Imagine the cinematic good looks of an open field at sunset, the room-to-roam freedom of a house party, and the low-stakes pyrotechnics of a cul de sac on the Fourth of July. These are elements that have delivered consistent thrills in my real life, so I knew from the start that I wanted to incorporate them into my wedding day. Similar to fashion or interior design, a wedding offers an opportunity to express personal style—though it can be hard to resist outside suggestions. As soon as I was engaged to my husband Cody, our personal celebration suddenly became a matter for public opinion: apparently we were meant to hire teams of planners, and arrange four-course meals, destination bachelor weekends, hand-calligraphed invitations, imported flowers, multiple venues, costume changes, scavenger hunts, and signature cocktails…the list of must-dos went on.
Rather than spiraling into a crowd-pleasing identity crisis, we followed our instincts. “Come or don’t come!” I’d shout toward invisible naysayers. Our successful parties had never required extreme formalities, and now did not seem like the time to start masquerading as a different species of social butterfly. Instead of hiring wedding planners, we replaced the strategies of strangers with hard labor, favors from friends, and problem-solving skills. While shirking the system wasn’t always breezy, it was beautiful, resulting in a party that empirically ruled, and came with a sense of accomplishment (plus an absence of buyer’s remorse).
In an effort to multiply the good feelings that rule-breaking can bring to a couple, below are 5 things I swapped without regret:
1. A Familiar Location Instead of a Traditional Venue
Maybe it’s your own backyard. Maybe it’s a friend’s industrial art studio. Maybe it’s your grandpa’s sweet 90s-era car showroom. Whatever the location, it’s fun to host on turf you can control. We knew we wanted to throw a Fourth-of-July-style party that spotlighted the best parts of Texas, which was all possible thanks to my dad’s D-Bar Ranch. It’s a place where cattle stroll without fear of becoming food, peacocks proudly saunter, and wildflowers offer up homegrown floral arrangements. For our guests who’d never seen the Lone Star State, what better way to showcase it? This meant renting tents and tables from a local service, coordinating portable restroom deliveries, staging a dance floor on an exposed cement slab, sweeping barns clean, piling fallen branches for a roaring bonfire, and relying heavily on the generosity of our friends. “We were lucky enough to have a bunch of good people that were skilled in the things that we were not,” Cody remembers. “All of the T-posts that were driven into the ground to make a lighted dancefloor would not have been possible without us asking family for ideas on how to suspend strands of lights around a concrete slab. Ditto for the dudes that rolled around on 4-wheelers carting guests over babbling brooks, or the friends that lit the fireworks or coordinated shuttle rides.” It was the families I’d grown up with—the Joneses, the Perrymans, the Johnsons—who selflessly pitched in (truly the best wedding gift possible) to make it an experience worth a flight and a drive. There was always a place to explore, escape, or enjoy. We even invited guests to mimic our own “honeymoon suite” tent and camp out under the stars.