Moriah and Chris wanted their wedding to feel personal and intimate, and their beautifully rustic wedding in Napa was just such a celebration. From their Dog of Honor to the wedding arch built by the bride’s father, from the romantic swing to the charming table decor, this DIY wedding was truly a labor of love.
“When we first thought about the kind of wedding we wanted, we imagined a small, intimate gathering to avoid making a spectacle of the most profound day of our lives, but Chris has an enormous family, and we didn’t want to exclude any of the people we cherish. So we had to change gears. We were thrilled when a close family friend offered their beautiful property in my hometown of Napa for consideration. The rustic setting among the vineyards in the hills made it possible to have a casual, down-home, ‘backyard’ feel for our wedding – avoiding the pressures of a large, formal event – while still giving our celebration the magical ambience it deserved. The ceremony itself was in a clearing in the vineyard on a hill that seemed to have existed for the sole purpose that we could devote our future to each other in that very spot.”
Your ceremony in three words. Intimate, Natural, Genuine.
How did you go about planning your ceremony? Figuring out how to best demonstrate the love we feel for each other in just 20-30 minutes was quite a challenge! We started with the thought that the entire purpose of a wedding ceremony is to make permanent the bond we feel for one another, so it must personify us. It was also important that we include all the amazing people we invited to witness our wedding. We decided to do a Ring Blessing: our wedding bands were passed on a dish to every guest while four of our dearest friends read passages and song lyrics we had selected. The readings varied from sentimental to fun and silly, keeping our guests engaged and entertained. The ring passing tied us all together, and allowed each guest the chance to symbolically send us their well-wishes before we placed the bands on each others’ fingers.
Who officiated your ceremony? Neither of us is religious, but we both respect that this commitment is a deeply spiritual, transcendent bond. We wanted someone we know to do the honors, but also someone who respects and personifies the understanding of the spiritual elements of marriage, and who could be playful with the tone. We arrived at a close family friend of Chris’s family, who did such a wonderful job. It was perfect!
What was your ceremony music? I had my heart set on a particular song for the processional that I had long ago deemed “our song”. Duet, by Rachael Yamagata and Ray Lamontagne, has lyrics that tell our love story, one in which we dated for a long time, went our separate ways, and then found our way back home to each other. The music to this song was absolutely perfect for the processional, and exactly what I wanted to hear as I walked down the aisle toward the man of my dreams.
What were your ceremony readings?
Touched By An Angel – Maya Angelou
Wedding Song – Bob Dylan
When I Am With You – Rumi
I Like You (Abridged) – Sandol Stoddard Warburg
What were your vows like? The vows became the secret nightmare of the wedding. We, of course, wanted to compose our own so everything would feel personal. We assumed this would be easy and natural. But with the million-and-one details of the wedding planning and execution, it kept getting pushed back. We ended up scrambling to compose our vows together the day before the wedding which resulted in tears (on my part) and exasperation. Finally we agreed we just needed to divide and conquer. Somehow, when we stepped apart, and started jotting down our sentiments, they actually did pour out quite naturally. Despite the panic and last-minute effort, our vows ended up being our guests’ favorite part of the ceremony and we received countless complements. It must have been the process of cutting away all pretense and just dumping out our true feelings that made them so special.
What was your favorite thing about your wedding ceremony? It’s hard to compete with the fact that our furry love-bug best friend, Papago, served as our Dog of Honor and was escorted down the aisle by my aunt. Aside from that, I would have to say that what stands out most about our ceremony was that we felt so present and connected, not only to each other, but also to our families and our guests. I will always remember the looks of joy, the laughter, and tears of happiness on everyone’s faces throughout the readings and our vows. It was so powerful to feel overwhelmed by their support.
Is there anything else that you’d like to share about your wedding ceremony? We had a rough outline of the ceremony events. Our wedding planner walked us through a quick, somewhat scattered rehearsal the day before, and panic set in that maybe we should have better formalized the details and rehearsed more, but it was too late. Our planner kept assuring us that everything would fall into place, and she was right! I’m so glad we didn’t put undue stress into trying to control every detail. Our relaxed approach did not compromise the ceremony, and it flowed perfectly. It was beyond my dreams. Once it was done, we were elated with how it had gone. The ceremony was so truly a celebration of our love.
What was the best advice you received as a bride? The best advice I received was to focus on staying present and to try to stay near my man throughout the events. It’s easy to get separated, catching up with different people, but then you miss out on enjoying it all together.
What advice do you have for other couples in the midst of planning a wedding? We were so glad we went on our honeymoon right after our wedding weekend. The wedding flew by too quickly. It was important to continue the celebration but to step down out of planning and entertaining others. We recommend other couples do the same.
