A Backyard Bash: How to plan an at-home wedding

AUGUST 12, 2000

Whoever said "Home is where the heart is" would have loved Hayley and Cason's at-home wedding. In fact, if you want to add special intimacy to your wedding day, take a look at how this couple pulled off the day of their dreams in their own backyard (well, Hayley's father's backyard, actually).

Setting Your Sites
When it came to finding a venue for an early evening wedding, bride and groom were looking for two things: an outdoor setting and a relaxed atmosphere. "At first, we thought of having our wedding at a vineyard," says Hayley. "But then I thought, I've always wanted to get married in my Dad's backyard. I grew up there and I thought that it would be a really special place to spend my wedding day."

"We had to bring in everything," says Hayley. "There were so many people working on so many things. It was like a movie set!"

Dancin' in the Driveway
Of course, arranging a wedding at a personal home is very different from renting a church or banquet hall, for several reasons. Instead of going to the site, Hayley's family needed to bring it all home! And renting all of the necessary equipment is not as simple -- or inexpensive -- as it seems. "In order to have the wedding at home, we had to bring in everything -- chairs, tables, tents, glasses and even a dance floor that we set up on the driveway," remembers the bride. "There were so many people working on so many things. It was like a movie set!"

But with a little coordination and a lot of help, this couple got things organized easily. Plus, they were careful not to overlook the little things either. Hayley says that if you're hosting an at-home event for 90 guests (including 10 kids) like they were, it's important to stock up on supplies such as bathroom toiletries (soap, hand towels, tissue) and paper towels (quick cleanup for spills).

Garden Party Gala
When it was time to decorate, Hayley and Cason let their site be their guide. "Our theme was about enjoying the outdoors, and being at home. So I made sure that my florist went au natural," explains the bride. "I told her that I wanted the flowers to look like I literally picked them from my garden. (I wish I had a garden that produced those flowers!)"

And how does a bride dress for a dream day at home and outdoors? "My gown was very simple. It was an off-white, strapless dress with an empire waist and minimal beading. I literally saw it in a window and said, "That's it!" says Hayley. "The woman at the bridal shop even told me that they got this dress specifically for outdoor weddings."

Special Ceremony Touches
When it comes to setting the tone for an event, nothing is more important than music, especially when it's handpicked by the bride and groom, who also happen to be music lovers. "We had a flautist and pianist playing during the ceremony," says Hayley. "Cason and his groomsmen walked down the aisle to James Taylor's The Secret of Life and I walked down the aisle to Getz and Gilberto's The Girl from Ipanema. After the ceremony was over, we had them play Linus and Lucy from Peanuts. It was perfect!" The couple also went the nontraditional route for their reception music. One of Cason's friends suggested a jazz/funk band and, according to the wedding couple, it was the best decision of the day. "We had so much fun!" says Hayley. "We danced a lot, so everyone else did, too. I think it set the tone for everyone."

Personal Party Picks
To go with the informal, at-home feel, Hayley passed on a traditional stacked cake and chose a more cozy approach to dessert: cupcakes, an ice cream bar and lemonade served in colorful pitchers. "I was really taking advantage of the summertime feel of warm weather, picnics, lemonade and beautiful flowers. I kept telling everyone, 'Pretend it's just a great summer picnic, except that it's really our wedding!'

No picnic is complete without a little outdoor adventure though, and in this case, it was rain -- and lots of it! But when the weather took a turn for the worse, Hayley and Cason took it in stride. There were plenty of tents to provide cover for their guests, plus they'd arranged for flexible ceremony and reception plans. Because they'd prepared for the unexpected (and been open-minded about possible changes), these two were easily able to carry out their wedding plans, despite the downpour.

At-Home Advice
When it comes to planning a wedding at home, this bride has two suggestions, "First, remember that it's your day. We really just tried to enjoy it, rather than overwhelm ourselves trying to be the ultimate hosts. Even if you're not hosting an at-home bash, Hayley also recommends stealing a private moment alone with your new husband. "We went into the house after the ceremony for a good five minutes and just cried and laughed and held each other. We just got married -- and I didn't want to share that moment with anyone except Cason," remembers Hayley. "Of course, after a few minutes, my five-year-old cousin Carly found us and wouldn't leave. She kept saying, 'I want to see you kiss again."


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