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Intimate Outdoor Wedding


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Jennifer & John

August 31st, 2013
Olivet, Michigan

What was your wedding budget?

Our original wedding budget: $6,000

Wedding total spent: $ 5,600 ($400 under!)

Total Guests: 62 (invited 88)

THE “BIG” STUFF (where we saved!): 

  • Dress + Alterations: $405 + $80 = $485
  • Wedding Bands: $69.99
  • Boutonnieres + Handmade Bouquets //materials, fabric, pins, brooches// $395
  • Chair, Table , Dance Floor and Tents Rental: $500
  • DJ Rental: $400 (discounted rate for referrals)
  • Photography: $600 (discounted rate being friends of the vendors!)
  • Videography: $600 (discounted rate being friends of the vendors!)
  • Programs & Brochures: $27 (with Groupon savings through Vista Print)
  • Beer Brew & Hard Cider brew materials: $40


  • Venue:  Free (Bride’s Parent’s House)
  • Officiant: Free (Father-of-the-Groom officiated)
  • Bales of Straw: Borrowed from Bride’s Grandfather’s Farm
  • Food: Gift (paid for and made by mother-of-the-groom)
  • Cake/cupcakes/cookies/brownies: Free (gift)
  • Ring Bearer Handmade Pillow: Free (gift)
  • Keezer: made by the groom, paid for by the groom and not with wedding expenses



What creative or personal aspects did you include in your wedding?

Pretty much everything was DIY.  But, the hardest, most creative thing we had to come up with, was how to decorate the garage/barn as our reception area. We had cocktail tables, a dance floor and we would have our DJ … but the ceiling was open, the walls metal with wood beams and nothing about the 2 stall garage even remotely looked like a wedding. After several ideas on the table, and a few trial and error runs, we realized that a lot of white plastic table cloth draped from the center to the walls and then covering the walls, topped with a lot of tulle and lights would be exactly what we needed. It took 4 days of hard work and there was blood, sweat and tears put into it, but it turned out exactly as we had envisioned it would. If not, better!

My grandfather, who I was very close to, passed away in March of 2007. In his honor, I, as often I see this done, had a charm with a photo of he and I when I was just a baby on my bouquet. In addition, I made a reserved seat in the front row, last seat on the end, exactly where he would have sat had he been with us today.


What was the biggest thing you did to save money?

The largest and most expensive thing on the list was cut. A sit down dinner with catering. This would mean a larger tent rental (being outside at my parent’s there was no telling if it would be raining to pull a brave “tables in the woods” maneuver), tables, chairs, linens, centerpieces, and then of course, the actual catered food. We went with two meats, salads, coleslaw and rolls along with the candy bar for our small wedding of 62 to enjoy around the property and mingle while we took our photos. This ended up working perfectly and everything flowed smoothly, nobody stood around hot and hungry and we didn’t feel rushed to get through our photos.


What’s the best advice you have for planning your wedding now that you’re on the other side?

Know that this is just one day. It’s about you and your husband and the two of you making a commitment that binds the two of you together, with your family. The people who are there, they mattered to us, in terms of privacy and keeping it to only immediate family, bridal party and 10 of our closest friends invited. On that note, know what’s important to you and stick to it. Don’t bend. I had to hold my ground and I was thankful for not only a husband who stood by my wishes to not allow family/friends to invite people who we didn’t know but also to have our parents back us up as well. This is a very, VERY touchy subject with most families and friends, but as long as you stand your ground and explain why you have chosen to keep your wedding day private (if that’s your wish) then your friends and family who love you and respect your wishes will understand.


What was your biggest splurge?

My hair extensions in lieu of a veil and my floral headpiece. (Adding 12 inches to my current length.) Worth it!


What was your favorite detail?

I had  a hard time choosing just one. We put so much into every piece of our wedding, that everything was special and meant something. I thought about the “unexpected” details of my dad showing up with fireworks that were set off at dusk, or the chain mail that showed up (a friend makes it for fun) and another friend (who is taking a fencing class) just happened to having his fencing sword in his trunk …

Then there was the moment at the end of the day when we lit off 40 paper lanterns – it was so much fun, everyone was involved and we all stood together, as a family, watching them disappear across the horizon.

