sneak peeksweddings

D*S Team Tours: Lauren & Austin’s Outdoor Wedding

by Lauren Chorpening Day

Austin and I got engaged mid-December 2015. After the holidays were behind us, we sat down to talk about what we wanted our wedding to be like. Right away we knew three things: We wanted it to be beautiful, we wanted it to be personal, and we wanted it to be outside. We drove through a prairie reserve, but the space would only handle about 20 guests. We searched online, but nothing seemed special enough that was close by Des Moines, IA. On the way home from a venue one day, Austin took a detour and drove us behind the property of a family friend’s home where he used to go hunting with his brothers and cousins when he was a boy. It was breathtaking, even in January in Iowa. Austin called Walt Johnson, the property owner, and we met with him and his wife and we all agreed that this would be a perfect location for a wedding in July.

As an interiors enthusiast and designer, I was having a hard time, internally, wrapping my mind around designing in an open pasture. A wedding tent wasn’t really an option because the main point of the location was the beautiful view, and we didn’t want to hinder it. I wasn’t finding anything when I’d look up “wedding pergolas for rent” so the next step was to try and design one. Getting Austin to trust that this wouldn’t be a disaster took a little convincing, but once we enlisted our friend Henry Elgersma and the design/build firm he works for, Austin was on board. We realized that we were going to save about $700 by building a reception structure instead of renting a tent. From there, almost everything we could build or DIY instead of renting, we did. Our wedding would feature pieces from around our homes, things we’d build with our families, and florals to cover anything and everything.

Our colors and details came easily. Austin’s favorite color is dark green and my favorite color is a peachy blush. We went with it. Our friend Meg Gleason of Moglea received our Save the Date and reached out about doing our invitations with one of Austin’s photographs wrapped around the hand-painted, gold-foiled invite. Personal, check. Beautiful, check. I purchased some gold vases and some blush planters for the flowers, built credenzas for the food tables, painted origami-like pendant shades, and pulled accessories from around my house for finishing touches. The structure was built and painted much faster than expected, making the final days before our wedding less stressful and more intentional with those closest to us. The wedding day itself was magical and we couldn’t stop crying by how much love we felt for each other, the people who helped make our wedding design a reality, and the friends and family that came to support us. Flip through the gallery above to see some of our favorite personal and design touches that made all of the work so worth it. –Lauren

Photography by Logan Clement

When we started thinking about how to decorate, what to rent and what to buy, we realized that between the two of us, we already owned things that fit into our wedding aesthetic. My dining room table became our head table and a rug I had picked out for my new office worked perfectly underneath. Shelly Sarver's florals were the statement pieces and we wanted furniture and accessories to give the flowers centerstage.
We rented a few peacock chairs early on for the wedding, but a few months before we found one on Craigslist for $15 and one on the side of the road the week of the wedding. So we ended up with four peacock chairs at the reception. Two for the head table, and two by the dance floor.
I had pendant lights in mind for the structure but with the cost of pendants being a large chunk of our small budget, I wasn't sure it was going to work. IKEA's new cardboard pendant shades were the perfect solution. They come in this size in a light pastel green so one afternoon, Austin's mom, sister and I put these all together and then I spray painted them high-gloss hunter green. They were perfect and less than $5 apiece.
The land Austin had remembered since childhood was the perfect setting for our outdoor wedding.
The "dipped" frame of the structure was a solution to a problem. When our friend and architect ordered the lumber, the only way he could get the 4x4s was if they were treated, meaning they would be green. I was bummed for about a minute before I realized this would be the perfect excuse to match the white and wood look of the ceremony benches. The bonus came when the lumber was delivered without much of a green tint at all.
Austin and his dad built sandwich boards a few weeks before the wedding. The weekend before our wedding, Austin and I painted them and started transferring our signs onto them. We didn't quite finish, so our amazing bridesmaids worked on them the day (and night!) before the wedding day.
We used some end tables I had in my house to set the gorgeous floral arrangements as the entrance to the ceremony.
Between Austin's dad and my mom and stepdad, they built 62 benches. This was one of my favorite DIYs of the event. We stuck with natural wood bases and painted the tops white because it was quick and easy. This was one of the first projects where we started seeing the wedding come together.
Before we knew we would build our benches, we visited a rental warehouse to look at seating. We walked in and saw this giant rusted arbor and had to have it for our ceremony backdrop. Our floral designer made it look even more incredible with lush greens and flowers.
An overview of our reception structure during the ceremony.
Our wedding programs were a last minute add-on but Minted had a design that fit the vibes and style of our wedding perfectly.
We put out 60 8-foot benches expecting around 300 guests. We had about 320 in attendance and thankfully everyone was good with getting cozy.
Our rug runner consisted of a few rugs I already owned, a rug I purchased just for the wedding and a gorgeous 12 foot rug I borrowed from a friend.
One of our best friends, Justin, took care of the prelude and a hymn during our ceremony.
Another view of our benches. The guy on the end is Henry and he is the saint responsible for taking my reception structure dreams and turning them into a safe, beautiful and feasible design.
We're married!
My bridesmaids dresses and flowers were another favorite. I found my sister's Matron of Honor dress at Show Me Your Mumu and the other girls' dresses at Nordstrom. Austin and I wanted flowers to be the main decorative element of the day, so we had our floral designer make each of the girls bride-size bouquets, each one different, whimsical and beautiful.
The groomsmen wore tone-on-tone floral ties and grey suits. Austin worked with The Good Fancy to have a Luigi Bianchi Mantova suit made for him and he picked out a blue and green floral print tie.
Our ceremony started at 7:15 pm so we weren't offering a sit-down dinner. Instead, we had amazing Korean and Mexican fusion street tacos, Moar Tacos, cater. We wanted most people to stand and mingle with tacos in hand, but we also had long tables for family and friends that needed to take a seat.
We chose to be minimal with knick-knacks to let the pieces and florals we really loved shine.
Instead of a traditional cake, we opted for wheels of cheese stacked together from The Cheese Shop. Tacos and cheese rank at the top of the favorite foods lists for both of us. We cut into a delicious soft Brie on the top tier and then spread the wheels out for guests to eat with crackers, honey and jam and then to take cheese home as favors.
Tiny sandwich boards we made and escort cards from Minted told guests what was on the spread that evening.
Austin's cousin made family recipes for us and helped make the night that much more personal.
Glass bottled Cokes and Boxed Waters not only kept in line with our "personal favorites" showcased at our wedding, but we also stuck to removing any plastic or non-recyclable non-food waste.
Our wedding was mostly shot on film. Because Austin is a film and digital fine-art photographer, it was important to him that this day would be documented on a format that he loves. Our wedding videographer, Dave Poyzer, used film to document the entire day and our photographer, Logan Clement, shot 90% of the day on film.
The structure and gorgeous scenery during our wedding reception. The dance floor to the right of the structure was a DIY using pallets, plywood and paint.
Being a designer made parts of our wedding more exhausting, just because there was more that we were building or having made custom. When I first started looking at dresses, I couldn't see myself in most of them. They didn't really speak to me. My aunt makes gowns for special occasions like pageants and prom, so I reached out to her to see if we could design a skirt for me. Then I found a dress from For Love & Lemons that I loved the top on. We turned the dress into a body suit and attached the skirt on top. It was perfect and everything I had hoped for. It also cost me about $250 total versus buying a gown for thousands.
I cried when I saw my bouquet. It was lovely, organic, romantic and giant. We told our florist the flowers that we liked and the overall feel of our wedding and said that she should do whatever she wanted. It is always a good idea to tell a designer that you trust them instead of trying to copy pictures. Shelly created masterpieces because she was free to be creative.
My favorite picture of the night and a perfect depiction of how we felt about our wedding.

