Our DIY Backyard BBQ Wedding – Part 1



You wanna come to our wedding without melting in the 110 degree heat? I thought so. Here’s your invitation. Even though we got married…oh, 7 months ago, I’m just now finally getting around to sharing our photos with you. It took us about 8 months to create our dream wedding from scratch and now, just as much time to cut our billion photos down to 101 that tell our story. With my brother and I out of the house, my parents have gone through various stages of “let’s sell the house and downsize,” and I’ve always emphatically replied, “not until I get married in the backyard!” This urging started even before Lucas and I met. They had to wait. As soon as Lucas proposed in my parents’ living room in front of both of our families, we started drawing to-scale diagrams of how we’d fill the backyard. With that, I bring you our DIY backyard BBQ wedding. The story of how a craft-obsessed California girl married a design-savvy woodworking Texas boy. On the hottest day of the year.

Our good friend Cas officiated our ceremony in the garden of our neighbor, whose house my dad built. All 170 guests then marched across the street for the celebration in my childhood backyard where my mom spent nearly every day for months gardening in the dirt. To be clear, she started this gardening extravaganza even before Lucas proposed…telling the landscaper she was “preparing for a wedding.” Pulling the talents of our friends and family, almost every detail from cupcakes to flowers to photobooth props to bar was handmade (to withstand temperatures above 110ºF).

We served Texas-style BBQ fare on paper plates with homemade fabric napkins wrapped with twine around compostable flatware, and we reserved a clearing through the trees for handmade orange & turquoise chevron-painted cornhole, ping pong, and horseshoes.

As we go through, I’ll share details, alternating between day-of anecdotes and our DIY touches, including a copy of our vows and links to where we bought certain things. We did lots of research to find the best prices, and, in general, we tried to buy as much as possible using our Amazon points. This is the first of a two-part post – this half brings us up to the end of the ceremony. All images are copyright of Brent Van Auken Photography, except where noted with the “© SK” mark. Click any picture to enlarge.


We designed our own stationery suite and had it all printed and cut on thick kraft cardstock. Our friend Foscho’s little sister screen printed the flags on the back, and we assembled them with some baker’s twine and tags we made with two punchers (one and two) and a custom CA + TX stamp from Etsy.






We each got ready in separate rooms of the historic Hotel Diamond with our respective wedding party. What you can’t see in the above picture is that while my mom is tying that beautiful bow, I have the belt of my robe wrapped around one of my bridesmaids to show step-by-step how to tie a straight bow. The thousands of tiny bows I tied on the favors, program fans, and invitations gave me lots of practice.

After trying on several vintage frocks, I found my dress at Shadow’s Bridal, a salon specializing in affordable vintage-style dresses. My custom-cut Casablanca tea-length gown turned out to be the best decision ever in that hot hot heat; a quick twirl turned it into a wearable fan. I replaced the thin beaded waist-band that came on the dress with a wide belt with soft fabric flowers. My something new.

My friend Angi and I spent several frustrating nights watching YouTube videos on how to make a birdcage veil, and together made the veil and flower hair clips using the beaded belt we removed from my dress and a $4 piece of veiling tulle. The videos make birdcage veils seem way easier than they actually are. I made similar flowers out of the same re-used fabric to make my own garter with a few inches of stretchy lace I dyed off-white with tea bags.

Months before the wedding, my namesake Sarah and I went to a bead expo to pick out pearls and she made my earrings and necklace to match my dress. A gift I’ll treasure forever. On my right hand I wore a dainty blue ring that belonged to my late grandma and now my mom – something blue & borrowed. My friend Emily sent me a “sixpence for your shoe” that I stuck under my heel and forgot about all night (and later recovered from the spot on the grass where I hastily kicked off my heels).


