How to Make Your Home Wedding Special and Glitch-Free, According to Industry Pros and Newlyweds

updated Sep 23, 2020
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Credit: Kauhi Hookano
Kyle Hill and César Salza tied the knot in a friend's backyard in San Francisco on April 18.

With the COVID-19 pandemic putting a halt on large gatherings, engaged couples who had planned to tie the knot with a blowout are faced with two options: postpone the date, or plan a socially distant celebration. If you go for the latter, your best bet is likely getting hitched at home in spaces such as back decks, front porches, and—like many events these days—via Zoom

“I never thought getting married in a pandemic in a backyard would be my perfect wedding day,” says Kyle Hill, who married César Salza in the San Francisco backyard of his “best-friend-slash-best-man” on April 18. “But the way that we did it and how it all just came to be ended up being a very unique and amazing day for us.”

Keep reading for tips on how to keep a home wedding safe, meaningful, and glitch-free. 

Scout your place for a backdrop 

You may not be getting married at the fancy venue you envisioned, but that doesn’t mean you can’t set a great scene. 

“If couples have a beautiful garden or a big, beautiful tree, or a nice fireplace, they should definitely consider those types of areas to be the backdrop for the ceremony,” says Shavon Hunter, owner and planner at Atlanta-based La Soirée Chic Events. “Typically those things won’t need a lot of decoration, but you might be able to embellish with a little bit of flowers or some drapery, garland, or something like that, just to kind of define the space.”

If nothing around your home is speaking to you, create your own vibe. A decked-out front door could serve double duty as a ceremony backdrop and a photo op. Or follow the lead of Sparkle and Raymond Bell, who wed in their Humble, Texas, backyard on Aug. 8, and spring for a bunch of florals: The Bells got married in front of a wall of white roses. 

Test run your virtual ceremony

When most, if not all, of your guests are watching you tie the knot on a screen, you don’t want to deal with day-of tech snafus. That’s why experts and newlyweds alike agree that practicing is so, so important. 

“I think I probably underestimated the rehearsal and practice required to get a good Zoom,” Sparkle says. “If I had to do it over, I would have rehearsed that part of it a little bit more to ensure that we would have the best results for those that were watching from home.”

Your test run should involve a few elements. First and foremost, ensure that your WiFi is strong enough to stream without any glitches. If possible, try to test at a time when a similar amount of people will be using your internet. 

“We all know technology,” Hunter says. “It can be hit-or-miss sometimes, especially depending on when somebody might be doing their virtual event. With school being virtual, there could be bandwidth issues or challenges.” 

Next, give some serious thought to where you’ll place the camera in front of that predetermined backdrop. A video wedding experience is seriously hampered by an obscured view, and you also don’t want the device in a spot where any in-person guests will have to crane their necks around it. Hunter suggests placing the device on a tripod or other surface close to the couple to give loved ones who can’t be there in person a front-row seat to the action and better ensure that they can see and hear everything that goes on. She also suggests marking the spot with a taped “x” during practice so there’s no question about the device’s placement on the big day.

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LeJeanne Thomas and Daniel Thomas got married in their Smyrna, Georgia, home garden on May 31.

Designate a video moderator 

Even with speedy internet and a prime camera location, unexpected tech problems can still happen. Unless everyone except you and your partner will be virtually attending, choosing a point person to help out with the livestream could be the answer to any unforeseen circumstances. 

LeJeanne Thomas, who wed Daniel Thomas on May 31 in their Smyrna, Georgia, home garden with an accompanying Facebook Live, says that choosing someone to manage the video situation is the top piece of feedback she’s giving to couples planning a socially distant wedding. 

“Have somebody that can moderate your livestream—someone who can mute all of the guests, because that was a big issue for us. People were so happy that they were just talking throughout our entire ceremony,” she says. “It was hilarious. I think we had somebody in the actual Facebook group who decided to tell everybody to mute [themselves] because they couldn’t hear us.” 

This point person could also maneuver the camera to give guests a more complete view of the action, including the entrances and exits.

“[Virtual guests] couldn’t see me walk down the aisle, per se,” LeJeanne says. “They could only see me when I came into view of the tripod and the phone itself.” 

Don’t forget the audio

As the owner of Seattle-based Married Livestream (which existed pre-pandemic—such foresight!), Dale Wilson has seen his fair share of technological mishaps. His first observation is simple: “People do not put any thought into the audio portion of their wedding.” 

With outdoor events, surrounding noise could make it hard for both physical and virtual guests to hear the ceremony. In that case, couples may want to consider using sound equipment. “I am actually a huge, huge proponent of hiring a professional DJ to just focus on the sound,” Wilson says. 

If you do opt for a sound system, remind everyone who plans to speak during the ceremony to talk into the microphone. 

And if you’re trying to keep down costs and/or the number of people at the event and forgo hiring audio pros, Hunter recommends hosting an outdoor ceremony at a time of day with minimal surrounding noise, if possible. Reminding those with speaking parts to project their voices and seating guests in a semicircle, as opposed to traditional row-style seating, could help everyone hear better, too. 

Also consider professional videography 

Wilson says he’s found that photos and video are even bigger priorities for couples who get married at home, and that the most commonly voiced regret he’s heard from newlyweds during his career is that they didn’t opt for a videographer. 

He recommends hiring one even if you’ll be livestreaming the event due to the pandemic. “If you’re considering video, livestreaming is a wonderful part of it, and that’s certainly part of it, but videography is another component that I see a lot of couples wishing they had later on in life,” he says.

Credit: Jonathan Thomas, Primary Focus Photography, Houston, Texas
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Sparkle and Raymond Bell wed in their Humble, Texas, backyard on Aug. 8.

Be prepared with plenty of safety measures

You do not want your event to be remembered as the one where guests contracted a potentially fatal virus, even if you just have a small handful of guests. 

Luckily, there are ways to implement safety precautions while still keeping things formal and festive.  

Before guests even set foot in your space, Hunter suggests couples have a greeter do temperature checks as they arrive, or ask people to send in a negative COVID-19 test result as their RSVP. She also recommends setting up a sanitary station with disinfectant wipes, gloves, masks, and hand sanitizer in case guests don’t come with those items. 

You can even personalize some products, such as the hand sanitizer bottles and face masks, and hand them out as favors. The Bells ordered custom face masks on Etsy emblazoned with their names and wedding date, while Hill and Salza handed out swag bags that each included gloves and a mask made by Hill’s mother. 

Besides most importantly keeping everyone safe, Hunter adds that these elements “will commemorate the time” when couples look back on pictures or videos 20 years from now. 

Think about keeping guests in their cars 

If a video call doesn’t feel like it’s your speed, a drive-by celebration is another way for you and your partner to safely see a larger amount of friends and family on your big day. 

After their backyard ceremony with a few in-person guests and the rest dialing in via Zoom, loved ones rode past the Bells’ house for their reception, wishing the Bells well as the couple handed out lasagna and doughnuts to the passengers.

If you have more space to work with, you can follow the lead of Wilson’s friends, who recently held a drive-in wedding. Married Livestream recorded the ceremony, and the couple later projected the video onto the side of their barn, allowing people to come out and watch like a drive-in movie, while the newlyweds greeted their guests car-side. 

“I think it takes a little bit for couples to get past the disappointment of the wedding they had envisioned,” Wilson says. “[But] the quicker you can get past that disappointment and start thinking about all the little cool possibilities that are available, the better off you’re going to be.”

The Apartment Therapy Weddings vertical was written and edited independently by the Apartment Therapy editorial team and generously underwritten by Crate & Barrel.