Wedding Planning Success Lounge: Weddings at private residences
This summer I’ve been planning a good number of weddings and events in private residences: some birthdays, some wedding anniversaries, a baby shower, and a housewarming party. This is one way for me to keep in touch with clients and have repeat business from them which is fabulous! As you know, wedding planners have a hard time to keep their clients because once they get married they don’t need your help anymore, right? The majority of my wedding couples are also destination and they don’t live here in San Diego.
Planning private-residence events can be fun, especially because you can work with a blank canvas and many times you already have a great looking environment (as opposed to a plain hotel ballroom, for instance). Plus, a private residence offers that personal and intimate touch that you can’t recreate at a public venue or a hotel. And, you have less restrictions when it comes to load-in time!
But, make this very clear with your clients: they should decide to have a wedding or an event in a private residence because they really feel it’s the best choice, NOT because it will be less expensive. A lot of my clients don’t know what this entails. They will need to bring in everything from china to tables, chairs, and maybe a tent. Also, the site is probably not organized and laid out as an event venue so it needs more strategic planning and therefore, more time. This means you will probably need to charge them a higher fee for your services.
Today I will share a list of things to keep in mind when you design and plan a wedding in a private residence.
Indoor or Outdoor?
This is the first thing your clients need to decide about. Outdoor events can take advantage of the beautiful scenery but you should have a plan B (alternative location) in case the weather doesn’t cooperate (more below). If you are open to let the guests access the indoor area of the private residence make sure you discuss the following with the homeowner: Do you need to arrange for moving and storage of the existing furniture? Will the rentals you need for the event be easily loaded into the house or will it be challenging to bring them in? Are there any off-limit rooms? If so, how will you let guests know? You should have signs or stanchions blocking the access.
If the event will take place outdoors you should consider reserving a tent to be safe. Rental companies can hold the reservation for up to 24-48 hours before the event at no charge. If the weather forecast indicates possible rain, you should rent flooring so that guests won’t have to walk on the wet grass. Rain is not the only issue you should be pay attention t. Make sure your clients and guests won’t have to suffer under the sun for hours (think about a ceremony with no shade… Not fun!) and, if necessary, rent umbrellas or find areas with beautiful trees that can provide a magical background. If you expect a cold evening, you should be prepared with heaters, blankets and fire pits. Actually, that would be a great idea for some fun s’mores as a midnight snack for all the guests, what do you think? Yum!
The ground should be level and safe for your guests, caterer to prepare and serve the food, for entertainers, and for a tent if you decide to have one. Take a look at the flowers and plants around the residence and make the necessary adjustments as far as color palette (maybe you want to embellish the area with color-matching flowers), and pay attention to bugs or bees (take the necessary precautions to avoid them at the event). Will the grass need to be mowed? Make sure that the owner is aware of foot traffic between deliveries, setup, and the actual event with hundreds of guests walking and maybe even dancing on the grass. All this will inevitably damage the lawns. If there’s a sprinkler system, have it turned off a couple of days before the event.
You will definitely need to consider power for the event, not only to provide the appropriate lighting, but also for different activities. Chances are, you will need the help of a generator because most private residences are not equipped with enough power. You should assign an area in the back of the house and make sure with the rental company that they provide a quiet one so that won’t interfere with the celebration. Before you rent the generator, ask all the vendors what they will need. The caterer might need to use a blender, a coffee machine, an ice machine. The band or DJ will have to run power for their sound and lighting. If you have a photo booth, for instance, they will also need an outlet to run their system. Your lighting specialist will consume power to create special effects with colors and washes or patterns or gobos. All this power will add up and you need to be prepared. How many circuits and amps are available at the private residence? Where are all the outlets located? Where is the circuit box?
Plumbing / Restrooms
When it comes to events and weddings with 100 or more guests you will need to provide additional restrooms, especially if the event will only be outside with no access to the house. Portable restrooms are the perfect solutions, and many companies today have beautiful and spacious ones available. Generally speaking, you will need one restroom per 40-50 guests. They should be placed in an area that is away from the festivities but still easy to access, and provide signage to guide your guests. Make sure your staff / assistants know where they are so they can assist guests when they ask.
