Valentine’s Day. Very few know the reason for the Holiday, so being the history buff I am, I looked it up only to find several conflicting stories all deeply shrouded in mystery from antiquity. Thanks to some surviving hagiographical records, we’re able to compile the various records of a man or men named Valentine and combine them into one identity and merged with a pagan fertility festival which we celebrate today in the form of pink and red hearts and roses, chocolates, and possibly engagement rings!
I like to think that there is always a bit of truth in legends. In short, we celebrate a day named after St. Valentine who allegedly married young Christian couples in secret due Emperor Claudius II outlawing marriage because he thought that married men made poor soldiers. Accounts state that Valentine broke the law and also attempted to convert the Emperor to Christianity. This ultimately culminated in his demise outside the Flaminian Gate.
In later years, the Roman Catholic church would turn the story of a priest & a bishop into a patron Saint for bookkeepers and lovers alike. In an interesting personal twist, a common ancestor of both Katie and myself, poet Geoffrey Chaucer (16th great grandfather), may have single-handedly created the romantic tradition we know today with his work “Parlement of Foules,” in which he stated that birds and human find a mate on Seynt Valentine’s Day.
For whatever reason, we like to remind those closest to us that we love, care, and are thinking of them on this special day in February. I always look forward to the vintage cards my grandmother sends my children, a tradition she started with me and has kept over the last 30 years. I am reminded of how fortunate I am to have been loved by so many throughout my life. This is a gift I have often taken for granted. Not everyone is so fortunate and blessed to love and be loved in return.
My wife, Katie, knows wholeheartedly that I am not the biggest fan of this American Holiday, but maybe that was because I never understood the story behind and the personal attachment to its origins. As a believer, we embrace the very real possibility that our faith will have negative earthly ramifications for following Jesus. We’re blessed to live in a country where we’re able to worship how we like and marry whom we love.
Special thanks to all of our 32 Couples from 2016 for reminding us why we love what we do so much and Happy Valentine’s Day! – The Stokes
Photography: James Stokes Photography | Floral Design: Flower & Bee | Wedding Dress: La Sposa by Pronovias, purchased at Bella Bride Boutique | Cake: Ice cream bar from Bubb’s BBQ | Invitations:Violet Press & Paper | Ceremony Venue: The Farm at Dover | Reception Venue: The Farm at Dover | Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Amsale, purchased from Nordstrom | Catering: Bubb’s BBQ & Bar Services from Drink Inc. | Groom and Groomsmen Attire: Hart Schaffner & Marx, purchased from Nordstrom | Wedding Coordinator: Something Blue Lake Geneva | DJ/ Entertainment Services: Mike Early’s Pro Sound
While a traditional wedding at a fancy retreat or resort with a quaint little chapel is very appealing, why not stay true to your country roots and plan a beautiful country wedding with a backyard style. Although not all backyard weddings happen in someone’s actual backyard, we have some beautiful tips and inspiration for planning the rustic backyard wedding of your dreams in nature’s backyard. Part 1
The wedding cake is one of those much-anticipated features of the wedding. After a night of dancing, your guests need something to finish off their evening on a high note. A lot of couples also choose to cut their cake right after their ceremony so that guests can enjoy a cheeky treat before dinner. Your cake needs to be kept in a cool room or in the refrigerator if possible, to avoid any melting wedding cake disasters.
Your wedding cake is so much more than just an after-dinner treat, it also shows off your style as a couple. If an extravagant wedding cake is out of your budget, try go for cute little cupcakes that offer the sweet note that your guests crave. If you want to be totally original why not choose your favorite dessert as a couple to serve, even if it is a humble pie. You can also choose to have a smaller cake suited to your exact number of guests, instead of a lavish 4 tier piece of art. The backyard theme lends itself to a simple rustic elegance, giving you many beautiful cake designs to choose from. A bare cake is a very trendy option this year, instead of layers of fondant covering the cake, the cake’s layers show through the buttercream frosting. The top and sides of the cake can be draped with natural flowers and elements that complement the backyard surroundings. A classic frosted white cake with fresh flowers never goes out of fashion and is the way to go if you are undecided about the style you want for your cake.
