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Sharing our Home Town Celebration editorial from our tenth anniversary issue, inspired by Laurel, Mississippi!

We have the privilege of traveling all across the Southeast while making Southern Weddings, exploring pockets of the Southeast and dreaming up beautiful love stories along the way! It’s no secret that this particular story is inspired by our own hometown heroes, Erin and Ben Napier. After featuring their home tour back in 2014, it’s been our joy to see their love story and small town make it big on HGTV. Their love for each other and their passion for Laurel’s revitalization was a huge inspiration for this editorial, and we’re grateful for all the ways they made it possible for us to shoot in their sweet Mississippi town!

When we thought about the heart of hospitality behind this shoot, we knew there would be no better photographer than our dear friend and Blue Ribbon Vendor Davy Whitener. This editorial holds a special place in my heart, because Davy is shooting my wedding this April! After our V9 Cover Editorial, one of our former editors came back to the office and said to me, “I know you’re not getting married right now, but I’m pretty positive Davy Whitener is the perfect person to shoot your wedding when it comes time.” And she was right!

After working with Davy on this shoot, and getting engaged a few months later, he was one of the first people I emailed. His heart for hospitality, love for people, and ability to capture the often-unseen moments gave us the beautiful images you see here!

After arriving in Laurel, Emily and I headed straight to Laurel Mercantile Co. to pick up some of the goodies you see above in the welcome crates, including the darling City Beautiful Pennant you see tucked above!

While we ran errands, Lauren Soley of Lovegood Wedding & Event Rentals and her team were unloading and prepping the Rogers-Green House for the shoot. We couldn’t have pulled off our Home Town Celebration editorial without her!

I’m not at all embarrassed to tell you how often I think about the flowers Josie and Christine of The Petaler Co. created for us! The sunny pop of yellow in the Sally Homes roses, peonies, and white lilacs mixed with the sprigs of mint and oregano were such a unique combination that I still ooh and ahh over!

There are few things more Southern than a porch swing for bridal portraits! Our HGTV Home Town fans might recognize Bill and Jody’s porch swing from an episode in Season One. Not only did they open their home to us for shooting, but they graciously gave us a tour that evening and joined us for dinner. Trust me when I tell you there is no shortage of Southern hospitality in Laurel, MS!

Gingham dresses that can be worn again paired with embroidered monogram hankies are a sweet way to honor your special ladies!

Isn’t this the most darling lemonade stand you’ve ever seen? Our flower girls and ring bearers were the perfect lemonade hosts, making sure our entire team stayed refreshed all day long.

Keeping with the heart of the shoot and home town feel, two of Davy’s children suited up for the big day and Lauren’s cousins sported their biggest bows as flower girls.

Can you imagine the emotions going through our bride’s head as the doors to her childhood church are about to open? Knowing she’ll see her groom for the very first time in the same church she grew up in admittedly gives me some watery eyes!

Ask your caterer to prepare a private picnic basket or meal for you and your groom to enjoy together post-ceremony before heading into your reception. Bonus points if you’re able to cozy up in the back of a pick-up truck!

Is there anything more Southern than fried chicken, tomato pies, and pancakes? I think not! Lola Fleur outdid themselves with all the delicious food! I can say that because I was able to sneak a few bites in :)

These were genuine smiles from our tiniest models when we told them they could snack on our strawberry shortcake desserts.

Finally, a special treat for you: the crew from Bride Film was on-hand to capture a behind-the-scenes glimpse of this special day! Here’s a look, in two parts:

BTS Part 1: Southern Weddings Home Town Celebration from BRIDE FILM on Vimeo.

BTS Part 2: Southern Weddings Home Town Celebration from BRIDE FILM on Vimeo.

Laurel, you were a gem! Thank you for inviting us into your community with open arms!

See more of this feature in our tenth anniversary issue, on newsstands now and in our shop!

