Happy Bank Holiday gals and guys! I hope you had a smashing Easter break and continue to sit back, relax and crack open another egg so that you can munch your chocolate chops through today’s beaut of a real wedding. Brought to us by American photographer Christina Mays of the eclectic and naturally authentic Sweetly Stitched Images, today’s wedding takes you all the way to an outdoor reserve in Michigan City, Indiana. Perfect for a festival-style wedding, Izaak Walton Nature Reserve gave couple Sarah and Tom everything they could’ve wished for – organic beauty, an outdoor lakeside ceremony and an epic space to hold live music played by their very best friends. This wedding takes DIY to gorgeous heights as it features a lantern drenched reception tent and heaps of cutsie homemade props. Even the blooms were home-grown in the couple’s garden – totally kitsch! This cool and tasteful wedding exudes effortlessness, as it eases from a stunning lake view ceremony under a lace covered arched trellis to a gigantic shindig of a party – pure festival vibes, oh, and did I mention that the majority of guests camped out at the venue?

With around 250 guests in total, this really was a party to remember. Here’s pretty bride Sarah to tell you all about her festival celebration….

Tom and I were both so happy to have found each other, we wanted to share that feeling with everyone around us. We wanted our wedding to be fun, casual, and really feel like a celebration.

Friends for Ten Years!

We were friends for nearly ten years before we ever thought about dating. But once we did, it was the best thing that ever happened to us both. We dated for a year and a half before Tom proposed on my birthday. It was simple and sweet; he took me out to dinner and afterward, outside the restaurant in the middle of the street, Tom got down on one knee and proposed.

Nature Reserve with a Beautiful Lakefront Setting

We were married at Izaak Walton Nature Reserve in Michigan City Indiana. Several of our friends (including the best man) play in bands that have held festival style concerts at this private campground, and a few friends have held their weddings there. So we knew it had the space and setup we were looking for, in a beautiful lakefront setting. We had camping at the venue and we had two large tents for the reception dinner. Our wedding style was a blend of classic elements like lace and tulle, mixed with light-hearted novelty, like the toy airplanes and candy whistles Tom and I loved as kids. Our “summer berries” palette was a mix of deep reds, purples, and blues. We invited about 250 family and friends, and ended up with about half of that number for dinner, and more who came for the music and camping afterward.

The Perfect Budget Gown!

My dress cam from Jordan Fashions. My mother and I found it on a clearance rack at a bridal show. I loved the style, and the price was right, but it was about four sizes too big. But even with alterations, it was still under $300. My shoes were from Elegant Park. I wanted something practical for wearing outdoor all day, and the lace matched the dress perfectly. I wanted the best of both worlds when it came to a headpiece. I had a small hair clip on one side, and a veil tucked into the back of my hair. I wore Mariell Online jewellery – I love the timelessness of pearls.

Tom wore a Kenneth Cole dark gray suit, with a blue and gold paisley tie and light blue shirt and the bridesmaids wore non-matching summer dresses that we picked out on a group shopping trip (all were under $40!). We all did our own make-up and hair was done by Jessica Byrd of Jessica Byrd Hair Studio.

Golf Cart Arrival to Outdoor Ceremony

Everything was outdoor. The bridal party got ready on separate levels of the small brick clubhouse before riding a few hundred feet over to the ceremony site on golf carts. The officiant, Amanda Gass, is my (Sarah’s) best friend, and had performed nearly a dozen weddings before ours. She was also one of the people who first encouraged us to date, so she was the perfect choice to perform the ceremony. We said our vows (adapted from others we found online) under a lace covered arched trellis. Our long-time friend and musician Steve Ball provided acoustic guitar music.

Home-grown Yard Flowers

We ordered a small two- tier white cake with strawberry filling and a few dozen chocolate s’mores cupcakes from a local grocery store. The cake was accented with colourful flowers and two small birds reading “Mr.” and “Mrs.” We grew our own flowers. It was a big undertaking for sure, but in the end it was worth it. We grew zinnias, mostly white and purple with a few pinks and corals, in a series of raised beds that lined our front yard (the neighbours thought we were crazy.)


Paper Lantern and Beaded Garland Tent

We used half of one tent for the dinner buffet, and the remaining tent space was guest seating. We decorated everything the night before (my bridesmaids were real lifesavers!). We hung paper lanterns, tulle, and beaded garland from the tent poles. The centre of each guest table was lined with bottles of various shapes and sizes that Tom and I collected for months before the wedding.

Buffet Style Reception and Open Seating Plan

We had two live bands; The All Good Things Band and Chester Brown. We had an open seating plan. Tom helped post a hand-painted sign at the start of the buffet letting guests know to sit anywhere they choose. We wanted our guests to feel like family. Birky Family Farms catered the wedding. Dinner was served buffet style, and featured hardy comfort foods like roast beef, turkey with gravy, chicken and noodles, and steamed vegetables. It was great! We heard nothing but compliments on the food. Birky’s staff politely and professionally served a delicious dinner while roasting a pig on-site, and later serving barbequed pulled pork sandwiches to our late night guests. Amazing!

A Story Told Through Pictures 

Christina Mays of Sweetly Stitched Images. Christina was great! She covered all the best moments, with the natural feel we wanted. Our ceremony started late, so the time we planned for photos was cut short, but Christina did an amazing job of arranging all the shots we wanted while still giving us plenty of time with friends and family. We were really impressed with how she was able to capture the mood and tell our story through pictures.

First Dance

Our first dance was to ‘Angel’ by Jimi Hendrix. We let the band choose (as they are all friends of ours). After the ceremony we rode away on a golf cart, followed by the bridal party, to a small area behind the clubhouse. We hugged and yelled and cried in joy with our closest friends. It finally struck me that Tom and I were husband and wife, and I’ve never been happier.

Any Advice?

We loved hosting a big party, and it was worth all the work. But it was work. The large, open venue was great, but it required a lot of logistics and planning, like marking out parking areas and renting bathrooms. I didn’t mind most of the planning, but I would absolutely recommend hiring or designating someone to run the show on the day. Sure, you can set up your own centrepieces early that morning, but trust me, you’d rather be doing other things.

The Line Up

Bridal Gown: Jordan Fashions (website closed)
Bridal Shoes: Elegant Park
Bridal Jewellery: Mariell Online
Groom’s Suit: Kenneth Cole
Live Ceremony Music: Steve Ball
Live Reception Music: The All Good Things Band


Wedding beauty on its way!

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