This Westchester Couple Turned a Pandemic Wedding Into Backyard Bliss

Sam & Brandon | All photos by Mindy Briar Photography

When a Westchester couple pivoted from their traditional venue, they traded black tie for bright whimsy with family and friends.

You might say that Samantha Levine and Brandon Sultanik are the quintessential Westchester couple. Except for the fact that they almost weren’t. The duo grew up in Chappaqua and went to Horace Greeley High School a few years apart.

When Levine was swiping on Tinder in 2017, she recognized her now-husband as one of five Sultaniks who attended Greeley with her. The two matched, but as it turns out, Sultanik was swiping just for fun while in town for his sister’s wedding. Still, the two began texting and never stopped talking, even when Sultanik returned home to Miami.

Sam & Brandon
October 3, 2020

Sam & Brandon backyard wedding

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Levine and Sultanik have become pillars of the local community. She is the founder and designer of handmade sterling silver jewelry line Auburn Jewelry; he is a finance manager at WeWork. They had plans to wed in October 2020 at a prominent Westchester venue with the whole shebang: black tie, white florals, pure elegance.

A Change of Plans

Sultanik’s parents’ house was the perfect venue for a newly slimmed-down guest list (with many attending via Zoom). “We thought instead of being indoors, we’d have it 100 percent outside, around the pool area,” he says. “My dad is obsessed with plants, so it’s lush and green. We thought, Let’s build off of this and amp it up!”

Table setting backyard wedding

A bright, verdant theme emerged, starting with the couple’s ketubah. From there, they showed the sketches to Fleurish in Greenwich, who came up with the colorful floral arrangements. “Then, we designed invitations to match. Prior, we were planning on black-and-white letterpress — done!” Levine muses. “When we switched venues, we decided on a modern secret-garden theme.”

Bride's colorful bouquet backyard wedding

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Menu design on table setting backyard wedding

Lots of little details are woven into the paperie by Briarcliff Manor’s Laura Damiano Designs, including invitations with gold splatter, menus, and custom coasters.

The Look

Levine previously ordered a full dress from Kleinfeld to wear at their original venue (picked in October 2019), but when manufacturing slowed to a glacial pace, she began to worry if it would arrive in time. She ordered five dresses online, to have backups, and fell in love with one from Nordstrom. When the original dress came through, the bride decided to wear both.

Bride and groom.

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The Ceremony

For the ceremony, she donned Loeffler Randall pumps with her Kleinfeld gown and custom-designed an Auburn Jewelry blue-heron charm, wrapped around her bouquet, to represent her great-grandmother. It was held under a chuppah strategically built atop the Sultaniks’ hot tub. “I was asking Brandon’s mom if she thought we could put a platform over the hot tub and get married up there,” Levine says. “She simply replied, ‘I don’t see why not.’”

Details of the groom's cuff links

Though unconventional, the result was striking, with the couple on display for guests to view from a safe distance. Sultanik’s brother was the officiant, and he studied hard to deliver the traditional Jewish ceremony the couple wanted. “He was practicing like it was his bar mitzvah again, reading in Hebrew,” the groom laughs.

The new couple enjoyed their first dance atop the platform and savored the intimate moment to look around and take in the scene.

The Reception

Afterward, Levine changed into her Nordstrom dress, paired with a custom “Mrs. Sultanik” leather jacket. “I never thought I’d be a two-dress bride,” she says. “But I’m so pleased. The first gown was beautiful, but it was heavy and cumbersome.”

Bride and groom seated

The lighter dress was perfect for the low-key party, catered by Susan Lawrence. The couple listened to the advice of their day-of coordinator, Monique Banks of Chappaqua, who said: “You can get great food from someone else, but Susan Lawrence will elevate the event,” which, Sultanik confirms, was accurate.

Bride and groom



Instrument player

The couple opted for several custom cocktails, mini-lobster rolls, shishito peppers, and a butternut squash ravioli. As the evening wore on, they served passed after-dinner snacks, like grilled cheese and popcorn. The caterers even saved the day when the cake (from a separate vendor) collapsed during the ceremony, quickly baking a new tier behind the scenes, unbeknownst to the couple. “Smile and cut, and I’ll explain later,” instructed Banks as the newlyweds noticed the cake, which, though beautiful, looked a bit different than planned.

Family photo

Table setting

Figurine details

Details of a stationery backyard wedding

But going with the flow was the theme of the day. Guests sat in family pods, so they didn’t have to remove their masks around strangers. There was no dance floor, but people danced socially distanced around the pool.

At the end of the night, the couple still went out with a splash. Levine changed into her “wife of the party” bathing suit, and as the celebration dwindled, the remaining guests jumped into the pool for a late-night swim. “We wouldn’t have been able to do that at our original venue,” the groom adds.

Related: These After-Party Accessories Are Perfect for Brides and Grooms

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