With a simple second chance text message, Laura + Shannon’s not-so-favorable beginnings flourished into their very own happily ever after, complete with cheek-aching smiles. And speaking from experience, I’d have to say the romantic ride on the Navy Pier’s ferris wheel might have helped a bit! I love how you can’t scroll through this post without getting caught up in Laura’s ear-to-ear grin in the portraits our friend Paul Johnson captured. That, dear ladies, is bliss.
Another thing I can’t just scroll past: the amazingly gorgeous Seaside Interfaith Chapel paired with baby’s breath decor. Laura wanted her flowers to feel light, airy, and ethereal, and I’d say she absolutely accomplished that!
Y’all, this might be my very favorite invitation suite to date!
The women in my family are very close, but live very far away. My sister, Sarah lives in Denver, sister-in-law Erika lives in New York City, while my mother and I live in Florida. I couldn’t imagine finding THE dress without them, but the logistics were a challenge. To make it work, we’d need to meet somewhere we could easily get to and back home in a weekend. Being a “Say Yes to the Dress” lover, I thought it would be amazing to have this experience at Bridals by Lori in Atlanta. So we booked hotel rooms and bought plane tickets. The trip was incredible: we celebrated the occasion with champagne and delicious food, and in the end, I got to “Say Yes to the Dress” with my favorite women by my side.
Describe your wedding flowers. Table décor included puffs of baby’s breath and Queen Anne’s lace in milkglass and cobalt containers. Baby’s breath also lined the aisles of the chapel. The bridesmaids carried simple bouquets of baby’s breath. I carried a bouquet of baby’s breath, Queen Anne’s lace, and ranunculus. I wanted it all to feel light, airy, and ethereal.
We weren’t too excited about having traditional readings in the ceremony. Too many weddings use the same texts, which often feel like they’re included only to fill space in an otherwise too-short ceremony. We wanted something more personal, but had no idea what to do. So we enlisted my brother, Matt (also a groomsman), to surprise us with a reading of his choice. He chose a passage from “The Irrational Season” by Madeleine L’Engle. “… But ultimately there comes a moment when a decision must be made. Ultimately two people who love each other must ask themselves how much they hope for as their love grows and deepens, and how much risk they are willing to take…. It is indeed a fearful gamble…. Because it is the nature of love to create, a marriage itself is something which has to be created, so that, together we become a new creature. To marry is the biggest risk in human relations that a person can take…. If we commit ourselves to one person for life this is not, as many people think, a rejection of freedom; rather it demands the courage to move into all the risks of freedom, and the risk of love which is permanent; into that love which is not possession, but participation…. It takes a lifetime to learn another person… When love is not possession, but participation, then it is part of that co-creation which is our human calling, and which implies such risk that it is often rejected.” It was absolutely perfect.
We decided not to do a “first look.” We wanted to have that traditional moment in the aisle, and to allow it all the intensity it deserved. Instead, I had a “first look” with my father. He hadn’t seen my dress or accessories before the big day; he had wanted to be surprised. I thought capturing the moment a dad finally saw his youngest daughter as a bride would be a wonderful idea, so our photographer, Mecheal Johnson, coordinated it as our own personal first look. The photos are beautiful and emotional, creating a memory we’ll have forever.
What is the one detail or vendor that you were so happy to have as a part of your wedding?
There are two. First, our huge bridal party (eight on each side). We were blessed to have all of our siblings and closest friends, most of whom live very far away, together at the same time. Second, we included communion in our ceremony. Right after we took our vows, the pastor served us, then we served the entire congregation. I served the bread and Shannon served the wine. It was incredibly special to be able to connect with every guest in such a meaningful way during our ceremony.
See! There’s simple no way to scroll past these photos of Laura and not feel the joy that’s jumping (pun-intended) right off the screen!
What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? (From the bride) The food! Townsend catering served incredible shrimp and grits, and build-your-own grouper tacos. And the setting. The reception was outside, under a canopy of beautiful live oak trees. (From the groom)There was also some seersucker being worn by a few of our guests. Love it.
Describe your wedding cake or dessert. We chose a round white cake (with blush flower accents), with alternating tiers of vanilla and coconut filling. It was made by Rhonda at Confections on the Coast.
I love these yummy old-fashioned cream cheese doughnuts! They’re from the Alys Beach donut truck, one of my favorites!
How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. We met in the fourth grade in Peoria, Illinois. Given the shy and awkward nature of pre-teens harboring secret crushes on each other, we had few actual interactions. After middle school, we parted ways and lost touch. Nearly 15 years later, Facebook brought us back together. We spent the winter of 2010 corresponding through email. From Florida, I would discuss my impending move to Chicago and recount all the fun I was having with friends. In grad school at LSU, Shannon would envy my revelry and describe his approaching dissertation defense. When Shannon flew to Chicago to interview for a job, he suggested to me that we meet up. I obliged, and so he made the two-hour trek from his hotel to downtown Chicago. We exchanged pleasantries as we were seated, spent a few minutes catching the other up on our lives, and discussed the few mutual friends with whom we still stayed in touch. Before the appetizer had arrived, however, the conversation began to fizzle (crickets chirping). In short, the date went poorly. I found him arrogant and self-absorbed. He was likewise unimpressed. That seemed to be the end of that. Months later, it turns out, Shannon accepted the Illinois job. He moved to the Chicago suburbs and, trying to make new friends, decided to give me another chance. He texted me whenever he made a trip into the city, to see if I was available. I was not. I was always working and had started dating someone from Baton Rouge. Undeterred, he invited me to a Halloween party. Without any plans of my own, guilt-stricken from rejecting his many previous requests and newly single, I relented. We enjoyed the party, the night ended with a kiss, and the rest, of course, is history.
