There’s no place like home! If you and yours are thinking of a backyard wedding celebration, stop right there! It’s not as simple as it sounds, but it can be done if you are properly informed. Fortunately, we have all of the answers and then some for you! Washington DC wedding planner Janice, owner of Bellwether Events, has explored weddings at home in their entirety in her new (free!) e-book “The Elegant At-Home Wedding.” Today, Janice is here to share a few more tips for pulling off a fabulous wedding at home! In addition to the e-book, be sure to take a look at her new at-home wedding planning blog where she shares more of her expertise on at-home nuptials, too! And on that note, take it away, Janice…


Photo Courtesy of “The Elegant At-Home Wedding”

Hello UWL readers! I am Janice Carnevale, Washington DC wedding planner, and I recently released an e-book (and launched an accompanying blog) to help couples plan elegant at-home weddings. Today I am going to share my top five tips for planning those at-home weddings. I should warn you that this is not about cutting costs. I know it is common to think that an at-home wedding is the cheapest option out there, since there is no venue rental fee. But there will be many other costs you will incur to make the home or yard comfortable and safe for your wedding guests, so a backyard wedding is often the most expensive venue one could chose. These are hardly glamorous topics. I’m talking about tents and permits here because I know you are smart enough to put a welcome banner on the door. I hope you enjoy!

Lock the Doors

Clients often laugh (somewhat nervously, I think) when I tell them that we are going to lock the doors to the house and not let anyone inside. But I am dead serious. Do not let wedding guests inside the house. If you do, you will be opening up the home to unknown dirt and damage. And to busybodies who will wander around and poke their nose into the homeowner’s stuff. I’ve also seen homeowners giving tours of the house instead of relaxing and celebrating with the newly married couple and their guests at the wedding out in the backyard. How rude! Now, I do know what you are thinking—you wanted to use the restrooms in the house. But I implore you to reconsider. Residential septic systems are not at all built to handle the hundreds of flushes your guests would put them through during a five hour event. Isn’t avoiding a septic disaster in the middle of your wedding worth the investment in renting a restroom trailer? I’d say so.

Get a Big Tent

If you are planning a wedding in the DC metro area, you will likely rent a tent for your wedding reception. Our weather is too seasonal and unpredictable to truly risk going alfresco. So when you are selecting your tent and mapping out your floor plan, I recommend you err on the side of too big rather than too small. This will give you the greatest flexibility in case you have to enact a “rain plan” and do something (like your ceremony or cocktail hour) in addition to than your dinner and dancing under this tent. Plus no one ever complained that the wedding tent they were in was too comfortable and spacious.

Plan for the Worst

You must map out in advance for what adjustments will need to be made to your plans if the weather is not ideal on your wedding day. I don’t care what the almanac, the tarot cards or the tides predict. If you are going to take on the responsibility of being the venue of your own wedding, you have to be ready to handle anything. I’m talking about extreme heat, extreme cold, wind, rain and lightning. All of these scenarios should be examined and dealt with. A windy day will mean your tall centerpieces should probably be low. Impending thunderstorms mean that you need to have an evacuation plan. A hot day means extra ice and water, extra set up time, and lots of fans. Talk about your options for each of these scenarios with your wedding professionals in advance and make a plan. As the day gets closer, and you can look at an actual weather forecast, tweak your plans as necessary.  Listen to the professional advice you are getting, and make a smart decision, not an emotional decision.

Lighting, Lighting Everywhere

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again—spend as much as you can on lighting at your wedding. Regardless of the venue, it will work wonders for your photos and for the ambiance of the event. And with at-home weddings, it is even more important to consider lighting all the spaces your guests and staff will be visiting. By this I mean the bathroom, the valet station (or parking area), the catering tent, and all the paths in between. Don’t skimp on the landscape lighting. You don’t want anyone tripping and hurting themselves because they were walking around in the dark.

Do it Legally

Make sure you obtain the proper permits for your wedding and protect your investments in your wedding with event insurance. Most localities will require a permit to install a tent, which is usually obtained through the fire marshal’s office. Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions when you are investigating this. Most permit regulations are designed for events open to the public that last longer than one day and where alcohol may be sold – things your wedding (presumably) are not. Submitting the paperwork to apply for a permit is a pain in the neck to handle, so if you can afford to, pay your tent company a small fee to handle them for you. There may be other permits you need to apply for, so do your research. Something else you will definitely want to invest in is event insurance. First, check with the home insurance carrier and see if they recommend or require an additional rider for the event. Secondly, you may want to look into an additional policy from a different carrier, as it may be better to file a claim with them than with the home owner’s insurance carrier.

I hope these tips are helpful to you as you plan your at-home wedding. You can find more information in my at home wedding planning e-book and on my blog. Good luck and happy planning!


I feel so inspired, don’t you!? Thank you so much for sharing your advice, Janice! So, what are you waiting for? Download the e-book or if your backyard or any location wedding is in need of a fabulous planner, be sure to check out Bellwether Events.

From food and entertainment to fashion and beauty, we’ve got it all covered, so take a look around the blog and read more tips and advice from local wedding pros in the DC area!

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