Planner and Vintage Rentals: Lovegood Wedding & Event Rentals | Photographer: Davy Whitener | Film Processing: Richard Photo Lab | Videography: Bride Film | Ceremony Venue: Laurel First United Methodist Church | Reception Venue: The Rogers-Green House | Florals: The Petaler Co. | Hair and Makeup: Blush Salon | Catering: Lola Fleur | Lighting: Celebrations | Paper Goods and “Just Married” Banner: Southern Fried Paper | Strawberry Shortcake Boats: Shop Sweet Lulu | Escort Card Board: Minted | Linens: La Tavola Linen | Hanky Embroidery: Needleworks | Bride’s Gown: “Heloise” by Leanne Marshall via The Sentimentalist | Veil: “Phoenix” by Sara Gabriel | Jewelry: ExVoto Vintage | Ring: Trumpet & Horn | Ring Box: The Mrs. Box | Bridesmaid Dresses: Anthropologie | Groom’s Blue Blazer: Bonobos | Ties: Macy’s | Flower Girl Dresses: Rachel Riley | Hair Bows: Wee Ones | Welcome Box and Napkins: Laurel Mercantile

Lovegood Wedding & Event Rentals and Southern Fried Paper are delightful members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

Written with love by Jess Metcalf
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Bride Wenjie shares her Atlanta wedding at the Fernbank Museum of Natural History with us!

Please meet Wenjie, our lovely bride for today! And y’all, I can totally relate to the hardest part of wedding planning for her. She said, “The big choices (venue, caterer, dress, etc.) were easy, but the hundreds of small details were the hardest part about planning.” I can definitely see why their venue was easy! She and her sweet groom Futhum instantly fell in love with the natural lighting, high ceilings, and dinosaurs (!) on their initial tour of Fernbank Museum of Natural History. It provided the unique and one-of-a-kind experience they were hoping to show guests. Another unique experience I’m sure their guests loved? Wenjie and Futhum incorporated their respective Chinese and Eritrean cultures into their wedding day. This even included teaching guests traditional Eritrean wedding dances, something I’m sure won’t be easily forgotten!

Thanks to Elle Golden for sharing Wenjie and Futhum’s sweet Georgia day with us!

Tell us the highlights of finding your wedding dress. I was #asentimentalbride! I loved the process of finding my dress at The Sentimentalist in Atlanta. It is the cutest bridal shop in little white house instead of in a mall or giant shopping center. The staff was super sweet and helpful and they had an amazing selection of designer and vintage dresses. They had a wide array of dresses including a stunning, fully beaded gown. It wasn’t the right dress for our wedding, but it was fun to try on! With the help of the staff and my bridesmaids, I found the perfect Nicole Miller gown on my first visit.

What was the hardest part about planning your wedding? The big choices (venue, caterer, dress, etc.) were easy, but the hundreds of small details were the hardest part about planning. It was difficult to foresee how it would all come together or how one small choice could affect the overall design (an ivory tablecloth vs. a slightly different shade of white). Luckily our wedding planner helped us navigate these options and even made some of the decisions for us.

Did you decide to do a first look? Yes! We wanted to have a private moment to share before all the guests arrived. It also took away some of our nerves and added to our excitement for the ceremony.

Tell us all about the proposal! We have known each other since high school. When the Georgia Aquarium first opened, Futhum bought me and my best friend tickets for Christmas. I thought it was a really thoughtful present, and he thought it was our first date. Luckily we still stayed close friends (and eventually dated). Ten years later, he surprised me with tickets to the aquarium again. This time, he took me on a special tour where we were able to swim with the whale sharks and sting rays. Afterwards, he took me to my favorite restaurant (Makan, where we later had our rehearsal dinner) and proposed!

At the last minute, Futhum asked a groomsmen to bring our dog, Roger, to the venue. He took the best pictures and stole the show!

What was one way you saved money or cut costs at your wedding? We were originally thinking about having a larger wedding, closer to 300 guests. As we began planning, we agreed that we wanted to invite close family and friends so that when we both look into the crowd during the ceremony we would only see familiar faces. We also invited the Obamas who were not able to attend so we really saved on security costs! They did send a nice card that is now framed in our house.

We did not write our own vows, but our officiant interviewed us and incorporated our responses into the ceremony. I talked to him about how much I appreciate Futhum’s openness to trying new and exotic Chinese foods. We’re pretty sure we had the only wedding ceremony to ever mention chicken feet and stinky tofu. Additionally, my dad wrote us a poem and read it at the ceremony in both Mandarin and English. There definitely was not a dry eye in the house, including Futhum’s, which was the first time I’ve seen him cry in 15 years.

