This Lush Micro Wedding Took Place in the Bride's Parents' Backyard—in the Center of the Bocce Ball Court
After working a 30-hour ICU shift as a medical resident, Eric Murakami rearranged all the walls of his and Melissa Duncanson's Washington, D.C., home with beautifully framed photos of their adventures together. "His concept was to mimic the traditional family staircase with walls adorned with family photos, but for our story," explains Melissa. When she came home from her shift—she works in labor and delivery as a medical resident, herself—Eric he got down on one knee and popped the question with Lady Gaga's "Always Remember Us This Way" playing in the background. "We spent the rest of the evening enjoying a fancy dinner and then FaceTiming our parents and siblings to share the news!" Melissa shares.
The couple originally planned to get married on September 12, 2020, at an outdoor venue in Woodside, California. "When the pandemic hit the United States in March, we were both working within hospitals and taking care of COVID patients daily," says Melissa. "We quickly realized our plan for a 150-person wedding in September was unrealistic." By July, they were steadfast that a small ceremony with immediate family only ("A dream of ours all along!" says Melissa) was the best route to take. Their new plan, however, was not without its stressful moments. "Even as little as 10 days before our anticipated new wedding date of August 8, 2020, D.C. started restricting travel. We were concerned once again that our plans would not be feasible," shares Melissa. "For us, it all came down to flexibility and still holding true to our principles—as physicians, we felt very strongly that first and foremost we needed to be safe about having a ceremony and would only go forward with a wedding if we felt it was appropriate given the current pandemic climate."
For the couple, that meant being tested several times from their last patient exposures and ensuring they were out of the hospital for more than seven days before the wedding. "Unfortunately, it also meant we didn't feel safe including our grandparents because of their ages, and at the last minute did not include a best man in hopes of reducing everyone's cumulative risk," says the bride. Given the pandemic, the pair were just hopeful for any time and space to be with their nearest and dearest to celebrate their marriage. "We had always planned on our wedding being very family focused, so it was easy to pivot to an intimate wedding like this," says the bride of their backyard nuptials, which were held her parents' California home. "We actually used their bocce court as our aisle (and later our dance floor), and it was amazing!" says Melissa. "The comfortable, relaxed nature of a backyard wedding perfectly matched our priorities."
Their micro wedding, they say, had more than one silver lining. "Having an intimate backyard wedding under my favorite childhood climbing tree was one of the many unexpected gifts that our COVID-style wedding gave us," says Melissa, "and we will be forever grateful for that."
In lieu of their planned guest book of postcards, the couple mailed them out—return postage and all—to their original guest list, and asked that everyone send in their best wishes for the day. "The collection of cards was given to [us] at our rehearsal dinner and was a great way to include the guests who were not able to be part of the wedding in person," says Melissa.
As an OB-GYN resident, Melissa's days off are few and far between. "When I started my wedding dress hunt, I quickly realized that spending multiple weekends looking for gowns was just not how I wanted to spend my time off," she says. "I went with my mom and sister to Modern Trousseau in Georgetown, which is all about custom dresses. It was the perfect dress experience for me because we could sort of create the dress I had in mind." The V-neck, lace-accented, A-line number was beautiful from top to bottom—and exactly what the bride wanted.
A Hand-Tied Bouquet
Melissa's lush, garden-style bouquet of coral honeycomb dahlias, Mount Everest hydrangeas, butterfly ranunculus, hellebore, gravellia, and ferns from Florabella was hand-tied with lace to complement her gown.
The bride's nude, ankle-tied sandals from Alexandre Birman were similar to those her mother and sister donned for the big day.
Eric wore a blue suit by Boggi Milano and accessorized with brown shoes and a gray tie. Hidden from sight? A pair of novelty socks with the Melissa and Eric's faces on the cartoon bodies of a bride and groom.
The couple's flower girl was outfitted in a blush dress and flower crown for the occasion, while the ring bearer wore a gray-and-white getup which included suspenders, a bow tie, and a smart newsboy cap.
A Warm Welcome
Melissa and Eric's 15 guests were greeted by signage featuring an engagement photo of the couple.
