Outdoors, Backyard and At-Home Weddings

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Before you set the time for your event, make sure to check with your local police about noise ordinances. Do so early enough in your planning process, so you'll have an opportunity to vary the time of your event to comply. Another thing to do before you begin planning is for you to visit each one of your contiguous neighbors, as well as those who will be in earshot. Bring a box of candies, or homemade goodies and tell your neighbors about your plans. Ask for their patience and ask if they would so kindly refrain from mowing their laws on your wedding day. If they have pets, ask them if on that day keep they could keep their pets indoors.

An At-Home Wedding, by its nature, is more intimate. Your taste, your budget and your time will be the elements that form your day. If your budget is tight, it may be possible to use friends and nonprofessionals to help out. If you like the setting, but don't want to do the work, there are professionals who are familiar with the special requirements of an At-Home wedding. Take note of how much floor space you will need for the various aspects of your wedding, then base the number guests you invite on that calculation. Pick a focal in, or around the home, as the place for your ceremony. If there isn't a spot that fits the bill, a lovely spot can be created by surrounding the spot with flowering potted plants. The plants can then do double duty as decoration for the place where the reception will be held. Ten to twelve square feet is the standard open space required per guest at a sit-down reception. This square footage takes into account the space between tables and ample room for passing between the tables. Make the tables fit the room. Long "feasting tables" work well in a narrow room or yard, while cocktail tables are better when space is limited. A dining room table can offer a dessert buffet and offer a focal point for the wedding cake.

You will want your home to be in top condition and that may require some touch-up expenses. Start from the top of your house and work down. Does the house need painting or will high-powered hose-cleaning do? You will need to be really organized to pull this off and your home won't be your own for a while before and after the event.

Consider your yard as a blank canvas for your wedding celebration and pay some extra attention to your garden, lawn and flower beds. Check with your local garden shop about sprinkling mosquito repellant on your lawn or set off a chemical bomb several hours before the wedding. Instead of wearing sweet, insect-attracting perfumes, the bridal party can use natural, citronella-based oils which will help to repel the bugs. There are new products on the market to zap mosquitos. They use heat, CO2, and octenol to attract and trap female mosquitoes. Most of the machines are odorless, environmentally-friendly and non-toxic. Some use propane, special lighting, and heat to attract the mosquitoes. Eliminating the female mosquitoes stops them from breeding and drastically reduces the mosquito population. About half an hour before dinner, have someone spray insect repellant under each table.

You will need to have room to park your guests' vehicles. Consider asking your neighbors for parking privileges and hiring several people to shuttle the guests and the cars. Set up your own valet service. If there's a local business or church with a large lot, see if you can have or rent the space. Also, make sure to alert the local police. Their drive-bys will keep an eye on your guests' vehicles.

Depending on the size of your house, you may have different options for a "rain date" if the wedding is to be held outdoors. If it should rain, is your home large enough to accommodate all your guests, or would a back up tent be the better solution? A tent should be considered not only as an in-the-rain option, but also because it provides shade on a sunny day and a cooler environment for the food. When calculating the tent into your budget, make sure your price includes delivery, set-up and tear-down. If you are planning a rain date, it should be indicated in your invitation. If you are going ahead regardless of the weather, you can ask guests to bring umbrellas for a "just in case," and it's a good idea to have large golf umbrellas available as back up.

It's a good idea to do a walk through of your site immediately after a downpour. In that way you can determine where the mud puddles and runoffs are and can make note of where not to position chairs and structures. Should it rain on your wedding day, it will have been well worth your time, so that you and your guests aren't knee-deep in mud.

You will also need adequate kitchen and bathroom facilities. Consider ordering portable toilet facilities, especially if you are on a septic system. Proper ventilation, heating, cooling and egress must be considered. Portable cooler trucks are available for rental, which even come with a beer tap on the side. Also plan, if applicable, for transportation to and from the location of the ceremony. If spaces will need to be multi-functional, there is nothing wrong with asking guests to fold and "stack" chairs. If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed, remember that there are professional party planners who will completely orchestrate an at-home event.

Consider light. Especially in the heart of the summer, you'll want to make sure that the sun doesn't beat down on you and your guests during the ceremony, If you have a choice of several spots, pick the one with the greatest amount of shade. If that's not possible, consider a canopy for the bridal party and, if you want your guests to be comfortable, perhaps you should consider an open sided tent.

Check to see if your electrical system will carry the extra load of heaters, fans and other items which will be plugged into your circuit. If necessary, upgrade your electrical system, or arrange to run heavy electrical extension cords to your neighbors' homes. It's important to assess what lighting will be necessary, especially if you expect to carry through nto the evening. Do an after-dark walk through to check for potential trip points and then place candles, lights or markers, to avoid accidents.

When it gets dark outside, décor lighting can serve to set the mood, but also will be important for the comfort and safety of your guests. If there are shrubs, trees, or ornamental elements such as a fountain, then perimeter lighting can focus on these and will actually give the impression of the space being larger than it actually is. Directional and ambient lighting can be focused on your centerpieces and can light your dance floor. If the property has energy-saving halogen floodlights, their harsh light can made softer through the use of colored filters. It's a far better idea to use battery-powered candles in lieu of real ones, because they are safer and cannot be extinguished if it's windy.

To add interest to the home reception, consider following a mix and match theme. You can pull it off by using several sets of dishes, setting up different flowers on each table and you can even carry the theme over to the bridesmaids' dresses that can be the same dress of different colors. Add more "excitement" by varying the flowers that each attendant wears, or carries. This theme really only be carried out at someone's home, so it will be all the more memorable.

Should you wish to make your at-home wedding easier for yourself, think about hiring a caterer. There are a number of caterers in the area, experienced in the art of this special kind of event. In some instances, couples choose to do a backyard or at-home wedding because they have budget restraints and are looking for a more affordable option. In such cases, couples can consider preparing the entree themselves . . . grilled chicken, steak or even burgers, bought and cooked on the site will be a money-saver. Under those circumstances the caterer can be asked to provide side dishes, which are usually much more time consuming to prepare than the main dish. Ask your caterer to suggest sides which he feels will "go" with your backyard dinner.

Not all backyard or at-home weddings are planned because of budget constraints. There are couples who choose their own, or a friend's backyard f or their wedding reception venue because they want a more casual, friendlier wedding. In those cases, the entire meal is catered and can run the gamut of anything that can be made on a grill.

Bear in mind that accidents do happen and you may incur some damage. You may want to consider insurance for the day of. A backyard wedding comes with its own set of stresses, but, when well organized and planned in advance, it can be a lovely, "homey" event that you and your guests will remember forever.


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