Kathleen & Jon’s Backyard Wedding And Restaurant Reception In Atlanta

* Kathleen, Pre/Postnatal Fitness Expert & Jon *


Invited: 200 / Actually Attended: 150

Planned Budget: 


Actual Budget:


The ceremony was the hardest part to plan, but was easily the best part of our wedding. We chose to essentially “marry ourselves”—we did not have an officiant. We stood together and shared our beliefs about marriage, and about why we were choosing to marry each other (and why we were doing it in front of all of them). We then said our vows privately. In order to make it legal, we asked any guests that were interested to be ordained online before the wedding. We then put all their names in a bowl and pulled one out “live” during the ceremony and had them come join us up front (to the music from The Price is Right).

We wrote our own ceremony (the whole ceremony—we chose to not have any readings) after lots and lots and lots of conversation with each other. And lots of thinking. And more talking. And a Google Doc that we passed back and forth, often without talking about it. A few days before the wedding we printed it off and made big sweeping edits, and then on the morning of the wedding we printed it on cardstock (Lord knows I wasn’t going to try to memorize my wedding ceremony) and then practiced a few times. I will say, my husband was crazy nervous about having to do a whole load of public speaking on his wedding day. However, it was not just fine, it was perfect—the best part of the day.

My husband said if we had a wedding (vs. eloping, which we also discussed) he wanted it in the backyard (our backyard), so that’s what we did. We also ended up hosting the rehearsal dinner (taco truck and a bounce house!) at our home the night before the wedding. We both tend towards introversion, and I was pretty nervous about hosting our own wedding, but it ended up being really wonderful. Because it was at our home, I felt like we got away with a bunch of crazy non-wedding choices that might have looked out of place in other contexts. In terms of logistics, we paid for housekeepers the day before the wedding, and stocked up on lots of toilet paper, and it worked out just fine. We also just had our guests park on the street, which we were nervous about with 150 guests, but again, it was not a problem at all.

Food was also a huge priority for us. We hosted the reception at a restaurant near us. By having a morning wedding, we were able to use them during hours they would normally be closed. This worked very well—the food was incredible, and we didn’t have to pay any of the normal “extra” reception fees (no space rental, linens, etc.), just the tab. We got to create our dream menu that our guests loved (and we got a private chef tasting in the back of the restaurant while guests arrived and we got to be alone for thirty minutes). I highly, highly recommended the restaurant reception for logistical ease. Also, rather than wedding cake we had homemade ding dongs and boozy root beer floats, so, restaurant=awesome.

It was important to me that our families be honored, but that was tricky as my husband and I have pretty different relationships with our families. Because I wasn’t having anyone walk me down the aisle, I asked my dad to do an opening toast for the ceremony (we had donuts and champagne for folks to eat and drink at the wedding site). We chose not to have a bridal party, but instead asked all of our nieces and nephews to be our “yay parade” and walk down the aisle before us. I also had a sister-in-law gather wedding pictures from all of our married guests that we had on display—this served to both honor all the incredible marriages in our family, as well as acknowledge our guests whose marriages aren’t yet legally recognized. These things helped me feel like my family was being included, even if it wasn’t in any of the traditional ways.

While our wedding was different and original, it really wasn’t super DIY. I had two friends help with our invitations, I had a friend offer to make a piñata, but there were no late-night crafting sessions. Instead, my friends took all their wedding love/energy/help and threw me a series of amazing lady parties. This was one of the secrets of getting married that I didn’t know about—I felt loved and celebrated and (cheesy and true) showered in girlfriend love in the months before the wedding in a way that made my heart burst. This was big emotional help, something I found I needed and wanted more than help with crafts or “wedding projects.”

We did get a big discount on our amazing photographer (who is a dear friend of mine), and my auntie hosted a park brunch the morning after the wedding. We hired a day-of-coordinator who also managed to help us plan an eighty-person rehearsal dinner the week before our wedding, and who helped plan the day-after brunch. While she was incredibly helpful on the day of the wedding, she was also helpful in that she never batted an eye at any of our silly ideas.

Because we were lucky enough to have little budget stress and little family stress, I feel like we had the brain space and emotional energy to use wedding planning to tackle big meaning questions, and the then take our answers and create a ceremony that shared them. It wasn’t easy, but it was important. And looking around my backyard in the ten seconds after I officially married the man I love, to see all the other people I love cheering and jumping and crying and popping party poppers, transformed me in a way no other moment has.

This was the secret that I didn’t know about weddings and marriage—it is lucky thing upon lucky thing upon lucky thing. I feel lucky to have found a person I’m excited to spend my life with. I feel lucky he feels the same. I feel lucky to be legally able to marry the person I love. I feel lucky to have the means to throw a party to celebrate that love. And then on top of all that impossibly lucky stuff, I feel like I was given this perfect gift of a perfectly silly, wild, wonderful wedding. Lucky, lucky, lucky.

Where we allocated the most funds: The reception tab at the restaurant, the ceremony site fix-up, and the dress.

Where we allocated the least funds:  Invitations, flowers, decorations, favors, and centerpieces. (We spent about $100 total on all of those things combined.)

What was totally worth it: Writing our own ceremony, and hosting everyone at one of our favorite restaurants for the reception

What was totally not: Worrying about being worried or stressed on the wedding day. I didn’t stress at all, I just, well, joy-ed.

A few things that helped us along the way: Wine, friends, and everyone already expecting that our wedding would look and feel different.

My best practical advice to my planning-self: The “What Does it Mean” list is real. Spend time on these big questions, and less time on the minutia of the to-do list.

Favorite thing about the wedding: The super non-wedding-ish ceremony in our own backyard, with champagne, donuts, and all our favorite people cheering.

The Info—Photographer: Stacey Bode / Location: Atlanta, Georgia / Ceremony Venue: Kathleen and Jon’s Backyard / Reception Venue: The Shed at GlenwoodKathleen’s Dress: Jenny Packham, Allegra from Kelly’s Closet

Featured Sponsored Content

Please read our comment policy before you comment.

The APW Store is Here

APW Wedding e-shop

go find all our favorites from around the internet, and our free planning tools

Shop Now
APW Wedding e-shop

Planning a wedding?

We have all the planning tools you need right now.

Budget spreadsheets, checklists, and more...

Get Your Free Planning Tools