Expert Wedding Planner Tips- Part II

We have all seen the images from wedding after wedding under the stars with nothing overhead aside from strings of lights. Just so dreamy and it is on my bucket list to pull off one day.  However, in New Jersey, we are not blessed with sunny blue skies nearly ever day. Cue the tent.  The beautiful compromise to an outdoor backyard wedding.  Many people are apprehensive about hosting a tented wedding due to the unpredictability of the weather or overwhelmed at the prospect at starting from ground zero.  Hopefully, through my experience, I can share some expert wedding planner tips to help you navigated the tented backyard wedding.

Schedule a walk-through

If you are thinking about having a backyard tented wedding but don’t know where to start, simply give your favorite local tent company a call to come survey the space.  They will be able to tell you what size tent will fit comfortably, if the ground is level enough, what size dance floor works, and talk to you about lighting, power, climate control, staging and more.

Lights, Camera, Power

Speaking of lighting and power, make sure you have enough of both. Of course, your tent will be lit well, but consider the path that your guests will be taking to the restroom or to their cars at the end of the night. Pathways lights and uplighting will be areas that you should budget for to keep your guests safe.  When it comes to power, do your research. Find out from your caterer and band or DJ how much power they will each need. You may even need to rent fans, air conditioning or heaters to regulate the climate the best you can.  My suggestion is always to splurge for the generator since nothing kills the party quite like when the music stops.

Know the costs

Tented weddings can be expensive so know the costs and what is a comfortable budget before committing. A wedding planner can help you with estimated costs for each area including rentals which, not surprisingly, will add up quickly.  I also recommend leaving some wiggle room in your budget for your Plan B. If the weather is looking iffy, you can add a ceremony or cocktail tent or walkways where needed to make sure that guests stay warm and dry. Although there are many perks of having a raw space that will conform to any style wedding you wish to have, you are creating a space from nothing and everything will need to be brought in to create an inviting and whimsical venue and that is not cheap, yet completely worth it.

Hire good help

My ultimate recommendation is to hire a wedding planner with tented wedding experience. They will be paramount in anticipating what you need to create the ultimate experience for you and your guests. At the very least, a day of coordinator will save you from running around the morning of your wedding just before jumping in the chair for hair and makeup like I did on my wedding day. A caterer with experience with tented wedding or unconventional venues is also a great idea. They will be working in small quarters and braving the elements, so a bit of practical knowledge is invaluable in making sure the event goes off without a hitch.


Are you thinking of hosting a backyard wedding and need help? Feel free to ask any questions in the comments below. I would love to help you have your dream wedding.

Vendor Credits

Photography: Christina Lilly Photography

Tent: Sperry Tents NJ

Caterer: et al Fine Foods

Florist: Devon & Pinkett

Architectural sketch: Todd Schmeling Portraits

VW Photobooth: VW Booth Bus





A Retrospective for our Anniversary: Our Wedding

Today is my 7 year wedding anniversary and thought it would be a perfect time to share the day that started this wedding planning journey of mine.  Real talk here: Sometimes I feel silly telling people that my career as a wedding planner came from “planning my own wedding” because for some reason it doesn’t feel as legitimate as getting a degree or doing an internship, however I knew during those six months of planning (really? yes! so do-able) that it was something that I was good at and could actually give it a go. Luckily I had some trusting people in the beginning that knew that a formal education didn’t give you the skills to be successful as a wedding planner but I digress and share with you the highlights of planning my own backyard wedding today and what I would do differently. All photos by our photographer, Jen Causey.

Invitation designed by my friend Maie at Noon Designs. I always admired her artistry and knew that I had to have her design our wedding invitations when the time came.

First and foremost, I knew that I wanted to get married in my parent’s backyard. We do not have a huge backyard but it was the perfect size and just intimate enough for our 100 guests. I wanted it to feel like a dinner party with lots of candlelight, good food, drinks and conversation. I am pretty sure we achieved that. When I look at these pictures, they are filled with so much love with all of our favorite people under one tent something that I realize is once in a lifetime. And yes this was also the day that began my love affair with Sperry sailcloth tents.

