Hosting a wedding in my yard...

threedogsmomAugust 17, 2007

OK, everyone, my SIL has asked us to host her wedding (Sept 08) in our home and backyard - approx 50-60 people. The theme is "tropical elegance" and she will be getting back to me on a decision between 2 main color schemes ( think lt. green and cranberry cymbidium orchid colors -OR- hot pink/lime green/with orange accents hibiscus colors). I will be adding many tropicals next summer just for the wedding, in pots and interspersed with the other perennials. I am excited to have the honor of hosting a wedding at our home, but when I think of all the household upgrades and repairs that will need to be done in the next year, all I see is ALOT of $$ going bye-bye. Of course it will get our house in great condition to sell, but it's alot of pressure to have the house and gardens in mint condition at the end of the season !! They are trying to save as much $ as they can and I love to plan "projects" so they have asked me to do alot of planning of the wedding for them. Tell me what you think: I am advising a cocktail reception from 4:30-8 pm, under a tent in my yard. I chose 9 different appetizers with hints of tropics, and there will be a bar as well - serving tropical drinks, beer and wine. The apps will be divided into 4 serving stations under the tent plus we will have some butlered, with 4 (8 person) tables and 32 chairs for people to sit, but it will mainly be encouraging people to walk around and mingle. We will have a small 2 tier cake dressed in matching fresh flowers, with 1 large sheet cake out of sight for serving guests. I dont know if they want a dance floor yet, since itÂs an added expense. As for food, we will be making some of it ourselves, and possibly picking up trays of catered food as well. Music- IÂd like a steel drummer for the first hour to get people in the theme mood (if itÂs in the budget), then we can switch to CDÂs made for the occasion. How many /what type glassware should we rent ? Are plastic appetizer/cake size plates in wedding color too tacky ? Are paper napkins with personalized printing OK ? I know weÂre IN a backyard, but I donÂt necessarily want it to Feel too backyard  trying for casual elegance, yet still on a budget.Your advice please !!! And pics too, if you have hever hosted a wedding at home !!



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I think it sounds lovely! I would be excited, too.

I like your plans a lot. I think you're going to do a super job. I haven't hosted a wedding, but I've done other big parties at home.

I would definitely rent dishes, silverware, glasses, linens. Disposables are just not special enough for your lovely party, if I am picking up your vision accurately. The tropical theme is casual, but elegant-casual, not child's-birthday-party casual. You may be surprised that the cost of the rentals is not much if at all more than disposables, by the way. I rented tables, chairs, pretty tablecloths and napkins, dishes, glasses, and flatware all at the same place. They make it very easy, and the price wasn't bad at all (the cheapest dishes and flatware were just fine). I also found that hiring a helper allowed me to order fewer dishes and glasses, because she collected, washed, and dried used items for re-use. For sure don't bother with printed napkins.

Your cake idea is excellent. All the beauty and drama for a fraction of the cost. The scale of the small cake will be right, too.

I would get live music for the whole party, especially if there will be dancing, but then, I LOVE live music; it just seems so Special Occasion. On the other hand, I had cds (our son is a dj) at a recent party, and it was fine, but that wasn't as big an occasion as a wedding.

I don't know if you are squeezed for space, but I would try very hard to have enough seating for everyone. I think you are trying to encourage people to move around, not sit like lumps, but it can be very uncomfortable to stand (especially in high heels) for a long time. We had plenty of seating at a big party in our yard this summer, and everyone moved around a lot and stayed late! Besides, seating for half is actually seating for less than half, because there end up being single seats, seats where people left dirty dishes, etc. Put the bar where everyone will have to walk to get to it -- that works.

Make sure you have plenty of food; that is a long time for just drinks. Appetizer style food is fine (my favorite, in fact), but realize that if you have people there for 3 1/2 hours over the dinner hour, they are going to consider it supper. If you really want it just to be cocktails and nibbles, keep it much shorter. Do consider having it catered; this is a bigger job than you may realize, and here again, you can often end up spending about the same as if you do it yourself, because caterers can buy the food so much cheaper. Besides, it's not just the cooking; they plate it up and arrange it, make all the station tables look gorgeous, go around and pick up used dishes and glasses, and clean everything up at the end. I'm sure your SIL wants you there at the party, not working your tail off in the kitchen.

