Google+ North Carolina Wedding by A.J. Dunlap and Salt Harbor - Southern Weddings

Southern Weddings

Erin and Joe’s love story is a testament to the idea that “when you know, you know.” They knew after their first meeting that what they had found in each other was worth starting a long-distance relationship for. Joe knew by his first Christmas with Erin’s family that he would someday ask her to marry him. That same confidence carried into their engagement as they planned their Salt Harbor celebration, knowing that they wanted to start their marriage surrounded by community. Their big bridal party and the effort they put into caring for their guests is proof of that, and I can only imagine how palpable the love for this sweet couple was on their special day!

Thank you so much to A.J. Dunlap for sharing Erin and Joe’s wedding with us!

I traveled down to my friend’s bridal store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to find the perfect gown. I thought I wanted something with lace, but after trying some on, all of the lace dresses felt too formal for me. When I tried on my beautiful ombre gown, I knew it was the one. It had the special touch I was looking for, and the silk organza was so soft and light. It was perfect, and I knew right away that it was the dress I would wear on my wedding day.

Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! As my something old, I had a gold “A” brooch that belonged to my paternal great-grandmother and a gold heart charm necklace with my maternal grandparents’ names on either side that I attached to the stem of my bouquet. My grandparents were not able to make the trip to the wedding, so the necklace was in honor of them. My dress, shoes, veil, jewelry, hairpiece, and garter were new. At the last minute right before the ceremony started, my mom gave me her engagement ring to borrow for the evening–since she has such small fingers, I wore it on my pinky finger!

Our favorite detail was our GIANT wedding party, which included important people in our lives from lower school and beyond. We also had gentlemen (my brother and a friend) who stood on my side and ladies (Joe’s sister, sister-in-law, and a friend) who stood on his side.

For our ceremony and cocktail hour, we had a quartet that was led by my former high school orchestra teacher. I knew from the beginning of wedding planning that I wanted him to play for the ceremony. It was especially meaningful because our officiant, my maid of honor, and my brother are all former students of his as well, so it felt like a little reunion.

What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? Did they have any special significance to you? Our ceremony and reception were held in the same place–we were aiming for simplicity and did not want guests to have to travel between different locations to get from the ceremony to the reception. We “flipped” the ceremony space into a reception, which was the easiest and most efficient way for us to achieve that goal. The food and the cake were provided by the country club, and having an all-inclusive experience helped us streamline our vendor list.

We planned our wedding with the emphasis on making it as easy and fun for our guests as possible. We had shuttles take our guests to and from the wedding, so drinking and driving wouldn’t be a concern. We were blessed with cool summer weather, but held our events under nautical sail cloth tents that provided shade, and created our programs in the shape of fans, just in case of warm temperatures. We had corn hole boards set up that were painted with UNC and Vanderbilt themes (in honor of our alma maters). We also had a bourbon bar (Joe is a whiskey man), where guests could sip their favorites, and my brother painted us a sign to hang over the bar that said “Franklin & Broadway” in honor of the main streets in Chapel Hill and Nashville. During the cocktail hour, the bourbon bar served mint juleps and Moscow mules for guests to enjoy.

Describe your wedding cake or dessert. We had a simple, three-tiered wedding cake, but as a little surprise, it was a funfetti cake with strawberry cream in the middle! It’s too easy for a wedding to feel “stuffy,” so we wanted to go with a cake flavor that so many of us loved growing up. We also had a groom’s cake that was Vanderbilt-themed (because Joe loves Vanderbilt sports), with a perfect replica of a football helmet on it. The cake was Rocky Road flavor, which was definitely a guest favorite!
Did you pull any wedding inspiration from memories you have together? Tell us about it! Joe and I enjoy going to UNC and Vanderbilt sporting events together, so our exit with pom poms in our schools’ colors was a fun little addition! As we were waiting for everyone to get lined up so we could run through, we could hear people yelling the schools’ chants. It was a very memorable end to our wonderful night.

