One of my favorite parts of getting our Real Weddings ready to share with y’all is reading each couple’s vows. From the traditional classics to creative rhymes, and even some jokes and lighthearted moments, vows are an incredibly meaningful part of each day, and usually offer some insight into the couple reciting them. Erin + Steve’s vows really struck a chord in my heart, especially this line from the groom: “I, Stephen, take you, Erin, to be no other than yourself. Loving what I know of you, trusting what I do not yet know, I give you my word, my faith, and my solemn vow.” Heavens, that makes me tear up just reading it!
Beyond their sweet, sweet vows, I love how Erin’s mama played a big role in the handmade decor of their day. She not only created the invitations and decorated their getaway bikes, she utilized Hobby Lobby and Lowes to put together some seriously gorgeous centerpieces! Big hugs to our friends at Landon Jacob for sharing this colorful affair! Seriously, y’all, pay attention to the heartwarming moments they captured tucked into every corner of this feature!
I initially tried on wedding gowns in upscale boutiques in the suburbs of Philadelphia with my mother and sister in-laws-to-be. I fell in love with a $6,000 Monique Lhuillier dress, completely clueless of the wedding market value of dresses. Back home in Columbia, SC I went to a local bridal salon with my mom, sister in-law, and aunt where I found the winner: Lazaro 3101, a great mix of lace with Spanish flair. I again had sticker shock at the $3,000 price tag and tried to bargain. I scoured recycledbride.com, preownedweddingdressses.com, and finally found the winner on Ebay for $1200. Upon arrival, the dress fit like a glove and needed no alternations. It was meant to be!
Did you decide to do a “first look”? We did. At first I was totally opposed to the idea but was inspired by my best friend’s wedding that I attended a month prior and the sharing of an intimate moment together instead of a more public, shared moment at the ceremony. It eased a lot of our nervous energy and I’m very happy with our decision.
Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? My mother is an interfaith minister who had tons of books on creating ceremonies and rituals lying around. We came upon some vows that I believe were shared between her close friends that spoke to us and the incredible risk and trust that marriage demands. Our chaplain was quite fond of them as well: “I, Stephen, take you Erin to be no other than yourself. Loving what I know of you, trusting what I do not yet know, I give you my word, my faith, and my solemn vow.”
One of my favorite things about our wedding was all the detailed creations of my mom, Heidi Darr-Hope, which included the invitations, centerpieces, bikes and lanterns. She bought lanterns from Hobby Lobby and filled them with rocks, candles, and objects from Mexico and draped them in sparkling gold ribbon. She blew up our invitation (that she created) as a sign, and decorated Steve’s and my bicycles. For centerpieces, she gathered Hobby Lobby paper flowers, paper birds, moss-covered rocks, dried beans, candles and bold-colored linens from Palmetto Party Rentals! It was an eclectic mix of fabulousness.
The weather was also amazing! Seventy-degree, sunny perfection graced us in October and made for a fabulous weekend. We also served gourmet shrimp and grits in martini glasses by Loosh Culinare and incorporated some non-traditional elements as well. Our moms and dads walked us down the aisle (both parents raised us, right?). We loved being hoisted in the air on chairs as in Jewish celebrations, and we passed Italian wedding cookies around instead of a traditional cake to honor Steve’s Italian heritage (he’s an Italian citizen!).
Describe your wedding cake or dessert: My colleague at work, who is a life insurance product specialist by day and photographer, jewelry, dress, and (apparently) ornate cake maker by night, created the three-tiered white cake with her mother and transported it, driving 20 miles an hour, from Lexington, SC. It was a work of art and tasted delicious!
What was the most memorable moment from your wedding day? Two moments. One was walking down the aisle with the veil covering my face and my parents in both arms. It was truly surreal with the light twinkling in, a sea of smiling, loving faces, and harp notes drifting through the breeze. Another was that we had SO much fun riding bikes around the fountains as our exit. We were having so much fun that we went for a second ride through the tunnel of guests and then hopped on a pedicab to our afterparty at Nonnah’s.
