We love when things come full circle! Samantha + John’s photo in our Engaged Reader Round-Up was too adorable (read their proposal story and it gets even better!) Their April wedding by the water took place just a few miles from the Southern Weddings office and was full of community-made charm. I love that Samantha’s lace dress was a Goodwill find and that she and her new hubs decided to mix their two favorite love songs together for a dream walk down the aisle. (And bonus points to Samantha for sharing one of my favorite songs, too!) We’re dishing out big hugs to our friend, Nancy Ray who captured all of S + J’s sweet moments.
Tell us about finding your wedding dress: We had a very tight budget to work with ($2000), and I had just seen a feature in which the bride found her dress at a second-hand shop. I kind of scoffed and thought, “Well that would be nice, but how often does that actually happen to people?!” A week later, I was in Goodwill and saw a gown bag hanging, and thought I’d give it a look-see, preparing for 80s-style gigantic tulle sleeves. Instead, I found a lovely, simple white wedding gown. It was marked at $100 and I was alone, so I just kept walking. For months I wondered about that dress, but figured it had already been bought. Later, I went back with my roommate looking for a pie plate and left with THAT gown, which had been marked down to $50 and fit me like a glove! The manager of the Goodwill actually stopped and shook my hand, saying “We’ve been waiting for the right lady to find that dress, and you’re it!” I may not have had a boutique experience, but that was perfect!
Did you decide to do a “first look”? Why or why not? We decided not to. I adore first look photographs, and think it’s a great decision for many couples! John and I both felt the same in waiting until I was coming down the aisle. I just think there is something so precious and timeless about a bride being revealed and presented as she walks down the aisle toward her husband-to-be.
Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding. Our friends made up a small acoustic ensemble of a guitar, banjo, violin, and piano. It was phenomenal and just what we wanted! John and I are both musicians so the songs we chose and the instrumentation were very important to us. I had always hoped to walk down the aisle to the theme of one of my favorite movies, Romeo + Juliet, Balcony Scene/Kissing You.” John had always dreamed that his bride would walk down the aisle to a song from his favorite movie, Braveheart, “The Secret Wedding.” We arranged both themes together in one song, and it was absolutely gorgeous and perfect for us! We recessed to the We Bought A Zoo theme by Jonsi. Our first dance was “This Magic Moment” by Ben E King and the Drifters, a la Squints and Wendy Peffercorn from The Sandlot.
Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? We did. I was actually freaking out a bit because it was the last thing we had to figure out and we did it the day before the wedding! John and I met the morning before our wedding day, prayed, developed a kind of structure we’d go with, and parted ways for a few hours. I went to the dock by the lake and prayed again and then just started writing. Later we met with our friend and officiant, Dan, who helped us make some small tweaks, but was clear to tell us how perfect our vows were! It’s hard to pick a favorite line or phrase because every line was packed with meaning. It was definitely a special moment for us and for everyone who was there to witness.
What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? Psalm 45, which was originally written as a wedding song. It’s beautiful.
What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? Both John and I were born and raised in Raleigh, with both of our families having a long heritage in the area. I’ve always wanted an outdoor wedding, so when we were offered the house and considered the budget, all of those quaint and lovely Southern details came about very naturally. We used hay bales for seating and decor, rocking chairs, mason jars for drinking and decor, corn hole that my brother-in-law made, and many Southern vintage touches all over.
Describe your wedding cake or dessert: I asked the many Southern cake-makin’ women in my life to bring their best homemade cakes and pies for all to enjoy! We had a mix of coconut cake, pineapple cake, carrot cake, apple pies, and more. Southern women are serious about baked goods.
What is the one thing you are most happy you splurged on? Food! Our good friends are amazing chefs and have experience in catering, so they purchased all the ingredients and spent two days making all of the food! It was like a good ol’ family reunion. We had potato salad, baked beans, three kinds of cole slaw, and of course, a pig pickin’.
How did the two of you meet? Tell us your story. John and I met almost 10 years ago! He is my best friend, Jess’s little brother. The many years that I spent at their house eating meals, making music and hanging out, John was always just like my little brother — but everyone knew he had special eyes for me. I went off to college and we both dated other people and lost touch with one another. When I graduated and moved home, I was single and began working at the same Chick-fil-A as John. It was there, on our lunch breaks, that we re-kindled our friendship and I got to know John as a very wise, adventurous, loving, and handsome young man. Soon after I moved home, however, he moved to Africa for three months, leaving our relationship being a little difficult to interpret. After 10 years, we had never once spoken about any romantic feelings between us! So, I waited and hoped he was feeling the same as I was. When he came home, it was clear. He was a man on a mission to win my heart! We dated for a year and were engaged for four months.
Describe the proposal. John and I had openly talked about our intentions and had been looking at different styles of rings, so I knew a proposal was coming but had no idea how surprised I would be! One night, after falling asleep, I heard a knock on my bedroom window. Certain there was an intruder, I turned on the light prepared to run into my roommate’s room when I hear “Sam! Sam! It’s me John!” Still groggy-eyed and heart racing, I opened the door to him with a huge smile on his face. He passed me a note and said, “I’ll be out here when you’re ready.” The note had a list of things to pack: two outfits, one warm and one nice. We were off on a midnight road trip! John had made a bed for me in the back of the car, complete with blankets and pillows. Hours later, we arrived at a small cove at one of our favorite beaches. John parked the car facing the sunrise, set up the back with roses and candles, and after some sweet words, got down in the sand on one knee.
In what month did you get married? April
How many guests attended your wedding? Approximately 130
Describe your wedding flowers: They were a mix of tulips, stock flowers, snapdragons, and asters, cut fresh and locally grown from Homestead Flower Farms. They were arranged by family and friends.
Our favorite detail of the wedding was: The fact that so many of our closest friends and family came together that weekend and helped make it happen. A friend of mine told me later that it reminded her of the Amish. People just came together and brought whatever was needed to make sure it happened beautifully — and it did! Everyone loved having a hand in making it happen. When the sun went down and the trees lit up with lights and hanging lit mason jars, that was pretty magical!
What range did your wedding budget fall into? Less than $10,000
What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? It’s so difficult to pick just one, but I’d have to say the whole ceremony. There was something so tangible, special and inclusive about our ceremony. I’ll never forget how blue and intense John’s eyes were as they set on me, coming toward him down the aisle. We just locked our gaze. The sun was just over us, peeking out from behind the clouds with a light breeze, and I had a peace and presence of mind the whole time to remember it all. Saying our vows was the most precious moment, and many of our guests agree that it was theirs, as well.
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Embrace the craziness. A good friend of mine told me that there would be stressful moments, and no matter how great I was at planning and organizing, there was no way around it. So don’t be discouraged! Embrace the stress, craziness, and alleged “imperfections” as good, normal, beautiful things. You’re getting married — aim to enjoy it all!
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you looking forward to in the future? John and I love to make music and we love to travel. We’re currently set up in our cozy home in Raleigh with our instruments and dreams of living in a number of other countries as ministers. We’re also looking forward to having lots of kids! We’re not sure how those things all go together, but we’ll find out.