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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