Wedding Day Decor
The decor plays a huge role in creating the wedding of your dreams. It can be the most stressful and also the most enjoyable part of planning your wedding. Backyard weddings usually involve a lot of DIY projects and upcycling. Learn to use the space and the surroundings to your advantage, if there is something that doesn’t look appealing to you in the garden, make it work to your advantage and use it as a decor piece.
Be inspired by nature. A backyard wedding is all about embracing the beautiful backdrop that the country outdoors provide, use that theme in your centerpieces. Beautiful rustic jars and simple glasses can be used as vases, filled with a wild variety of flowers. Lanterns are another beautiful rustic addition to your tables and can be used as thank you gifts for mother’s or can be used around your new home. What could be more country and rustic than Mason jars? Use Mason jars as vases on your tables or candle holders. These jars also make lovely wedding favors for your guests, filled with candy or a fancy dessert. Using elements from nature can look stunning as you draw the outdoors in with gorgeous tree bark candle holders and bases for flowers, and using natural greenery from trees and vines to drape in the center of your tables as a runner. The soft glow of fairy lights and candles never grow old, combine pretty twigs and branches with them to add that extra romance to the evening.
A popular decor choice for rustic weddings are sign posts with arrows pointing in the direction of the ceremony, reception and any other places of importance. These can be a fun DIY project and can be personalized according to your vision. Add an extra special touch by handwriting the sign information yourself. Keeping things simple with white and small pops of neutral colors and flowers are also great options for keeping things rustic. Use burlap and lace to create a chic rustic look, buntings are a cute and popular way to incorporate these fabrics.
A simple trick to dress up cocktail tables is to tie the bottom of the cloth with a ribbon or piece of yarn, this adds a chic look to your reception venue and also looks great outdoors for those who like to escape the reception for some fresh country air. Chandeliers, if you are lucky enough to be able to incorporate one or two, bring in gorgeous lighting and glamour to your reception. Using a chandelier under your ceremony altar space is also a beautiful option and will create amazing photographs. Have a display of your life together as a couple in photographs. Make use of items that you and your family have laying around the house such as old wooden ladders, crates or even wine barrels. A rustic wedding looks beautiful with many mixed elements and mismatched pieces, use what you have instead of buying shiny new things, if you don’t have it, then try finding it in nature or from family and friends, this adds to the rustic charm. Create interesting little decor pieces that show off your style as a couple and also creates unique room dividers and space fillers. Use heirlooms that you have, stack old suitcases or books and add some pretty flowers to add a memorable rustic show piece to your reception. Provide a table where your gifts and cards can be delivered, use this table as a decor piece and get creative.
Wedding Day Attire
The wedding dress is undoubtedly the most important aspect for the bride. Choosing the right style and design is a huge decision, one that you will remember for many years to come and cherish through photo’s and video. A backyard wedding usually lends itself to a more simple wedding dress choice. Backyard bridal gowns are very seldom big ballgowns and are mostly figure fitted and lacey. Gorgeous low backs and lace detail add elegance to simple dress designs. If you plan on dancing the night away out in the country, dresses without long trains are a good choice. You can add your sparkle by adding a beaded belt or sash to your dress. Soft flowy dresses are a great option for you to enjoy your relaxed backyard reception. With that being said, there really are no set rules when it comes to choosing your dream dress and you should ultimately choose the dress that will make you feel your absolute best, even if it is an over the top dress not suited for a backyard style wedding.
Bridesmaids dresses are usually soft chiffon fabrics and short in the summer time, the focus is on the bride and bridesmaids are often understated but pretty. Dresses of the same color and fabric but different individual styles are a very popular choice and add to the mismatched charm of a rustic backyard wedding theme. Bridal jewelry often matches your wedding dress. If you have a simple dress you can add a bit of extra glam with pretty jeweled accessories. If your dress has a lot of sparkle, then choose minimalistic pieces. Family heirloom accessories are always a special choice for your big day.
