Friends are the family you get to choose, and for Rebekah and Michael Barger, their wedding was not only a celebration of their love, but a tangible illustration what true friends do for one another when there’s a need. With their sights set on a sizable, summertime, outdoor wedding and a modest budget to make their dreams come true, here’s how event planner (and interior stylist at Nest Interiors) Stephanie Van Hoesen and some amazingly generous friends made Rebekah and Michael’s big day such a beautiful one:
First, let me say how wonderful it was to work with the community that the bride and groom call their family. It was an amazing experience to partner with people who would do just about anything to make this wedding possible. And not only were they willing to pitch in, they were all extremely talented! It was like having all of East Nashville at my fingertips—a wedding coordinator’s dream.
With a small budget and a large guest list of 200, I was a bit nervous when Rebekah and Michael approached me about their outdoor June wedding. I didn’t know if it was possible to create the wedding of their dreams within this budget. But, they are friends of mine and so very much in love; how could I say no?! So of course, I said yes. My challenge? To create a $20,000 wedding for $5,000.
(Photos courtesy of Justin Harvey.)
First, a little about the bride and groom: Rebekah is the owner and Artistic Director of Fall, a contemporary and aerial dance company. Michael is the wine and spirits “Hoperator” at Bounty Bev. They met at church—The Anchor Fellowship—and quickly realized they shared numerous mutual friends, as well as a love of good whiskey and sci-fi (they particularly bonded over Firefly). Says Rebekah, “At a Sunday evening service at church, Michael asked me to stay after to help him change out some light-bulbs (he generally helps out there with things like that). Once everyone else had left, we proceeded to change 4 lightbulbs before he stepped down off the ladder and got down on one knee.”
So how did we pull it off? We had to overcome the the biggest challenge first of finding the location for the ceremony and a reception for 200 people. We needed an outdoor location that had an open field for a large tent and a facility that would accommodate the wedding party, the catering company, and my design team for $1500 or less. The average cost for such a place is $3,000-10,000. But lucky for us, we found the perfect place in Pegram, TN–Harmony Landing (about 20 minutes outside of Nashville). The property is absolutely beautiful and included a rustic cabin that sleeps 14 (lots of room for the wedding party to get ready), a large kitchen that made catering and floral arrangements a breeze, and a huge living/dining room that was perfect for a décor staging area. We had the place to ourselves for the entire weekend, making set up and clean up a dream.
The next challenge was renting a large tent. The groom called in a favor and we were able to get a 30″ x 60″ tent for a third of the cost. The groom arranged for his groomsmen to be available for set up and tear down of the tent, as well as any heavy lifting, so we didn’t have to pay our rental companies a set-up/tear-down fee.
The most important thing to the bride and groom were the guests. They wanted all their friends and family to be there, and they wanted a big party, so there was no negotiating on the guest list. And as you may know, catering can get expensive. So what do you do in the South for an outdoor summer wedding on a budget? Barbecue, of course. We chose Martin’s BBQ in Nolensville, TN.
To keep costs down, my dear friend and event coordinator extraordinaire Lea Collins volunteered her time and organized a team of volunteers to help with catering services and general set up. She also ran the logistics on the day of the wedding. Such a gem!
Once we had the the “biggies” nailed down, the bride and I focused on décor. The overall feel was a vintage-modern, hand-crafted garden wedding. We went to thrift stores, borrowed from friends and family, used items from my prop closet and did a lot of DIY. We rented tables, chairs and linens through Music City Events (my go to rental company—love them!). All of our foundational pieces were in white to give a clean backdrop to our eclectic collection of décor.
For table décor, which you’ll see below in the photos, the bride and groom wanted to combine elements that expressed who they are. The bride is an avid reader and collector of old books and, you guessed it, comic books. The groom has a great affection for fine whiskey and cigars, and they both love the outdoors and all things vintage. My challenge was to come up with a concept that incorporated these elements, while creating an aesthetic that was congruent and elegant. Take a look:
For Rebekah and Michael, the most important aspect of their wedding day was for it to feel natural. Rebekah says they wanted everything to be “personal and intentional, with significance behind every detail.” She goes on to say that, “apparently that day, there was so much love in the air, it was contagious. One of our photographers met one of Michael’s friends that day, and my sister met another of Michael’s friends, and both couples have been together ever since!” What more can you ask for, for the most important day of your life?
Thank you Stephanie, and thank you Rebekah and Michael for sharing your story!
- Invitations and signage: Audra Harvey with Abrasive Media
- Venue: Harmony Landing
- Rentals: Music City Event.com
- Catering: Martin’s BBQ
- Photography: Justin Harvey and Jessica Cavender (good friend of the bride and groom)
- Bride’s dress: Kelly Landry
- Bridesmaids’ dresses: Modcloth
- Wedding planner: Stephanie Van Hoesen