Planning a Garden Wedding

Part One: Our Story

Photo by Mariann Morris

When our daughter, Claire, decided to marry outdoors on our farm, we were excited and a little apprehensive. We were thrilled to be able to host close friends and family on our farm—it was to be a very small wedding—but we knew we were in for some major clean up work! I probably looked like a greedy conspirator to some heist, darting my eyes from side to side and rubbing my hands together, thinking of what I could get out of this for the gardens.

When planning any wedding, the setting is pretty much key. Some like the blowing wind, bare feet on sand, and casual mood evoked by a beach wedding. Others want the solemnity of a church setting with trumpets and operatic voices (me once upon a time in 1985). Claire just wanted a simple ceremony with a justice-of-the-peace and classical Spanish guitarist, and she wanted the natural lush green beauty of the farm in June as her backdrop.

So we did what every wedding planner does with the bride. We walked around and around the setting for her to decide her vistas. The barn? Too dilapidated. A tent? Not natural enough (more on that later). She chose to face away from the front of the house and towards her daddy’s vegetable garden for the ceremony. We had hoped to move the tables afterwards and have the reception meal in the same spot, but we remembered two things: the tables would already be decorated, AND we would have to have people hired to move said decorated tables in place. No time for that after we figured it out the day of the wedding! So, we made a long table setting in the field beside the house for the reception. This idea was perfect except for two bad things, which I will explain later.

As I mentioned earlier, the setting is the key, and for us, the garden included our garden shed, which was covered in white vinyl and completely ugly to me. Part of our budget, then, went towards resurfacing the shed from top to bottom. (Hence the conspirator/heist reaction above. I knew I wouldn’t get my husband, Kerry, to agree to redo the shed any other way.)

Photo by Robert Rausch

Claire had a brilliant idea for her table decorations—herbs and native plants potted prettily that would also serve as party favors for guests. She carefully penned the names of the plants on popsicle sticks and added other favorites inspired by her English degree—paperback novels about love stacked on the tables. Guests were delighted to take them home as they left!

The pictures can speak for themselves. It was a glorious wedding. It was one of the best days of my life (after the births of my three girls).

Part Two: Lessons Learned

We pulled it off, but we definitely could have made it easier on ourselves if we had thought things through better. Hence this advice:

  1. Plan ahead, even if you are capable of doing everything yourselves. Our biggest mistakes were that we didn’t hire a “manager” or wedding planner to oversee everything so that I could enjoy the entirety of the day, and we didn’t plan for rain. I missed out on Claire and husband, Will’s, first dance because of orchestrating food or something needing my attention. Not a happy mother of the bride with that one! Also, we decided we didn’t want an “eyesore” tent marring the pristine naturalness, so we “winged it.” Now, we made it by the skin of our teeth as the threat of rain sent us indoors with the table settings again and again before we just left them and crossed our fingers. It didn’t rain, but we were very lucky; our house would not have accommodated 100 people for a sit-down dinner.
  2. Again, plan ahead! Because we had intended for the music to waft out into the yard from the front porch, it was a little embarrassing AFTER the Spanish guitar player finished and the reception band started playing, and we were not in the front yard. Oh, we could hear them, but we were still out in the field eating, and they were singing to an empty front yard.
  3. Did I say, plan ahead? My mother had one complaint after the wedding. She said we all left her in the field at the table needing to go to the bathroom! As it turned dusk, my usually attentive siblings attended to one thing after another, and forgot that Mom couldn’t walk across the grass and driveway without assistance! So she sat and waited! And waited! Keep your ceremony and reception close to bathroom facilities, especially for young children and elderly folks, AND plan for elders to be attended to from the beginning to the end lest an event is spoiled for them.
  4. Fortunately, we did plan ahead on certain things: we were able to invest our money into our own setting rather than in a wedding someplace else. Flower money went into garden plants and mulch. Venue money went into our precious garden shed, which looked lovely in the background of pictures. We didn’t overspend and overwork ourselves getting our barn in shape. (Although we were at the forefront of the barn-wedding trend, by now it’s past, and we don’t have wedding pictures in a barn to date us!) We also chose to have multiple fabulous photographers who walked around and took photos, one of whom was a professional I work with on photo shoots who did this for us as a favor. All in all, we pulled it off, and in the pictures, there’s no hint of mistakes. Just love. There’s lots of that evident.

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