• Interior Design,  Sewing

    Sewing Room Tour, 2021 Tropical Edition

    sewing room tour: sewing room closet organization

    It’s time for one of my very favorite blog posts! The sewing room tour. I love peeking into other makers’ studios; it’s always so inspiring to see where and how other people work. I love my creative space so it’s fun to get to show off, especially since I haven’t had any in-person visitors in over a year.

    This sewing room is the biggest space I’ve ever had! I took over the master bedroom (thank you David!) and it’s a beautiful room. I love the giant window, the high ceilings, and the amazing floors.

    This is also the first home we’ve shared, and it was quite the puzzle to fit all of my beloved furniture into a relatively small house. The sewing room holds all the furniture that doesn’t have a place elsewhere in the house, so it’s a little bit crowded, but my Quarantine Hobby of “rearranging furniture” paid off and I finally created a space that feels both beautiful and functional.

    At the entry wall, I hung my vision boards from years past – I can never bear to get rid of these. I love that they serve a splash of inspiration immediately upon entering the room. My most recent vision board hangs more prominently in the middle of the room, but I hadn’t made it yet when I took these pictures.

    sewing room tour - thread storage

    The wall along the doorway is my “machine wall”. I like to have my serger and my sewing machine close to each other so I can move back and forth during projects. Finally, my third machine is my desktop computer, which is closest to the window in the hope that it will make typing and Illustrator work more fun. 🙂

    sewing room tour - sewing machine table

    The dresser in between my machines holds sewing tools, notions, needles, and trims. The mini wooden drawer unit on top holds my most commonly used tools: scissors, snips, seam rippers, chalk pencils, etc. I love that all these tools are within easy reach from either machine!

    Having a small drawer for each type of tool has made me much better at cleaning up after (and during) my projects. I used to leave all my tools out until a project was finished, but that was often a long time and led to a big mess. Now my motto is, “since I know where to find it, I can put it away.” Turns out it’s even easier to find my scissors when they’re in the scissors drawer, rather than buried underneath my unfinished projects!

    I found the yellow ironing board next to someone’s trash a number of years ago. The legs didn’t work anymore, but I fell in love with the color of it! I’ve used it as a magnet display board in three sewing rooms now and it’s one of my favorite pieces of decor.

    My thread rack belonged to my grandma, and it’s a neat piece of innovation – the shelves tilt to allow the thread spools to come out, and each spool is on a peg that can slide so different thread diameters can be accommodated. It’s awesome. The topmost thread rack was my mom’s and I commandeered it when I started sewing… I don’t think she realized that letting me use it at age 12 meant I would bring it with me when I moved out. Mama, if you want that thread rack back I will let you have it! But I do love it. Right now it holds my vintage wooden thread spools on display.

    The pendant lamp is mine. I found it at CB2 when they were selling the floor model (which was dusty, but otherwise flawless, because…it’s a lamp). I bought it even though we hadn’t found our house yet, because I loved it so much. And then this room had an unused light box in the ceiling – the perfect home for my gorgeous lamp!

    Any sewing room that allows for a full-size cutting table is an absolute gift. I love nothing more than spreading out all my fabric and supplies so having this big flat surface is heavenly.

    sewing room drawer unit

    Underneath my cutting table I store all my extra serger thread, plus fabrics that don’t fold well (leather, vinyl). I also store my yoga bolster and blocks under the table, because the floor space next to my machines is also where I do my daily yoga. The space is a little bit narrow (can’t quite “swan dive” into my forward folds) but it works!

    On the other side of the room, opposite from the “machine wall”, is the “storage wall”. Also known as the “furniture I love and crammed into this room” wall. The bookshelf holds all my patterns and notions. The big dresser holds supplies for my narwhal kits, packaging and shipping supplies, and most of my art supplies. The metal drawer unit on top is one of my heaviest and favorite possessions. It holds tools: upholstery staple removers, glass cutters, pliers; computer cables and chargers; and all sorts of other little things, each with a home.

    My white magnet board is a table top I found in the Ikea as-is section. I like to be able to rotate through my favorite things and change the display every few months.

    And then in the corner, we have my newest piece of beloved furniture (I can quit whenever I want…): an old drafting table I found recently on OfferUp. The shelf drawers slide out, and it’s absolutely amazing for storing unfinished sewing projects, and even laser cuts awaiting sanding. I’ve always wanted to own a flat file and this is like a beautiful version that suits my needs even better!

    I tucked my ironing board under the edge of the cutting table. I use it too often to put it away completely, but this allows it to take up a little less space when it’s not in use. When it’s time to iron, I just slide it out and raise the height a little bit.

    The tall shelf unit on the window wall holds my most-used art supplies. The little table by the window is my painting table because it gets the best light. That’s also where I usually sand my laser cuts. I love sitting by the window because the big tree out front makes this room feel like a treehouse.

    sewing room tour: sewing room closet organization

    The other best part of stealing the master bedroom for my sewing room? It has the BEST closet.

