that’s large enough to use if it rains,” Crampton says. But it’s OK to be unconventional. “I’ve actually used someone’s garage,” she says, noting it was transformed with decorations.
And don’t be quick to write off your own house, even if it’s tiny. “We take a lot of furniture, things that are hanging on the walls—anything that feels cluttery—and store it for the ceremony. You really want the house to feel like it’s decorated for the special occasion,” Crampton says. After it’s stripped down, you can dress it up in personal ways. “One really inexpensive way to decorate is to blow up digital engagement photos to poster size. They’re neat wall centerpieces, and the family can keep them as mementos,” she says. One bride Crampton worked with displayed her grandmother’s wedding dress next to a photo of her grandmother wearing it on her own wedding day.
If you’re planning an indoor ceremony, consider staging it in the foyer. “It’s a space rarely cluttered with a lot of furniture, so the wedding party can line up while guests watch from the stairs or stand in other rooms to view the ceremony,” Crampton says.
Removing the bulk of your main floor’s furniture—couches, coffee tables, chairs—makes way for tables that can be arranged to give your home a restaurant-like feel. But when it comes to topping those tables with floral arrangements, think simple. “The more labor, the more stems, the more money,” says Kristina Sutcliffe, owner of Boulder’s European Flower Shop.
One way to cut floral costs is to make arrangements yourself. If you’re having a summer wedding, “spring is the time to start container gardens,” Sutcliffe says. “Whatever your color scheme, you can plant lush arrangements for topping tables and setting around the ceremony area.” If you don’t want to do it yourself, you can still be creative on a budget by renting vases and floating a few flowers in water, she adds. Or, skip flowers altogether and substitute candles, leaves or polished rocks in glass vases.
Even if your home does allow for a big event, keeping it small will make the ceremony more intimate and less expensive, Sutcliffe says. Some couples assume a home reception will be cheaper, but Vaughan says costs—and logistical considerations—add up quickly. Do you want the caterer to use your kitchen, or will you need to provide a tented kitchen outdoors? Do you have enough bathrooms, or should you rent portable flush toilets and sinks? Do you have enough electrical power, or will you need to rent a small generator? And what about tables, chairs, dishes and a dance floor?
If your home is inside city limits, you also need to check time and noise ordinances. Parking is another issue, so think about hiring a valet or reserving a nearby lot. If you need a tent, it’ll probably be “your most expensive rental item,” says Michelle Laskowski, sales manager for RC Special Events in Boulder. But you can cut corners by using rectangular instead of round tables, because you can fit more people around them and make do with a smaller tent. Also, use the same chairs for the ceremony and the reception by asking family members to move them after you’ve tied the knot. Shorter table linens are cheaper, too, although Laskowski recommends floor-length linens for appearance.
One huge plus of a home wedding is the ability to customize food service. Consider serving dinner family-style; your guests will get to pass around dishes and chat—just like at home. And when it comes to dishes you love (mac-n-cheese?) serve them alongside fancier dishes, Vaughan says. With a caterer, you’re also spared the standard menu packages provided by hotels. For example, Vaughan worked with an Asian couple who wanted Vietnamese and Korean wedding hors d’oeuvres, and a caterer duplicated their family recipes. “When you work with a hotel or a restaurant, that’s not really possible,” she says.
Vaughan’s also worked with couples who wanted sundae bars and margarita machines at their receptions, although you can save money by skipping or limiting the bar to two specialty cocktails, beer and wine.
Buying beer, wine and liquor through a distributor or a local retail outlet like Boulder’s Liquor Mart will also cut the tab because they’ll deliver it to your home, pick up what’s not opened and reimburse you for the unused portion.
With so much to coordinate, Crampton recommends hiring a qualified interior designer, professional florist and caterer for your special day.
But regardless of who helps you plan, start early, Sutcliffe says: “The more you can get done way ahead of the wedding is key. You don’t want to be running around the week of your wedding and not enjoying yourself.”
To read about a local couple’s backyard wedding experiences, read Backyard Bliss, only online at HomeandGardenMag.com