Tell us all about the proposal! It was the fall of 2011. Just a few months after we started dating, Shannon had decided I was “The One.” Trouble was, he had accepted a job in Orlando and would move there next summer. He told me this and, when I took it in stride, asked if I would come with him. When I agreed, he knew I would one day be his wife. As the move to Florida grew closer, we decided it a good idea to create a Chicago “Bucket List.” One of my coworkers, after hearing of the bucket list, suggested we visit Navy Pier and ride the ferris wheel. It wasn’t on the list, but I had never been there, so it was included and plans were made: I would take photos of the Chicago skyline from the Ferris wheel at sunset. Meanwhile, Shannon received an email: The ring he ordered had been shipped from Peoria to Chicago. It was available for pick-up. He got up early the next day and sped off to retrieve it as soon as the store opened. With the ring in hand, Shannon recalled something his friend at the jewelry store had said weeks earlier: “Just so you know,” he warned, “as soon as you get it, that thing will burn a hole in your pocket.” Shannon dismissed the comment as insignificant. He figured he would hold on to the ring for a week or so while he devised a way to propose. He was wrong. As soon as he put the ring in his pocket, the mental weight of its influence weakened his resolve. He would propose today. He returned to the apartment and wondered how he was going to keep this from me all day. After a casual suggestions, we decided we would knock off a few more things from the bucket list. I mentioned the conversation I had with my coworker, and the Ferris wheel ride was included on the day’s agenda. We ate a late lunch at Pequod’s Pizza, then rode bikes along Lake Michigan to Navy Pier. We parked the bikes and walked to Harry Caray’s, where we had a beer and waited for the sun to set. Shannon didn’t talk much the entire day. For the next hour, he simply watched the crowd pass by and, when listening to me speak, offered his best (nervous) smile. When the sun had begun to set, and I determined that the light was just about right, we walked the short distance down the pier to the Ferris wheel. As the car ascended, I admired the view and snapped photos. At the ride’s peak, Shannon got down on one knee, but he couldn’t get the words out; he just knelt there, waiting for me to say yes. When I remained quiet, alternating my gaze from him to the ring, he realized he needed to say something. “Please marry me” was all he could muster. “Of course, yes!” I exclaimed. The cars on either side of us, realizing a proposal had just occurred, began to applaud. Naturally, we had to buy the official photo documenting the occasion. It would be the last image of us as single individuals.
When did y’all get married? April 13, 2013
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 95
Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding and why you chose them. The ceremony music was classical, and chosen to include my cousin Nick, who happens to be an incredible trumpet player. He played Trumpet Tune for the “call to worship” and Trumpet Voluntary for the procession and recession. Another of my cousins, Beth, is an opera singer. During the unity candle lighting, she sang, “O Mio Babbino Caro.” The lyrics, about a young girl begging her father to let her go marry the man she loves, seemed appropriate given our childhood history. The music was breathtaking as it filled the little Seaside Chapel.
Our favorite detail of the wedding was: Our wedding favors. We gave our guests classic Seaside coffee mugs and old-fashioned cream cheese doughnuts (from the Alys Beach donut truck). I designed favor tag labels that said “Thank you for being a part of our happily ever after. You doughnut know how much it means to us.”
Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? My older sister, Sarah loaned the earrings she received as a “push present” for the birth of her first child as my something borrowed. Shannon’s grandmother’s ring served as my something blue. There is a china doll that has been carried by brides in my family for generations, whig was my something old. The doll rested in a pouch on my handmade bouquet wrap. The wedding dress and accessories were something new.
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? (From the bride) My biggest challenge was trying not to overextend myself with the design details. As an event designer, I was in my element and doing what I love most, but I had to try to “keep a lid on it” so I could focus on being a bride too. (From the groom) I just tried to keep the wine chilled and the bride stress-free.
What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? (From the bride) Walking down the aisle, having all of our closest family and friends smiling at me. (From the groom) The same.
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? (From the bride) Keep the engagement short. That way, there’s less time to worry about everything, and you’re still super excited when the wedding weekend arrives! (From the groom) Guys, if you’re not taking an active planning role, stay out of the way!
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you most looking forward to about married life?
Building our own family traditions. And our one-year anniversary. Shannon has promised we’ll spend it in Hawaii.
Photographer: Paul Johnson Photography| Videographer: Momentus Films | Planner: It’s a Shore Thing | Ceremony Venue: Seaside Interfaith Chapel, Seaside, FL | Reception Venue: Ruskin Place Green, Seaside, FL | Florist: Bella Flora | Wedding Cake: Confections on the Coast | Caterer: Townsend Catering | Band: Nightfire | Event Design & Stationary: Gathered Events | Bride’s Gown: Judd Waddell | Paper Products: Gathered Events | Bride’s Hair Accessories/Veil/Jewelry: Laura Taylor | Hair Stylist & Makeup Artist: Bridget at Rolland’s Salon & Art Gallery | Bride’s Shoes: Vera Wang | Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Amsale, blush crinkle chiffon gowns in various styles | Groom’s Attire: Jos. A. Bank | Groosmen Attire: Jos. A. Bank