Though Samantha Winter and Greg McAlpin are both Notre Dame alums, the pair never met in South Bend, Indiana. “Greg attended Notre Dame as an undergrad, and I graduated from Notre Dame Law School," Samantha explains. "So it was actually the Notre Dame Club of San Diego that brought us together in October of 2014.” They met just in the nick of time because shortly thereafter (the day after the couple shared their first kiss!), Greg left San Diego and moved 2,000 miles away for a new job. But that didn't stop their relationship. Just over a year later, in January of 2016, Greg flew to Phoenix, where he and Samantha embarked on a three-day road trip to San Diego. Once back in San Diego, Greg proposed in the exact place where they shared their first kiss. “Saying yes was the easiest decision I’ve ever made,” Samantha remembers.
While wedding planning, Samantha and Greg decided to move to Arizona and that they'd get married there too—at Samantha’s childhood home in Tempe. “We wanted to share our love for the state with our family and friends,” says the bride. They invited 225 people to her parents' home on November 5, 2016 for a backyard wedding that was inspired by Father of the Bride. Keep reading to see the pair’s timeless vision come to life, and Brittany Mahood's photographs of the beautiful, close-to-home celebration.
One of the many DIY projects Greg and Samantha took on was the welcome bags. They hand-stamped kraft paper bags with an image of a towering saguaro cactus, and then filled each with honey from Greg’s family’s beehives, Arizona iced tea, and maps of the area. “We wanted the bags to be a fun introduction to the Valley of the Sun,” says Samantha.
The bride’s childhood home was dressed up for the big day with wreaths on its double front doors.
Samantha fell in love with the very first wedding dress she tried on, an ivory tulle and silk georgette ball gown by Carolina Herrera. “It was love at first sight, but I couldn’t justify the expense of a designer gown,” says Samantha. “My determined mother found it in online in exactly the right size, at a consignment boutique near Boston. We took a whirlwind trip to try it on, purchase it, and fly it back home with us—I’ll never forget the adventure we shared!”
And since she and her mother took on most of the planning responsibilities themselves, Samantha planned a quiet moment with her mom on the big day. “She helped me get dressed in my childhood bedroom, just the two of us, with my dad peeking in the door,” says the bride.
Once Samantha was in her gown, her bridesmaids (in blush Monique Lhuillier halter dresses) helped with the finishing touches.
Greg and Samantha wanted to enjoy the celebration with their guests, so they had a first look and took photos before the ceremony. “I walked down the stairs of my parents’ home to see Greg for the first time,” says Samantha. “He’s usually so sure-footed, but he tripped coming to greet me with a kiss, to the delight of our friends and family. I hope it’s not the last time I’ll sweep him off his feet!”
The bride and her ‘maids carried bouquets of Festiva Maxima peonies, garden roses, and Israeli ruscus, tied with French silk that Samantha’s mother found in Paris.
The ceremony took place at the church where Samantha was baptized and was officiated by the reverend from the church Samantha attended while living in California. “She was one of the first people we told we were engaged,” Samantha remembers. As part of the proceedings, the reverend read a letter written by Greg’s sister, Sara. “We found out just weeks before the wedding that Sara would be deployed to Afghanistan, so this was a way to include her in our wedding,” says the bride. “We also had a life-sized cutout of Sara at the reception!”
After the ceremony, guests moved to the bride's family home for cocktail hour around the pool. The pool area was party-ready thanks to twinkly lights wrapped around a statement tree.
The cocktail hour menu featured a vodka drink made with Greg’s father’s honey, as well as a prickly pear margarita. “We highlighted family recipes, serving my great-grandmother’s famous pimento cheese dip and chicken skewers marinated in honey,” says the bride.
The al fresco reception took place beneath trees wrapped in string lights. The all-white palette elevated the backyard celebration, with white roses nestled in antique sterling bowls and champagne buckets collected by Samantha, her mother, and her mother-in-law.
The outdoor fireplace was draped in a garland of greenery and white roses and hydrangeas—and was lit with dozens of white candles after dark.
The dining area was equally as well lit, with romantic bistro lights hung up above.
Dinner included a hand-tied salad, a palate cleanser of lemon sorbet, and a main course of seared filet mignon and pesto penne pasta. “We wanted to feed our guests with delicious food that has meaning to both of us,” says Samantha of the menu. Toasts took place during dinner as the newlyweds were able to enjoy the surprisingly intimate setting with their closet family and friends.
Greg and Samantha loved taking ballroom dancing lessons leading up to their wedding day. “Everyone cheered as Greg spun me for the first time,” the bride remembers. The pair danced to “Beyond the Sea” by Bobby Darin, a reminder of their long-distance romance and their excitement to finally be together in the same place.
“Our wedding was made beautiful by the generous love and support of our family and friends, and all the work they did to make our wedding day possible,” says the bride. “Don’t lose sight of what your wedding is really about: Beginning a life with the person you love. The rest is just a party!”
And fun fact: The couple's wedding cake, which featured layers of vanilla cake and buttercream, was made by Samantha’s mother’s best friend, who was the maid of honor at Samantha’s parent's 35 years earlier!
Ceremony Venue: The Church of the Epiphany, Tempe || Bride's Dress: Carolina Herrera, from Clever Bride Consignments || Bride's Veil: Vera Wang || Bride's Shoes: Louise et Cie || Bride's Jewelry: Moore & More || Hair: Rituals Hairdressing || Bridesmaids' Dresses: Monique Lhuillier || Groom's Attire: The Clotherie, SuitSupply || Engagement Ring: Wilner’s Jewelers || Wedding Bands: Robert C. Wesley Jewelers || Floral Design: Rachel Fox, Peverini Custom Floral Design || Paper Products: Bella Figura, Thistle Paper Co., The Blush Market, Wood Be Lovely Shop || Ceremony Entertainment: Dr. Miriam Hickman, Four Seasons String Quartet || Reception Entertainment: The Walkens || Rentals: Classic Party Rentals, Affordable Party Rentals, Arizona Rentals || Photography: Brittany Mahood Photography