Exactly one year ago today, I enjoyed the single greatest day of my entire life. On October 5, 2012 I married my best friend in the entire world, Kyle, 700 miles away from home, in Corolla, North Carolina. It was a small, beachfront ceremony followed by an intimate backyard reception with about 40 close friends and family. It was absolutely perfect.
Today we are back in the Outer Banks celebrating our anniversary with some ocean-kayaking, beach-strolling, and dune-climbing but while we are there, I'm celebrating with you guys here as I take you through our big day!
You know those girls who dream of their wedding from the time they are 5 years old? The ones who already have their dress picked out, with matching shoes, 3 hairstyle ideas, and a makeup artist on stand by? Yeah, that wasn't me.
Watching people plan traditional weddings stressed me out. Now, I'm not saying the traditional route can't be beautiful and meaningful for those who are into that sort of thing, but the thought of picking out what color chair covers we'd have or registering for wedding china we'd never ever use made me want to scream.
One day, after being engaged for a few months, Kyle and I were having dinner out and we decided "Okay, we really need to start planning a wedding. What the heck are we going to do?" Our first thought was an intimate backyard wedding. But, neither of us had a particularly scenic backyard so that was crossed off the list.
Then, we joked about maybe just running away to the beach and getting hitched. While it wasn't totally out of the question, having friends and family there was a priority for us. Then, a lightbulb! We would combine the two, rent a beach house for a week, and have the wedding in the backyard there. A vacation and wedding in one! Perfect!
It is recommended that you set a budget when you're just starting to plan your wedding. While we didn't do a strict budget by the numbers (our budget was "the cheaper the better") we did list out our priorities in terms of what items we'd save on and what we'd splurge on. We also brainstormed what things could be handmade by us (okay, me), what things we could do "our way", and what things we could forego altogether.
DIY: Invitations, Decorations, Flowers, Food/Drinks, Music, Hair/Makeup
Splurge/High-Priority: Venue and Photography
As an artist, one of the things I had to do to get the planning started was to come up with some themes and motifs to plan out the decor and overall "look" of the wedding.
We started by picking out a color scheme via Design-Seeds. We wanted something bold and cheerful. Beachy but not cliche, and a scheme that fit in well with the Fall season. I think we nailed it.
The "motifs" we decided on were our initials in a heart (M + K), bunting banners, Ball mason jars (to reference our last name!), and the rustic look of burlap, twine, and kraft paper.
When we decided on the backyard beach wedding idea, we figured we'd rent one giant beach house, our friends and family would stay at the house for the week, we'd enjoy a vacation together and have an awesome laid-back wedding... easy peasy! Right? Ummm... not quite.
I never realized just how hard it would be to coordinate everyone's schedules, find a house that fit all of us comfortably, and not break the bank with extra "event fees".
Finding the house was the most stressful part of the entire planning process. We'd find the perfect house, and then find out that they didn't allow events there. Or, we'd find one with tons of bedrooms, but they were all bunk beds.
At one point, after months of stressful searching and lots of dead ends, we even considered scrapping the whole idea and getting married somewhere else, or back home in Cincinnati. But, we perservered and finally found the perfect place!
It was a gorgeous 10-bedroom home right on the beach with a big back yard with lots of space and lots of amenities (it even had en elevator for goodness sake)! We loved it, we booked it, and we finally could relax.
What We Wore
Dress shopping was an interesting experience. I went to some of the high-end bridal boutiques that are well-known and highly recommended locally and while they were very beautiful with a giant selection, it was all just too overwhelming for me. I totally get how some brides like the idea of having one-on-one consultations and sipping champagne while trying on a zillion dresses, but that wasn't for me. I wanted to walk in, pick one off the rack myself, try it on, pay, and leave like I was shopping at Target or something. (What do you mean that doesn't exist?!)
What made it even more tricky was the fact that I had NO idea what I wanted.
Me: I'm getting married on the beach so I want something...."beachy", I guess?
Consultant: Ok, do you think long or short?
Me: I don't know
Consultant: Ok... what about the neckline? Sleeves? Strapless?
Me: I don't know
Consultant: **blank stare**
The consultants loved me. Which is why, I guess, when I requested something "light and beachy", they brought me a couple of $4000, 80-pound dresses with tons of sparkle appliques. Uh....no.
I ended up going to David's Bridal which was much more low-key and easy, as well as budget-friendly. I liked how they helped me find a couple dresses but then left me a lone while I tried on and discussed the pros and cons with my mom. Hands-off, no pressure, my kind of shopping!
