It’s not often a couple decides to schedule the reception before saying their I do’s at the ceremony, but bride Mary was determined to do anything she could to make sure her sister, and maid of honor, was there to stand by her side. This sweet barn wedding, almost entirely DIY, is proof you don’t have to be conventional to have an incredible celebration.
What was the best advice you received as a bride? Not to stress too much. After all, it’s just one day!
Do you have any budget tips for other brides? Having a longer engagement turned out to be pretty budget friendly. Ours was almost fifteen months, and this allowed us time to search for the best deals.
Tell us about your unique wedding day timeline. Roughly six months into wedding planning my younger sister called me and through a shaky voice she told me she had just been given the role in her college’s main stage fall production of, “Into The Woods”. The show dates were exactly the weekend set for our wedding.
Save-the-dates had been sent, the venues booked, the band contract signed, and hotel blocks reserved. My sister, my only sibling and maid of honor, had to be there. My entire life I had imagined my wedding day with her by my side. We couldn’t ask her to forfeit the role that was the culmination of her years of studying music and theater. My first thought was to move the entire event to Sunday, and we’d ask our guests to shift their travel plans by a day, or to change the date entirely. But completely changing the weekend would have cost us nearly all of our deposits, and many of our guests had already arranged travel plans.
Max and I understood that we had to think about this differently. Most things about our relationship in the six years we’d been together had been more or less unconventional, and we saw clearly that we were destined to have an unconventional wedding.
My sister’s last show of the weekend was Saturday night and there was a non-stop flight to Greenville on Sunday morning that would arrive in the morning. The ceremony site was available on Sunday, and like that, we had our solution. We’d have the reception first, and ceremony the next day. Although she wouldn’t make it to the party, she would be there for the portion of our wedding that mattered most. My mom picked her up from the airport and brought her to the salon where we were getting ready for the ceremony. When they walked in, I burst into tears. Overcome with joy, sentiment, and relief, my wedding day was here, and my sister was there to stand with me.
“Max proposed the summer before while we were visiting Norway for the first time. He completely surprised me by popping the question in front of the Borgund Stave Church—a Lutheran church built in the 12th century. Made entirely of wood, this incredible structure has stood the test of time against all odds and this was a metaphor we used in our ceremony. The church has some unbelievably intricate carvings and joinery that we used as guiding inspiration for our wedding design details.”
Why did you choose this location for your reception? This venue was completely DIY. It had a floor and a roof, but was an entirely blank slate. We had a lot of fun making every detail our own. Max is an architect, so he drafted the entire plan of our seating chart and sketched out the space. It was such a dream bringing our vision to life together from scratch.
How would you describe your reception? It was at the Dutch Barn, just outside of Greenville—a private setting off the beaten path. It felt like it was just us, our family and our best friends. The band was so full of energy—there was never a time that guests weren’t on the dance floor.
What was your wedding menu? Working with Neal and Jessica from Thoroughfare was such a great experience. They gave us some awesome ideas for the menu. Since most of our guests were coming from up north, they suggested we have southern inspired menu that would be a bit of a novelty for them. The menu consisted of chicken quarters, flank steak, grit cakes, braised red cabbage, and collard greens. For dessert, we served a small wedding cake and warm apple crisp. The entire meal was family style which really helped create the atmosphere we wanted.
Did you have a signature cocktail? We served our version of a Moscow Mule we called the Charleston Mule, which was a mix of gin, lime, and ginger beer. Also on the cocktail menu was a cider with bourbon we called Oxford Cider, a nod to our alma mater, Miami University. We also had kegs of beer from Westbrook and Palmetto, our favorite Charleston breweries.
Please tell us about any other special details or moments from your reception. On my side of the family, we had a before-dinner ritual where we’d all sit down together—it came from my dad’s family when he was a young boy. After grace, everyone around the table holds hands and gives three cheers in union of, “Yay family!” He used this to conclude his speech and had all 180 people join in. It was the coolest thing!
What was your first dance song? We used, “Everlasting Light” again for our first dance. I danced with my dad to, “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles; and Max and his mom, Claudia couldn’t have been more adorable dancing around to Pharell’s, “Happy.”
What was your favorite moment or part of the reception? Our first dance. We got out there and winged it to our favorite song. A fun family tradition that Max’s family has passed along is wearing “The Hat of Krakow” at wedding receptions. This is a silk, sort of pill box hat adorned with faux flowers and tulle. The bride starts out wearing it and passes it to other people on the dance floor. It had everyone laughing and brought out some memorable dance moves.
Are there any DIY details you’d like to tell us about? Without the help and efforts of family and friends, our wedding wouldn’t have been possible. Several people showed up a few days early to help set up, and a lot of guests were kind enough to stay and help break down. My wonderful mom had many years of experience with corporate event planning, so she was key in mapping out our run-of-show and defining specific roles for people who wanted to help. A family friend assumed the role of our day-of coordinator to make sure everything ran smoothly, and my dad who plays in a band, helped set up the sound system for the ceremony. Our escort cards on a peg-board were my favorite DIY project of the wedding. I printed a pattern I designed on the back of the paper tags. My good friends helped with cutting each of them, and I put my novice calligraphy skills to work to hand write names and numbers.
“At the time of our engagement, Max was living in Greenville, South Carolina. The weekends we’d spend there together were filled with lots of hiking and camping. The mountains were really meaningful to us at this point in our relationship, and had been a peaceful spot amidst living long distance. The chapel is located within the grounds of YMCA Camp Greenville and is cut into a cliff overlooking the Blue Ridge Escarpment. The day was perfectly clear and you could see for miles. It was breathtaking.”
Your ceremony in three words. Personal, scenic, natural
How did you go about planning your ceremony? Max and I worked with our long time family friend, Tom Tobias, to write up our ceremony. We had an idea of what we wanted to include and Tom guided us through layout and flow of the ceremony. He also had Max and I write separately about when we knew this relationship was meant to be. It was a wonderful exercise that he incorporated into the ceremony.
Who officiated your ceremony? Tom and his family were Max’s next-door neighbors growing up, and he’d always been a great mentor figure to Max. I met him seven years ago when Max and I first started dating and we both felt it would be so meaningful to have him officiate.
What was your ceremony music? The bridesmaid’s processional was, “Perpetuum Mobile”; the bridal processional was, “Hymn 101” by Joe Pug; the ceremony song was, “Everlasting Light” by the Black Keys; and the recessional was, “Here Comes the Sun” by George Harrison. My sister’s duet with Ben Tobias, Tom’s son who was one of Max’s groomsmen sang, “Everlasting Light” by the Black Keys. Our musicians were a trio of two guitars and a mandolin, the same gentlemen who made up our band for the reception.
Did you include any traditions in your ceremony? My maternal grandmother sang at my parents’ wedding in 1986, and to carry on the tradition, my little sister who received every gene of vocal talent from my grandmother sang for our ceremony. It meant the world to me.
What were your ceremony readings? “Sonnet XVII” by Pablo Neruda, and an excerpt from Louis de Bernieres’, “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin”.
What were your vows like? Max and I wrote our own script for the vows. Tom read each line and we repeated.
What was your favorite thing about your wedding ceremony? It was 100-percent what we wanted it to be, and was an expression of our relationship and love for each other. The support from our family and friends was palpable, and the ceremony felt so intimate.