This sweet backyard affair is living proof that home truly is where the heart is.
How did you meet?
Jaclyn: It all started when Rob wrote his very first online dating message to a girl with red hair and a picture with a train — his dream girl. It was lengthy — he had clearly put some time into it — and he asked me out all in his first message. I was exhausted with online dating and thought it was weird that he didn’t want to chat first to see if a date was worth it. I’ll be honest: I didn’t have the energy to write back to that long of a message, so I ignored it. I should have known he was something special then. Luckily enough, Rob’s friend gave him some advice and told him to try again. I responded the second time, feeling a little bad for the guy that confessed that I was the first person he decided to message and he hadn’t quite figured out the unspoken rules of online dating.
Rob: I kept seeing Jaclyn’s picture on the site and after she didn’t respond to my first message, I figured she probably didn’t exist and was a catfish put up by the website; I had never been to Coventry and didn’t think that many people even lived there. Thankfully, a friend advised me that I might have come on a little too strong in my first message and encouraged me to give it another try. After all, what was there to lose?
Jaclyn: On February 6, 2014, we met at the Mews for our first date for a drink. We quickly hit it off — he was unlike anybody I had ever dated before, unlike anyone I had ever met before. Our second date was to Beavertail where Rob’s truck had an unfortunate fuel leak. He had to climb under the hood of the truck (like actually had all four limbs off the ground) and fix the leak. He was pretty embarrassed, but, little did he know at the time, he was winning me over by showing how dang handy he was! Less than a year later, we were head over heals and moving in to a little old beach shack.
How did you get engaged?
Jaclyn: Three years into our relationship, on May 1, 2017, we were eating breakfast and Rob casually asked me if I would like to go for a walk after work. He suggested East Matunuck Beach — right by that old little beach shack we used to rent — and I agreed. When I got there after work, Rob wasn’t in his truck. I walked out onto the foggy beach and found Rob in a white tux with a bouquet of flowers. I was lost for words (not a common occurrence) while he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him.
What made you decide to do a backyard wedding? Would you recommend it to other couples?
We own the Hard-Pressed Cider Company, currently located in Jamestown, and we can’t get any cider apple varieties in state. We knew that we were going to need to grow them ourselves and we dreamed of buying some land, growing an orchard and building a beautiful cidery. There was one problem: we didn’t have enough money to buy a property the size we were going to need. Shortly after our engagement, Rob’s family friend approached us to see if we might be interested in buying his farmhouse and property. He told us that he planned to work with the RI DEM to ensure that the property would need to remain one parcel and continue to be farmland prior to the sale of the property. It was our dream! A thirty-three-acre property that was affordable due to the easement placed on the land!
Right after we looked at the farm, Jaclyn’s grandmother quickly made the connection that Jaclyn’s great-great-great grandfather actually built the house and originally owned the land! We were already interested and the connection just seemed like it was really meant to be. We moved in as soon as we could and rented while we waited for everything to go through with the owner and the DEM.
Meanwhile, we were trying to find a wedding venue and vendors on a tight budget — we needed all of our money to buy the farm. We looked at a few different options, but both had our not-yet-ours farm in the back of our minds. We finally both admitted our crazy idea to each other and were relieved when we figured out we had both been thinking the same thing. The farm was going to need some SERIOUS work to get it “wedding ready,” and we weren’t even legally binded in any way to buy the house. The thought alone was, well, enthusiastic, to say the least. When we finally worked up the courage to ask the owner just after moving in, he agreed to let us have our wedding at our potential future home and business. We were ecstatic and quickly went to work. We didn’t come up for air until after the wedding.
We both agree that we saved a lot of money and all of the hard work is something we continue to enjoy daily. We do want to say that doing a backyard DIY wedding is not for the faint of heart. It was an insane amount of work and we would recommend it for anybody considering it, but suggest that you limit the amount of DIY projects in addition to getting the house and yard ready.
What were you favorite and least favorite parts of planning?
We both agree that our favorite part was how our community came together to make this happen for us. Lucky for a broke couple on a budget, we have amazing friends and family. Rob owns his own sawmill and runs another business, New England Portable Sawmilling. We were able to cut and make all of our own tables and benches along with things like the bar, a sink station for the bathroom area, a beautiful (gigantic) cheeseboard and all of the signs (painted by the ever-so-talented MOH on scrap wood). We only needed to pay for hardware. We also called in a lifetime supply of favors; with countless hours of help from our friends and family, we managed to build everything here on the farm. We borrowed a tent in need of some repairs from our friends at Pat’s Pastured and asked Rob’s cousin, who sews sails, if she would fix it up for us. We borrowed plates, napkins, silverware and mason jars from our friends at Wild Harmony Farm who uses them for dinners hosted on their farm. Jaclyn’s grandfather was on the farm almost daily transforming two of our rocky, brambly, overgrown fields into beautiful lawns. We had family and friends show up every weekend in the months leading up to the wedding to help us with everything from planning out all of the food, wrestling poison ivy, cleaning up farm junk left behind, landscaping, washing all of the borrowed dinnerware, sanding tables and much more. We could not have done it without them! We never really thought about a theme, we just did what we could on a tight budget!
