DIY backyard wedding

Our Wedding Day, from Catholic Ceremony to DIY Backyard Reception

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!


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.


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)


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.


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.

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