Wedding Graduate: A Backyard Wedding

Our next wedding graduate is Katie from A Backyard Wedding. She’s here to tell you what she learned throwing a simple, chic, affordable wedding in her parents’ backyard. We don’t all have access to a wedding-ready backyard (I wish!!) but we all can learn something from Katie and Paul about using what we do have available to us (both literally and metaphorically). So, without further ado, the backyard bride herself:
Soon after Paul and I were engaged, our parents offered to help us out with the wedding costs. In total we figured that we could spend twenty thousand on wedding related things. I excitedly called every barn doubling as wedding venue I could think of in our area and set up appointments. Someone gifted me a Martha Stewart Wedding and I poured through the pages of Monique Lhuillier dresses and letter pressed invitations. But as I gathered ideas for the wedding I realized that 20k probably wasn’t going to be enough to cover everything that I’d tagged as inspiration. And that thought kind of horrified me. I talked to Paul and he agreed that he was also uncomfortable spending that much on a wedding. So we cancelled our appointments to look at barns (which are shockingly expensive to rent in our area of California) and regrouped with a new budget of $10,000 (with $10,000 extra set aside for a honeymoon, our new house, and education expenses).

While my dad had jokingly suggested my parent’s house as a wedding location, with our new budget I figured a free location couldn’t hurt. Paul and I went up for a weekend so we could think about it, and pretty immediately realized it was perfect.

Having a backyard wedding presents a whole set of issues that an event venue would usually take care of. Where do people park and pee? What happens if it’s boiling hot or raining? But it also gave us the flexibility to do whatever we wanted. Making our own food and wine? Dancing until midnight with amplified music? Not a problem if it’s your own backyard. Guests are too poor to stay in a motel? Let them camp in the yard! The possibilities were exciting and overwhelming.

There were a few things that we immediately knew we wanted to do, and then everything else flowed (or was cut) from there:
1) We knew we wanted to stay as “green” as possible. We tried to stick to local foods, flowers grown without pesticides, and things that could be reused (dishes, linens, decorations).
2) We both agreed on a vintage-eclectic look for decorations. We love thrift stores, garage sales, and antique malls so it gave us an excuse to go sift through old stuff every weekend looking for deals. We really miss that part of wedding planning now, and I can’t say I know many couples that really miss part of wedding planning.
3) We wanted to do as much as possible ourselves (and with the help of friends).

Sticking to those three priorities really set the tone for our wedding. There were definitely moments were I panicked and tried to talk Paul into letterpress invitations, a high profile wedding photographer, or tried to convince myself that I needed that awesome $150 hair fascinator. But once I got over the moments of panic, I usually realized that I could make something I’d like near as much (if not more) myself.

And there were times when things just didn’t work. Like when I tried to gocco our wedding certificate—a disaster that ate up several expensive sheets of art paper, a few of our precious gocco screens, and got ink all over our hardwood floors. I ended up printing the certificate using our computer printer. Not exactly the heirloom art piece I was imagining, but it served its purpose, and we still hung it on our wall!

I’m also a bit of a control freak, and handing over some of the important details of our wedding to our friends and family was hard for me. Paul will vouch for the fact that I begged him to give our DJ-friend a list of songs to play and avoid (I don’t think that ever happened). And trusting our wedding ceremony to our friends was another leap of faith.In the end, it was the contributions of our family and friends that stand out to me when I think about our wedding. Having a Quaker-style ceremony with a good friend officiating and our guests speaking was a beautiful moment that we’ll never forget. The food that my mom made for dinner was amazing (as was going to farm stands with her in the days before the wedding to buy the food). Our DJ kept people dancing all night, even though he only played a few of the songs I thought I needed to hear on my wedding day. And generally pulling together last minute details with my husband, friends, and family in the days before the wedding was a wonderful, memorable bonding experience that I wouldn’t give up for the world.

All photos by Bradford M. Shepard Photography

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  • The voice of reason in a sea of platinum wedding bridezillas. I love the sweet touches of this wedding.

  • a backyard wedding has always been one of my favorite reads! i hope this post inspires more and more sane, low(ish)cost, and beautiful wedings than you already do with a practical wedding..

  • So many of us practical brides have small budgets out of need. It’s so refreshing to hear about a couple that actually had more resources available to them and yet chose a down-to-earth wedding at home, pulled together with the help of family and friends. Truly inspiring.

  • Meg

    I think more of us have smaller budgets by choice then you might think, though it would be an interesting topic of discussion.

    As always, what’s important to me is not how much a couple chooses to spend (we all have very different situations) but how they choose to spend it. And this is such an inspiring example of using the resources that we have, and what really matters at the end of the day.


  • Anonymous

    Wow, what a great posting. Could you please reveal where you found your dress? It’s exactly what I’ve been searching for, to no avail! -Ashcat

  • Such charming touches.

  • love it. katie is definitely a kindred soul…i love her blog & her wedding priorities were very similar to ours…

    so sweet.

  • i adore this blog.

    anytime i need to refocus on what’s important in a wedding, i go to Backyard Wedding. it’s so enchanting to read about a couple who can figure out what is important to them, and be able to stick to it.

    lovelovelove it.

  • I also miss the thrifting/collecting part of the planning :)

  • very cute! it all seems to have fallen into place so nicely! :)

  • It’s funny you should say that about your DJ playing only a few of the songs you thought you would want to hear on your wedding day…

    I was such a control freak to my DJ for my wedding, I think he threw out all my emails/lists/edited lists/re-writes of lists/suggestions that he played what he wanted.

    Sorry to my husband that he played the Chicken Dance. My fault for being a total pain in his butt!!!

  • sam

    Hi Meg, did you have a wedding certificate made? We are having a Quaker wedding and looking for an artist to create a custom piece that all of our guests can sign. Any advice?