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
Aemus & Emily introduced their twins, Haven and Cason, in 2015 as miracle babies. After multiple fertility attempts, they finally had success with invitro-fertilization. The last 21 months have been filled with many memorable moments raising twins. Unfortunately, they’ve come to a large bump in the road. They recently found out that their son, Cason, has quite the fight ahead of him! Cason has been diagnosed with a very aggressive localized malignant tumor. He and his wild-haired sister are their everything! This will be a long process for their little man and their family as he undergoes his very invasive surgery on October 17th at the UW Children’s Hospital. Everyone’s complete faith, support, and the power of prayer will carry him and their family through this most difficult time. We pray for God’s loving touch, the Doctors steady hands, good health, and a speedy recovery!
You don’t get much more country than a rustic farm wedding. Your wedding venue doesn’t have to be an actual farm, think more along the lines of a farm themed wedding. Think rustic decor in natural surroundings with a friendly, relaxed atmosphere. Thoughts of bales of hay and red checkered picnic blankets come to mind as well. Imagine the smell of freshly cut grass and the sounds of birds happily chirping as you walk down the grassy aisle nature has provided. The image of old barns and wooden halls may come to mind as well. The countryside has so many beautiful, rustic venues to offer that would be perfectly suited to a farm themed wedding. In this article, you will be inspired to create the farm wedding of your dreams, plus there will be a few handy hints and tips for planning your farm wedding day.
Your farm wedding doesn’t need to be boring or 100% farm-like by any means. You can choose to incorporate certain aspects of the farm theme, or you can choose to embrace the theme and go all out with it. A farm wedding can be both relaxed and chic, luxurious and down to earth. It is the perfect theme to show off your country style with an elegant twist. Farm weddings are all about adding elements to create a look of rustic country charm.
If you are planning a farm wedding, you want to use that theme to your full advantage. The location is a huge part of creating the wedding of your dreams. If it is a farm wedding you are after, your venue should reflect that it is indeed a farm themed wedding. Your ceremony is best suited for the beautiful outdoors. Try to choose a venue that has both a beautiful outdoor area, as well as indoor options in case of bad weather.
Creating a gorgeous ceremony outdoors isn’t difficult if you have a beautiful setting to start with. Beautiful open land gives you the perfect opportunity to decorate according to your personal style to create the ceremony you envision. Be sure to visit your venue a year in advance on the exact date of your wedding to see what the ceremony site will look like at the time of day you are planning to say your I do’s. It is important that your guest’s comfort is taken into consideration. Have a look if there is shade for your guests to be seated under, if there isn’t, consider moving your ceremony to late afternoon so that you aren’t walking down the aisle in the heat of the day.
If you have always dreamed of a gorgeous indoor ceremony, whether it be in a rustic barn or a traditional chapel, you don’t have to compromise this for the sake of your farm wedding theme. You can create a lovely rustic atmosphere indoors as well. The time of day and weather won’t be an issue if you choose to have your ceremony indoors.
Another thing to consider is seating arrangements, is there enough space to accommodate your total number of guests? What will they be sitting on and does the venue provide it. Consider using rustic wooden chairs with pretty burlap ribbons tied to each. If you are looking for something a little more farm rustic, consider using bales of hay with a blanket or burlap draped over for comfort. If you choose this option you need to consider the length of your ceremony, sitting without a backrest will be tiresome for your guests if your ceremony is a long one. Seat your guests facing away from the sun, this is often overlooked. The sun should be behind your guests, not behind where you will be standing for your ceremony. Guests will not be comfortable squinting through the glare of the sun throughout your ceremony, nor is this ideal for your photographer.
Your aisle is your opportunity to create a grand entrance for yourself on the day. All of your guests, along with your husband to be, will be staring down the aisle waiting for that first glance of you in your wedding dress. Your chairs should be placed in such a way that it creates an aisle for you to walk down, throw fresh rose petals down the aisle for a whimsical effect as your dress sweeps over them. Place candles, lanterns and flowers down the aisle to create a beautiful runway leading to your groom. The alter is another place that you can decorate. Consider creating a raised platform if there isn’t one, so that your guests can all see you as you say your vows, and so that you can feel set apart from your guests. This also creates a stunning feature in all of your wedding photos. Create a canopy by draping soft fabric over branches, this will also protect you from the sun if you are outdoors. Use fresh flowers and soft fabrics to create something pretty over rustic wooden poles or branches. If you are having an outdoor ceremony, why not arrive in an old wagon or on a tractor to add some “wow” to your entrance. Speak to your venue about options that they may have.
