DIY OUTDOOR WEDDING WITH A KILLER DRESS + FREE PEONIES! “Complete and Utter Advisory Overload” by Our Planning Bride Bloggista, Alyssa!

Happy Monday afternoon, my friends!  As you may have heard, Bridal Market has been happening to my face, eyes and ears and it’s being topped off by some of the loveliest shindigs I could possibly have the honor of being a part of.  I’m so thrown by it all that I’m even ending sentences in prepositions, willy nilly.  And I’m even using phrases like “willy nilly,” to boot.  My excitement is mainly due to the fact that these times allow me to connect on a physical level with all of the beautiful, kindhearted and truly talented colleagues and friends I’ve been so fortunate to get to know within the industry.  It’s kind of the bee’s knees.  And when I say “connect on a physical level” I of course mean have sex with in alleys and on dance floors.  Even bad press is good press!

Ahhhh but I kid, I kid.  Seriously though, as it is every year, it’s a phenomenal feeling to be able to spend time and catch up with people you just rarely get to see, because of distance.  And if yours is one of the pretty faces with whom I’ve had the pleasure of chatting recently, well hello again!  It was, indeed, a pleasure! :)

Anywho, since it’s Bridal Market and all, I’m out on the town collecting pretty, doing lunch (how stuck up does that sound, bleh) and just generally imbibing everything this time of year has to offer… that’s why I’m seriously excited and hella grateful to introduce to you our latest Bloggista, who also happens to be a planning bride… Alyssa!  Let’s all give her a nice little welcome, shall we?!

Take it away, Alyssa! 

Hello hello lovelies! Not gonna lie, I’m a little nervous about my first post…it’s a bit like public speaking but I can’t even picture the audience in their underwear! Giganto thanks to Alison for giving me a shot.

Commence blogging in three…two…one…

I suppose I should start by telling you a little bit about this crazy chick on the other side of the keyboard. I’m not a photographer, I don’t plan weddings for a living, and I don’t have my own highly successful blog like so many of my lovely bloggista counterparts. So what on Earth am I doing here? I’m planning my own wedding with my family four hours away and buying a house while bringing fresh marketing ideas to an engineering firm in an attempt to rock the corporate world. Did I mention I also plan corporate events at my nerdy day job? So yeah, no pressure planning the biggest most splendiferous event of my entire life – and somehow paying for it while keeping all my organs.

Nope. No pressure at all.

One thing is for sure – all this craziness makes for some pretty great stories. And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is why I’m here. I hope you’ll agree!

Two things happen without fail the when you tell someone you’re engaged. First, the obligatory “Well, congratulations,” from men or “OOOO MY GOODNESS CONGRATS THAT’S SO FABULOUS EEEEK!” from women. Second, everyone – and I mean abso-freakin-lutely everyone – has a suggestion. I’m not trying to be ungrateful. Many people have great advice (my favorite so far: make stickers with your name, phone number and e-mail before you go to a bridal show; you’ll avoid writing that info twenty thousand times and escape the sales pitches as fast as possible). Some advice isn’t so great but provides comic relief. You quickly perfect the art of responding like each is the greatest suggestion you’ve ever heard without at all sounding like you’ll use it.

The issue isn’t the quality of advice necessarily – it’s the quantity. Within 24 hours I’d been told:

  • Definitely don’t have a destination wedding;
  • Destination weddings are the only way to go;
  • So-and-so’s mom should be my photographer;
  • You have to have a live band;
  • Live bands take too many breaks;
  • Don’t invite too many people;
  • Make sure you invite enough people so it feels like a party.

Among others, but you get the idea. Not to mention as soon as you sign up for The Knot and enter a hypothetical date you’re already behind on about 27 to-do list items. Excellente. Information overload can make for some pretty overwhelmed brides-to-be. I finally started avoiding wedding planning discussions unless I have a specific question and bought storage ottomans to contain the mess-nado of brochures, business cards and magazines that tore through my living room in less than a week.

I’m going to somewhat-hypocritically ask for more advice. If you’re planning a wedding now, have you had a similar experience? How are you handling the advisory overload? If you’re already married or help with weddings, what are your suggestions for sifting through the mess to end up with your one perfect awesome magical day?

Today’s gorgeously DIY wedding took place in Kansas City, Mo., and is brought to you by the photographic genius of Matt Frye (One Tree Photo+Cinema) and the insane craftiness of bride Sheena. I’ll let you read it in her words, but she may be the most resourceful person I’ve ever heard of. Ever. *Note the Flowers section of the vendor list.*

We met at a pick-up game of Ultimate Frisbee May 2008.  I was just starting grad school and Drew was a new local high school biology teacher.  There were weeks of flirtation until Drew finally had the courage to ask me out.  We have spent all of our time together ever since going camping, running road races and marathons, gardening, traveling and playing with our puppy together.  In other words, we just hang out and enjoy time with each other.

