This big backyard wedding totally blew me away! Taylor and Cam were married at her family home on Chickamauga Lake surrounded by their friends and family. The grounds were beautiful and large enough that the couple could plan an all-out wedding without sacrificing the intimacy of their own backyard.

      A bride and groom kiss in the front seat of a vintage car.

      PLANNING A BIG BACKYARD WEDDING

      Backyard weddings don’t have to be particularly small, especially when your home is as beautiful as this one! But no matter what the space looks like, getting married at home adds such a sweet, sentimental note to your love story. It allows you to make your wedding entirely your own, all the way down to the tiniest details. Taylor and Cam did just that!

      Taylor’s family home on Chickamauga Lake could not have been more perfect for this October wedding. It still felt warm and summery out, but the breeze off the lake kept us all cool. And as if the landscaping wasn’t gorgeous enough, the interior of the house made for the most lovely getting ready photos.

      Plus, you can’t beat the atmosphere a big backyard wedding creates. This wedding was fun. Everyone had a blast, and you could tell they were all totally comfortable in the space. You just don’t get that in most rented venues.

      The facade of a family home and venue for a big backyard wedding. A blue and white wedding invitation surrounded by olive branches and white flowers. Next, an image of a dark blue door on a white home facade. A bride writes a love note to her groom on their wedding day. A bride sits writing a love note to her groom on their wedding day. A woman adjusts a wedding dress hanging in front of a large window in a stone dining room. A pair of light blue shoes with suede flowers displayed on an antique gold and cream chair. A wedding dress hung in a stone window and a pair of light blue shoes displayed on a cream and gold chair. A bride has her makeup touched up with a fluffy brush. A bride folds her hands in her lap as she gets ready for her wedding.

      GETTING READY

      Before Taylor got ready, she wrote her groom a love letter and we stole her dress away for some shots in the stone dining room. I usually take care of the dress photos while the bride is getting ready, but Taylor tagged along and had a quiet moment alone staging the dress. And I’m so glad she did! The shots of her dress and shoes turned out perfect, and the staging was uniquely Taylor.

      Afterwards, Taylor and her ladies finished getting ready in the home’s master bathroom. Taylor gifted her sisters – her two bridesmaids – these silk dressing gowns to get ready in. Watching these ladies laugh and smile together in their family home was so sweet.

      While the ladies were getting ready, the gentlemen snuck away to the family’s garage – but not before Taylor’s dad saved the day by loaning Cam a vintage designer watch to wear down the aisle. In the garage, the groom (a huge whiskey lover) treated his brothers to “a dram with Cam” and posed for some elegant shots in this old lounge area. (Seriously, I could not design a better groom’s dressing area if I tried.)

      While Taylor and Cam made their day totally them, they also let their bridal party feel like themselves. Taylor’s sisters wore mismatched dresses of their own choosing, and Cam’s brothers wore their own navy suits. No one was perfectly coordinated, but they still fit together. Just another way these two trusted the process.

      After a quick champagne toast with the ladies (and a visit with the family dog), it was time for the ceremony.

      A bride smiles as her makeup is touched up on her wedding day. A bride and bridesmaid embrace while wearing silk dressing gowns. A bride and her bridesmaids embrace while wearing silk dressing gowns. An engagement ring and wedding band balanced on the cover of an antique black and gold book. A flat lay of blue suede shoes, a boutonnière, and a blue spotted handkerchief. A groom fixes his hair in a mirror while his father-in-law watches. A groom pours whiskey into glasses. A groom toasts with a dram of whiskey. A groom and his groomsmen lounge on antique chairs in a study. Men cheers with drams of whiskey. A groom lounges in an antique chair with a glass of whiskey in hand. A fluffy tan dog lays in a blue dog bed on the floor. Women fix each others' hair in front of a large mirror. A bride and her bridal party pose in peach dressing gowns. A bride fastens the closure on her powder blue wedding shoes. A bride's family helps her get into her wedding dress. A bride sits on a vintage chair next to a window and fastens her shoes. A bride smiles and shows off her wedding gown in the dressing room. A bride poses with her blue and white bouquet in front on a floral wallpapered wall. A bride holds a white and baby blue bouquet in front of a floral wallpapered wall. A bride poses with her sisters for a photo with their bouquets. The bridal party and bride cheers with champagne flutes. Wedding guests cheers with champagne flutes.

      CEREMONY

      While Taylor and Cam saved their first look for the altar, Taylor still orchestrated a first look with her dad right before the ceremony. This moment was precious, and I’m so glad I was able to capture the joy on both their faces when they saw each other.

      And as if that wasn’t cute enough, Taylor also had a moment alone with her ring bearers and flower girl (all of whom are the couples nieces and nephews!). I could not get over the boys in their straw hats and how happy they were to see Taylor.

      The ceremony took place under an arched patio space right on the lake’s edge. They parked one of Taylor’s dad’s vintage cars on the lakefront and served iced Sanpellegrino as guests walked down to their seats. (That gets bonus points in my book.) Even for a larger wedding (or at least big by backyard wedding standards), the ceremony felt intimate. Everyone was just so happy to be there on the waterfront together.

