You're NOT going to want to miss this stunning handmade beach wedding! No words to describe how stunning!
Shea Shoemaker
Shea Shoemaker June 19, 2019

Whimsical DIY Backyard Beach Wedding in Rhode Island

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“Hillary + Phil met almost 7 years ago when she picked up the keys to her new Boston apartment and stumbled upon a VERY cute man – her subletter’s cousin, Phil. Instead of nervously exchanging numbers, they exchanged Words with Friends usernames and couldn’t stop messaging each other {and playing some good old Scrabble}. A few months later, Phil asked Hillary on a date to Coolidge Corner – followed by THREE more dates that week, and as Hillary says, “The rest is history!” They bought their first home together, adopted a rescue pup Zeus, and Phil surprised her with a proposal last April.

They threw a backyard wedding to end all backyard weddings, generously hosted by Phil’s family at their summer beach house in Westerly, Rhode Island. The guests threw their shoes to the wind and went barefoot on the beach for their oceanfront ceremony and reception. Even their beloved pup Zeus was a special guest at their wedding, adorned with a floral leash.” –Lena Mirisola Photography

What is your favorite wedding day memory?

After the ceremony, we took our Best Dog, Zeus, and a bottle of bubbly up to the balcony of Phil’s family’s beach house. It overlooked the water and our reception. It was a wonderful private, happy moment where we could hear the live jazz, watch our guests walk into the reception and just take it all in with a nice ocean breeze. A close second would be during our first dance when I spun out and my hand hit the mic on the stage. It was just too funny!

What did you DIY for your wedding?

Just about everything. It was a little over the top. I am an artist and have done some event planning before and my husband is really into cooking and food and drink, so we really went all in.

In terms of decor, I made the driftwood, succulent, and candle centerpieces for the hightops with my mother in law and decorated the eucalyptus vases for the low-top with sand and shells. My dad also flew up to New England from Texas a month before the wedding to help me build the driftwood arch Phil and I got married under. I also designed, printed, and hand lettered or painted all the invitations, programs, signage, and menus, including painting a his and her cocktails sign. I put my uncle and his girlfriend, also artists, in charge of our creating our photobooth backdrop and aunts in charge of planting succulents in various pots. Oh, we also took a uhaul from Boston to Rhode Island to take both our living room furniture and outdoor furniture to create two soft seating areas in the reception. It saved us a bundle and really elevated the space.

Phil and I also developed and cooked our entire menu (with a lot of help from family) from cocktails to dinner to dessert based on food we love to make and learned to make during our travels. Dinner was a series of passed small plates including lobster rolls with clam chowder and clam fritters, representing Phil’s New England roots; Carnitas tacos, which your Texas girl could not do without; and Moroccan chicken and rice in anticipation of our epic honeymoon adventure. Some other highlights included Salmorejo shooters during cocktail hour and Momofuku Ginger Scallion noodles for a late night snack in take out boxes. We also had a kickass desert table with cake pops by one of my bridesmaids, homemade apple cider donut holes, and a lemon blackberry preserve cake my mom and I made that tasted like summer.

The best part was nothing would have come together without our families. They helped us cook all the food, collected copious amounts of driftwood, cleaned, hung lights, let us take over the vacation home for a week in the middle of summer, fixed the power when we blew a fuse (It’s helpful when you have five engineers to solve a problem like that!), and said yes to everything we asked for help with. My parents described it as an old fashioned barn raising and Phil’s mom told us this was how a wedding should be, filled with two families coming together to make something beautiful.

Did you have a something old, new, borrowed or blue?

Almost everything about our wedding was non-traditional. The ceremony was on the beach, we did a cocktail style reception {without seating for everyone for the record}; our dog was in the wedding; our band learned Chance the Rapper’s Sunday Candy for us; we built a venue around our family’s beach house complete with bathroom trailer, tent, dance floor, and lounge areas, lawn games, but some traditions must be kept alive! My something old was a diamond necklace my grandmother made for me when I graduated high school; the diamond was from her father’s watch. I had always planned to wear it on my wedding day. It was extra special to have that close to my heart because last minute she wasn’t able to make the trip from Texas. I borrowed some lovely pearl earrings from my mom and my beautiful best friends looked stunning in their navy bridesmaid dresses.

Any advice for brides currently in the planning process?

I think it is important to remember you can’t do EVERYTHING and you definitely don’t want to being DIY’ing it during your wedding. You want to be floating on cloud nine soaking up every moment.

We hired friends Phil worked with in the restaurant industry to serve, bartend, and create our flower arrangements. They were amazing and partied with us at the end of the night. We also hired my friend, coworker, and event extraordinaire to be our day-of-coordinator {definitely worth a budget line if you are DIY’ing as much as we are or using a non-traditional venue}, as well as two cooks to put together and plate the food day of the wedding. Be realistic about your abilities and how you want to spend your time and energy.

We were resolute in our vision. Our friends and family were definitely nervous at times about the scope of the DIY, but it came together perfectly and it was as magical and as perfectly us as we had imagined because we stood by our vision for our wedding.

Lastly, once an event starts, it’s going and it will run. There will always be details that you know don’t go right. I also know event guests rarely notice a detail that varies from your vision. As someone who runs events, I know these to be facts, but as a perfectionist, I was concerned about my reaction to those missed details. I did a lot of self-coaching in lead up to the wedding about letting go so I could enjoy a day we had put so much effort, love, sweat, and tears {both happy and stressed} into. It paid off. We didn’t think twice about details once the day started; we were in the moment the entire time and loved every minute of joy with our family and friends. Towards the end of the night our day of coordinator mentioned they had forgotten to put the coffee pot on and coffee wouldn’t be ready with desert. My response? “We have plenty of champagne. It goes great with cake!” Then we went back to dancing the night away. -Hillary, the Bride

Event Credits

Photography: Lena Mirisola Photography // Videographer: Otharks // Wedding Designer + Planner: The Bride // Florist: Be Hexed Blooms // Tent Rental: Newport Tent // Event Rentals: Peak Event Services // Event Lighting: Ryan Designs Event Decor + Lighting // Restroom Rentals: C&S Portable Restrooms // Music: The Ward Eights // Engagement Ring: Leslie Shershow // Bride's Attire: Jenny Packham // Bride's Shoes: Cole Haan // Bridesmaid's Attire: Alfred Sung // Bridesmaid's Jewelry: Bauble Bar // Hair: Uptown Salon and Spa // Groom + Groomsmen's Attire: Calvin Klein // Ties: The Tie Bar

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