I think for most people the backyard is a place to enjoy the company of friends, and there are so many fantastic ways to entertain outside, from cookouts to lawn games to sitting around the fire pit and so on. I’m a big fan of outdoor parties, but last May, a year ago from today, in fact, I took it to the next level with my backyard wedding.
My fiancé and I had decided to reinvest in our home, rather than a reception site, which led to our decision to hold our wedding and reception at home. On top of that, we wanted the pleasure of looking out on our yard and bringing quickly to mind the beauty of that day.
Once decided, we had a host of challenges to overcome. I talked a bit earlier about some of the landscaping hurdles we faced in preparing the site for the fairy tale magic that is supposed to be the ideal of one’s wedding day. However, there were countless other considerations regarding the party itself. For example, I delayed planting a vegetable garden by a year so that we would have plenty of level, open ground for a large tent.
In addition, research recommended one bathroom per 30 guests, at least. We capped our guest list at just over 100, and I was biting my nails up until the day of wondering if we should have rented a portable toilet (and where the heck would I have put it?). Then parking; we decided to encourage family and the wedding party to park in the front yard, freeing up the cul-de-sac and street for guests who might not be staying until all hours of the night. Our neighbors were incredibly understanding in allowing for the extra traffic, although I still regret not dropping off cookies to all of the neighbors as a thank you for their consideration – of all the balls to drop I suppose that’s not the worst, but still. There were a number of smaller issues that cropped up as well. Things like sound checks; we performed a check for our musician and the reception sound system, but didn’t realize that over the frog chirping and wind, guests in the back row of seats wouldn’t hear all of the ceremony.
The biggest issue, however, for an outside wedding will always come down to one thing: the weather. I chose a day in May thinking it would be warm enough for sundresses but too cool for mosquitoes to be out in force. Then I spent months waiting for the 2011 Farmer’s Almanac to tell me what I needed to know. And it didn’t. I believe the entry read something like “front may be moving East.” It epitomized vague and left me oscillating between what’s-the-worst-that-can-happen cool and utter panic.
In the end, it rained on my wedding day. And you know what? That was one of my favorite parts.
It was an incredible week leading up to the event. Our family and friends came out in force to help us scrub the house, tie fabulous bows around the covered chairs, stuff miniature filo cups with chicken salad and place daisy blooms in globes hanging dreamlike from the trees. When the white tent arrived, I began to have that fairy tale feeling. And when, the day before, it seemed certain that rain would come, we bought two 10×10-foot blue tents and created a tunnel from the sun porch out to the white tent, then bought matching floral umbrellas for the bridesmaids and black umbrellas for the groomsmen, just in case. What’s a little last minute rearranging?
While I may have finally shrugged off the pre-wedding stress in preparation to enjoy, Chris’ jitters arrived a little late. I still giggle recalling my angry bridesmaid storming upstairs to tell me, while I sipped champagne and peeked out my bedroom window at arriving wedding guests, that she’d just dragged Chris off of his knees in the flower bed where he was spreading last minute mulch over the sound system wires. We were so worried about everything looking perfect, that it was a relief later to see it through our guests’ eyes. All that we needed to make it perfect was our friends.
The rain held off through the ceremony, which we bravely held under the beautiful arbor my dad built, right beside the pond, rather than beneath the tent. Several guests would later swear that the sun peeked out for just a moment over our heads as Chris and I exchanged our vows.
The rain held off during photos, even as our amazing photographer assured us that the cloudy sky provided the best lighting (you can read Jen’s so-sweet recap of our wedding here). It held off as I got to finally eat the cookies my friends, family and I had been baking for months in preparation for the event, and then the sun peeked out a bit further as Chris and I shared our first dance on the dance floor he built himself (later to be reborn as the world’s most gorgeous foldable picnic tables).
The rain didn’t begin to come down in soft drizzles until about 6 o’clock, just as some of the older couples and acquaintances were beginning to say their good-byes. One of the most beautiful things about a backyard wedding is that there’s no set time when you have to leave. So what did our more tenacious guests do? Why, they picked up that handmade dance floor and carried it beneath the tent! A couple of pizzas, a costume change and a few playlists later, and we found ourselves dancing, singing and having fun with our friends all night long.
Looking back, I would have done it the same all over again. Sometimes I think we might. After all, only this year did the roses reach the lushness that I wanted for the wedding, and we’ve been looking for an excuse to put in a patio by the pond and I feel that would make an excellent dance floor. Not to mention there are so many more wonderful memories added to the list when I walk out my back deck and say good morning to my little world. While Chris and I might be renewing our vows every day (happy anniversary, my darling!), there’s nothing quite like an excuse to have a garden party!
Just a note: I’d like to thank J. Pool Photography for the photographs used in this post.