Backyard weddings tend to give us notions of laid-back cook outs, beers in the cooler and games on the lawn.

And while Tom and Cristina’s backyard wedding in Alabama was relaxed and intimate, it was also romantic, elegant, and rich in opulent details.

A Southern spring wedding with fall features and a beautiful festive palette, Tom and Cristina’s day was photographed by (the supremely talented) Mary Margaret Smith Photography.

Bride and Groom Outside the Church | Mary Margaret Smith Photography | Bridal Musings Wedding Blog 15

We’ll let the fabulous photographs tell the story of the day, and be sure to read Cristina’s awesome tips and insights (as a crafter/baker/party planner/blogger, she knows her stuff!), but first up, we’ll pass you over to Mary Margaret Smith Photography to introduce this very special couple…

From The Photographer

Cristina and Tommy initially met on the national tour of Jesus Christ Superstar and traveled all over the U.S. together.

While they currently live in New York City, they decided to come down to Alabama for their wedding.

Their ceremony took place on April 26, 2014 in a small chapel on the gorgeous campus of Spring Hill College. The chapel was the perfect size for their ceremony with closest friends and family.

After their mid-day ceremony, their guests headed over to Tommy’s parents’ home for cocktail hour, while the couple took photos at Avenue of the Oaks.

Cristina and Tommy’s backyard reception was held under a canopy of gorgeous trees.

Their use of fruit in their centerpieces was stunning, and they had lush greenery sprinkled around the tables, as well as hanging above.

Wedding Day Snapshot

Wedding Day Collage | Mary Margaret Smith Photography | Bridal Musings Wedding Blog

In Three Words

Romantic, Rich, and Intimate. 

Gorgeous Bridal Portrait | Mary Margaret Smith Photography | Bridal Musings Wedding Blog 25

Bride with her Anemone Bouquet | Mary Margaret Smith Photography | Bridal Musings Wedding Blog 21

Elegant Backyard Wedding | Mary Margaret Smith Photography | Bridal Musings Wedding Blog 24  Elegant Backyard Wedding | Mary Margaret Smith Photography | Bridal Musings Wedding Blog 23

Bride with her Bouquet | Mary Margaret Smith Photography | Bridal Musings Wedding Blog 17

The Wedding Dress

My husband and I had a very limited amount of time to plan, design, and save for our wedding day. While I love designer bridal gowns and would have loved to have had the budget for a Jenny Packham gown I just didn’t have the funds.

But, that doesn’t mean that I had to sacrifice beauty for budget. Nowadays big name, well known designers have gorgeous lines of bridesmaid and special occasion gowns and I found that you can special order almost any dress in ivory or white for a fraction of the price of a designer wedding gown.

And that’s exactly what I did. I felt beautiful and special and I didn’t have to sacrifice a single detail on my wedding day because I overspent on my dress.

Elegant Backyard Wedding | Mary Margaret Smith Photography | Bridal Musings Wedding Blog 22

Plum Bridesmaid Dress | Mary Margaret Smith Photography | Bridal Musings Wedding Blog 19

Bride and her Bridesmaid | Mary Margaret Smith Photography | Bridal Musings Wedding Blog 18

Plum Bridesmaid Bouquet | Mary Margaret Smith Photography | Bridal Musings Wedding Blog 20

The Flowers

We chose Ranunculus, Dahlia, Anemone, Queen Anne’s Lace, and assorted greenery.

Pretty Bridal Portrait | Mary Margaret Smith Photography | Bridal Musings Wedding Blog 14

Halo Engagement Ring | Mary Margaret Smith Photography | Bridal Musings Wedding Blog 38

Budget Tips

The first thing I think you should do before you start planning your wedding is to sit down with your new fiancé and discuss the one thing you each want/need/have to have on your wedding day.

Have you always dreamed of that Vera Wang princess gown? Does your soon-to-be hubby have to have a gourmet, 6 course meal?

Set out what your priorities are and what you think will absolutely make your wedding day. This will help you decide where to spend your money and what to let go when the budget gets tight.

It will not only bring you two closer together throughout the planning process, but it will help keep you thinking about one another’s needs when things inevitably get stressful.

Festive Church Doors | Mary Margaret Smith Photography | Bridal Musings Wedding Blog 1

Bride and Groom at the Altar | Mary Margaret Smith Photography | Bridal Musings Wedding Blog 2

Bride and Groom at the Altar  | Mary Margaret Smith Photography | Bridal Musings Wedding Blog 3

The Ceremony

My husband’s uncle is a Deacon and he helped officiate our Catholic wedding ceremony, making it that much more intimate and special.

