DIY: Making the Great Outdoors Elegant

bridal line up

Laurie & Kevin Cox

June 18 |  Erin

When Kevin Cox took his girlfriend, Laurie Martin for an evening hike up the trail leading to the Erin water tower on a warm July night, she had no idea he would propose. But she knew without a doubt her answer was ‘yes.’ Planning the wedding came to her just as naturally, including the decision to do hold the entire wedding at the couple’s home in Erin, on the front lawn of their rural property.

“We aren’t the banquet hall type or the golf club type,” Laurie said, adding, they wanted something simple for everyone. Having lived and worked together on their home for three years, they didn’t want to go overboard. “It’s not so much that I wanted to be outside, I just really wanted to do it here. That’s just how I envisioned my day, so it would be what it would be.”

Laurie was clear she wanted a June wedding.

“I love flowers, especially peonies, so I wanted to be married in June,” she said. “I’m a member of the Erin Horticultural Society so flowers were huge for me.”

It’s a good thing she also enjoys planning events. She soon found she had her work cut out for her, especially when the outdoor wedding was at her home.

“You have to move fast, because everyone is planning weddings, sometimes years in advance. But I was limited because I needed everyone to come to me here,” she said, had to consider the ability for the caterer to cook onsite, for the hairdresser and make-up artist to come to her, equipment rental deliveries to the house, and so much more.

“You have to think about it in the sense that you are building a banquet hall here,” she said of her property. “You have to think of everything . . . All the little things have to be considered.”

Those little things include issues like making sure the landscaping and gardens were presentable. The lawn had to be filled in, which required the equivalent of four dump trucks of dirt that then needed to be seeded and fertilized in due time. Thankfully, Kevin owns DK Excavating Company, so they had access to the machinery, manpower and clean fill required. Otherwise she said the cost would have been prohibitive.

Factors like adequate power supply and outlets from the home and shop to supply the equipment and lighting for the wedding were required. Garbage receptacles and disposal plans were needed. Parking required the support of neighbouring homes and businesses. Air-conditioned washroom facilities on site prevented an overload on the property’s septic system.

The couple also needed to create a practical work environment for the caterers, and even details like having fire extinguishers on site for safety with use of the barbecue. A large commercial barbecue, freezer and a commercial fridge, were set up in Kevin’s workshop.

“The caterer needed to be experienced to cook on site, so we hired Fergies (Fine Foods) in Fergus,” Laurie said. “Miriam is amazing … She is all about her customers and she’s such a sweet woman. I knew if anything went wrong that night, she would be on top of it.” Laurie laughs, noting food tasting at Miriam’s shop was the only part of the wedding Kevin wanted to help plan.

For the wedding day, AAA Events in Erin prepared the food and light hors d’oeuvres to keep the wedding party fed.  Laurie credits owner Tracey Wallace as being an important support throughout the event planning process.

For the bar set-up, Laurie purchased a used bar on Kijiji, which she in turn sold after the wedding. In fact, many of Laurie’s major purchases were recycled, bought through wedding swap sites on Facebook, and then later resold. But she still had to order and pick up all the alcohol, mix and accessories, plus rent extra glasses and hire bartenders.

“You have to factor in who will help set the wedding up, and remember the morning after the wedding, you are the clean-up crew,” she said. “There is the time commitment to coordinate all this too, because you don’t have the staff of the banquet hall.”

Laurie stayed on budget, but admits creating her venue was a costly venture.

“In a way, it probably cost me more money because I’m making a banquet hall,” she said.

She laughs, remarking, “A village built this wedding, not just me.”

A self-described control freak, Laurie had a vision for her wedding day that inspired all her decisions. Detail-oriented and organized, she had everything booked by September.

“My theme was not rustic, because I felt it was exhausted,” she said, adding she preferred a rustic sentiment with a more sophisticated theme. “I wanted it to be airy and elegant, so people wouldn’t feel that they were at my house.”

