A “TINY HOME” WEDDING GUIDE (FROM THE BRIDE)
by WHITNEY LEIGH MORRIS
of THE TINY CANAL COTTAGE
My husband and I live in a 362 sqft home in Venice Beach, California. We’ve been here for over five years, and were engaged for two of those.
Every time we attempted to plan our wedding, I would shut down. It was too overwhelming. There were so many considerations and moving pieces, and the price tag was astronomical from the onset. It wasn’t until we decided to host our wedding at home that the process began to feel even remotely doable (and enjoyable).
I can now say from experience that hosting your wedding at home is an exceptional opportunity to make your special day that much more meaningful. Plus, it’s a smart way to save some money for your newly-unified future.
As straightforward as we kept our ceremony, it was still a DIY home wedding — meaning it required a lot of work. But the process was both manageable and delightful, and we pulled it off without a coordinator or event planning company.
Here’s how we did it.
home + garden prep
Since we hosted the ceremony and brunch at our home, we started preparing well in advance. Adam and I both have full-time jobs (he works at a digital advertising agency, and I run a small creative firm from home), so I needed help getting the space ready. I worked with TaskRabbit for such to-dos, and their Taskers helped me prepare the cottage and garden ahead of time. It ended up being an effective and flexible team effort that was easy to coordinate. There were no budget surprises at any point. Everything was clear-cut, and cost only a fraction of what a traditional wedding/event planning team would have. By the time our wedding day rolled around, we’d completed all of the prep-work necessary, and could spend our time on the day-of decor before partaking in the festivities.
Think twice before assuming you need to rent furniture. We simply put out some of our regular folding patio chairs and benches for guests who needed to sit for our brief ceremony, and it worked perfectly. We waited until 10 minutes before our vows to set up the seating, because the garden and home are too small for those to have been in place the entire time. We said our vows “in the round,” with guests on all sides (within the house and outside in the garden).
We repurposed the furniture throughout the home and garden for the event. (For example, my desk was converted to a light-bites buffet, and then cleaned off later for the guest book.) Passed food and beverage service can be tricky in tight spaces, so we wanted the main bar to be centrally located. For this, we opted to use a tall garden bar with interior storage. The bar was the only new piece of furnishing we acquired for the wedding. It was big enough to accommodate all our beverage options, and provided the perfect spot for the ceremony bartender.
We didn’t have too much decorating to do specifically for the event, as we wanted to keep our small space uncomplicated and natural.
For the bar area, we translated aspects of the menu into upcycled decor, which helped save us a bit of space and money. Instead of buying typical event vases, I used bottles and glassware from the companies whose beverages we were serving to display florals and communicate beverage options. (Small space bar tip: Use a Soda Stream — it carbonates water in seconds, and cuts back on tons of extra bottles!)
Other than styling the bar, we simply did what we do normally, and filled our usual glassware with clippings and market finds. Adam and I opted to make our own arrangements, and we visited the Los Angeles Farmers Market in Downtown LA to get all of our flowers and branches. We spent about $150 at the market– and that greenery was used for both gifting and decorating the cottage. (And we still had lots of leftovers!)
Sprucing up bland areas for events can cost hundreds or thousands dollars, and commonly require delivery, staff and coordination. Instead, we dressed up blank spaces (like barren exterior walls) with @cb2 beaker vases ($2.95 each) and simple branches from the market. This helped us transform larger spaces for under $40.
The two decor elements we hired professionals for were the doorway garland and the photo backdrop. The fresh, natural garland was 26 ft long, and looked wild, alive and absolutely gorgeous. It made a huge impact while remaining appropriate to the setting. We also worked with Art Design Surface to create a custom-painted backdrop canvas for professional and iPhone photo opportunities.
translating the simple-living philosophy into our attire
Adam and I took an informal approach to the wedding overall— we didn’t have an aisle walk, and we were present to greet our attendees upon their arrival at our home. We informed our guests via the website that the attire was “Festive Casual”… which basically meant, “Wear Whatever You’d Like.” In keeping with the relaxed vibe, we wanted to wear comfortable clothing that upheld the sense of occasion without being too serious or too delicate. This not only allowed us to move comfortably around our small space, but it was also appropriate for the overall vibe.
SUIT by Combatant Gentlemen
DRESS by Coralie Beatrix on Etsy
LIVE, PLANTABLE SUCCULENT RING from We Are the Makers
NUDE WEDGES + A HANDY BACKUP PAIR OF HANDMADE FLATS by Shop Painted Bird
TEXAS KIMONO IN IVORY by Show Me Your Mumu
NAVY & CORAL BOWTIE COLLAR via Etsy for #StanleeStubs
registry – saving space in the moment, and in the long run
We used Honeyfund for our registry. We didn’t want to do a registry in the first place, but everyone kept sweetly asking what to get us, and we realized that it was actually kinder to our guests if we provided them with some help, rather than continually insisting that they skip the presents. I’ve heard some folks say that they find non-traditional registries to be tacky, but I completely disagree. Small homes require specific product (or a lack thereof), and people would have ended up wasting their hard-earned money on items we can’t fit in our home, or they would’ve gotten us gift cards to help us buy stuff that we just don’t need. Honeyfund was the perfect way for us to start our baby and travel funds– and since those are the things that are the most important to us, our guests were completely happy to gift accordingly. The Honeyfund also helped us keep our tiny house clean and uncluttered during the wedding, as there were no piles of presents taking up vital counter and seating space.
keeping it simple in the home to help stay clearheaded and present
Adam and I heard many stories about people being so stressed or in such a daze on their wedding day that they ended up forgetting most of it. We didn’t want that to happen to us. Once the event started and our guests appeared (and they began arriving extra early, which apparently happens frequently with home weddings), we stopped working and started interacting. We were exhausted, of course, but we remember ever wonderful moment, and wouldn’t change a single one.