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DIY Wedding

Special to the Globe & Mail

HOME: Do-it-yourself is all the rage in weddings.

Some couples are staging their nuptials at home. Here’s how.

When 23 year old Rebekah Venema and Dan Driegen, 30, got engaged last spring, they wanted a simple Thanksgiving wedding. The ideal solution, they felt, was to hold the nuptials at the Venema family home near Brantford, On. It was large enough to accommodate their 90 guests, and would ensure the personal touch they wanted.

With just six months to plan, Venema went into high gear: buying her dress off the rack, and ordering everything else online – from tents, chairs and decorations, to headpiece, flowers, and clutch purses for the bridal party.

Family members pitched in – her younger brothers and father built an arbour, cleaned out the garage fridge to use in the bar. Sisters and aunts prepared salads — ten in all — and a friend took care of picking up pre-ordered gourmet pizzas. The rest came from grocery stores – PC appetizers, chips and salsa, sour dough and pumpernickel loaves and dips, and Costco cupcakes and pre-sliced cheesecake.

Everything was held outside, with tents in case of rain – one for the tables and chairs, another for the bar. Firepots and propane heaters were rented to ward off evening’s chill. The band played under one tent until 9 p.m. when Venema’s playlist took over the dance music.

Their photographer Alyssa Alkema says, the wedding was beautiful. They didn’t need all glitz and glam you so often see, and it was truly their own.”

The biggest concern for an outdoor home wedding is probably weather, especially if you’re a weatherman. Ryan Snoddon, who reports the weather for CBC from Newfoundland, and his fiancée Annie Godbout did consider a ceremony by the sea, ultimately deciding the climate was too iffy. And tropical resorts were out because the couple felt them too impersonal and most of their family couldn’t attend.

The 300-acre Snoddon family farm in Pefferlaw, ON, however, would be perfect. Even if it was 3000 km away. Thanks to the internet, they managed to organize all from St John’s, making just two trips back to Ontario — to arrange licences, meet the minister, carefully check out what the venue needed, and to taste test the caterer’s menu.

Godbout purchased her wedding dress off the rack, and gave her bridesmaids carte blanche about their dresses, not even asking to check them over beforehand. Though perfectionism seems to be an accepted part of most wedding plans, Godbout kept telling herself she couldn’t “control it all. No matter where you have the wedding, on the day you have to pass the reins to someone else – caterer, photographer, decorator.”

As it turned out, the day was a perfect Ontario June day, warm and cloudless. The ceremony was held in an open meadow, and the reception under a marquee tent pitched on the farmhouse lawn. The caterers came up with country menu of steaks and grilled chicken. Desserts made by the mothers and grandmothers, “was kind of like what you expect when you go home for a visit,” Godbout says.

Being relaxed and unfussy, both weddings allowed the couples to enjoy the day, and to connect with each guest. It also kept costs down – Venema groans when she thinks of the $14,000 her cousin shelled out on the venue alone for her upcoming wedding.

Godbout likes that they won’t be “carrying any debt into our new life together.” But the one thing she considers worth all her budget is photography. “It’s important to have a photographer who captures the actual feel of the day,” Godbout says. “When I look at our wedding photos now, I relive the emotion of it.”


Call in the Troops: make a list of tasks according to the skills of willing family and friends. But keep in mind you want them to be able to enjoy the day as well.

Food: Consider having family members make at least one course of the menu to keep costs down and make it more homey.

Venue: Check power sources, municipal licences for liquor, whether your home insurance covers large groups of people, and whether the home kitchen is adequate for preparing so much food.

Dresses: You can get a beautiful wedding dress off the rack, or consider a cream dress that`s not specifically for a wedding. Involve bridesmaids in dress selection. Hair can be done at a local salon, but hairdressers also make house calls.

Music: if you want live music, make sure the band is protected from the elements. Alternately, prepare a few playlists that work for the ceremony, dinner and dancing.

Flowers: Consider loose flowers in addition to bouquets. Godbout picked up bunches the day before the wedding, and let her bridesmaids loose with vintage vases and a bottle of wine. The end result, she says, was “happy flower arrangements.”

Weather: Be prepared – Ryan Snoddon rented umbrellas to be safe, and they also readied other inside locations – a beautiful barn — in case of rain. If the guest list is small the house might work, otherwise rent tents and chairs for outdoors.

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