Bouquet - First Look

We’d made plans to meet at the creek downtown at 2:15pm for a first look. The groomsmen, in long pants and long-sleeves, were on time. The ladies arrived a bit late, you know, to make them sweat. Literally. Lucas would like to add, “a BIT late??!” Lucas looked so handsome in his turquoise bow tie with his fancy shoes. I was nervous I might trip and fall into the creek. The bridal party all peeked through the trees as I tapped him on his shoulder.



The Moms

A few weeks before the wedding, my bridesmaid Sofia and I made the bridesmaid bouquets using dried lavender, billy balls, and wheat grass I bought online (here and here). We added some homemade pinwheels and wrapped it all in wire, floral tape, and jute twine with some hot glue to hold the ends. We made a smaller bundle to use as a toss bouquet too. I calculated that each bouquet rang up at about $12. The groomsmen wore pinwheel boutonnières with pin-backings and our moms and grandmas wore pinwheel corsages on tea-dyed stretchy lace.

For the bride’s bouquet, I took the moms and Lucas’s sister to the Farmer’s Market the Thursday before the wedding to pick out some wild flowers. We spent $15 on three large bouquets. I pulled out only the colors and flowers I wanted and mixed them with two succulents and some of the dried flowers to make my bridal bouquet. I fastened a little yellow sunflower brooch to the front that belonged to my great-grandmother – something old. We used the rest of the fresh flowers bits of decor around the yard – the only fresh flowers we bought!

1. BridesmaidBouquets

2. Bridesmaids

Orange Bow Ties



We mailed paint strips to each awesome person in our bridal party so they could pick out their own dresses and pants within a color range. We wanted all the bridesmaids to end up with a dress they loved that made them feel fantastic. The groomsmen were told to pick out an orange bow tie, with some suggestions in case they had trouble. All but one of them picked from the list – boys seem to like directions:).

Fun fact about our bridal party: my friend from college, Cas (bottom, center), went to high school in an itty-bitty town with Lucas’s friend from college, Eric (top, second from the left). They hadn’t seen each other since.

We’d intended to take so many more group shots, but the sweltering heat made everything feel like we were moving in slow motion through a sauna. The groomsmen had to go back to the house and toss their shirts in the dryer while they waited for the ceremony the start. I’m actually baffled that you can’t see the sweat streaks through their shirts in these photos. The heat also made us completely unconcerned with arrangement in favor of “just take the picture so we can let everyone stand in front of the enormous fan!” – My amazing Maid of Honor Kira is on the far right in the picture below (holding orange like me:)


We lined the aisle with these homemade pinwheels instead of flowers.



RingBearer - FlowerGirl

Aren’t they just the cutest ever? Our flower girl, Lucas’s cousin Lola, rocked her Texas roots in a gray tutu and cowboy boots. She later showed me some killer moves on the dance floor. My cousin Dane, our ring-bearer, carried the ring pillow in one hand and a bright-blue electric squirt-bottle fan in the other as he walked down the aisle two feet behind the flower girl. I’m totally okay with that because he also walked around all day spontaneously saying, “Cousin Sarah? You’re beautiful. I love you” accompanied by a kiss on the cheek. Melt. My. Heart.

Ceremony Entrance


Over Thanksgiving 2012, my dad, brother, husband, and good friend Brian tore down the old fence lining the property and replaced it with a new redwood fence. We upcycled the fence boards into wedding decor. There were about 30-40 hand-painted signs around the yard, each centerpiece had a slab of fence board as a platter underneath, and my dad built 4 tables and a bar out of the reclaimed wood. Most of the other random decor pieces were things my mom had on hand – her rustic style really came in handy!

We made these program fans out of heavy card stock and some paint stirrers donated by the local wood shop. My mom and I tied colored raffia bows to each handle to fancy them up a bit.  In the video of the ceremony, you can see nearly every guest fanning themselves – probably wishing they’d gone with shorts. Note: when making program fans, have someone else proof-read before printing, cutting, and gluing them, or you’ll end up with 100 fans that have “June 29, 2013th” written across the top. Do over. There was a vase of pinwheels for the kids at the entrance too – way more fun than a fan (the trick to making the pinwheels spin is to thread a couple tiny beads on the needle between the pinwheel and the dowel to give it some space).

