Having a wedding in a vacation rental home?
August 17, 2014 2:00 PM   Subscribe

What are the pros and cons to having a wedding at a large vacation rental home? What should we be thinking about? Details inside.

I'm considering renting a lake side vacation home. It's huge, has 7 bedrooms, parking for 30 cars, a large kitchen, lawn games, boats, enough picnic tables for everyone. The owner says that people do weddings there all the time, and he said anything up to 75 people is okay with him. I'll have to take care of my own decorations and setup. We'll have the place for a week -- Wednesday to Tuesday, so we'll have plenty of time to setup and tear down.

The reason we want to do this is because we want a really casual wedding, and we'll have a bunch of kids there. We don't want a fancy sit down dinner, just catered BBQ, some picnic-style foods and a couple of kegs. It'll be a daytime event.

What are we missing here, and what should we be thinking about? We have a wedding planner, but she's only going to get involved after we pick a venue. From what I can tell, we just need to rent a tent and a stage/chairs for the wedding, and take care of decorations. We're not going to have a Dj, just some speakers hooked up to an iPod. We found a BBQ place nearby that's really inexpensive for catering. The immediate family that is flying in from out of state will stay at the house and help with setting up everything and cleaning up later.

Are there any reasons this is a terrible idea and we should just do it at a traditional wedding venue?
posted by empath to Home & Garden (23 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: (As far as location-- it's not close to anyone in particular, it's about 90 minutes from the two cities that we have the most friends and family in, but at least half the people there are going to have to fly in from elsewhere, no matter where we have it).
posted by empath at 2:02 PM on August 17, 2014

Are there places for people to stay nearby affordably and that will work for older relatives and families? Cabs? Can you arrange a shuttle bus for people who've been drinking or are too old to drive?
posted by fshgrl at 2:05 PM on August 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: (Also, compared to most 'wedding venues' we've looked at in the dc area- renting this place for a week plus cheap BBQ is way, way, less than booking those places for four hours with their in house catering.) We're kind of looking at it as kind of a cheap family vacation + wedding venue.
posted by empath at 2:07 PM on August 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Fshgirl, that was a concern for us. The nearest decent hotel is 40 minutes away. We were thinking of arranging a shuttle from the hotel. There is one closer, but it looks really trashy. Also, since it's a house rental, if someone were just hammered, they could always sleep on a couch, but our families don't drink that much and we're trying to end it by the early evening, so we're not really expecting that to be a problem.
posted by empath at 2:09 PM on August 17, 2014

Best answer: I don't think it's a terrible idea - I did something sort of similar (although we only had the place for the weekend) with a very similar number of guests. Here are some things we had to sort out:

* Parking: Just because it has space for 30 cars doesn't mean the spaces are delimited - ours was a huge open field. At the request of the owners of our rental, we ended up hiring a security company that handled the parking lot while people were arriving and leaving so that we could maximize space and minimize parking time/hassle.

*Event insurance: it doesn't sound like this is something the owners have, and you are not going through a wedding planning agency that has insurance, so you should seriously consider getting a policy.

*If you just want ambiance music, speakers hooked up to an ipad might be good enough, but if you need microphones or want music good enough to dance to, well, we were very unhappy with our similar set-up. The sound quality wasn't particularly good and people kept messing with the playlist we had.

*It can be difficult to get things done even with a house full of family members willing to help, because no one knows what's needed or who is responsible. We had a pretty detailed weekend schedule detailing when everything had to happen and who had to do it by that time. It did reduce a bit the feeling of a "family reunion" but it did mean we weren't standing around waiting for "someone" to set up the chairs.
posted by muddgirl at 2:13 PM on August 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This sounds so lovely!

I do know a couple downsides to hosting a wedding in a place like this, though.

When you're not using a proper venue or catering company, you aren't protected by insurance. That is, you might be liable in the tragic case that a drunk guest gets into an accident and injures him/herself or others at or after leaving your event. Definitely arrange a shuttle.