      Then came the most magical moment of the day. Even with the glaring sun, you can see the emotion in Cam’s face when he first lays eyes on his bride. I was able to get my all-time favorite shot – the groom’s face between the bride and her father’s shoulders – and capture the overwhelming joy of that moment.

      They took communion for the first time as man and wife, and then Cam whisked his beautiful bride back down the aisle and smothered her with love. Their excitement was electric. I just can’t help but smile looking back on these photos.

      A father smiles as he sees his daughter in her wedding dress for the first time. A bride poses at the top of a staircase with her three ring bearers. A mirror sign leaning against a vintage car parked next to a lake. A silver bowl full of bottles of sparkling water. Wedding guests file to their seats on the edge of a lake. Wedding guests file to their seats on the edge of a lake. Ring bearers and flower girl play on a chaise on the lawn. The ring bearers and flower girl pose for photos. Three ring bearers wearing white shirts and straw hats. A flower girl wearing a light blue dress and a flower crown. A groom escorts his mother to her seat. A bride and her father walk together down stone steps towards the altar. A bride and her father walk across a lawn near a lake. A bride and her father walk across a lawn near a lake. A groom cries as he sees his bride walk down the aisle. A father gives away the bride at a big backyard wedding. A bride and groom stand together at the altar of their big backyard wedding. A bride and groom hold hands with their flower girl and ring bearer at the altar of their big backyard wedding. A fluffy dog wearing a pink bow sleeps in the grass at a big backyard wedding. A bride and groom exchange vows at their big backyard wedding. A bride and groom exchange rings at their big backyard wedding. A bride and groom exchange vows at their big backyard wedding. A bride and groom stand at the altar in front of their wedding guests. A bride and groom take communion together for the first time as man and wife. A bride and groom kiss at the altar at their big backyard wedding. A bride and groom walk hand-in-hand back down the aisle. A bride and groom walk hand-in-hand back down the aisle. A bride and groom embrace and kiss after walking back down the aisle. A bride and groom smile as they walk back down the aisle at their big backyard wedding. A bride and groom chat next to a vintage car parked on a lake. A bride and groom admire their new wedding rings. A bride and groom kiss in front of a vintage car parked by a lake. A bride and groom admire their new wedding rings. A fluffy dog lays on a lawn next to a lake. A bride and groom pose with family in front of a lake. A bride and groom pose with family in front of a lake.

      COCKTAIL HOUR

      As if it comes to any surprise, this family didn’t settle for the usual backyard barbeque and cornhole affair. Cocktail hour featured a massive artisan cheese board, a full bar, and – get this – a lakeside driving range. The family bought biodegradable golf balls made of fish food for their guests to drive into the lake. And their guests ate it up!

      Couples sometimes forget to plan a memorable cocktail hour in the hustle and bustle of arranging everything else. After all, you won’t be there! But in the case of this big backyard wedding, this time was so important. It allowed the family to mingle, goof off, and get into the party mood before the reception. And of course, it gave us plenty of uninterrupted time for Taylor and Cam’s portraits alone.

      Wedding guests mingle at a big backyard wedding. A bride and groom sit side-by-side on a dock at sunset. A wedding guest hits a golf ball on a lawn at a big backyard wedding. Wedding guests mingle on a lawn overlooking a lake. Wedding guests reach for a charcuterie board surrounded by lemons and olive branches. Two little boys play with golf clubs on a manicured lawn near a lake. A bride and groom sit on a dock on a lake at sunset.

      BRIDE AND GROOM PORTRAITS

      I love these photos for how intimate they are. Taylor and Cam just relaxed into each other after their ceremony, soaking up the sunset light and tons of affection from one another. They took a couple beers down onto the dock to unwind and share a moment alone before the reception, and the resulting images are damn near perfect.

      And how could we not take advantage of that vintage car? For real, this couple puts Jack and Rose to shame. With their classic wedding outfits, they looked straight out of a movie.

      Even as they lounged on the dock, Taylor and Cam oozed class. And though their wedding had a longer guest list than most at-home events, it didn’t feel like a big backyard wedding. From the look of these photos, they could have just as easily eloped alone on a lake in the countryside. These two are so in love, and their trust in each other and in me as their photographer is clear here.

      A groom embraces his bride while she laughs. They both sit on the edge of a dock. A bride and groom kiss on the edge of a dock. A bride and groom sit on the edge of a dock and kiss. A bride and groom raise their interlocked hands on a dock on a lake. A bride and groom embrace on a dock on a lake at sunset. A bride and groom embrace and admire the sunset on a dock on a lake. A bride and groom kiss in the front seat of a vintage car. A bride and groom kiss in the front seat of a vintage car. A bride and groom kiss in the front seat of a vintage car. A bride and groom embrace on a stretch of lawn next to a lake. A bride and groom walk hand-in-hand across a lawn next to a lake. A bride and groom walk hand-in-hand across a lawn next to a lake. A bride and groom embrace in front of a lake. A bride and groom hold hands and smile in front of a lake. A bride and groom hold hands as he kisses her forehead. A bride and groom smile and touch foreheads in front of a lake. A bride and groom hold hands on a lawn near a lake. A bride and groom kiss through the bride's veil in front of a lake. A bride and groom kiss beneath the bride's veil in front of a lake. A bride and groom kiss beneath the bride's veil in front of a lake. A bride and groom embrace and smile for a photo on a lawn in front of a lake. A bride sits and poses in a white chair outdoors. A groom stands and poses in front of a woodpile. Wedding guests admire the lake view at a big backyard wedding. A groom poses for photos leaning against a stone wall. A bride and groom embrace in front of a stone wall. A bride and groom walk hand-in-hand on a landscaped lawn next to a stone wall.