When I went to JoAnn Fabric to buy the burlap for the ring pillow, the chatty lady at the cut counter inquired into what I was making. Her face when I replied, “a ring-bearer pillow” was priceless. “Oooo. Usually people make those out of satin…” HA! This ain’t any ol’ wedding! My mom added the dried flowers at the last minute – perfect touch. I also turned several pieces of burlap into bunting flags that read “GIFTS” & “LOVE ♥ IS ♥ SWEET” using leftover gray paint from when my parents first painted their house. I printed and cut out letters on plain printer paper, traced them on the burlap using a black sharpie, and filled it all in with paint. I sewed them together using some heavy jute twine.

ProgramFan RingBearerPillow

Rings Corsage


Gold is pricey these days. Lucas helped design my custom-made engagement ring, and we had the same jeweler create a matching wedding band. For Lucas’s band, we had a local jeweler melt down his parent’s original wedding bands with a gold pendant from my late grandma to make this wide hammered band.


With the help of our officiant and friend Cas, we wrote our own ceremony. Our moms and Nana were escorted to their seats to What I Wouldn’t Do by A Fine Frenzy; The bridal party strolled in to Home by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros (RAC Mix); And my dad and I walked arm and arm to All You Need is Love.

During the ceremony, my close friend Ashley, who had just become a new mom, read the children’s book An Awesome Book of LoveLana Shea ft. Kevin sang Ingrid Michaelson’s You & I while playing the ukulele, and the entire bridal party joined in for the last two choruses. Sofia sang Bright Eyes’s First Day Of My Life while her brother Mattias played the guitar. Our friends are super talented. Cas saved a bit of sentimental surprise anecdotes for the day-of, and we wrote our vows to each other in secret – with an agreed upon format.

Lucas’s vows to me:

Sarah Elizabeth Nix,
You are my best friend, my partner, my confidant, and the only person I must talk to everyday.
I love because we can spend an entire day together and not be bored or want to be anywhere else but here
I love because you’re the only person who has seen all the things I’ve tried to hide and you still love me
I love how you look in the morning when we wake and love when you’re the last thing I see at night
I love how you know me better than I know me and how we really, really know each other

As your Husband, I promise to love you with my whole being, to always be honest with you, and to build a beautiful family with you
I promise to always let you put you’re ice-cube feet on me when we’re in bed, to feed the baby kitties, to clean the bathrooms, and to empty the compost
I promise to kiss you on the cheek each morning I wake up
I promise to listen when you speak, hold you when you’re sad, and carry you when you’re tired
I promise to always be on your team, to have your back, and to cheer you on
I promise to cherish every smile, every moment, every touch, and every embrace we share
I promise my loyalty to our bond and to work to strengthen it everyday
I promise these things to you, forever

My vows to Lucas:

I love you because you strive to always be honest, to me and to yourself. Even when it’d be easier not to be.
I love you because you stop in the middle of an argument to laugh at how ridiculous we’re being. Which makes me laugh. You always make sure we spend most of our time laughing.
I love you because you don’t mind when I wiggle my icicle feet under you, you just pull me closer.
I love you because you are patient and take pride in everything you do. And you can make or fix anything.

As your wife,
I promise to always be on your team and to be your accomplice on adventures.
I promise to treat you with patience, kindness, forgiveness, and goofiness.
I promise to support and encourage your wild ideas and interests, and to seek to learn new things right there with you.
I promise to fill your cup with seltzer water whenever you don’t want to get up because there’s a kitty snuggling in your lap. And to thank you with kisses when you do the same.
I promise to pause to listen to you and value your thoughts and feelings, even when I am frustrated.
And no matter what’s going on in our lives, I promise to kiss you every night before bed and to love you just as you are. Forever and ever.
I choose you as my person for all that life brings us. You are my favorite. Let’s get really, really, really old together.