I always suggest my clients that we place restroom amenity baskets in the restrooms (whether existing or rented) with different items such as hand soap, mints, lint roll, hairspray, mouthwash, first aid with bandages, and so on. I talked about this in a previous broadcast and the information is in THIS POST (scroll down to the Reception section). Also, don’t forget to buy / order disposable guest towels, there are some great websites that offer customized options such as The Stationery Studio. I often order bar napkins and guest towels with matching graphics and text.
When it comes to food service there are two options that need to be discussed with the homeowner and the caterer. They can use the existing kitchen in the house or create a kitchen area and rent all the equipment (stove, oven, tables, etc.). Usually, the garage is a good location because it’s hidden from the guests and it’s covered in case of bad weather. It’s also easily accessible via a driveway (and sometimes close to the trash area). Speaking of this, discuss what to do with trash, compost and recycling – Will you have the caterer take care of it or will you hire a separate company that will pick up in the morning?
Vendor / Green Room
If your client is planning on having a band or different entertainers / performers throughout the evening you should provide a room where they can dress / change and take breaks. This room can also be used by all of the vendors to store their gear, packaging, and other supplies (boxes from the florist to carry their vases, for instance). If you are renting a large residence there might be a guest house on the grounds that could be the perfect solution.
Always assess the parking situation on your first walk-through at the private residence. This can be a big issue if guests don’t have an area to park their cars. Hiring a valet service would be best and guests will love the special treatment. If the neighborhood doesn’t have enough streets and public parking available, the valet company can secure a parking lot in the area and use it for your event. Sometimes, office buildings and churches can come to the rescue, and you can ask the management if you can rent them or just use them. Several clients of mine live next to their churches and they always have permission to use their parking lot at no charge. If you decide not to hire a valet company because there’s ample parking in the street, make sure the neighbors are alerted about the upcoming event. If it’s a private event hosted by your client at their house, it would be a nice touch to even invite the neighbors 🙂
A safety check is mandatory at your first venue walk-through, you don’t want to put guests in danger. Take a look at the arrival area, the event space, staircases, steps, and make sure the ground is level, there are no holed in the grass, the floors won’t be slippery, and every single area will be properly lighted. This will be necessary not only for the guests but also for your staff and the vendors (prep area for the caterer, bar and food stations, dessert table, DJ area, photo booth space, etc.) If you don’t think the existing lighting will be enough, have your client invest in a good lighting company that can provide fabulous solutions for the guests’ safety and enhance the ambiance.
Some private residences include a cleaning fee in their agreement. If they don’t, you have to take care of the cleaning after the wedding or event or you will charged extra. I always suggest that clients hire a cleaning company to prep the venue before the event and after. For this reason, you should remember to include cleaning costs in your client’s budget.
This is a very important step to include in the planning, not only for private residences but for events and weddings in general. You need to make sure that the homeowner has proper coverage for the venue, your client and guests. Usually, their home insurance provides coverage however, if that’s not the case, you should get a one-day event insurance from the following companies: R.V. Nuccio & Associates, Wedding Protector Plan, Wedsafe
Permits and Zoning
This is also very important, don’t forget this step during the planning process! You need to check into the city ordinances and make sure you are following the rules. Will you need a permit for the tent? Will a Fire Marshall need to inspect the tent once it’s installed? Do you need to get an approval for candles or open flames on property?
Same thing with noise, don’t underestimate this important aspect. If you are going to have a DJ or a band and the venue is located in a residential neighborhood, you need to check on the noise ordinances (music curfew is usually 10pm). Always have the homeowner inform the neighbors about the upcoming event and the entertainment that will be provided. You don’t want the police to show up and ruin the party because the neighbors complained. Violations of the noise ordinance could cost the homeowner an administrative citation and a fine. This could eventually cause the closure of the private venue.
~~~ LEAVE A COMMENT ~~~ What other challenges / issues did you encounter when planning a wedding at a private residence?
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Holistic Precision Life Coach, Brain Wellness Coach, and Life-Work Balance Strategist for busy professionals. I blend well-being principles with epigenetics, neuroscience, positive psychology, and mindfulness techniques to implement effective behavior changes.