A Comprehensive Guide to At Home Events
It is no secret that COVID has changed the game in the live events industry, and we will be seeing the impact for years to come. Many states still have, and will likely continue to have, restrictions on gatherings as well as different rules for indoor versus outdoor events. As a result, some people are hesitant to plan their events at indoor venues and more and more are thinking about utilizing their homes for their special celebrations. Excluding microweddings (more on that to come!), the tips below are geared toward larger celebrations in your home or a rental home that is not necessarily built for large events.
There are a lot of benefits to having an event in your home as opposed to a private venue.
However there are also a lot of factors to take into consideration when having a larger event in your home and we strongly recommend hiring an event planner to assist you. It’s a lot of work hosting an event, and if you were working with a venue you would have a venue coordinator to assist you with the details. An event planner is going to be able to help you navigate the trickier logistics of your event and take much of the stress out of the planning process.
If you're considering having an event in your home, we have put together a guide to help you. If you’re overwhelmed, give us a call and see how we can help!
Photographer: Michelle Lange Photography
Just like if you were hosting an event at a facility, the first thing you need to do is figure out how many people you’re inviting and expect to attend. Every decision that you’ll make moving forward will hinge this factor. Start with a rough idea of your guest list, then account for 10-15% of that list to decline your invitation. Perhaps more if a large portion of your list is coming in from out of town.
Once you know your guest count, consider your space. Is it going to be a primarily indoor or outdoor event, or a hybrid of the two? In the Philadelphia area the weather is unpredictable, so if you want to utilize your outdoor space we strongly recommend renting a tent. Tenting will shield you from the unforgiving summer sun, and if it rains the show can go on. In winter months you can potentially more than double your usable space by using tents with walls and space heaters. Rental companies in your area will have a variety of options for tenting, varying in size and shape.
Speaking of space, the best venues take the flow of the event into consideration in their design, and you should too. Where do the guests enter? If entering through the front door, is it clearly indicated where they should go next? Is there a place for them to hang their coats or a person to take it for them? If you are anticipating guests will bypass the door and go through a side gate, is there any signage to indicate they should do so? If it’s the kind of event where guests are likely to bring gifts, be sure there is an easily identifiable place for them to put it down upon entering. You never want your guests to stand around awkwardly because they don’t know what to do with themselves upon arrival.
The next consideration for flow should be the bars. Typically, when guests arrive the first thing they do after getting settled is get a drink. If it’s an indoor and outdoor event, consider adding two bars. If it’s a larger outdoor event, perhaps two bars outside will help the flow and ensure guests can get drinks quickly and efficiently.
It’s unlikely that you have furniture you need for a large event lying around your home, so inquire with the rental company about their table options. For an appealing look stagger the size (and if possible the shape) of the tables. For a cocktail party, mix high tops with low rounds and conversation areas. Many rental companies will have lounge furniture available in addition to the standard banquet tables. Also, if they don’t offer linens your event planner or a linen company will advise to the appropriate linen size for the tables. You want your linens to just skim the floor, not show the table legs or pool on the floor.
Photographer: Kristine Herman
Once you have an idea of how many tables you’ll have you can consult with a florist. You should be prepared for the conversation with not only the number of tables but the table sizes as well as the arrangements should be in proportion to the table. Candles and uplighting can really change the look of a space, and the more the merrier where candles are concerned! If using outdoor space, twinkle lights and edison bulbs will make the event come alive after dark. And don’t leave out the pool! Pools can really add to the charm of an event with some floating arrangements or candles which can be weighted or anchored so they stay in place.
If you aren’t a chef by trade, leave the food for large parties to the professionals. Catering companies will know how much food to prepare for your guests and will have the space in a commercial commissary kitchen to prepare it. Even if you DIY everything else yourself (which is a big job in itself), do not do this on your own. If you want a home made touch, pick one dish to make. If dessert is your thing, make a dessert to supplement what you order. You can also consider making a dessert and individually packaging it as a favor for your guests.
In addition to your main catering staple, there are many other fun food options you can add to enhance your event. Bringing in an ice cream truck, or a taco truck can be a fun addition to an event! For example, Allaire Rentals, a local Philadelphia rental company offering and extraordinary collection of eclectic modern event rentals offers an irresistible Gourmet Cotton Candy Cart. The options are endless and this really gives you the opportunity to offer your guests a unique experience that they likely have not had at other events.
There are many resources out there to serve as a guide for purchasing enough alcohol for a private party. First you’ll need to decide if it will be self-serve or if you want to hire professional bartenders. If the former, keep the offerings simple: don’t expect guests to make that craft rosemary gimlet cocktail! Stick with beer, wine, and spirit staples, and don’t forget the mixers! For a more upscale feel hire professional bartenders to serve your guests. Your drinks will be more consistent and you won’t have to worry about guests over serving themselves. And don't forget about your non-drinkers. Be sure to offer a selection of chilled nonalcoholic drinks to quench your guests' thirst and keep them hydrated.
Photographer: Katie Fri Photography
In addition to professional bartenders, talk to your caterer about hiring professional servers as well. For an additional fee you can have staff come and set up your food and keep it fresh, clean up empty plates, take out the trash, and clean up after the event. If you really want to relax and enjoy, this is absolutely worth the price!
Entertainment (and Noise Restrictions)
Depending on your location, you may need to be considerate of your neighbors. Blasting Journey at midnight isn’t going to make you very popular with the people next door! Live guitar or piano is a less loud option, or if you decide to go with a DJ just remember to have them drop the music a little after 10 pm. There are no shortage of amazing playlists out there for any type of gathering, so if you opt to be your own DJ, consider popping on a premade playlist that'll keep guests entertained throughout the night.
Beyond music there are other ways to keep your guests entertained during your event! Cigar rollers, professional swing dancers, live event artists...you name it! There are a lot of unique options available to you.
Parking: Do you have enough parking to accommodate your guests? Hiring a valet service is an option if you need to have cars parked far from your home.
Restrooms: Do you have enough bathrooms for your guests or will there be a long line? Believe it or not there are upscale restroom rentals that go far beyond the concert porta potty option.
Electricity: Depending on the lighting, musician’s needs, etc. you may need to rent a generator. Ask your rental company if the one they offer is a silent generator, otherwise it will be distractingly loud.
Liability: Your homeowners policy will cover the usual accidents that could befall a guest while at your home, but you should be careful of over serving alcoholic beverages or your guests drinking and driving. Having a car service’s number at the ready can save the day! You can also purchase an event policy to cover the additional risk. Ask your insurance broker what your best options are!
There are a number of logistical considerations for home events, but don’t be discouraged! Having an event at your home can create some wonderful memories you will treasure for years to come. And if you need help, we’re here for you! Reach out to us and see how we can make your event as unique and smooth as possible.