-- One couple from Seattle really wanted a wedding from the heart. Not only were Dylan LeValley and Jen Long overwhelmed by the finances, planning and restrictions of typical wedding venues, they also felt their new home, which they’d just purchased several months before getting engaged, was the perfect place to capture the sentimental essence they were hoping to exude on their big day.
There was only one problem with their charming 100-year-old bungalow. The yard was a wreck.
“We had talked about re-doing this yard since we moved in,” said LeValley. “It’s a tiny little awesome 100-year-old house but the yard was really neglected. No one had a vision or had done anything with it in forever. I’m kind of a planner and a builder so we knew what we wanted to do with the yard already. We had a vision for what we wanted it to look like.”
He proposed the first weekend of December 2015 and the couple spent most of that month and January debating their venue options. Long was already committed to several nursing school programs, so the only available weekend that would really work for their wedding was June 18. But when they started calling venues in the area, they quickly realized how hard it was to book a space.
“Venues were really limited to what they still had available,” said LeValley. “Last summer we went to seven weddings and had seen all these things that people were doing and the accumulation of all of that was basically, ‘We get to pay so much money for a place, have to deal with the stress of being in and out by certain times, have to set up and get kicked out, have to transport people there and get people to leave.’ That was the process we went through before we realized, ‘Let’s just get married at home.’”
So that’s exactly what the thrifty couple did.
Their timeline to transform the tattered yard went from a leisurely weekend project to a sudden 5-month deadline. LeValley jumped into action, tearing down an old, ratty shed, leveling out the yard, planting all new sod, building an entire new fence and covering a gross, cracked concrete slab with a nice, new wooden deck. He chronicled the entire DIY project on Reddit, which has been viewed more than 12,000 times.
The total cost of the yard project was roughly $3,000 “but some of that cost may be shuffled over to the wedding budget,” he said. “I’ve been hesitant to add it up mostly because I haven’t separated the wedding itself from the yard itself.”
No matter what the couple spent, however, they’re thrilled with the fact that their hard-earned cash went toward a wedding venue that is now their forever backyard paradise, rather than something they had to pack up and leave at the end of the night.
The fence and deck:
“The fence and the deck were all part of the original plan,” LeValley explained. “That’s what I wanted the yard to look like. We wanted a big deck. Under that deck was a big cement pad and it was just ugly and was going to cost a couple grand to have it removed. So I figured it would be great to have a big deck over it, and have a barbeque and have friends over to grill. And then obviously the fence.”
The arbor for their vows:
LeValley said the arbor was constructed by a woodworker and good friend. “He built that arbor for our wedding. It can be removed and turned into a bench. That was our wedding gift. We love that it’s reusable," LeValley added.
Catering, cake and servingware:
“For the signage we went and got a bunch of 15 or 20 picture frames, crappy pictures from Goodwill and then I took the glass out and painted it with chalkboard paint,” he said. “You paint the glass with chalkboard paint and pop it back into the frame. Then Jen just drew whatever she wanted from there.”
“We live in Seattle so Jen and our moms and her friends went down to Pike Place Market and got flowers in huge bundles,” the groom explained. “A friend of ours put those arrangements together.”
“The band [leader] is our best friend,” said LeValley. “He’s a musician and he started a band when they moved out here, but didn’t have any shows so they offered to play. We go see a lot of music with this couple. This was only their second show. They were so good."
He added: “We had made a playlist on Spotify and we sent it to the band for them to get the kind of feel we wanted. And they learned like nine songs from our playlist to play. We had no idea. It was phenomenal.”
“Amy [Gray], she’s Jen’s best friend from growing up so she did us a huge favor doing that for free,” he said. “She did an awesome, awesome job.”
Before the craziness of the wedding planning fully commenced, the couple rented a cabin to solely focus on the ceremony’s details. They concluded there was one thing most important to them: Home.
“We ended up talking about how important it was for us to get marred in our home,” LeValley said of the most sacred part of their wedding. “These events have such a huge impact and meaning in your life and there is something intangible there about having this big celebration of love. And to have that love soak into our house and resonate into the walls and the ground, and it feels like we’ve loved this house and built this beautiful little home, and now to come home and have these memories there and to have that deeper connection to this place we live in is absolutely incredible.”