Eight couples share their wedding story and give tips to help you plan for your own picture-perfect day.
The Couple: Susan & Josh Bohannon
The Date: October 25
The Scene: Josh's parent's scenic back yard in Franklin, TN
"Having the wedding at Josh's parents home was a great money saver and allowed us to decorate and tear down when ever we wanted. We had flexibility on time and what we could or couldn't do. We searched many places to get married and found the back yard to be the best. We would do it over again."
Make it yours.
"Weddings can be so impersonal if they’re at a big church or a rented space. We wanted to keep things simple and we liked the idea of a natural environment. We had two big bouquets tied around the trees on each side where we got married."
Stay true to your vision.
"Even though our parents didn’t always agree with our choices, we really did want to go as simple as possible. We didn’t want any microphones and only wanted a few chairs for the ceremony. We chose the people we wanted for the bridal party and didn’t choose out of obligation. It’s your day. Do what you want!"
Don’t worry about what you can’t control.
"I just decided that there was nothing I could do about the weather. It had rained the week before the wedding and drizzled that morning. I figured we’d just get married in the tent if we had to."
The Couple: Erika & Christopher Conefry
The Date: September 17
The Scene: Christopher's parent's home in Westhampton Beach, NY
"We got married on the grounds of the groom’s parents’ home in Westhampton, New York, and had a strong idea of what we wanted. I’m pleased to say that the vast majority of our guest's raves and compliments during and after the wedding were about the very things—our things—that we decided were the most important. Even though there were a million other details! It goes to show you that people have the most fun when the event reflects the couple and their tastes."
Know your must-haves.
"As a bride with a vision, it’s hard not to get caught up in details like which chairs to rent, etc. Take some time at the beginning to decide together the five or six KEY things you MUST have at the wedding. For us, it was 1) lounge, 2) champagne bar, 3) amazing food, 4) Peking duck, 5) chocolate fountain, and 6) avoid formal seated dinner. I was able to interview all our vendors and make decisions with these things in mind."
The Couple: Laurie & Jeff Clay
The Date: February 26
The Scene: The home of a close family friend in Dallas, TX
"After watching my sister plan a wedding for approximately 500 people, I decided to go very low key and have 25 people at a beautiful home of a close family friend. Because I have a large extended family, we basically had just immediate family and a few aunts and uncles. It was so intimate and fun! Jeff and I actually went to high school together and reconnected 12 years later, so having this home wedding near where we both grew up was extra special."
Think small so you can splurge.
"Because we didn’t have the expense of a huge wedding, we could splurge on a classical guitarist for background music during the dinner that followed the ceremony."
Don’t listen to the nay-sayers.
"So many people were worried that I would be disappointed having such a small wedding, but it suited us perfectly. Couples should do what they want to do. Sometimes weddings take on a life of their own and these ‘productions’ don’t always really reflect the couple’s wishes."
Spread the joy.
"Even though the actual ceremony was very small, I’ve tried to make others feel included. You can still make people feel a part of it by getting together afterwards. I’ve been having a blast sharing the pictures with my close friends after the wedding."
The Couple: Kassie & Josh Chapman
The Date: June 18
The Scene: A black-hat event on the family farm in Saint Genevieve, MO
"We held the wedding on my Aunt Georgia's farm, which is in the southeastern portion of Missouri. It is a beautiful area with rolling hills, large farms and wineries. During the ceremony you could see a lake with beautiful Ozark hills behind, and the old farm, which is over 100 years old. There was a large cornfield that had native, orange, lilies growing in it. On the other side, there were newly mowed hay fields with large bales still in the field. The setting was perfect, and I’ll never forget a minute of my great day."
Make it meaningful.
"We wanted a personal, meaningful day and we weren’t afraid of sentiment. My dad and I rode in a buggy to make our entrance to the ceremony while my cousin Jeff sang, ‘A Gift for My Daughter.’ And thanks to my very emotional dad, there wasn’t a dry eye anywhere."
From the buggy ride to the table settings, Kassie embraced a farm theme: "We used white linens, and floral centerpieces made from grape vine baskets, white and yellow daisies, yellow roses and greenery. At each place setting, guests received a favor made from a small, galvanized bucket filled with lemon drops and tied with a rafia bow with a ‘thank you’ tag. We also provided cool cups that were printed with our wedding date as another favor so the guests could help themselves to the canned drinks."
"It was important to us that the guests be comfortable, relaxed and really enjoy themselves. And be able to see the important stuff: The cakes were placed to one side of the guest seating area so that everyone had a good view of the cake cutting."
The Couple: Cory & Trey Dickson
The Date: May 28
The Scene: The lakefront home of a family friend in Knoxville, TN
"My husband and I are both huge river rats; we’ve grown up the water and have a passion for it. So of course we wanted to be married on the water and make it part of our special day. Instead of driving away in a limousine after the wedding on the lake, we took a ride in a boat and went to the part of the river where we met. It gave us time to reflect and enjoy each other. When we came back, it was time for the reception."
Consider the complications.
"We thought we’re just going to make it simple and have everything on the spot, but it’s more complicated that that. You need to think about all sorts of things, such as whether you need to bring out a portable kitchen if the home’s kitchen isn’t big enough for the caterers. You need to consider the bathroom situation—how many Porta-Potties you need. There really are more details than if you have the wedding in a church and the reception somewhere traditional."