We wrote these separately and secretly, I swear. When we both e-mailed them to Cas to make sure they were of similar tone and length, she asked, “did you guys agree on any content…?” Nope.

We cried when we read them. I’d like to think everyone else cried too, but it might have just been their eyeballs sweating. The groomsmen stood in direct sunlight smiling ear to ear. We kissed. Hand in hand, we walked out to Mario Matteoli’s Best Friend and the day-of wedding coordinator had an ice chest filled with frozen wash cloths for every person in the bridal party. Brilliant.



For the ceremony backdrop, we used tissue paper to make the bunting flags with our wedding colors and attached it to a frame my dad whipped up in about 5 minutes using old fence boards. My dad was like super-builder for our wedding. “Hey Dad? We need a table for the DJ.” 20 minutes later: “how’s this super elaborate bar with shelves?” “Dad, we need something to make these chalkboards stand up.” 5 minutes later: “how are these easels?” “Dad…” Already done before I could finish the request.

Also, it turns out my dress was like an enormous bug catcher while standing on the grass. Bridesmaids to the rescue.



All these people waited for 30+ minutes outside in fancy dress clothes in 110°F for our delayed wedding (recall the shuttle that took a whole bus-load of our guests to the wrong Sarah’s wedding). And they didn’t let a little thing like heat keep them from having fun either. From California to Pennsylvania to Florida to Texas to Massachusetts to Washington to Colorado and more, these 170 people made their way to our backyard to celebrate us. We wanted to make sure we got them all in one picture to remember all the love they surrounded us in that day. And always.

In the ultimate of budget-wedding moves, we sold more than half of the decor to other brides – feel free to check out what we’ve got left. Find part two here: Our bride & groom portraits and the backyard BBQ. Also, check out my recipe for a flourless salted almond chocolate cookie inspired by the deep dark chocolate cookies Big Sarah baked for the cookie table.

Photography: Brent Van Auken Photography | Cake: Melissa Haskins | Invitations: Printed by GreenerPrinter (designed by bride & groom) | Catering: Steelhead B.B.Q. Co. | Day-of coordination: Chico Event Specialists | Bride’s Dress: Casablanca | Rings: Sarah Perlis & Geralyn Sheridan Designs | Hair & Makeup: Lindsey Lifur @ Mecca Salon | Venue: Private residence in Chico, CA | Music: Bride & Groom

Snixy Kitchen Wedding Posts:

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  1. Wow! Such beautiful photos of a beautiful couple on a beautiful day. I can’t even imagine how much work went into planning all those details!

    • SnixyKitchen says:

      Thank you so much, Chris! It took a ton of time, but crafting is my happy-place, so I was on cloud nine. I keep begging my friends to get married so I can help DIY – ha!

  2. Robin says:

    Beautiful wedding pictures, congratulations!

  3. Tina says:

    Holy crap, I kinda knew before that you’d put a lot of work into your wedding, but now I REALLY know! Damn, girl! It was amazing and perfect, though, and I’m so glad I could be there. Your vows made my eyeballs sweat like crazy!

  4. Tina says:

    PS: How is it possible that none of you are sweating in any of your pictures?!?!?!?

    • SnixyKitchen says:

      I know, right?! From our pictures, it seems you hid under the table to avoid being photographed drenched in sweat ;)

  5. Sheri says:

    So fun to relive all the days leading up to this magical day!!

  6. I love the pinwheels and the goofy pics! Thanks for taking the time to document this beautiful event and sharing it with us.
    Some day, your little ones will enjoy reading it as much as we have! xoxo

  7. Sarah:

    Your wedding is absolutely stunning! You are indeed a jewel.

    • SnixyKitchen says:

      Thank you Annaliza! We’re so lucky my mom had lots of random rustic pieces we could use – Chico needs a place like Seventh Heaven!