Once I started brainstorming "beachy" dresses, I thought I had my dream dress narrowed down: a short dress, with cap sleeves (or at least thicker straps), no veil. Very simple and fun. But, as I tried on the shorter dresses they didn't make me feel like a bride. I ended up with a long, strapless dress with a train and a veil. Go figure.
I did my own makeup and hair, my aunt painted my nails, my future sister-in-law helped with the half up-do, and my mom and sister helped with the veil.
Kyle's outfit was one of the last items we bought, just a couple weeks before we left. We were cutting it close to our deadline and I was getting a little stressed out that we wouldn't find what we needed, which is why it was a huge relief when we found a perfect tan linen suit at Macy's.
It was on the clearance rack because it was the end of the season, but the linen material was perfect for the beach! We did have to run around to a couple of different stores to piece together the right sizes, but we found them, added a snazzy orange tie, and the outfit was complete!
Since we knew it would be enough of a sacrifice for those who are closest to us to travel all that way to even be in the wedding, we really wanted to make everything else as simple as possible for them. This included outfits.
For the guys, Kyle bought them each an orange tie that matched his and gave it to them as part of a pre-wedding gift. He also picked out a specific type of khakis, one that came in a wide range of colors and could easily be found at local shopping malls, and told them to buy a pair in their size, and pair it with a white button down shirt. Super easy!
For the girls, I knew I wanted them to feel beautiful in whatever dress they wore. I also knew, as someone who has been a bridesmaid myself, that not all dresses fit and flatter all body types equally. So, again to keep things super simple, I had them pick their own dress. It could be any style they wanted it to be, as long as it was a shade of teal and it was short. I had a vision in my head of a spectrum of teal shades that didn't "match" but rather "coordinated". It turned out beautifully!
Our ceremony took place on the beach right behind our house. Having it in October was fantastic because by that time the summer visitors had left and the beaches were pretty much empty, yet it was still warm enough to enjoy the outdoors. We really lucked out with the weather on our wedding day because we didn't really have much of a backup plan aside from, "Well, I guess we'll just move it into the house." Thank goodness it was beautiful!
I love fresh cut flowers just a much as the next girl, but logistically and financially it made more sense for us to go with fake bouquets. It would have been too difficult to have them shipped and delivered at a destination wedding, and price-wise it just wasn't a priority for us. I also was pretty particular about the colors I wanted in my bouquets (I loved the look of the fall-ish orange against the bright teal of the girl's dresses).
All of the flowers were purchased at either Michael's or Hobby Lobby. I made sure to buy them in multiple trips so I could use coupons each time and save a little moolah. Then, my mom and I assembled them into bouquets. Some were wrapped just with floral tape since they would be placed in sand-filled mason jars anyway, while the bridesmaids bouquets were wrapped in white satin fabric and twine.
We made just enough bouquets for each of the bridesmaids plus the end chair of each row of seats and decided that, following the ceremony, we would simply move the aisle-way bouquets to the table tops and have the bridesmaids put their bouquets in jars for centerpieces. Yay for multitasking!
My bouquet was made with white flowers and wrapped with burlap and ribbon. It was important to me that I incorporate the memory of my late grandparents, the real-life Buck & Libby, so I added two little photo charms to my bouquet so they could be with me on my big day.
My adorable nephew, Gavin, was our Ring-Bearer. He was dressed in a white button-down shirt and khakis to match the rest of the groomsmen but he stood out with a bright orange bow tie, purchased on Etsy.
Trusting a 4-year old with rings on a sandy beach right by the ocean is a little stressful, so instead we had him carry a little hand-painted ring box that was a little harder to lose. I bought a plain wooden box from Michaels, painted it with our initials on the outside, "Mr" and "Mrs." on the inside, and lined the box with some leftover felt.
It was important for Kyle and I to have an officiant at our wedding who knew us well and who we felt comfortable with. Neither of us are particularly religious people or church-goers so we didn't have a pastor in mind. We also didn't want a stranger officiating as if they had known us for a while when really we just met the day before.
We were lucky enough to have Kyle's brother-in-law, Chris as our officiant. He did an amazing job! The day before the wedding he met with Kyle and I individually and asked us questions like "What was your first impression of Kyle?", "What were your parents' first impression of Megan?" etc. He included some of the answers he got in the ceremony which was a fun surprise for us.
