Backyard Design Spotlight: The Bride’s Tale – A Wedding Biography

Backyard Design Spotlight: The Bride’s Tale – A Wedding Biography

At California Pools & Landscape, we know that every backyard design has a story, and this one centers on the Dardens from Goodyear, AZ. The couple moved to the valley from Las Vegas and built a home in the Estrella Mountain area from the ground up. They designed the home around their love of entertaining and wanted to enjoy Arizona outdoor living, with a new personal paradise in their backyard.

The couple also planned to get married in their new backyard oasis, with a small gathering of family and close friends in early March of the following year.

“I planned my wedding the year before, and so I couldn’t imagine not only building a pool but also getting married where your pool is and how stressful that was,” said Sara Dougan, Scheduling Manager at California Pools & Landscape.

“When they told me they had a hard date of March 10th for the wedding they were going to have in the backyard, my initial response was, well, let’s not do this,” said Designer Ryan Delfino, while laughing. “Let’s see what we can do to get this thing done!”

The couple started their search to transform their backyard from a dirt lot to a dream oasis by meeting with two other pool companies before turning to California Pools & Landscape. The customer service and backyard design from Delfino proved to be the deciding factors for the project, which featured a seamless outdoor living environment that was custom created for the Dardens.

“When we went to California Pools & Landscape, Ryan & I really sat down and really talked about the design,” said Gary Darden. “We took the other two designs and combined them while adding a couple of other tweaks and liked that.”

“We entertain a lot; we built the house from the floor up for a space to entertain with the pool being a focal point,” said Shelley Darden. “Making sure we had a space to entertain was a big reason we picked California Pools & Landscape.”

Building A Inground Swimming Pool During A Pandemic

Construction on the backyard project started in August 2021, following some record-setting monsoon rainfall in the Valley. During this timeframe, the construction field and much of the world were still working through labor shortages, supply chain challenges, and service delays.

For the Darden’s backyard and timeline, setbacks first arose following the initial excavation. The elevation of the yard required some changes to the design.

“One of the issues with doing a plot plan design is that you don’t see the grade change,” said Ryan Delfino. “Their property, in particular, had quite a big swell going up to the back wall that was unplanned for.”

“Ryan was on the phone that day doing a video chat with us and designed everything right there,” said Gary Darden.

The new design featured a retaining wall behind the pool that helped tie the pool, spa, and fire pit together with stacked stone and three scupper water features. The fire pit was also elevated up a foot, creating a raised seating area.

“It actually served the purpose of dealing with the yard elevation but also gave us some interest, movement, and flow to the design that I think worked out way better than the original one just having those elevation changes,” said Delfino.

Additional delays arose during the plumbing phase of the project with material shortages, followed by labor delays in the steel phase. As the ebb and flow of the project carried on, the couple adjusted their plans accordingly.

“We had planned on hopefully having it done by Christmas, having family down here, and that came and went,” said Gary Darden. “Then we wanted to have it up and running for my 60th birthday because we were going to have a big party, which we did anyway without the pool.”

The Dardens in particular, knew that the delays in the job’s progress were due to the circumstances of building a pool during a global pandemic.

“Honestly, at first, I was like they really don’t care,” said Gary Darden. “They’re missing this, and they’re missing that. But it was covid. There were reasons they were missing it. You couldn’t get any help; you couldn’t get people to come out to work; you couldn’t get any products.”

With their wedding day in sight, the couple reiterated their need to have the backyard ready for the big day.

“We said we’re getting married March 10th; that’s the day,” said Gary Darden. “We’re getting married by the pool, in front of the fire pit. You guys have got to get it done.”

“Invites were out,” said Shelley Darden.

Scheduling Manager Sara Dougan handled the coordination of crews on site once the shotcrete had been completed. With just over a month until the wedding, she accepted the challenge head-on.

“I told her, in the beginning, it’s going to be tight,” said Dougan. “It’s going to have to be one after the other. Just being able to look at the plan, understand the crews, who needs to go out there in what order, and whether they can work around each other or not.”

Superintendent Dustin Looker handled the construction aspects of the project, ensuring that all of the work being completed was according to plan and up to the CPL standard. With numerous subcontractors and in-house contractors due to be onsite in such a tight time window, it required a lot of communication.

“I talked to Shelley every day; you know this is the gameplan; this is what crew is going to be out there,” said Dougan.

“Communication has been key, and I think that was the only way it was going to get done in time,” said Shelley Darden.