    Mirrored closet doors would not be my choice for a bedroom, but for a sewing room they are perfect. These mirrors were key to my solo wedding dress fitting sessions! The third mirrored door didn’t slide well, so it lives behind my computer desk where it helps more light reflect into the room.

    The drawers on the right side of the closet hold packing supplies, envelopes, boxes, hoarded bubble wrap, etc. The wooden dresser holds our off-season and fancy clothes that we don’t wear often. The ceilings in this room are nice and high, so the closet is tall! The topmost shelves (behind the wall with the clock) hold more clothes, blankets, and other general storage things that don’t have a home in our small house.

    On top of the dresser is a shoe organizer cubby that I use for unfinished projects. It’s important for me to be able to take a break from projects that get frustrating or stuck, and putting them away is much better than staring at them and not starting anything else. However… a lot of those cubes have been occupied for a long time. I’ll say it now, for accountability: working through a few of those WIPs is going to be my Me-Made May challenge.

    sewing room tour: sewing room fabric organization

    On the left side of the closet is FABRICLAND! I use under-bed bins for just about all of my fabric now (these). They hold a surprising amount of fabric, but they’re small enough that they don’t get too heavy and it’s still possible to dig to the bottom. I also love that they’re clear and I can see most of the fabric I’ve stored inside. This system has really allowed me to treasure my fabric and know what I have, and I’m much better at sewing from my stash since I’m always aware of how great my stash is.

    I’ve learned a lot from each of my sewing rooms. I like to take advantage of wall space for storage, but I don’t like my walls to be TOO cluttered because I want the current project to have most of my focus. I like to split the room into “zones”, like I’ve done here, especially the small table that I’ve dedicated to painting. And most importantly, I work best when I have as many flat surfaces as possible. I used to have a lot more decorative objects around the room, because I love my cute stuff! But it’s way better to be able to have the top of the bookshelf clear, for example, so I can set my pattern pieces there while I cut everything else out on the big table. This space has become extremely functional – specifically for the way that I work – and I love that.

    Thank you for joining me on this tour of my sewing room! It’s constantly evolving – with each project I think of better ways to organize my supplies or accommodate my workflow – so it’s fun to share the room as it is right now, knowing that it only ever gets better. (even if it will never again be this clean!)


    My sewing machine is the Juki HZL-F600. I’ve had it for 4 years now (a long overdue upgrade) and I LOVE it.
    My serger is a Babylock Evolution and I love it even more.

    and p.s. if you’re not familiar with the story of my Independency flag, it’s a fun read.

    Other art on display:

  • Interior Design

    Plant Fabric Canvas Wall Art

    plant fabric canvas wall art

    This is a project I made back at my old house but never got around to blogging. It was so fun for me to go back through these photos and see my old sewing room! Each of my sewing rooms and sewing spaces holds a special place in my heart, but the first sewing room in a house that was truly MINE was a real treasure.

    A few years ago, my mom and I trekked up to Pittsburgh for the Salvation Army Fabric Fair. It’s an annual event, but so far we’ve only been twice. That’s probably for the best, stash-wise, but oh man is it a magical experience.

    One of the best fabrics I’ve found there is this plant print. I’ve never seen a fabric like it and I love the large scale and the crisp, screenprinted details. I couldn’t imagine cutting it but I wanted to look at it every day… hence: wall art.

    re-cover an ikea canvas for wall art

    I found this Ikea canvas panel next to somebody’s trash. I don’t remember where, probably at my old apartment complex. “Next-to-the-dumpster” is a fantastic place to find furniture and other treasures and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

    This was a large art print, coated canvas wrapped around a particle board frame. If you look at the photo above: I could have removed each staple individually, which is one of my least favorite activities. Instead, I cut along the edge of the canvas, then used the remaining strip of canvas underneath the staples to pull the staples out. It didn’t work for all of them, but even when the canvas tore before removing the staple, it left a gap for me to wedge one of my trusty staple removers in there.

    My plant fabric is a normal lightweight cotton, and since I didn’t want to see the frame underneath, I covered the frame first with a layer of plain white cotton. Still lightweight but enough to make a barrier.

    plant fabric stretched over canvas for wall art

    I centered my amazing plant fabric on top of the now-white canvas. The white window grid in the background of the design meant I had to work a little harder than usual to keep the fabric straight and even.

    re-cover an ikea canvas for wall art

    I didn’t want to cut the fabric, just in case I’d want to do something else with it later. So I simply turned the excess under and left it on the back. As you can see – the dumpster canvas was almost the perfect size!

    I added a little metal loop (like these) to the back center of the frame to make it easy to hang.

    plant fabric stretched over canvas for wall art

    I added a few staples along the edge of the excess fabric to keep it taut along the back of the frame. Whoever owned the fabric before me was even kind enough to hem two of the edges!

    plant fabric stretched over canvas for wall art in sewing room

    Here is the finished canvas hanging in that glorious, first-truly-mine sewing room. I already had two walls with windows, so I loved hanging it on this wall to give me a third “window” in that delightfully bright room.

    plant fabric stretched over canvas for wall art in sewing room

    And here it is in my current sewing room, fancy HDR style. I would LOVE for there to be a window in that spot – there’s a window in its place on the floor below. So once again, I’m treating my plant art as a pseudo-window. It makes me so happy. I love this room because it feels like a treehouse! It’s a perfect escape for me to sew new things, or paint by the window. Such a gift.

