Neighborhood Wedding at Sottocasa Harlem | Sara + Derek

It’s true the pandemic made things hard, but it also brought about some really special, beautiful things. Take, for instance, Sara and Derek’s neighborhood wedding in Harlem.

These two live in NYC and chose to postpone their 2020 wedding until 2021. At the beginning of this year, Sarah and Derek moved into their new place, which has a lovely little outdoor space in back. So, they decided to get married in their yard then have everyone walk down the street to their favorite restaurant for a delicious wood-fired pizza dinner!

The plan turned out to be perfect and enabled them to put together an extraordinary day during which they celebrated their families and relationship. After their ceremony, the bride, groom, and their 25 guests strolled down the street to the restaurant in a promenade that mirrored the one Derek’s grandparents took in 1956 when they wed in Fraine, Italy.

Also, if you’re looking for wedding livestreaming tips, take one from Sara and Derek. They were determined to give their virtual guests the real feeling of being there—there were three camera angles (a bride cam, groom cam, and wide shot), all of which Snowday (the production company where Sara works) live-edited!

More about their day from our sweet bride, who got engaged right in front of Amity Hall in NYC (see the picture below!), rocked her custom Coco gown from our Toronto bridal boutique, and danced with Derek to the song that was playing the night of their first date:


How did you guys get engaged?


“After designing our ring with Ken & Dana Design, Derek knew he wanted to include family and friends in the proposal. My parents were traveling to Florida in February 2019 and planned a short layover in NYC. Derek coordinated with his sister Cara to plan a family get-together with the parents and Derek’s grandmother. He picked a spot for dinner that served traditional Italian food on the Upper West Side and had a dish similar to one made by his grandmother. After dinner, he suggested we continue walking up Amsterdam Avenue towards the bar where we’d had our second date—the Hamilton.

Along the way we, passed a spot called Amity Hall (that at one time I mistakenly said was the location of our first date!). To give me a memory at that location, Derek dropped to his knee! After I said yes, we all continued to the Hamilton where Derek had assembled our closest friends to celebrate…it was a surprise for them as well!”

wedding dress: custom  Lea-Ann Belter Coco gown via the Toronto bridal boutique | photographer: Karen Obrist Photography | Full vendor list at bottom

Tell us about your outfits! How did you choose your gown?


“I’m originally from Aurora, Ontario, but we live in New York, so I knew that I wanted a Canadian designer to have a piece of Canada at the wedding. I found Lea-Ann Belter’s sweet Toronto shop, and Vanessa was absolutely integral in helping us make the dress decision. We talked about how it’s not how beautiful you look in each dress (as they will all look stunning!) but it’s about elimination—can you see yourself wearing this dress on your day? This provided great clarity in narrowing down the options.

Being able to add custom detail from other dresses also made the decision so much easier—I could make a dress that had all the features I wanted, and really felt like me.

The showroom is so calming, beautiful, and feels like a really special experience. Also, to the team’s credit, I still loved the dress two years later just as much as I did the day we chose it. Timeless!”


Why did you decide to get married where you did?


“We had other plans back in 2020, but did not feel it was the responsible choice to make for our friends or family to hold a gathering—so we had to put the celebration on hold.

Beginning of this year, we moved into a new apartment with a very charming backyard space. I think we had the idea in the back of our mind that it could be a wedding venue, but began slowly sprucing it up until one day this spring we just said “Let’s do it here!”

We have a favorite restaurant right around the corner from our apartment, so that felt like the perfect place to feed everyone…and the plan started coming together.”

Tell us about your day!

“We wanted to honor our families and the beautiful city where we met. We did this with many details throughout the day:

My parents selected the music for the procession in, and Derek’s parents for the procession out.

I wore earrings that have been in all three of the female cousins on The DeViney’s side’s weddings (something borrowed), and my veil was made out of lace from my mom’s wedding dress in 1974 (something old).

The ring (also something blue!) is inspired by a ring that belonged to my grandmother. Derek wore a ring from his late grandfather (Pop), and the marriage license was signed with Pop’s ink pen.

The ceremony was 25 people in our backyard (just local bridal party and immediate family), live-streamed for our guests across the world and complete with three camera angles—a bride cam, groom cam, and wide shot live-edited by the production company where I work—Snowday. We wanted to make sure since our full families could not be with us that they were able to feel truly immersed in the day and knew how much them “being there” meant to us.

Afterwards, mimicking what Derek’s grandparents (photo below) did at their wedding in Fraine, Italy (1956), we processed our whole wedding through the streets of Harlem to the restaurant for pizza, speeches, and toasts.

Then we all met back at the apartment for some drinks, dancing, and cake. After hours, Derek grilled hot dogs and leftover pizza on the grill under the backyard lights—it was absolutely magical!’


What was your first dance song?


“An acoustic version of “Cheerleader” by Omi—it was playing on our first date, and we have loved it ever since.”


One detail you couldn’t live without?


“We had a playbill for the ceremony—complete with bios for each of the bridal party members and a big thank you to our sponsors, Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson.”


Where did you go on your honeymoon?


“We decided to do a staycation in NYC to a neighborhood we don’t get to often—the Lower East Side. We stayed a few nights at the Ludlow Hotel’s Skybox Loft. We’re planning to travel to Europe next summer.”


Any tips for couples getting married, particularly during Covid?


“Really think about what is important to you. There are so many pieces of weddings that have become almost robotic or expected—do what feels like you!! A wedding is a reflection of the couple, so make the day feel like sharing a piece of you and a true celebration of you as a couple.”

Sara + Derek’s Harlem Wedding Vendors

wedding dress: custom  Lea-Ann Belter Coco gown via the Toronto bridal boutique | photographer: Karen Obrist Photography | suit: Ministry of Supply | venues: Sara and Derek’s apartment, Sottocasa and Harlem Wine | day of coordination: Caitlin Wilayto | flower truck: Uprooted NYC | invitations: Trea Bailey Art | cake: Little Graye Bakery | music: Henrie Mond Music, Lauren Nicole Chapman  | ring: Ken and Dana Design

Were you a Lea-Ann Belter bride? We’d love to see your pictures and share your story! Email