- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Amie Hughes of Bronxville, N.Y., didn’t want the typical wedding and reception. When she celebrated her union with her husband, Matt,

on July 5, she wanted to feel at home.

So her parents decided to renovate their summer house in East New Market, Md., for the occasion. The couple married at Christ Episcopal Church in Cambridge and the guests returned to her parents’ home for the reception.

“I thought I should have it at a place with emotional connection,” she says. “I’ve never been a big fan of the cookie-cutter environment with the typical meal and band. I hate the whole feel of the mechanics being the same.”

Home weddings and receptions are becoming more popular, according to party planners. Although they may be more complicated to organize, many couples like celebrating their vows in an intimate setting.

When planning for the Hugheses’ big day, one of the first items to consider was the amount of space needed, says Heather Keating, president of Planning for Perfection in Catonsville. It is especially important to decide if space must be allocated for the wedding ceremony and the reception, or only the reception, as it was in this case.

“You need a big piece of flat land to pitch a tent outside,” she says. “Some people do this in the front of the house, the back or the side. It really doesn’t matter, as long as you have a big enough space for the amount of guests you’re going to have.”

It’s important to remember where the sun shines on the property when choosing the exact location to be used for the celebration. For instance, if the bride and groom plan on having a sunset ceremony, the sun needs to be visible when the vows are being said.

Once the essential space for the ceremony or reception is chosen, a layout should be plotted to accommodate the flow of traffic during the day, Ms. Keating says. For instance, if the ceremony is held at the home, the bride’s procession should be planned from her first step, remembering the train of her dress flows behind her. Also, if guests will be allowed inside the home, they should have a clear pathway throughout the house to prevent accidents.

If a lot of time will be spent inside the home during the day, the home should be made to look as pristine as possible. The hosts also should make sure the telephone is turned off during the ceremony to prevent interruptions.

Most likely, the majority of the time will be spent outside, which should be explained to guests so they can be sure to dress appropriately. The grounds may need improvement by leveling the land, adding flowers, shrubs and trees, and spraying for bugs.

Parking for the guests is an often-overlooked part of planning for the event. If neighborhood parking is not an option, running a shuttle from another location is a possibility. The hosts won’t want to disturb neighbors with hordes of cars.

And then there is the issue of toilets. Most likely, portable toilets will need to be rented to provide additional bathrooms. Fear not, in this day and age, they are available with marble floors and fancy sinks, unlike the ones found at the typical construction site. If necessary, the hosts of the wedding or reception also should consider flushing the home’s septic system before the wedding to help prevent backups during the special day.

After those initial items are secure, someone must be hired to provide a tent with a dance floor, and, depending on the weather, air conditioners or heaters. Tables, chairs, silverware and linens must be rented. Professionals also will be needed to take photographs, play music, serve food and provide flowers.

If all these services seem to add up to a huge lump sum, that’s because they definitely have a high price tag attached to them. A home wedding and reception will probably exceed the cost of the average wedding, which is about $22,000, according to the 2002 annual report on www.theknot.com. The figure excludes the honeymoon. However, wedding planners usually can receive a price break with certain vendors.

“Before you think a wedding at home will be easier or cheaper, think again. It’s not,” Ms. Keating says. “It’s not going to be easier, and it’s not going to be cheaper. It will be at least the same amount of money.”

When deciding on the food for wedding receptions, Eric Michael, creative director of Occasions Caters in Northeast, always tries to take into consideration the preferences of the bride and groom. A wedding reception held at home could allow for more flexibility with the menu. Often, Mr. Michael creates spreads that reflect the ethnic heritage of the couples, such as Argentinian or Brazilian menus.

He also suggests that the bride and groom interview with a local baker who can create a cake to suit their needs. For instance, cakes can run the gamut from a simple design with fresh flowers to one-of-a-kind masterpieces.

“Food is very important,” Mr. Michael says. “It’s maybe the most important element of what you’re going to do. … This is probably the only opportunity most people will ever have to host this large of a party. They should serve delicious food.”

Despite the increased costs, Lascia Falzer of Boca Raton, Fla., decided to hold her upcoming wedding at her stepmother’s home in Burtonsville, Md. When she marries her groom, Timothy Devereux, on Sept. 20, she wanted to take the pressure off her guests by having the event at a familiar place. Many of her guests are traveling across the country to attend the affair. The celebration will mean even more to her relatives in light of her father’s recent death.

“It means a little bit more because my family is going through a hard time,” she says. “It’s sad, but at the same token, it’s going to be better at home. I didn’t want a banquet-style wedding.”

In addition to providing a relaxed environment, having a wedding reception at home provides for an open-ended close to the evening, instead of the set time usually outlined when renting space from a third party, says Laura Brito of Bristow, Va., who married her husband, Luis, on June 22.

“After the formality of the ceremony and traditional activities, it was good to have time to relax without restrictions on when we had to leave,” she says. “My family showed up days before the wedding. Everyone came together and helped out. They felt like they were a part of it, instead of attending it. They even washed dishes.”

Even when everything has been set in place to create the perfect event, there should always be a backup plan, just in case, says Sarah Stanley, owner of Simple Solutions in Monrovia, Md.

“If it happens to pour rain, if the tent doesn’t hold the people, make sure you have a room in the house,” she says. “Whatever happens, a home wedding stands out in someone’s mind a lot longer because you took time to prepare the home for it.”

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