Aside from the all-important dress, one of the first steps a newly engaged couple takes is selecting the ceremony and reception venues. With countless options in the Richmond region to choose from — not to mention nearby and exotic destinations — the task can seem a little daunting. While some couples thrive on scouting out potential celebration sites, others gravitate toward the more familiar setting of home, opting for intimate affairs that take place in their familiesí or friendsí abodes. Three local couples share what made a home wedding the right experience for them. It's something to consider —after all, there's no place quite like it.
Angela and Jonathan Hamer
After an exciting mid-air proposal while parasailing, this couple knew what they wanted: "a nice party where everybody could feel comfortable," Angela explains. Her future brother-in-law, Paul Hamer, and his wife, Carrie, offered their historic home on Seminary Avenue as the site for the ceremony and reception.
The house had previously been a stop on the Historic Garden Week tour; with its spacious front yard, open indoor space and backyard garden, the home could comfortably accommodate the approximately 175 friends and family attending Angela and Jonathan's Sept. 27, 2008, wedding.
"I don't stress out," says Angela, assistant principal at L.C. Bird High School. She and Jonathan settled on a front-porch ceremony followed by cocktails inside; soon afterward, everyone gathered in the tented backyard garden for a buffet dinner from Catering by Jill and DJ-spun tunes.
In preparation for the event, Angela and Jonathan helped Paul and Carrie make minor touch-ups to the house and grounds, including some mulching and painting. Jonathan, who works for James River Trade Exchange, bartered services for most of the costs associated with the wedding. And Angela's mother assisted with the decorations: magnolia garland, ivy and bows.
"Having a wedding at a home brings it to another level of intimacy," Angela says, adding, "I felt like it made everybody a bit more relaxed."
Angela and Jonathan say they felt blessed that Paul and Carrie were so eager to help them create their special day and wouldn't have done it differently. They'd even keep the ice-cream truck that came through the neighborhood after the officiant greeted guests, then pulled to a stop and turned off its song as they proceeded to exchange their vows.
Carly and Lee Cofield
When Lee Cofield proposed to Carly Daniels, she was thinking "wedding in Vegas." Yet she really wanted all of their family members to be there and couldn't imagine all of them making the trip. Luck was on her side: Her future father-in-law offered up his Enon home for the event.
"I kind of wanted it to be like a backyard barbecue," says Carly, who prefers elevated casual to over-the-top formal. Instead of battling for a distant date with a reception hall, she was able to take her pick and settled on Nov. 1, 2008, so that she could have a fall theme but still have the party outdoors.
Carly's mother stepped in to help with the planning, meeting with Boulevard Flower Gardens of Colonial Heights to coordinate autumn hues and The Cordial Cricket in Chester to find the invitations Carly adored and sent out to her 55 guests. "My mom was my saving grace," says Carly, a substitute teacher with an unpredictable schedule.
"I really wanted to make sure that it was a party and that people left thinking they had fun," Carly says. She had witnessed other brides who got rattled by the stress of wedding planning but found hers to be relatively calm.
The couple exchanged vows by a willow tree on the property, and then guests moved on to a buffet among twinkling lights and luminaries. They even had a small bonfire.
Carly says she appreciated feeling so welcomed into her new husband's family and was glad she exchanged her Vegas dreams for a backyard bash. "It was like having a wedding on our own turf," she says.
Stephanie and Artie Haraway
When Stephanie and Artie Haraway began planning their June 28, 2008, nuptials, they couldn't imagine the reception anywhere but at Artie's parents' house on Lake Chesdin. They'd spent so much time hanging out and boating around on the lake that it seemed like the perfect spot to tie the knot. "We really wanted to have an outdoor, summer reception, and we wanted it to feel like home," says Stephanie, who was grateful for her in-laws' generosity in making the space available.
After exchanging vows at a nearby church, the couple and their 200 guests congregated under tents in the Haraways' backyard. The couple had a dance floor brought in, decorated with white linens and blue pops of color (such as hydrangea centerpieces), and provided a buffet of comfort food that included barbecue, chicken and pound cake. People danced the night away to the rock and country music of the band Spare Change.
With their guests waving sparklers, Stephanie and Artie left by boat, then watched from the water as a fireworks display marked the end of their evening.
Stephanie advises couples who are considering home receptions to prioritize their budgets based on what's most important to them. "Focus on what you need to spend your money on," she says. "We felt really strongly about an amazing band and tents, but didn't overdo it on the food."