Inspirations: We are pretty low-key and wanted a natural, relaxed setting for the wedding and reception.  We both agreed that an outdoor wedding had the most appeal to both of us; Drew is a high school biology and field & prairie ecology teacher and I am a biology/insect ecology grad student.  I am an Army Brat and have friends and family all over the country while Drew is a Kansas City native with a very large family still mostly in the surrounding area.  Logistically it was most accommodating to find a venue in Kansas City which would make travel easier for out of staters and a large portion of family members who already live in the area.  We found Fresh Air Farm via Google, went out and saw the place and instantly fell in love with the setting and all-inclusive-ness of their event package (they take care of set-up, food, drinks, music, nearly everything).  Everything else about the wedding was very DIY from the hundreds of handmade doilies (by the bride’s mother and aunt) and wood discs (cut by the bride’s grandfather) and hand-picked flowers that decorated the tables to the handmade pennant flags that hung from the ceiling (made by the bride with assembly line help from the groom’s mother and sister).  The guest book was drawn by the bride’s mother also.

There was no official color scheme. We chose May 21st based on peony bloom timing in Kansas, a gamble, but it worked out perfectly.  Blue dresses were chosen because it would complement the pink (peonies) or any other back-up flower in the event “Plan B” should have been employed.

Spring weather can be tough to predict in a continental climate so an outdoor wedding, much like banking on flowers to be in bloom locally, can be quite the gamble!  Fortunately our venue provided a tent to cover our group of close friends and family in the event of inclement weather.  Although it rained a few days earlier in the week, on our wedding day it was very windy with temperatures in the low 80s but the rain held off, at least directly over us, for most of the night.  The wedding ceremony began at 6 pm with the wedding party and bride walking down the aisle to a violin soloist (bride’s talented cousin).  The groom’s uncle was ordained online to officiate the wedding.  The ceremony was minimalistic but extremely personal with a few anecdotes from the groom’s uncle followed by original vows tearfully exchanged between the bride and groom.  The whole ceremony lasted about 15 minutes.  Appetizers and an open bar greeted guests after they made their way through the wedding party line.  Dinner was served shortly after.  Dinner was buffet style with meats carved from the bone for all of the guests.  There was a whole slow roasted pig and a smoked turkey to choose from served with hearty homestyle sides.  Dinner seating was inside the barn in the loft area followed by toasts and cake.  Dancing was enjoyed for the remainder of the night outside following dinner.  It never rained directly on us but, in the distance a lightning storm entertained all of the guests.

Vendor details:

Bridal Shop (Bridal Gown)/Designer:  gown: Bridal Extrordinaire (12109 Shawnee Mission Parkway, Shawnee, KS, ph.913.268.5566), Justin Alexander, style# 8465; shoes:, Nine West, Escher

Bridesmaid Dresses (Designer/store where purchased):  bridemaid’s were responsible for picking out their own dresses, the only criteria being they should be dark blue or navy.  I wanted the girls to find something that they felt comfortable in and would be more likely to wear again in the future.  Most of the girls found off-the-rack dresses at department stores.

Cake/Bakery:  ceremonial cake – Paula Ising (mother of groom); sheet cake – Fresh Air Farm

Caterer:  Fresh Air Farm provides a small selection of homestyle foods to choose from.  Our menu consisted of stuffed mushrooms and chicken quesadillas for appetizers and a slow roasted whole pig, smoked turkey, garlic mashed potatoes, green beans and a fresh green salad with dinner rolls for dinner.

Ceremony Site:  Fresh Air Farm

Ceremony Musicians:  Emily Parsons, cousin of the bride

DJ: Jesse Wallace (; provided by Fresh Air Farm

Favors: Ferrero Rocher with DIYed toothpick flags were placed at each of the place settings and scattered around the dessert table.  There were also coaster sized tree discs (cut by the bride’s grandfather) at each of the tables for guests to take home with them.

Flowers:  free!  All flowers were provided from yards of neighbors and residents in Manhattan.  As I said before, the wedding date was set based on peony bloom phenology so there was an abundance of blooms around town.  The bride’s uncle is a local pharmacist in Manhattan and happened to know many people with wonderful peony hedges who were all kind enough to donate flowers for the wedding.  Boutonnieres for the groom, groomsmen and family members were DIYed by the bride and bridesmaids the night before the wedding by binding peony buds and some greenery with floral tape and then wrapping the stems with jute twine. Bride and bridesmaids bouquets were nothing more than bundles of peonies bound with some jute, as well.  Flowers on tables were arrangements of peonies in antique Ball canning jars.

ok I know you just saw them up a bit higher, but you GOTTA SEE THESE UP CLOSE…

’cause I mean, shark cufflinks?  Love them.  SO awesome.