  • Garment Sewing,  Sewing

    Mint Pencil PJ Shorts (with piping!)

    piping on pocket of pajama shorts

    I’ve always wanted a fancy pair of PJs. You know, with the collar and the piping and the matching top and bottom. And of course mine wouldn’t be too fancy, I’m not talking about silk or satin pajamas here… they’d be cotton and would probably have some cutesy print all over.

    I’ve considered making fancy pajamas on occasion but there are always better things to make, like clothes I will wear outside, in public. But “in public” wasn’t really a thing for most of 2020, so pajama making came back on my radar. Before I could begin, however, I had to make some important concessions to reality.

    Fancy Pajamas: Fantasy vs. Reality

    1. I live in Florida. I don’t want long pajama pants.
    2. I sleep in t-shirts. There’s no way I could sleep in a cotton top with a collar and buttons. (and see number 1, don’t even think about flannel.)
    3. All I really need right now are pockets.

    I cut out a pair of shorts in this wonderful pencil print and sewed them up as part of my Me-Made May 2020. Mint green has always felt like a great color for pajamas to me, and the pencils are so fun – I love that they’re in stripes. I used Simplicity 3571, cut to size 10. I think I made up the length for shorts, and I added my own pockets. And then I added the Fancy: piping around the cuffs and the pockets.

    I’d never thought about it, but the piping at the leg hems is really nice because it helps pull the shorts away from my body a little bit, keeping them from getting clingy or all wrinkled up. And the piping at the pockets feels – yes – fancy.

    I had ordered piping feet recently (this 3 pack) to upholster some chair cushions, and man do they make a difference. I had always just used my zipper foot but this really was next level… so easy, so crisp.

    I lined the inside of the pocket in pink stripe because mint green pairs so well with pink, and this echoes the color of the erasers. I just love adding pocket linings and other little details that only I get to see… because why not? This is why sewing your own clothes is fun.

    These shorts have served me so well during this year of spending so much time at home. I still don’t understand why so many of my store-bought shorts don’t have pockets, and I’m so jealous that David ALWAYS has pockets. But I’m catching up.

    I did go all the way outside to take these pictures but this was before the bajillion tourists returned to Florida, so it wasn’t exactly “in public”. Thank goodness I have the cutest blog photographer in the world, and he’s willing to go outside with me when I’m wearing jammie shorts!

  • Wedding

    DIY Wedding Flowers: Make Your Own Bridesmaids’ and Bridal Bouquets

    DIY wedding flowers - make your own bridal bouquet

    Welcome to “Wedding Week”! You’ve read about my dress but I wanted to share some more details about the day, the ceremony, and the party. Monday was the logistics of it all: planning our backyard wedding reception. Wednesday was all emotions: my play-by-play of the big day. And today is all about FLOWERS! Next week we’ll be back to the regularly scheduled sewing and making.

    I decided long ago that I wanted to do my own flowers for my wedding. I envisioned this as a fun girls’ day activity – instead of getting our nails done on the day before the wedding, we’d put together our bouquets! Yes, I was putting them to work, but it also seemed like a perfect way to spend time together on my last day as an “unmarried woman”.

    COVID-19 had other ideas, and I ended up making all six bouquets. My mom made the boutonnieres for the men and the corsages for the moms. It was a workout! But it was still so worth it. I LOVED getting to choose all of my own flowers and make exactly what I wanted. I’ve never spent this much money on flowers before and it was so fun to go a little crazy and bring home all of my favorites.

    DIY wedding flowers - make your own bridal bouquet

    The girls’ dresses were teal/turquoise (David’s Bridal Oasis) and I wanted to offset them with my favorite warm colors: orange and pink with a touch of yellow. These colors contrasted with the dresses exactly how I hoped they would, and I love how bright they were.

    I chose the following flowers:

    • Orange Dahlias (the huge focal point!)
    • Hot pink, peach pink, golden yellow, and white Ranunculus (my favorite flower)
    • Orange-to-pink variegated Snapdragons (so tall and gorgeous!)
    • White Stock for some fluffy, dramatic filler
    • Bupleurum and Israeli Ruscus as the green filler
    orange freesia for wedding boutonnieres

    For the men’s boutonnieres, we chose orange Freesia. David wanted a tropical flower, as a nod to his love of the tropics and our Miami home, so freesia was perfect. I, of course, chose the orange. My mom paired the freesia with a few leaves from the ruscus and, voila! Boutonnieres.

    I ordered my flowers a month in advance, with the flowers scheduled to arrive the Tuesday before the wedding (as recommended to give them time to rehydrate and open up after shipping). But sadly, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. I ordered from Blooms by the Box, and I only say that because I would not recommend them. I understand that flowers are living things, so there is always some risk in the supply chain. But when they began packing my order, they informed me that they were unable to source more than half of the flowers I had requested, and the substitutions offered weren’t even close. They did refund me for the missing flowers, but suddenly it was 3 days before my wedding and I had a pitifully small box of flowers to work with. Worst of all – none of the flowers were orange!