I know this can start to add up. To me, it's always money well spent, though (within reason, of course -- don't go into debt over it!). I don't agree with the people who say, "All that money for just a few hours." It's not just a few hours -- it's months of fun planning, years of happy memories, a lovely and generous gift of entertainment and hospitality to a lot of people, and a real gesture of love to your SIL. Keep the menu items inexpensive (easy to do and still be great with tropical appetizers) and limit alcohol to the signature cocktail, beer, and wine you suggested, and that will help a lot. We served white peach sangria at that party, and it was both cheap and a big hit. Try a spiked tropical punch at yours for the same effect.

Breathe for a minute and think whether you really need to do all those home improvements before the wedding. I know the feeling that you are planning on it anyway, so you might as well do it before the party when everyone will be there. But that is just never possible. So do the gardening and if the house or fence badly needs paint or something, might as well do that before the wedding. Don't feel that you have to remodel the powder room or repaper the dining room by then, though. The house doesn't have to be perfect; no one will be focusing on it anyway. You will wear both your checkbook and yourself out trying to do every single thing that would be nice to do.

All in all, it sounds like you are planning a fantastic party! I wish I were invited.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2007 at 3:44PM
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I agree with gellcom about not doing all the home improvements before the wedding....and don't sweat having the garden in tropicals... Orchids on the bride's table at least...but the new Kong coleus plus some elephant's ear will give you a lovely tropical feel without acres of expensive hot house plants.
And given that you have a year....I would consider looking for your own cloths. Anytime I have been in a position to rent cloths, I have found I could buy better for less, if I shopped well. Sam's club has very inexpensive poly cotton substantial cloths in several colors and lots of sizes....
A steel drummer would be wonderful....or at least a guitar or perhaps a ukulale.
How are you going to make it known that the reception is over at 8? The reason I ask is for a cocktail party, you would put "cocktail buffet, 4:30 to 8" and people would make dinner plans but I don't think that's appropriate for a wedding.
Will you have the guests arrive, listen to music, chat, get a drink....and then have the ceremony....and continue with the party? Or will the ceremony have taken place before they get to your house?
Will the whole party be under the tent? I would like to have the alternative of open air as well....and perhaps reserve a larger tent in case of inclement weather. And think about propane heaters..."in case".
If you and other helpers can "do" the food, if you have the experience and skill to do that, you can always do much cheaper then a caterer, because your labor is free!
The final decicion about making food vs. catering. Buying cloths and glasses vs. buying or using disposables...if you rent, it goes out the door the next day. True you don't have it around for another party, but you don't have to wash and store it either. I am one who can put out 50 white china dinner plates and 50 place settings of sterling ( in 3 different patterns!) and dozens of wine glasses, but it takes me a week to get it all washed and put away again.
I guess I would figure out what you ahve to spend on the party apart from your home and allocate in terms of importance to you and the bride.
Keep us posted on how it's coming over the next year. You will have such fun!
Linda C

    Bookmark   August 18, 2007 at 12:03AM
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This sounds quite lovely. I'm sure you and your SIL will enjoy all the planning.

Check out the price of one hour of music vs four. I suspect the vast chunk of money is to secure the date, after that you can add hours relatively inexpensively.

I'd love to say don't worry about the home improvement projects. But I know, in your position I would want to get EVERYTHING done as well. What I will say is have them all done by August 1. August is just too hot to bother with the work and disruption. This will give you that little bit of cushion so that if the last project has some sort of delay, you won't be pushing the deadline. And you can then spend the last month or so focused on the more party like aspects of the wedding.

For best mingling, give everyone a seat with a few to spare. With only half the seats necessary, a great number of the men will be chivalrous and not sit at all. They will be happy for the first hour, ok with things the second, then ready to go. The people who have lucked into actually getting a chair won't get up for fear of losing it. If you don't have room for more than 4 tables, add extra chairs without extra tables.

