Your Guide to Planning a Hometown Wedding

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Destination: Home. While some brides decide between a traditional hometown wedding and a destination wedding, for others those options are one and the same.

No matter where couples choose to say “I do,” the planning process essentially remains the same. You still need to create a vision and hire vendors who can execute that vision.

Many brides still choose to marry in their hometowns because of tradition, sentimentality or if parents are footing the bill. Returning home, even if real life now exists miles away, offers a unique way to unite the past and present.

Planning a hometown wedding from afar is similar to planning a destination wedding with one potential perk: friends and family in the area who can act as point people in the planning process. Realize these helpful people have limits, but respectfully employ their help if they’re willing. If possible, also hire a professional wedding planner to complete major research, juggle vendors, relieve the stress of long-distance coordination, and ensure everything goes according to plan.

Perfect Your Plan

One of the biggest challenges for an out-of-town bride is finding the right local vendors for her style, preferences and budget, says Peter Merry, wedding specialist and author of “The Best Wedding Reception Ever!” (Sellers Publishing Inc., 2010). For this, a little help from parents may come in handy to research options and hear opinions first-hand from others in the area. Check “Best of” lists from the newspaper and other local sources, talk to old friends in the area, or request local references from vendors to see what people in the area think.

Even for brides with certain locations in mind, research must be done to make sure those sites that were special 10 years ago still exist, look like they used to, and won’t be undergoing any major construction projects, closings, or competing with other nearby events in the neighborhood around the time of the wedding – details out-of-towners wouldn’t be aware of.

Then it’s time for a visit. Almost all brides should plan to visit their hometown at least once initially to secure major vendors, such as the ceremony and reception locations, caterer, entertainment and photographer.

This face time is important in developing strong relationships with vendors rather than just becoming another name on the list of brides they work with.

Keep It Simple

Overwhelmed yet? To make it easier, Jodi R.R. Smith, president of Boston-area Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting, suggests choosing options with packages. For instance, a hotel for the ceremony and reception that offers in-house catering and a block of rooms for guests, which eliminates transportation between events. Simplicity can minimize the number of people and details to juggle from afar.
“I’m a big believer in less is more,” Smith says. “Anytime you use a package, it will save you a tremendous amount of time and energy.”

Though Merry recommends brides try to return home two or three times throughout the process, he says it depends on the style of the bride and how much control over every detail she desires. Either way, making each trip efficient can reduce the number needed. Take time to set up a to-do list beforehand with specific tasks to accomplish. Also make appointments with vendors far in advance to ensure they all fit into the trip’s limited time frame. Finally, know that you might need to make a lot of decisions in a short time span, so prepare yourself to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Once each initial meeting is complete and the deposits are made, set up the next meeting right away so it fits into your schedule. This is essential if you’re making another trip back and again need to balance time with vendors. Merry recommends a second meeting around three months from the day to establish how all the pieces of the day fit together and make final decisions on agenda, décor, menus and music lists.

Consider setting up a few Skype meetings if returning home isn’t a possibility. Merry says video conferencing works well for details like flowers and décor. It’s also thoughtful to establish expectations with vendors regarding how often you need to communicate to avoid nagging them. Collect your questions between calls or e-mails in order to have a few thorough and productive conversations, rather than daily calls about every tiny detail.

Tags: Brides365, wedding, hometown, planning from afar, out of town, simple wedding, planner