the wedding files

A DIY Wedding on Martha’s Vineyard

Friends supplied the flowers, the food, the oyster-shell calligraphy, and more.

When we ask newlyweds to think back on what they wanted most for their big day — and we’ve interviewed hundreds of them over the years — the most common response is “For it not to feel like a wedding!” Despite our new (pandemic) normal, that answer hasn’t changed. If anything, gathering with old friends and eating mini grilled cheeses in formalwear to celebrate love feels more special these days than ever, even downright miraculous. And the betrothed have never been less attached to the old wedding handbook — and the need to please their great-aunt. So in a flurry of pampas grass and perfectly mismatched-to-match bridesmaid dresses, how do you pull off a non-cookie-cutter affair? For the answers, we decided to interrogate the cool couples whose weddings we would actually want to steal, right down to the tiger-shaped cake toppers.

Here we spoke with Angela Sison, who grew up in in the Philippines, where her family had a textile business, and who is now the founder and designer of fashion line Conrado, and Noah Mayrand, a native of Martha’s Vineyard and jack-of-all-trades working in oyster farming, caretaking, cooking, and water filtration and drilling. They relied on their extensive community of fellow artists, creatives, foodies, and friends on the island to throw a wedding celebration in October 2022 for 80 guests that was packed with DIY touches and smoked pig. 

Angela: Because I own a sustainable clothing brand, I knew that I wanted to incorporate sustainability into our wedding. Noah and I are both artists, and I grew up DIY-ing and crafting. I was really excited to make things for my wedding.

Noah: In art school, you meet so many kids who have all these crazy ideas but just don’t take the steps or put the energy in. Angela was the creative type, but she possessed that fire and drive. We both have that “make it happen” spirit.

Angela: We met in San Francisco ten years ago, when I was working my first design job. It was at the restaurant Mission Chinese.

Noah: They have community tables, and we enjoyed a really nice meal together.

Angela: We live on Martha’s Vineyard now, where Noah was born and raised, but in January 2020, we were in San Francisco with my family and decided to go back to Mission Chinese. We sat at the same table and ordered the same things. Afterward we walked around the block, and he proposed on Valencia Street.

Noah: We really didn’t want it to be the stereotypical big wedding. I’ve worked around the industry since I was 16; my first job was at a caterer, then I worked for a chef who did high-end parties. The island is a wedding destination.

Angela: We knew we wanted it here and we wanted smallish. The location was a friend’s property. Before we even got engaged, they told us that we could get married there.

Noah: I’d been fishing there since I was a kid. There’s a lot of nature trails, and sometimes they border on people’s private property. We were always adventuring through the woods, wintertime trespassing. I introduced myself to the new owners and said, “Anything you guys need here, I can help.” When I proposed, I went back and asked, and they said, “Of course.”

Angela: Mostly, the inspiration was kind of the way we live: very laid-back, easy, comfortable. That’s how I thought through the designs. Of course, there were the dresses. I made five garments in total for the weekend. When I was in L.A. in December 2021, I decided to go to Loho and specifically looked at dresses with the cuts I wanted to see myself in, to see what would suit my body. I wanted to be very comfortable, because we’d be out in a field. So I opted for a long, strapless minidress with detachable sleeves so I could have two looks in one.

Noah: We had a lot of pressed flowers from our travels — in California, the Philippines, and all over — in my notebooks, and Angela sewed them into her veil, along with ones we grew that summer.

Angela: I knew I wanted to incorporate something natural into my look. There were wildflowers from our first year gardening, too.

Noah: We are very much color-palette people; I love color language and learning about the color wheel. So it was fun choosing the suit color and fabric. I looked at them all and was like, “Man, I think it’s green.” We have a lot of those tones in our house.

Angela: We went to Indochino because we saw an olive wool there that we really liked. So it was still a classic suit but different in a way. And I made his pocket square — my friend Althea makes block prints and she had an oyster, so we block-printed it onto the same silk fabric as my dress.

Noah: To surround the altar, we went to a wholesale dealer on the mainland and loaded up my truck with grasses and plants.