I hope you enjoyed that little glimpse of KCMO! I think her ideas were just awesomely adorable.

This is usually where we’re all graced with fabulously adorable pictures of Señor Bambino McAwesomePants. I currently live in a tiny apartment with a fish named Zeus whose pictures I will not be sharing for the following reasons:

  1. He doesn’t need a bigger ego. His name is Zeus for goodness sake.
  2. He is currently on antibiotics (no, I’m not kidding, I wish I were) so he can’t have any toys in his tank, and I don’t want you all to think I’m a bad fish mommy because his little world looks so boring.


AND on that note…

I hope you enjoyed my first post! Don’t forget to leave suggestions, if you don’t mind, for all of us brides-to-be drowning in info. I promise it’ll be the best advice I’ve ever heard. :)

And how gorgeous is Sheena’s dress, by the way.  HOW GORGEOUS??!!

xoxo! – Alyssa

Photography: Matt Frye of One Tree Photo+Cinema / Reception Venue: Fresh Air Farm / Dress Shop: Bridal Extraordinaire / Dress Designer: Justin Alexander, style# 8465 / Shoes:, Nine West, Escher / Cake, Bakery: ceremonial cake – Paula Ising (mother of groom); sheet cake – Fresh Air Farm / Caterer:  Fresh Air Farm / Ceremony Site: Fresh Air Farm / Ceremony Musicians:  Emily Parsons, cousin of the bride DJ: Jesse Wallace (; provided by Fresh Air Farm / Hair Stylist: Bethany Fox (Encounters Salon & Day Spa, 11156 Antioch, Overland Park, KS, ph: 913.341.1976) / Invitations: Wedding Paper Divas; invitation “Simple Farm”; save the date “Heartfelt Handbill” / Jeweler: wedding bands and engagement setting: Helzberg Diamonds; engagement stone: The Natural Sapphire Company / Makeup Artist: Bethany Fox (Encounters Salon & Day Spa, 11156 Antioch, Overland Park, KS, ph: 913.341.1976) / Men’s Attire: suits: Men’s Warehouse and Jos. A. Bank; ties:, Y&G A1030 / Officiant: Chris Ising (groom’s uncle) / Reception Musicians: DJ / Honeymoon Location & Lodging: throughout Costa Rica: Hotel Luisiana, Santa Ana; Hotel Poseidon, Jaco; Los Pinos Cabanas y Jardines, Monteverde; Hotel Grano de Oro, San Jose

Label(s): Color, Pink, The Bloggistas, White, {Real Weddings}

Love all of this...


  1. Ilana on October 17, 2011

    I love that dress. I tried it on when I was dress shopping last April but it was WAY too much dress for me. I still love it every time I see it though! My fiance and I have been engaged for almost a year and have been so noncommittal about a wedding date or any sort of planning at all that people have basically stopped asking – which is GREAT for us because we have very specific ideas about what we are planning.

    We did finally set a date for May of next year and I am still overwhelmed by suggestions, even though they are few and far between. I suffer from the “I want to make everyone happy all the time” syndrome and that is NOT the way to go about planning your own wedding. Thankfully, my wonderful fiance is there to steer me back on track.

  2. Kristine {In Love, Engaged} on October 17, 2011

    Well, first off, Alyssa, I don’t think you’re going to have ANY trouble planning that wedding of yours considering the wedding you just posted. You obviously have killer taste. :)

    And secondly, I just got married at the end of August so I’m freshly aware–and reminiscent–of advisory overload. Although, my favorite will still be the most repeated question upon greeting: How’s the wedding planning coming? I would venture to guess this is the introduction to advisory overload for you as well? It sounds like you’re handling it well though. Just nod, say thank you, that sounds helpful, I’ll have to think about that one and move on. And by move on, I mean refocus on what matters the most to you, what brings you and your fiance the most inspiration, and ultimately what best tells YOUR story. Cause that’s all that matters, really.

    Congrats! And welcome to the bloggista club! :)

  3. Jenn Lane on October 17, 2011

    I love the flags in the little cakes! What a beautiful wedding.

  4. Alyssa on October 17, 2011

    Thanks Kristine! Excellent advice. It definitely helps to sit down with the fiance every couple weeks and remind ourselves of the bit picture we want to create. No one knows the story we want to tell better than we do!

