With Christmas and Valentines Day in the rearview mirror and countless sparkly new rings on womens fingers, couples everywhere are in the midst of nuptial planning. Many of them will discover that theres no place like home for a unique, personal wedding.
By DEB SVOBODA
Special to The Star
Matt and Erin Fleets decision to be married at the brides childhood home in King City, near St. Joseph, Mo., was easy. After all, Erins parents, Nancy and John McMillan, had hosted backyard wedding receptions for her three sisters. The Fleets, of Gardner in south Johnson County, also liked the idea of not being limited by time constraints or the number of guests they could invite.
Plus, the brides mom loves to entertain and didnt miss a detail.
This was just a huge party to her, Erin Fleet said.
While a rental company provided the tent, tables, chairs and linens, the Fleets and her family did everything else, from decorating to cooking. The night before, they scattered food roasters throughout the house to prepare chicken, brisket and pork loin for the full-course, buffet dinner and finished making appetizers and homemade desserts.
The brides father, groom and brothers-in-law spent months preparing the grounds and the backyard bar, a converted chicken coop called the Money Pit Pub. It was created as a place for the guys to hang out when Erins first sister got married.
Although the sun shone brightly on their special day in April, it was windy. The couple debated moving the ceremony into the reception tent, but ultimately everything proceeded as planned.
A family home is more than a pretty space for a wedding, according to Beth Hodge, of Melissa & Beth Wedding Photography in Bonner Springs.
There is a story behind every picture, Hodge said.
One of her favorite shots is of Erin Fleet sitting in the loft of her parents barn, where as a child she and her sisters would play.
I think (they) thought I was nuts flinging off my Coach shoes and crawling up a wooden ladder in bare feet and a wedding gown, Fleet said. Having the ceremony and reception at the house made it much easier to relax. We could do whatever we wanted!
Many couples believe a home wedding will be less expensive, but they underestimate whats necessary, said Erin Webb of Simple Elegance Wedding Consulting in Olathe. Most homes are not equipped with a kitchen for catering more than 200 people. And theres the hassle of cleaning up the house afterward, instead of just walking away.
For those considering a home wedding, Andrew Brancato of Brancatos Catering & All Seasons Event Rental in Kansas City, Kan., recommends having suppliers visit the home early in the planning process to avoid surprises, and when budgeting, not overlook the cost of utensils, dinnerware, barware and linens.
Home weddings also tend to bring more tension. Thats where wedding planners and coordinators come in handy. They can act as a mediator between the couple and their families, Webb said. They can also ensure quality vendors are hired, so that homes arent damaged in the process.
The elegant home Tom and Tina Bender had just bought in Leawood proved to be a fairytale setting for their warm, intimate wedding and large reception in November.
With the help of a wedding coordinator and caterer, Tina planned everything, carefully choreographing how the events would flow from room to room.
The morning of the wedding, nearly all the first-floor furniture was removed. The caterers transformed the garage into their base of operation. Valets were used to simplify parking. Coat checkers greeted guests at the front door, directing them to the reception area. Food, desserts and bars were positioned to pull guests into different areas of the house. To keep energy high, tables and chairs were kept to a minimum.
Rooms were repurposed, using curtains to mask changeovers. While dinner was served in the family room, vendors were removing chairs from the foyer and adding tall bar tables. After dinner, guests moved to the front of the house, while tables and chairs were removed for the dance.
The Benders wanted to exchange vows in their foyer, but worried they wouldnt be able to keep it warm with guests coming and going without overheating the rest of the house. The solution: Two large outdoor heaters at the front door.
Having just moved into the home, the couple was taking care of details the night before, such as purchasing soap dispensers. But it all came together beautifully with the help of family, the caterer and a wedding coordinator who ran interference with vendors that day.
Walking into certain rooms still brings back memories that make Tina smile.
It was the best night, and even more magical that it was in our home, she said. There is also a comfort level of having it in your home. If I needed anything, I knew I had it there.
Love in a loft
When Brian Motl and Sara Sullivan of Kansas City got engaged, they considered multiple sites and even eloping. But nothing could match the breathtaking beauty of the downtown loft of their friends Lesley and Shawn Kraley, with its floor-to-ceiling windows and dark hardwood floors.
We couldnt imagine anything more perfect, Sullivan said. Plus, our friendship made it that much more special.
For Sara, planning a home wedding was definitely a major undertaking. It helped that she has been involved in event planning and marketing for most of her career, arranging product launches and mobile program tours, as well as lending her expertise to several Kansas City charity events, including co-chairing the 2013 Nelson-Atkins Party Arty.
I knew what needed to happen and was able to assign a timeline and due dates to our to-do list, she said.
About a month in advance, she and Lesley Kraley had a planning meeting. The close-knit friends kept in touch, sometimes daily, as the December date grew closer.
The biggest challenge was remembering that their wedding was in someones living space.
We wanted to be respectful and not damage their home, Sara said.
A couple days before the wedding, family and friends transformed the loft into a winter wonderland, glistening with white and silver snowflakes.
Music was the only oversight. But they improvised by downloading the processional song, All You Need Is Love, onto Lesleys iPhone and playing it through a wireless speaker system.
Limiting the guest list to 60 meant fewer worries and more time to personalize the evening by writing their own ceremony and vows, Sullivan said.
It was exactly what we wanted, she added. We would do it again in a heartbeat.
Tips for throwing a home wedding
• The site should comfortably accommodate the wedding party, guests and suppliers, as well as food preparation, tables and chairs.
• Move or store furniture for more space.
• Protect hardwood floors from damage caused by chairs and foot traffic.
• Consider hiring a cleaning service before and after.
• Avoid power outages by using a generator.
• Ensure that refrigeration units and proper transfer equipment are available to maintain safe food temperatures regardless of location or weather.
• Check whether the homeowners policy covers breakage or accidents.
• Is a noise permit required? Notify neighbors in advance.
• Adequate parking? Valets? Distance for suppliers to haul equipment?
Tips for moving it outdoors
• Tents provide air conditioning or heat. They maintain ground conditions and keep the elements from ruining linens, centerpieces, etc. In open spaces, tents also define the wedding area. Check whether a permit is required and have utilities marked before set-up.
• Consider hiring a professional landscaper.
• Is the terrain level? Subfloors can be rented for a safer surface.
• Arrange seating so sun is behind guests.
• Choose an area in full sun or shade for pictures. Move trash cans and park cars out of the background.
• Have suppliers visit the site in advance to identify any issues.
• Have a Plan B. Some companies offer rain plans.