Did you include any special traditions in your wedding? My mom sewed beautiful matching robes for all of the bridesmaids to wear as we prepared. My mother-in-law gave me Chris’s baby Hanky-Bonnet as something old (it’s a baby-bonnet made from a handkerchief that he wore home from the hospital after he was born). I carried it with me throughout the night. My mom gave me some hand-carved silver hairclips that had been a wedding gift to her, which I wore in my hair. I also borrowed my grandmother’s wedding slip to wear under my wedding dress. I wore TOMS wedges out of necessity with the uneven terrain, and they have baby blue on the logo.
Did you include any DIY projects? We actually went a little overboard with DIY projects. One of my favorites was the swing my dad constructed to hang under the big oak tree draped with fabric near the vineyard, which we encouraged our guests to use as a photo backdrop. My dad also made the white birch arch under which we said our vows…my mom made the table runners and hundreds of beautiful throw pillows that filled the hay-bale seating area for the cocktail hour and post-dinner gathering, to name just a few things…our friend is a talented graphic designer who did our stationery exactly to our specifications, as well as the necessary fan-programs for the ceremony…my sister found antique lampshade frames at the Alameda Flea market that we wrapped with twinkle lights to tart up the barn… our wedding planner made moss covered table numbers…our family friends restored vintage neon signs of our initials and built a display for the dance floor in the barn…and on and on and on. Everything came together so beautifully. It truly felt like our community of people helped create our wedding, instead of some rental place showing up with a cookie-cutter wedding package.”
“Our reception was both relaxed and exciting. Afterward, we heard from so many guests that everything flowed so well and people really enjoyed the ease and beauty of the setting. Dancing in the barn overlooking the lights in the valley below was epic, and the rustic hay-bale seating with throw pillows and blankets around fire pits was comfortable and inviting.”
What inspired you when you were planning your wedding? Pretty much every wedding that we had ever been to that bucked tradition and stuck true to the couple told us that we wanted to create a celebration where people felt welcome, comfortable, and free to enjoy every minute of the event. We just kept thinking, “What kind of party would WE want to go to on a vineyard in the hills of Napa?” That made it easy.
What was your wedding menu? I could go on forever about the excellent food. We are so glad we splurged on our favorite caterer. People expect great food in the Napa Valley and Alex’s Catering delivered.
Did you have a signature cocktail? We most certainly did have a signature cocktail but not enough time to give it a clever name. Passion fruit puree, vodka, lime juice, St. Germaine, simple syrup and soda water. We invented it ourselves. It was a hit!
Do you have any budget tips for other brides? We wanted it all, on a limited budget. We saved money by taking a DIY approach, but that has its own cost in terms of time and stress, and as we neared the wedding day we just started hacking away projects from our agenda out of sheer necessity. Looking back, I can’t even remember what they were. What matters most is your guests and your interactions with everyone. Put just enough money into your decor to feel like it portrays a sense of your aesthetic, and put more money into your guests’ experience (like food and music), and what will allow you to remember the day afterward (like photography and videography). People remember how much fun they had, not the linens and candles.
Long tables were decorated with DIY table runners, bud vases filled with simple white flowers, moss covered table numbers, and a miniature Seckel pear at each place.
If you had it to do over again, is there anything you would do differently? I wish we’d spent less time during cocktail hour taking photos. Even though we set aside time pre-ceremony for a chunk of photos, we ended up doing a bunch afterward to capture everything. I would have added more time pre-ceremony for the photos and spent more time at our cocktail hour. No matter how you plan, things just fly by far too quickly.
First Dance – “That’s How Strong My Love Is” by Otis Redding
Father/Daughter – “My Little Girl” by Tim McGraw
Mother/Son – “In My Life” by The Beatles
First Group Dance – “Happy” by Pharrell
What type of cake or dessert did you serve? Neither of us really likes cake, so a wedding cake was a tradition we really didn’t care about. Instead, we opted to do a champagne tower to kick-off the reception, and later in the evening offered a selection of favorite desserts. We still had our fab photo-op doing something celebratory (and super fun) together, but didn’t feel like we were just succumbing to wedding traditions that felt empty to us.
What was your favorite moment or part of the reception? The champagne tower at dinner followed by toasts that blew our minds are among our best memories of the reception. My father made everyone feel so welcome and was truly flattering and loving. Chris’s brother gave a hilarious speech that made everyone realize he should be a stand-up comedian or writer, and my sister brought everyone to tears.
Please tell us about any other special details or moments from your reception. The dances were surprisingly delightful. It was my one chance to get my men to dance lessons and I took full advantage. Chris was such a good sport, trudging his way to a dance studio after excruciatingly long work days in Manhattan. And my dad abhors dancing, but he wanted to do this thing to make his little girl happy. He tolerated dance lessons despite his aversion. In the end, we all had a great time practicing, and it was a relief to have something fun to show our guests instead of just teetering back and forth to a song like we were in high school. People hooted and cheered, and some even cried during the dances. It was a blast!