It's Personal

Our Perfectly Imperfect Backyard Wedding

July 16, 2018

6 secrets behind our real & joyful marriage
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I'm Helena!

A sunny gal from Cali living in the south of France. I adore slow living, magic, and celebrating the simple joys of daily life. I’m a self-proclaimed Disney nerd (as is my husband!), obsessed with cats and cocoa, and you can often find me swimming with the fishies in the salty sea. Come along and enjoy the magic, the simple joys of life with me...



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We never did a food tasting, never tried a bite of cake, never met with a florist, and never did a dress fitting. I never went bridesmaid dress shopping and we never planned a grand exit or first dance.

Our wedding wasn’t about that stuff. It was focused on our commitment to one another, focused on the vows and celebrating those joyful moments with our close family and friends – 25 of them to be exact.

It was simple, intimate, personal and deeply heartfelt. It was messy and nothing went quite as we had planned. And it was ours. 

Our Story in the Archives

On June 1, 2018, my beloved and I promised and vowed to spend the rest of our lives together.

I decided to create a blog series dedicated to this important chapter of our lives, documenting the ceremony and vows, the afterparty and our intentions with creating our wedding the way we did.

What I Wore On My Wedding Day

Our Ceremony

I’d first like to say, that aside from our wedding being incredibly warm, intimate, private, super laid-back, it was also a total mess.

Here are a few of the crazy things that went down:

We had “mystery dumplings”: dumplings appeared in the dressing room and no one knew where they came from. Our guests were balancing Indian curry, samosas, Domino’s pizza, and mac & cheese balls from Trader Joes…without plates. We didn’t know how to cut the cake. Everyone was sitting around in a circle on the grass, with hardly enough chairs to go around (of course! we forgot about chairs!) We were 20 minutes late to our own wedding. The groom was directing people to follow him inside for a slice of cake…because, you know, the mosquitos that night. Several people didn’t want to come outside to enjoy the wedding reception…because again THE MOSQUITOS that night. No one wanted or even attempted to catch the stuffed animal kitties we threw during our “bridal toss” (sad). Alex’s 82-year-old grandfather smacked himself in the face to kill a pestering mosquito in the middle of Part 5 of his wedding toast. We expected to dance for an hour, but ended the dance party after 15 minutes when no one could bear to be outside any longer.

It was a messy, wonderful, heart-felt and emotional wedding that we will forever remember. 

Wedding Games in the Living Room

We crowded around the cozy living room to play the Newlywed game and tossed stuffed cats on the back deck. Twinkle lanterns and white christmas lights strung across the fence and 8 pizza boxes from Dominos kept our guests happy. We were lucky that Alex’s parents gifted us Indian food, plenty of champagne, and delicious appetizers from Trader Joes (tapas cheese sampler and mac and cheese balls anyone?) to keep us all joyful. They even gifted us a beautiful 2 layer white cake from a local bakery with the words “Helena + Alex 4eva” frosted in a giant heart.

Pizza on Our Wedding Day

It was random and imperfect and hilarious, and we still roll around giggling about this cake almost every night. My best friend/maid of honor brought a boom box and we played my Spotify Playlist complete with hits from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. Added a touch of Beyonce and that was that! But we only ended up dancing for 15 minutes, due to the inadequate lighting, humidity and bugs. We all danced the Conga around the backyard, and it was my favorite moment of our wedding aside from our vows.

Warm and Intimate

We are beyond glad we did an intimate wedding. There was hardly stress, only nervous butterflies and giant smiles. Not only are Alex and I social introverts (and crowds are just not our thing), but we were able to spend quality time and connect one-on-one with each guest. We were able to express ourselves during our vows – in ways that we probably wouldn’t be able to open up if it was a huge wedding with hundreds of eyeballs staring at us. We felt exposed, emotional and completely vulnerable – treasures that we wouldn’t want to share with everyone.

I may be biased, okay I’m definitely biased, but I truly think our wedding was the cutest, most memorable wedding there ever was.

But that doesn’t mean having a small wedding didn’t come with problems.

The Problem With A Small Wedding

Friends were disappointed they weren’t invited, sadness was expressed and some relationships were even damaged because some friends were not invited and we opted to keep our engagement between us two for so long. But what I’ve witnessed and realized over this chapter is that the friends that support you, despite not having an invitation or personal phone call, are the friends that love you and your relationship with your partner unconditionally. And it’s okay if some feelings are hurt – this is your wedding, we’re talking about.

What Mattered to Us

What mattered for our wedding was how we thought about it. Not what our parents wanted or people we had to invite. We invited and made every single decision on our own, including the seashell beach-themed “This Way for ‘I DOs!’ sign we found at HomeGoods that had absolutely nothing to do with our wedding theme. 

But that was the beauty of our wedding: it was so unabashedly, authentically ours and ours alone. 

Small Budget Backyard Wedding

With a small wedding and a small budget, we had to do a lot of the work and planning ourselves, aside from our incredible friend/my maid-of-honor Lexi who made the day happen. Alex and I look back on our wedding day and can’t remember a lot of the details of the backyard reception because we were so busy rushing around, trying to make sure everyone was happy and fed and satisfied. We planned and organized the transitions: from food, to toasts, to cake, to games, the first dance and the Conga line, before we realized the time had flown by and it was time to bid our adieus.

It went by so fast.

But it was an evening of intense love, devotion and committing our souls to one another for eternity. And we wouldn’t have done it any other way.

Our wedding was not perfect, but gosh, was there so much love there.

And now…you can experience our day through these photographs! Enjoy!

Our Wedding Video

From the getting ready with my best friend, listening to jazz music and hanging out with family… (open door policy – ALWAYS!)


….a few bridal portraits before Alex and I have our first look:

After 30 minutes of trying to find each other, we finally connect:

and then we kiss 🙂

Alex had seen me in my dress a billion times as I loved to play in it at home. Needless to say, he was not surprised or emotional when he saw me. I was, however, surprised that he remembered to bring my grandmother’s pocket watch that I asked him to wear!


A bit of some portraits of the two of us…

As we drive back to the house, I spy my mother peeking to see what I look like.

So, I make a mad dash to see her and take a few moments with her, while Alex reads the letter I wrote him.

And then the ceremony begins:

We all wept at the vows…

and laughed in between…

Our loved ones threw dried lavender at us and Simon flew his drone around…

We, of course, had to get some traditional family portraits:

And everyone gathered around us on the grass, lighting sparklers, as we danced to Glenn Miller’s When You Wish Upon A Star (an ode to our love for 1940s music and Disney).

It was a moment of sharing our love with one another

and a celebratory time for a new chapter and a new beginning to forever.

Here’s to growing old with you, my darling. 

“I vow to cherish you for a lifetime, for one lifetime could never be enough. I vow to fiercely love you, to laugh with you, cry with you and fight for you. I vow to grow with you in mind and spirit, and most importantly – I vow to forever choose you. I vow to choose you over and over again through the ups and downs that this journey of life and marriage will take us on. Love is not a feeling nor a verb. It is a choice. And I promise to continue to choose you, our happiness, and our partnership above all else.”

Photo Credit: Erin Kinney

Drone Footage: Simon Herzog

To read about our story from the very beginning, view the marriage archives. 

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I'm Helena, your new kindred spirit.

Sunny free-spirit, writer and creator in love with documenting the simple joys of life. I am passionate about noticing light and truth around me and reflecting it back to others.

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