Emily & Alan

Backyard Quaker wedding

* Emily, Communications Manager & Alan, Product Support Technician *

Two months into dating the man who would become my husband, I met his father and stepmother over brunch at their home. I remember thinking, “I love these people. I want them to be my in-laws, and I want to get married at this house.”

One year later, we were engaged and planning a wedding in their front yard. An at-home wedding may look simple, but it involves a lot of logistics. You have to bring pretty much everything in and figure out bathrooms, parking, set up and clean up, and more. Fortunately, our crafty, capable families offered to help, so we had a veritable army in our corner.

The nice thing about getting married outside a traditional venue is that you can throw out all those things you’re “supposed” to do and only add back in the things you really care about. For us, this was our families and friends, a meaningful ceremony, a casual, fun atmosphere, great photography, and tasty food and booze.

We found an inexpensive caterer that specializes in delicious pig roasts and stocked our DIY bar with local microbrews, wine, and rum for Dark ’n’ Stormies. A friend leant us his DJ equipment and lights; we hung his giant disco ball over the driveway and used Spotify for the music. We worked with a florist to come up with inexpensive but fun centerpieces, and Alan strung globe lights between the trees.

My greatest fear during planning was the one thing I couldn’t control: the weather. When I woke up on Saturday, I pulled open the curtains and gasped. It was that perfect kind of late-summer day when it’s warm enough to go sleeveless but not hot, and the air is clear and the sky is bluer than you’d think possible.

Before our ceremony, Alan and I sat in the living room watching our friends and families arrive and listening to my father and uncles play recorder as they did at my parents’ wedding.

Alan is Quaker, and we chose to get married in the manner of Friends. We walked down the aisle together and sat in silence until we felt moved to say our vows. After I said mine, I almost forgot to kiss him! Then we signed our Quaker marriage certificate, which my best friend read aloud.

As we returned to silent worship, I looked around at all of our guests. From face to face, I could see our whole lives there, everyone we love the most, all in one place. And then they started to stand and speak. They shared the most wonderful, heart-warming thoughts and advice.

They talked about watching us grow and change over time individually, and especially since meeting each other. Alan’s uncle reminded us to draw on the experiences of our long-married relatives when we hit rough patches. His brother said that they would support our marriage, and also hold us to our promise.

Our original plan was to have time alone after the ceremony, but I was so moved by the thoughts people shared that I couldn’t imagine leaving. I felt like I wanted to stretch my arms around all ninety guests and hug them all together at once.

And then it was party time! Have you ever been to a disco party in a driveway? That’s what our reception felt like. After dinner, I kicked off my shoes and danced till the soles of my feet turned black and my hair fell out of its bun. And everybody danced with me.

Alan and I love cooking and food, and we view eating with loved ones as a sort of sacrament. So I made our wedding cake, and we cut and served the three tiers as our first act of hospitality as a married couple.

The process of planning our wedding helped us clarify our values and priorities as a couple: tradition with our own twist, family (and friends) first, unabashed sincerity, hospitality, and simplicity. We learned how to define our new baby family while honoring the people who made us. Our families were enormously supportive and helpful throughout the process, but we had some ideas they weren’t sure about, like my pink dress and making my own wedding cake. We listened to their concerns, but stuck to our guns.

One of my favorite parts of the night was when our photographer announced last call on the photo booth. My mom and dad grabbed their oldest friends, put on the silly hats and boa, and snapped a bunch of pictures. It’s always funny for me to remember that my parents aren’t always Responsible Adults. They’re just as weird and silly as I am.

Late in our reception, Alan reminded me that we hadn’t signed the actual marriage license yet, so we snuck into the house to make it legal. When we came back, we stopped to take it all in. A random group of our friends and families was doing a conga line around the driveway. Little groups of folks were clustered at the tables chatting with people they’d only just met. Alan put his arm around me and whispered, “Hey, Wife, we did it.” It was exactly the rockin’ Quaker cry-o-rama/backyard dance party we wanted.

The Info—Photographer: Kelly Prizel / Venue: Private family home / Emily’s earrings: OhKuol / Emily’s wedding band: Kate Szabone / Alan’s suit: Duchess Clothier / Alan’s shirt and tie: Brooks Brothers / Alan’s wedding band: Raven’s Refuge / Caterer: Blooming Glen Catering / Florist: Laurie Sasko Designs

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  • scw

    I made it to “Hey, Wife, we did it” before I started crying in the tech center at my school.

  • Tamar

    “Hey, Wife, we did it.”