    David and I drove around to every grocery store we could think of in search of ORANGE. Costco really only had roses, and I just did not want roses in my bouquets. And the rest of the grocery store bouquets looked like… grocery store bouquets.

    Finally, I started calling every florist I could find on Google Maps to see if someone had some spare inventory or a source. David’s stepmom Deanne did, too, in case there was someone in between Delaware and VA who had orange flowers she could pick up on her way. And the phone plan WORKED. One of the florists said, “Have you tried Metro Flower Market?” I’d never heard of it. “They might have what you need.”

    I called them and left a panicked message. Something along the lines of, “I’m looking for orange ranunculus… or really anything orange except roses. Do you have anything?”

    Kim at MFM, my guardian angel, returned my message and said “We have lots of ranunculus, but no orange, but we do have gorgeous bright orange dahlias. I think you’ll love them.” She set them aside for me and I regained my sense of hope.

    So we set off for Metro Flower Market in Chantilly, VA, a wholesale florist that’s open to the public, and it was a treasure trove.

    This place is amazing. It’s like the big walk-in produce section at Costco, but just FILLED with flowers. They had everything. It was beautiful and perfect and we were saved and I was so relieved.

    It was so, so much easier to plan bouquets here than online. This is my recommendation for everyone now. It sounds so easy to order flowers online, but unless you know flowers very well, it’s really hard to picture the bouquets. Even if I had received my entire order, I still think I wouldn’t have had enough flowers. When I got to walk around, pick up the flowers, and pair them together, it was so easy to make exactly what I wanted to make. Many cities have “wholesale flower markets” that are open to the public, and I never knew! I can’t wait to go back there again, just to make happy bouquets for myself!

    DIY wedding flowers - make your own bridal bouquet
    test bouquet – needs more flowers!

    We loaded up a few florists’ boxes and headed home. Finally everything was looking fresh in flower land.

    I kept the flowers in buckets of water in the garage. It was October, so the garage was cool, dark, and not too cold. I think the flowers liked it there. Another word of caution for online ordering: I ordered some greenery and didn’t realize the leaves were HUGE! So most of the greens you see in the photo above weren’t even usable for my bouquets.

    On Friday, the day before the wedding, I got to work. My mom prepped the kitchen table with a vinyl tablecloth, and that was my domain.

    I started by bunching some flowers, one of each, and then I had David take a picture of me so I could gauge the bouquet size. This wasn’t big enough! I added more flowers and we tried again. I was very happy with the colors and the added interest from the varying heights of my flowers, but I clearly needed to work on my bouquet sizing. A good bouquet takes so many more flowers than I expected!

    Once I had established the number of flowers for a full bouquet, I laid them out on the table in piles. I made the bridesmaids’ bouquets first because I wanted them to be somewhat even, and then I could just use ALLLL of the leftover flowers for myself!

    DIY wedding flowers - make your own bridal bouquet
    bridesmaid bouquet piles – and little boutonnieres in progress at top left!

    I knew there was no way to make multiple identical bouquets. But this strategy helped me at least keep the colors and proportions uniform. Each bouquet held the same number of each flower, and then I added greenery as necessary.

    The dahlias, with their giant, dramatic heads, were so fragile. The stem could barely support the enormous bloom, so for each dahlia I trimmed some leaves off of a stem of the ruscus and taped the ruscus to the dahlia stem to give it extra support. Each bouquet got one dahlia, except for mine… I got 3 because I’m the bride 🙂

    DIY wedding flowers - make your own bridal bouquet

    I watched a few YouTube videos (so clearly I’m an expert now) and the key to a bouquet that will last all day is tape, tape, tape. Floral Tape is my nemesis. It only sticks to itself, and it’s only sticky when it’s stretched. It’s a necessary evil, because clearly it’s what works for flowers. It doesn’t actually stick to the stems, which allows the stems to expand and contract slightly depending on how much water they’re holding, which is good! But it’s also really hard to pull the tape enough to stretch it, when you’re stretching it away from a stem that is fragile and bendy.

    For a stable bouquet, it’s recommended to tape around every 2-3 flowers you add. So I started with 3 flowers as the bouquet center, and taped around them. Then added 2-3 flowers around that center, and taped again. And again, and again.

    After 6 bouquets, I hope you’ll excuse my antipathy for floral tape. It also turned my thumbs all green and sticky.

    There was so much art to this. It was fun and challenging to keep the bouquets balanced, to try and add the right flowers at the right time. I had assumed it would be simple and straightforward to just bunch together the pretty flowers, but I had to use a lot more creativity than I expected.

    Murphy was an excellent florist’s assistant. Good girl, Murphy, you protect those flowers!

    David also helped by trimming the leaves from the flower stems. That was surprisingly time consuming, so having extra hands to take care of that step really helped me focus on taping and arranging.

