Having just come off two back-to-back weddings at clients' homes (one where it poured buckets and one with perfect weather), the complexities and challenges of at-home weddings are fresh in my mind so I thought I'd share some tips on how to survive. Weddings at your home will always take more planning, more work and, almost always, more money. If you imagined that an at-home wedding would be a way to save money and stress, think again. Unless you are talking a dozen people in your living room with cake and punch, weddings at private homes are usually very involved affairs (at least the ones we do).
First, you need to make sure you have enough space for the kind of party you want either inside your home or in a tent outside. And make sure a tenting professional takes a look at your space to make sure that a tent will fit and that they can get to the area you want to tent. I have had clients have to rip up trees to get tents into their backyards!
Think of how your guests will get to the tent. I have also had clients have to build brick stairs so that guests could get to the tent without killing themselves on sloping ground. If ladies will be standing on grass, consider provding a basket of flip-flops so they don't spend the whole event sinking into the ground.
Lighting. Remember that it may be dark when your guests leave (or arrive) so consider landscape lighting. You don't want guests tripping trying to find the way out! With that in mind, make sure your homeowner's insurance will cover you for any accidents at the event. If in doubt, consider additional event insurance. Check out Wedsafe for reasonable policies.
Power. Don't rely on power from your house. By the time you get a band, industrial coffeepots and lighting plugged in, you could easily blow a fuse. You will most likely need a generator. Just be sure to ask fora whisper generator so the noise doesn's steal the show!
Think of parking! If guests will be parking in your neighborhood, make sure to let your neighbors know ahead of time. If you have a field guests can use, it is still smart to hire valet so ladies aren't trudging through grass in heels and long dresses. You may need permits to park on public streets, as well, so be sure to know the rules.
Think of the weather. If it will be hot, that may mean bugs. Have your lawn sprayed before the wedding to eliminate most of the pests. Also, spray table and chair legs with bug spray to prevent ants from crawling up. Have packets of insect repellent wipes on hand (next to the programs as people arrive for the ceremony, on the bars and in the bathrooms) in case guests start to get bitten.
Hot weather also means making sure you have fans in the tent, plenty of water passed to guests and even paper fans or parasols if guests have to sit in the heat for any length of time. If there is chance of cold, however, consider heaters, sides on the tent and a supply of pashminas for ladies in strapless dresses.
Have a good rain plan. Make sure guests can get to your tent without getting wet and make sure the tent is guttered well so rain doesn't drip in through seams all night long. Have plenty of golf umbrellas on hand if it looks at all like rain. You can't stop rain, but you can make it more bearable.
If your wedding will be at your home, you will need to think seriously about bathrooms. Do you have enough? If not, should you bring in restroom trailors? Even if you decide not to do additional restrooms, you should have one staff person dedicated to keeping the restrooms in your home clean: emptying the wastebaskets, wiping down the sink and restocking with guest towels, toilet paper, and fresh soap. Consider an amenity basket for each restroom full of practical items guests might need (bobby pins, mints, safety pins, combs, etc.). A very practical reminder for those with septic tanks: get it emptied before the wedding or you may have an unpleasant surprise on the wedding day.
Security. Don't keep any valuable out or unlocked. Avoid having guests or staff in your personal rooms but always put any valuables away regardless. If you really want to discourage wandering, ribbon off areas where you don't want people to venture.
People always forget to factor in the cost of additional landscaping and redocorating that they inevitably do to prepare for the wedding day. I've had clients remodel bathrooms, build decks and recarpet entire floors in anticipation of two hundred wedding guests. Also, remember that you will need someone (hopefully not you) to clean the house both before and after the wedding.
It is very possible that your house and/or lawn will be the worse for wear after the wedding is over so be sure to consider the fact that you may have to reseed a lawn that guests have parked on or replant a flowerbed that may have gotten trampled.
Don't let all the warnings scare you off, though. Home weddings are wonderful and so personal but I think it is good to know the additional challenges so you don't have any surprises on the wedding day. Have fun!