Southern Weddings

It has been such a delight having Meg, our spring intern, with us this semester! Since her time in our office is wrapping up, we couldn’t resist asking her to introduce y’all to one of our beautiful real wedding features! – Lisa

You know a couple is a special when an entire street shuts down to celebrate their big day! McKara and Brandon paid homage to their beloved downtown Lakeland in the best way possible–by using its streets as the venue for their reception! Ashton Events, one of our super talented Blue Ribbon Vendors, transformed N. Kentucky Avenue and Pine Street using the most darling and whimsical vintage details (I’m still swooning over those antique floral teacups), while still keeping in mind McKara and Brandon’s main desire: to highlight the strong sense of community that Lakeland has to offer. Guests enjoyed a yummy meal seated at gorgeous, community-style farmhouse tables, and the night ended with the couple inviting folks walking by to join in on the fun. How beautiful is that? McKara and Brandon really captured the sweet essence of community while fusing it with their own quirky and vintage taste. I’m completely tickled with this fun couple and their big day…and I think y’all will be, too!

Thank you, Esther Louise Photography, for sharing this wonderful day with us!

I had my heart set on a peach-hued gown. After looking in boutiques in Florida, I found that none of the bridal shops stocked dresses in the peachy/pink hues I had in mind. I wanted to try on the dress in the color I would be wearing, so a trip to New York City was set up. My mom and my best friend/maid of honor flew up to Manhattan with appointments set at several boutiques who had confirmed they had peach dresses in stock for me to try on. Our first stop was Kleinfeld’s. I really did not have high hopes for finding my dress at Kleinfeld’s because I had my eye on a Carol Hannah dress that I was sure was the one. But, I figured since Kleinfeld’s had the largest selection of peach dresses in stock, it would be worthwhile. Upon arriving, we were extremely impressed with the customer service. Our consultant, Judy, was helpful and attentive. She brought me a brand new style from Lazaro in a peony color–it was just in and had not even been tried on by anyone before. Judy pulled me into the dress and it was beautiful. The peony color was made from alternating layers of ivory, pale yellow, and pale pink tulle created a variation of peach hues within the skirt. The strapless sweetheart neckline was wrapped in delicate peach Chantilly lace with a little peplum over the mountain of tulle. I felt like a cupcake in the best possible way–the softest, peachiest, prettiest cupcake. But, that Carol Hannah dress was still in my mind, which Judy knew. My mom, MOH, and I toured a few more boutiques–Lovely, Reem Acra, and then finally, Carol Hannah. As I slipped into “the dress” I had been dreaming of, I waited for the feeling to know this is the one. Carol was on-site and came out to talk with me as I tried it on. As I evaluated the dress and discussed tweaks with Carol, my mom pointed out that all the changes I was asking for were to make the dress look like the Lazaro dress. She was right. I wanted the Carol Hannah gown to be the one so badly, but I had left my dress at Kleinfeld’s with Judy. The next morning, we returned to Kleinfeld’s. The sales manager saw us in the waiting area and said, “I was just talking about you during the sales meeting this meeting. I told the consultants that not every bride comes in here with red hair, wants a peach dress, and finds the perfect gown. I knew you would come back.”

Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? Brandon and I wrote our ceremony together, with input from our officiant–a local community member/friend we admire. We opted to write vows we would both say together versus separate vows we would make to each other. Our completed vows are a very accurate description of the nature of our relationship. This line, in particular, really speaks to our relationship: “I vow to take on anything this world sends our way, standing back to back with you, the one I love most.” I’ve always felt a good visual of our relationship is similar to a movie where two superhero partners are standing back-to-back, with threats coming at them from every direction. We’re not focused on the same thing all of the time, and we may not see what the other sees, but at the end of the day, I feel Brandon behind me and he’s got my back. I can count on that every minute, which allows me to trust him, tackle whatever is thrown at me, jump at opportunities that arise, and always know he will be there if I turn around.

How did you plan for your marriage while planning your wedding? We really credit the time we spent while creating my engagement ring before we were engaged as the most concentrated time we spent focusing on the idea of marriage. We discussed a lot about what we wanted from the relationship, what a successful marriage looked like to each of us, and made the choice together to move forward. Although Brandon traditionally “asked” me to marry him during the proposal, it was really a joint decision we made prior to that day.

