I often get asked for my favourite wedding venues. It’s a difficult one to answer but, if pushed, hands down, I would say that my favourite venues are when I am asked to plan a wedding at a private home. I’ve been fortunate to work on a number of “at home” weddings and they are, for me, amongst the most special. In all cases they’ve involved a marquee (there are few homes that can accommodate 150+ guests seated for dinner and then dancing) – another of my favourite ingredients to a wedding.
But… they are not without their specific planning particulars. Opening up your home for 100+ people, not to mention the many suppliers involved in putting together an amazing wedding, can be quite daunting. There are many elements to consider (and things that you may not have even thought about). So, if you are planning an at home wedding, I’ve put this post together to give you a little heads up on what to expect and what to think about.
The supplier choice is an important one for any wedding, it goes without saying that you want an A-team in place to put together your celebrations, but you want to be particularly comfortable with your choice if it involves these suppliers spending a portion of time on your family’s property. In the run up to the wedding there will be site visits, this applies particularly to caterers and marquee companies but also extends to florists and other suppliers who will need to be on site either in the build period and/or during the wedding. You may need to hand over access codes, for example and you may not even be able to be present for each site visit. So not only will you want a team of highly experienced, skilled professionals, you’ll also want to make sure that you, well, like them and can see yourself working with them. From this point of view, the right supplier for you can be a tricky one to put a finger on but it’s that feeling you get after you’ve met with them that’s based on a whole number of factors (how well they communicated with you, did they “get” what it is your trying to achieve, are they easy to get hold of, did they leave you feeling 100% reassured and in safe hands). For every wedding I work on (at home or not) I spend the time up front getting to know the clients and what it is they imagine for their wedding before putting together the right team that I know will work for them – this becomes even more important when it is a wedding at home.
BEHIND THE SCENES & LOGISTICS
There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes of planning a wedding (ask anyone who has planned one) and, I’m not talking the “fun” stuff. I’m talking the behind the scenes logistics of putting together an event. Things like:
If you are planning an at home wedding, you’ll have a lot of these leading up to and after the event. Things like, kitchen equipment, glassware, linen, cutlery, the marquee structure and all the parts that come with this (generator for example). These will all need to be delivered to the site and collected afterwards. Who will manage these for you? Do you have the time to be there? Is there someone who can do it on your behalf? For a marquee wedding this is why me and my team are there days before the event – to “project manage” each of these pieces so that the client doesn’t have to. Whilst we are on the topic, access into and out of your wedding site is another important consideration. These items often come on large vans or lorries so you’ll need to work through any access restrictions (narrow lanes, unmade roads, gate widths, site access times/when do you want and not want suppliers arriving?)
Storage of items is another, often overlooked, element. All this “stuff” that is delivered and a necessary component of your wedding, needs to have a place to live ahead of and during the wedding. It makes sense for most of the catering items to be stored within the catering tent – so you’ll need to ensure that you book one large enough to cover your caterer’s needs. But there is a surprising amount of room required for other pieces (candlesticks, candles, lighters, seating plans, ashtrays, cushions, rugs, throws, favours, stationery). Make sure you allocate a room (ideally one that is easily accessible and one you don’t mind suppliers accessing).
I told you that there are some very non-glamorous parts to wedding planning! Even the must luxury of weddings requires “facilities”. You’ll need a plan for toilets, not only for your guests but also for all the suppliers when they are working or setting up. Most of our clients hire these in (who wants guests/suppliers walking through their house and, chances are, your domestic facilities will not cope with the volume of traffic!). If you are planning more than a one day celebration, you will also want to arrange with your hire company for a pump out and clean of those toilets in between.
BREAK DOWN TIMINGS AND RUBBISH
Everyone knows that the signs of a good party the night before are not the prettiest of sights the morning after. There’s debris – broken glass, empty bottles, rubbish, spillages, candlewax, dirty ashtrays – and someone will need to clear this. I’d advise having a plan for who. You’ll also want to consider rubbish disposal – check if your caterers will take away all their rubbish as part of their fee (most do but some will not take bottles). Then on top of this you’ll have various décor items that need breaking down and packing away, including your flowers. The florists I work with will all include the breakdown as part of their service.
Finally, remember the piece about deliveries and collections? Once the bulk of the after party is cleared, your equipment will need collecting and marquee and other structures taking down. Make sure you co-ordinate the suppliers so that things happen in a logical order (e.g. you’ll want any furniture and kitchen equipment removing from the marquee before it is taken down).
There you have it, my crash course in the not so glamorous but super important side of planning an at home wedding!
Image 1 - Craig Williams; remaining images by M&J Photography