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Sara Got Married! A DIY Wedding In The Desert That Was Filled With Nothing But Love

Today I’m here with a post of a very personal nature. I’m not really one to share a lot about my personal life. Sure, I’ll give you the intimate details on my cabinets or type for hours about every agonizing design decision I’ve ever made. But sharing details about the parts of my life that are non-design related? Harder (for me). And yet, so many wonderful people worked so hard to make this one beautiful day a reality. So, here it is. A blog post about my wedding.

Macauley and I met in 2008, as freshmen at Otis College of Art & Design, within two days of starting school. Second semester we ended up in the same elective class. Fast forward nine years, two cats, one chargrilled apartment, and a house renovation later, and we were on a road trip up the Oregon coast. It was August 2020, and we were looking for a safe way to do something after quarantining the past few months. We figured a road trip and some camping sounded safe enough. And after driving 14 hours the day before, and a sunset hike up a mountain, at the top of Cape Perpetua, Macauley proposed.

It was private and wonderful, and only made better by the fact that we spent so much time at the top of the look out (the only place with service) calling our friends and family, that we both killed our phone batteries and had to walk back down the service road in absolute forest darkness.

Planning a wedding at the best of times sounds stressful. But planning a wedding during a pandemic was exhausting. And what no one tells you is that after the excitement of getting engaged, planning a wedding is homework. Very expensive homework. And as we assessed costs and safety issues, it began to feel overwhelming and near impossible. And then Macauley’s mom, who lives out in Yucca Valley (a little town right next to Joshua Tree National Park), offered her backyard as a venue. It would need some landscaping, and we’d have to bring everything in ourselves, but it was beautiful, and it was free.

our first “site” visit

So began the planning in earnest of our backyard wedding, which would take place Saturday, October 2nd, 2021.

For our invitations we turned to our good friend Brooke Granowski, who owns and runs her own printing and book binding studio in Los Angeles called Sorella Studios. We went with gold foil letterpress on a terracotta paper, to really set the desert tone for our wedding. She even designed us our own wedding logo, which we used everywhere.

Insert here exactly what you’d imagine a year of planning a largely DIY backyard wedding during a pandemic would look like, and you’ve probably got a pretty accurate idea. So, instead let’s jump to…

The day before our wedding some family and very, very good friends (including our entire wedding party) drove out to the desert and spent the whole day setting up all the decor in the backyard. We strung up hundreds of string lights (battery-powered, solar-powered, and plugin – most of which my mom had bought on sale the weekend after Christmas from Target and Home Depot), framed photos, filled lumenarias, and set up furniture. It was a long day, but our family and friends were amazing and their energy never dipped.

The vibe was immaculate all day.

only real kisses during the rehearsal

Because our dance floor and all our rental furniture were delivered the day before, we had decided to just have our rehearsal dinner there in the backyard. So after some very laidback walk-thrus, we ordered pizza from a local place, invited anyone who had gotten into town early to come hang out, and started testing out the dance floor. It was one of the most fun parts of the whole weekend, and EHD alumn Veronica was there to capture it.

Did we then go back to our Airbnb at a reasonable hour, and get a full night of sleep before the big day? No. Instead we did what any reasonable wedding party would do and went to Sonic’s for shakes, then stayed up until 1am.

my morning view

We rented an Airbnb out in Flamingo Heights for us and some of our friends to stay at through the weekend. It was a large spread-out compound, with a main house where Macauley and I stayed, two airstream trailers, and a yurt (fully insulated with power!) for our guests. Waking up on my wedding day to a beautiful, brisk desert morning was sensational. I got up early and sat outside to write my vows, with 360 views of the desert landscape around me. It was a much-needed moment of calm before a very loud, crazy, and fun storm.

We invited everyone in the wedding party to come get ready together at the compound, and once the crew arrived it was non-stop from then on.

Getting ready with Macauley, all of our friends, was one of the best parts of the day. It was just filled with so much joy and chaos – people shouting, laughing, passing around a bottle of Remy 1738, singing… It’s rare to have so many of your favorite people all in one place together, all there to support you. I was hit with a constantly overwhelming feeling of gratitude and love all morning.

