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!


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.


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.


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}


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}


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…




+ 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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  • Those polaroids are beautiful. And other than overcoming logistical challenges – I think more people should consider using their ‘home’ for their wedding.

    • Monica


  • First of all, Kathleen’s dress? Amazing. I love the vibe of this wedding, too. I think the at-home atmosphere helps everyone loosen up a little; from the pictures, it looks like everyone had a blast. One thing I wonder about though: do you need an considerations for parking? I’d check with any city rules about number of cars on streets or how neighbors might feel about rows of cars in front of their houses.

    • Annie – Thank you! The dress is BCBG – I found it 75% off at the mall and thought it was perfect.

      Parking was an issue. We have a narrow street too – so I encouraged friends and family to carpool. I also gave my neighbors a heads up that we’d be getting married and that cars might line the street that evening – they were too thrilled that we were getting married to care about cars on the street. I was a little stressed about it but everyone figured out where to park and it was a non-issue the day of the wedding.

      • We got married at home, too, and parking was one of the things that we actually didn’t worry too much about. We talked to the neighbors, of course! Lots of them were invited, and the ones who weren’t didn’t seem to mind the cars… it’s just one evening, really. We reserved the driveways at our house + the one across the street for vendors and those who couldn’t walk a block, like great aunts. And it helped that those who drove (some came by boat, bike, or foot) were not obnoxious and tried to make life easier for anyone who might need to use the street for driving that day!

      • Thanks so much for the additional info Kathleen! It sounds like everything worked out perfectly in terms of parking. And 75% off for that gorgeous dress is the best shopping win ever.

    • meg

      Another way to do it in a big city is to spring for valet, or for a shuttle to and from a parking lot/ garage. Yeah, it’s not cheap, but it’s way cheaper than a big city venue!

      • Class of 1980

        I have a friend who has a difficult driveway, yet gives a big Christmas party every year. She hires guys from her church to serve as valets. Cheaper than professionals.

        • We also had a wedding at our house and since the tent was in our driveway there was no parking at our house. We just had all our guests park at the High School down the street. I called the school and they didn’t have a problem with it and had plenty of parking.

        • meg

          Ah, but in a big city you need to hire a pro-valet service, because they have a place to park the cars. That’s really what your hiring for.

    • KathyT

      That great advice is straight from “Father of the Bride”. A valet was the only thing the Dad refused to spring for in what had to be the most expensive home wedding in history and parking cars all day kept him from really enjoying the day. We will most definitely hire a valet. That movie is a must see before any home wedding.

  • This is CRAZY beautiful! We’re using C’s parents backyard for ours and I’m looking forward to it, once we’ve stopped panicking about getting details pinned down. This made me feel hopeful. Thanks for the good advice!

  • I, for one, love your yellow balloon bouquet! I also love how you went about planning your wedding. I can really relate to wanting to make that commitment in front of your family and friends, but not wanting it to be a show. I think you two truly captured the important things. And, um, thanks for the tea light tip! Sorry you had to learn the hard way.

    I also just have to say that I love your house. Our apartment was built in 1929 as well, and we have the same arched doorways! I love them, and all the little architectural details. We have lots of built in hutches, and various nooks and crannies that more modern places never do.

    • Yeah, about the tea lights — I really appreciate that. I’ve been collecting jars with the goal of putting tea lightS in them, but I will go with one tea light! One tea light, it is! Thanks for the tip!

  • Lucy

    Just beautiful. I’ve been considering an at-home wedding for my future event (pre-engaged, here), partly because I don’t feel the need for a big, fancy, expensive everything. This works out great, since my pre-fiance and I will be just graduated from college, if the timing happens as I’m envisioning, and you can imagine how the money situation will be.

    I was wondering about the polaroids though. I love the look of them, but I know they’re getting pretty hard to find these days. Did you already have your polaroid supplies or did you buy them specifically for the wedding?

    • Lucy,
      I did already have the Polaroid supplies. Our wedding happened right around the time Polaroid said they were going to halt production on film. So I immediately went online and bought $300 worth of film. I actually still have boxes of Polaroid film in my fridge.

      Now I would recommend something like the Fuji Instax Mini.

    • Ditto to Kathleen on the Fuji instax. It actually costs the same for the Mini (about the size of a business card) as it does for the Fuji Wide (around the size of note cards) and you can get the camera and about 200 exposures for less than $300 on Amazon.

    • meg

      I’d recommend the Fuji Instax 210, NOT the mini. I think the mini is way way too small (credit card size pics) and the wide is about index card size, which is a huge difference.

      We got married in 2009, and we also have polaroids. I love them, because they were the end of the era, and taken by friends. But now? The era is through, it’s Fuji time!

      • I love having the instant pictures in hand. I’ve yet to have any of the professional photos printed.

        It might also be fun to have all your friends, nowadays, take photos using Instagram on their iPhones.