We made sure to include our favorite artists such as Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Prince, and Outkast into our day. After the ceremony, we walked back up the aisle to “Signed, Sealed, Delivered!”

We had a brief private moment after the ceremony while our guests were enjoying cocktail hour. Our caterer brought us champagne and hors d’oeuvres. It was amazing to be able to celebrate our marriage just the two of us and take a deep breath before jumping into the reception.

We knew we wanted to get married in the city of Atlanta and Fernbank Museum of Natural History was one of the first venues that came up in our search. We instantly fell in love with the amazing natural lighting, high ceilings, and dinosaurs on our initial tour. We also knew this would be a unique and one-of-a-kind location and experience.

What advice would you give to someone currently planning a wedding? Hire a planner! It really took the stress out of wedding planning. Even though it is an extra cost, it is well worth it and your planner will help save costs elsewhere. Create the type of wedding that you would want to go to! Remember that it is a day for BOTH of you and include the groom in the planning.

What was your favorite detail from your wedding? While we planned our wedding in a more American tradition, we included small touches from our own cultures (Chinese and Eritrean). Our favors were in Chinese silk pouches and included samples of Chinese green tea and Eritrean coffee which are both very important in our culture. We also played a few Eritrean wedding songs and had a blast teaching all of our guests the traditional dances.

What was Southern about your wedding? It was hot! We did not incorporate many traditional Southern aspects into our wedding, but our wedding definitely demonstrated Southern hospitality. We had guests from literally all over the world from different backgrounds and cultures. We were so happy seeing all of our guests welcoming each other and becoming friends as the night went on.

Tell us your love story in one sentence. “We are all a little weird and life’s a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love”. -Dr. Seuss
When did y’all get married? August 6, 2016.
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 150.
If you are comfortable responding, what range did your wedding budget fall into? $50,000-$75,000.
What did you serve for your wedding cake or dessert? We served a red velvet wedding cake from Sweet Hut Bakery. Sweet Hut is one of our favorite restaurants, and we love their Asian-style cakes, because the frosting is very light and subtly sweet. I guess our guests enjoyed it too, because it was devoured in a few minutes and we heard people were fighting over seconds.
What was your favorite thing about wedding planning? Our wedding planner! Whitney from Whitewood Events made wedding planning a breeze. We nicknamed her our magical wedding fairy because she made sure everything was perfect and even anticipated our needs. The cake and catering tastings were a favorite too!

Photographer: LeiLani Golden of Elle Golden Photography | Planner: Whitney Downs of Whitewood Events | Venue: Fernbank Museum of Natural History | Florist: Bloomin’ Bouquets | Wedding Cake or Dessert Baker: Sweet Hut Bakery & Cafe | Caterer:  Bold American Events | Lighting and DJ: Nice Entertainment | Paper Products: Oconee Printing | Bride’s Gown: “Janey” by Nicole Miller from The Sentimentalist | Bride’s Hair Accessories/Veil/Jewelry: BHLDN | Hair Stylist: Claudia Verduzco | Makeup Artist: Dominique Doyle of So Chevon | Bride’s Shoes: “Cacique Peep Toe Pumps” by Badgley Mischka | Bridesmaids’ Dresses: “Kate Lace Maxi Dress” by ASOS | Groom’s Attire: Hugo Boss | Groomsmen Attire: The Black Tux | Groom’s and Groomsmen’s socks: Sock Fancy

marissa Written with love by Marissa
3 Comments
  1. avatar Chef Aaron Butler reply

    The details of your wedding day sound amazing! I bet the wedding cake was amazing too! Red velvet cake is always a crowd pleaser!

  2. avatar Fernbank Museum Wedding | Futhum + Wenjie | Whitewood Events – Atlanta Wedding Photographer – Fine Art Film Photography – Elle Golden Photography reply

    […] and Futhum are featured on Southern Weddings. Here are a couple more quotes from their interview with the SW team. Make sure you pop over […]

  3. avatar Aram Hovsepian reply

    Refreshing and airy. Thank you for sharing!