The rest of the ceremony should be decorated and not left bare. Create a place where guests can enjoy a drink and chat before the ceremony starts. Use wine barrels, old milk cans and crates to create little places of interest throughout your ceremony. Fresh flowers can never go out of fashion or be used too much. Use wildflowers that you can find naturally in your surroundings to create that rustic charm you are after. For something less formal, opt for potted plants placed on crates, logs, and tables, or in rustic tin buckets down the aisle. These can be lovely gifts for mothers and special people at the end of the night. Use your surroundings to your advantage, place chairs and aisles strategically to show off the beauty of your surroundings.
The reception is the main event of your wedding day. It is the time where guests can relax and enjoy whatever the evening brings. It is the time where you can let your hair down and enjoy your first evening together as Mr & Mrs. While the ceremony is an important and special part of your wedding day, the reception is the part where most of the decor and planning is done.
Your reception starts straight after the ceremony. On most occasions, your photographer will steal you away from your guests to capture those romantic shots that you will be displaying in your home for years to come. Your guests need to be taken care of while you are away. It is always a good idea to serve snacks and drinks while you are having your photos taken. Keep your guests entertained to avoid boredom, include fun yard games (if the weather permits) or have personalized quiz cards and word searches for your guests to fill out as they sit and relax. There are many farm-style games that you can incorporate into your reception, do some research and find ones that suit you as a couple. Include games from your childhood that bring back memories, or be daring and create your own new games. Don’t forget to include children if you have chosen to invite them. Have packs for them to color in or provide something creative and fun, like bubbles, to keep themselves busy through the reception speeches.
Your reception hall will most likely be in a rustic old barn or tent to create the ultimate farm wedding vision. You need to ensure that there is enough space to accommodate all of your guests comfortably, as well as your food, DJ or band, and dance floor. If there is space, use long farm-style tables instead of round tables to create that open family feeling. The dance floor is an important aspect of your reception and one that most guests look forward to. After all of the speeches, wining and dining your guests will want to hit the dance floor and let their hair down for the rest of the evening. If your reception venue doesn’t have space to have a dance floor, make do with the space that you have. You can create a beautiful outdoor dance floor for guests to dance the night away under the country sky.
Lighting and decor is crucial in your reception venue. Without these two elements, you will have an empty hall with no atmosphere. Soft fairy lights and candles create a romantic glow that is essential to most weddings, no matter the theme. Whether you are in a barn, a tent or a hall, there are always options to drape lights and fabric to create a romatic feel of the evening, as well as in your photos. Ask your venue about lighting for the dance floor, you want to create a relaxed but fun atmosphere and lighting plays a huge role in creating that.
Decor can be simple for a farm-style wedding. Candles and flowers are generally what is found on most wedding tables, but try change things up and create your own style. Choose wild, natural flowers and create little landscapes in the middle of your tables. Use natural moss and twigs as space fillers. If you love your formal flowers like roses and lilies, don’t compromise, but simply add some wild baby’s breath and sunflowers to the mix. Using Mason jars and glasses is another way to add rustic charm to your farm wedding tables. Don’t be scared to mix and match different size and shape jars and glass vases, this adds to the farm DIY look. Add elements of burlap and lace to your tables to create an elegant country look. Use different elements to display your table numbers, use wine bottles covered in lace or old rustic frames. Use beautiful natural tree trunk slices as bases for flowers and candles.
Your reception venue will have lots of little spaces that you can fill with interesting decor pieces. Stack old books and use them as a base for your flowers, use wooden crates, buckets, and other antique farm style pieces to stack and add flowers to. A trend is to have a photo gallery of sorts, you can create a gallery of your life together as a couple, or a gallery of all the wedding photos of your family. Be creative and create something interesting for your guests to enjoy. Make a focal point of your gift and card table. Use baskets or old wine crates to decorate for your cards. Make bunting flags from burlap to hang throughout your reception area, these will look lovely in your home after your wedding too. Another trend is to have your surname letter as a monogram throughout your reception. Use a big wooden letter and create a wreath around it, decorate it with paint or cover with fabric and place it on your gift table, use different textures to create that rustic look. Get creative and make a pretty DIY piece that will make a beautiful keepsake in your home for years to come.
A lovely way to end your evening is to have your guests join you outside to release lanterns or light pretty sparklers. Things like this are special to enjoy together and also create the most beautiful photos. A photo booth is another fun way to entertain your guests and create beautiful memories for your wedding scrapbook. Keep things simple yet classy and elegant. Combine rustic elements with elegant ones to create the perfect look of “relaxed luxury” for your dream farm wedding.
