In the film “Under the Tuscan Sun” an American buys an Italian villa in Cortona. Yearning to find fulfillment, she sighs “I want a wedding in this house.”  In most cultures, historically, weddings were held at family homes rather than inside a church. Many families believe “home sweet home” wins, hands-down, as the best place to hold a wedding ceremony, but that doesn’t mean things will take care of themselves. Here is a checklist (with a few recommended helpers) to go through before sending out the invites.

Five Golden Rings: Budget
Weddings cost money, even if held at a free venue. Consider your budget. Then follow Suze Orman’s Golden Rule:  People first, then money, then things. This means take care of your needs first. Then figure out what you can reasonably afford to spend on the wedding event. “Things” take the lowest priority–things like brand names of the wine, the designer of a dress you’re only going to wear once, and the mass of the ice sculpture. The size of a diamond has nothing to do with the size of love between two souls. Wedding planners are not just for the big bang weddings. They can be a huge help in coordinating the logistics and the budget of the big day. Gabbi Grace Events are local, and can give you the info and peace of mind that the event will stay in your desired price range.

READ MORE: CDC: New Listeria Outbreak Tied To 23 Illnesses, 1 Death

Hours: Tues to Fri — 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Weekend and evening appointments available by appointment

Four Calling Birds: Getting the Word Out
Prepare a newsletter and send it out a few months before the wedding. This helps alert out-of-towners to make reservations in advance and plan a mini-vacation. Don’t scrimp on the wedding invitations. They are the one memento that people keep. Invitations set the tone for the entire celebration. Call loved ones on the phone to invite them to the wedding. It’s the classy thing to do. Simply sending an invitation with a registry suggests the couple is only seeking gifts. Hand-address the invitations and use commemorative stamps. Start a free wedding page on The Knot, so those who cannot attend can at least express congratulations. Posting the wedding program and wedding photos online will help keep shut-ins from feeling left out of your special day. Linmer Press is located a ways from the city but ships all over, and has everything from save the dates to custom stationary to get the word out.

Related: Best Wedding Registry Spots In Detroit.

Three French Hens: Food
Kentucky fried chicken, BBQ, or Coq au vin? The main reason people go to weddings is for the fun party, the drinks, and the food. Decide which foods are the family favorites and be certain both sides of the family have their culture represented. If one family is Japanese and the other American, don’t serve just sushi. Choose three main dishes to be safe. When contacting caterers, never state the function is a wedding. That automatically doubles the price. State your function as a family event. Get everything in writing. Some vendors will pull a fast one on you once they learn it’s a wedding and change the prices from chicken feed to highway robbery. Get a contract for everything with as much detail as possible. Matt Prentice Restaurant Group offers a wide range of offerings depending on the size and budget of the event.

READ MORE: Troubling Arsenic Levels Found At Some Detroit Demolition Sites

Two Turtle Doves: Confections and Party Favors
Allot two chocolate favors for every guest, such as a 9 inch tulle circle bagging chocolate turtles, or a couple of bars of Dove chocolate. Don’t even think of wasting your money on kitsch wedding junk that people are going to throw into the trash as soon as they get home. These include the clear thick plastic keychain with a photo stuck inside, a subscription to the student newspaper at your alma mater, a mini plastic champagne cup with the wedding date stamped on it (so the next time they drink champagne from it they’ll be reminded of your wedding), cheap plastic swans, a picture frame with sea shells glued around it, or personalized stress balls shaped like a bell. Just skip the plastic and upgrade the chocolate. Gayle’s Chocolates has high end offerings to satisfy any sweet tooth, and are one of many local chocolate shops that can provide custom offerings to a large group.

Hours: Mon to Wed, Fri and Sat—10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Thu— 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sun—11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Related:  Best Chocolates In Detroit

A Partridge in a Pear Tree: Flowers and Decorations
Landscaping before a backyard wedding need not cost an arm and a leg.  Perfectly timed, weddings that occur when pear or cherry trees are in radiant bloom set a magical stage. Annuals in great condition can usually be found at Eastern Market. As the day wears long, the prices go down. A flat of flowers can cost as low as $2 toward the end of the day. Let the season dictate the decor. Fall weddings are particularly colorful when bright mums fill the flower garden. Now the kicker: A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. It’s better to have a small real advantage than the possibility of a greater one. After a wedding ceremony has been performed in a backyard garden, pretty much everything around becomes a natural heirloom. Sharing peony shoots with your future daughter or granddaughter for her wedding is priceless. Blumz is a local designer with traditional and exotic flower arrangements, and they specialize in weddings.

Hours: Mon to Fri— 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sat— 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

It’s quite possible to have a champagne wedding on a ginger-ale budget by prioritizing the important from the fluff.    

MORE NEWS: Michigan Republican Party Submits Nominees For Election Board

Romero Anton Montalban-Anderssen is the winner of the 2009 first prize in journalism from the Detroit Working Writers Organization. He earned a Juris Doctor degree from Wayne State University School of Law. His work can be found at