A wedding at home: lots of fun but not fuss-free
Home weddings can be magical but there’s a lot to plan, from parking to Portaloos
The average price of an at-home marquee wedding for 120 guests is about €60,000 all in, but there are ways to cut corners. Photograph: Getty Images
Wedding planner Zoe Kelly says having an at-home wedding can be magical but many people often don’t think of the unglamorous side of things
Every bride likes to give their wedding a personal touch and pull something a little different out of the bag for her guests. And for Caroline Hall, the solution was literally to be found in her own backyard. Or rather, that of her parents at the family home in Batterstown, Co Meath.
“I’m from a big family, so from a numbers perspective it made sense to have our wedding reception at home,” she says. “You can invite whoever, and run it the way you want. You can keep going until the middle of next afternoon if you like, and people don’t have to travel too far.
“It’s also nice for your other half’s family to see where you come from,” she adds. “My husband Damian’s immediate family knew my family of course, but other relatives got to find out a little more about me.”
Many people often don’t think of the unglamorous side of things, like minding your lawn, sewage pipes and Portaloos
However, the personal and intimate touch can sometimes come at a price, and having a home wedding means being ever mindful of an entirely new set of logistics for a bride. There’s the prospect of a large number of guests coming through your house and garden for a start, not to mention having to be in control of many more aspects of the big day than with a venue or hotel wedding.
“I think the only issue we came up against was parking, as we live down a small laneway,” says Caroline. “There was also the issue of trying to get people to go home! Other than that, I wouldn’t change a thing about the day.”
Zoe Kelly has spent many years working in the United Kingdom as an event planner, and has recently launched MBZ International (Made By Zoe), a wedding and event-planning service, in her native Dublin. Given the number of variables involved, she believes that calling in professional help for a home wedding is money well spent.
“Having an at-home wedding can be magical, sentimental and bespoke, but many people often don’t think of the unglamorous side of things, like minding your lawn, sewage pipes and Portaloos, but every little detail has to be thought out. If we do on-the-day co-ordination, we get a supplier list from the couple about a month before the wedding itself.”
Betty Stuart, creative director of Lulabelle wedding styling and design in Dún Laoghaire, Dublin, agrees that drafting in the professionals early on may be the least stressful route.
“I’ve met a lot of brides who think that having a wedding at home will be fabulous and they’ll be able to get their mother and aunties to help, but thinking that way can bite you in the ass a little bit,” she says. “The best thing to do is to talk to the professionals.”
The first big practical step for an at-home wedding party is taking out wedding insurance
However, it’s possible of having a wedding day to look back on, all while ensuring your house doesn’t become collateral damage.
“While the thought of planning an at-home wedding may seem intimidating to begin with, the benefits and end results of being able to tailor your reception to your exact requirements can be hugely rewarding,” says Kelly. “It means you can put your own stamp on the design of your celebration from start to finish.”
First things first: decide on what size wedding you might like. “It’s important to have an approximate idea of guest numbers before beginning,” says Kelly.
“If numbers are under 75, you may be able to fit it inside or work with a small marquee addition.” Woodie’s and B&Q do small-scale gazebos (the Blooma Betty Garden Party Gazebo on B&Q’s diy.com website retails at about €200).
“If numbers are over 100, you will likely need a bigger marquee and approximate numbers gives the marquee company a starting point as to what they may recommend.”
Insure your wedding
Before that, the first big practical step for an at-home wedding party is taking out wedding insurance.
“If anything goes wrong or changes you won’t regret this step,” says Kelly. “Many insurance companies offer wedding insurance (some as an add-on to an existing home insurance policy) and starting prices are small from around €45, and going up to over €2000 in some cases depending on the level of cover needed.
“In most cases wedding cover includes: cancellation or rescheduling of either the wedding or reception (causes must be either – bereavement, illness or accident within the main wedding party, or if a chosen supplier had gone out of business); damage or loss caused by accident, fire or theft of wedding attire, gifts, rings, transport, photography, videographer, flowers, cake; legal expenses; and depending on the selected cover it is possible to add additional cover for things like marquee and public liability cover.”
Get a tent
When choosing a marquee, there are many things to consider; primarily, whether the hire company factors in transport costs, flooring, waterproofing and 24-hour call-out options into their quote.
“All of these elements should be covered by the marquee company and it is strongly advised that you confirm with your elected supplier that they are in fact included,” says Kelly.
“Marquee companies that I would recommend are Silk Road Tents (silkroadtents.com), LPM Bohemia (lpmbohemia.com), Marquees Ireland (marqueesireland.com), Donohue Marquees (donohuemarquees.com) and Leisure Domes (leisuredomes.com).”
Those who fancy something a little different, says Stuart, can opt for a Kata or Tipi thanks to Northern Ireland company Magnakata (www.magnakata.com). A tent hire starts at about €6,123.50 (based on 100 guests). The price incudes flooring, lighting, tables, benches, a stage and pine bar unit (although does not include VAT, delivery, catering tent, loos or electrics).
