Planning a Wedding at Home? Here Are a Few Things to Consider

While many couples around the world are canceling or postponing their weddings because of the coronavirus pandemic, some are scaling down their plans and getting married at home.

Justine Roach, 31, and Hrishikesh Desai, 37, who are from Los Angeles, had originally planned to marry March 21 at Ojai Valley Inn, a resort in Ojai, Calif., before about 200 guests. The couple instead chose to exchange vows on the same day at the Beverly Hills home of the bride’s parents, with only their immediate family of six present.

“We decided that for the well-being and safety of our family and friends, it wouldn’t make sense to go through with the wedding as we had planned it,” said Mr. Desai, a partner in a talent agency.

“We realized there are more important things going on in the world and there will always be time for celebration,” added Ms. Roach, a child therapist.

The couple plan to host a larger celebration with their extended family and friends at Ojai Valley Inn on Dec. 5. “All of our vendors agreed to move to our new wedding date without a problem, and our photographer is taking photos of us at the ceremony this weekend for free, so we’ve been very fortunate,” Ms. Roach said.

Brittany Harris, 33, and Naseem Beauchman, 37, who live in Oakland, Calif., have spent the last few days making last-minute arrangements for a small wedding ceremony (the legal one), also on March 21, at the home of Ms. Harris’s parents in Oakland. The couple originally planned to celebrate their nuptials at a resort and spa in Napa, Calif., with about 190 guests.

“Emotionally, it was tough when we decided on Sunday to cancel our wedding,” Ms. Harris said. “Some of our family members had already flown into town, and now they’ve already left.” She added that most of her vendors “have rallied behind us and are working with us to try to reschedule.” They were also able to negotiate a full refund of the $ 11,000 deposit that was paid to the resort.

Officiants and other wedding vendors are helping couples pull off alternative, last-minute wedding arrangements. Rabbi Serge Lippe of the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue officiated a wedding March 14 at a bride’s parents’ home in Great Neck, N.Y., where there were fewer than 30 guests in attendance. The wedding was initially set to take place at the Woodbury Jewish Center in Woodbury, N.Y., with about 400 guests.

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“The decision was made at the last moment that it would not be responsible to gather that many people together, especially older relatives,” Rabbi Lippe said, adding that “even in the midst of everything that’s going on with the coronavirus, it was still a joyous occasion for the family.”

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Of course, if you have to cancel or postpone a large wedding celebration, you’ll need to let guests know as soon as possible about any change of plans. Diana Romero, a San Diego-based wedding planner, recommends informing guests by phone, rather than by email.

If you want a large wedding at home, you’ll likely have to wait until at least the summer. The Centers for Disease Control has recommended no gatherings of 50 or more people for the next eight weeks. Some states, like California, have called for a 10-person limit for gatherings, as health officials work to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

Here, though, are a few things to consider before celebrating your nuptials at home — either now or in the future.

This is especially important in smaller spaces. Having a wedding in an apartment is doable (yes, even in New York), said Matthew David, the owner and president of 360 Design, a Manhattan-based event planner. But you’ll have to get your vendors on the same page. “In many apartment buildings, just to use the freight elevator may take planning,” he said. Indeed, having a caterer, florist and photographer show up at the same time can cause overcrowding.

This is where a wedding planner or day-of coordinator can help. “You have to figure all the logistics before you can start planning the fun stuff,” said Britt Cole, an owner of 42 North, a wedding planning and design company based in Ipswich, Mass.

Margaret Reiney Alspaugh grew up knowing that she wanted to get married at her parents’ home in Huntsville, Ala., and have a reception at her grandparents’ house across the street. “My husband and I didn’t look at any wedding venues,” said Ms. Alspaugh, 28, who married Clay Alspaugh, 28, both lawyers from Manhattan, on May 18, 2019.

Their biggest challenge was building a dance floor. “The lawn wasn’t even,” Ms. Alspaugh said. Their solution? “We put a glass top over the swimming pool,” Ms. Alspaugh said.

Neillie Butler, the Alspaughs’ wedding planner and the owner of Mariee Ami, a Birmingham, Ala., company that specializes in home weddings, said a common misconception is that getting married at home will help save money. “A lot of people think it will be cheaper, but it’s actually more expensive in most cases since you’re building a venue from scratch,” she said.

If you’re hosting an outdoor wedding, be prepared to rent a tent, generator, and portable restrooms, along with tables, chairs and other equipment. In some cases, “you may have to install an elevated floor if your lawn isn’t flat, and that can range anywhere from $ 15,000 to $ 50,000,” Ms. Cole said.

“We underestimated the costs for our wedding,” said Valerie Macaulay, 40, a founder of a women’s fashion brand who married Michael Macaulay, 38, a senior vice president at Sotheby’s. The couple, who live in Manhattan, got married Aug. 6, 2016 at the bride’s aunt’s house in Deering, N.H., where Ms. Macaulay’s family spends Thanksgiving and Christmas every year. “We had to build a platform in our backyard, since the ground was sloped, which was a big expense,” Ms. Macaulay said.

Many cities and towns require residents to obtain permits for a large gathering at their home. Local noise ordinances can also restrict how late couples are allowed to play loud music.

But there are creative ways to keep a party going past curfew. “We’ve seen couples use silent discos with headphones,” said Sunna Yassin, an owner of Bash Please, an event production company with studios in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Check with your municipality, and with your property manager if you live in an apartment building, to find out what the regulations are for events at your home, Mr. David said.

Ms. Butler visits homes in person to assess whether they’re suitable for weddings. “One of the biggest things I look for is, if it were to rain, what would happen?” she said. “You have to prepare for the worst-case scenario.” She typically recommends couples rent a tent and build a platform for their reception so that guests don’t have to dance on wet grass or mud.

Rain isn’t the only concern. “Last year we did a wedding outside and it was 110 degrees,” Ms. Cole said, “but the string quartet couldn’t perform outdoors because it would put their instruments at risk, so we had to pivot and have the musicians perform inside the air-conditioned house and broadcast the music from speakers.”

Strong winds can also create issues. “If you’re relying on candles as your main aesthetic statement, candles are not going to stay lit if it’s windy,” Ms. Cole said.

Mosquitoes, ticks and other insects don’t need an invitation to crash your party. The safe use of insecticide can help. “There are professional companies that you can hire to spray your property in advance to get rid of bugs or at least reduce how many of them show up,” Ms. Cole said.

“My husband is sensitive to mosquito bites, and we didn’t want our guests scratching mosquito bites all night, so we had our property sprayed three times before our wedding,” Ms. Macaulay said.

Lighting is important in the evening, especially if you’re having an outdoor wedding. “A well-lit property is going to make your photographs turn out significantly better,” Ms. Butler said. There are many options available, from string lights and lanterns to uplighting and chandeliers.

Pro tip: Rent a generator. “The power from the band and the lighting can put a bigger drain on your house than it’s used to, and you don’t want to risk losing power,” Ms. Butler said.

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