My sweet, 10 year old nephew, Jacob wrote his own petitions and read them aloud to the congregation.

It was so touching and he actually got choked up when he asked everyone in attendance to pray for my and my new husband’s marriage.

The Recessional | Mary Margaret Smith Photography | Bridal Musings Wedding Blog 4

The Bride and Groom Outside the Church | Mary Margaret Smith Photography | Bridal Musings Wedding Blog 5

The Bride and Groom Outside the Church | Mary Margaret Smith Photography | Bridal Musings Wedding Blog 13

The Photography

Our photographer, Mary Margaret Smith was a true find! We did not have a videographer film our special day so it was imperative that we found a photographer whose work speaks like a printed story book.

Every single image you see is EXACTLY how it felt in those moments.

She captured the love, the fun, and the utter spirit of the day. Our wedding was everything we could have dreamed of and more.

The Bride and Groom in Church | Mary Margaret Smith Photography | Bridal Musings Wedding Blog 11

The Bride and Groom in the Church | Mary Margaret Smith Photography | Bridal Musings Wedding Blog 12

Advice for Other Couples

The one thing I would recommend to brides when planning their wedding is to make an investment in your photographer.

Your photographer is not an expense – he or she is an investment that you are making for future memories.

Take the time to research photographers in and around your area who you think will best tell the story of your day. If you have a long enough engagement (my husband and I were engaged for 4 months!) set up an engagement photo shoot with your photographer and use that time to get to know each other and develop a relationship.

The better you know your photographer (and vice-versa), the more comfortable you will be in front of their camera lens on the most important day of your life.

Not to mention, your photographer will truly be able to capture and showcase your personalities.

At the end of the day, and for years and years to come, the only thing you will have remaining of your beautiful wedding day is your love, your memories, and your photographs.

Bridal Portrait in the Church| Mary Margaret Smith Photography | Bridal Musings Wedding Blog 10

Flower Girl and Page Boys | Mary Margaret Smith Photography | Bridal Musings Wedding Blog 6

Flower Girl | Mary Margaret Smith Photography | Bridal Musings Wedding Blog 9  Flower Girl | Mary Margaret Smith Photography | Bridal Musings Wedding Blog 7

Go-to Websites

Etsy was my go-to website to find special, one-of-a-kind gifts and keepsakes. I love that they were all made by artisans and skilled crafts people from all over the world.

It is a wonderful website to find and add personalized, unexpected touches to your big day. And now you can actually register for your wedding on Etsy. Amazing!

I love Pinterest and I utilized the site to bring together all of the elements I wanted featured throughout my wedding day.

However, after one too many pins to my secret wedding board I felt as if I lost track of my inspiration and my sanity!

If you can, try to curate and pin no more than three pictures of each element of your day to your inspiration board – be it centerpieces, table settings, bouquets, bridesmaid style, invitations, etc.

This will enable you to not only hone in on the truest vision of your day but you will be better able to communicate these ideas and details to your vendors and planner.

Bride and Groom | Mary Margaret Smith Photography | Bridal Musings Wedding Blog 16

Bride and Groom | Mary Margaret Smith Photography | Bridal Musings Wedding Blog 26

Plum Table Decor | Mary Margaret Smith Photography | Bridal Musings Wedding Blog 27

The Inspiration

The inspiration for our color palette came from a beautiful still life painting by Arnoldus Bloemers of fruit and flowers that depicts large, deep hued flowers, bright, lush greenery, and ripe, glistening fruit.

Our colors were eggplant, burgundy, gold, and ivory with lots and lots of fresh greenery throughout. I absolutely adore the 1994 movie Little Women and I modelled the style of our wedding around the warm, rich, period feel depicted throughout the film.

From our floral designs, to the table décor, to the stationary, we wanted each and every one of our family and friends in attendance to feel utterly enrobed in richness and romance.

Fruit Table Decor | Mary Margaret Smith Photography | Bridal Musings Wedding Blog 29

Wedding Thank You Note | Mary Margaret Smith Photography | Bridal Musings Wedding Blog 39

The Decor & Details

Every piece of glassware, silverware, and china on our long, family-style reception table came from my mother-in-laws vast collection.

We had a beautiful variety of mix and match china and flatware that lent a vintage and very personalized feel to the décor.

We DIY’ed a large number of details seen throughout the day. My mother crocheted the adorable ring bearer pillows and I designed and sewed my cream-colored lace garter.

I hope these keepsakes will become family heirlooms that will be passed down for generations.

My sister (matron of honor) and I crafted our communal table glass centerpieces that held our stunning floral arrangements.

I designed and printed our invitations, programs, and wedding signage. Our invitations were meant to read like a vintage, hand-written letter to each of our guests and were sealed with red, melted wax.

