One of the first questions people ask when you get engaged is, Where are you gonna have it? My fiance, Alex, and I were all over the map (and took my parents along with us), scouting places from Ojai to Mexico before finally settling on our beloved Los Angeles.
The business woman in me hatched a plan that seemed equal parts practical and magical: If we planned an intimate ceremony in our backyard, we could take a chunk of our budget and set out to redo our garden, a project we've been dying to launch into for more than three years. Essentially, we would be putting money straight back into our house. In addition, a backyard wedding seemed romantic, unique, and very "us." After the ceremony, in the backyard, we'd have dinner and dancing at one of our favorite restaurants, Campanile. Between the gorgeous old building (built to house Charlie Chaplin's offices in 1929) and Chef Mark Peel's emphasis on seasonal Italian fare, this felt right.
Twelve months ago, a backyard project sounded like a perfectly reasonable option. Well, guess what? At this point in the game, the idea of pruning roses and digging in the dirt isn't quite as appealing. In fact, it's been kind of extremely stressful. The biggest hurdle was figuring out how to turn our dying lawn into something more sustainable and more attractive. Our first idea was to rip out the grass and install a gravel floor in its place.
This didn't work out exactly how I had planned. Rather than resembling the Parisian garden I envisioned, what we had was a messy pile of rocks, which was impractical for our needs. All I could think about was, How are the chairs going to sit on the gravel without sinking? And exactly how many pairs of expensive shoes will get destroyed in the process? We hadn't thought it through.
Frantic, we called our friend, landscape designer Tory Polone, and begged her to advise us. I was not afraid to start over. We're talking about my wedding for crying out loud, and I knew that we had to make this right. After a brief discussion, we decided on brick, the material I'd wanted to go with from the beginning. And as each beautiful old brick was laid, my anxiety lessened. Within ten days of Tory's initial site visit, we had our brick patio. I'm still amazed when I look out my bedroom window and see this.
With two weeks and change to go until game day, I'm thrilled that most of the heavy lifting is complete. Now my focus is on freshening up the plants. Thankfully, two of my closest friends (and two of LA's most innovative florists), Holly Vesecky and Rebecca Uchtman of Holly Flora, helped me plant a beautiful Mediterranean-inspired garden in the front yard and around the perimeter of the back (highlights include a thriving tulip magnolia tree, climbing roses, rosemary and a variety of special succulents). Now it's just about filling in the gaps.
While we're on the topic of space, there is one issue that I would love to open up for discussion. I was told to anticipate that approximately 20 percent of my wedding invitees wouldn't be able to attend. That hasn't been exactly the case. We've had closer to 5 percent regretfully decline. And while I'm beyond excited to celebrate with so many of our loved ones, this reality presents a bit of a spatial challenge, especially in our cozy backyard. We had always planned to have some people sit and others casually standing but I fear that even the standing room is dwindling. I had a dream last night that we rented bleachers. Is that absurd? Any innovative ideas for how to accommodate more guests than we originally expected? Or should I relax and let the chips fall where they may?
Los Angeles-based Heather Taylor owns Taylor De Cordoba, a contemporary art gallery. She publishes the blog LA in Bloom and writes a bi-monthly column Chef Speak for The Huffington Post. She is getting married on June 5, 2011.