  • Zan

    This is a great post and super helpful! I also have to note though: I know your brother! Well, I have a friend-of-a-friend connection to him and I’ve seen his sideshow act, he’s great!

    Also your dress is fabulous, you totally rocked it.

    • I love that you know my brother! He really is great.

  • My sister ran into the guests-arriving-early thing for her at-home wedding, too. We came in from her makeup counter appointment an hour before the time that was on the invitations to find people lounging around on the couch (all the more disconcerting since the wedding was in the backyard, and they hadn’t really prepared for people to be inside other than to use the bathroom right off the patio). I guess people are used to arriving early for weddings, and that overrode the instinct to not arrive early to a party at someone’s house?

  • Carreg

    Wow…. Dress! And BALLOONS! (blooooonz)

    There’s no way we could contemplate having a wedding at home, since we live in a two-up two-down terrace. Unless we selotaped guests to the ceiling. But this is still helpful for me to read since it sounds like you had the sort of atmosphere we’d like. The food looks fabulous…

    wrt the guests who showed up early, that’s a bit of a breach of manners on their part, right? I was always taught you should show up slightly late (to dinner parties / posh house parties, where by posh I mean not studenty) to give your hostess time to finish the hoovering. If people show up early to a do, the hostess doesn’t need to feel embarrassed; rather, the early guests should offer the help her get everything ready.

    This isn’t tagged under non-white wedding dress! I guess it’s not a grad post…

    • I don’t really want to dust off my etiquette book (okay, I so don’t have an etiquette book) and point fingers at my guests (all of whom are my closest friends and family). In hindsight I wish I had just been a bit more prepared.

      • Carreg

        Of course not. I expect I’d want to be prepared too.

  • beth

    “Our cat started licking his balls in front of us right in the middle of our ceremony.”

    I could not stop giggling after reading this– I totally visualized it, and it reminded me of the awkward family photos website. Sooo hilarious.

    {And your wedding photos are GORGEOUS! Such a lovely house, too.}

    • Rachel

      I laughed so hard at the part that I started crying…right in the middle of my office. I could see our cats doing that in the middle of ceremony without a care in the world. Needless to say, they are being boarded for that week.

  • Kathleen: I want to make out with your house.
    (That was all. I mean, awesome post and stuff, esp the +/- thing, which I really like a lot. But the house, yowza. Tell it to call me.)

    • Gayle – My house says she is in – as long as you’re into 80 year old ladies and dusty corners.

      • diana

        Can I be your house’s favourite granddaughter?
        The wedding waz parfect! I lurked your blog for a few months already, but never got to that part!

    • bahahah this is exactly what I would have said in my below comment, re: the house, if I were as hilarious as Gayle.

  • ok wow amazing wedding!

    1 – pictures a week in advance of the wedding?! BRILLIANT. I guess it might not work at all in many cases, but for this kind of casual thing in your own home, no wedding party, where you maybe don’t care about the dress not being seen till the day of and all that.. Just perfect solution.

    2 – polaroids! killing me! too bad there weren’t more of the ceremony but that one is really dreamy and awesome. and all the other photos are fabulous. having had to sort through almost two thousand photos from the photog, I think having just a few amazing ones like this is really awesome.

    3 – your home is adorable. I wanted to say amazing but I’m already way overusing that word, per usual.

  • This is great!!!!
    We got married at my husband’s grandmothers home and I don’t think we could have asked for a more perfect venue. Keeping the decor simple and the food casual really helped keep the stress level down for me as well!

  • Hooray for home bound weddings! Dude and I got married at the home of some of our very best friends, and while there are a million things I loved about it, one of the very best bits is the fact that every time we’re at their house now, I’m reminded of that wonderful day in some small way.

    Enjoying beers on the patio, I look out and see the tree we stood under as we took our vows. Playing in the sandbox with their son, I gaze at the patio and am reminded of the time spent dancing. Sitting on the toilet staring at the bathtub, I’m reminded of taking a shower before the ceremony and suffering a major gash while shaving my legs. Ha!

    I love that so many of the details of our wedding day are tied up in a place so familiar to us, and so full of great memories otherwise. It made the entire day feel very whole, if that makes any sense.

  • Tirzah

    Thank you for the info not only on a house wedding but on a 30 person wedding. I’ve visited site after site where people say “oh we had a small wedding only 90 guests!” I have less than 50 persons attending and it’s very hard to find info on how to make it special and not just a party!

    • meg

      Dude. A wedding totally IS just a party, and life gets so much better when you realize that. As for what makes it special? Getting married. Seriously. That’s it. And whew, what an emotional high. So just plan a party where you get married first, and you will WIN IT.