Upswept hairdos are an excellent choice for hot summer weddings, if you prefer your hair down, choose an unfussed style with soft curls. Add fresh flowers or a pretty flower garland to your hair to create a beautiful rustic look. Makeup trends are currently less is more, which fits perfectly with a country style wedding. Choose pretty pinks and neutrals for your eyes and a bold lip color, or go for a subtle smokey eye with hints of shimmer and a neutral lip color. Gone are the days of layering on makeup and false lashes. Don’t forget to add a layer of sunscreen to your makeup regime, a sunburnt bride is not a happy bride. You will also see a lot of boots, ballet flats and pretty sandals instead of glamourous heels at country backyard weddings.
The groom can choose to ditch the tie and opt for a more relaxed wedding day look with a simple shirt to match his suit. Perhaps you prefer the formality of a tie but don’t want the formality of a full suit, choose a waistcoat instead of a suit jacket for a relaxed but classic look. Neutral colored suits is another popular trend for rustic styled weddings. Grooms and groomsmen sport earthy tones of sand and khaki, which also look great with a bow tie.
The flower bouquets and boutonnieres will usually match the flowers used as centerpieces. While roses are a wedding day classic, choose rustic wild flowers such as baby’s breath, sunflowers, and daisies to add to the country charm appeal. These flowers will save you money and match perfectly with the rustic chic decor, and mismatched vases.
Photographs have to be one of the vital elements of a wedding. Yes, it could possibly be annoying having a camera in your space the entire day, but these are the memories you will fill your home with for years to come. These are the memories you will share with your children and hopefully grandchildren one day, as you relive that special day through the photo’s captured. A little bit of planning needs to go into taking your photo’s.
Look for special spots that you may want to include in your photo’s. Photographers should be accommodating in bringing your vision to life, as well as giving you advice on how to create beautiful photographic memories. Use the lighting to your advantage, different times of day bring different lighting; the lighting has to be even for the best images. We personally really like shade and overcast!
Sunset weddings can also create lovely dramatic photographs leading into the night. Use the gorgeous backdrop God has provided you with in the country outdoors you have chosen, use trees and water as features in your pictures. A lot of couples are choosing to have their portrait photo’s taken before the ceremony, this can be lovely as the photographer can catch that candid moment your husband to see you for the first time in your wedding gown. Try not to focus on the camera once your portrait and “posed” shots have been taken. It is lovely to have photo’s of you really enjoying your wedding day, looking back at them transports you back to the natural moments caught on camera. Have fun and enjoy every special moment. Golden Hour or Sweet Light is often when we will try and schedule your couple photos!
The idea of a backyard wedding is to keep things elegantly simple. Don’t overthink or over do things, stay true to who you are as a couple and the finer details will fall into place. Don’t focus on pleasing everybody because that is impossible. Focus on bringing your vision to life and creating memories that will last a lifetime. The most important thing to remember with any wedding is to take everything in and enjoy every moment, this is only one day in the many days that create the rest of your lifelong journey together as husband and wife.
When the words “backyard wedding” come to mind, there are usually some less than fairytale like connotations that come along with it. A backyard wedding can be a romantic and beautiful theme style wedding if done correctly. When one thinks of a backyard wedding the image of lawn chairs and a barbeque reception may be imagined, however, backyard weddings are so much more than what the name suggests. We have some beautiful inspiration and tips for planning a gorgeous, rustic country backyard wedding.
Choosing a backyard wedding
Weddings can be stressful and locating an open venue in Wisconsin can be difficult. Perhaps you are a couple in a hurry to get married and want to waste no time becoming Mr & Mrs, a backyard wedding has no waiting list and is an exclusive venue just for your special day. Backyard weddings are stress free and often have a relaxed atmoshpere. Guests are often not required to dress formally so that they can fully enjoy the down to earth style of the wedding. Backyard weddings are fun and can include yard games to keep your guests entertained. There are many opportunities for you to get in touch with your crafty side and create some beautiful diy pieces. Backyard weddings are fuss free and have a simple, yet rustic elegance about them. Whatever the reason for choosing to have this style wedding, the day will be as special and memorable as you choose to make it. Backyard weddings are more suited to the couple planning an intimate spring or summer wedding, and who are looking for the “less is more” approach.
