How time flies. Today marks ONE YEAR since our super amazing farm wedding! It's been quite a year for us, they aren't lying about that first year shit (more on that another day). Luckily, we know how to rally...the whiskey cabinet lent it's helping hand too. Thinking back to our special day brings back lots of great memories for us to reminisce on today.
So many aspects of our wedding were dreamy, and although slightly personalized, I have some great tips for the bride wanting to plan the ultimate outdoor/backyard wedding, from a bride who managed to pull it off (with help...don't forget about them).
Make It Your Own
It was super important to both myself and my husband that you could find us in our wedding. What I mean by that is so much of the "big day" is about just the bride or the details, we really wanted people to experience it and think "That is sooo Danny," or "OMG, totally a Shelby thing." So we worked really hard to bring our personalities to it.
Danny is a whiskey and craft beer guy, I'm sure many of you can relate. So it was important to him to incorporate that. We managed to do that in a so many ways that made our wedding one-of-a-kind. Our rental company had this amazing wood pergola we were able to have, inside we set up a rustic bar, with a small sitting area, Edison lights strewn throughout, and several high tops surrounding it. In here guests were served some of Danny's favorite local whiskeys, grab a stogie, kick back and relax with all the other guys. It was a HUGE hit.
For myself, I had a grandfather who had recently passed, it was our first major family even without him, and I really wanted us to all feel him there somehow. He was very involved in Native American culture and spirituality, his funeral service was even performed by some really amazing members of the Sioux Tribe, so I decided to include a moment in the ceremony where our mother's wrapped a blanket around us and a Native American poem was read to emulate a wedding ritual from that culture. Simple, beautiful, and free (and he says I'm the expensive one).
I know you're already thinking, this chick has lost her damn mind, how much money does she think we have to spend? Hear me out. When you're looking for a caterer, a lot of what you find is going to be at minimum $10 a head, there may even be additional fees for coming out to your location, the setup and tear down. I would say on average you're looking at $15 a head after all is said and done, plus, tipping the staff. After researching and emailing around to food trucks, I found we were looking at more of an $8-10 a head range. Yes. You heard it here first. It was cheaper, and way freakin' cooler.
Here's the thing, they have all they need to run their show inside the truck, you just need to provide a trash can, and some helping hands to empty it. They provide the silverware, napkins, plates, all of it. So, you are saving on more than just the food itself.
Now I know the practical ones of you are thinking, "Yeah, but won't people just keep going through the line? How are you going to control the cost if it's just open to everyone?" I'm going to call you guys "Ashley," that is my older, more sensible, and financially savvy sister. Here's how we kept it in check, I had business card sized meal tickets printed to match our invites, and our ushers gave them out to every guest. We made sure the trucks were completely aware of this, so our lovely guests would order, and the food truck would collect their card as compensation. Each food truck is going have a minimum you need to spend, so if you haven't hit that minimum, you will be free to allow your guests to try something else until it's been reached.
Hands-down, the coolest way to feed your crew. Everyone had so much fun with it, there was no way that someone couldn't find what they wanted. We chose to have a pizza truck (515 Pi), a burger truck (Top Bun), and what I call hipster truck (Curbin' Cuisine). We even included vegan and gluten-free options.
Don't Forget the Prep Work
There are lots of things to think about with outdoor weddings, especially when they're in your own backyard or on family land (ours was on my in-laws farm). Don't forget to also consider your power source. Typically, you can't just run everything off of the power that runs to the house. You will need some sort of temporary service set up for your big day. Luckily, we come from a family full of men who work at a commercial electrical company, but you will want this figured in to your budget.
Lighting. Holy outdoor lighting. Do you know how incredibly dark it is at night in a big open field? It's dark. String lights probably won't give you the coverage you're looking for. Lucky for us, the rental company we used had an all inclusive package where we were able to rent literally anything from their warehouse that we wanted, which included lots of chandeliers and bistro lights. If possible, finding an all-inclusive vendor like this will save you lots!
Let the people pee! You're going to need somewhere for all your guests to relieve themselves, port-a-potties are a valid option. Companies rent them out fairly cheap and they keep them in great shape, and Pinterest has your back for beautifying them. We found a company who rents out bathrooms that look like a tiny cottage, with several different "stalls" inside, which were basically like tiny little powder rooms. I shit you not (pun intended) it was beautifully decorated AND air conditioned inside, which we desperately needed on our uncharacteristically hot September wedding day!