  8. Veronica says:

    Such a beautiful wedding! I cried when you read your vows!

    • SnixyKitchen says:

      You’re lucky I didn’t post the picture of you and Lucas dancing (or should I say…crying?:) hehe. Thank you so much for flying out and getting RIGHT to work – we couldn’t have done it without you guys!

  9. What a gorgeous day and you are such a stunning bride! Congratulations. This looks like a fairytale!

  10. Beautiful wedding with great ideas!

  11. Aveyronnaise says:

    I found this post when I was browsing for bbq wedding ideas. It’s probably the cutest wedding I have ever seen online and it really makes me wish I knew you guys so I could have had an invite! Thank you for sharing your joyous day. I wish you a lifetime of happiness together.

  12. Ty says:

    So adorable! I would love to emulate this my wedding next year. What were your colors?

  13. Elizabeth says:

    I love your ceremony programs! Where did you get the template for it?

    • Thanks, Elizabeth! I designed them myself. I’d be happy to send you the design, but you’d need to have Illustrator and you’d also need to download a bunch of (free) fonts in order for them to show up on your computer properly. Shoot me an e-mail if you have illustrator and want me to send it to you with the list of fonts!

      • Meg Carter says:

        I would love it if you could send me the template you used and the list of fonts. Your programs are so perfect!

      • Chelsea says:

        Hi Sarah,
        I love your wedding invitations, programs, and RSVP’s! I would really love if you could share your design with me and the list of fonts so I could use that for my wedding! You did a great job!

      • Rachael Rodimel says:

        Sarah – I would LOVE if you’d send the files as well. (I do have illustrator!)

        Your wedding looked absolutely perfect!


  14. Greer says:

    Such a COOL Idea and i love your save the dates/invites! What did you use to make your RSVP’s? Was that something you designed or did you order separately?


    • Thanks so much, Greer! I designed my RSVPs using Adobe Illustrator and just got them printed with the invitations and save the dates. If you have Illustrator, I’d be happy to send you the template I made for them!

  15. This is “The Knot” quality wedding, girl!!! OMG!!
    Love every photos, and YOU ARE SO BEAUTIFUL <3

  16. Amanda Lucero says:


    Oh my goodness! I am so in love with everything about your wedding! The save the dates, the flowers, your laid back vibe. I am getting married this summer in my family’s backyard and you have inspired me to tap into my DIY-ness and get the party started!

    I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind sharing the file for your save the dates and invites? I know that is a lot to ask for. I am a teacher and brain function is limited these days :)

    Thanks for the inspiration.
    Many, many years of happiness and healthy, chunky, little ones!

    • Hi Amanda! Congrats on your wedding! I’d be totally happy to share the file with you – I’ll send you an e-mail shortly.

    • Kelly Scobie says:

      Hi Amanda,
      I’m having a tough time getting in touch with Sarah so I figured it was worth a shot to reach out to you. Would you be willing to please send me the file for the invitations and rsvp cards? I realize this post is pretty old, but I figured it’s worth a shot!!! Thank you!! Scobie424@aol.com

  17. Ashley says:

    What a beautiful and fun wedding!! Congratulations to you both :)
    I am planning an outside country chic wedding for my sister. Would love to get the template for your program fans!!

  18. Keri says:

    Hi there! I would love to get the template for the fans–I have illustrator as well. :) Thanks so much!

  19. Danielle says:

    HI!! I am about two months out from my wedding and I have been spending months crafting to make it my perfect rustic theme! I LOVE your pictures and all your ideas and especially the designs on the fans…do you still have those files I could borrow? Or do you have an Etsy account I could purchase them through? I hope to hear from you! Thanks!! :)

  20. Hilary says:

    I loved looking at pics of your wedding! It looks like it was a fabulous wedding! I also love love the fans you made!! I would love to do something like that for my wedding coming up…any chance you are still emailing the template? Would greatly appreciate it!! Thanks!!