Choosing the venue for your wedding day is a huge decision. If you don’t already have a special family backyard in mind, you may have to consider asking friends and family if they know of a suitable location. Living in the country gives you an advantage right away as the properties are usually large and picturesque and look just like some of the top wedding venues. Consider a venue on a lake or by a stream or one that has a beautiful rustic barn that can be turned into a fairytale reception area.
When choosing your venue, you need to take a few things into consideration:
-The outdoor area should be evenly grassed, you can’t have your guests seated on an uncomfortable slant throughout your ceremony and reception.
– The outdoor area needs to be big enough to perhaps have a tent if there is no other indoor option, you always need to plan for the possibility of bad weather.
– The venue needs to provide good photographic opportunities as well as be accommodating to your guests. Trees may look gorgeous in photo’s but if your guests can’t see past the trees at your ceremony it leaves a lot to be desired.
– There needs to be restroom facilities outdoors, whether the venue you choose has enough restrooms or whether you need to hire a company to provide adequate facilities, this is an important factor that cannot be overlooked.
– Are there electrical plug points and supplies for your outdoor ceremony and reception. Lights, DJ’s and bands, food warmers and other equipment all need a power supply.
– You may have to end your night time celebrations early. You need to make your neighbours aware of the function and take any noise restrictions into consideration.
– Visit your venue a year in advance if possible. This will allow you to see the location at the exact time of year that you are going to get married. Take note of the shade, will your guests be sitting in the sun for the duration of the ceremony? The light needs to be even for the best photo’s to be taken as well. Visiting the venue at the exact time a year in advance allows you to pick the best time of day or evening for your ceremony and reception to take place.
– Will there be enough space for your guests to park their cars? If the property doesn’t have space for your guests, consider hiring transport to fetch them from a safe location where they can leave their cars.
There are many factors that come into play when choosing a backyard wedding and it may not be as simple or as inexpensive as you had imagined. With proper planning and preparing, your backyard wedding dream is fully achievable. Hiring a wedding planner is an excellent option for backyard weddings, it takes a huge amount of stress and planning off of the bridal couple.
Your backyard ceremony needs to be carefully planned. Firstly you need to have a spot for the pre-ceremony gathering. Guests are most likely to arrive well ahead of time and need a space where they can relax and wait for the ceremony to begin.
The majority of backyard ceremonies happen in the beautiful outdoors. You need to take the season and time of day into careful consideration. If the garden is filled with trees and shade, then the time of day becomes less of a challenge. If your venue doesn’t have a vast amount of trees then you may have to consider moving your ceremony to late afternoon so that your guests don’t bake in the summer heat. If there are little or no trees, perhaps a few canvas umbrella’s will be practical and won’t take away from the beautiful setting. Use them to your advantage and add decor to them. Hang delicate tea lights and flowers from the umbrellas or wrap your favourite flowers around the base. The comfort of your guests is of utmost importance. Don’t forget to consider the direction in which you are facing. You don’t want your guests to be blinded by the afternoon sun, nor do you want to be squinting through the glare as you say your I do’s. Have a basket of cute fans for each if your guests to stay cool during the ceremony, these would also look lovely in your photo’s.
Consider planning a gorgeous evening wedding, what would be more romantic than saying your wedding vows in the golden glow of the sunset and dancing to your first song as a married couple under the evening stars. Use your surroundings to your advantage, if there is a swing in the way, use it as a focal point or a decor piece. Get creative and make the most of the beautiful setting that nature has provided for you. If the garden is one level, perhaps have a platform for you as the bridal couple to stand on. This will make it easier for your guests to feel part of the ceremony and will also provide the best photo opportunities. Create a pretty altar feature to stand under while saying your vows, this is a simple trick to add rustic romance to your ceremony. Drape a simple piece of fabric and add some flowers, or create a rustic little arch with wood and drape fabric or flowers over it. Have a backup plan for bad weather, although most guests can must a slight chill for a little while, most of them won’t be too happy sitting in wind and rain to witness your union. If there is no indoor option, then it is best to have a good supply of umbrellas for the day – just in case. Have a wooden crate with blankets in for those who may need to keep warm, this is also a lovely option for guests with small children who may enjoy sitting on a blanket during the ceremony.
