Acacia and Donald were married in the Springtime on their family’s property in the Sierra Foothills of Northern California. Their wedding was colorful, warm and full of natural beauty. Their entire event was a collaborative DIY heart project-tribute to their relationship, and all their loved ones gathered to celebrate. As their wedding photographer, I got to personally experience and document the details of their day and the atmosphere they created, but I wanted to hear more about the behind the scenes creation of their day. So, here are the newlyweds with tips on creating a beautiful DIY backyard wedding:
What did you like about your backyard wedding venue?
We live in Los Angeles, and we had been debating getting married somewhere locally, or possibly up in Northern California, where Acacia is from. As we started to look at venues, we quickly realized that it made the most sense to get married at Acacia’s mom’s home in Diamond Springs, near Placerville, California. Venues are very expensive and because Acacia works in events and catering we knew we could do most of it ourselves and save a lot of money by hosting it at a family home. Acacia’s mom’s property is in the Sierra Nevada Foothills, on 5 open acres surrounded by woods, so it was a beautiful wide open space. One challenge about the venue was the sloped yard, but we pulled it off by having 3 separate areas for our ceremony, dinner and dancing. This arrangement worked out well.
Do you have any advice for couples planning a backyard wedding?
Our biggest piece of advice to couples planning a DIY backyard wedding is staying super organized and not leaving anything for that last week before the wedding. We were pretty methodical about our to-do lists leading up to the wedding and we got to mom’s house a week early to work on the property. We entered that week with a hefty to-do list, however that to-do list essentially doubled in size in the week leading up to the wedding. Once we got to the wedding location there were a lot of extra tasks to be completed around the property that we didn’t anticipate. We were stressed trying to complete everything because there will always be last minute things that come up that you can’t plan for with a backyard wedding. Venues have staff keeping up the property every day of the year and there are a lot of considerations that a venue is prepared for that aren’t necessarily in place in your own family’s backyard.
And if you are not hosting your wedding in your own home- think about your hosts. There is so much invisible work you have to put in when you’re opening your home to a large event. It’s not just the big day and the months leading up to the big day but there’s SO MUCH to do after the wedding is over. Plan to pay for a house cleaner and arrange for family/friends or hire staff to help break everything down. Show them some gratitude!
Another thing to consider if you’re interested in a DIY backyard wedding is the amount of stuff that a venue already has: outdoor lighting, sound systems, decor, vases, table linens, glassware, dishes, tables, chairs, etc. It’s pretty easy to spend as much money as you would on a venue when planning a DIY backyard wedding if you aren’t careful. Luckily, we were able to borrow most of those items from friends and family. We purchased all the lighting from Costco but plan to resell it all via Craigslist to recoup some of the costs. We rented tables & chairs and only purchased a handful of decor items.
Lastly, make a plan for parking at a backyard wedding! Especially in the Sierra Foothills. Get in touch with the city to make sure street parking is ok for a large quantity of people. We also made cookies and left letters to all the neighbors letting them know that there would be a lot of cars and loud music. A little love and consideration go a long way.
What was your favorite part of the planning process? Are there any areas you would outsource if hosting a large backyard event in the future?
Planning a DIY backyard wedding requires a lot creativity, and that was the most fun for us. Making the decor was really fun for us. As was planning and arranging the flowers and making playlists. Acacia really enjoyed the wedding dress search and styling her bridesmaids. We also collaborated on our save-the-date invitations/thank-you cards (this process was fun but also a learning process in collaboration); we then created totes and t-shirts for our bridal party based on the invitation art. Our mothers also really enjoyed making a lot of the decor and making favors for the guests.
Outsourcing. We outsourced the bare minimum. We rented tables/chairs from Eldorado Hills Party Rentals, and a port-a-potty just in case. We hired caterers, bartenders and staff to help set up & breakdown. You definitely need to outsource Wedding Photography. For our wedding, we searched for a Sacramento wedding photographer and hired Cathlene with Azara Images. We were absolutely delighted with how everything turned out. She was a dream to work with and put so much care into our images. Highly recommend! We also hired a day-of-coordinator which is absolutely essential to a backyard wedding. Hire a professional, not a friend. Acacia got together with Michael, our coordinator, a few times leading up to the wedding and Michael was also there to help set up and run things the day before the wedding day and the day after. If you can afford it, we definitely recommend hiring a planner who can meet more often and keep you on task with completing the smaller tasks that are often overlooked. Also, if you can afford to hire a lighting professional that will save a lot of time and effort, especially if you too are having a backyard wedding.
Your vintage wedding dress and the abundance of beautiful flowers were two noticeable features about your wedding. Was there a story behind them?
Yeah, I was really happy with both my dress and all of the flower arrangements. I did a test run of the flower arrangements myself a month before the wedding (purchasing from LA flower mart). However, we purchased the flowers for the big day (bouquets, table arrangements and flower crowns) from the SF Flower Mart. We drove out there 4 days before the wedding and picked everything out ourselves. I had planned to do most of the arrangements myself, but I ended up having a huge amount of help from the ladies in my family. With a little guidance, my grandma, aunt, sisters, step-mom and mother-in-law executed exactly what I had envisioned. Donald’s mom is Tahitian but grew up in Hawaii, it was important to us to incorporate those cultures into the wedding somehow. Donald’s mom ordered the leis from Hawaii and her brother brought them all the way over to Northern California for the big day (he lives in Maui). In the end, our wedding was really centered around the flowers and the natural beauty of our backyard venue.
As far as my wedding gown, I randomly started following a company called Timeless Vixen on Instagram over a year ago. I’ve always been super into vintage, so it made sense to go with an antique wedding gown. I had been to at least 10 bridal shops before walking into the Timeless Vixen store in Beverly Hills. I had emailed Lauren my measurements, Pinterest board and other ideas before going in. She pulled a bunch of stuff in the store, as well as many other dresses from her private collection for me to try on. I had been particularly drawn to Victorian lace and 30’s silhouettes. There were a few other dresses that I was seriously considering, but once I tried on this dress I knew it was the one. It paired my two favorite styles and my mom also loved it. It was an easy choice. Lauren, from Timeless Vixen, was a dream to work with and also recommended a tailor for alterations. I highly recommend working with her!
What did you like best about your wedding day?
Our favorite part of our wedding was the ceremony. Our ceremony took place at sunset, so there was a lot of lead up. Finishing the decorations, arranging flowers, setting up the sound systems, getting ready…there was a lot to get done and a lot of anticipation. That flurry quieted once the ceremony music started. Our friend and groomsman, Matt, played guitar and sang during the procession. He sang Acacia’s favorite Beatles song, “Long, Long, Long” as our parents and bridal party walked down the aisle. It was important to us to ditch many of the patriarchal ceremony traditions. We’ve been together for eight years and the decision to get married was more of declaration to our friends and family than a dramatic shift in our relationship. We walked down the aisle together while Matt played “You & Me” by Penny & the Quarters. We also felt strongly about incorporating our mothers into the ceremony, so our mothers gave us each lei’s when we got to the end of the aisle. Donald wrote a song to be part of his vows and that was probably my (Acacia’s) favorite moment. And, of course, the moments after the ceremony were very special and cathartic because we had solidified our commitment to each other in front of so many of our loved ones!
Congratulations to Acacia and Donald on the beginning of the greatest adventure of their lives! Here is a sample of the dreamy wedding photos from their special day. To check out images from another gorgeous wedding photography story in the Sierra Nevada Foothills of Northern California, click here. Enjoy!
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