Food & Drink
The ceremony reception and wedding dress are all important, but if the food and drink isn’t up to scratch your guests will be less than thrilled. Food at a wedding very important, you want your guests to be satisfied to the brim. A farm style wedding allows for a less formal approach to the food and drink. Meal time isn’t just time for eating, but a time for gathering and enjoying each other’s company as the formalities wind down.
You always need to have pre-reception snacks for your guests. Guests can enjoy small cocktail treats and a drink while they enjoy their yard games as you have your photos done. Simple is always better. Cheese and crackers, fresh fruit platters, cocktail size pastries and sandwiches are classic options to stick to. Fresh fruit juice, lemonade, and iced tea are excellent pre-reception drink options.
Farm to table dining is the popular trend with farm style weddings. Choose fresh foods straight from the farm, cooked in a simple but tasty way and served either plated or buffet style. Try and opt for seasonal vegetables and fruit and have a variety of colors to choose from. Another good option is to have cocktail style foods that your guests can snack on throughout the evening, although a good Sunday style roast meal is always the top choice for a relaxed farm wedding. Don’t choose fancy foods to try and impress your guests, farm weddings are simple and down to earth and the food should reflect that. Include some of your favorite dishes, choose classic comfort food dishes that still have a slight elegant twist to it. Coq au vin is a classic French dish, but is simple and comforting and will have your guests coming back for more. Aim for homestyle cooked meals with a touch of sophistication.
The dessert table is always a much-anticipated part of the evening. Homestyle pies and warm puddings are always delicious, comforting options, but a dessert table filled with miniature pastries, cakes and cookies are a huge hit. Once again, choose desserts that you love to eat yourself, stay away from anything that can melt or go bad in the heat of the day. A waffle or pancake bar with different toppings and perhaps an ice cream machine are fun dessert options that allow your guests to choose exactly what they want.
Your wedding cake should fall under the dessert category and is usually served after dessert with tea and coffee. If you have chosen very rich desserts, tone it down with your cake flavors and opt for French vanilla with buttercream frosting. If your desserts are not filled with chocolate and cream then your cake can be a more decadent one. Try to have a balance so that your guests don’t walk away feeling as if they have over indulged. Your cake can reflect your theme, have a look at the popular bare cake. Fresh flowers and buttercream frosting are perfect options for a farm wedding.
Instead of spending money on little gifts as wedding favors, have a candy bar for your guests to enjoy. Have a variety of candy and sweet treats along with little paper bags or boxes that your guests can help themselves too. This is both a fun and quirky little thank you gift that will have your guests feeling like kids in a candy store.
Drinks wouldn’t consist of fancy cocktails, but rather the same down to earth drinks you would enjoy in your own home. Champagne is a must have at any wedding for toasts and speeches, but a bar that has beer and wine will keep your guests happy. Provide a bottle or two of wint for each table, this can even add as decor if you simply tie a pretty piece of burlap around each bottle and place it on the table in rustic buckets. You should always have non-alcoholic options at your wedding, these could include pitchers of lemonade and fresh fruit juice, or a non-alcoholic punch for something a little more fancy. Having a bar area for guests to pick their drink and enjoy it at the bar is a great feature point of your wedding reception.
Consider doing “first look” photos. This is a modern trend where you meet your husband to be in an intimate setting before the ceremony. Your photographer will capture all of the emotion and love the two of you share in this special moment. These photos are always gorgeous keepsakes and really capture a special moment between the couple in the first treasured moments together on the wedding day.
If you have a later ceremony or a fall wedding, this is an easy way to fit in portraits without sacrificing time with friends and family. Lighting is key; we look for outdoor shaded light away from guests to ensure the most intimate moment possible. Not being seen before the wedding is still a must for most brides.
Use your surroundings to your advantage, it’s not every day that you can have photos taken in a rustic old barn with the soft glow of fairy lights, for instance. Consider the light and the time of the day. Your photographer can’t capture dreamy photos if there isn’t enough light. If you like the look of sunset photos, you need to aim to have an hour or two before the sun starts to set to capture enough photos and to get comfortable in front of the camera. Be creative, be fun and be natural. As photographers, we look for ways to see how the two of you interact when no one is looking. How do you hold hands? Practice holding hands, touching each other when you’re out in public. Scheduling an engagement session is the best way to ensure you feel the most comfortable in front of our cameras on your wedding day. It’s a conversation with a camera on the day you look and feel the most beautiful. We think you’ll nail it!
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.