Our least favorite part: the stress! We bit off a little more than we could chew with not only the building and brewing, but we also needed to transform an overgrown, tired farm that was littered with decades of farm trash into a beautiful wedding venue with a smooth enough lawn to dance on. We couldn’t have done it without our friends and family. We all worked so hard to make this place shine and I think it was really rewarding for everyone involved to sit back and look around at the transformation on the wedding day!
Jaclyn: It was the epitome of a DIY wedding. It was the hardest I have ever worked and the most stressed I have ever been, but it was also the most rewarding thing I have ever done.
Rob: I was also really excited to plan and brew all of the beers and other concoctions to offer on tap at the wedding!
How did you come across Sara for your photographer?
Jaclyn: Sara and I actually went to high school together and a mutual friend tipped me off to her amazing work! I am so grateful to have found her and don’t hesitate on recommending her! She was amazing and captured everyone perfectly!
Tell us about your vow writing process — what advice would you give to other couples who are considering writing their own?
Jaclyn: I found that they came pretty easily. I started them a couple months before the wedding but didn’t get a chance to finish. I ended up finishing them just hours before the ceremony because I kept getting pulled away every time I sat down to finish by the various people helping us get ready and at night I was just too tired to be able to think straight. It wasn’t ideal, and it was stressful, but I have always done well under pressure! I just wrote from my heart and explained everything I loved about Rob as a partner and about what I promised to continue to do to make our marriage a sustainable, realistic, loving, and supportive partnership in life. I would suggest writing them with a little more time, though!
Rob: I thought my vows came pretty easily. I would say: don’t get caught up in what you think you should be writing. Just write from your heart and write about what really excites you about your partner — even if it’s weird and a little personal — because that is what makes your relationship great!
Tell us about the taco bar.
We have a lot of family and friends with dietary restrictions and figured why not let them choose what they can eat?Then we don’t need to worry about catering to make a specific dish for them. We just provided plenty of options so that everyone could accommodate their own needs. We also have a lot of family and friends in the RI farming scene. The salad greens were from Little River Farm in Exeter, the beef was sourced from Windmist Farm in Jamestown, the pork was from Wild Harmony Farm in Exeter, and the chicken and food preparation was done by our friends at Pat’s Pastured in East Greenwich. The organization and food coordination itself, was done by our amazing sister-in-law, Deirdre Swanson. For dessert, we decided to create a S’mores Bar. We bought all of your typical ingredients – graham crackers, Hershey’s, and marshmallows, but we also bought some non-traditional ingredients like Ritz Crackers, chocolate chip cookies, Oreos, Reese’s, York Peppermint Patties, Hershey’s Gold, Hershey’s Cookies and Creme, peanut butter, Nutella and Butterscotch. Our friend, Gina, made us a small, delicious cake to cut and share as well.
Tell us about the tap wall.
Rob: I was really excited about making an epic tap wall. I am a home brewer and I’ve brewed beer for some friends’ and family’s weddings. We also own a cider business, the Hard-Pressed Cider Company, so we generally always have some hard cider for ourselves on tap. All together, there were twelve taps consisting of six different beers, two types of hard cider, a full keg of margarita (which was the first thing to kick) to compliment our taco bar, and three non-alcoholic options including an Elderflower Spritzer made from elderflowers on our property. The bar itself was whipped into shape just days before the wedding. We actually finished it on the 4th of July, I think. We had some generous family and friends here all day helping us. You know they’re pretty amazing when they chose to come over and work their butts off all day instead of going to some of the best parties of the year.
What was your first dance song?
Our first dance was to Jack Johnson’s “Better Together.” We never had “a song” and picking one was actually really difficult! We both suggested a couple others that we considered, but in the end, we kept going back to “Better Together.” It just rang true to our relationship and we are both fans of Jack Johnson.
Did we spy some line dancing?
Yes! You spotted some beginner contra dancing! It is similar to country line dancing, but to folk music instead. Rob’s brother and sister-in-law had contra dancing after their rehearsal dinner and we thought it was something a little different that got people that may not have otherwise mingled to get up and meet each other. It also seemed like it was easier for those people that feel like they don’t dance well, because nobody knew what they were doing!
Did you run into any issues while planning?