    Silently sobbing in my cubicle.

    • Tamar

      Seriously, just a beautiful wedding. Thanks for sharing with us. <3

  • Annie

    tell us more about the pink dress! where is it from/was it custom made?

    • Emmy

      It’s a bridemaid’s dress, Wtoo 226 in Azalea. I bought it online, from Shop Joielle, and had a wonderful experience with them.

      • Vee

        AWESOME! It’s great to see some real pics of real brides who have gone down the ‘bridesmaid dress’ route. I’m considering it (for a combination of cost reasons, and also feeling like I’m wearing a costume in wedding dresses) and seeing you do it so awesomely has done a great deal to put my mind at ease…

  • ART

    oh wow, i love this. we’re doing ours in his parents’ front yard, too! i hope we have the same success you did!

  • Liz

    Your DRESS, your DRESS, OMG YOUR DRESS, it is the best thing I have ever seen.

  • Keeley

    I don’t comment often but have to say this is one of my favorite weddings I’ve read about on APW. It looks so awesome! I got a Kate Szabone wedding band, too. I love her jewelry and had been waiting forever to finally buy something from her. Congrats to you guys.

  • Jacky

    I recognize you from other online wedding communities and can’t help “aww”-ing at your photos and story. What a beautiful celebration.

  • Rachelle

    Um, yeah, I would have had the exact same thought about wanting to get married at their house! Absolutely beautiful!

  • Vee

    Emmy, you are so awesome! This has really been a great one for me to see because I too am planning on getting married in my front yard in a bridesmaid dress. :)

    Also, I *wish* I was Quaker (or was marrying one). I’ve been reading about Quaker weddings and they sound so beautiful. :) So much congrats on a job well done! SO BEAUTIFUL!

  • “rockin’ Quaker cry-o-rama/backyard dance party”

    I am pretty sure that is a phrase that has never been assembled anywhere else in the history of time. I love it.

  • mimi

    Beautiful! We got married at my husband’s family’s vacation cabin in the woods of northern Michigan, so we had similar challenges (but the added challenge of no one living there full time and a 3 hour drive any time we needed to get up there). It was hard work, but so worth it!

  • Elena

    I am a long-time lurker (like since my wedding almost 3.5 years ago – eek), but came out of the woodwork to say: 1) “Yay” for Blooming Glen Catering – We still rank our wedding food above all others. 2) I love your dress and sincerely wish that I would have sprung for a more colorful option.

  • Class of 1980

    I wish I could have been at this wedding. It might be my favorite.

  • Carbon Girl

    The Quaker wedding ceremony sounds absolutely beautiful. This is definitely a new tradition to me, and it sounds so heartfelt and powerful.

  • Aileen

    A good friend of mine was married in a Quaker ceremony this summer, and although the details were completely different (married in the meeting house, etc) the spirit sounds pretty similar. There, too, people speaking during the silent worship was really meaningful. I’ve heard a few people since say that that they’d be too nervous to let any guest just say anything, but I have yet to hear any horror stories. Even at my friend’s wedding, the uncle who’s on a completely different religious/political spectrum from the rest of the family just said something meaningful and sweet. Sounds like you had a similar experience! What a beautiful wedding.

  • SJ

    Oh my heart.
    As soon as I saw your dress I gasped out loud. It’s achingly lovely and FUN.

    This was such a wonderful post. You’ve got strangers crying all over the internet. :)

    Congratulations to you and yours!

  • Megan In NY

    This is FANTASTIC on so many different levels!!! The dress, the at-home scenario, the Quaker ceremony. Awesome!!! Congratulations!

  • MissDB

    I loved this so much. How beautiful and perfect.

  • If the OP is still reading comments: How did you handle the legalities of the marriage license, i.e., did someone sign it as an officiant even though they didn’t actually lead the ceremony? Or did you get married in Colorado? Since no one comes to mind as a significant person in our lives to be the officiant, and although not Quaker I went to a college with Quaker roots, I really like the concept of the ceremony, without an officiant leading it. But from my research CO is the only state that doesn’t require an officiant to sign the marriage license, but Oregon, where as are, seems to not have any requirements for the officiant to do, someone just has to sign as an officiant, but essentially they’re just a third witness.

    • Emmy

      We got married in Pennsylvania, the only other state where self-uniting marriages are legal, thanks to its Quaker heritage. So we just requested a self-uniting license at our county courthouse. Your best bet is probably to call whatever office grants marriage licenses in your area and ask their advice.

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