How did the two of you meet? Tell us your story. We met three years ago during our first days as graduate students in the School of International Business at USC. We both used the exact same word to describe our initial reaction to each other: Intrigued. For several months, we pursued our interest, curiosity, and desire of one another, developing a deep friendship. However, things weren’t all easy. Steve would be leaving the country soon for his eight-month internship and I felt the tension of wanting to be clear and definite about the nature of our relationship on one hand, and just allowing our love and connection to come in its own time on the other. I chose to allow, not force, the excitement, pleasure, and hope at each step along the way to bring us closer together. It was our inevitable separation for language study and internships in South America that brought clarity to our hearts about the depth and commitment of our feelings. Stephen had to leave for Brazil and shortly thereafter, I was to be in Mexico and then Chile. I realized that I was truly in love when while in Mexico, instead of enjoying the experience, I found myself spending all my time Skyping with Steve. Thanks to the wonders of Skype and a chance to be together for a few weeks in Brazil, our love and friendship grew and blossomed, despite the long separation.
Describe the proposal. Once we were both back in South Carolina, Steve hatched the perfect plan to propose that involved secretly getting his parents from Philadelphia, along with my parents, and tucking them away in a house on Sullivan’s Island. Then there was a very long and hot bicycle ride on the beach until he could find some privacy, a sandy knee for Steve, many tears of joy for me, and finally, a great big surprise party with both families back at the beach house when we returned newly engaged and deeply in love.
In what month did you get married? October
How many guests attended your wedding? 200
What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? Walt Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road” and “The Way.”
Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding. We liked the cello and harp duo, both USC students, that played. Steve walked down the aisle to Bach’s “Cello Song,” “The Swan” was played for the bridesmaids and groomsmen, and I walked down the aisle to Debussy’s “Girl with the Flaxen Hair,” which I did a solo ballet dance to as a moonbeam when I was young. It reminds me of grace, freedom, and lightness — just how I felt walking down the aisle. Steve’s sister and operatic genius, Megan, sang the “Glory of Love” with the cellist and harpist during the ceremony. For our first dance, we went back and forth on songs and finally settled on Stevie Wonder’s “You are the Sunshine of my Life.” We took dance classes at Vista Ballroom in the three weeks prior to the wedding and learned some basic American Rumba moves with dips and spins. Our band played the song live on the wedding day and it was a bit slower than practiced. We made it through laughing and feeling awkward the whole time but it was so fun!
Describe your wedding flowers: I’m not huge on flowers and told my mom only this: “Keep it local and vibrant and I like succulents.” She worked with a local florist but did the majority of the work herself – purchasing lots of succulents from Lowe’s.
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? Moving from surveying the options to making a decision! There were a lot of wonderful choices on all levels of detail, but getting momentum moving and checking items off the list relieved a lot of stress.
What range did your wedding budget fall into? $25,000-$50,000
What is the one thing you are most happy you splurged on? I felt very happy about not splurging on anything. It gave me a big sense of peace knowing that this day was about celebrating our union, not amassing debt or getting carried away on extravagant details. We creatively saved money at all points in the planning process and I felt amazing!
What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? Two moments. One was walking down the aisle with the veil covering my face and my parents in both arms. It was truly surreal with the light twinkling in, a sea of smiling, loving faces, and harp notes drifting through the breeze. Another was that we had SO much fun riding bikes around the fountains as our exit. We were having so much fun that we went for a second ride through the tunnel of guests and then hopped on a pedicab to our afterparty at Nonnah’s.
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Soak it in. It is intense to feel so much love and support from everyone in your life, so try to let go of the “plan” you’ve been scheming for months and soak in the wonderfulness of the day. Don’t get caught up in the “what’s next” part.
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you looking forward to in the future? We are renovating an old home and will be happy to move in and do what we love to do most – lay around in sweatpants, cook, drink wine or coffee and chat! We also have a pretty impressive travel lineup going: Patagonia, Berlin, Rio, Colombia, Sonoma, and more! We have a lot to look forward to!