An Island Wedding for the Books

March 1, 2022 | by Erin Sirianni

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Photos courtesy Sarah Stanberry

In July 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, Ryan Stanberry and Sarah Brandabur – now Ryan and Sarah Stanberry – got engaged. The early months of wedding planning were tenuous. Then vaccines rolled out, Covid cases dropped, and they scheduled a dream destination wedding in Cabo, Mexico, for January 24th, 2022. With a fully vaccinated group of guests, the couple felt hopeful that they could make their special day happen in a warm, tropical location, surrounded by family and friends.  

But shortly after the New Year, as their wedding day approached – and Omicron cases surged – Sarah got a call from her dad, a physician in Seattle. He said he’d been giving it a lot of thought and didn’t think it would be a good idea for their wedding party and guests to go to Mexico as the number of Covid infections and hospitalizations increased to record levels.  

“As soon as he said it, I knew,” Sarah said. She called Ryan, and they went back to the drawing board, two-and-a-half weeks before their wedding day.  

Disappointed but not deterred, Sarah posted to Instagram about their wedding cancellation to find out if any friends knew of any local venues or restaurants that could safely accommodate a small wedding of 40 guests at the last minute.

“At that point, we just really wanted to get married,” Sarah said. “It had already been a year-and-a-half since we got engaged, and we didn’t want to put things off another year.”  

Shortly after, a promising lead turned up. Sarah grew up on Mercer Island and had previously nannied for the children of Laurie Raisys, owner of Island Books. Last year, Raisys’ daughter Lucy nannied for the children of Sarah’s older sister, Meghan, who is now raising her family on Mercer Island. Raisys spotted the Instagram post and texted Meghan to find out if Sarah and Ryan would be interested in getting married in the bookstore – a free venue with special meaning.

“Ryan and I both love to read, and I grew up going to the bookstore,” Sarah said. “I have memories of playing in the little playhouse in the children’s section as a little kid. We both really loved the idea. We looked at other options, but kept coming back to it, so we said to Laurie, ‘if you really mean it, let’s do it.’”

With a date still on for January 24th and little time to spare, the wedding planning ramped up. Ryan’s family in Texas and Maryland re-routed their flights from Cabo to Seattle, and it was an easy pivot for local family and friends, including their Seattle photographer.

“We felt like everybody came together to make it happen,” Sarah said. Raisys closed the bookstore several hours early so family members could help decorate and put up twinkle lights. House of Posie provided beautiful floral arrangements, and Island Treats provided complimentary caramel-chocolate hearts to hand out to guests. Sarah’s brother-in-law officiated before about 40 guests, all of whom were still able to attend.  

“It felt really special and intimate,” Sarah said. “All of our guests shared that it was the most memorable wedding they’d ever been to.”

Raisys couldn’t have been more delighted to transform Island Books into a magical setting for the nuptials with a beautiful backdrop of books illuminated by candlelight.

“You can ask my husband,” Raisys said. “I’ve always dreamed of hosting a bookstore wedding.”