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Though Catherine and Will did give a lot of thought to eloping, they ultimately decided they wanted to celebrate their marriage with their friends and family, so a wedding weekend it was! After a whirlwind search that ended with lots of great venues but none that felt exactly right, they found themselves on a tour of Blue Ribbon Vendor RT Lodge. The peaceful atmosphere and opportunity to have the property all to themselves for the weekend sealed the deal!

String lights, bales of hay covered in family quilts, and s’mores by the fire helped create the magical, “grown-up summer camp” feel Catherine and Will were hoping for. And judging from the joy in these photos, I’m thinking they’re pretty glad they didn’t decide to elope!

Thanks to Cody Myers for sharing their sweet Tennessee day with us!

The wedding dress wasn’t a detail of planning that I was especially excited about, so I put off looking until a ways into our engagement. Because we were on a tight timeline, I knew we needed to find something that day. After trying on a few dresses that were definitely not the one at different shops, we went to The Sentimentalist. The dress I ended up going with was flowy and relaxed with great lines. It had the perfect feel for our wedding, and I couldn’t have been happier!

I was very against the idea of not seeing Will until I walked down the aisle, so we both had breakfast at the lodge with our bridesmaids and groomsmen. Seeing him that morning was so nice, and it set a great tone for the day. If it was supposed to be one of the most important days of our life, it didn’t seem right not to spend most of it together! After breakfast, we went our separate ways to get ready with our friends, and then we had a first look in our wedding clothes in the woods at the Lodge.

What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? We gave a lot of thought to eloping, but once we decided to have a wedding weekend, we decided to get married in the mountains in North Carolina. After a whirlwind search, we decided to go look at RT Lodge in Tennessee. It isn’t what I thought we were looking for, but as we toured the property under umbrellas, the peaceful atmosphere pulled us in! It really felt like grown-up summer camp in the woods.

We used traditional Presbyterian vows, and we loved the simplicity and significance of those words that have been said time and again…”in plenty and in want; in joy and in sorrow; in sickness and in health, as long as we both shall live.” And it was so meaningful to use the words “husband” and “wife” for the first time!

The only readings we had at the ceremony were two Bible verses. One of our officiants read Romans 12:1-2, 9-18, and our other officiant read Colossians 3:12-17. We wanted our ceremony to be simple, meaningful, and very centered on God.

We wanted our ceremony music to be traditional, but walking down the aisle made me nervous, and listening to traditional processional songs made me even more nervous, so we decided to go with a more contemporary song for that part! One of our officiants suggested at an early meeting that we have everyone sing a hymn during the ceremony, and we chose one of our favorites (“Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”). We chose to have the hymn be played right after communion, so we were still sitting down in the seats with everyone, which was so sweet.

Will and I danced to Blake Shelton’s “Mine Would Be You” for our first dance. Our bluegrass band played a shortened version of it and it was really fun! My dad and I danced to Elvis’s “Sweet Caroline,” a song he would sing to me when I was a baby.

Our cocktail hour site was a grassy area just behind the ceremony site that had strung lights from trees Alex had planted and hay bales covered in family quilts around a fire. One other really sweet detail we loved was that after our rehearsal dinner, everyone hung out by the fire making s’mores and relaxing. It was the perfect ending to a really great day.

