A Low-Key Backyard Wedding at a Private Residence in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania

Caroline Fenkel (28 and a clinical social worker) and Michael Blanche (43 and a clinical social worker) planned a fun-filled backyard fete for their s

Caroline Fenkel (28 and a clinical social worker) and Michael Blanche (43 and a clinical social worker) planned a fun-filled backyard fete for their summer wedding that perfectly captured their laid-back personalities. Breaking away from tradition was a top priority for the pair, and they enlisted the help of the Styled Bride to pull together a celebration jam-packed with unexpected touches. The day unfolded at Caroline’s family home in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania, an intimate and sentimental location that played up the day’s low-key vibe. A short and sweet ceremony kicked off the festivities, and despite lasting only 10 minutes, it was a highly personalized occasion, complete with self-written vows, popcorn carton programs, a Quaker union and live music. “One of my favorite parts of the day was the walk back to my parents’ house,” Caroline says. “A small portion of a five-mile trail runs parallel to my parents’ house and guests were asked after the ceremony to walk the trail together back to the house. This was a good bonding activity for everyone, and I was excited because I made small burlap signs with our wedding logo that showed people where to go.” After the “I dos,” Caroline and Michael joined their friends and family members at the house for the reception. An abundance of wildflowers, warm candlelight and details such as vintage key guest book cards established a rustic, bohemian feel. The couple decided against a traditional sit-down dinner, opting instead for grazing stations that created an effortless, fuss-free atmosphere that encouraged their guests to mix and mingle. “Our food was delicious—we did a mac and cheese station, burgers and fries, sushi and an ice cream bar,” Caroline says. “By the end of the night I was so overwhelmed that I was eating ice cream at the sundae bar, asking people who came up with the idea. Finally someone said ‘You did!’ When you're making decisions like this sometimes you forget about some of the ones you make.” Lawn games, including badminton, bowling, horseshoes and a life-size Connect Four, were abundant, and a Polaroid photo booth offered a fun way for guests to capture the evening. A tip from Caroline and Mike: “Make it your own. You don’t have to make your wedding day traditional—it’s the 21st century! You only live once. And if your family thinks it's a crazy idea, they will eventually come around to thinking it’s pretty cool." —Libby MacCarthy

To achieve the low-key feel they were after, Caroline and Michael created special inserts for their invitation suite to highlight the evening’s sartorial “Dos and Don’ts.” The couple asked guests to don casual duds for the occasion—not their Sunday best—with the help of playful illustrations and style tips. “I hate having to get dressed up—I would rather be in barn boots with manure on me than high heels and a dress,” Caroline says. “Of course, my uncles didn’t listen and showed up in suits, but most people got the gist.”
When it came to choosing kicks for her walk down the aisle, comfort was key for Caroline. White lace Toms proved to be the perfect fit—the low-profile and lace detailing struck a balance of comfort and bridal vibes. “The days leading up to the wedding called for rain, so I bought some duck boots from L.L. Bean just in case,” Caroline says.
The florists at Beautiful Bloom Events were the masterminds behind all the wedding flowers. Taking the couple’s low-key vision into heart, they created bountiful bundles of fresh-picked wildflowers in shades of brilliant blue and white. The loosely arranged bouquets perfectly captured the day’s casual, rustic theme.
As guests arrived at the ceremony, they were greeted by cartons of freshly popped popcorn to enjoy during the short and sweet celebration in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania. The cartons doubled as the ceremony programs, underscoring Caroline and Michael’s playful and casual vision.
To mirror the natural beauty of the setting, the couple—with the help of Beautiful Bloom Events—decorated the expansive property with arrangements of loosely arranged wildflowers. The bouquets had a just-picked quality that called to mind carefree summer days spent in the countryside, while lending the decor a note of bohemian romance.
In addition to the vintage key tags for guests to share tips for a happy marriage, Caroline and Michael had a photo booth during the reception where guests could snap pictures and share their well-wishes for the newlyweds. “Our photo booth was neat—we have so many big trees in my parents’ backyard that we put a string from one end to the other and hung Polaroids people took,” Caroline says. “They signed their names and some put marriage advice. This saved us a heck of a lot of money as opposed to a traditional photo booth.”
In lieu of a traditional guest book, Caroline and Michael invited their guests to share their tips for a happy marriage. Guests wrote their advice on antiqued gift tags trimmed with vintage keys and twine.
Creating a lively, fun-filled atmosphere for the reception was non-negotiable for Caroline and Michael. For the reception, the pair filled the lawn with games, such as horseshoes, Connect Four and lawn bowling. “I can guarantee you no one was bored,” Caroline says. “The games also took the attention away from the dance floor, so no one felt like they had to dance.”
Instead of a sit-down dinner, Caroline and Michael offered a variety of grazing stations to create a lively, social atmosphere. “Our food was delicious—we did a mac and cheese station, burgers and fries, sushi and an ice cream bar,” Caroline says. “By the end of the night, I was so overwhelmed that I was eating ice cream at the sundae bar, asking people who came up with the idea. Finally someone said ‘You did!’ When you are making decisions like this, sometimes you forget about some of the ones you make.”
Tying in with the evening’s rustic theme, the couple’s wedding cake featured a charming woodland design. The three-tier confection was adorned with a hand-painted wood-grain pattern, purple wildflowers and petite bird cake toppers.
In addition to lawn games and a photo booth, the couple provided guests with a campfire and a s’mores station, where they could satisfy their sweet tooth throughout the evening.
To go along with the casual, rustic theme, Caroline and Michael skipped the traditional wedding favors and gave guests mini potted succulents to remember the occasion.
At the end of the evening, Caroline and Michael exited under a canopy of bistro lights and brightly lit sparklers waved by their family members and friends.