“If you’re not using a wedding planner I’d recommend using as few suppliers as possible, and be sure to investigate things like what the emergency working lighting might look like,” says Kelly.
Consider what staff you need for what areas – greeting guests, bar staff, serving staff and even security
Hall says: “We used Ger O’Leary, an all-in-one event hire company in Wexford (marqueehire.ie) and they did the marquee hire, flooring, bathrooms, and provided everything from the amplifiers for music and lights to table tops.” The cost of the service was about €15,000.
“If opting to go the marquee route, I would usually use the marquee company for the structure, linings, floor, emergency lighting, power and heating /cooling units if they offer this,” advises Kelly. “I would then use additional specialist suppliers for all decor and dressing.”
From catering to crockery
In the case of a marquee wedding it’s worth linking your marquee hire company and caterers so that the essentials – crockery hire, tables, glasses, tables, chairs – are covered. Assuming that a home kitchen won’t be able to prepare 100 meals in quick succession, a hired kitchen, for about €1,500 is the first port of call.
“Not only do you need to pick the style and type of food you will serve but also the logistical elements of catering a home wedding,” says Kelly. “Logistically, you must consider the space available for caterers, the water and power supply and of course all of the crockery, cutlery and glassware.
“When it comes to costing, you must also remember that when opting for a marquee wedding you must also rent all of the furniture. An example of some rental costs are: chairs €6, table €10, crockery cutlery and glasses €20 - €25. For catering the costs can vary from €85 - €120 for the main meal and €15 - €22 for canapes and late-night snacks.”
Stuart often works with Andrew Holmes, a caterer based in Greystones, Co Wicklow (andrewholmescatering.ie). Holmes says: “For a three-course meal, provided there’s a generator and water supply provided by the marquee company, you’re looking at €60 a head, but you can go up to €150 a plate. We have our own staff, bar, inhouse crockery, hog roast machines, everything. To hire the staff for a day for a wedding of 100 people would cost about €1,500-1,800. We also look after toilet hire, which can be anything from €800 upwards.”
Styling a marquee, if the service isn’t offered by the hire company, is the part of the gig where couples can get creative and personalised
Kelly uses a bank of trusted freelancers for her events, but many agencies and caterers can provide personnel, and with good reason: [“It’s] an absolute must for a wedding at home as neither you nor your family want to feel like you are working on your wedding,” says Kelly.
“Consider what staff you need for what areas – greeting guests, bar staff, serving staff and even security. If you are self-managing and haven’t opted to go with a planner I would recommend asking the catering company to arrange staffing.”
Parking is another often overlooked aspect of the day, according to Stuart. “If you don’t have [the space] you don’t have it, but it may be a big factor in where you will want to have your wedding,” she cautions.
“See if you can use a nearby park and ride if you live close to town and organise a little coach to shuttle back and forth.” Be sure to let guests know what options are available along with the invitation.
The lowdown on loos
Toilets are not the most glamorous aspect of wedding planning, but a necessity in the event that a downstairs loo isn’t fit for purpose.
“They’re something that may be forgotten but it’s very important to get this one right as if you get it wrong your guests will remember your wedding for all the wrong reasons,” says Kelly.
“We work on the basis that it’s one toilet for every 25 guests, because the last thing you want is a long line. If you need to hire in extra . . . you are looking at €800 or more depending on how many you need. A trailer of luxury toilets can cost about €1,250 for two or three units.”
Overall, an at-home wedding can be more pocket-friendly than opting for a wedding at a venue. The average price of an at-home marquee wedding (for 120 guests) is about €60,000 all in, but couples like Caroline and Damian Hall can do a little “ducking and diving” to cut costs further.
“Our food came in at around €10,000-€15,000, which was about €55 a head including the plates and cutlery, and we paid a little extra for staff,” Caroline recalls. “We sorted our alcohol separately through some business contacts I had at the time, and went down to SuperValu to avail of their bank holiday deals for our wine.
Kelly says: “If you have a budget in mind, my tip would be to write a list of most important items down and you can allocate budgets accordingly, splashing out on your most important and trying some DIY concepts for the less important elements. And when budgeting, always allow a 10 per cent contingency.”
Styling a marquee, if the service isn’t offered by the hire company, is the part of the gig where couples can get creative and personalised. A company like Me Auld China (facebook.com/me-auld-china) can provide you with vintage crockery for hire. Stuart also suggests planting flower bulbs a year in advance in a garden so that they will be in bloom for the big day.
“I’m not one for trends, but if you’re having a marquee event, people will want the centre piece and the candelabra,” she says. “We might do a festival-style tent with a fire in the centre, mix and match crockery and jar glasses on the table, and flowers that your aunt might have picked from the garden. This lends itself to a classic, rustic country garden look, which is perfect for a home wedding.”
Don’t forget the neighbours
“I’m a big fan of getting them involved, or at least letting them know exactly what’s happening at your place,” says Stuart. “The last thing you want for them is to be mowing their lawn in the middle of your ceremony. Bear in mind too, that neighbours can call the guards at 11pm. They really can make or break your whole night.”