Toward the end of the morning my mom came to help me get ready, and that was such a special time. I was so appreciative of every moment with her.

Right before our “first look” I got nervous. Everything was suddenly becoming very real, and it hit me that almost 10 years together, and a year and half of planning and work, were about to culminate in an event that would (hopefully) only happen once in our lives. And it was going to be over in a matter of hours. I suddenly felt like every moment was slipping by too quickly, and some anxiety started to creep in.

All of that changed the minute Macauley stood in front of me and we both opened our eyes. Literally every anxiety that had been racing through my head melted away, and I was immediately back in the moment. We had sent everyone except the photographer and my mom ahead of us to the wedding site, and having this quiet time to take photos alone together was the grounding moment I needed. Instead of feeling nervous or awkward I felt beautiful and had so much fun.

Our photographer, Anais Possami, was incredible. I had been worried about finding a photographer that would fit with us, but from the second she showed up – quietly getting started without much direction – I felt completely at ease around her. She was relaxed, and most of the time we didn’t even notice where she was. But she captured each and every moment perfectly. We also had an awesome videographer, Robert Schultze, who captured every minute of our days, and edited together a 20 minute documentary of our wedding.

Because of the pandemic, I wasn’t able to try on wedding dresses in-store. So I ordered a bunch and tried them on in my parent’s living room. And trying on dresses that are too long, too wrinkled, and too heavy, in a living room doesn’t really give you the environment conducive to “envisioning” yourself on your wedding day.

But, I fell in love with my dress the instant I put it on. It fit perfectly, and it truly felt like a cliche “aha” moment. The best part? It was the most affordable dress I ordered, coming in at only $150 from

I wanted to go for a 70s look, somewhere between bohemian and Vegas. And the bell sleeves of the dress mixed with the high leg slit checked both boxes. I had the dress tailored a bit because I’m very short, but also had the seamstress add a bustle and satin buttons down the entire back. My grandma always said she imagined me wearing a dress with buttons down the back, because she thought it was the most elegant a dress could get. My shoes were “new with tags” Loeffler Randall from Poshmark, and my veil was $20 on Amazon.

My hair and make-up was done by Colette Becar from Emily Lynn & Co – and she was a magician. To say I was terrified of getting my hair and makeup done would be an understatement. To me, foundation feels heavy, lipstick always seems to make my whole mouth area look wrong, and eyeshadow makes my eyes small. But I trusted Colette, and I’ve never felt as beautiful as I did on that day. I told her natural, but better, and she delivered. And I had my beautiful lashes done by Tiina Troberg of Lash Bar By Dermacilia. I can’t recommend either of these ladies enough.

Where I saved on my wedding dress, Macauley splurged on his suit, opting for a custom velvet suit jacket and cropped slacks made by Chookhare & Sons. Which made sense, because he’s already worn his suit to another wedding, whereas I can’t really wear my wedding dress to…someone else’s wedding. And instead of wearing a traditional pressed shirt, Macauley and all of his groomsmen wore patterned silk shirts for a more casual and personal look.

After the “first look” we headed to the venue (Macauley’s mom’s house)…

The day before we had lined the pathway into the backyard from the street with lumenarias (brown paper bags filled with sand holding a candle – we opted for battery-operated tea lights), so guests would be able to see the path once it got dark. And at the entrance, we set up a table with childhood photos of both Macauley and I, as well as photos of loved ones who were no longer with us.

We had really wanted our wedding to feel warm and inviting, and avoid anything that could make it feel like it was happening at a hotel or resort. So we rented vintage furniture from Found Rentals. The final outcome was exactly what we wanted, and every piece of furniture added a little bit of soul.

We lined the aisle on the way up to the alter with vintage rugs we brought from home. And at the end stood a gold archway I bought used from a friend of a friend, who had used it for their wedding. But what really made this whole area special were the flowers, which were a wedding gift from Emily Henderson herself – someone who truly understands the power of good floral.