For the reception, Laurie rented a dance floor and a 40 x 60 white tent. She admits she splurged on the cost of the liner that gives the billowing effect from the ceiling to give the tent a gala feel, which she says was almost the same amount as the tent itself. She has no regrets.

“It moved and it felt elegant and you didn’t feel like you were at an outdoor wedding in an outdoor tent,” she explained, joking, “I didn’t want it to feel like we were at the beer tent at the fall fair!”

Putting up that tent required a building permit from the Town of Erin, for a fee of roughly $200.

Another budget boost came with the rental of gold Chiavari chairs. “It was a small cost for the comfort of the guests,” she said, noting it was not only more sophisticated looking, but also more comfortable.

Laurie’s colour scheme included colours such as champagne, gold, charcoal grey and rich pinks, for a pop of colour. Little details like rustic décor embellished with gold sequined or champagne table clothes added elegance, as did the use of chandeliers for lighting.

Along the back end of the tent, behind the head table, were recycled wood planks from a shed the couple had torn down and repurposed, which gave a rustic look to the tent décor. The boards were draped in a vine of flowers.

Using flowers for a burst of colour in all her décor, Laurie turned to Snowberry Botanicals in Erin to create four centrepieces for the family tables, the arrangements, corsages and the bouquets for the wedding party and herself.

“They were so pretty. I loved my flowers,” Laurie said. “And they know I am a floral fanatic.”

Other tables had fresh cut peonies from a heritage garden at Kevin’s grandmother’s farm in Erin. That farm was also an important backdrop in the couple’s wedding photos later that day, as a place of importance to them. Family was central to the entire day.

But Laurie was also determined that the wedding represented the couple’s personalities too.

“The excavators were behind the wooden alter, acting as part of it, because Kevin wanted something that represented us,” she said, laughing. “Anybody that showed up that day would have said, ‘Yes, we’re at the right wedding.’”

The outdoor ceremony welcomed just over 100 close friends and family members, all seated in formal chairs on the lawn. And while the Sumac trees buffered the noise of nearby Trafalgar Road, there wasn’t much in the way of shade. By 3pm that day, Laurie recalls it was 35 degrees.

“For an outdoor wedding, you really have to think about your guests’ comfort,” she said, which includes factoring in the amount of time those guests will be exposed to the elements. The June 18 ceremony was kept close to 30 minutes.

She offered her guests non-alcoholic refreshments to ensure people stayed hydrated.

“We had a lemonade bar too, to keep guests cool,” she said.

Wedding programs came in handy not only to help guests follow the ceremony, but by using thick card stock, Laurie knew the paper could double as fans to keep people cool.

Making sure Laurie and her bridesmaids looked cool under pressure was hairdresser and make-up artist Courtney, of Peachie Keen Studios.

“She uses a certain type of makeup that is great for outdoor weddings,” Laurie said. “I had to be sure I hired someone who knew how to do makeup for an outdoor wedding, especially for the photos, so it would stay on.”

While the bride never wilted, she cautions other brides considering an outdoor wedding to be realistic about their expectations and the outcomes.

“Planning something like this on your own is not for the faint of heart,” she said. “If you don’t have a stomach for things being out of your control – don’t do it. The weather is going to be what it will be.” She adds, “If it rained, we had the tent so I wasn’t worried about it.”

The warm day cooled only slightly into an evening with an elegant meal, a sense of home and an open reception that later that night welcomed another approximately 30 guests to the party.

“Our goal the whole time was that we wanted it to be a party,” Laurie said of her shared vision with Kevin. “We just wanted to have a big celebration that we both got married at … it was about celebrating and coming together.”

The decision to exchange their vows at home was important to Kevin and Laurie, and for all the work, it was worth the effort.

“That’s part of the reason we did it here,” she said. “This place means something to us. We’ve worked so hard on this house together and Kevin is fourth generation here. Erin is such a great town … I would do it all again and I wouldn’t change a thing.”