Will the number of bathrooms be sufficient to the number of guests? Is it a septic system? If so, be prepared for clogs -- have a plumber on speed dial.

Food allergies: do any guests have them? If so, what's the nearest hospital?

Renting a tent can be VERY expensive. Like, five-figure expensive, depending on the size/geographic area/local availability/need for weatherproofing, etc.
posted by artemisia at 2:13 PM on August 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

If there's a 40 minute+ ride back to the hotel, I would have an afternoon wedding, and not keep people out too late.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:15 PM on August 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Whoops, I missed that you have a wedding planner. Have you discussed this idea with them? Hopefully they have a lot of insight into the insurance/parking/etc logistics.
posted by muddgirl at 2:15 PM on August 17, 2014

How many bathrooms? We originally planned on having our wedding at home and someone mentioned that large gatherings can be hard on residential plumbing. You might research guest to bathroom ratio.

How close are the neighbors? It would probably be polite to let them know ahead of time. Just to head off potential problems about noise or parking or similar.

And the suggestions about checking out insurance/liability issues seem wise - especially with lots of kids in attendance.

Otherwise, it sounds great! Congratulations!
posted by Beti at 2:17 PM on August 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

My brother and his wife did this and it was awesome. The wedding planner will know how to best help with logistics, but my bro pulled it off without one. Is there room for people to camp, and are the ones likely to need to the types who are willing? Glamping?
posted by jrobin276 at 2:32 PM on August 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Just looked through my notes and as a requirement of our contract we payed for both a security guard and valet parking attendants (arranged by our venue, but you could likely arrange separately).
posted by muddgirl at 2:41 PM on August 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Make sure it's in the actual written terms of the lease that you can do this, not just the owner's verbal ok.
posted by brujita at 3:12 PM on August 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

Sounds like fun. A big factor in terms of logistic do-ability is the actual final number on your guest list. If you can keep that number fairly small then you can limit how much extra staff you'll need. And the answer to this question is what your Wedding Planner should take of.
posted by ovvl at 3:43 PM on August 17, 2014

Don't be scared of talk of buying event insurance- I priced it out once with my carrier, it was very affordable.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:55 PM on August 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This is an awesome idea. Logistically: we didn't rent a house, but we did rent a space where we had to bring in everything, and we didn't get a traditional caterer (ordered pizza!! mm, pizza). As others have said:

- Event insurance. We paid I think $90 for $2mil of event insurance in a big city, and we had a bigger, drunker wedding than it sounds like you're planning. We got ours online.

- If you can, let the wedding planner handle rentals. That stuff is SUPER nitpicky and we definitely didn't care, so we paid a little extra to have her handle it (we gave her a price range and picked colors, and she did everything else).

- We'd considered going the iPod route but have seen...a wide range of results from others, so we got a DJ instead. If you're going to have to rent sound equipment (remember you'll be outside, boombox speakers won't cut it) a DJ might not be that much more expensive anyway.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 4:38 PM on August 17, 2014

Best answer: This sounds so fun! My only suggestion would be to ask for a few names of people that had weddings there before to use as references. They may have some suggestions for you based on things that went really well or really badly for their event.
posted by elvissa at 5:19 PM on August 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

Stayed in a vacation rental when my son got married. They wanted to charge extra because we had the dinner there the evening before the wedding. So, be prepared to be charged for having an event.
posted by theora55 at 5:45 PM on August 17, 2014

Best answer: Remember that you'll be having guests before and after the actual ceremony and BBQ - they'll need food and a certain amount of entertainment. I've tended to forget this in the past.
posted by sciencegeek at 6:02 PM on August 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: A buddy of mine did something like this back in the late 90's and it worked so well we did it as just a fun vacation every year for 13 years.
posted by vrakatar at 6:20 PM on August 17, 2014

Best answer: Definitely consider your neighbors, not just on the adjacent properties but all around the lake. Sound carries over water more than it carries over other outdoor spaces of similar distance. Familiarize yourself with the local noise ordinance.

