On behalf of the Harmony Retreat and Rescue organization, I created a ceremony to honor Remember Me Thursday. The purpose of this event is to remember and honor the pets we have, the pets who have passed away, the pets who were never adopted, and the hope that more and more people will adopt one of the millions of dogs and cats waiting for a home. Part of a nationwide movement, Remember Me Thursday’s goal is to eliminate the euthanizing of rescued animals.
Especially for couples who have been together for a long time, own a house, and want an intimate wedding, getting married at home is an appealing option. You and your guests feel comfortable in your home. You might have the ceremony inside in your favorite room and the reception outside where guests have more space to roam. Be aware, though, that at-home weddings are not always less expensive.
An at-home wedding gives you a chance to have many of the frills of a wedding in a bigger venue, on a smaller scale.
Here are some items to consider if you want to get married at your home:
Do I need an officiant if I’m getting married at home?
Of course! To make the marriage legal, you need an officiant. More than that, having a ceremony that is professionally created for you will make your wedding day special. (In Pennsylvania, it is possible for couples to self-unite, which is an option for at-home weddings, too.)
One couple asked their friend, a Celebrant, to conduct the wedding. This friend had introduced the brides to each other 20+ years ago.
Another couple worked with their rabbi to conduct the wedding at home, enabling them to bring their connection to their synagogue into their home.
Is our home ready for a wedding?
When you look around your house, do you have enough space to hold the number of guests you want to invite? Do the rooms need a new coat of paint? Do the carpets need to be cleaned?
One couple decided to renovate their guest bathroom in time for the wedding. A risky venture, and one that added expense to the wedding. However, they enjoyed the design process and their guests welcomed the updated facilities.
How many guests do we want to invite?
Some couples invite only their immediate family and a few friends when they marry at home. For couples who have been together for a long time, or LGBT couples who were not legally allowed to be married prior to 2015, inviting a much larger guest list might be in order.
One couple invited over 100 guests to their at-home wedding. The ceremony and reception were held outdoors, with a tent on the deck in case of rain. Their guests had been in their home many times and the wedding added to their happy memories of the home.
Another couple squeezed their 36 guests into their den. Cozy and intimate, if a bit cramped.
The BBC series As Time Goes By featured an hilarious scene (37 minutes in) where the couple tried to determine how many wedding guests they could fit, standing up, in their small living room.
Should we have the wedding catered?
If you can afford to, yes, have someone cater your wedding. Even if you and your spouse are chefs, you will want your wedding day to be about sharing your love with each other and your guests rather than ensuring that the food is cooked through.
Should we have a wedding cake?
Absolutely! Your caterer might do wedding cakes. Or, if you’ve always wanted to have a cake that captures your relationship, now’s the time.
Velvet Sky Bakery in Jenkintown, PA creates wedding cakes in all sizes, shapes, and decorations. Here’s an example of one they did for an at-home wedding.
What should we do about our beloved dog/cat/ferret during the wedding?
In most cases, it is best to have your pets kept safe in a room or an off-site location during the wedding. No matter how well trained a pet is, having many people in their home may make them skittish. If your pet has always been part of every celebration you’ve had, consider including the pet in the ceremony, then moving the pet somewhere else during the reception.
One couple with two dogs chose to keep them upstairs during the wedding and talked about how important the dogs were to the couple during the ceremony.
Should we have a photographer or videographer at our at-home wedding?
Definitely. No matter how many of your guests say they’ll take photos and share them, it’s likely that you won’t get the photos you want this way.
One couple chose not to have a professional photographer, relying instead on their nephews to take photos and film the wedding. The film came out well, the photos not so much. Many of the friends and relatives who attended were not in the pictures.
How can we ensure that our older relatives from farther away can attend our wedding?
Consider renting a small bus to bring your relatives to your home.
One couple hired a bus that picked their relatives up at two locations, brought them to the wedding, then took them home. The cost was less then having the relatives stay in a hotel and ensured that everyone arrived on time and made it home safely.
An at-home wedding is the most intimate way of incorporating your friends and family into your life as a married couple. Throughout your years together, your guests will remember being at your home and will continue to feel the special bond you created. When your home becomes your “wedding venue”, you deepen your connection to each other and to your home.
Once you set your wedding date and have a venue confirmed, go ahead and hire your wedding officiant. Flowers are beautiful, food is yummy, music gets you swaying. But if you don’t have an officiant to write and conduct your ceremony, or sign your marriage license, you’re, well, not married. (Ok, in PA, you could self-unite, but you could still use someone to conduct your ceremony.)
It’s best to start considering who you want to hire as a wedding officiant 6 – 12 months before your wedding date.
Did you forget to hire a wedding officiant? You’re not alone. Many wedding checklists omit “Hire an Officiant”, even though in most states, an officiant is legally required to sign your marriage license.
A wedding officiant is responsible for creating and conducting a ceremony that speaks uniquely of you, and/or that follows your religious traditions. Getting married is a solemn decision, and you want a ceremony that acknowledges and honors that decision, right?
Now that you are married, you might want to change your last name to your spouse’s, or both of you might want to change your last names.
You are not required to change your name after marriage; it’s a personal preference. Whatever last name you choose to use, recognize that changing your name is a process; everyone will need some time to get used to your new last name. Including you!
The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA) is located on Broad Street, just a few blocks north of City Hall. PAFA is both an art school and a museum, a rare combination. The original Historic Landmark Building is a magnificent structure designed by Frank Furness. The second, newer Hamilton building houses the school as well as gallery space.
Why Robin likes it: I love the architecture and design of the building, with its amazing attention to detail in the ceiling, stairways, arches, and walls. There are paintings, sculptures, and contemporary works of all fine art media. Knowledgeable docents, and something new every time you visit.