My day began unlike most brides that I have the pleasure of working with because I wasn’t at the salon or sipping champagne with my bridesmaids. Yet I couldn’t wait to get up that morning, get outside and start arranging flowers, laying out our custom floral runner, playing with the floorplan and setting up our DIY photobooth. The weather was a bit cloudy and it was my first time experiencing the stress that I would go through as a planner deciding on whether or not our processional from the church to the house would need to go to Plan B or if we would get lucky and the sun would peek out! The exhilaration of it all was almost as exciting as saying “I Do” and I think that this was my first sign that it was meant to be.

Trust me that I was ahead of the trend here. Again, this was 7 years ago and mustaches and polaroid photo booths were cutting edge. :)  P.S. These are my parents. How cute are they?!

For my wedding day, I also had the pleasure of meeting and working with Dorian at Wallflowers and since then she and I have had the pleasure of collaborating on many weddings together. During these seven years, I have cultivated and cherished my relationships with so many wedding vendors. It is truly one of the best parts of the job!

My flower girl, Ivy and ring bearer, Beau (playing on the foosball table that we painstakingly hand-painted to resemble brides and grooms) are now all grown up and still as cute as ever!

In all the weddings that I plan, I like to include a detail that is a nod to the couple.   In our case, Lucas and I met in Spain so our ceremony programs had artwork of a Madrid map on them. Romantic and personal.

Quick story of us (in case you are interested): We both studied abroad in Madrid in 2001. Met, dated, went back to our respective colleges, stayed friends. Fast forward to 2005, and we moved back independently to Madrid to teach English. Rekindled our relationship, dated long distance for a year (super long distance with him still in Madrid and me in New Jersey), moved to Boston, lived together, broke up, got back together, got engaged and then got married! Quite the adventure! We have known each other now for sixteen years and our courtship was pretty awesome experiencing and traveling together in Europe. For our 10th anniversary, we plan to go back to Madrid and I am already dreaming of the tapas and wine.

We were married in a Presbyterian church near my house by Lucas’s dad, a minister. It was so special to be married by someone who knows us so well.  I still remember the feeling of turning the corner, arm in arm with my dad, as our guests stood up and I just kept my eyes on Lucas because it was so overwhelming and humbling. It is so easy to get wrapped up in all of the details of the wedding decor and of course I love all the details as much, if not more, than the next girl. But this moment is what it is all about!

I am so incredibly lucky to have some of the most steadfast girlfriends a girl could as for. I wish I could have had ALL of them by my side that day but we decided to keep our bridal party small so I chose four. Meaghan, my college roommate for all 4 years and Carrie, Alex and Ellen, childhood friends and still the most loyal friends to this day all these years later.

I chose J.Crew bridesmaids dresses in “fatigue” silk taffeta. I still love the style of having the girls in the same color and fabric but letting them choose the style that fits their body. Every one wins.

my “bride moment”

Now for the “what would I do differently?”. To be honest, not much. Wedding blogs were just hitting the scene, I didn’t have a Pinterest account or gorgeous calligraphy signage, or styled invitation suite photos,  nor an intricately displayed escort card set up, and I drove myself to the salon but it was exactly the day that I wanted. As a wedding planner and designer, OF COURSE I love those details and can not wait to brainstorm the next elaborate design, however it is so important to remember the intention behind those details and the reasons for why you are getting married in the first place. So that you can dance to “We are Family” in a circle or shed a tear to a funny and heartfelt speech, and to awkwardly and earnestly dance with your spouse for the first time in front of everyone you hold dear. It is truly why I became a wedding planner so that I can help you experience and live in the moment when your time comes.

In conclusion, I am sharing one of my favorite photos of our day because I think that it pretty much sums it up. Me, upstairs in my parents room, before stepping into my wedding dress observing the caterers scurrying around (no doubt making sure they didn’t mess anything up) in anticipation of  the day and our life to come.

Fun Fact! My first feature on Style Me Pretty was my wedding. See more here!

Happy Anniversary Lucas!! I love the life we have created. Thank you for supporting my dream.