Not only were the flowers a gift, but all of the early morning flower market shopping, hauling out to the desert, and arranging of them were also done by some incredible EHD alumns – Emily Bowser, Erik Staalberg, and Velinda Hellen. So you could say my wedding florals were an EHD collaboration. Hot Tip: Make friends with stylists and then have them do your wedding flowers because they will look heartbreakingly beautiful. I handed over full trust to Bowser (and her team – of my very good friends, haha), and it was a huge relief to know that no matter what happened come wedding day, the flowers at least would be beautiful.

My mom made me and my dad have our own first look, which felt hilarious, but I’m so happy she did because the photos from it are some of my favorite from the day. We were pretty casual about people seeing us before the ceremony, and really just enjoyed the little bit of time we had before walking down the aisle. We had week of coordination by Jenny, from Orange Blossom Special Events, and both she and her assistant were so lovely and helped the day run very smoothly.

getting pep talks before walking down the aisle

We were played down the aisle by cellist Hitoshi Suzuki. Hiring him was one of the best decisions we made for that day. Not only did he already have a beautiful selection of both classical and contemporary songs to choose from, but we had two specific songs we really wanted to have played while we walked down the aisle – AND HE LEARNED THEM.

He played a selection of music during the pre-ceremony for our guests and played our procession in and out of the ceremony. The song we walked into was called Casadha an tSugain. He also learned “Mystery of Love” by Sufjan Stevens. 12 out of 10, would hire again.

Instead of creating, printing, and handing out wedding programs, we just updated our wedding website to include a digital version of our wedding program. It also included a seating chart, a menu, and a link to view the live stream of our wedding. There were so many people we weren’t able to invite due to the safety concerns, as well as the size of the venue. But live-streaming the wedding at least allowed more people to be with us on our day.

Our ceremony was my absolute favorite part of the whole day.

We asked our good friend, Tones, to officiate, and he was amazing. He really blew everyone away with his thoughtful words. Our ceremony was short, personal, and beautiful.

I went first with our vows because I didn’t think I’d be able to get through them if I went second. I think in total our ceremony lasted about 15 minutes, and they were the best 15 minutes of my life.

Right after the ceremony, our photographer snuck us away for a few minutes alone and a few more photos.

Next, we grabbed our wedding party for a few quick photos, while our guests headed to enjoy a cocktail hour.

The bar was open, there were quesadillas, albondigas, and taquitos being passed around, and our photo booth was ready for use.

It was finally time for the party to start.

The reception was set up to happen just to the left of the ceremony site. We circled the tables around the dance floor, and relocated the same chairs that everyone had sat in for the ceremony (with the help of a few friends and family).

Each table was decorated with a gauze runner in a cream or rust tone, votive candles that my mom had been collecting all year, a framed QR code which guests could use to access the wedding program and dinner menu, handwritten name cards, and flowers.

6 months before the wedding I got the crazy idea in my head that I wanted vintage glassware. But it was turning out to be pretty expensive to rent. So, I decided to just…collect it myself. I scoured Etsy, thrift stores, the Rose Bowl flea, I even shipped some back from an antique store in New Orleans (where I had my bachelorette party). I ended up collecting some 180 coupes and water glasses in a rainbow of colors and styles, which we also used at my bridal shower!

My dad kicked the reception off with a speech that blew everyone (including me, his own daughter who has known him my entire life) away with his thoughtful, kind, and endearingly-awkward-in-a-classic-way-that-only-a-dad-can-be words.

Dinner was up next, and we had decided to serve our one of favorites – tacos. Both having grown up in Southern California, the taco stand or truck is a mainstay of life here. Quick lunch on the way out? Tacos. Coming home from a party or bar at 2 am? Tacos. Hungover the next morning? More tacos. No one makes tacos like Los Angeles.

Taqueria Vista Hermosa has been owned and operated by Raul in Los Angeles for years, and his family has been making al pastor for generations. You can taste that history in every bit of his food. Also, Raul is the best. We went for a tasting at his stall in Mercado La Paloma over by USC (which you can visit too!), and he personally came out to greet us, go over our vision, and customize a menu of tray-passed appetizers, tacos, drinks, and desserts.

All the tortillas were made fresh on site, all the guacamoles and salsa were house-made, and his team brought house-made mixes for specialty margaritas (like tamarind). He also provided freshly made horchata and jamaica. His staff was wonderful, the food was delicious, and the setup was beautiful.