    I just love ranunculus so much. They’re so delicate and feathery, so detailed. This one opened up like a lion once it got water again and it was adorable.

    DIY wedding flowers - make your own bridal bouquet

    In the end, I was thrilled with the results. Besides, once you’ve sewn a wedding dress, how scary can DIY flowers really be?

    I mentioned this in my day-of post: I added a special detail to my bouquet. I wrapped it with my maternal grandmother’s rosary and my paternal grandmother’s pearl cross necklace. It was so wonderful to have them with me in this way on my special day.

    DIY wedding flowers - make your own bridal bouquet

    Here are the men looking snazzy with their Freesia boutonnieres. I love the splash of orange on their gray suits.

    Here are two good shots of our handiwork! I love the corsage my mom made for herself. It’s similar to the boutonnieres but she added an extra freesia and one peach ranunculus bloom. For Deanne’s wrist corsage, my mom put one bloom each of freesia and ranunculus, to make it symmetric, then tied it with a ribbon.

    My mom did a beautiful job with the boutonnieres and corsages. They looked so professional!

    And, if you read my wedding day post, you’ll know that we wrapped the bouquets with ribbon in the church parking lot before the ceremony. The girls still had to work a little bit for their bouquets.

    Writing this post has inspired me – I still want a day of flower arranging with my girls! And I realized it doesn’t have to be a wedding-exclusive event. Sometime in the future, I’m going to go wild at Metro Flower Market again, and we’ll all build arrangements together. Plus, arrangements for vases means NO FLORAL TAPE!!

    My recommendation: as long as you have an idea of how you want your flowers to look, and you can set aside the time, you should definitely make your own wedding flowers. It took me 4-5 hours to make the six bouquets, so it’s not quick! But with a buddy or a few, it would go much faster and be way more fun. Table arrangements would also be much faster to make because they don’t require any tape! Highly recommend.

    Would you make your own bouquets? Did you? I’d love to hear! Leave a comment below!

  • Wedding

    Our Wedding Day, from Catholic Ceremony to DIY Backyard Reception

    DIY backyard wedding

    Welcome to “Wedding Week”! You’ve read about my dress but I wanted to share some more details about the day, the ceremony, and the party. Monday was the logistics of it all: planning our backyard wedding reception. Today is all emotions: my play-by-play of the big day. And Friday is all about flowers! Next week we’ll be back to the regularly scheduled sewing and making.

    Ten – Ten – Twenty – Twenty. Such a magical day, and not just because of its aesthetically pleasing numbers!

    Morning

    The day started slowly. My alarm went off, but I hadn’t slept much – I was nervous, I was excited, and I kept thinking of things on the to-do list. I slept at my parents’ house; David was staying at the same hotel as his dad and stepmom. He had a normal, standard “guy pre-event” morning where he and his dad had a very relaxed breakfast, talked for a while, hung out in the room, ate some snacks, then finally took ten, maybe fifteen, minutes to get ready before heading to the church. And fortunately Deanne was on board for taking lots of pictures of the men getting ready! Thanks Deanne! I love these glimpses into David’s morning.

    My morning was a little different. 🙂

    DIY backyard wedding getting ready

    The morning was a blur. I checked on my bouquets. I made microwave oatmeal and stirred it around but didn’t eat much. I had some coffee.

    Then Olivia presented me with a surprise: she had requested letters from my family, my bridesmaids, my aunts, my cousins, my future in-laws, and, of course, my dear David, and together she and my mom compiled all the letters into a scrapbook for me to read on the morning of my wedding. I still don’t have words for how wonderful that was. I’m a person who loves a good card more than a good present, and I’m very sentimental. Having all these words of joy and love from my loved ones meant the world to me, and even more so when so many of them would be watching from afar.

    The Donut Hole Fiasco

    Ben and Olivia went out for some last minute errands and stopped at Dunkin Donuts for some pumpkin munchkins, on my request. When they got home, the box was filled with blueberry munchkins! They went back to get a replacement box, and before coming home again they tried one in the car… and they were STILL blueberry! Turns out someone at Dunkin had swapped the trays of munchkins. I know B + O will never forget the piles of blueberry munchkins we ended up with on my wedding day. I like blueberry fine, but the pumpkin are just the best. Hilariously, the next day, we were eating the last of them and learned that David loves blueberry munchkins. Oh David, if only you had been there.

    Stephanie, my hair stylist, arrived and started work on my hair. I had always envisioned a morning of getting ready with my girls, and it would have been wonderful to have them all there, gushing over me. But at the same time, my introvert self knew that there was a full day of socialization ahead, so getting ready in a calm manner was actually really nice. Stephanie was fun to talk to, and it was a nice break to just sit with her, getting my hair done. I was also so glad to have my sister-in-law with me, so I wasn’t entirely without my crew! Olivia kept me company and snapped pictures, and my mom popped in and out of the room as she continued to get the house ready.

    My mom made this beautiful peacock robe for me as a wedding shower gift. It’s gorgeous fabric – the peacocks have gold metallic feathers! Her mom had made her a robe as a wedding shower gift so she wanted to carry on the tradition (even if I didn’t have a wedding shower!). It’s so beautiful and so happy.

