A home wedding can be an intimate affair, but it will require some careful planning and sprucing up.
It's supposed to be one of those big moments in life. Your daughter and her boyfriend have shown up with the happy news that they're getting married.
Then after the handshakes and hugs comes the announcement that you're not so happy about--they want to be married at your house.
Joy fades to panic as you consider all the big and little home improvement projects you've been putting off. You have only months, or maybe just weeks, to get your house ready for a wedding. Is it too late to paint? What about new carpeting? Can those big brown splotches on the front lawn be fixed in time?
The allure of a home wedding is obvious. It's an intimate setting,
ideal for a relatively small number of guests. There may be a sentimental attachment to the house, and a home wedding can (but not always) be cheaper than a traditional church-synagogue-hall wedding and reception.
But on the downside, most houses aren't designed to host big gatherings with 50 to 100 or more guests, and you may find the day after the wedding that you've lost your baby but you've gained 20 new stains on the carpet, trampled begonias in the backyard and a plate of leftover meatballs under the couch.
Obviously, the more time you have to get the house ready, the better. Your first priority?
"Safety," said Reg Roberts, a general contractor in Alhambra. "You're going to be having a bunch of people who aren't familiar with your house come over for a few hours.
"You don't want to have to announce to all the guests that the second step up to the porch is loose and make sure they hold the railing."
Safety must be a special concern if some of the guests will be very old or young. Keep the floors clear of any obstructions that could be tripped on, get rid of that pile of stuff by the porch and fill in those holes Rover dug in the backyard.
After making the obvious repairs, it's time to focus on the logistics of managing a home wedding and reception and answering the next important question--where do you have it?
Because of the layout of most homes and the local climate, the answer is usually outside.
"Unless your home has a very big room that can comfortably hold a large number of people, you're better off having the wedding outdoors," said Tom Neumann, owner of Weddings at Home, a Sumner, Wash., company that specializes in home wedding consulting. "In a backyard or frontyard, you have more options and more room."
A beautifully lit swimming pool can look great for a party, but it can also be a hazard and there often isn't much yard left.
But if you really want to use that swimming pool space, there is a solution. "You can, in effect, build a temporary wood deck over the pool," said Jim Gorman of Rancho Lumber in Westminster, who hosted his daughter's wedding at his home nine years ago.
"You'll be able to use that space, then after the wedding you can disassemble the wood and use it for some other project on the house."
Creating the guest list can be one of the most stressful parts of wedding planning, but it's especially critical for a home wedding.
Your home and backyard have only so much space, and if too many guests show up, you may have to erect chairs on the roof.
"The general rule of thumb is that you allow about four square feet per person," Neumann said. "Of course, that all depends on the layout of the property, the type of ceremony, etc."
Fixing up the house for the big day can be considered part of the wedding cost, but since most of the improvements are still there after the wedding, they have an added benefit.
"I've known people who've taken out home equity loans to help pay for their children's wedding and make capital improvements to their property," Neumann said.
Take the list of home improvement projects you've assembled and begin paring it down. First, eliminate those jobs that can't be completed over a couple of weekends.
"A month before the wedding isn't the time to remodel your kitchen," Roberts said.
"Give yourself plenty of leeway for mistakes and, if you're working with a contractor, be upfront. 'We've got to have it all done by the 5th, can you do it?' Most good contractors will give you an honest time frame."
Fresh Coat of Paint
Painting inside or out is an excellent way to spruce up the old place. Just try to finish the job at least two weeks before the event so that the paint has time to cure and the odors have faded.
Replacing the carpeting is a question mark. Is it smart to change carpeting just before an army of people trample through the house? Or should you replace it and enjoy it, since new carpeting generally has an excellent resistance to stains?
You can always rent plastic runners for the heavily trafficked areas of the house and also try to control stains through the food that's served--no tomato sauces, mustards or red wines.