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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.