If you have room, a table top fountain might be a nice addition. The sound of moving water is very tropical. I'm sure this will be a lovely wedding.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2007 at 7:42AM
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Wow, this sounds like so much fun! The only thing I'd advise, as others have, is to be sure everyone has a place to sit. I've been to a couple of weddings where the idea was for everyone to mingle and not to camp out, but in reality, people snag a chair or a table, tip the seats up, put purses on the table or otherwise reserve their place for the evening. That leaves everyone else seatless. I remember attending a really fancy and expensive wedding reception at a downtown hotel, and my husband and I ended up eating our dinner sitting on the carpeted steps going up to the reception room. Not fun.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2007 at 9:27AM
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Like LindaC, I would suggest limiting your outdoor plantings to tropical color -- not necessarily tropical plants. Orange, purple and hot pink impatiens look wonderful together, along with some elephant ears. Maybe grab a few palms -- even rent them.

I would rent your stemware and dishes. I've done it several times and it makes life so much easier. Nothing worse than the stem of a plastic glass falling off in your hands!

Sounds like a fun party.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2007 at 2:52PM
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lindac, I know how you make the party end at 8 (without putting an end time on the invitation, which I agree is best not done):

You stop the music!

But you might not care when people leave, either. I actually did put an end time on my last invitation, but only because it was for a party on July 4, and I wanted people to know that they could leave in time to get to the community fireworks. But lots of people stayed, anyway -- we were flattered.

Duckie makes a really good point about one hour vs. 3 or 4 of music. I doubt many musicians will accept a gig for just one hour; they may have a minimum charge. Besides, it's nice to have music for the whole party. If there is a college or music school nearby, you're in luck; you might be able to get students pretty cheap. Hire early, so they have time to prepare a tropical repertoire.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2007 at 6:49PM
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LOL!! Or turn out the lights!
My point in knowing when to end it was the need for a meal or cocktail snacks.
Linda C

    Bookmark   August 19, 2007 at 10:23AM
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OK, all, thank you for some great tips from the PROS that you are :) I have since found out she chose the bolder color scheme of hot raspberry pink and lime green with accents of tangerine. Very tropical and vibrant ! I agree with your suggestions about using the tropical "colors" in decorating with locally available plant material, not necessarily the with "tropical" plants. That is a good money saver. I can envision the impatiens in hot pink and orange with cascading sweet potato vine, and the beautiful caladiums in hot pink and cool green and white, and the rich tapestry of coleus in the green/hot pink range. I am getting tired of my 2 patio pots right now, so I may try to recreate some "wedding ideas" now to see how they'd look. That would be fun ! I want to rent fuchsia table linens (would an orange cloth with a fuchsia overlay be too strong ?) I see your point in renting enough chairs and will do that. I guess I need a full # of tables then too. We plan on renting the glassware, dishes, etc. as well. I was in a restaurant and saw a very simple but chic "centerpiece" int he lobby. It was a tall square glass vase with black river stones in the bottom, with a stem of 8-9 orchids in it, submerged 3/4 of the way in the water, so that most of the flowers were underwater. It looked just beautiful, almost sculptural, in it's simplicity. I would like to recreate that on each table with some votives surrounding each vase. That would save some $$ on flower centerpieces, although I love that lush flower look too. Remember, strict budget :) I have to keep telling myself that. They said they DO want a dance floor, so that will have to be incorporated in somewhere too. I don't think the tent will fit the tables and a dance floor, so is it OK to have the dance floor next to the tent, yet uncovered ? We could put potted flowers at each corner to dress it up. I think the signature cocktail will be rum punch, yum :) Should that only be served the first hour, or - since this is a cocktail reception - should we plan to serve it the whole time ? Since the party will be from late afternoon thru early evening, I was going to add white Xmas lites to the trees and the gazebo, and accent the gardens and outer edges of the tent with tiki torches. I am looking into a steel drum duo for the reception, I think that would add a ton of ambiance and get people dancing ! Still up in the air is the catering. The bride's neighbor owns a restaurant, so we may be able to strike a deal there... Since this is both their second wedding, it is going to be more of a celebration of family than a formal shindig. However, the groom's first wedding was at the courthouse and he didn't really have a "wedding" so to speak, so we are doing this mostly for him :) Heck, I'm just happy to be involved !!! Thanks again for being my sounding board to bounce ideas off of, keep your thoughts/advice/ideas coming !!!!