"You really do need a wedding planner and several helpers if you’re doing a large outdoor wedding. Because of the outdoor location there were all sorts of last-minute things to do that we hadn’t thought about and didn’t have enough people to handle, from wiping off the chairs after it sprinkled, to lighting the tiki torches. And interview everybody and make sure they’ve done at-home or outdoor weddings. Our generator blew out our kitchen and sound system and if we hadn’t had pros, we would have been in trouble."
Thank the hosts.
How do you pay back someone who has gone way out of their way to make your wedding a dream come true? "We wanted to give our friends, Mike and Pepper, who let us use their property for the wedding, something that would they would remember for ever, just like they’d given us a weekend to remember. Their daughter was our flower girl and we decided that our gift to them would be a portrait of her. We considered giving them a weekend away, but we really thought a wonderful memory that they’d have forever was the best gift."
The Couple: Maegan & Chris Joseph
The Date: August 13
The Scene: The natural backyard setting of the bride's parents' home in Cranberry Township, PA
"We were planning a June 2006 wedding but that all changed when I went to a charity auction and bid on and won a trip to St. Croix in the Virgin Islands. That night, I called my fiance and told him to get ready, because we were moving up the wedding (a whole year!). The trip had to be used in 2005 and we decided to make it our honeymoon. We went full steam ahead into planning our wedding, and decided to have the ceremony in my parents' backyard and our reception at a small golf club nearby. With help of friends and family we were able to make our wedding a great success. Many people said it was one of the nicest weddings they had seen because it was so simple, yet elegant."
Don’t have a long engagement.
"Our suggestion to other people planning a wedding: don’t spend a lot of time between the engagement and the wedding. It just builds stress, confusion and costs. When you have fewer options, it's easier to make decisions."
Find the right baker.
"Instead of looking to a bakery for someone to do your cake, look for individuals. We found a woman that did wedding cakes out of her home. She created exactly what we wanted at a much more reasonable price than our local bakery."
Use what you’ve got.
"Nature is just a wonderful back drop for a ceremony. Using my parents' backyard made it much more personal, intimate and it was a lot cheaper!"
The Couple: Stephanie & Bryan Alexander
The Date: October 18
The Scene: The lakefront home of the groom's parents in Knoxville, TN
"Bryan and I shared the same vision: we wanted a wedding that was magical, and that looked like a still life from a Shakespeare play."
Go with seasonal fare.
Stephanie and Bryan were married in October and the brunch menu reflected that: A cheesy grits bar, spiced cranberry and apple cheddar soup, butternut squash and hazelnut lasagna, and biscuits with autumn roasted pork loin.
Consult on-site. "Have your photographer, florist and caterer come and walk the property with you to see what you have to work with ahead of time."
Keep everything light and fun. "You can have an elegant wedding that is unique and personalized, but you can't expect the same formality as with a church wedding."
Give guests a heads up on what to wear. "Advise your guests to wear appropriate footwear if you have uneven terrain."
Plan out even the unglamorous details. "My in-laws were worried about having 200 people marching in and out of their house to use the bathroom so our solution was to rent portable bathrooms that were tented to help hide them along the side of the house."
The Couple: Saundra & Walter Traywick
The Date: May 29
The Scene: Saundra's aunt and uncle's ranch in Fort Gibson Lake, OK
"We were married at my aunt and uncle’s ranch in Amish country in Oklahoma. We wanted it to be personal, family-oriented and fun. We made the boutonnières out of braided wheat from my family's farm in Kansas, and my mother made homemade jams and jellies, tied with ribbons as place cards. I gathered copies of old wedding photos of each of our aunts, uncles, parents and grandparents and made them into wedding cards, with a handwritten note telling them how special they are to us and thanking them for everything they've done for us over the years."
Go pro with the photography.
"The photography and the videography are areas you do NOT want to settle on. I know your Aunt Bertha says she can take your photos, but politely tell her no and hire a professional!"
This is your day, not your "year."
"Try not to make the lives of everyone around you miserable in the months before the wedding, and they’ll be much more likely to celebrate wholeheartedly with you the day of the wedding, rather than trash talk you in the bathroom while you cut the cake."
Delegate, and don't worry!
"When my girlfriends informed me that they had burned our pre-wedding lunch to a crisp, and filled the ‘honeymoon house’ with smoke, but saved my dress in the nick of time, I just laughed and let it go. Walt and I went out on the boat a few hours before the wedding, and made real memories for the day, rather than spending it worrying. I found out later that tornadoes had swept through Oklahoma that day, narrowly missing the ranch, but my family and friends had kept me blissfully unaware of the weather reports, and our day turned out perfect after all."
"Do as much as you can before the ‘big day’ and you’ll be able to relax and enjoy it, rather than run around like a ninny. I took a walk by myself from the boat dock to my ‘cottage’ where I was supposed to already be getting ready. Those moments alone, walking across the hay meadow, just to breathe and to pray, are a special memory of that day. So what if my hair was still a bit damp when I walked down the grassy aisle? Oklahoma wind is the best hair dryer.
Get a good band and forget about the dance lessons!
"We took ballroom dance lessons for months before the wedding, and had ‘our song’ all picked out, but the studio put the wrong song on a CD for us. We went out for our first dance, and we pulled it off for about 30 seconds, all the while with me just trying to keep up and not fall flat on my face...then burst out laughing and cut the whole thing off. The videographer did such a great job—he put the dance in "slow motion" and dubbed another song over the ‘wrong" one.’ You’d never know how bad it all was."