      CIGAR MAKER

      In terms of personal touches, this cigar bar was one of the most unique (and dare I say, classy AF) I’ve ever seen. As if cocktail hour wasn’t enough fun already, Taylor and Cam hired a local cigar maker to wrap and light cigars to order. Yet again, another personal touch that might not have been an option in a traditional venue.

      A cigar maker rolls a cigar at a table on a landscaped lawn. A cigar maker smokes a cigar at a table on a landscaped lawn. A cigar maker rolls a cigar at a table on a landscaped lawn.

      RECEPTION

      Like the ceremony, the reception was also outdoors on the family property. They hired Cleveland Tent to protect the party from the chilly October air, and the live band fit right in. Bud Floral adorned the tables with spreads of lush olive branches and vases full of lemons and floating candles. And of course Milk and Honey killed it with the gelato. Combined with the already-perfect landscaping around the family home, these details made for a dreamy, upscale reception space.

      The couple entered the reception to a speech from Taylor’s dad and a poem he’d written for them. Then, Cam twirled his wife around the dance floor and dipped her for a swoon-worthy kiss. I’m so glad I caught that moment. 

      The groom and his mother shared a sweet dance, and then Taylor and her dad had their turn. And in case you thought this family couldn’t get any cooler, their slow dance erupted into a choreographed number featuring the whole family. (I’m still hoping they’ll adopt me, honestly.)

      Taylor and Cam didn’t want to interrupt the dance floor for a full sparkler send-off, so instead we snuck off with the niece and nephews for a few shots. The photos turned out precious, and Taylor and Cam got a fun moment alone with the kiddos before returning to the dancefloor.

      And man, did they make a return! Sweaty, silly dance floor photos at the end of the night are the best, and this party delivered. We couldn’t have asked for a more fun end to such a beautiful day.

      Floating candles in vases with lemons surrounded by olive branches and twinkle lights. White cocktail tables set up on a landscaped lawn. A stone stream runs alongside the lawn. Wedding favors in white bags with golden bows. A stone fountain trickles in a backyard. Wedding guests sit on a bench in a lawn and smile for a photo together. A three-tiered white wedding cake adorned with olive branches. Wedding guests dine beneath a white tent at a big backyard wedding. A bride and groom listen and smile as the bride's father delivers a speech. A bride and groom share their first dance. A groom dips his bride on the dancefloor while guests watch. A groom shares a first dance with his mother under a white tent. A bride shares a first dance with her father under a white tent. Wedding guests dancing surrounded by lights. Wedding guests dancing surrounded by lights. Wedding guests mingle beneath a lit canopy at night at a big backyard wedding. A guitar player sings into a microphone at a large backyard wedding. People dancing on a crowded dancefloor at night. A couple dances and smiles at the camera on a crowded dancefloor. A bride and groom share a kiss next to their three-tier wedding cake. A woman dances with her hands in the air on a crowded dancefloor. A woman dances with her arms in the air on a crowded dancefloor. A bride and groom kiss while children run around them carrying sparklers. A group in formal attire poses for a photo on a crowded dancefloor. A bride and groom kiss on a crowded dancefloor. A crowd of guests dance at a big backyard wedding. A bride and groom dance on a crowded dancefloor. A little boy feeds a woman a bite of dessert at a big backyard wedding. A woman smiles and dips on the dancefloor. A black and white photo of women in formal attire standing near a dancefloor. Wedding guests cheers on the dancefloor. A bride and groom smile while holding each other on the dance floor.

      Special thanks to all the lovely vendors who helped make Taylor and Cam’s wedding day stunning. 

      Caterer- Apron Strings

      Florals- Bud Florals

      Dress- Ever After Bridal Cleveland

      Suit- A beautiful sport coat, no tie, white shirt, pocket square, slacks, beautiful suede loafers. Literally just something he ‘picked up’ in Chicago!

      Gelato – Milk and Honey

      Rentals- Cleveland Tent 

      Taylor and Cam’s day was a perfect representation of who they are as a couple, and hosting their big backyard wedding at the family home made everything so much sweeter. I’m so thankful they trusted me with their day and were so eager to accept guidance on the little details. I love helping my couples create the wedding they’re dreaming of. 

      If you’re planning a big backyard wedding (or a small one, for that matter!), I’d love to help you plan. Reach out, tell me about your wedding, and let’s capture some beautiful memories like these together.

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