We let the guests go through the taco line table by table, and got to spend some time saying hello to everyone. And then, while everyone finished eating, our friends Nafeesa, Nicole, and Pablo dragged all of our dirty laundry out in front of our guests with their speeches.

that feeling when your bridesmaid uses a quote pulled from an email you wrote 9 years ago…

My brother Shade, and his two best friends (who have become our two good friends), did a live set of songs they had picked and made everyone cry.

Which was followed by a surprise duet of “I Follow You Into The Dark” by Shade and his girlfriend Natalie, which really sent us over the edge.

And then Macauley and I had our first dance to “Kissing You” from Baz Luhrmann’s “Romeo + Juliet”. I thought it was going to be super awkward dancing alone in front of a crowd of people, but as soon as the song started playing it was truly like we were the only people there. ROMANCE.

I had a dance with my dad, Macauley had a dance with his mom…

And then the dance floor officially opened for everyone (but mostly for Erik).

Hilariously, Erik is now a kind of legend to my entire family in Guatemala, because he danced so much with my great aunt who was visiting. She calls him “the beautiful man in blue”.

for the reception i changed into this all sequined dress i pulled from emily’s garage!

DJ Chuck Supreme, a local of Pasadena, kept the dance floor full all night and played something for everyone.

My favorite part of the reception was the vintage, black and white, real film strip photo booth, which we rented from Photomatica. We got so many good photos of our guests from it, and it made for fun party favors for the guests. The booth attendants were phenomenal, and the photo strips were unlimited.

We ended the night with a cake cutting of a cake that almost didn’t make it to the wedding.

Why? Because we all forgot to pick it up. About 20 minutes before the ceremony started someone was like “…where’s the cake?” It was 2:55, the bakery closed at 3. But between a phone call to the bakery and a hero guest who ran off to pick it up, we still had a cake for cutting.

By midnight it was time to wind things down. At the venue at least. Most of our friends headed back to our airbnb to keep the partying going. I promptly fell asleep on the sunporch couch.

Was I exhausted by the end of this night? Yes. But also overflowing with joy, gratitude, and SO MUCH FREAKING LOVE. Somehow, amidst a pandemic, our friends, family, and some amazing vendors came together to give us a wedding that was totally US. And now, almost 8 months into being married, I wouldn’t do a single thing differently.

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11 months ago

This looks absolutely beautiful, huge congratulations and wishing you both a long lifetime of happiness together

🥰 Rusty
11 months ago

Ooooh mmmmyyyyyy!!!
I have SOOO been hoping you’d share your big day with us!!
I’ve been so happy, teary, weepy as I read through once and then went back to stare at the gorg-e-ous photos again and again.
The love-energy is obvious in the photos!
The looks between you two and the way Macauley looks at you = the real deal.
A truly lovely, intimate original everything that a wedding should be…the glasses, the retro vibe, fyrniture, the whole sha-bang! Truly uplifting.
I’m immensely happy for you both.
Mmwaahh!!! Rusty 🥰 xx

11 months ago
Reply to  🥰 Rusty

Did the exact same thing – but I played Casadh an tSúgáin while I re-read and bawled…it’s not my wedding, not even my friends wedding but I bawled! Love is just bursting through in each image – love of family, love of friends and love between a couple starting their married life together.

For those who want a soundtrack:

11 months ago

Congrats! This is all just beautiful, and the vintage glassware is AMAZING!!! Totally worth the effort!

11 months ago

This was such a fun Saturday morning treat! I wish I could have been there in person bc it sound so fun! (But that would also be weird bc I don’t actually know you, lol!!) thank you so much for sharing this wedding with us. It seems perfectly customized to you and Mac! My fav photo was your first look with your dad.
I also looooove the back story about the dress! It was a great fit for you!

11 months ago
Reply to  Sarah

This was a treat! I even got teary-eyed…but maybe because I got married earlier this year…or possibly because I am a softie. I lvoed reading this!

11 months ago

What a perfect wedding. And the buttons on the back made a beautiful dress unforgettable.

