A month after my daughter’s wedding I have decided to share a “do it yourself wedding” journal with you! This past spring our oldest daughter and her fiancé set a wedding date for the end of August. For the first few weeks, we were discussing the different options about which state to have the wedding at, since they are attending school in another state. After several phone calls and lengthy Facetime sessions, everybody agreed that our backyard would make a beautiful setting for our nature loving bride and groom.
Considering the size of our backyard, the bride and the groom decided that this was going to be an intimate wedding with close family and friends. The invitations were sent out, and the preparations were begun for what turned out to be a rewarding DIY project. This was the first wedding party that I had ever been responsible for organizing, and I gained some valuable experience through all of this. I hope that you will find this journal of all the weeks leading to the wedding day helpful for your future project.
For starters, my husband and I spent the majority of our weekends from May (which is when the weather gets warm enough in our area) to the end of August preparing our backyard. The first thing that we had to do was to trim and prune the overgrown trees and shrubs (then trim some more) to make room for the tables and chairs to accommodate enough seating for our guests.
We had been looking for an arch for the ceremony, but didn’t quite find what we had in mind. Then as we were cutting down a multi trunk old river birch, its four perfect trunks gave us the idea to make our own arch. The thicker parts of the trunks were used for the main poles, and two of the thinner sections were used on top to attach the poles together.
We used the remaining pieces to make a stand for a welcome wedding sign which turned out to be way cute and fit the whole wedding theme perfectly!
Our backyard is fully landscaped with trees, rose bushes, and other perennials, and there is not much room or direct sunlight for delicate flowers. We live in a mountain town and this mature landscaping gives enough shade in the backyard during our hot summers to keep the temperatures a few degrees cooler. However, we decided to make a few small flower gardens to add a splash of color to our little makeshift forest! We purchased several flats of geraniums, petunias, snapdragons, and dianthuses from Home Depot, Walmart, and Costco. All of the little plants grew very nicely to fill out the gardens by the time August rolled in.
We had the most trouble with the beautiful and fragrant petunias because a certain type of moth found them to be perfect for laying her eggs and once these eggs turned to caterpillars (bud worms) they ate the flowers in a lace pattern and destroyed them in a matter of hours! We discovered that the only effective way to deal with the hungry caterpillars was to remove them by hand, since none of the available pesticides worked on them. We normally don’t use pesticide in our backyard but this year we had to resort to it to get the yard in a tiptop shape for the wedding, and it didn’t even work!! So in spite of their gorgeous display with shades of pink and purple and glowing whites, I would not have planted them if I had known how much work it would be just to keep them in good shape for the wedding day.
On the first week of June we researched several “event rentals” in our area for the items that we needed for the party. The first place on the search had a recorded message; they never called us back! Then we found one with very good reviews about their products and their customer relations. We contacted them and they invited us to visit their very impressive facility and we signed up with them. The terms of contract were flexible and we would be able to make any changes that were needed up to 2 weeks before the event. We rented several long banquet tables and a few tall cabaret tables with linens, chairs and chair sashes. I found out that renting small items such as string lights and lanterns would cost the same as buying them, so that is what I did.
We bought different string lights for different areas. The heavier and brighter lights that we used on the fence all around the backyard were bought from Costco. We used small white Christmas lights for the trees, and several strands of larger round bulbs over the patio (aka dance floor); both these lights were purchased from Target. We also bought some solar Japanese lanterns from Lowe’s that didn’t produce much light but were a nice decorative addition. The trees were also decorated with small hanging lanterns (from IKEA) that were lit by tea light candles.
Each table was decorated with small candles (from Walmart) that were placed inside glass globes (The Dollar Store). We used varying sizes of glass vases (Michael’s and The Dollar Store) for the fresh cut flowers. I ordered the flowers online from Costco: http://www.costco.com/bulk-flowers.html. I would highly recommend reading the reviews on each flower before ordering them, I found them to be very accurate and helpful. With the bride and groom’s help, we selected and ordered them in the middle of June and chose the delivery date two days before the wedding.
The well wrapped boxes of flowers arrived Thursday morning. Five of us opened the boxes and clipped hundreds of flowers according to the instructions and placed them in buckets with enough water and flower food mixture (the packages came with them) that covered only up to 3 inches of the stems. We stored the flowers in the cool basement overnight to give them a chance to perk up and for some of the blooms to open up. On Friday the stems were cut in different lengths for the bouquets, boutonnieres, and vases. My daughter made the bouquets for herself and her bridesmaids, and the groom made all of the boutonnieres. All the flowers were kept in the basement until a couple of hours prior to the guests arrivals on Saturday.
As with any get together, the food plays a very important role in a successful wedding party. We started our search for a catering company in the middle of June. We encountered some very uninspiring dishes during this search. One of the places that I had called (which, by the way, had a five star rating on the internet), insisted that they had only one spot left for the date of our event implying that we should make a decision right away. Our options were, either to pay $80 for a food tasting, or wait two weeks for their free tasting event. I usually have a hard time trusting this type of hard sell tactics, so I decided to wait two weeks and not pay for the tasting. Once my husband and I had a chance to taste their food, we decided that we didn’t want to serve it to our guests. I learned that most places with good reputation and good food never charge you for food tasting anyway!
By contrast, the catering company that we ended up choosing invited us to select some of the foods that we were interested in, including 3 different flavors of the wedding cake, and set up a tasting for the next day. We decided on a chocolate wedding cake with cream cheese frosting. As promised, the food was amazing, the service was cordial and professional, and the three tiered cake arrived without any decorations but with some extra frosting that I gladly piped out with my star tip and decorated with some of the fresh flowers.
I decided to make a large batch of my homemade hummus and served it with wedges of fresh pita bread along with crudité and a cheese and cracker platter. I also baked some of my Azeri pastries, Ghorabieh, and the walnut roll (above) that will have a posted recipe in the near future.
When we were preparing for this wedding the ultimate goal was a perfectly happy gathering of family and friends to celebrate a matrimonial union with a beautiful ceremony and a super fun reception. We had hoped that everyone, especially the bride and the groom, would have a good time and I’m happy to say that we accomplished all of that with an evening full of love, joy, laughter, good food, and lots of spirited Iranian and American music and dance. This intimate Iranian/American wedding in our backyard was so much fun that I would do everything (except for the petunias) exactly the same if I were to do it again! This is not to say that it was easy because as you can imagine from my long journal, it involved a lot of preparation, and -I have to be honest- some nervousness in the weeks leading up to the wedding. However, it is a nice feeling to know that we did most of it ourselves, everyone had fun, and it didn’t even rain on us ; as a matter of fact it was the last perfect night of the season for our little mountain town which welcomed fall the very next weekend with typical windy weather and cooler temperatures. All in all, this was a memorable night for our young newlyweds and our lovely guests, and by sharing my journal I’m hoping that some of you who are planning a DIY wedding would have enjoyed this tale!