make your wedding feel like home
Zac and I met as teenagers through mutual friends. We eventually became roommates in college and again later as adults. He always felt like family to me and was someone I could always count on and trust. Through the years he stood up for me, brought me pizza while I was feeling down, and let me crash on his couch when I had no where else to go. One day, about 13 years into our friendship, he asked me out on a date and I said yes. Quickly, everything else started to fall into place around us and we knew we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. About a year later, we were planning our wedding and the one thing we were focused on was the feeling of home and family.
While we lived together in Brooklyn, we were both originally from Cleveland and knew that is where we would get married. But with around 300 people invited, and ¾ of them from out of town, we needed to think of ways to make our celebration feel like home to hundreds of traveling friends. We figured out creative ways to do this without having a large family estate to entertain your guests at for the week.
Here are a few unique ways we tried to make our guests feel at home during our wedding week:
1. Block rooms at a hotel that is near your reception venue. This is at no cost to you and your guests will thank you for the ease of traveling to and from a party in a city they are unfamiliar with. Your hotel may even provide transportation if it is within a certain radius.
2. Make your hotel staying guests welcome bags! Zac and I filled simple brown paper bags with city of Cleveland brochures for museums and train time tables for guests traveling back to the airport. You can find these at your city’s visitor center or airport. We also included mini bottles of alcohol and local treats. The most fun piece that included was a list of nearby bars, restaurants, and markets with a brief description of why we loved each suggested place. It felt good to share our hometown with people we knew from other parts of our lives.
3. Host a welcome party a few nights before the big day! We invited our wedding party, their dates, and any out of town guests that were already in town over to our family’s farm for a bon fire. We roasted marshmallows, drank wine, and relaxed together and it was cool to have so many of our friends meet for the first time.
4. Design your floor plan, seating chart, and centerpieces in a way that invites conversation. While it isn’t for everyone, we decided to have our wedding party and their dates dine with us at a long king’s table. We wanted everyone to feel as comfortable as possible and enjoy their time with the person that they chose to bring as their date. We did not want to eat alone at a sweetheart table or keep the wedding party separate. If your family and friends are traveling in from out of town and do not know many guests, it seems right to have them sit by their person. We decided against towering floral centerpieces because we wanted everyone to be able to communicate to the person sitting across from them. Instead, we chose a thin garland of greenery and candles. It was a 28 person dining table and it still felt so intimate.
5. Ask your caterer to serve the food family style. It may not be considered the most glamourous way, but it will make the meal feel like Sunday dinner with your family, and this serving style is gaining popularity. It was such a treat to have the caterers deliver large platters of our meal and side dishes to pass around the table. We even asked our caterer to make a few dishes we grew up with, like chicken paprikash and mashed potatoes. Having our of town guests talk about how they enjoyed trying food they weren’t familiar with felt great and let us know they felt at home.
6. Bring your home into your venue! With the help of some amazing Arhaus furniture pieces, we turned some areas in our venue into a home. As guests entered the party they were greeted with a beautiful buffet featuring a welcome sign, vase of flowers, and a photo of me and my husband. We wanted them to feel like they were walking into our home.
7. Create a living room style lounge area. Near the bar we found a cozy corner to turn into a place people could gather to relax and get to know each other. Using two of the venue’s couches and beautiful Arhaus tables, the area easily transformed. We added framed vintage wedding photos of family members to the tables and our florists filled the shelves with zinnias that I grew on my family’s farm. Add a few throw pillows and a rug and it will truly feel like home.
While wedding planning may seem overwhelming and impersonal, it doesn’t have to be. When you remember what you love most about your home and family and incorporate it into your big day, everyone will notice and feel that love too. Treat your wedding day like the biggest party you have ever hosted at your home!
Photography: Andrew Frasz
Floral Design: Lush & Lovely Floristry, Cleveland Blossoms, & Sheri’s Floral Design
Dress: Steven Birnbaum
Alterations: Upturn Vintage
Tuxedos: Black Tux
Hair: Kathleen Rose
Venue: Slovenian National Home
DJ: Rachel Hunt
Catering: Joe Tavcar Catering
Limo: Northern Lights Limo
Hotel: Westin Cleveland