  21. I rarely feel compelled to comment on people’s blogs, but this wedding / post was amazing and I wish I was invited!! You looked beautiful and the wedding, the wedding details, & the photography was perfection!

  22. Mandy says:

    You had a gorgeous wedding; I love the colors. Can I ask which pants the men are wearing? I’m looking for something similar. Do you remember the name of the color, and the color of the bridesmaid dresses? Where did you find these?

    • Thank you so much Mandy! You know what? All the men are wearing different pants that they picked out (same with the bridesmaids) – I went to the paint store and found a paint strip that I liked the middle three shades of gray, got enough for everyone to have one, and sent them to each of the bridal party saying they could pick something within that color range! For the bridesmaids dresses – looking at the picture of us holding the pinwheels, they came from (left to right): anthropologie, jcrew, target, jcrew, modcloth, thrifted from buffalo exchange, jcrew, target. Hope this helps!

  23. Phil says:

    Hi, your wedding day looks great! I really like your wedding fans. I have been trying (and failing) to make something similar. Could you possibly please send me the file?

  24. Patty says:

    I absolutely love your wedding! What great ideas…you are so crafty. I am in the middle of planning my wedding myself…I don’t know how you had time for all of that! I am loving your programs! I love that all the information anybody would need is right there….I haven’t seen anything like it! It’s exactly what I have been looking for. Could you possibly send me the file? I am in no way crafty and I would be very much appreciative.

  25. Natalie says:


    What a gorgeous happy day! I’m getting married in January & would love to create a ‘fan program’. Would you be willing to share your program template with me?
    Thank you so much xx

  26. Jill Hale says:

    Hi there,

    I loved this story about your DIY backyard BBQ wedding! All of your pictures are absolutely beautiful. I’m currently in the middles of planning my own DIY outdoor wedding and I was wondering if you would consider sharing your template for the wedding program fan you designed?

    Hope to hear from you!

  27. Cassie says:

    I absolutely love your program fans! We are wanting to do our own, but I haven’t found a template I like and am not crafty enough to design them on my own. Is there anyway you can send me the template you used? It would be so appreciated!

  28. Betsy says:

    Sarah are you willing to share you fan template? My fiance and I love what you did and have an outdoor July wedding! Fans are a must! (:

  29. Anna says:

    Hi! I absolutely LOVE the fans! Planning an August wedding, and trying to figure out a design for ours! Any way to get a copy of the template?
    What a beautiful day you created! Thank you for sharing it with us!

    • Susan Herasymiuk says:

      Any way to get a template for the fan? My son is having a July wedding in Texas and needless to say it is HOT!!!!

  30. Amanda says:

    Hi Sarah! Your wedding was absolutely gorgeous!! I’m getting married in two weeks and have been looking for the fan programs like you made and I just love them!! Do you still have the template? :)

  31. Great images. Happy couple, lovely place and amazing wedding details. I love it!

  32. Jenny says:

    I love your wedding program fan! Is there a specific template you used or did you get one?

  33. Jen says:

    Hi there … love the program fans (your wedding looked beautiful, btw!). I’m getting married this weekend, and am trying to come up with a program (it was a last minute brain wave!! LOL). I love the look of yours and we’re having a backyard wedding as well. Could I possibly get the template too?

  34. Katie says:

    Hi there – I LOVE all of your stationery!! Are you still willing to share? :) Your wedding looks absolutely perfect! We are going for the whole Texas summer laid-back vibe.

  35. Kelly Scobie says:

    Hi Sarah! I’ve been searching high and low for a wedding invitation template that felt right. My fiancé and I are getting married in June in a tented wedding on vineyard property. We are going to have BBQ and games and it will have a similar vibe to yours. I loved reading your blog about it- it gave me great ideas and inspiration. Anyhow, I am not very creative or talented with designing things online. I was hoping you would share your template with me for the invitations and response cards, etc. I would be so grateful!! Thanks so much and I hope to hear from you!

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