The ceremony is over and you are stolen by your photographer for your first photo’s as a married couple, you guests need somewhere to wait for your return. An outdoor space is a good idea as it needs little planning and decor. Have a couple of tables and chairs with drinks and snacks for guests to enjoy while waiting.
Creating interesting things for your guests to do will help alleviate any impatience. Have a photo gallery or a place where guests can write special notes for you, if you are a whimsical couple, have some of your favorite games for your friends and family to enjoy. A photo booth is a fun option for both pre-reception and during the reception. Provide fun little props for your guests to use to create their own memories. These photos also serve as lovely thank you gifts for your guests.
This is what the guests have been waiting for! Food, drinks and a night full of laughter and dancing. You want to create the most romantic and memorable wedding reception possible with the space that you have. If there is no rustic barn or outbuilding, perhaps hire a tent company to create a whimsical tented reception. The fabulous thing about tents is that there are very little limitations. You can still have the fairytale draping and lighting that most brides dream of while enjoying the beautiful country night sky.
The reception area should have enough tables and chairs to seat each guest, as well as tables for catering and wedding gifts, and a spot for the DJ should you choose to have one. You don’t want to have your guests crammed into a small space, it is important to make sure that there is ample space for everything you need in the reception area.
Round tables are very generic for wedding day seating plans. Work with the space that you have. If you need to use long tables, make it work. Many couples are choosing to have long harvest style tables at their reception so that guests can better enjoy each other’s company. A dance floor is another important factor to consider. If there isn’t enough room indoors for a large dance floor, get creative and create a cute outdoor dance floor for the guests who want to dance the night away under the stars.
A huge bonfire is a fun and easy way to add another exciting element to your reception and works perfectly for those nights that get chilly out in the country. Creating a separate seating area is also another popular trend, use the outdoor space that you have to provide an area outside of the reception for guests to enjoy conversation and drinks.
Food & Drinks
Catering for your guests is one of the most important aspects of your wedding. While your wedding day is an important and special day for you as the bridal couple, your guest’s comfort is of utmost importance. You don’t want your guests walking away from your wedding with anything less than magical memories and a satisfied palate. The food and drinks play a very important role in creating those memories.
Offer pre-ceremony drinks for the guests who like to arrive very early, a small glass of fresh juice or a glass of champagne are both great options for summer weddings. For the colder days have a coffee bar where your guests can enjoy something warm while they wait for the ceremony to begin. When the ceremony is over, you will be whisked away by the photographer to capture some of your dream wedding photo’s, don’t forget to take good care of your guests while you are absent from the scene.
Backyard weddings don’t often allow for a wide variety of food options. You have to take the weather and storage options into consideration. If there isn’t space to keep food warm or cold, opt for cocktail snacks that are great served at room temperature or cheese platters with a variety of cheeses, crackers, and preserves. Should you be fortunate to have enough space and heating options, a buffet is another great dinner choice. A buffet style dinner cuts down on catering costs and allows your guests to help themselves to a warm meal. Try choose foods that won’t spoil easily and that aren’t too dependent on the weather, for instance having a seafood buffet in the scorching hot summer isn’t the greatest idea.
Stay away from desserts that need to be chilled and go for tasty miniature pastries and cakes instead. A sweet buffet or bar is a classic this year, you can offer a variety of mini country treats, s’mores are one of my personal favorite’s and offer a fun experience for your guests to enjoy.
Offer drinks that complement the food, having a bar area is always a hit with your guests, or have bottles of wine on the table for your guests and incorporate it with your table decor, this is space saving and cost effective. Alcohol is always a good option as it doesn’t spoil and is easy to store and serve. Pitchers of lemonade and iced tea are really great and space saving too, be sure to have the pitchers topped up for your guests. Spa water is a very popular and refreshing drink, and they are so simple to make yourself.
Another cute idea is to have a picnic theme, your guests can enjoy their own little picnic basket of food, drinks, and treats. You can include a small bottle or Mason jar of a signature drink in the basket, and there will be no waste because guests get to keep their bottles.