How To Plan An Affordable At Home Wedding

wedding guests outside at a reception

First, I was so flattered and thrilled when Meg asked me to write a little on how to plan an at home wedding. I’m excited to share Jeremy and my wedding with you all. Here is what worked for us and what I would’ve done differently, and some funny stories while we’re at it.

But before I get started, a disclaimer. This was a second wedding and marriage for both Jeremy and me. I had already had the big white wedding in the backyard of a mansion surrounded by twinkle lights and white cake. I was kind of embarrassed about making a big to-do about my second time to say “I do.” I asked Jeremy if we could elope at the courthouse and from there live happily ever after, but he felt strongly about making this commitment to each other in front of our nearest and dearest. He felt like our love deserved a celebration. And he was right.

throwing an at-home wedding

{Yes, it was 2009 and yes I had a yellow balloon bouquet. I still love it.}

Jeremy and I had spent the summer prior to our wedding remodeling a historical house built in 1929. Together we made our place our home. When we decided to go through with a wedding, getting married in our home seemed like the obvious venue.

So on to the details (and I think lots of this advice can be applied to a more traditional wedding as well):

{Our modest home and the location for our wedding}

How To Plan An affordable At Home Wedding

If you want to have an at home wedding, consider the space. Our home is only 1,500 square feet so we made almost every single room open and available for guests to mingle and sit in. We had about 30 people at the ceremony and then opened up the home for a reception in the evening where guests could pop in and out as they pleased. I think at most we had 60 people in our house at once and at times it felt like a tight squeeze.

You might also consider using the fabulous home of a close friend or family member (if they’re open to the idea). I have some friends that got married in their parent’s gorgeous backyard. But as always, have an indoor alternative in case weather gets crazy.

The great thing about getting married in your own home is the flexibility you have to get things ready in advance. However, that didn’t keep me from procrastinating down to the very last minute. Learn from my mistakes, people!

CLEAN HOUSE:

If you’re getting married in your home you will need to make the place spotless. I would recommend doing this a whole week prior to your wedding. If I were to do it over again I would hire a cleaning company to come in to do all of the deep cleaning. Trust me, there was nothing romantic about mopping down our wood floors, sticky with spilled liquor, the morning after our wedding.

DECORATIONS:

Along with a spotless house I recommend creating a festive atmosphere through lighting and decoration. We filled our house with tea lights, placed strands of twinkle lights under our furniture, used lamps instead of overhead lights and hung a ton of white lanterns from our ceilings. We also bought inexpensive wild flowers from a local grocer and placed them in pretty vintage vases around the house. I also advise getting your decorations up and ready the weekend before your wedding – for whatever reason we waited until the morning of, and it was stressful.

FOOD / CATERING / ALCOHOL:

We planned our at home wedding with a tight budget. However, we knew we wanted to feed our guests well. We also wanted the overall vibe of our wedding to be like a classy house party – so guests were welcome to grab food and drinks as they arrived.

  • The Spread: My sister put together and arranged all the finger foods (bought at our local grocery store) on a mishmash of vintage china arranged at different heights. It’s amazing what a unique serving bowl will do for a can of mixed nuts.
  • The BBQ: It’s kind of ironic, now that Jeremy and I are both vegetarians, that we had fancy BBQ at our wedding. But we did this because it was easy enough to order X lbs. of meat and sides for X number of people. They came in trays and everyone was welcome to help themselves, buffet style.
  • The Cake: A fabulous and talented friend of mine gifted me and Jeremy cupcakes for our wedding. It was perfect – not too fancy and again, fit the “help yourself” vibe we had going on.
  • The Alcohol: We had beer, huge bottles of wine and sweet tea vodka in pitchers available for our guests to help themselves

{All professional photography by the very talented Simon Hurst}

THE PHOTOGRAPHY:

Jeremy and I actually scheduled a professional shoot for just the two of us a few weekends prior to our wedding. On our actual wedding day we gave our friends Polaroid cameras and had no professional photos taken. Again, this helped keep the energy of the celebration more like a party and less like a fussy wedding. The advantage of getting married in your home is that you have the flexibility to do photos, on location, way in advance. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend doing it this way but it worked for us.

{One of the only photos we have of the actual ceremony}

THE CEREMONY:

Usually when you get married at a church, or venue that uses an event coordinator, you don’t have to worry about things like, oh… getting your sideshow performer brother who lives in Coney Island ordained so he can legally perform the ceremony and have it recognized by the state of Oklahoma. It involved a little bit of paperwork and timing. I’m still not certain it was all entirely legal, though. And if you are religious you may need to find a minister (or whatever else you call religious folk) who is willing to perform the ceremony in your home…

Those were the logistical details. Now…

 

THE PERFECTLY IMPERFECT WEDDING

AKA WHAT WENT RIGHT (+) and WHAT WENT WRONG (-):

+ We had amazing help from friends and family. One word: Delegate. I cannot stress this enough when planning a wedding. I had my sister and sister-in-law organizing and picking up food. My brother and cousin were hanging paper lanterns. My best friend was decorating my mantle with bell jars and tea lights. Don’t try to do it all yourself. You can’t and if you try you’ll hate yourself for it.

– Our guests showed up early. Because it was at our house (where we often have parties and guests) said guests felt like it would be okay to arrive up to an hour early. I was literally in my overalls hanging lanterns when people started showing up. It was embarrassing (that I didn’t have everything done yet) and stressful (that people were showing up early). It’s another reason to get all your decorating done prior to the wedding day.

– There was a freak snowstorm. It was March 28 and it was supposed to be beautiful outside. We were going to get married on our back deck and have a lovely outdoor wedding. That morning a freak snowstorm came in and we had to think on our toes.

+ We decided to get married in our living room – and it was even more perfect than I could have imagined.

– We never rehearsed. Even just a little walk through of the order of events, how we’d make our appearance, etc. would’ve been helpful but it’s a step we completely neglected to take.

– Our cat started licking his balls in front of us right in the middle of our ceremony. My sister was doing a reading of The Rainbow Connection (which was beautiful) and Mister Boots plopped right down in front of us and started licking his balls. It was hilarious but completely took away from the sweet moment of the reading. So, my advice – have your pets boarded for the weekend.

+ The guest book – we used the chalkboard wall in my office as the guest book. It was perfect and a lot of fun for our guests.

– The decorations caught fire before, during and after the ceremony. Apparently it’s not a great idea to put more than two tea lights in a glass jar.

+ The budget – Our entire wedding cost $2,250. Partially due to the generosity of our talented friends, hand-me-down heirloom rings, a BCBG dress from the mall, and of course a free(ish) venue.

– A casual house party vibe + liquor can make for very drunk friends who pass out and puke in your bath tub before the night is over. This is fine for any other Saturday but when it’s your wedding and you only have one bathroom in your little historical home it can make it a little awkward for your guests.

– Having to pee in the backyard in your wedding dress – because of said friend passed out and puking in the tub.

+ Having to pee in the backyard in your wedding dress – it actually makes for a really funny story. So we’ll put this back into the what went right column.

{Of all the photos from our wedding this is my favorite.}

In conclusion, I learned that an at home wedding made for a really good time. It felt incredibly personal and special getting married in our own space. However, planning a wedding can get stressful no matter how casual you try and keep it. My biggest advice is to roll with the punches and remember what you’re celebrating. It was all the things that went wrong that made our wedding so perfectly imperfect. So us.

Photos: First one by Calin Peters. Most by friends and family, Pro-photos by Simon Hurst Photography in Oklahoma City

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