    Before we knew it, it was almost time to go. I rushed upstairs and put on my makeup. I was so happy with my choice to do my own makeup because I felt like myself, just a little fancier!

    This whole time, my dad and brothers were all over the place: setting up tables in the backyard, refreshing the ice on the kegs in the bar, placing speakers, double-checking lights. It was so amazing to have my family as my team.

    DIY backyard wedding getting ready
    isn’t my mom’s dress gorgeous?

    I put my dress on, and my mom helped zip me up and button the buttons. I had tried it on for her two days ago, so she had seen the dress, but it was all so real now! I had a flower in my hair! I was a bride!

    We hadn’t figured out bouquet transportation yet – the bouquets were much more fragile than expected, especially with my top-heavy dahlias threatening to collapse at any moment. We put the bouquets in vases in a big rubbermaid bin in the trunk – this took some finagling! We left the house later than planned. I had wanted to arrive at the church at 1, but I took too long to get ready, so we were set to arrive around 1:20. And then, just as we turned off our street, I realized I forgot something. I can’t remember what now – my mask? Maybe even my shoes?! So we turned around to grab it and then headed on our way. To be fair, I wasn’t the only one who had forgotten something – David had left his tie at my parents’ house, so we were transporting that, too.

    My parents drove me, and Ben drove Andy and Olivia in his car.

    The SD Card Miracle

    My dad had bought a new camcorder for the day so we could record the ceremony (even though we did get to download a copy of the live stream) and I also wanted to passively record the reception from a corner of the backyard. I had ruled out the expense of a full videographer, but I wanted to capture some moments if we could. Andy was reading the camcorder manual and setting everything up from the backseat of Ben’s car, and we got a text from him halfway to the wedding, “there isn’t an SD card in the box.” That would make it pretty hard to record something!

    My whole family was running late. David was already there, but I certainly wasn’t going to send my groom off to Best Buy an hour before the ceremony. I didn’t want to derail anyone else who still had to get ready. But then I remembered our lifeline: SEAN! Our good friend Sean and his wife live close enough that watching the streamed ceremony would have felt silly. So we had asked if they would do us the honor of joining us at the church for the ceremony, and they agreed.

    I texted Sean and asked if he could pick us up an SD card. He texted me back immediately and said he had just walked out of MicroCenter, the electronics store, and was literally standing in the parking lot. Sean loves video games and computers, so of course they stopped at MicroCenter while they were in the area. It was truly a wedding miracle and I still can’t believe how amazing that was. He picked up two SD cards and we were good to go.

    We arrived well after 1pm. I felt bad because the entire wedding party had already arrived (as requested). But I was quickly forgiven, and Brittney said, “hey, it’s your day!”

    I distributed bouquets to the girls and we tied ribbons around them in the church parking lot! I love the looks of concentration on everyone’s faces. Ribbons are serious business.

    David and his Best Man were helping the videographer set up his camera for the live stream, so I waited until we were sure the coast was clear before the girls and I snuck into our designated “getting ready” classroom. The men got to get ready in the “fancy” room, the sacristy where the priest gets ready. David’s tie was delivered to him and my mom pinned all the men’s boutonnieres (which she had made, of course!).

    I gave my girls cards (again, sentimental!) and little bracelets I had made, just simple beads on a chain that matched the dress color. I gave my mom a vintage hankie that I had embroidered. I also gave cards to my parents and David’s parents. The picture above? That’s Claire and me doing a happy dance – knowing her it was 3/4 of the way to an Irish jig. Such a happy day!

    DIY wedding bouquet with rosary

    I wrapped my bouquet with tokens from each of my grandmothers. I borrowed my maternal grandma’s rosary from my mom, and I have a small cross necklace that had belonged to my paternal grandma that she gave to me when I was in college. It was wonderful to have pieces of them with me in this way.

    Ceremony

    And then… it was time! Almost 2pm. We could hear the organist playing some instrumental music. I wanted to make sure David wasn’t in the hallway, so I sent my mom as an envoy. But she didn’t return, there had been some miscommunication and she had taken her seat for the ceremony. The music played for a few more minutes, and then it stopped! Clearly they were waiting for us. David says these were some of the longest minutes of his life 🙂 At that point we all set off into the hallway – first my bridesmaids, and last, me and my papa.

    The music started again (Jesu, Joy of Our Desiring), and my bridesmaids began to process in.

    Finally, my matron of honor made it to the front of the church, and the music changed to Pachelbel’s Canon. I was overwhelmed. My dad and I started to walk. I looked up at David but couldn’t bear to look at his face, it made me too happy. I didn’t have tears but I was crying, and trying not to, so I was just making a weird squeaking noise. My brain was saying “smile! you are HAPPY!” and I WAS happy! But I was also sobbing! My dad chuckled and said, “oh, you tear up like me!” And I laughed and cried and squeaked.

    Finally I made it to the front of the church and to my David. I gave my Papa a big hug, then my David a big, relieved hug, and then the wedding officially began.