In order to keep paper and ink costs down we combined our place cards, thank you cards, and menus onto one piece of thick, ivory card stock – the effect was elegant and deeply personal.

For my husband, best man (groom’s father), and my father I sewed and monogrammed pocket squares in black and white hounds tooth.

Floral Centrepiece | Mary Margaret Smith Photography | Bridal Musings Wedding Blog 30

Elegant Backyard Wedding | Mary Margaret Smith Photography | Bridal Musings Wedding Blog 35

Wedding Cake | Mary Margaret Smith Photography | Bridal Musings Wedding Blog 36

Unique Wedding Cake  | Mary Margaret Smith Photography | Bridal Musings Wedding Blog 31  Unique Wedding Cake | Mary Margaret Smith Photography | Bridal Musings Wedding Blog 32

The Refreshments

My husband loves Dark and Stormy’s and we served them as our signature cocktail.

We had a blast taste testing several different rums and ginger beers in order to find the most delicious pairing! We ended up loving Bayou spiced rum and the smooth and spicy flavor of Bundaberg ginger beer.

I am a true lover of Southern cuisine and for our family-style meal Naman’s Catering created some of our favorite Southern comfort foods – crispy fried chicken, smoky collard greens, creamy shrimp and grits, rich macaroni and cheese and biscuits and corn bread with honey butter.

Our cakes came from several sources and were all open to our guests to help themselves!

My sisters, mother, and I took a trip to Florida years ago and ate at TooJay’s Restaurant and Deli – for dessert we ordered slices of their to die for signature Killer and Banana Dream cakes.

Years later I had my soon-to-be sister-in-law (who lives in Tampa, FL) pick up the cakes and hand deliver them for our cake table.

The other delicious homemade cakes were made by my mother-in- law, and two aunts.

Our original wedding cake (which was, sadly, destroyed in transit the night before our wedding) was remade the morning of our wedding, on the fly, by our fabulous baker, The Little Cake Shop.

Despite the fact that our original wedding cake was no longer an option we loved every little bite and relished cutting into it and feeding each other a taste.

First Dance | Mary Margaret Smith Photography | Bridal Musings Wedding Blog 33

The Music

We hired a lovely jazz band, Mojazz, to croon the reception away with some of our favorite standards and torch songs.

They were the perfect accompaniment to our intimate, back yard celebration. Our first dance as husband and wife was to “That’s All” by Michael Buble. 

Father Daughter Dance | Mary Margaret Smith Photography | Bridal Musings Wedding Blog 34

Favourite Moments

Our wedding day was filled with our closest friends and family, the people we love most dearly in the world.

We wanted our day to be over flowing with love and radiating warmth every moment. Our goal was to make each of our 50 guests feel special and taken care of, like they were a part of something very special.

It was our way of saying “Thank You” for being a part of our lives and supporting us through it all.

Elegant Backyard Wedding | Mary Margaret Smith Photography | Bridal Musings Wedding Blog 37

Such a chic and classy wedding day, isn’t it? I just love the palette, perfect for this time of year, or a fall wedding too – but just as beautiful in springtime.

And Cristina’s budgeting advice was just spot on, it was so lovely to read about her choice to invest in food and photography rather than a designer dress (and her gown is so gorgeous anyway!).

Thanks so much to Mary Margaret Smith Photography, and of course Cristina and Tom for sharing their elegant backyard bash with us.

Feeling inspired? Check out more Chic + DIY Real Weddings

Photographer: Mary Margaret Smith Photography / Ceremony Venue: Sodality Chapel at Spring Hill College / Florist: Katie Mattingly Custom Floral Designs / Band: Mo Jazz Band / Rentals: Port City Rentals / Catering: Naman's Catering / Cake Baker: The Little Cake Shop / Dessert Table: TooJay's / Bride’s Dress: Bari Jay / Bride’s Veil/Hair Accessories: Camille La Vie / Bride’s Shoes: Audrey Brooke / Hair & Make-Up: Nou Veau Salon And Day Spa / Bridesmaid Dresses: Watters / Flower Girl Dress: Seahorse by Watters / Groom’s Attire: Fine Tuxedos / Groom's Cufflinks: Sorority Sugah / Ring Bearer's Bow Ties: ClipABowTie on Etsy / Wedding Planner/Coordinator: The Bride, Cristina Alsip, / Ring Bearer Pillows: Mother Of The Bride / Invitations & Stationery: DIY / Groom's Pin: DIY Personalized Locket / Cake Topper: BetterOffWed on Etsy / Ceremony Musicians: Matthew Atkinson