Say “I do” at Home | Tips for Throwing a Fabulous SML At-Home wedding


When you’re a bride or groom with a personal connection to Smith Mountain Lake and access to a gorgeous waterfront home, why look elsewhere for the perfect place to say, “I do”?

smlwedding-2Between the beautiful backdrop of the water and the cozy, intimate atmosphere of being at someone’s house, an at-home lake wedding simply cannot be beat. If you’d love a lake home wedding, or want to encourage a bride or groom you know to take advantage of an at-home opportunity, consider these planning tips.


Before you launch a master plan for a barefoot-on-the-beach ceremony, there are a few key details to think through when you’re planning an at-home wedding at SML. Because your choice location probably isn’t built for large-scale hospitality, you’ll have to get these squared away before you can move on with other more exciting aspects of your to-do list.

The guest list

We know you can’t wait for all your loved ones to come together to celebrate your big day, but all those names can really add up. Besides immediate family, there are out-of-town friends, college roommates, co-workers, extended family and more you would like to invite.

Take some time to process your guest list to make sure the lake home you’re hoping to utilize can handle the final count. Also be sure to run the list by parents of the bride and groom in case they are expecting to add a few names of their own.


A four-car lot can be seriously deficient for a 100-plus guest list, but there are ways to make sure parking isn’t a major problem on your wedding day.

Most Smith Mountain Lake communities have ample parking once you factor in stretches of shoulder space and grassy areas. Many also have public parking areas close enough for walking or golf cart escorts to and from the venue.

Worried the neighbors will complain? Chances are, if you or the homeowners give them a kind warning, they’ll be excited enough about a wedding in the neighborhood to forgive some extra traffic for one day.

If you have guests who live at the
lake and are able to boat over, that can free up some car parking spaces (assuming there is ample docking available). Another idea is to organize a boat chauffeur service where guests park at a public boat launch and a friend or neighbor shuttles them by boat to and from the wedding venue.


What about the weather?

Since an at-home wedding lends to spending most of the time outdoors, you’ll want to think through a rainy-day alternative right from the start.

Most backyards are large enough to accommodate an elegant white tent, and rental companies can help you choose the proper size. With some companies, you may be able to wait until a few weeks before the big day to request the tent rental, giving you the option to check the weather before paying for that rental. However, if your date is during peak wedding season (late spring through early fall), you may not want to run the risk of a low tent supply when you really need it.

Another perfectly good Plan B is to keep things inside. If the house has a charming foyer or elegant staircase, either could work well for a ceremony. Allowing guests to mingle in any of the main living areas is a great alternative for an indoor reception. 


The fun part

Now that you’re confident an at-home lake wedding will work for you, it’s time to plan the special ceremony and reception you’ve dreamed of since you were a kid.

Sentimental ceremony

Smith Mountain Lake homes are made for water views, so start by finding the best ones on the property. Whether it’s a deck facing Smith Mountain, smlwedding-4a quaint grove of trees or an open field backed by water, the ceremony should take place wherever the most picturesque backdrop can be found. Don’t be afraid to get creative with guest seating, too. In lieu of standard folding chairs, opt for benches, hay bales or tasteful patio furniture. After all, your non-traditional wedding location lends to atypical arrangements.

As for the ceremony itself, the at-home vibe already gives it a sentimental feel. Consider keeping it simple, yet sweet by involving family and friends in the program and avoiding a complicated production.

Relaxed reception

In the backyard of a gorgeous lake house, guests will feel like you’ve invited them over for a casual evening—no matter how formally everyone is dressed. Let them spread out and enjoy a relaxed atmosphere. Pick a place you like for the band or DJ, dance floor, and cake cutting and let guests drink, eat and take in the views from decks, patios, the dock, fire pit or pool area.

While a sit-down dinner can work well if the house or yard is spacious enough for tables and chairs, it’s likely wiser to opt for light refreshments, heavy hors-d’oeuvres or a buffet, which is easier to pull off in a house or yard.

Savor Smith Mountain Lake

You may already know all there is to love about Smith Mountain Lake, but chances are many of your guests will be experiencing its charms for the first time. Let the lake help you host the best wedding your loved ones have ever attended by incorporating it into as much of the celebration as possible.

smlwedding-5Give the tourist treatment

Smith Mountain Lake brides and grooms love to show guests their beloved lake in the days just before and after their wedding celebration. Create a tourism itinerary of the main places you’d love your out-of-town friends and family to see during their stay. Gather maps, brochures and ideas by stopping by the Smith Mountain Lake Visitor Center at Bridgewater Plaza. Use them to create a welcome bag, which can be enhanced with handy gifts like sunglasses, sunscreen, water bottles and snacks for boating and sightseeing.

Let everyone take the leap

During the reception, let guests—especially kids-—don swimsuits and celebrate in true SML style with swimming and floating. Let your loved ones know swimming will be allowed during the reception and provide towels and signs to the appropriate changing area for the best post-ceremony entertainment they could ask for. Consider hiring a lifeguard or two from a nearby community pool so that parents can continue to enjoy the party while children swim. Life jackets are a must! Ask friends and neighbors to borrow them in a variety of sizes so everyone finds the perfect fit.

Schedule your own lake time

As a busy bride or groom, the last thing you may be thinking about is stopping to enjoy the lake for yourself. You may have grown up here or visit often, but you’ll want your wedding memories to be of more than just the big event. Schedule some time to get out on the boat, ride jet skis or relax on the dock. Create lake wedding memories you’ll want to repeat for anniversaries to come.

Discover vast resources for local caterers, florists, photographers and more via the SML Regional Chamber’s website at

Thanks to David and Valerie Rasmussen and Riley and Ashley Hodges for sharing their wedding photos with HOME magazine.

Photography provided by: Nicole Colwell Photography and Taylor Made Photography