While styles are fleeting, the meaning behind a wedding is timeless. A public celebration of a very intimate relationship, a wedding is designed to reflect a couple’s unique history and individual personalities. What better setting to tell this story than your own home?

Seasoned DIY-er Jennifer Nolen married her sweetheart of 10 years, Brian, at their bungalow in Eureka last July. From the vibrant flowers picked from their backyard, a table offering homemade wine and artisan soda, and cozy pop-up arrangements of furniture in the yard, it was clear the couple poured both their hearts and weekends into creating a personal setting for their ceremony. After setting a date (Brian’s late father’s birthday) the Nolens decision to host the wedding at home came about naturally. “It’s that kind of a house,” Jennifer says of their 1,200-square-foot home, built in 1912.

On arrival, guests received a program that opened, “Welcome to our house. Grab a drink, wander around, say hello to the chickens.” By seamlessly merging their indoor and outdoor spaces, the couple fearlessly hosted 65 delighted guests. At 6 pm on a summer evening, under a homemade wreath of flowers, Jennifer and Brian’s closest friends and family gathered in their living room to hold hands and watch the couple promise to love one another forever. What could possibly be more romantic?
click to enlarge Out back with the chickens. - SACRED IMAGES PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Sacred Images Photography
  • Out back with the chickens.

A home can be an incredibly intimate and memorable venue to celebrate the braiding of two lives, two families. Having grown the flowers, fermented the wine and made the Pandora playlist (Jennifer even baked their gluten-free wedding cake!), the Nolens managed to throw a beautiful DIY wedding on a small budget. But even for the less industrious, there are options.

The cost of a venue rental becomes understandable when you consider the many built-in amenities. To start, does your guest list exceed your bathroom’s capacity? The standard recommendation is one toilet per 35 guests. If you’re over that number, start thinking about where you can put a portable toilet and how many you’ll need. If not rattled by such considerations, the capable and budget-minded couple can manage the to-do list.

Table 8

In the hubbub of choosing food, decor, music and seating arrangements, give yourself plenty of time to imagine what the day will feel like. Hosting a home wedding still affords you a range of styles from a backyard barbecue vibe to a formal, upscale event. Dedicate the most time and energy wherever your true passions lie. If you are a couple of foodies, it might be reasonable to politely decline your Aunt Mary’s offer to cook for 50 guests.

Humboldt County has plenty of talented, full-scale catering businesses that will happily bring hot dishes and seasonal salads to your home. Make appointments with caterers a few months in advance so you can spend time getting your menu dialed in. Perhaps Aunt Mary could be in charge of collecting loaner dishes and cutlery? A buffet table of full of delicious food and mismatched plates, bowls and linen napkins borrowed from your closest family and friends would look oh-so charming.


Incorporating live music into a ceremony can be a touching element to a wedding ceremony. And people love to dance. If you’ve got room for a band or a DJ, great. But consider the challenges of acoustics and potential costs of amplification, too. Would your backyard be better suited to a single acoustic musician? If you’re not shy, a low-cost, unforgettable option is to rent a karaoke machine to get the party started. Spend some tender evenings with your betrothed creating a playlist of your favorite songs.

Master of Ceremonies

Ask some brides and grooms for their number one tip and you’ll hear, “Hire a wedding planner!” When hosting your special day at home, the feedback remains the same. Your wedding planner will be the calm among the storm — yes, even at a home wedding — of melting buttercream frosting and inebriated uncles. Yet, on a budget, many couples can’t allocate the coin to hire a professional. Bust a hybrid-DIY move by choosing an assertive friend or relative to act as your day-of wedding planner. Invite Joe or Jane over well in advance to detail operations of your major appliances, making sure they know the trick to loading your dishwasher and jiggling the toilet handle just right. While you’re dancing the Macarena, this all-star guest can oversee post-ceremony cleanup and troubleshoot any pesky home mishaps.
click to enlarge The Nolens say “I do” in their living room. - SACRED IMAGES PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Sacred Images Photography
  • The Nolens say “I do” in their living room.


Part of the appeal of a home wedding is letting your personal style come through in the aesthetics of your home. While your home’s everyday look — plus some well-chosen floral arrangements — might be enough for a low-key ceremony, this could be your chance to go gangbusters on Pinterest. But remember: No matter how adorable your spray-painted wine bottle centerpieces turn out, your guests are there for the eat-drink-and-be-merry factor. So keep it casual with the décor. Invite a gaggle of friends over in advance, requesting that they bring their craft drawers. Provide plenty of vino and when in doubt, never underestimate the power of white twinkly lights. And don’t forget prop rental is always an option if you’re strapped for time or glue-gun shy.

Bar Tab

A major slice of pie in any wedding budget is the booze — there’s a reason weddings are so much fun. But in consideration of those who don’t imbibe or in effort to keep the memories clear and budget light, skipping hard alcohol can be a wise choice. Ask guests to participate in a fun new wedding tradition, BYO wine, asking each guest to bring a favorite bottle. Your handy wedding planner-on-the-spot can quickly organize a table with a variety of whites, reds and bubbles, as well as non-alcoholic drinks, allowing guests to serve themselves. It also serves as a fantastic icebreaker and conversation starter for your guests.

In the end, wedding planner or no, the advice is the same — let your wedding be your own. Follow your whims and you and your guests will remember the unique celebration for a lifetime.
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Nora Mounce

Nora Mounce

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