The ceremony venue, The Loggia at Lake Mirror, is one of our favorite places in Lakeland. The 1920’s architecture overlooking the beautiful lake are right in line with our style. When discussing a ceremony venue, Brandon and I both instantly agreed about The Loggia. We wanted to be outdoors and this was the ideal venue. For the reception, we went a little outside of the box. We knew our guest list could be a little on the heavy side, eliminating most venues of our taste in the Lakeland area. We didn’t want to have to cut guests to accommodate the venue restrictions. One Saturday, while walking through the Farmer’s Market, I asked Brandon, “Why can’t we just have our reception here?” in a wishful thinking kind of way. Brandon thought about it and said, “I bet we could get the city to close the streets for us if they do for the Farmer’s Market.” From there, the ball began to roll. Our hearts were set on the streets of downtown as our reception venue. We approached the City of Lakeland for a road closure request. They had never been asked to hold a private party in the streets and were a little on the unsure side at first. From there, our wedding coordinator, Laura with Ashton Events, worked through all the red tape and permits. The finished reception result was completely worth it. For a fee at a fraction of the cost of a ballroom at a hotel, we were able to close three blocks of downtown Lakeland for our cocktail hour and reception. Cafe lights were strung between the buildings lining the street, feasting tables were brought in for a family-style BBQ dinner on vintage china, the coffee shop we frequent most mornings stayed open late to provide coffee and tea, we created a dance floor in the middle of an intersection, and our favorite wine bar around the corner hosted the after party. Ashton Events was instrumental in coordinating all the moving pieces of the party. It would have never been possible without Laura and her team.

With the venues that we chose, we had a lot of design elements to pull in to fill the space. We essentially started with a blank canvas. For the ceremony, we used a greenery garland at the top of the aisle and vintage wood crates and boxes filled with airy baby’s breath, which I loved as a fun, ethereal filler. Both components were repurposed at the reception in the lounge area. For my bouquet, I carried a hand-tied bouquet with a variety of peach, ivory, and pale pink blooms, lots of greenery, and a few scabiosa pods. Each of the bridesmaid’s bouquets was comprised entirely of one kind of bloom that was represented in my bouquet. This, to me, represented how each of the ‘maids was a different part and sector of my life, but how they all helped make it beautiful. On each of the bouquets, I selected a variety of textiles like velvet ribbon, silk strips, and fuzzy yarns to create a streamer/tassel look hanging from the blooms. For the centerpieces, we used a variety of vintage vases and vessels with springs and sprays of various peach, cream, and pale pink blossoms with lots of greenery and some scabiosa pods.

Our date has special significance because both Brandon’s parents and my parents were married on the same date. We incorporated this into our save the dates by having both sets of parents in the photo. We stood in front of our ceremony location at The Loggia and each couple held a sign with their wedding date, mine and Brandon’s reading October 10, 2014. We wanted guests to know the significance from the get-go, and this was a fun, visual way to share that. At the wedding, we surprised our parents with a little tribute to their anniversaries. Our cake table showcased five smaller cakes rather than one large cake. When it was time to cut the cake, we had displayed both sets of parents’ cake toppers on two of the cakes on the table, in addition to our cake with our own topper. We asked our parents to join us and we all took turns cutting our cakes. They were surprised and touched by the sentiment.

Describe your wedding cake or dessert. We elected for five smaller cakes instead of one large cake. This allowed us to select a few different flavors and create a display that included our parent’s wedding cake toppers for their anniversaries. We (and I really mean Brandon, because this was his favorite meeting of the whole wedding planning process) chose a pink champagne cake with a whipped icing as our center cake, which was layered with fresh strawberries. Strawberries are heavily grown in the local area, so this was a nice way to incorporate a little bit more of our city into the wedding. Two of the smaller cakes were orange citrus cake with cream cheese icing–again, a nod to the large citrus industry of our city. The final two small cakes were chocolate with vanilla icing (my personal favorite when it comes to classic flavors). We used five different vintage cake plates to create a display for the beautiful cakes. Each cake was decorated differently, utilizing watercolor painting on a very thin outer layer of fondant, a rustic icing with a sugar bloom, or an application of gold foil. Our main cake that Brandon and I cut featured adorable little ivory china swans with gold foil details from BHLDN. Swans are a big part of the Lakeland community, serving as the symbol of the city, so this was one more tie in to our community.

What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? That Brandon and I were able to enjoy every single moment. I’ve always heard that your wedding day flies by–you blink and it’s over. I’m not a relaxed personality type, but the day of our wedding, we both were so laid back. We were able to savor every moment and every memory. That is my favorite part–that I am able to relive the whole day in my head and remember being 100% present for those moments, not only through the beautiful photos and video. I credit this to having such a solid conductor of events at the helm with Laura from Ashton Events. We could relax because we knew it was all taken care of and every piece was being executed as planned.

Don’t miss McKara and Brandon’s wedding film by White in Revery!

