The Hippo


May 28, 2020








At-home celebrations
How to wed in your backyard

By Kelly Sennott

 One of the most significant misconceptions about at-home weddings is that they’re less expensive. 

Certainly, you can save money by doing the at-home thing — think more casual, less black tie — but New Hampshire-based wedding planners Laurie Mantegari and Trish Harris say you often break even when you account for things you don’t worry about at reception halls, like tents; dance floors; table, dish and linen rentals, and liability insurance.
The plus side of being at home? You can do it exactly how you want.
Why do this to yourself?
Unless you’re planning an extremely small wedding with minimalistic details, it’s a heck of a lot more work to plan an at-home wedding. It’s also arguably less convenient than holding a reception at, say, a hotel, as guests will need to travel for sleeping accommodations and you’ll be the one cleaning the mess the next day.
But there are charms, too. Laurie Mantegari, Everyday Details event planner, talked about a few of them during a phone interview last week.
“Sometimes, there’s a sentimental reason. [The location] is a family property with this fabulous yard,” Mantegari said. “[For some], it’s about getting to do things the way they want. Many venues have a lot of restrictions — and [couples] don’t want the band to stop at 11 p.m. They want the celebration to go on longer. They want a campfire afterwards and for the party to keep going.”
These couples are looking for unique details a reception hall might not provide: sparklers, fireworks, fire pits, lemonade stands and bartenders who aren’t looking to make a huge profit. 
Is your home suitable?
“What kind of ambiance are you going for? And what are you trying to do — will your wedding be under a tent on your property? … You also need to consider, do you have the right power outlets that are going to work for a DJ or band?” Mantegari said.
Also, what’s your guest list like? How much space do you need?
“The average wedding is about 100 guests, and most homes won’t accommodate 100 people,” said Trish Harris, wedding planner and co-owner of Traditions Weddings. “You also need to consider parking. If you have 100 guests, you’re looking at at least 50 cars.”
Harris finds rural areas with large yards or barns are often better-suited than urban homes.
But often the tent is the way to go. It protects from weather; it provides more space if a home is too small for the number of guests it will house; and it differentiates the wedding day from an ordinary one at home.
Mantegari and Harris were also both insistent on portable restrooms. People will be eating and drinking, and they’re going to need to go.
“Do you want people tracking through your house if you have everybody else outside in a tent? What if your kitchen is being used for the caterer? You don’t want 150 people tracking through your kitchen as food is going out. Also, what is your house like? Is it a 1900s home or a new home with new plumbing?” Mantegari asked. “Do you want the toilet to get backed up when you have 20 people standing in line to go to the bathroom?”
A tip to class up the portable bathrooms, courtesy of Mantegari: Stick a tent over them so they don’t show up in photos.
Also Don't Forget
“I also advise people get liability insurance for [their] property and vendors. It covers you from midnight to midnight, a 24-hour span. You just never know, and you’re better safe than sorry,” Mantegari said. “Policies start at $250, and what it covers is all the money you spend on the wedding.”
If you’re planning on late-night fun, you also need to make sure your town’s noise ordinances allow what you want for the event.
All the things you can do!
“One of the top reasons people want to do the at-home weddings is for the freedom,” Mantegari said. 
There are so many things you can do at home that you can’t at a reception hall. Fires with marshmallow roasting! A hot cocoa bar! Corn hole games! Horseshoes! Food trucks! Lemonade stands! Photo booths! Lawn darts!
You can also set the date whenever you want — no wait lists, no other weddings or events to maneuver around. And the events are generally less formal.
“Usually, at-home weddings definitely seem more relaxed,” Harris said. “People seem more comfortable when they’re at home.”
How to differentiate your wedding from any other day? Pick a theme. Both Mantegari and Harris said rustic themes are popular.
Money, Money
Some of the reasons you won’t cut costs doing it at home: reception halls and hotels already have chairs, tables and table linens. They may already have a chef, food, bartender and alcohol. Hotels particularly are counting on guests booking rooms and may be able to offer deals you won’t get anywhere else.
“I’ll also hear from clients, ‘My yard’s a mess, I need to get a landscaper,’ and now, all of a sudden, these projects at home become priorities that cost money. So you need to take that into account,” Mantegari said.
Wedding planners, simply because there is so much to do, can be particularly helpful because they think of things you won’t — true, you’ll have to pay for that, but they’re helpful in finding ways to cut costs and can prevent you from getting ripped off.
But if you truly want to cut costs at home, go more relaxed.
“People don’t think about the things you need to rent, the small stuff: linens, napkins, cups, bowls, utensils. … Whereas if you do go to a traditional venue, most of that stuff will be right on site,” Harris said. “Do a barbecue theme. It’s OK to have paper plates and plastic forks as long as you keep it casual. You don’t want a black tie affair with paper plates; keep it consistent throughout as much as possible.”
And don’t underestimate the power of the thrift or dollar store.
“A lot of brides recently have been doing mix-and-match sets of dishes. They’ll go to thrift stores and get very inexpensive plates and silverware that don’t match, usually within the same color. After they’re done with them, they sell them. … Go to the dollar store and get vases there for centerpieces,” Harris said. 
As seen in the January 22, 2015 issue of the Hippo.

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