Jason and I got engaged in January of 2011, but long before that, I knew that I wanted a backyard wedding. I had this image in my mind of a hayfield with just the ceremony site mowed out: simple white chairs, a rustic arbor, country flowers. I had no real experience with wedding planning beyond an interest in wedding blogs like The Broke-Ass Bride, Green Wedding Shoes and Wedding Chicks. I had a lot to learn.
One of the most stressful parts of planning our homestead wedding was lining up the vendors. I knew we’d need tents and chairs, though I had no idea just how much tents and chairs for 100 would cost (roughly $1,500). Beyond that, there was food to consider. I definitely wanted to work with someone local, but it was hard to find someone willing to cater to an outdoor wedding for 100 in July that was 15 miles outside of town with very few options for electricity and water. I was lucky enough to discover the catering branch of our local U Maine system, which produced delicious meals for under $15/plate and offered a reduced child’s rate. They were also more than willing to help us with linens and extra glassware rentals to cut back on waste.
Strangely, the least stressful part about our wedding was the marriage, itself. I’ve said this to a few of my friends, but marrying Jason was the first big decision I’ve ever made that I was 100% certain about. I couldn’t wait to be his wife and partner, and my confidence in that really carried me through the piles of mundane tasks that awaited us.
There are a few things that I feel we did right that saved us time, money and anxiety. By allowing ourselves a full, 18 month engagement, I was able to do all of the big planning (tent, food, dress) a year in advance, allowing for a much more relaxed few months before the event. We also decided to eschew the wedding planner that several family members suggested we get. While this meant having to deal with more of the details, myself, it saved money and really let me interact with my own wedding and ensure that nothing got too out of hand.
By hiring a local caterer who served on china, glass and silver outside and choosing two kegs over bottles of beer, we were able to create no more than two 30 gallon bags of trash (including gift wrap), despite the number of guests and scope of the event. We were careful to recycle what we could, but this lack of trash was important to me. I was also careful in creating wedding signs that could either be passed forward to friends getting married or used around our homestead. The Christmas lights are being donated to the school I teach at for an event I host every year, and the cupcake tower has already been loaned out to another bride.
Jason’s family provided all of our flowers, from the wild flowers on the tables to the four huge buckets of white hydrangeas from their gardens that provided bridesmaids’ flowers and dressing for our homemade arbor. This not only saved money but provided a really nice connection to those we love as we were able to integrate them into our ceremony and the day. And rather than doing vases on the tables, we used quart mason jars for the wild flowers and pint mason jars for the dianthus that held the table numbers and can, ultimately, be reused.
And despite numerous horrified family members and friends, we successfully made our own wedding cake (117 cupcakes and a small cutting cake). We used as many local ingredients as we could, and it was, surprisingly, the least stressful part of the entire day. I plan on writing a full post, including recipes, next week.
So what did we learn?
Our friends were invaluable. My best friend Allie and her boyfriend Dave came early and may be one of the only reasons we managed to dress the tents on time the day of the wedding. They not only helped us set up the ceremony site and take care of the chickens leading up to the event, but they also wrangled kids, ensured that a few early (and late!) photos got taken, and generally did everything that I didn’t have time to think of the day of the wedding. And Allie reminded me to drink water. Constantly. Invaluable.
Give yourselves extra time! Nothing happened quickly or easily the morning of the wedding. I was so glad that we’d planned for a 4 p.m. ceremony because with only four of us doing initial set-up, it was a miracle that Allie and I got out the door at 11:30 a.m. to drive into town for hair.
Count everything you rent. Somehow, during our rental process, five chairs disappeared. Since the manifest was signed without counting the chairs, we ended up paying for five chairs that I’m pretty sure never got dropped off at our home, but there was really nothing we could do.
Have a casual rehearsal dinner. We wanted an outdoor rehearsal BBQ that was as low-key as we are. It allowed us to invite the close friends we’ve made who were not in our bridal party and kick back with family and friends from far away. It is still one of my favorite memories of the weekend, and the kids in our bridal party had an awesome time with the ring bearer’s gift: a kite.
Pen up or send away animals for their own protection. Although our flock regularly free ranges, everyone spent the three days before the wedding cooped up in their outdoor tractors because the last thing we had time to do was chase chickens. In addition to this, we opened a basement window so the cats could go in and out as they pleased and sent Abby (our Australian Shepherd) to Jason’s Mom’s house for the weekend, as she has a deep love of both cupcakes and running in front of cars – it just wasn’t safe to keep her on site and I was more relaxed knowing that she was relaxing at her grandmother’s.
Let go of your expectations. Some things didn’t work out the way we’d planned, but at the end of the day Jason & I were the only ones who knew. We got married. We had one of the best days of our lives together with our family and friends. Letting go of some of those early expectations was the best way to have fun and relax and enjoy our new life together.