The biggest prep item of all is making sure you have enough people to help with the set-up and tear down. Because of all the extras we decided to go with along the way, we didn't have an additional $5K in our budget (which we had exceeded) for our rental company to do the setup for us. This meant there was more manual labor than we ever imagined to make this wedding look exactly how we had pictured. We were lucky to have the few people we did who were there for us round the clock for a couple days worth of hot, sweaty, emotional set-up. It also meant the morning of my wedding, I wasn't sitting back, relaxing, getting a pedi while I sipped champagne. My girls and I were outside, with the guys, sweating in gym shorts and tees, setting up the final details. I mean, is it actually bad luck to see them before the wedding? Especially when you birthed their children before the wedding anyways?
Some of my favorite things to see at weddings are yard games. I first saw it at one of my cousins beautiful weddings, and instantly knew if I ever got remarried (yep, I'm one of those) that I had to copy her. It is honestly the most fun way for your guests to get to know each other and have fun together, without all the awkward silence of a seating chart.
My husband and his college buddies built an amazing hammerschlagen stand for our special day. We also had some jumbo jenga set up, horse shoes to throw around, and my Dad made us some really beautiful corn hole boards that we put some wedding day decals on. All of these are fairly inexpensive, mildly labor intensive DIY projects you can work on in the months leading up, and then use for gatherings or parties after the wedding! We have busted them out at our kids birthday parties on more than one occasion. Guys, my party planning is out of control - planning an event is my dream, and my husbands financial nightmare.
Get Them Tipsy
Open bar? More like open craft beer truck.Yeah, it happened. Many of our first dates and some really great memories were made at breweries or craft beer shows, and we really wanted our wedding to showcase that part of us. So, naturally, I went out of my way to pester the owner of the Iowa Craft Beer truck (who, might I add had never done weddings before) until he was convinced we HAD TO HAVE HIM. My father-in-law put in a lot of hours on this as well. The truck could hold more beer than we could ever need, which allowed us to serve an array of options. We chose to only serve local craft beer (shout out to Court Ave Brew Company, Peace Tree Brewing, and Confluence, of the Des Moines, IA area), Coors Light, and Busch Light (small town weddings need small town favs). Although this was a novelty that took money out of an already exploding budget, we decided it was one of our must-haves. To this day, we still have guests tell us how awesome it was...looking back, maybe it was because all of this free alcohol?
Kids Only Area
As parents, it was super important that our kids loved this day as much as we did. It's never going to be all about us, because they always come first, even today. We had the space, (it's an open, outdoor event, you have ALL of the space) so we chose to construct their own little KIDS ONLY area. We rented a bounce house for them, which honesty, the adults enjoyed by the end of the night as well, set up some hay bale tables with basket of board games to play, and showered them with all the glow sticks they could ever want. This option made it so easy for our guests that had families to bring their kids along and not have to find their own way of entertaining them. We had them covered. I'm pretty sure most of the kids made their way over there, and only came to find their parents when it was time for food. They took full advantage of the "Kids Only" sign.
Do yourself a favor, at least consider a cocktail hour. Especially if you are making the choice to do wedding pictures between the ceremony and reception. Yes the day is about you, but you also need to keep your guests entertained during your "downtime." We didn't want our guests to sit empty handed, in silence, hangry as hell. As soon as our ceremony was over, the beer truck was ready to roll, our DJ had a nice playlist going, and we had charcuterie boards of locally cured meats and cheeses out to hold them over while we struck a pose before dinner. See where all those yard games come in handy now? It was a great way to allow our families and friends to mingle before we all got down and partied.
Fireworks & Sparklers
Last, but not least, if you ever get the chance to consider fireworks to end your night. DO IT! You'll never regret it. I was dead set on having them before being told it was way too expensive, and we wouldn't be able to pull it off. So I decided a sparkler send off was the next best thing, and super cheap to order the wedding ones (which burn for much longer) online. It was all set up and made for a beautiful photo with all our guests lined up on either side of us. Then, after the sun had set, we heard a loud BOOM...our Dad's decided to surprise us, my FIL's friends were way out in the pasture putting on a fireworks display we will never forget. It was truly amazing, and it lit up our night.
With the help and manual labor of some really incredible friends and family, our wedding day was even more than we could have ever imagined. While the task is somewhat daunting, and at times overwhelming, the payoff was truly amazing. You’ll never regret your decision to plan an outdoor wedding, and you’ll always have a sentimental tie when you plan a backyard one.
Photos courtesy of Jo Johnson Photography, Video courtesy of Complete of DSM, & Our fabulous wedding day