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. Will and I met on my first day of work at the Tennessee governor’s office (I give him a hard time because he doesn’t remember meeting me!). We slowly became office friends, and after a while, things began to shift into the possibility of becoming more. Will finally asked me out on an October Friday to go watch a Braves playoff game after work. After a somewhat bumpy first date (I was really nervous and didn’t even have my ID!), the rest of our story has been an amazing adventure!
Tell us all about the proposal! As soon as our busiest season of work ended, Will planned a trip to the Grove Park Inn in Asheville for a weekend getaway. On Saturday, we drove up the Blue Ridge Parkway to find a place to hike. After a lot of discussion with locals about where to go, we ended up at the summit of the Craggy Gardens Pinnacle trail with 360-degree views. After enjoying the view for a few minutes and taking some pictures, Will began saying some amazing things, and he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him! We were able to enjoy the rest of the day up on the mountain, and then we celebrated with a perfect dinner in downtown Asheville. We didn’t tell anyone the news that day (except for every stranger I encountered!), so on Sunday, we spent the drive home calling friends, and even stopped in Knoxville to tell my mom on Mother’s Day (my dad already knew).
When did y’all get married? October 24, 2015
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 105
Our favorite detail of the wedding was: For me, the paper aspect of the wedding were something I was very excited about! I was able to create the save the dates and I painted the fireplace at the lodge and did the calligraphy, and we had Chelsea Petaja create the most wonderful invitation suite. I loved working with her and I couldn’t have been happier with the way everything turned out. I love vintage stationery and stamps, so I started collecting old stamps as soon as we got engaged. Each envelope had six or seven vintage stamps on it! One of our favorite details of the actual wedding was the ceremony and cocktail hour sites–Alex (our coordinator) made those blank canvases come to life!
Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! Making sure I was wearing each category was one of the details that ended up not happening in the chaos of the weekend, so I only had a borrowed veil and new dress/shoes. BUT, there was a lot of “old” strung throughout the wedding, like the old (and blue!) Chevy truck, the cake topper, the film photography, the Super 8 video, my paternal grandparents’ wedding guest book that we used as our guest book. We laugh that our wedding was straight out of the 50s!
What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? Will had a special bourbon bar during the reception, which was made up of a selection of bourbon from Southern distilleries. For our rehearsal dinner (which took place on the front lawn of RT), we ate barbecue, drank Cokes in glass bottles, and had banana pudding served in the sweetest Spode Woodland bunny bowls. Most of our food had a Southern base, from fried chicken at my bridal luncheon Friday to collards at the reception!
How did you plan for your marriage while planning your wedding? We tried to be very intentional about the fact that the wedding was only one day in the scope of our entire marriage, so we went to a marriage seminar, had counseling with our minister, and read a lot of books together like Tim Keller’s “The Meaning of Marriage.”
What is the one detail or vendor that you were so happy to have as a part of your wedding? We had Campbell Brewer film our wedding in Super 8 video. The nostalgic feel of our video is incredible, and all of our details fit perfectly with that medium. He edited amazing videos for us. Because we had an amazing film photographer (Cody Myers) shoot the weeding, the video truly feels like our photos came to life! I loved using the wedding as an excuse to hire really talented people I know. My friend, artist James Worsham, created our altar–it was so perfect! He really set the scene with the wood altar, the fabric draped over, and the copper flower stands he made! Also, I had an artist I know from high school, Adele Yonchak, paint small canvases for my bridesmaids; they turned out so perfectly, and I loved being able to give them to my closest friends.
What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? It was really important to us that the day be centered around the ceremony. Communion was served during our ceremony, and being able to experience that sacred moment with our closest family and friends while rain lightly fell was so special.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your wedding? Will loves old trucks, and I was able to borrow an amazing 1960s Chevy pickup truck from a couple I know in Knoxville. There was a road next to our ceremony site, so Will drove us away from the ceremony in that! Our videographers got amazing Super 8 footage from the bed of the truck, and even running alongside while we were driving.

Photographer: Cody Myers | Videographer: Campbell Brewer of Clark Brewer Photography | Planner, Venue, Catering, Rentals, and Lighting: RT Lodge | Florist: Lisa Foster Floral Design | Wedding Cake: Cheryl McMillan Cake Design | Cake Topper: The Delightful Crow | Ceremony Music: Tim West and Adam Cromer | Band: Sweetwater Road Band | Paper Products: Chelsea Petaja | Save the Dates: 23Postcards | Printing: Midtown Printing and For Your Party | Invitation Stamps: Bride and Verde Studio | Bride’s Gown: “Kerry” by Theia | Bridal Salon: The Sentimentalist | Hair Stylist: Eric Patterson and Elisabetta Proietto of Twisted Scissors | Makeup Artist: Patty Watson | Bride’s Shoes: Tali Grand Waterproof Bow Wedge in Canyon Rose by Cole Haan | Bridesmaids’ Dresses: “Annabelle” in Shadow Grey, Mist Grey, and Blush by BHLDN | Groom’s Attire: Brooks Brothers | Groomsmen’s Ties: The Tie Bar | Welcome Bags: Bradley’s | Transportation: Big Love Bus | Altar: Handy Dandy Productions | Bridesmaids’ Gifts: Adele Yonchak

RT Lodge is a delightful member of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

marissa Written with love by Marissa
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Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

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