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I’ve always loved private property weddings, they provide a private and more intimate event for you and your guests. Whether it’s your home, your parents’ home or even a close friend’s, it’s no doubt a place that is sentimental and personal, which makes it a perfect setting to host a wedding. 

After ten years as a wedding planner, I’ve met with hundreds of couples planning weddings of all shapes and sizes. And I’ve noticed something interesting. Whenever I meet with clients for the first time, I ask what their wedding day priorities are. And the answer is always the same: brides and grooms say they want to bring their friends and family together and have a good time. 

When hosting a private wedding event, the stakes for “having a good time” are especially high. Because you are now the bride or groom, host, and/or the guest of honor.  When you take on the task of transforming this private space, you are completely in charge, and will have to make a million decisions and provide a million amenities that impact the experiences your guests will have.

Private Property Wedding

It is so easy to get caught up in the minute details of wedding planning, however, if it is your ultimate goal to “have a good time”, and create a memorable and enjoyable experience for your guests, it’s not those minute details that will prove most important. Rather, while they are hardly glamorous, it is the timeline management, installation logistics and rentals like a tent, bathrooms and flooring — that will have the greatest impact on whether or not your guests will enjoy themselves at your wedding. There are many decisions to be made that will no doubt matter more to you than to your guests: the color of your bridesmaid dresses, for instance. But this guide/checklist is primarily dedicated to those choices that will have more of an impact upon your guests’ comfort.

Bride walk down the aisle with her Dad

But before I dive into all those “need to know” details, let’s get one very important thing out of the way. My biggest — and probably most important — piece of advice is this: You cannot go into planning a formal private wedding thinking that it will be less expensive than using a traditional wedding venue. You should decide to host an private property wedding because the location is beautiful and meaningful and you can’t imagine your wedding anywhere else. A wedding can get expensive very quickly.  Why? Because in order to make your guests safe and comfortable, you will have to rent or purchase everything that a pre-existing event space already has. And if the weather turns out to be less than ideal, you will be adding tents, tent walls, heaters, or fans to name just a few items, to that list, making the costs go up significantly.

This checklist is for those interested in turning their private property into a space suitable for your guests to enjoy while retaining the sentimental value weddings offer. 

Groom kissing the Bride after being pronounced husband and wife

Key Elements to Start Planning Your Private Property Wedding

Guest List & Overall Budget

The very first step in wedding planning, regardless of the venue, is to nail down your guest list and overall budget. You should not make any plans or sign any contracts until those two things are finalized between you, your soon-to-be spouse and your families. The guest list and the budget will be the two guideposts within which all of your other ideas must fall. You need to make sure that your plans can accommodate your guest list, and you need to make sure that you can afford your plans, given the size of your guest list.

Take a Look at the Overall Layout & Adjacent Properties

You’ll want to take a good, hard look at the home you’re considering using as a venue. Your first step is to look at logistics, identifying potential party locations that are as safe and sensible as possible.  After you’ve secured areas that are flat and feasible, you can adapt the event layout to take landscape views or other aesthetic details into consideration.

Boat of beverage for the wedding reception
Bride & Groom enjoy some private time at sunset on their wedding day
Beautiful wedding centerpiece by Trig's Floral of Eagle River

Notifying the Neighbors

Your neighbors should be notified in advance about the wedding – and I don’t just mean with an invitation eight weeks before. Once you have a grasp on the scope of your wedding plans, you should draft a letter explaining your plans and deliver it by hand. If you have a particularly difficult or nervous neighbor, I recommend setting them up with an evening away from home, including a gift certificate for dinner, tickets to a theatre event or movie, and possibly even a hotel room if you think it best to keep them away overnight.

Going Inside the Home

I take a hardline approach and do not recommend letting guests inside the house at all. Why? Well, first of all, there could inevitably be someone who could wander around on your wedding day, poking into your private things rather than enjoying the party. Secondly, there are always out-of-town guests who will want a tour, taking the homeowner away from celebrating with family and friends. Lastly, by allowing wedding guests into your home, you are quite literally opening it up to dirt and damage.

One exception to this “don’t let guests inside the house” rule is the wedding morning prep, which typically includes getting ready with a simple brunch. Unless you plan to be whisked away to a salon and spa for hair, make-up, lunch and relaxation — and doesn’t that sound nice? — you will want the home to be ready to host a handful of wedding party members who can use it to do hair and makeup, get dressed prior to the ceremony. In this case, it will be helpful to have a few full-length mirrors accessible, as well as tall chairs or stools for hair styling and make-up application.

Private Property Tent Wedding in Eagle River, Wisconsin

In addition, the following checklist will help you through the finer private property wedding planning details and help you avoid costly mistakes, allowing you to enjoy your wedding day while providing your guests with an exceptional, seamless, and memorable experience. Are you ready? Let’s do this!

Happy Planning, 

Marsha

Marsha VanArk, Wedding Planner at Distinctly Yours Wedding & Events

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