Home is where the heart is; planning a garden wedding

Garden wedding

Weddings at home are increasingly popular, and it’s no surprise as they fit with two key wedding trends; focussing the budget on what matters most to you rather than what’s expected, and achieving a relaxed, more personal feel to a wedding.

The awareness and popularity of personalised, celebrant-led weddings has certainly also helped, with more couples completely open-minded (and keen to be creative!) with their wedding location, free from the restrictions of civil ceremonies.

So if you, your family, or a particularly amazing friend has room for you and your guests then here’s my advice to ensure your ceremony space is both practical and looks amazing for the big day:

1. Look at what nature has given you

Most home weddings are in the garden. Before you plan anything else spend some time looking at the space (relax there, take a picnic!). Imagine it in season, what will be in bloom? What has nature given you to work with? Any natural arches or frames? Does the land have a natural slope to consider? Maybe there are some trees that could be tied with memory photos. Soak in the environment and think creatively, before the practicalities start niggling at you!

Garden wedding at home4

2. Think practically

It had to happen sometime! Key things when planning your own ceremony space include:

Guest management. Plan where they will walk in, mill around, and sit. Curved seating tends to make your guests feel more included in the ceremony, but make sure you give your photographer enough space. I always draw out a seating plan with my couples to ensure we’ve thought through how people will move around, for example those guests with a role during the ceremony.

If you’re planning on seating all guests then add a minimum of 10% extra chairs due to spaces being left. At outdoor ceremonies guests are usually happy to stand; if you’re also happy with this relaxed vibe then you may only provide seating for named guests (with key roles, close family or those that need to sit).

Garden wedding at home3

– Your entrance! Think about where you will both be before the ceremony. There may be a few minutes of hanging around to do before walking down the aisle, and guests are desperately looking for a glimpse of you; make sure you have a good place to wait – not hiding and peeking out from behind a tree! The aisle area should be flat and free of any possible trip hazards.

– Noise levels. Avoid other noise, for example from nearby roads or caterers setting up. Do you need sound projection for your speakers or music?

– Having a plan B. As with all outdoor weddings, have an inside space that you aren’t disappointed with using for the ceremony if you need to. There are many beautiful marquee and tipi suppliers that make amazing ceremony spaces which can quickly be converted for the reception. Often this comes with managed services such as lighting/electrics and the loos (one of the less glamorous planning tasks…but essential!).

3. Creating a beautiful ceremony space

So now you have a good idea of where the ceremony will happen it’s time to make it really feel like a ceremony space. Firstly the creation of an aisle (although not essential, you can enter however you like!) I always recommend that you line the sides of the aisle with something; not only for visual appeal but also to avoid ‘chair creep’ where chairs are shuffled into the aisle space for a better view! The top image uses beautiful tree stumps to do this, which also have the advantage of not blowing away like petals! Ribbon or bunting criss-crossing the aisle to poles is also a beautiful, rustic way to decorate and be clear about this area.

Garden wedding at home5

Try to ‘own’ a space at the front of the ceremony by having a simple arch or backdrop for you, the centre of attention. It helps you feel more secure in an open space, reminds me (and others!) to keep out of your way wherever possible, and of course it frames you beautifully for photos! One really simple way of doing this that I’ve seen was a string between trees hung with Chinese lanterns; simple, cheap and stunning. If you’re signing a wedding certificate (I use a certificate of humanist wedding) then make sure you have a nice table (or tablecloth) as this is a photo that absolutely everyone wants to take!

Lastly let your creativity run free – popular venues often restrict anything that requires a lot of preparation or tidying up, take advantage of the fact this isn’t the case in a home wedding! With a bit of effort (and possibly roping in of friends!) you can create a beautiful space on a blank canvas. Rugs, fairy lights, bunting, lanterns, streamers, ribbons, and of course mountains of confetti!

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