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  • So Beautiful!! I’m so happy for you both, may god bless you with a lifetime of happiness!! love you………. Rhonda

  • This looks beautiful. If you were out in a pasture what was your power source for sound and lights? Thanks

    • Hi Penny! We had a small, quiet generator for our ceremony for the sound and then used a more powerful generator for our reception for the lights and sound.

    • Hi Amy,

      Thank you! We didn’t have a rain plan for the most part. We probably would have rented a tent or invested in hundreds of umbrellas if the week of the wedding things looked bad. Thankfully, our weather for that day was low 70s with a slight breeze. Couldn’t have asked for a better day for a July Iowa wedding.

  • Lauren, thank you so much for sharing! I’m planning an outdoor wedding myself and found this so helpful (as I’m currently overwhelmed yet excited to try to DIY it myself). Would you mind sharing how you did the pallet dance floor? Or do you by chance have any pictures/references? Again, thanks so much! I can only hope our wedding turns out as lovely as yours looked!

    • Hi Liz!

      Congratulations on your upcoming wedding! We picked up 16 4-foot pallets and laid them in a perfect square. The dance floor was 16×16 feet. We purchased eight 1/2″ thick smooth plywood in 4×8 foot sheets and arranged them on top of the pallets and secured everything together with a drill and screws. We gave the dance floor two coats of white paint to polish it off. If I were going to do it all over again, I’d maybe create a 20×20 dance floor instead.

      Free pallets are listed on Craigslist all the time so I’d start there! Just make sure they are all the same size.

  • Thanks so much! This is so helpful, searched a little online, but it’s good to have instructions from someone who is design oriented :) Thanks again for sharing your beautiful wedding!

  • it is the wedding I wished I could have had though we are now happily married for 38 years. Never lose your creative energy.

  • Lauren, I love the use of peacock chairs, and I’m looking to do that myself for my wedding! Where did you find rentals?


    • Hi Dallas,

      I found one of them on Craigslist for $15, one on the side of the road and I rented two of them from a wedding rental warehouse called Vintage Love Rentals in Des Moines, IA. Hope you find some!

  • Lauren, thank you for letting us be a part of your wedding celebration. We were glad that you found your arbor, cocktail tables, linens and peacock chairs to rent from our studio – Vintage Love Rentals and annessi.

  • Fantastic blog! Heeft u nuttige tips voor aspirant-schrijvers? Ik ben hoop om mijn eigen te beginnen website binnenkort maar ik ben een beetje verloren op alles. Zou u raden te beginnen met een gratis platform zoals WordPress of ga voor een betaalde optie? Er zijn zoveel keuzes opties die er zijn dat ik totaal overweldigd .. Elke suggesties ? Waarderen !

  • I love the vases you used for the cocktail tables! Where’d you get them?