Sarah + Mali

Wedding Colors: orange, gray

Wedding Location: Private Residence Airbnb, Pennsylvania

Wedding Season: summer

Sarah and Mali first met in Harlem in 2015. Just six weeks later, as they were lying in the grass outside of City Hall, they suddenly started to hear cheers erupt nearby. People around them were celebrating the Supreme Court’s decision on marriage equality. After dating for four years, while on a road trip from Jersey City to Seattle in Sarah’s best friend’s grandma’s car, Mali got down on one knee halfway through the Hoh Rain Forest on a hike and proposed. The rest is history.

Both Sarah and Mali love nature and hoped for a celebration in the Vermont mountains with 100+ people. But, COVID hit and they had to change course. Instead, they rented a big Airbnb in Pennsylvania—a property reminiscent of an English estate that reminded Sarah of where her family is from—a brought the guest list down to just 21. The venue had so much character they decided little decor was needed and what they did want to add to the space, they DIYed. Friends handled the flowers and appetizers while family members catered the dinner. They added sentimental and personal touches into the day and space to make it their own.

Canceling a Vermont wedding for 100 to create an Airbnb celebration for 21 turned out to be everything Sarah and Mali could have wanted. It turned out to be an amazing weekend-long celebration everyone could enjoy safely!

Q: Tell us about your wedding! What was the inspiration behind your day?

A: Mali and I both love being in nature and we wanted to have a wedding that was green and full of life. Originally we had planned to be in the mountains of Vermont, but due to COVID we had to change plans and ended up in Pennsylvania. We wanted it to be casual, fun and light.

Let’s talk wedding decor. How did you decorate your space for the ceremony and the reception? Was any part of the decor DIY?

We did it all DIY (except for our phenomenal photographer). Everyone chipped in. Friends handled the flowers and the appetizers, my sister and brother-in-law catered the meal, another friend brought and assembled the arbor. It was truly a family affair.  I would say the DIY meal was the best part—it was incredible! But it was a lot of work for my sister and brother-in-law. And, honestly, I missed having them free to just enjoy the weekend with us. I also bought three different sized round strawberry shortcakes from Whole Foods for about $85 and just assembled them myself. DIY-tiered wedding cake for under $100!

What were the florals like in your wedding? Did you use flowers in any of your design elements like the bouquets, centerpieces or ceremony backdrop? Did they play an important part in the overall style of your wedding?

My favorite DIY element that we incorporated was setting the tables. I have loved to do this since I was a child. My friend (a former florist) helped me design it. We went with pillared white candles with a mix of greens laying down the middle of the long table, flowing in and around the candles. We tucked flowers here and there into the greens. To be honest, I think it was the most beautiful table arrangement I have ever seen at a wedding!

Did you personalize the day in any way? What were some of your favorite parts of your wedding?

We ended up renting a huge Airbnb that had 11 bedrooms! It was like a fairy tale. My family is English, and it felt like we’d been transported back to the U.K. and we were getting married in a royal estate house. We did very little decorating in the end, as the house and grounds were stunning as they were. I loved how the house and patio sparkled in the evening, and how lush and verdant everything was. The ceremony was the best part for my wife and me. After it was all over we agreed that was the absolute highlight. It felt like it was just the two (three if you count my very close friend officiating) of us standing still in time while the world swirled around us. I didn’t look at a single face in the crowd. I just breathed in the moment and felt it all. It was simply incredible.

Let’s talk fashion. How did you both choose your wedding day look?

We had a lot of fun picking out our outfits, and without discussing it we ended up matching in styles! I went to Lovely Bride in Tribeca and had a wonderful experience picking out my gown. It made me feel like I had stepped out of history from an old sepia photograph. Mali went to Bindle and Keep, a queer-owned tailor shop serving the LQBTQ+ community and had a suit tailor-made to fit her body. She chose a dark heather green herringbone summer wool with a skull silk lining to honor her best friend who tragically died 5 months before our wedding.

How did you meet? Tell us about the proposal.

Mali and I met in 2015 in Harlem, New York. We were introduced by a mutual friend, who notoriously told Mali to “not bother” because Sarah’s “a breeder.” When I approached him a few days after to inquire casually about his photographer friend, he looked at me shocked and told me what he’d said when Mali in turn had asked about me. He also explained the term breeder, unknown to me at the time, as a word for a heterosexual woman. I then explained to him that he didn’t know what he was talking about. Six weeks later we were laying in the grass outside City Hall, laughing and enjoying the sunshine, when cheers erupted nearby. In the moment neither of us knew why, but later that day we saw the news. It was July 26, 2015, and the Supreme Court had just legalized gay marriage in all 50 states. Four years later we decided it would be a good idea to drive my best friend’s grandma’s car from Jersey City to Seattle, down the Pacific Coast, and back again. In three-and-a half-weeks. Half way through in Hoh Rain Forest during the middle of a hike Mali got down on one knee and said, “Fuck! Where is it!?” It only took a few moments of her hyperventilating until I ended up crouching down too. There we stayed, crying and laughing and kissing. Turns out, road tripping in a 2001 Toyota Camry was a good idea after all!

What was the most anticipated or special moment of your wedding day?

Hearing each other’s vows. Seeing each other in our wedding finery. Dancing together. Sharing our first, unbelievably delicious, meal side-by-side as wives. Eating cake together. Passing out together fully dressed. Waking up before the rest of the house the next day to drink coffee on reclining lawn chairs still in our wedding outfits.

Do you have any wedding planning or marriage advice that you’d like to share with other couples planning their day?

That the process of planning a wedding, especially around COVID, is not always easy or fun. But the silver lining is that you and your partner end up having to keep the essential goal at the forefront: all that matters is us and making the commitment. Every change we had to make and hardship we went through brought us closer together, solidifying our commitment to just make sure that the two of us get married. At the end of the day if we’d needed to we would have scrapped it all and gone to City Hall and that would have been incredible too. The only thing that matters is you and your partner and the commitment you want to make to live together in love. Guest lists, flowers, food, venues… the rest truly does not matter. As cheesy as it seems, it is completely true that your big day goes by in a flash. Try to hold on to every moment you can! Stay in the moment, treasure your partner, let everything else go! We canceled our Vermont wedding of 100 people and went for an Airbnb rental with just 21! It was a weekend affair, and it was everything we could have wanted. We each invited our immediate family and a handful of friends each. Everyone was able to be vaccinated or get tested ahead of time, so we really relaxed and spent the weekend together without masks. In my opinion, small and sweet and safe trumps big and busy and masked up any day!

Search our directory of LGBTQ+ inclusive vendors.

Photographer: Savannah Brown Photography
Apparel: Bindle & Keep
Dress Store:
Lovely Bride
PR Rep: OFD Consulting LLC