You might ask the owner about the state of the plumbing and whether there have been any problems in the past. Consider renting a couple portable toilets for the day of the big event; I've seen some extra-fancy ones at outdoor weddings that won't make it look like a construction site, and if even a fraction of your guests use the outdoor facilities, it will keep some strain off the septic system.

Since the house is lakeside, consider hiring a lifeguard or a team of two lifeguards for a few hours even if you don't plan on inviting people to swim. This is the kind of party situation where people can lose track of their kids momentarily and it doesn't take long for a young non-swimmer fascinated by the water to slip under. You want someone sober whose job it is to watch the shoreline like a hawk the entire time. To find a lifeguard who can freelance for you, look around for local swimming pools and public beaches and put in inquiries with their staff managers. (I actually did a stint as a wedding lifeguard once. The wedding was at a private house that had a swimming pool in the back yard. Although the ceremony and reception were not held right next to the pool, the family was rightly worried about little kids running around and possibly falling in. As I recall, I got paid $50 cash—this was in the late '90s—and a plate of gourmet catering.)

If you do plan on inviting people to swim, consider designating a couple rooms in the house as sex-segregated changing areas for the day, so people don't hog the bathrooms just for changing clothes. Or perhaps you can set up a couple small tents or curtained-off areas for the purpose.
posted by Orinda at 7:00 PM on August 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: We did almost exactly the same thing for our wedding--hosted about 15 family members for a week at a large vacation rental/small retreat center about 90 minutes from DC, with some additional coworker/friend guests who came up for the day. It was a lot of fun and I would heartily recommend it.

The one thing I would suggest is to consider what you're going to do to feed the people who will be staying at the house for longer than just the wedding day itself. It can be a bit of a drag to coordinate breakfast/lunch/dinner for a group for several days, and it entails bringing in a significant amount of supplies. So figure out a plan, and know where the closest Sam's Club is! Sam's also has very affordable bulk flowers, if you want to have fresh flowers and do some of your own arrangements. One of my favorite memories of my own wedding was hanging out with my sister at the big dining room table arranging flowers in mason jars the night before.
posted by drlith at 7:07 AM on August 18, 2014

Response by poster: Stayed in a vacation rental when my son got married. They wanted to charge extra because we had the dinner there the evening before the wedding. So, be prepared to be charged for having an event.

To head off further suggestions of this kind -- the rental listing says it's available for weddings, and I've talked to the owner about previous weddings-- he even recommended 3 or 4 caterers that have done events there before, and there is an additional charge for cleanup and pumping the septic tank before and after the event. The house is fairly isolated, so neighbors aren't really a concern.
posted by empath at 7:31 AM on August 18, 2014

We did this. It was fantastic. We had a small enough wedding that everyone could juuuust fit in a bed in the big house (50). We had the wedding and reception and party all at the same place, so we didn't have to deal with transportation. Is there any chance there is another rental nearby that you could use as a bunkhouse?

We rented the place out for 4 nights, which was great -- it meant that we could hang out with all of our favorite people for a while, rather than just a quick "hi! so glad you came!" at the wedding.

Food: You'll get a lot of people saying "how can we help" when it comes to a wedding like this. Don't be shy. "You and A and B and C are on dinner duty Friday." Etc. We did Costco pizzas one night, a fish fry another night. We set out sandwich stuff for lunches and the let people graze as needed, and then catered the actual wedding reception.

Booze: Find out if you can provide your own alcohol, then buy in bulk from wherever is cheapest. You'll find lots of calculators online on how much of what you might need. Designate someone's single brother-in-law to bartend.

Music: we did the ipod thing, which was fine for us, but we also didn't have a huge dancing crowd. Make a list of three things that are important to both of you when planning your wedding. If music shows up on one of them, it's probably worth spending money on. If not, don't.
posted by craven_morhead at 4:22 PM on August 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

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