Tips From a Wedding Planner

Think there's no place like home for your wedding? New York City-based wedding planner Laura Chavis agrees and offers tips on how to make your wedding a dream come true.
By: Anne Krueger

Do Decide on a Style That Matches the Location


The Couple: Chelsey Coyle and Jordan Bowen; The Location: The bride's parents' home in New Market, Tenn.

The Couple: Chelsey Coyle and Jordan Bowen; The Location: The bride's parents' home in New Market, Tenn.

The home and grounds are the backdrop to the wedding and that can be an inspiration for a style or theme, Chavis says. "You could have a sweet cottage in the woods, and maybe you use that to inspire the decorating with moss in centerpieces and wild flowers. Go for an intimate feel. But if working with a grand home that looks like a French Chateau, you will want a tent and an affair to match it. Maybe you’d hang a chandelier from the center of the tent." And use what the location has to offer: If the home has a porch, that might be a great place for the guest book or for the family photos.

Do Choose Focal Points

You want to set the scene and tell folks that they’ve arrived at a party."Maybe you decorate the trees or the home's door."

Don’t Forget Hidden Costs

"Unless you’re having a very intimate, casual affair, an at-home wedding isn’t necessarily cheaper," Chavis warns. Here are some of the extra things to consider: tents, portable toilets and kitchen rentals, valet parking, furniture storage, cleaning before and after the event, a generator for extra electricity.

Do Know Local Ordinances

Of course it’s polite to let neighbors know when you’re going to throw a big bash at home (or even to invite them to avoid complaints), but you also need to know the law. Remember what happened in Steve Martin’s Father of the Bride when he didn’t get the appropriate permit for parking a zillion cars on his residential street. Don’t let that happen to you. Also look into noise curfews and regulations on portable toilets, Chavis says.

Don’t Forget Good Portable Toilet Etiquette

A good rule of thumb is to have a portable toilet for every 50 people, Chavis says. "Don’t forget that people need a place to wash their hands with wet wipes, they need a place to look in the mirror, they need the area to be lit."

Do Make House Rules

"It’s important to have a sense of what’s off-limits and those limits need to be made very clear to the family and the guests," Chavis says. If the wedding is being held outside and you don’t want guests inside, lock all the doors. Or, if you’d like to allow folks into part of the house, cordon off the rest.

Do Make the Practical Fun

If you do want to allow people into the host home, be creative: "If you’re worried about your floors or carpets, you could make a rule that guests have to take off their shoes. And then create cute personalized doormats or placemats for them to put their shoes. Or have circles in the wedding colors as shoe holders." The whole idea is to make something practical have a bit of your personal style. That’s what guests will remember, not that they had to remove their shoes, she says.

Do Anticipate all of the Guests' Needs

"I have some rules for my clients for keeping guests happy. They can’t be too cold or too warm and they must be well fed and given enough to drink," Chavis says. If the basic needs aren’t met, guests get cranky and unhappy and it makes for a less than great party, she points out. "Anticipate what’s needed to keep them comfortable from extra shawls to little personal fans to extra umbrellas. And get ready to trouble shoot if needed!"

Do Your Tent Research

If you’re going to rent a tent, consider: your climate, whether the wedding will be day or evening, how many people have you invited, what will you be doing in the tent. Some tents are more weatherproof than others. Some have flaps to close in the event of bad weather. Do you need a heater or cooler? Does an electrical setup come with the tent? Is there a place for the band, the buffet, the cake, the dance floor, the bar?

Don’t Forget the Importance of Lighting

"Lighting can be a design element," Chavis says. "You might have these beautiful floral arrangements that you want to highlight with pin spotting or do some lighting on the dance floor." Beyond the artistic element of lighting, don’t forget that guests will need to be able to see where they’re walking.

Don’t Forget the Day After

Know that there could be wear and tear — everywhere, Chavis warns, including the lawn (think of the effects of hundreds of high heels). Don’t forget to arrange for extra garbage pickup, if necessary.

Do Consider a Planner

Even if you’re a do-it-yourselfer, you’ll need some help at some point leading up to or during the big day, Chavis says. "Think of it as a production. You wouldn’t all of a sudden say 'I’ve never done a theatrical event but why not I’ll just do it myself' — that’s lunacy. It’s the same thing if you try to stage a sizeable wedding by yourself."

Don’t Panic!

"It can be a little daunting when you have 100 people coming into your home or yard, but just think of your four favorite friends and go from there!"

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