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. We met our freshman year at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. We were both involved in sorority/fraternity life and were serving on Greek Council together. Brandon hardly spoke–he’s the quiet, shy type. I eventually transferred to finish my degree at the University of South Florida in Tampa. Our senior year of college, we reconnected through a Facebook status I commented on. We started private messaging and the conversation continued for three months while I finished an internship in England. Brandon had promised to cook me dinner and show me all these great new places in Jacksonville that had popped up since I left–so when I returned stateside, I made a visit to Jacksonville to “visit friends,” testing if Brandon would follow through. He did. He nervously cooked me dinner with the scarce ingredients in his downtown loft and we watched SNL skits all night. The next day, we went to the beach and he pulled me into the ocean…fully dressed. From there, we took visits back and forth between Jacksonville and Tampa until our graduation the following semester.
Tell us all about the proposal! Being that I’m in the design industry (and a Class A control freak), I’m extremely particular about, well, just about everything. When Brandon brought up the idea of marriage, the conversation naturally led to him asking about the type of ring I would like. Together, we spent about seven months sourcing the center stone (a peach seven-karat Morganite) and locating a local jeweler willing to create a custom ring. This was a very enjoyable time in our relationship–it eased us into the concept of marriage and moved us towards the future together. Finally, on August 11, 2012, I stated to Brandon that “I wasn’t going to spend the next however long on pins and needles, trying to look my cutest all the time just waiting for him to propose.” With his sheepish smile, Brandon told me “Well, just look cute today.” I didn’t get the hint and continued to playfully badger him. We went down to the Farmer’s Market, like we do every Saturday, but then Brandon split off, saying he had to drop something off and he’d catch up with me–knowing I’d head to one of our favorite vintage treasure haunts, The Black Swan Bazaar. After browsing, I was ready to move to the next shop, but one of the owners kept pulling me around the store to show me new inventory. Finally, Brandon showed at the entrance of the store. As I turned to head out, I was pulled one more time by the shop keeper who said, “Oh, have you seen one of these before?” as she touched the top of a cut-glass candy dish. I was thinking “Duh, lady, it’s a candy dish…” as she lifted the lid. Mid-thought, I saw a glimpse of the ring Brandon and I had been working on, inside the candy dish in a little box. I turned to look at Brandon and found him on one knee. Brandon muttered somethings which I don’t think my brain even heard because I was completely caught off-guard. We celebrated for a few minutes with the owners and shoppers at The Black Swan before Brandon informed me that his parents were at my parents’ house for a little celebration brunch.
When did y’all get married? October 10, 2014
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? About 200
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? The rental fees for the venues were very low. The Loggia was about $750 for the ceremony and closing the streets cost about $250. The streets were a blank canvas, so we had to bring in all the tables, linens, chairs, etc., but we had carte blanche on which vendors to use. We created custom packages with our photographers and videographers to met our needs. The packages they had were either a little under what we were wanting or a little over, so we asked for a personalized package. Typically we would have had to pay extra for things we didn’t want/need, but our vendors were super great and worked with us to meet our needs, which saved us money. For the centerpieces, my mom and I hunted and collected vintage vessels for the two years Brandon and I were engaged. We were able to find most pieces for $1-3 at thrift stores, garage sales, or antique shops. This saved on the cost of the rental, and we were also able to resell the items after the wedding to recoup the cost.
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Hire a wedding coordinator! Hands down, it will be the best money you spend on the wedding. Don’t skimp on the hands to do the work that you plan! A lot of time, coordinators can help save you money through vendor relationships they’ve built.
What’s next for you as a couple? What memories are you looking forward to making together? Well, we found out a month after the wedding that we were expecting a baby. So we’re now enjoying the whirlwind experience of becoming parents to a baby boy! We’re looking forward to seeing where the next couple of years take us with my business, Brandon’s career, and watching our son, Rex, grow up in a city we love.

Photographer: Esther Louise Photography | Videographer: White in Revery | Planner: Ashton Events | Ceremony Venue: City of Lakeland’s Loggia | Reception Venue: Downtown Lakeland, N. Kentucky Ave & Pine Street | Florist: FH Weddings | Cake Baker: Hands On Sweets | Caterer: Hickory Hollow BBQ | Rentals: Wish Vintage Rentals | Lighting: Tampa Lights | Band: Brian Sutherland Band | DJ: Cory Baron | China: Dishie Rentals | Paper Products: Boutique Greek | Bride’s Gown: “Style 3300” in Peony by Lazaro | Bride’s Accessories: Lazaro, Carolee, and Kate Spade | Hair and Makeup: Michelle Renee The Studio | Bride’s Shoes: Cynthia Rowley | Bridesmaids’ Dresses: “Fifth Avenue Showstopper Dress” by Badgley Mischka | Menswear: Men’s Wearhouse, JoS. A. Bank, The Tie Bar, and Johnston Murphy | Linens: Kate Ryan Linens | Chairs: Signature Event Rentals | Bartenders: Tucker’s Southside Liquor & Package | Coffee and Tea: Mitchell’s Coffee House | Vintage Cars: MJC Classic Cars | After-Party Location: Tony’s Studio B | Photo Booth: Bash Booth

Ashton Events is a delightful member of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

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