There's no place like home…if you're looking for a wedding venue, that is. If you're planning an intimate celebration with your nearest and dearest, why not use a location with all the comforts of home? Your very own house, or the house of a friend or family member, could make a surprisingly affordable and lovely wedding location.
You can use a home as an intimate location for your wedding ceremony, reception, or both. Couples who want a religious ceremony can take their vows in a church or other appropriate venue, then retire to the house for an informal celebration. Couples who want a familiar, family-oriented setting for their vows can have an at-home ceremony and meet the rest of their guests at a restaurant or club venue afterward.
Understand What's Involved
Not every home makes an ideal wedding venue, so consider yours with open eyes. If you live in an apartment or space you share with other residents, you'll need to get everyone on board with the idea of holding a large gathering there. Consider factors such as pets and small children (your own or those of your neighbors) interacting with guests on the big day, noise restrictions, or planned road work. Some factors, like limited parking availability, can be solved by hiring a valet service. Other factors, like determining whether your existing insurance covers your guests, are more complex.
How big is your house? The size of your venue limits the number of guests–and not just because a cramped space is uncomfortable. If too many people are packed shoulder to shoulder, it presents a fire hazard. Walk through your house with safety in mind. Are the hallways wide enough for wheelchairs or serving carts? Are the stairs free of loose carpet and other tripping hazards? Is there enough light in every room and walkthrough area? Make sure that older relatives and guests with limited mobility feel as secure in your home as you do.
Understand that using a private home as a venue isn't necessarily the most affordable route. Sure, you will save money by not renting a professional wedding location. However, you will have to rent tents, tables, chairs, place settings, and other décor elements that a conventional wedding venue would provide. You'll also have to arrange for your own cleaning service before and after the event. If you're expecting more than just a few guests, the cost can skyrocket quickly. Home weddings do enjoy many monetary advantages over conventional venues, such as the ability to purchase and serve your own alcohol and cake without corking or cutting fees. You can finesse a home wedding to fit your budget easily–just don't expect that an economical wedding is a foregone conclusion.
Communicate Clear Expectations
In the excitement of announcing your engagement, you're likely to encounter a few enthusiastic offers of, "Feel free to use my house!" While these offers are generous and lovely, they can also be made without a full understanding of what hosting a wedding means. Don't let your big day come between you and a well-intentioned friend or family member. Instead, before you accept the generous offer, sit down and discuss exactly what your wedding plans entail.
Make sure the would-be host understands exactly how many guests you're planning to invite. There's a vast difference between the happy couple and their parents arriving with a few cupcakes, and 200 guests clogging the hallways as they wait for a single bathroom. Discuss what, if any, areas of the house are strictly off-limits, and how you will enforce this (taping attractive signs to doors is a simple way to keep guests in public areas). Take responsibility for tasks like removing the priceless vase collection from the foyer before the party and replacing it, in the correct display order, afterwards.
How important is cleanliness to the owner of the house? Is the house shoes-off only? Are there white carpets that need to be covered before you pour glasses of red wine? Do the couch slipcovers need to be layered double-thick? A nitpicky host can quickly turn a wedding party into a nightmare, slipping coasters under guests' drinks and berating bathroom-users for getting the decorative soaps wet. At the other extreme, the house of a slob is no place to host your wedding. Look for telltale details like pet hair on the couch and murky shadows around light switches and door knobs. If the place smells like a litter box, it doesn't matter how great the view is–it won't be a pleasant party.
Ultimately, clear communication is the way to avoid misunderstandings. Give as many details as you can at the outset of the planning process. The time to confess your lifelong love of fire dancers is before your aunt has offered up her latticework gazebo. When you both have a chance to back out of the arrangement blame-free, there is much less risk of either side feeling pressured or resentful.
Intimate, Warm, and Fun
Home weddings allow a sense of familiarity and intimacy that is lacking from cookie-cutter hotels and banquet halls. The surroundings redirect the emphasis of the day back onto the couple and the life they have created together. If "home is where the heart is," then it's also the perfect place for two hearts to be joined as one.