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. We met over Memorial Day weekend in 2011 on the patio of a little bar in Topsail Beach, North Carolina. We were both in town visiting friends for the holiday weekend, and met through mutual friends. After chatting for most of the night, we realized there was something special between us and we wanted to see each other again, even though we were living five hours apart (I was in Durham, North Carolina and Joe was in Washington, D.C.). We spent the next year driving to see each other on the weekends, before we got the chance to move to Boston together for two years of grad school (yay, no more long-distance!).
Tell us all about the proposal! Joe proposed over Memorial Day weekend in 2014, at the very same beach where we had met three years prior. I had spent most of the day at the beach while Joe stayed up at my parents’ house. Later in the afternoon, Joe met me down at the beach, and we proceeded to set up our beach tent so we could enjoy some time together. I was laying on my stomach reading when he got down on the beach towel next to me and started talking about how much he loved me. He then pulled a ring box out of his pocket and asked me if I would marry him. I, of course, said yes, and then we celebrated with a bottle of my grandpa’s homemade wine, which had been given to Joe the first Christmas he spent with my family. He said he knew when he received it that it would be the wine that we would use to celebrate our engagement someday.
When did y’all get married? May 24, 2015
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 150
What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? We did not have any formal readings, but Joe’s brother recited a verse from the Old Testament and a prayer, which talked about being physically and mentally present for each other throughout our lives, especially in the first year of our marriage. It was really special.
If you are comfortable responding, what range did your wedding budget fall into? $50,000-$75,000
What was one way you saved money or cut costs at your wedding? We purchased a GoPro camera for guests to use to videotape the ceremony and reception. We were able to save money, and the GoPro provided more personal candid shots of the wedding, which was what we wanted. We also made our own save the dates instead of purchasing them from a paper vendor.
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Use spreadsheets to track everything (budgets, guest lists, gifts received, vendor contacts), and be as organized as possible. Also, let people help you with wedding tasks–don’t try to do it all yourself. You will find that you’ll enjoy the wedding planning journey a lot more if you distribute some of the work. People will offer to help, so let them (and then thank them for making things easier for you).
What’s next for you as a couple? What memories are you looking forward to making together? We just returned from our honeymoon in Puerto Rico, and we are excited to ease into a “normal” life of cooking together and spending our free time on the weekends together. There are many date nights in our future!

Photographer: A.J. Dunlap Photography / Planner, Florist, and Rentals: Salt Harbor / Venue, Catering, and Cake: Country Club of Landfall / Tents: Sperry Tents / Furniture Rentals: Party Suppliers / Lighting: High Performance Lighting / Band: Band: Mr. Potato Head via East Coast Entertainment / Invitations: Invitations by Dawn / Programs: Woodlark Designs / Save the Date Stickers: Social Print Studio / Bride’s Gown: Martina Liana / Bride’s Jewelry: Nadri / Bride’s Hairpiece: Richard Designs / Hair Stylist: Wedding Hair by Liz / Makeup Artist: Lauren Tedino / Bride’s Shoes: Jimmy Choo / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Donna Morgan / Bridesmaids’ Necklaces: Stella & Dot / Groom’s Attire: Hugo Boss / Groom’s Shoes: Ted Baker / Groomsmen Attire: Savvi Formalwear / Groomsmen’s Cuff Links: Release Me Creations / Bridal Salon: Bustle / Dress Alterations: Isabel Donnelly / Bridal Suite: The Loft on Front / Transportation: Wilmington Trolley Company and Cape Fear Transportation

Invitations by Dawn and Donna Morgan are delightful Southern Weddings advertisers. Bustle, Sperry Tents, and East Coast Entertainment are members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory.

lisa Written with love by Lisa
  1. avatar Yours Truly Wedding Albums reply

    Breathtaking images! What a gorgeous wedding!

  2. avatar A.J. Dunlap reply

    Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful southern wedding that we had the privilege of photographing. We are so honored to see it featured here!!! xoxo~A.J. & Kyle

  3. avatar Dana reply

    I like his sweet, low-key proposal!

  4. avatar Reece reply

    Love Social Print Studio!!! I used their photostrips and tinybooks as my save the dates. ❤️

  5. avatar Tatyana Lee reply

    That bouquet is incredible!

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