The Stress-Free Checklist for Getting Married at Home (Part 1)
We finally did it... we wrote the book on getting married at home! We have taken all our experiences having weddings on our property and turned it into checklist - exactly what you need to do, need to know, and need to be prepared for when planning an at-home wedding. Read on for all our tips in a three-part post, or click to download the entire 15-page ebook here for free!
Weddings held at home are just different. They are magical, intimate, one-of-a-kind events that take a whole extra level of meticulous planning to pull off.
Imagine getting ready to host 100+ people at a location that doesn’t have the furniture, restroom facilities, or staff on-site to accommodate them. That is exactly the situation I found myself in when, after buying a 100-year-old Farmhouse just six months before our wedding, my fiancé and I decided to forego our deposit on another venue and host our 120-guest wedding in our new home’s back yard.
I naively thought having my wedding at home would save money and cut down on stress… and that I could do it all on my own, without the help of a wedding planner. Naturally, I made every mistake there was to make along the way. The event turned out to be beautiful, and we had guests telling us it was the most special wedding they had ever attended. But I went through the day marked by the battle wounds of having taken on way too much. What I needed was a checklist – for someone to tell me exactly what to do, what to know, and what to be prepared for.
Three years after my own Farmhouse wedding, I got the ultimate gift – a do-over, so to speak. Not for myself, but for my dear friend Stacey, who – over a few too many margaritas we shared while celebrating her engagement – accepted my offer to have the wedding at our house. I was THRILLED when we both sobered up the next day, and realized that she and her fiancé were still interested. I had the chance to share with her my learnings and mistakes, and she road-tested my checklist with outstanding success.
Stacey’s wedding went off without a hitch, and the bride, groom and guests all had the times of their lives. As for me, I secretly loved that I was able to relive my own at-home wedding day vicariously through her, making sure that my lessons learned helped to make her experience was just as perfect as could be.
So with that, I’ll share with you my very summarized, just-the-essentials checklist based on my personal lessons of what exactly you need to do, to know, and to be prepared for if you’re getting ready to get married at home.
✖ Hire a wedding planner
First thing to do: recruit the help of a wedding planner – at whatever level you can afford. Wedding planners often offer their services across several tiers, so you are guaranteed to be able to find something that fits into your budget – even if it is day-of coordination only. When your vendors start arriving on wedding day, you, your family and your friends are going to be busy, distracted, and not able to give them the direction and resources that they need to be able to do their jobs. I woke up in a cold sweat three months before my wedding realizing this, and thankfully was able to hire rock star planner Kelsey Connelly of Kelsey Events who took care of it all. I will never forget a story I once heard about the planner-less wedding where guests arrived at the reception and saw chairs, flatware, and linens all in stacks… and started to realize that they were in for more of a workout than they bargained for, since the items weren’t going to set up themselves. Don’t let that be your wedding!
✖ Be ready for home maintenance… accelerated
Whether it’s your home or someone else’s, all the to-do list projects that may have been accumulating over the years suddenly have a hard deadline to complete. From painting the house, to figuring out that corner of the garden that keeps dying, or finishing the half-built shed in the yard, all the tasks have to be done, and soon. Make sure you’re planning your time accordingly if it’s your own home (or that you are offering to pitch in if your host’s house needs a spruce-up).
✖ Budget to hire staff
You’re going to need bartenders, garbage can emptiers, water jug fillers, dish clearers, etc. Hiring staff may seem excessive, but it all comes down to the fact that you will genuinely need people to do all those things for you. While your family and bridal party may be willing to help to some extent, they will also be attending to the guests and enjoying their time, and should not be held responsible for these critical logistics.
✖ Have a designated scullery area for dirty dishes
Dishes and full garbage bags all have to be tucked somewhere out of site, so have an adequately-sized space ready – it can add up to a lot of unsightly stuff.
✖ Strategize ahead if you don’t want a surprise first look
If you plan to have a special first-look moment or want the walk down the aisle to be the first time your partner lays eyes on you, that will require some intentional logistical planning in a home. Have go / no-go zones laid out in advance, and recruit people to be on the lookout so no accidental early viewings occur.
✖ Consider the right food to bring in for the reception
You will need to think about what kind of food you want to have on-site, knowing that you will be looking for a caterer or food service that has experience serving at private homes. For my wedding we used a taco guy (a California-classic hit), and for my friend’s wedding, they served BBQ. Both were perfect solutions that were easy to execute under the circumstances.