A Micro Wedding Overlooking Rhode Island's Narragansett Bay
Musician and activist Jessi Olsen didn't plan on coordinating her own wedding to novelist Nick Mancusi. The couple originally envisioned a momentous affair attended by 200 guests, complete with a long weekend of celebrating that would include plenty of live music, family-style catered meals, and dancing. "We were still in the early stages of getting the pieces in place when COVID hit," says Jessi. "We put everything on pause when we went into strict lockdown in New York City." As the weeks turned into months, it became clear that it wouldn't be responsible or safe for the couple to ask all their loved ones to congregate in September. However, they had already signed a contract for the venue Dragonline Studios—the home of artist Duncan Laurie—in Jamestown, Rhode Island. "We reached out to Duncan, and he proposed we transfer our dates for the big event to next year and offered us a discounted long weekend this year to use for a small wedding," says Jessi. "So, we decided to do a fully DIY wedding, with just our nuclear families as guests."
The couple closely adhered to the state's COVID-19 regulation of no social gatherings with more than 15 attendees. "We did our rescheduled wedding invitations digitally, and included a photo taken by our best friend in the middle of an empty field next to a sign advising social distancing," says Jessi. The mother of the bride signed on to do the floral arranging with help from local relatives, and Jessi's father—a professional musician—was brought onboard to play the guitar for the ceremony. The bride's parents also organized sound equipment, plants, chairs, and a beautiful arch from their own garden for the big day.
Over 100 friends and family members Zoomed in from all over the country to witness the couple's personalized vow exchange. "Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, bandmates, writing-circle friends, and more," says Jessi. "The Zoom made me weep with joy. It was so nice to have so many people join us in that way." The hands-on pair originally planned to handle all of the food themselves until Jessi's mom came across a lovely local eatery that offered outdoor dining. After a Champagne toast, the wedding party moved on to the restaurant, where they enjoyed dinner al fresco. "We all returned to Dragonline after dinner for a nightcap in the beautiful grand room," says Jessi, whose father pulled out a guitar and lead an hours-long singalong. After, a late-night dance party ensued. "It was incredibly fun, even with just the skeleton crew," says the bride.
The intimate wedding was a huge success, and the celebrating continued with a handful of friends (who had all received negative COVID-19 tests) camping in Dragonline's open field for the weekend after the couple's parents returned home. "We kept the number of people gathered below 15 for the whole weekend," Jessi assures. The pair hopes that circumstances will allow for a larger party and vow renewal over Labor Day weekend in 2021, but are completely dazzled by the celebration they already had. "A smaller wedding does not mean lesser," says Jessi. "If you've made the decision to have a smaller wedding, it won't feel any less special. Plus, you'll get the confidence of knowing that you haven't asked any loved ones to risk their health."
On the Bay
Dragonline Studios, composed of a three-story studio building situated on a high promontory, has breathtaking views of the Narragansett Bay. "The main house and outbuildings on a rocky outcropping in the bay were breathtakingly beautiful, and as soon as we saw it, we knew that we wanted to get married there," says Jessi.
The bride's flowing, A-line wedding dress—from Estee Bridal, in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, which has since closed—featured a plunging neckline that accentuated her waist. "The original dress came with beading and crystal details that my mother removed," says Jessi. "I loved the simplicity, without the sparkle."
Her mother also fashioned her bouquet (a family tradition), including peach-and-red ball dahlias, white roses, basil, ivy buds from vines growing on her parent's home, and goldenrod foraged from the roadside. A white satin ribbon held everything together.
Smartly Turned Out
Nick wore a gray suit from Todd Snyder; he biked from Brooklyn to midtown Manhattan to be fitted for the custom garment. Instead of a shirt and tie, he wore an Italian cotton polo (also from Todd Snyder) that Jessi had bought him for his birthday in April. His boutonnière was composed of a locally grown ball dahlia, goldenrod, and an herb called Poor Man's Pepper.
Jessi walked down the "aisle" ("It was really the hill towards the shore," she says) by her full nuclear family. Her father and mother escorted her out of the house, where she shortly met her sister, who walked with them the rest of the way.
What a View
The altar overlooked the Narragansett Bay and was decorated with arrangements of white hydrangeas and sunflower plants. The arch was repurposed from the bride's parents' garden and draped in white fabric for a touch of romance. Jessi wore her mother's veil, composed of a vintage crown of fabric roses and pearls, for the service.
A Personal Touch
Nick and Jessi wrote their own vows; the service was written and officiated by their best friend, Melody. "It was so perfect having someone who knows us both so well take the lead," says Jessi. "A few weeks before we got married, the three of us got together and she had us answer some questions about our relationship. Melody took our answers from that night and weaved them beautifully into our ceremony." Readings included a section from Plato's Symposium and a section of a poem called On Love by Kahlil Gibran. "We are both quite sentimental and having this moment to loudly proclaim our adoration and dedication in our own words was very special," says the bride.
A Champagne toast immediately followed the ceremony and included the couple's Zoom guests.
We Are Family
"Our vision was to celebrate in intimate abundance," says the bride. "We knew we wanted everyone to feel safe and have a moment to not think about the chaos of the world around us, and instead be surrounded by natural beauty and lots of love (and wine)."
Jessi and Nick posed for a few photographs—with the bay as their backdrop—before heading out for a post-wedding dinner.
Off to Dinner
The bride—who changed into a different white dress for dinner and added a leather jacket—held hands with her new husband and mother as they made their way into the restaurant, fully masked.
The Great Outdoors
Jessi's mom found a beautiful outdoor restaurant in downtown Jamestown called Simpatico, which had solid safety protocols in place. It served as a lovely destination for the couple's small reception.
Hand in Hand
The bride wore her mother's veil all throughout dinner.
Guests were able to order from the full menu at the restaurant. Everyone loved the "Rhode Island-style" fried calamari (the state's "official" appetizer), which included hot cherry peppers.
Dining in Style
The restaurant dressed up the dinner space with swags of draped fabric, accented with decorative spheres. The festivities continued well into the evening, after the group returned to Dragonline—and the following morning is one the couple will always treasure. "Early the next morning, we watched the breathtakingly vibrant sunrise from a room with a 360-degree view on the top floor of the building where we slept. It is an image that we will never forget," she says.
Photography, Sylvie Rosokoff
Ceremony Venue, Dragonline Studios
Reception Venue, Simpatico Restaurant
Officiant, Melody Rabe
Bride's Gown, Estee Bridal
Jewelry, Marché; Octave Jewelry; Spur
Shoes, Vince Camuto
Groom's Attire, Todd Snyder New York
Engagement Ring, Spur
Wedding Bands, Dan-yell Rascoe for Specific Gravity
Cake, Slice of Heaven
Transportation, Lands End Limousine
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