Last year, on the day before Thanksgiving, I didn't even think we would have a wedding. I got the call I had been dreading. Our wedding venue had finally made a decision regarding the damage they suffered from Hurricane Sandy. They would not be able to repair and rebuild in time for our June wedding. They were terribly sorry for the inconvenience. Our deposit would be returned to us in full. Oh, and have a Happy Thanksgiving.
We delivered the news to our families over Thanksgiving dinner: Our wedding was CANCELED.
We very seriously considered eloping. As much as I wanted a big celebration with all our friends and family, the most important thing to me was marrying Brian. Neither of us was up for looking at more wedding venues. We saw practically every venue on the Jersey Shore when we first got engaged and they all just seemed so ordinary. I have absolutely nothing against a reception hall or fancy restaurant but I envisioned a really unique space for us. Something laidback and beachy without feeling like a cliché. Casual elegance.
Our original venue had everything we were looking for -- a small, intimate location for the ceremony, a tented outdoor space with water views for the reception. I couldn't fathom finding anything like it again. Here I was - a beaming bride in the middle of planning her dream wedding and then BOOM - all my plans were literally swept out to sea.
If Hurricane Sandy gave me anything positive, it's perspective. Brian and I had just survived the worst natural disaster of our lifetime. We are both born and raised beach kids. Our connection to the Jersey Shore runs deep. It has been home to us both separately and as a couple. In a matter of hours, we watched family and friends lose their homes, local businesses get destroyed, childhood memories reduced to rubble and our beloved boardwalk disappear. We still had our health, a roof over our heads and jobs to return to - which is a whole lot more than most of the other "locals" we knew.
It was time to hatch a new plan. It was time for a "Plan B Wedding."
My parents offered to host our wedding in their backyard. We would have to cut down our list... A LOT. We would also have to change our expectations. Their home is near the beach but it's not on the beach, like we wanted. Once we said goodbye to a big, expensive beach wedding, we realized the possibilities of a backyard wedding were limitless.
We treated my parents' yard like a blank canvas - a blank canvas with the potential to have one hell of a party. We mapped it out into specific sections just like any other wedding venue, only this time we had complete and total control. The side yard would have plenty of seating and a trellis for the ceremony. The patio would act as the place for the cocktail hour and then morph into the dance floor. The wrap-around porch would become the bar. The backyard would be tented with a massive buffet and lots of round tables for our guests to eat, drink and talk. The front yard would be for mingling and yard games. It was actually perfect.
I'm going to be very honest here. We were totally unprepared for the work that goes into a DIY backyard wedding. We definitely drove a lot of people crazy, including ourselves, in the process of planning this wedding. We spent every single weekend doing manual labor to get my parent's 36-year-old home ready for 85 of our nearest and dearest to enjoy themselves. Brian and my dad laid bricks and put up a fence in 90 degree weather. My mom and I weeded and planted and raked and mulched until our fingers bled. And don't even get me started on the stress and full-blown crying fits that ensued in those last days leading up the wedding, especially when the weather called for 70% chance of thunderstorms.
But we also had a lot of fun. A DIY wedding turned out to be the best outlet for my unbridled (no pun intended) creativity and craftiness. I had this really specific vision of how I wanted the day to look. And not only did our wedding turn out just as I pictured, it was even better. Of all the events I've planned in Corporate America, I had never been more proud of an event than I was at my own wedding.
If Hurricane Sandy had never happened, we would have never had a backyard wedding. And I never would've discovered my calling as a wedding planner. And Backyard Bride would never exist.
The whole thing was really just a beautiful disaster.
Brian and I happily exchanging vows right in the yard where I learned to walk as a baby. So cool.