Kyle and I wrote our own vows together. This allowed us to make them truly ours, have them say what we wanted to say, but took away the stress of having them be a surprise to one another. No one wants to be the person who writes 4 brief lines while your spouse writes and epic poem. Awk-warrrd.
As guests arrived at the ceremony we had them take off their shoes and pick a seat. The best part about having a small, intimate wedding was that all of our friends and family members who were in attendance had, at one point or another, met both me and Kyle. There were no strangers to either of us. So, it was only fitting to not have them pick a side.
We also had a small chest that we used during the ceremony itself as a sort of time capsule. After we read our vows, we put our notes into the chest. Our officiant added his notes as well. After the wedding we added other momentos to the chest like decorations from the wedding, our cake toppers, souvenirs from our honeymoon, and a bottle of wine. We plan to add letters to one another on each anniversary until we open the time capsule on our 10th Anniversary.
When planning ahead, we knew we needed to have decorations that were easy to transport, didn't take up a lot of space, and that could be easily improvised at our destination. We also wanted to come up with as many things as possible that could be prepared ahead of time, instead of having to hire someone to come in and set up the day-of.
When we arrived and saw the beautiful back yard, with the gorgeous gazebo leading to the ocean (it was even a matching orange color!) we knew it wouldn't be too difficult to make the reception look festive.
The bulk of our decorations consisted of felt bunting banners in our wedding color scheme. They were festive and fun, and added the color that flowers normally do without the added cost.
I ordered tons of felt from the Etsy Shop, "Felt For Less" was SUPER pleased with the quality and service. There felt is made out of recycled tires, is very soft, and the owner was happy to send along samples ahead of time to make sure I got the colors right.
I won't lie, preparing the ZILLIONS of triangles ahead of time was pretty time-consuming and tedious, but with a little help from family and friends we were able to get all of them cut and boxed up to transport. Then, once we were on location, all we had left to do was measure out the twine and string them along.
Aside from the bunting we also had lots of twinkling lights, thanks to my always-prepared dad and my brother-in-law. My dad brought lots of tacks, spools and spools of extension cords, and a bajillion strings of Christmas lights. I wasn't expecting to have so many but I'm so glad he thought to bring them because it made the whole back yard sparkle.
Food and Drinks
Like many other aspects of our wedding, we decided to go the DIY route when it came to food and drinks. Being that it was a destination wedding, we couldn't exactly taste-test a number of different caterers to figure out who we liked best ahead of time. We also knew that while we wanted to be in charge of food ourselves, we didn't want to have any of our guests cooking during the ceremony or manning a grill during the reception.
We wanted something that could appeal to lots of different tastes, could be prepared ahead of time without losing its quality, and that was pretty low-maintenance. We decided on a Chipotle-style burrito buffet!
A couple of days before the wedding we took a mini road trip to the nearest Sam's Club which was about an hour away to stock up on all the ingredients. We had cilantro-lime rice, grilled veggies, chicken, steak, cheese, lettuce, beans, various salsas, guacamole, the whole she-bang!
We were also meticulous with determining portion sizes to figure out how much we would need of everything. We wanted to make sure everyone had enough to eat, but since we were leaving a couple of days later we didn't want to have tons of leftovers. To help figure this out, we had guests RSVP for the wedding via an online survey and on the RSVP questionnaire we asked them to tell us what they would put on their burritos. We reminded them that this wasn't set in stone, that they could change their minds the day of the wedding, but it definitely gave us an idea of how many wanted chicken vs. steak, etc. It worked out perfectly.
Drinks were handled similarly. We had a couple of different "signature" cocktails that were mixed ahead of time like sangria and "blushing bride" (a fruity tropical drink). We had a number of different liquors and mixers available, as well as a few different types of bottled beer. Each guest was given a Ball mason jar and a straw and they could mix their own drinks, choose a signature cocktail, or grab a beer.
For wedding favors, we gave guests beer koozies that could be used during the reception and taken home as a fun souvenir.
Similar to our situation with the idea of catering, we decided not to order a specialty wedding cake for a number of reasons. For one, we couldn't see spending hundreds of dollars on a cake. And two, there was no way we could do a taste-test prior to our trip to OBX.
Instead, we ordered plain white-iced cupcakes from Sam's Club and we picked them up on our food run. They are super cheap, super delish, and once I added my little cake toppers, they were super cute!