  • I second Alotta Lettuce’s comment. I live next to my aunt and uncle, and my mom and her sisters own a rental house right next door where my brother and cousin were living. We got married in my aunt and uncle’s front yard under a big old oak tree, had a cocktail hour in our backyard immediately after the ceremony and then served homemade bbq ribs under a giant tent in my brother’s backyard. Every single time I go outside I’m reminded of how so many of our friends and family came to spend the day with us and witness our commitment to one another. There are no words.

  • Can you come decorate our house? Your house is adorable. And how great that you get all those memories (minus the puking in the bathtub) right around you all the time.

    • Thank you, thank you! It’s funny because the puking in the bathtub only adds to the great memories. It really does make for a funny wedding day story.

  • Class of 1980

    I love your house! The only home wedding I’ve been to was my sisters’ wedding years ago. I love the thought of home weddings, but they seem to rarely happen.

  • Krista

    First of all– yay balloons! (yay yellow balloons!)

    Thank you so much for posting this! We recently changed our wedding plans to an at-home wedding with about 30 guests, and I’ve just started to come across details/questions that make me say “Hmm… good idea or bad idea?” So THANK YOU so so much, both Kathleen and Meg :)

    ps. I’m glad to see that your indoor living room ceremony (aka poor weather alternative) worked out so well and that you truly did love it. Good to hear!

  • I adore home weddings! If our home wasn’t a 900-square foot condo in a parking-challenged city, I would have gone for it. However, on the planning end, I’ve planned home weddings & it IS a lot of work. But usually worth it, just like this one! Home weddings are so intimate & personal & lovely.

    • Class of 1980

      At home weddings are definitely more physical work. I helped to clean my mother’s house from top to bottom when my sister got married there.

      But yeah, totally worth it if your heart’s set on it.

      • Amen to that! We hired a cleaning service for our friends’ home to come before AND after the wedding, but there was LOADS of stuff that fell completely outside of their purview and had to be handled by us.

  • Your pros & cons list cracked me up. Props, guys! (And I’ve also been inspired to redecorate based on your photos :)

  • The lighting is a very important factor in weddings, whether it be at your home or at another venue!

  • Alexandra

    Awesome. Bookmarking this, because while we’re having a more …typical, I guess, wedding venue, we’re probably going to do the rehearsal dinner/welcome picnic in our backyard. ;)

  • D

    Thank you soooo much for this. I am engaged and we will be purchasing a home in the spring. We’re so excited about having our wedding in our home and this was a huge help for me. I can see it now. I can’t thank you enough.

  • Freckles

    I just laughed so hard at the surprise snowstorm in March, in Saskatchewan winter does not ease her icy grip until sometime in may or June!
    Looks like it was a kick ass wedding, and some great advice.
    Thanks for the post :)

    • another saskie!

      I know this is a year late but… another Saskatchewanian! What are the odds!
      Hi! :)

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  • Julie B

    Thank you so much for posting!
    I am recently engaged and both my fiance and I specifically want something very intimate and cost-effective – this is a second marriage for both of us and we don’t wish to put our loved ones through the 3-ring-circus again.
    We briefly tossed around the idea of getting married in front of the fireplace in December and after a quick google search here you are with some excellent suggestions. Yours is by far the most helpful post for our situation – thanks for sharing the dos and don’ts!

  • Maribel

    OMG Im gonna do this! In 6 months.. Just started planning today JANUARY 1,2013. BUDGET is $5,000.00..(maybe $7,000 if we have too-$10,000.00 if an emergncy pops up) Ipromised him i could do it for $5,000.00 for 150 guest.
    AM I ON CRACK? shoudl I just stop right now and admit its IMPOSSIBLE? We have free DJ and picture dude. Our focus is food and friends….
    HELP? Should I just tell him 7,000.00 or stick to my budget of 5,000 and go on a honeymoon? ( did I mention we’ve NEVER been on vacation-ALONE? always with kids or friends. NEVER ALONE…Kinda wanted to spend that 2,000 on a vacation just him and me. WHat to do?

  • Jackie Murphy

    I have been searching for information on planning a home wedding and back yard reception for my daughter. I have searched different sites and yours have inspired me with such hope and great possibilities.

    Thank you for sharing!


  • Danielle

    Great info – this looks awesome! We’re having ours at our house on October 5, and we probably won’t have more than 20-25 people there. One question I had was, how did you handle the eating part? Did you rent tables, or did guests just carry plates around? I’m still debating on what to do for that, because I don’t want it to be formal, but we are having a bit more than finger food. Thing is, we really don’t have room inside the house for tables. I thought about putting them outside where the ceremony will be, but the reception is all going to be in the living room.

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    I absolutely love your story! The pictures, the step-by-step, the review… Great work! I have just decided what I want my wedding to be like. I found your page when looking for an extraordinary wedding to be based on when I have plan mine.

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  • jo

    I’ve always wanted to ride a horse to my wedding, and having a home wedding seems to be the best way! We’re lucky to have land out of town though.
    Thank you for sharing your special day with us! It has only fueled the creative juices!! LOL

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