    PS – anyone else in love with the photo of the little girl looking through the barn window? Cuz I definitely am. SO cute.

  5. C on October 17, 2011

    That dress is all sorts of fantastical and ridiculous fabulous. Also, that is a lovely wedding.

  6. W on October 17, 2011

    Love the photography. The bride looks great, and the dress is lovely!

  7. Annie H on October 17, 2011

    ZOMG that will be my dress in about….6 more months. Not even kidding, I only wish the beading that is on the lace flowers shows up better in pictures!

    And I second that whole overload on advice. Everyone has an opinion, EVERYONE, and turning on the filter so that my mind can process the helpful things vs. the redic. things can be super duper hard. Right now, I keep my stuff on pinterest so everyone who wants to be in the loop for my wedding ideas can be, they can choose to like/comment on the stuff. But at the end of the day, if I REALLY have my heart set on something (Like shiny red shoes) I will find a way to incorporate it into my day.

  8. Tom on October 17, 2011

    Love the last shot especially. So very dramatic!

  9. Koru Kate on October 17, 2011

    That dress is a dream! Love, love. & that sweet puppy face is adorable!!!

  10. Shulie [RobbinsBrothers] on October 17, 2011

    Your dress is a DREAM. I also adore that you included a doggle! Love it. Thanks so much for sharing your amazing wedding. :) Congratulations, Alyssa!

  11. Lena on October 17, 2011

    I don’t generally quote Rachel Zoe, but…

    I. DIE.

    Seriously, Alyssa-your big day is going to be more than gorgeous. And I’m so happy to get to read about it while you plan!

  12. Laicie on October 17, 2011

    Shark. Cufflinks.

    Love it!! (and lolz on that absurdly long checklist on The Knot — I have a minor breakdown every time I look)

    Good luck with your planning Alyssa!!

  13. Edible Wedding Favors on October 17, 2011

    was that a sort-of-kisses-chocolates, with mini flag on top of it your wedding favors?> it is then I would want to have it on my wedding too….its cute…

  14. Donna on October 18, 2011

    That dress is amazing! Love the table settings and colors.

  15. Mia on October 18, 2011


    The dress. Can I just talk about the dress for a second? Is it my imagination, or does the skirt get longer??

  16. Steph on October 20, 2011

    gorgeous wedding… I agree Mia, looks like the dress gets longer?!

  17. Jackie P on October 24, 2011

    Being on the very tail end of 99% of my friends to get married, I got 80 gajillion times more advice than I could ever use. Yes, all of my recently married friends were spewing advice at me left and right about E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G! All you can do, as I believe has been said, is master the art of saying, “Hey yeah, great. Thanks for those ideas – definitely good information to have/keep in the back of my mind/tuck away in my back pocket.” In the early stages of planning you really have no idea which end is up sometimes, and I certainly empathize with you in feeling initially overwhelmed. But know that in most cases, people mean well. Weddings are exciting, and people’s experiences of them are so very personal. I think in the end, after politely thanking people for their input, you have to tune out the crazy voices and focus on what it is that you DO want. You and your hubs, who you are, how you met, what you like to do on Sunday afternoons, your favorite Chinese takeout dishes – all of things are probably best to draw upon first, and then you can cherry pick advice & suggestions later, as they relate to what you want/need for your wedding. I did notice, however, that people rarely ever gave me PRACTICAL advice, such as might have come in handy on my actual wedding day, so I hope you will indulge for one example. For instance, make absolutely positively for sure certain that you have a need & some white thread at the ready. Or purposely budget in an extra half hour by lying about the start time of your ceremony. Let me tell you why: my zipper popped open smack in the middle (after bending over to put on my shoes) and could not be unzipped & re-zipped. There was much scrambling to track down a needle & thread because it was ultimately determined the only fix was to be sewn into my dress. But fortunately, I had padded my day w/an extra 1/2 hr and thus didn’t miss photo ops and the day went along more or less as planned/on time. And with that, I will say no more.

    Enjoy the planning, dream big, and most of all remember that you’re getting hitched to THE MOST AWESOME DUDE EVER!

  18. Allie on October 26, 2011

    I love the outdoor wedding venue. The pictures are so candid not the stuffy formal traditonal thing of the past. I love the bridesmaids dresses, did you see the artcle on colors, what do your wedding colors say about you? I think blue is calmness.

  19. Dianne on January 14, 2012

    I love the very chill wedding vibe this couple has, they look awesome but it’s not so formal and stiff.

  20. wedding invitations india on November 29, 2012

    I love the pictures! Lovely couple and a pristine ceremony. Thanks for sharing


Leave a comment