For the cupcake toppers, I simply bought a heart-shaped paper punch at a craft store, punched them out of kraft paper, added our initials with a white gel pen, and attached them to toothpicks to stick in the cupcakes. So simple!
When it came to the cake that Kyle and I ceremoniously cut, we had one of our absolute favorite desserts ever-- his dad made us his yummy homemade cheesecake! It's our fave at holidays so it was only fitting that we would have it on our special day as well.
The "cake stand" was made by us out of hat boxes I purchased at Michaels. We turned the boxes and lids upside-down, attached them with dowel rods, and painted triangle bunting around the sides.
I hand-painted the cake toppers, a mini-version of Kyle and I, along with a mini bunting banner. Aren't we cute?!
Music and Dancing
We opted not to hire a DJ or a band for our big day. Instead, we rented speakers and used an AMAZING app called MyWeddingDJ that syncs with your iTunes library. You can decide which songs can be delegated to which part of the wedding (the bride's walk down the aisle, first dance, cake cutting, etc.) and then all you have to do is push a button and it plays on cue. Brilliant!
We also opted not to rent a dance floor. We kept going back and forth about this, mostly out of fear that ladies' heels would destroy the lawn as we danced but we decided that most people would be barefoot anyway. It ended up being a good choice, for our budget's sake, and no one noticed the lack of dance floor.
A Special Surprise Performance
Kyle had no idea that in the weeks leading up to the wedding, I had been busy planning a top secret surprise. I printed off a bunch of different pictures of his face to provide to my bridesmaids who would serve as my backup dancers. Then, after a few drinks at the reception, I would perform a very special song for my new husband.
It started out as the first couple of notes of a romantic slow song, but then very quickly switched to something more my style-- "Whatta Man" by Salt-n-Pepa. I serenaded him with the sometimes-risqué lyrics from beginning to end as he tried not to die of embarrassment. I think he liked it.
When I originally envisioned my wedding I pictured this: all of my close friends and family, a gorgeous summer night with a light breeze, tons of flickering candles and twinkling lights, good food, drinks, and dancing under the starts. I got exactly that.
I remember at one point in the evening, while dancing around barefoot with my new husband, surrounded by our loved ones, I looked around me and was moved to tears by just how perfect this day was. It was magical.
And I'm so glad you could share it with us now.
Our Wedding Video
For even more of a peek into our special day, check out this awesome wedding movie our fab photographers created for us!
Since sharing is caring, and since I know just how tricky it can be to plan a whole wedding DIY-style, here is a list of lots of websites, vendors, and resources I used along the way. Enjoy!
Pre-Planning and Set-up
- Invites and Save the Dates: Designed by me, Printed via Vistaprint
- RSVPs: Online Only via SurveyMonkey
- Wedding Website: Self-created using Blogger
- Wedding Registry: Merci Registry
- OBX Wedding Association: Website
- Wedding Insurance: WedSafe
- Our AMAZING Photographers: The Love Project
- Venue: Absolute Elegance Event Home, Carolina Designs Realty
- Table, Chair, and Speaker Rental: Ocean Atlantic Rental
- Food/Drinks: Dinner and drinks self-prepared, cupcakes via Sam's Club, Cheesecake via Father of the Groom :)
- Tablecloths & Napkins: Purchased on Amazon
- Plates, Bowls, and Salsa Cups: WorldCentric
- Silverware: Sam's Club (they are actually plastic that look like real silver!)
- Table Runner Burlap: Gempler's
- Twine: Uline
- Flowers: Hobby Lobby
- Ball Jars: Meijer, the vintage blue jars were a gift from a bridesmaid
- Festive Straws: DimeStoreBuddy
- Felt: FeltForLess
- Dress: David's Bridal
- Tux: Macy's
- Bride's Shoes: DSW, Jessica Simpson brand
- Jewelry: Charming Charlie
- Makeup : some Sephora, some drug store brands
- Ring Bearer's Bowtie: CraftyMunchkins
Music & Ceremony
- DJ: MyWeddingDJ App
- Ceremony Readings: Excerpts from Finding Nemo, "I Like You and I Know Why", and various quotes
- Ceremony Music: Vitamin Strong Quartet (from our iTunes library)
- Couple's First Dance: "Free" by Zac Brown Band
- Father/Daughter Dance: "Slow Sweet Walk With You" by Edwin McCain
- Mother/Son Dance : "Chicken Fried" by Zac Brown Band