Jaclyn: Our biggest issue was time and lack of sleep. Our family and friends really made it all come together — we never would have been able to pull it off without them. Even with them, we were working up until the day of the wedding; I think my father-in-law was making our head table the morning of the wedding, but it all got done and looked beautiful. Other than my vows being finished the day of, I also forgot about our guest book and seating arrangement. Luckily, I think the night before, my MOH happened to ask me about my guest book and when my face dropped, she had remembered that I had pinned a giant Jenga set on Pinterest that people signed and she made it happen for the wedding day. I also had the seating chart done, but it was scratched out on a first name basis, so I had to lock my MOH and I in my bedroom to get it done the morning of the wedding. I was writing down tables and full names and she was writing them out nice and pretty for me — something I had meant to do one night that week and it just kept getting pushed off to do other things. Then, I hadn’t even really thought much about how to actually display the seating chart and somebody came up with a great idea of using an old narrow panel door to string them up on! I am a very Type A person, but I just had to let go of some things and trust that everybody was making things beautiful outside while I hid inside to get those last things done before hair and makeup!
Rob: I can brew beer and cut logs into lumber, but it really came down to Jaclyn’s organization which pulled together everyone’s skills and hard work into the incredible day the wedding turned out to be. Without her thorough planning, the day would not have gone as smoothly as it did. We also were incredibly lucky in that it did not rain, as our contingency plan for rain was essentially nonexistent.
Jaclyn: We also found that there seemed to be a bit of a generational expectation to what a wedding “needed” to incorporate, and some of our ideas were a little too extraordinary than what some family members were envisioning. There was also the money issue. Rob and I really wanted to have our wedding on a budget in order to focus on having our funds go towards the purchase of the property. We really wanted to have a wedding that really fit us as a couple and we also knew that many of the things we wanted to build we could put to use again in our someday cidery here on the farm. When offered some financial assistance with the wedding from family members, we tried to explain that we didn’t feel that spending a lot on one day made much sense in comparison to spending it on our dream property for the rest of our lives. It created a little tension at the time, but they respected our wishes and in working together we all became a little closer. Rob and I were really happy with how everything turned out and I think they were in the end, too.
If you had to narrow it down, what would you say were each of your favorite moments from that day?
Rob: Reading my vows to Jaclyn was my favorite moment. That’s the whole point of it!
Jaclyn: I really enjoyed the ceremony and vows, as well. Walking down the aisle to Rob, I got unexpectedly emotional and I got pretty emotional again when reading my vows to him. It was really special to share with our family and friends all of the reasons we were choosing to spend the rest of our lives together and to also recognize the things that we need to continue to work on throughout our marriage. It was funny how similar the format and the content of our vows turned out since we hadn’t compared notes previously.
Do you have any advice for recently engaged couples?
Jaclyn: 1. Make the wedding yours. My favorite weddings are always the ones where, when you arrive, you can immediately see that they have added lots of little personal touches — a little glimpse into their lives together. 2. With that said, don’t try to do it ALL yourself like we did and try not to get hung up on the small details. 3. Plan for everything to take twice as long. If you’re lucky, you’ll be way ahead of schedule. We highly underestimated the amount of help we were going to need to get everything done.
Rob: Don’t underestimate how much work a DIY wedding entails. We knew that many of the things we made we would be able to continue to use, which is what made it worthwhile for us. It is just good to remember that its really about the person you are marrying and the wedding is just one day.
Photography: Sara Drew Photography // Ceremony & Reception: The future home of Swanson Cidery in West Greenwich (a.k.a. the couple’s home!) // Officiant: Ben Deede, childhood friend of the groom // Day of wedding coordinator: Rachael Slattery , friend of the couple // Hair and makeup: Stephanie Tsigaridas, owner of Town & Country Hair Salon // Bride’s dress: Rebecca Ingram, the Bridal Shoppe // Groom’s suit: Vest: Joseph Abboud, Men’s Wearhouse; Bowtie: HolmesTies ; Kenneth Cole shirt, Haggar pants and Florsheim shoes: JCPenney // Taco bar: Salad greens: Little River Farm; beef: Windmist Farm; pork: Wild Harmony Farm; chicken and food preparation: Pat’s Pastured // Flowers: Sourced and grown by the couple from seed on their own farm with some additions from friends and family’s gardens; arranged by Aimee Lowe, owner of Ocean State Florals // Ceremony music: Ben Coerper, friend of the couple played instrumentals on guitar // Reception music: The Atwater-Donnelly Band // Signage: Kerri Marshall, the Maid of Honor // Tent: Borrowed from Pat’s Pastured // Rentals: Mumford and Sons portable toilets // Favors: The couple grew potted zinnias for all of the guests from seed x