Ferns lined the pathway to the altar, which was placed on the family's bocce court with a custom-stained plywood platform covered in crushed oyster shells. Each guest found a wedding program that was personalized with a note from Melissa and Eric—and marked with custom laser-cut eucalyptus leaves fashioned from wood—on their chair.
Band members—a cellist, guitarist, bassist, and keyboardist—wore masks throughout the ceremony.
Arm in Arm
Melissa and her father processed down the aisle to a live version of "Always Remember Us This Way" by Lady Gaga, the same song that played during Eric's proposal.
A Family Affair
The non-religious ceremony, officiated by the bride's beloved uncle, included the reading of a love letter written by Melissa's grandfather to her grandmother. "[My mother] first read it aloud as written in Italian, and then again read it translated to English," says Melissa. "It was beautiful to be able to include them both in our special day." Eric's mother also spoke during the ceremony, explaining the significance of the 1,000 paper cranes that the family had folded and distributed throughout the garden; in Japanese culture, they represent good luck and a long life together. Finally, the couple's brothers and sisters all stood up together to share "sibling disclosures," warning Eric and Melissa about each other's quirks before they said "I do." "It was simultaneously hilarious and touching, and perfectly encapsulated our relationship with each of them," says the bride.
Sealed with a Kiss
The pair made it official with a kiss after they were pronounced husband and wife.
A Taste of Spain
A mix of the couple's favorite appetizers was served during the cocktail hour, including the bride's uncle's famous jamon, a Spanish cured meat. "We also had a small appetizer of spam and fried rice, as a nod to Eric's Japanese heritage and favorite snack," says Melissa.
The bride's younger brother spent two months designing and painting an acrylic heart sculpture for the couple's future backyard. Inspired by the "Hearts of San Francisco" project, the piece was placed beside the aisle and instantly brought Melissa to tears. "It was a total surprise and favorite moment of our day," she says. "We can't wait to move back to California next year and enjoy it in our new backyard!"
Guests sank into comfortable lounge furniture during the cocktail hour.
Fabulous Farm Table
For the reception, a single farm table was decorated with ivory linen runners topped with candles and petite arrangements of dahlias, Queen Anne's lace, hydrangeas, ranunculus, hellebore, herbs, and ferns.
Diminutive arrangements in pretty shades of apricot, peach, and white were offset with ferns and other greenery.
Laser-Cut Place Cards
Guests found their seats via delicate bouquets of herbs and eucalyptus, complete with laser-cut leaves emblazoned with their names. For dinner, the self-proclaimed foodies and their loved ones dined on all of their favorite dishes, from gazpacho (made from tomatoes grown at her uncle's home) to Casoncelli, a pasta dish the bride's mother made for the event.
The bride and groom's seats were marked with greenery garlands accented with peachy blooms.
The couple took their first dance to the song "Fire and Rain" by James Taylor, a favorite in their household. "James Taylor is what we put on our record player when we've had a long, stressful day," shares Melissa. "Eric loves to cook to him, and he seems to always make us feel a little better about the state of the world. We felt like we wanted that feeling captured with our first dance—total safety and optimistic in each others arms."
A tower composed of five tiers of different cheeses was offered for dessert, accompanied by baguette, grapes, and the bride's family's almonds.
Photography, Carlie Statsky
Event Planning and Design, Florabella
Videography, Kyle Mikami
Catering, St. Clair's Catering
Music, Black Rabbit Projects
Rentals, Bright Event Rentals; Hensley Event Resources; La Tavola; Theoni Collection
Invitation Design, Gifts for the Good Life
Laser-Cut Place Cards, Laser Cutting Shop
Printing, Fong Brothers Printing
Hair, Angela Womack
Officiant, Bruce Beretta
Bride's Gown, Modern Trousseau
Shoes, Alexandre Birman
Bridesmaids' Dresses, Amsale
Groom's Attire, Boggi Milano
Engagement Ring and Wedding Bands, RP Diamond and Gold Imports
Soft Serve, Mister Softee
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