11 months ago

Thanks for sharing our beautiful day!! Everything was stunning and perfect!

11 months ago

Nothing not to love here. Congrats. You looked fabulous, as was the setting.

11 months ago

This is SO BEAUTIFUL! Sara’s dress! Her mom’s dress! The mismatched chairs! The lady with a can of beer during the ceremony! (Maybe soda but I wanna imagine it was beer!) The cello player! I loved reading this…congratulations and thank you for sharing, Sara!

11 months ago
Reply to  Angela

OMG YES, this is the best MOB dress I’ve ever seen. love it so much!!

11 months ago

How beautiful! This is such a joy-infused post. All the congratulations!!

Annie K.
11 months ago

Oh my goodness. Such a beautiful wedding and you are the MOST beautiful. Thank you for sharing with we the people!

I LOVE that song from R&J. That whole soundtrack was like an epiphany for me as a preteen and have revisited it just recently and man it holds up.

Best wishes for you two for a rich life full of beautiful moments with family and friends. May you find and choose each other again and again.

11 months ago

Absolute perfection! So much love and beauty in the desert that day, and I loved reading about every detail. Also, your mom’s dress! All the parents were so cute. Congrats Sara and Mac!

11 months ago
Reply to  Heather

I want to where mom’s dress was from!!! It’s just fabulous! Please help with a link.

11 months ago
Reply to  Kara

It was from Anthropologie by Farm Rio, the Abstract Maxi Dress:

11 months ago

This is all just beautiful. Love it all. My favourite image is the one of you guys twirling at the rehearsal. And how beautiful to see the love surrounding you too. Magic. Huge congratulations and warmest wishes for a happy life together.

🥰 Rusty
11 months ago
Reply to  Ellie

I love the twirly one too!

11 months ago

Congratulations!! What a beautiful day, and how fun to learn your first dance was to the same song as my husband and I danced to on our wedding day 24 years ago! Wishing the two of you a lifetime of love and happiness!

11 months ago

I think this might be the most beautiful wedding I have ever seen. The people, the setting, the flowers, the outifts, the music, the vibe, YOU…all of it, just so lovely. Thank you for sharing it with us.

11 months ago

Wow, Sara!! Been slowly savoring this all morning in between family life. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful happy love filled day with us, every detail was perfect…so stylish! It was also awesome to recognize so many people from EHD and your family posts from over the years 🙂 Wishing you two every happiness!

11 months ago

Pizza rehearsal dinner? Tacos and quesadillas? DREAM WEDDING FOR SURE. This was gorgeous and I think I may refuse all wedding invites in the future that are not serving tacos. Mazel!!!

Karyn Meadows
11 months ago

Sara and MacCauley, congratulations!! Your wedding looks so beautiful, private, and heartfelt. You looked absolutely beautiful and Mac looked so stylish in his outfit! Sending thousands of wishes for a very happy and blessed marriage that will last until end of days.

11 months ago

Absolutely wonderful! thank you for sharing your amazing day with us.

11 months ago

So good. Congratulations. Lots of love and happiness to you both.

11 months ago

Beautiful! Thanks for the sharing, do you feel better about sharing personal stuff now? May you both live long and prosper together :). xxoo

11 months ago

Delightful! Congratulations Sara and Mac! What a beautiful wedding celebration. Wishing you many years of love and happiness.

11 months ago

JUST beautiful! Thanks for sharing your special day 🙂

Karen S
11 months ago

Sara, you outdid yourself on so many levels with your story-telling abilities about your one-of-a kind wedding. I confess to tearing up with each new description of how the event unfolded. You could say I was THERE with you!! May you and Mac be blessed all your days with the happiness and love that your wedding day foretells! Thank you for sharing this happiness with all of us here. You made my day!

11 months ago

Congratulations! And thanks for sharing! It sounds and looks like you had a wonderful time and felt all the feelings one should experience on this most special of days. What a hopeful and uplifting post at the end of a very tough week for this country.

11 months ago

Such a joy filled post! You look beautiful and so happy with your new husband and your wedding looks amazing! Congratulations and thank you so much for sharing!

11 months ago

This post makes me so, so happy. Congratulations!