Angela: Our floral designers were my two friends Kay Frank of Plant Post and Kay Sunakawa, who worked at a flower shop. We are friendly with flower farmers on the island, and since our wedding was so late in the season, they let us go into the fields and cut our own two days before. I never really wanted the bunched-up look; I like it very airy and organic, with wildflowers. I also included grasses and herbs from our garden, our sister’s garden, and our friends’ gardens.

Noah: Angela has a lot of creative friends, so at her bridal shower they made the signs and other works.

Angela: I asked for a DIY brunch instead of a shower. We painted the signs, glued flowers onto table markers, made aprons with leftover fabric from my summer collection as our party favors. I cleaned oyster shells and my friend printed calligraphy-ed everyone’s names onto them. We made our candleholders from wood scraps from our house, and for our table settings I wanted a mix-and-matched look, so I collected plates from yard sales from friends who didn’t want them, from a little shack here called the Dumptique.

Noah: On the day of, Angela and I had our first look on the dock. When I saw her come out of the house, it was hard to keep it together. A lot of tears, a lot of emotions I’d never really experienced. It was a high start. We read our vows privately then. Trying to get the words out was really hard!

Angela: His were very poetic and mine were very long. It was definitely emotional. We had our ceremony about 20 feet from the dock, on a point of the property overlooking the pond as it stretches out toward the ocean. We opted not to do an arch, because we wanted the backdrop to be the view. The ground was kind of slanted, so Noah built a platform so we’d be level, and we covered it with live grasses and extra flowers.

Noah: Our officiant, Mikey, was one of my early mentors in the cooking world. He’s an artist as well, a painter. He just projects so much love, this rosy-cheeked, jolly guy. I was glad Angela’s family was okay with him, because they are very Catholic and typically in the Philippines you’d get married in a church.

Angela: We did a very traditional Filipino Catholic ritual, with a candle, veil, cord, and coin. We lit the candle, which represents our unity; the veil symbolizes we’re clothed as one. The cord put over us was shaped like an infinity symbol, and we used Noah’s grandfather’s coin to represent a prosperous marriage. Our friend Tom did a reading, and three friends played the guitar and sang for our opening. We reread the vows. Everyone was pretty much crying from the moment I walked down.

Noah: The signs Angela and her friends made pointed people toward cocktails. I hired one of my good friends, Jeremy Provost, an amazing bartender [with a] San Francisco–style cocktail mind-set. Our signature cocktails were the Paper Plane, which is my favorite, and an Aperol spritz for Angela.

Angela: We had a charcuterie board and a raw bar for oysters, of course.

Noah: And Angela made sun tea, in these big four-gallon, self-pouring dispensers, to help people stay hydrated. My mother is Lebanese and Italian, so when people sat down, we had stuffed grape leaves and labneh, hummus, tabbouleh, flatbread, and pita to nosh on until things got started.

Angela: A mezze plate on each table. For the main, in a nod to living in San Francisco, we decided to do a taco bar. We asked our friend Tim Laursen of Local Smoke to smoke some chicken and vegetables, and a whole roasted pig because in Filipino tradition that’s a requirement.

Noah: Tim smoked this pig from midnight the night of our rehearsal dinner all the way to dinner. He was breaking it down at 5 p.m. at the wedding. I worked with my good friend Johnny Thurgood of Island Sourced, and we created 18 different toppings and salsas for the taco bar.

Angela: Our first dance was to “I Will” by the Beatles.

Noah: We had an hour-long meeting about what we wanted our first-dance song to be.

Angela: Then right after, we had a father-daughter, mother-son dance to “How Deep Is Your Love” by the Bee Gees.

Noah: I think Angela’s brother was like, “Oh, are you okay with the money dance?” I had no idea. It’s a Filipino tradition where you have money pinned on you while you’re dancing, which is kind of … fun. It’s dangerous?

Angela: I didn’t want to do the money dance.

Noah: So Angela’s aunt made leis out of dollar bills. A beautiful money necklace.