    Bookmark   August 20, 2007 at 2:04PM
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I think a cocktail, hors d'oeuvre, wedding cake party would be lovely, especially in light of the fact this is a second marriage for the bride and groom. The time of the party will be key, as well as the wording on the invitation, so that the guests will be aware that the reception will not include dinner.

I think live music would be great, a quartet or something classic for background music to create an elegant atmostphere. However, I wouldn't rent a dance floor for a cocktail/cake celebration. A dance floor installation is a costly endeavor and the money could go to better use. If the reception included full dinner, etc., then a dancefloor would make sense, but not for a cocktail reception.

As for things you want to do in your home to prepare for the party, I am hosting a party next August, and have already started doing small projects (downstairs guest bath for starters). We will do things throughout the year, but the projects are things that need to be done and this party is a great motivator to get them done within the coming year. Also, the cost associated with doing them is spread out as well.

I agree with the other posters regarding totally rehabing your garden is overboard. Yes, I would plant some tropical colored annuals within your existing garden to get that tropical color. Have fresh mulch laid and make sure the yard is immaculate, but don't go crazy buying plants that you would not necessarily plant otherwise.

Definitely rent china, stemware/glasses and the like. Not too expensive, and using the china makes such a nice presentation rather than using paper products. The upside of renting china is that it is all picked up by the rental company the next day. No dish washing.

Definitely hire help. You are the hostess and have an obligation to greet and socialize. I don't think you need to be attending to food and serving. That would make you crazy on the day of the party.

I am looking forward to hearing more about your plans as you go along! Don't make yourself crazy and broke. Just try to enjoy every minute of planning and hosting this party. It is definitely an honor to be asked to host, and I am sure your SIL is very appreciative of your generosity.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2007 at 4:50PM
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This sounds like a great party. Although I have visions of Father of the Bride in my head. Ideally, you'll avoid that degree of overboard, but the issue with parking from the movie is probably a good one to consider. Could you hire a couple of valets?

I think the suggestions for tropical colored, local plants is a good one. Don't make yourself crazy re-landscaping your backyard for one night.

I'd take a look around the interior of your house though - any places that guests will see in order to use the restroom and enter/leave the party. I wouldn't put down all new tile or anything, but it may be worth a gallon of fresh paint and some color-scheme appropriate accessories for the guest bath.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2007 at 1:05PM
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Raspberry, lime and tangerine! Wow!!
I would look for solid color cloths of some of each of those colors with overlays ( smaller squares) of a conbtrasting color....and I think you are going to need some bits and pieces of a very dark...VERY dark green to accent the rest.
I have bought those square and triangle glass vases very cheaply....forget store some where...or perhaps Hobby Lobby. Black river rock in the bottom and an orchid or anthurium or bird of paradise....perhaps a shorter one with floating candles.
Salt or sugar ( beach sand?) in a heavy glass container is great for those very very tall tapers. I have no idea what they cost but they are about 40 inches tall and burn forever.
I don't m,uch like the idea of twinkle lights....a bit too "dainty". I would be looking at "up lights" into the trees and perhaps washing tree trunks.
I would have food and drink available the whole time. I love dancing under the stars! But have a tent on the ready in case of rain.
And I disagree about enough tables and chairs for everyone. not necessary with a cocktail reception.
I would have half as many chairs as you have people....and perhaps rent those tall stand at tables for a few extras. With a bright cloth tied on with a wide piece of contrasting fabric they are smashing!
Also, I saw today, table cloth weights in a beach theme in pewter color for $1.00 a set of 4 at the Dollar Tree store. That could be useful if you have any sort of a breeze.
Linda C

    Bookmark   August 24, 2007 at 8:37PM
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