11 months ago

This was really lovely – everything looks so beautiful. You can tell by the photos and like Sara said, “the vibe was immaculate” and it SHOWS! My boyfriend and I have been to so many weddings in our years together and every time we come away like …”eh, maybe not?” but this makes me think “maybe so!” xo

11 months ago

Thank You for sharing this with us all, it warmed my heart. So much love in all your photos. Congratulations!

11 months ago

Ahhhhhhhhhhh my heart! THANK you for sharing with us. Loved the aesthetic and heart wrenching mom photos (loved your mom’s dress!) and your 70s dress and hair and eyes look beautiful! So crazy to think of your childhood room makeover post to your home Reno and then wedding post. Wow. Where did the time go?

11 months ago

Definitely need a link to your mom’s dress!

11 months ago
Reply to  Andrea

It was from Anthropologie by Farm Rio, the Abstract Maxi Dress:

11 months ago

I don’t know either of you, but I have a really good feeling you have the right stuff to make your marriage last. Congrats, kudos, enjoy and keep on celebrating. Loved reading this!

11 months ago

Everything is stunning! Backyard, collaborative weddings are my favorite! Sara, your dress, hair, and makeup are beautiful. And Macaulay’s suit is so nice. Every detail is amazing. I want to have a party just to get rentals from Found Rentals and collect vintage glassware. Thank you so much for sharing this window into such an intimate day.

11 months ago

Well, this is just the most delightful wedding & post! I love every single one of your choices and think it looks amazing. What I love most about it is the feeling that every bit of it seems to be casual, beautiful, uniquely Sara & Macauley. Congratulations!!!

Donna T.
11 months ago

Thank you for sharing these wonderful moments with us. It looks like the PERFECT day (cake emergency and all). I’m very happy for you two. (from, a stranger who follows Emily and you through the internets)

11 months ago

Wow, this beautiful post really brightened my Saturday (and many others’!), on day two of isolating from my own covid-afflicted husband in a hotel, on the eve of my birthday (to be postponed), and at the end of a heartbreaking and mind-numbing week. I was flooded with memories of the vistas of Yucca Valley and all the love at all the weddings I’ve been to. Thank you Sarah for this ray of desert sunshine!

This looks like the most amazing wedding ever! Congratulations! Also, your wedding dress is STUNNING!

11 months ago

Wow, inspirasi

11 months ago

WOUAW!!! dream…

11 months ago

Thank you for sharing such a wonderful day and beautiful experience with all of us. Congratulations forever!

11 months ago

This actually looks like a wedding I’d like to attend! Looks like a blast. And your dress is gorgeous. Perfect for you. Long life, health and love!

11 months ago

What a epically beautiful, memorable, joyful wedding! All my best wishes to you and Macauley, Sarah!

11 months ago

So beautiful and warm and fun! Question: It looks like you might have two different engagement rings! Is there a story there?

11 months ago

Thank you so much for sharing EHD, your blog brings every aspect of life and it’s so refreshing! Sara, yours and Macaulay’s wedding story was absolutely beautiful! I could feel the love through your words and pictures. Blessings to you Queen and your King Macauley always!💕

11 months ago

Congrats you two!

Trish Aquino
11 months ago

What a beautiful wedding! I could feel the love in these pictures! Congratulations! Thank you for sharing! I wish you both a long, healthy, happy life together!

11 months ago

I love every single thing about this – the vintage glassware, your dress, your mom’s dress, the menu, the wedding ring, your very cool friends, the vibes! Congratulations and thanks for sharing.

emily jane
11 months ago

thank you for a much needed reminder
Love and Beauty and Hope
are all still possible on such a grand scale
an awed and enthusiastic congratulations
to you both : )

11 months ago

Fabulous photos! I love all the different colors in the flower arrangements. Sounds like it was an absolutely magical wedding.

11 months ago

A huge congratulations to you both. What a lovely and personal wedding. I would have loved being a guest there. May your future consist of “choices from the top shelf” (as they say in Denmark)- Margrethe

11 months ago

Thank you for sharing your beautiful and very personal day with us! Your dress was so perfect!! Congrats and remember to make each other laugh, always 🙂

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