    Catholic wedding ceremony - DIY wedding

    Our best man read the first reading, Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31. I was overjoyed to find this reading in our booklet of “wedding approved liturgical selections,” because how could I resist when I read this line:

    She obtains wool and flax
    and makes cloth with skillful hands.
    She puts her hands to the distaff,
    and her fingers ply the spindle.

    The cantor sang Psalm 103, “The Lord is Kind and Merciful”. My brother Ben read the second reading, Colossians 3:12-17. Our priest, who, by the way, was in my class in high school, read the gospel and then preached his homily. We knew each other from high school, but of course, I hadn’t seen Fr. Will in 12 years, and he hadn’t met David. But he arranged a Zoom call a few weeks before the wedding to smooth out final details, and to get to know us as a couple. His sermon was amazing. He was so filled with joy to be a witness to our sacrament of marriage and it was truly delightful.

    Throughout the homily, David and I held hands and occasionally grinned at each other. I had found my calm, and while I was still filled with emotions, I was mostly just… happy.

    Catholic wedding ceremony - exchanging rings

    We held hands and pledged our consent and our free will. We exchanged vows. The rings were blessed, and we exchanged rings.

    My brother Andy read our petitions. I had written our own Prayers of the Faithful, the prayers the entire congregation lifts together. It was so special for me to write these myself. We included a prayer for our departed loved ones, and named each of our family members who had passed away. We were so glad to include them in our ceremony in this way.

    Catholic wedding ceremony - DIY wedding
    grins all around!

    A few more blessings and then… Father Will announced us as husband and wife!

    DIY backyard wedding planning during COVID-19

    We joyfully exited the church to “O God Beyond All Praising” – I love Gustav Holst so much.

    O God beyond all praising, we worship you today
    and sing the love amazing that songs cannot repay;
    for we can only wonder at every gift you send,
    at blessings without number and mercies without end:
    we lift our hearts before you and wait upon your word,
    we honor and adore you, our great and mighty Lord.

    “O God Beyond All Praising” – words by Michael Perry, music by Gustav Holst (from Jupiter)

    Photos

    After showing off our sweet new rings in the parking lot, we went back inside to take some family photos in the church and with Fr. Will. Then we headed to a local park to take the rest of the photos. I was so happy to have found this park. Nice, green backgrounds for all our photos.

    DIY backyard wedding planning during COVID-19
    we did take photos without masks, i promise. but look how cute we all are!
    thanks, mama, for making the custom masks!

    We did take all of our pictures without masks (except for the pictures where we were showing off the masks 🙂 ) so this was the one time where people were close to each other and mask-less. But we were outside and the photos didn’t take long, and my goodness I am so grateful for these photos.

    We did family photos first so that my parents could be the first to head back to the house and start getting things ready. Then we did photos with the bridal party, which was so much fun. We were all laughing and frolicking. It was honestly a nice break and a nice chance to get to see everyone individually, even if it was just for the span of a few pictures.

    DIY backyard wedding planning during COVID-19
    It looks like David was pretty happy to finally be married 🙂

    Then the wedding party headed out, too, and we took all our couple photos. This was, of course, our first chance to really look at each other and smile at each other as a married couple! We definitely didn’t have to fake any of those grins. It felt like a nice little break for the two of us to spend some time with each other (even if there were photographers and cameras watching) before we headed back to the reception and went back into social mode. David said that during the photos was the first time he really noticed my dress… up until that point he had really just been paying attention to “me”!

    DIY backyard wedding planning during COVID-19
    My lovely bowl of soup.

    Our photographers were really sweet and fun. One prompt I’ll never forget is they had me look up at David’s face and cup my hands around the back of his head, “like a bowl of soup,” they said. “Like your lovely bowl of soup.”

    So thank you, Anna and Liz, for these beautiful photos and for making our photo time so special.

    David’s parents drove us back to the reception and that was also a nice break. We just sat calmly in the car, fidgeting with our new rings, talking about the beautiful ceremony and the fantastic homily.

    Reception

    We arrived at my parents’ house and everyone was in the backyard. I wanted to make a grand entrance, of course, so we waited on the front porch for a good moment. Andy, my brother and our DJ for the night, cued the music, “It’s a Good Time” from the Disney World parade that had been going on when David proposed. “Let’s get it started, ’cause we just can’t wait” was basically our wedding motto.

    I had asked Olivia – the most outgoing of my siblings, because she married in, and therefore isn’t technically my sibling – to announce us like the DJ always does. “Now, introducing for the first time ever, Mr. and Mrs. David and Samantha!”

    bride and groom wearing masks - DIY backyard wedding COVID-19

    We popped around the corner and jogged through the backyard, past our tables of friends. As I rounded the corner, I thought, “wow. This looks like a real wedding.” We had twinkle lights and tablecloths and the chairs that are always at weddings and I was amazed and thrilled that it actually felt real, even though it was just in the backyard.

    DIY backyard wedding - samanthasews blog

    We danced to our seats, and David even mimed himself mouse ears for “come on everybody, get your ears on!”