When it came down to it, my favorite detail was a handmade banner reading “All I Ever Wanted”, which was the title of the song for our first dance. Our story starts when we were just kids in youth group together. When I was 16 I stopped going to that church and it was 13 years before we saw one another again. In those 13 years, I married the wrong man and lived a life that I always had a feeling that something was wrong. And it was. John always kept coming to mind. It turns out, he was all I ever wanted. He was the one who made my heart skip a beat (and still does) and he was the one I was in love with. After 13 years, we found one another again … and I've never been happier!


What is the most memorable moment of your day?

Aside from my husband coming out dressed as MC Hammer for the Garter removal and doing a full dance to “Can't Touch This”?! (Seriously have never laughed so hard in my life!)

I was standing in my mom’s bedroom suite where we had all gotten ready and everyone had left to go outside to get in line to walk down the aisle. Could hear the music starting up outside as my friend and artist, Wesley, started playing the guitar. I could hear the girls and guys outside laughing and talking about order and where everyone needed to be, the flower girls getting excited and even my Ring Bearer chatting away with the girls. Standing alone, for the first time all day, in my wedding dress and it was the first moment I saw myself in the dress, with my hair and headpiece … and I did my best not to let any tears out but I pulled back and sobbed inside. It was the happiest moment. To see it all coming together, and to glance out the window, see the gazebo decorated and our guests sitting down on the bales of straw, watching my mother and mother-in-law and grandmother getting seated, and trying to keep from seeing my soon-to-be husband. As I stood there, in that two, maybe three minutes of quiet where it was just me, I felt the most calm I had ever felt. It was the moment I was about to marry the man I scribbled hearts around our names when I was ten, who even over the last 13 years apart kept popping into my mind randomly and wondering if someday I’d be so lucky that my entire life would turn upside down and things could be different … and knowing, in that very moment, that it did. Today, I was marrying that boy.

Walked out and my dad was standing outside the door on the deck at the end of the line, facing forward, calmly waiting. After stepping through the door, he looked at me and smiled and asked “So, are you ready?” Though I was a bit choked up, I was able to make out a firm “yes” as I put my arm in his and walked up to the edge of the porch to our “decent” down the stairs.

I looked up and I saw John. The look on his face seeing me for the first time made me lose it. Everything about the day came flooding into my soul! And then, I looked over to the “reserved” seat for my grandfather who has passed away, I was pretty sure at that point that nothing could save me from this point. I was about to just start crying uncontrollably, filled with so much happiness, and the wishing that my grandfather were there in that chair.

Fortunately, my ring bearer was a flirt and had plans of his own to re-dictate the plan of the ceremony and would be escorting the flower girls down the aisle himself – yes, both of them and he called them his girls. I’m not sure how the basket was being held let alone the pillow as all of this happened, since there was one big basket the girls were sharing to throw petals. I looked up, tears welling up and ready to loose all control, when I see the trail of yellow and purple flower petals starting at the base of the steps and veering off to the left … away from the gazebo and the aisle … I look up to see the three of them, running and giggling as petals are going everywhere, at a dead run for the POND! I could see the looks on the guests faces and some of the family calling them to come back to the aisle … which they did … and continued their walk down the aisle (and might I add that at rehearsal, the ring bearer walked the girls down just the same except he stopped at the altar with the girls as if HE were the one getting married … this kid … I tell you, his parents better be ready!).

I walked down the aisle and my eyes were on John the entire time. The tears of joy came back and I was sobbing and then started giggling nervously because, well, I was crying. My dad gave me away …and in that moment, I felt this incredible feeling of fulfillment. My dad (is actually my step-dad) and being married before, my brother had given me away. Having him give me away (my stepdad) meant more than I think he knows. Probably more than I’ll ever be able to describe.



Photography: John Kurtz Photography & Sky12 Studios   //   Videography: Jonathan Caswell & Sky12 Studios  //   Hair & Makeup: Lauren Robinson, Ulta, Kalamazoo, Michigan and Jamie Koyl, Pure Eden Salon, Marshall, Michigan  //   Live Music: Wesley Jay  //  DJ Services: High Voltage, Marshall, Michigan  //  Table, Tents, Chairs, Dance Floor Rental: Grand Rental Station, Battle Creek, Michigan

Jennifer Stevens

is a Professional Photographer & Federal Employee living in Kalamazoo, Michigan. She got married in 2013 - read her wedding planning posts here.