Our wedding? Our back yard? No problem

Mary Jane Park got her notary license so she could marry Charlotte Sutton and Logan Mabe in their North Tampa back yard, attended by his daughters, Annalise and Arlen.

RAGAN JENKINS | Special to the Times

Mary Jane Park got her notary license so she could marry Charlotte Sutton and Logan Mabe in their North Tampa back yard, attended by his daughters, Annalise and Arlen.

When it comes to throwing your own wedding at your own home, DIY (Do It Yourself) ought to stand for Delegate It? Yes!

On March 1, 2003, my husband and I got married in our back yard, before 40 family members and friends seated on white chairs hastily dried off after a morning shower. (Dried off, I should add, by our family and friends.)

That was nearly, but not quite, the last of many wedding tasks we gratefully handed off. Our at-home wedding turned out even better than we'd hoped. At about $3,000, it was a bargain, too. But the best parts of a wonderful day came courtesy of the people we love, and of others we came to like quite a lot.

• The venue: Logan and I knew we were getting married in our North Tampa back yard as soon as our Realtor showed it to us. Not the most conventional reason to buy a house, but not a bad one either — for the cost of a venue rental, we paid the mortgage for a few months. A previous owner had thoughtfully installed a big brick patio (no guests' high heels sinking into the turf) and even a jasmine-covered archway for the ceremony. Perfect! The only problem: Poor drainage had killed part of the lawn. Logan's parents came to the rescue, helping us resod it.

• The food: For about three insane minutes, we thought it might be fun to do the cooking ourselves. Fortunately, that passed, and we hired Brianna's Fine Foods, a neighborhood caterer that not only provided delicious food but also handled all the equipment rental (chairs, tables, dishes, etc.) and advised us to move some furniture into the garage so we could move the party indoors in case the weather was bad (which it nearly was). Brianna's also hired two of the nicest ladies you've ever met to set up and clean up. I think a few of our guests tried to adopt them.

• The colors: We took Logan's teenage daughters to the mall one day to pick out their dresses for the wedding. We told them to choose what they liked, and they selected beautiful deep-red halter dresses. Between those and the caterer's fine advice to stick with white linens, we had our red-and-white color scheme.

• The officiant/florist: Did you know you can be married by a notary public in Florida? And did you know you can get a notary license online? My best friend Mary Jane figured all that out, and we had a totally personalized, utterly heartfelt marriage ceremony. And she helped me make bouquets and arrange roses in the vases (which she brought over) for the tables.

• Photography: Our friend Ragan Jenkins is a terrific photographer and gave us the gift of her talent. At the end of the day, she handed us the film, we ran down to Walgreens, and we had great pictures in an hour. She carefully photographed all our guests, and we sent them copies with the thank-you notes.

• Bridal panic: Less than 24 hours before the wedding, I realized I had failed to get a hair appointment lined up, and frantic phone calls led nowhere. Logan, on a beer run to the local minimart, strolled into a beauty parlor next door and charmed one of the ladies into dealing with my wayward locks. She used so much spray I had to avoid open flames. But my hair looked great, even on that unseasonably humid March day.

Would we do a DIY wedding again? Sure thing. In fact, it was so much fun we tried to get friends to have their wedding at our home. They wanted a beach wedding, which was probably just as well. Because the most important factor in the success of our DIY wedding was the guest list, and we just couldn't duplicate that for them.

Charlotte Sutton can be reached at sutton@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8425.

Our wedding? Our back yard? No problem 11/07/08 [Last modified: Friday, November 7, 2008 7:27am]

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