Angela: Those were real bills, and when we went to the bank to deposit the money, it was so creased and people were like, “What is this?” Our DJ was DJ Rockwell, and Noah worked with him in one of the restaurants on the island. Our guests were mostly millennials, so there were a lot of throwbacks.

Noah: He handed the mic over to Angela’s dad and my older sister for quick speeches, but the dancing was nonstop and very loud, which was just what we wanted. The police did show up, drove out into the field, but they didn’t even talk to us. The DJ knew the police and took care of them, and he was awesome to handle that.

Angela: For dessert, we had brownies and cookies from a local bakery called Black Sheep, and then the doughnuts and cake were made by an island baker, Korilee Connelly. Our cake was two layers, chocolate and matcha.

Noah: Around 9:45 p.m., we got a delivery of pressed sandwiches from Life at Humphrey’s, which one of my mom’s good friends runs. There were Cubanos and vegetarian ones called Tree Huggers, and those were a savior for the people who started drinking too early.

Angela: I changed into another dress I’d made, an easy slip dress I could dance in, and the strap detail was pearls I sewed on from a bracelet Noah’s mom gave me as one of her first presents ever, but which broke.

Noah: The guy who brought the smoker is also a welder and artist, and he makes firepits, so he brought an 8’x6’ trough and we burned wood from my parents’ property all night. Angela had a basket of wool blankets. So there was a fire crowd and a dancing crowd, and people wandering around to look at the reflections on the water and the stars.

Angela: That was the party and the after-party.

Noah: We had a golf cart and we’d drive people back and forth from the tent. It’d give me a breath for a moment, and to see this giant party of all the people you love from a distance, across a field, was just … wow. This is immense. So much gratitude for the community here. Realizing how many people are holding you? It’s really cool.

Angela, a fashion designer, made all of the garments for her wedding, even sewing pressed flowers into her veil. Photo: Larisa Stinga Photography
The flowers were gathered from the island, and herbs and grasses from their own and family’s gardens were included. Photo: Larisa Stinga Photography
For Noah’s pocket square, Angela block-printed oysters onto the same fabric as one of her dresses. Photo: Larisa Stinga Photography
The couple had an emotional first look next to the pond and opted to read their vows there for the first time, privately. Photo: Larisa Stinga Photography
The wedding events were held on a friend’s property where Noah had grown up fishing. Photo: Larisa Stinga Photography
Around 80 guests gathered for the celebration. Photo: Larisa Stinga Photography
The ceremony was officiated by Mikey, a mentor of Noah’s from the food world. Photo: Larisa Stinga Photography
The ceremony included Filipino Catholic traditions, like when the couple was draped in a shawl. Photo: Larisa Stinga Photography
The pair met at a communal table at Mission Chinese in San Francisco. Photo: Larisa Stinga Photography
The signage around the venue was another one of Angela’s DIY projects. Photo: Larisa Stinga Photography
The cocktail hour included a raw bar, naturally. Photo: Larisa Stinga Photography
Heaps of charcuterie were also on offer. Photo: Larisa Stinga Photography
The signature cocktails were a Paper Plane and Aperol spritz. Photo: Larisa Stinga Photography
More oyster shells directed guests to their tables. Photo: Larisa Stinga Photography
Tables were named after the couple’s chickens. Photo: Larisa Stinga Photography
Their friend Tim smoked chickens and pork right up until dinnertime. Photo: Larisa Stinga Photography
The couple put their own spin on the traditional money dance. Photo: Larisa Stinga Photography
They danced with their parents to “How Deep Is Your Love.” Photo: Larisa Stinga Photography
DJ Rockwell, another former colleague of Noah’s, wore a Nantucket Red sweater for the occasion. Photo: Larisa Stinga Photography
Speeches and a taco dinner (with 18 topping options) followed. Photo: Larisa Stinga Photography
The dance party got rowdy enough that at one point the police checked in. Photo: Larisa Stinga Photography
Among the many desserts were a chocolate and matcha cake. Photo: Larisa Stinga Photography
The party continued into the night around the fire, where the newlyweds supplied wool blankets and late-night sandwiches. Photo: Larisa Stinga Photography

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A DIY Wedding on Martha’s Vineyard