Before confirming that your wedding will be at home, you need to investigate which regulations for your at-home wedding you need to oblige. These can vary from region to region, so check your local ordinances and make sure all of your bases are covered.
Permits for Your Home Wedding
When inquiring with these local jurisdictions, take detailed notes on the information given to you, including the name of the person you spoke to, in case you need to refer back to it later. Most local regulations about tenting are written for public events that last more than one day and where tickets or alcohol is sold. Presumably, your wedding is none of the above, so the rules might be slightly different for your permit process.
The health department may have requirements for your wedding restroom trailer. The permits office may want to inspect your generator, and the zoning department may want to inspect your wedding tent set-up along with the fire marshal.
Wedding Tent Permits
Tent permits often ask that you provide your tent floor plans for the wedding, which shall include locations of exit signs and fire extinguishers, as well as copies of the tent’s fire resistance certificate. Your tent company will likely offer you the option to compile and submit the permit application on your behalf for a fee. I advise that you consider taking them up on it; preparing the paperwork can be time-consuming and stressful if you’ve never done it before.
You may be subject to a fire marshal inspection shortly before the event begins in order for the permit to be issued. Be sure to assign someone to handle this inspection, and make sure that someone from the tent company is still on-site to deal with any issues that the inspector might have. I once was tied up for over an hour dealing with propane heaters that the fire marshal was unhappy with.
If you are going to have candles or other exposed flame in the tent at your wedding, including those under chafing dishes on a dinner buffet, you may be required to get a separate permit for open flame. I have learned that fire marshals are very particular about open flame, and will often have an example of what they deem an appropriate container for a burning votive candle. I recommend that you save yourself the time, and plan to go with battery-powered candles from the beginning. There are nice battery-powered tea lights that offer the same flickering effect as regular candlelight. And a reputable caterer will know how to keep food hot without using chafing dishes.
Noise Considerations for Your Home Wedding
If you’re going to have a DJ or band out in the yard, you cannot overlook the noise your event will create. Check your local noise ordinances to see what they mandate; usually, there is a time frame during which your DJ or band should not be playing at all. (Where I live, it’s 11 pm to 7 am.) Even if you aren’t technically breaking the law with regard to the noise, you do want to be courteous to your wedding neighbors.
If they decide to complain to the police, the police will come to your event, which is a wedding experience most people would prefer to avoid. If bothering your neighbors with the noise is a concern for you, I recommend that you use a DJ, since bands are louder by nature. It is far easier to ask a DJ to turn down the volume and keep it down – band members have to match the noise level of the drums.
If you live under a particularly intense HOA, you may want to revisit those regulations before your at-home wedding. For instance, there might be parking rules to know before making valet or bus plans for your at-home wedding.
As you can see, there might be a lot of special event regulations for your at-home wedding to consider. Be sure to do your homework!
Interested in more wedding planning basics? I’ve got a planning timeline and a sample budget for at-home weddings. I would love to help you with your at-home wedding, so please reach out if you have any questions. I can come to you, even if you are not in the DC area, or I can consult remotely.
Photo made by Katie Stoops Photography