“Sometimes the magic aligns, and it’s easier to meet those drop-dead dates,” said Sara Dougan. “Sometimes you see a date, and you’re like, how am I going to make this work? What am I going to do?”

Countdown To Wedding Day

With two weeks to go before the big day, the Dardens got a call that changed the look of their project and threatened their looming deadline.

“Two weeks before they called us and told us they’d run out of the travertine, our travertine was not in stock,” said Gary Darden. “If we wanted to get it done by the deadline, we had to come to pick out new travertine.”

“Your heart sinks when you get that tidbit of information because you have it all lined up right,” said Sara Dougan. “Then you get a curveball, an unknown of, hey, I went to get that material, and they actually are out. It’s definitely a sinking feeling because we were already in crunch time.”

“It was when we were starting to hit the ground running, and then it was like, whoa, wait a second, pull it back,” said Ryan Delfino.

Thankfully the Dardens were able to find a travertine that was in stock that fit the aesthetic they were going for in the backyard. The new travertine also meant they needed to reselect a new waterline tile and stacked stone, adding to the stress of the time crunch.

“Luckily, they came to pick out a new selection, and then it was just telling our crew to stand by,” said Sara Dougan. “We have to pick it out, get it delivered, and I’ll get you that square footage by the end of the day.”

Given the delays that had occurred on the project and with the wedding date fast approaching, the couple was suddenly wondering if they needed to consider an alternate plan for their upcoming ceremony.

“I think Ryan was the one who said, Shelley, get a plan B,” said Shelley Darden. “I kept asking do I need a B and C or just a B? Sara kept responding no, no, no.”

“For me, there was no plan B,” said Sara Dougan. “We are going to get this done for you, and we’re going to make it happen.”

With the help of more than a dozen crews, strategic scheduling, and daily visits from Superintendent Dustin Looker, the project was on schedule to be completed leading up to deadline day. The completion seemed like a reality, as dedicated craftsmen stayed late to ensure the backyard was ready.

“You were out here putting this grass in the night before at 5 o’clock,” said Gary Darden. “The guys were out here with scissors clipping it to make it even.”

“The turf guys stayed late to make it happen; they knew she was getting married the next day,” said Sara Dougan. “I was nervous the whole time; that was a relief to come in and just a gratitude of seeing how hard they worked to make her wedding happen.”

With the turf completed, there was one final element to complete, which took some extra coordination on the morning of the wedding.

“We coordinated for her to be home the morning of her wedding because you have to be home to turn on that gas,” said Sara Dougan. “They turned on the gas, and we were talking her whole wedding morning. When she said the gas was turned on, I was like ok, we’re good; go get married!”

“It’s a special case, not every day that you have a wedding in your backyard,” said Ryan Delfino. Here at California Pools & Landscape, that’s our culture. We want to help and do everything we can.”

“Their level of care about getting it completed was astonishing. They really wanted to get it done for us,” said Gary Darden.

Wedding Day

On March 10th, 2022, Gary and Shelley held their intimate wedding ceremony in their new dream backyard, just like they’d planned. Their family and closest friends surrounded them with love and support in a space they’d built together.

“I got to walk through the house out to see all my family and our beautiful yard,” said Shelley Darden. “It was complete, the pool was going, and it was being heated; you could hear the gas going. To walk out and have it done was awesome; it was a big achievement. My house was built, my yard was done, and we got married!”

The pastor helped integrate a piece of the backyard into the ceremony with a unique rendition of unity. The filler for the fire pit had yet to be distributed and happened to feature two different color shades.

“The pastor suggested we put the rocks in vases, and at the end of the ceremony, you go back there, and you mix the rocks together in the firepit. Then no one can touch those because if they do, they’ll get burned. So if they try to mess with your wedding or with your life, they’ll get burned. So that’s what we did.”

“We couldn’t have done it without everybody being on board,” said Sara Dougan. “Definitely one of the funnest projects that I’ve built; I’m so glad we were able to do it. I feel like I was in the wedding, a party planner and a pool builder. That one’s going to go down in history.”

“I can’t say enough about our scheduling department and our superintendents,” said Ryan Delfino. “The teamwork here is why I’m here at California Pools, the culture of teamwork and helping each other do better. That’s why I’m here, that’s why I love this company, and that’s the culture that keeps people staying.”

If you’ve been dreaming about creating your backyard oasis, you can learn about working with California Pools & Landscape. If you’d like to learn about another California Pools & Landscape backyard story, check out this stunning Scottsdale backyard.

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