    I was so excited to have snacks. Crackers and cheese are always good but they are even better when you’re a super hungry, almost-done-being-nervous bride.

    DIY backyard wedding, bride mask and groom mask - samanthasews blog

    We walked and mingled, and it was so great to get to talk to everyone. I think this will forever be the biggest perk for me of our small wedding. Everyone says, “you never get to spend enough time with everyone because the day goes so fast and there are so many people.” Even with 17 guests I still felt like I needed more time to properly visit with everyone, but I’m so glad I got as much time as I did. It felt really special to spend so much time with these people we love, especially after many months of isolation.

    We teased Brittney and James because we had gotten married first – their wedding was a mere four days away!

    My wonderful, amazing, roommate-for-life and matron of honor Hannah gave a champagne toast and it was so, so sweet. I still can’t believe she made it to my wedding with her 1-month old baby and I will forever be so grateful.

    Through their years together, I’ve been lucky to watch the ever-opinionated Sam grow softer and more empathetic around David. They’ve built a beautiful life together, full of compromise and kindness and witty comebacks. It’s easy to see how they complement and truly bring out the best of each other.

    excerpt from Hannah’s toast, 10/10/2020

    Christian, David’s best man, followed with his toast and it was really cute. I’m glad David has such a good friend. Even if Hannah will win all friend awards by default for the rest of our lives because, seriously, she made it to my wedding just one month after the birth of her first child.

    And then the food arrived! Maggiano’s made everything so easy and it was also so delicious. My dad said a prayer over the food and also talked about how he was proud of me and that made me very happy.

    We ate our chicken parmesan and then we mingled some more. Every once in a while we’d look at each other and grin. Everything was just perfect and we were finally, finally married.

    DIY backyard wedding with twinkle lights

    Darkness fell, and the backyard got more magical in the glow of twinkle lights and tiki torches.

    DIY backyard wedding planning during COVID-19

    We unveiled the cheesecake and before the cutting, my dear friend Katie read us a blessing of the hands. This was another cherished moment in our day where we got to pause, hold hands, and look at each other. It was a serious moment of joy and reality and I am so grateful Katie brought us that gift.

    These are the hands of your best friend, young and strong and full of love for you, that are holding yours on your wedding day, as you promise to love each other today, tomorrow, and forever.
    These are the hands that will work alongside yours, as together you build your future.

    An excerpt from “Blessing of the Hands” by Rev. Daniel L. Harris

    We cut the cheesecake and fed each other without mess, as promised 🙂

    Then, our table was cleared from the patio and we danced our first dance as bride and groom. Our song was Life Less Ordinary by Carbon Leaf, a song I’ve loved for a long time. David’s a much better dancer than I am and he sent me for lots of twirls!

    Well, I hate to be a bother but
    It’s you and there’s no other, I do believe
    You can call me naïve, but
    I know me very well, at least
    As far as I can tell, and I know what I need.

    “Life Less Ordinary” – Carbon Leaf

    Then I invited my dad to share a dance with me. I had chosen You’ll Be in My Heart as the perfect song for two reasons. First, my dad and I have many fond memories of visiting Disneyland together and this was a nod to our special family trips. And second, my dad loves Phil Collins, and he managed to play enough Phil Collins and Genesis while I was growing up that I ended up loving it too. So it was a perfect confluence of many things we love. I was so glad to get to dance with my dad and give him lots of hugs.

    DIY backyard wedding planning during COVID-19

    From there, we opened up the dance floor with an immediate transition to Shut Up and Dance, because I don’t know about you but I CANNOT stay seated for that song no matter how many times I hear it. And this was one of the best parts of the day for me. When I envisioned my backyard wedding, I worried that dancing would be awkward. We were in the middle of a suburban neighborhood, on a brick patio, with so few people. Would people really dance? Would we all just dance to a few songs out of obligation and then call it a night? NO WAY!

    We all danced so much. Andy was our super DJ. I had told everyone to please wear whatever shoes they wanted for the reception, so we were free to let loose. Even David changed into his lightweight kicks. I remember jumping up and down to the “nana nana nana”s of “All The Small Things” and Claire saying, “this is a lot of jumping for Maggiano’s!” Jimmy had enough energy for a dance MARATHON and gave so much life to the dance floor. Hannah’s newborn slept for almost the entire reception – the longest she’d slept in days – so Hannah and Adam got to take a break and dance together. We were all still wearing masks, but it was the most social any of us had been in months and it felt. so. good.

    DIY backyard wedding planning during COVID-19

    Eventually we were all exhausted. Christian and Shelbi did a ton of cleanup and we were so grateful. I know my parents and siblings were thrilled to have a break! We said our goodbyes as couples headed out, and we foisted leftover cheesecake upon them. The night wound down. Finally, it was time to depart.

    We said goodbye to our families and rode off into our happily ever after.

    I’m so grateful we had this day. I’m so thankful for my friends for giving us so much trust and love. I’m so thankful for David’s dad and stepmom, who gave us so much love and support. And I can’t believe how blessed I am to have my amazing family, who gave us so much love and did so much heavy lifting to make this party possible.