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Southern Weddings

Author: Emily

Friends, today is my fifth wedding anniversary! You may have caught my ongoing Instagram stories party, where I’ve been sharing some of my favorite photos from different parts of our celebration (if not, you can always see the full feature here and here!). I love celebrating an anniversary because not only does it give me an excuse to pull out my wedding album, watch our wedding film, and go out to dinner with my best friend (yum!), it’s an opportunity to stop and reflect.

An anniversary is the perfect time to cheer yourselves on (something I think is so important!), to remind yourselves of everything you love about the person you married, and to give thanks for all the ways your life is better for having your partner in it.

Like a new year, an anniversary is also a time to consider ways you might be able to improve. John and I are far from perfect, but we have done a few things right in our first five years of marriage. Today I wanted to share five, in the hopes that they might be an encouragement to you!

1. We draw strength from something outside of ourselves. One of the most beautiful things about marriage is that it’s a place where your ugly can show, and you’ll be loved, unconditionally, despite it. That being said, I know I’d be a much more selfish, unforgiving, ungracious, record-keeping wife without a Father who is continually calling me to die to myself and love others as I’ve been loved. We would not have the marriage we do without our faith.

2. We’re willing to change. When I think of the couples I know who have gotten divorced, it’s very rarely because of something dramatic and awful. Usually, the answer is something along the lines of “we drifted apart” or “he’s not the same person I married.” This seems kind of strange to me, because wouldn’t you expect someone to change over time?! Stanley Hauerwas, quoted in Tim Keller’s book The Meaning of Marriage, says it well: “We never know whom we marry; we just think we do. Or even if we first marry the right person, just give it a while and he or she will change. For marriage, being [the enormous thing that it is] means we are not the same person after we have entered into it.”

When change comes, John and I have committed to growing towards each other. Towards each other, not away from each other, and not side by side. We expect each other to change (as high school sweethearts, it was inevitable!), and when we do we (imperfectly) seek to understand it and grow along with it.

3. We trust in our relationship without reservation. This is a hallmark of our particular marriage. We’ve never given each other a reason to doubt it, and so we’ve never been tempted to do so. We don’t treat our love for each other like it’s conditional, or could be threatened to be taken away, or withheld as a bargaining chip. Even if we are angry or frustrated, at bedrock, we both know without a doubt that we are acting from a place of unshakeable love.

4. We don’t ask the other to fulfill needs they can’t. This one can be so hard, friends! While my and John’s lives are deeply, inextricably entwined, we try to take responsibility for our own happiness first instead of looking to the other to fulfill every emotional need. Practically speaking, for us, that means building an inner confidence, maintaining equilibrium through each other’s bad days (you have to put on your own oxygen mask first!), and again, going to God to be reminded of our true worth.

5. We enjoy each other. You know that saying, find a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life? I like to switch it up a bit: marry your best friend, and you’ll never work a day in your marriage. That, of course, is not entirely true — even the best marriages have harder days and easier days — but if you truly LIKE your partner, and love spending time with him or her more than anyone else, everything else seems to fall into place. One of our favorite ways to be reminded of how much we like each other is going on evening walks together – we are totally on T.J.’s bandwagon!

Whether you’re celebrating your first or fiftieth anniversary, know I’m cheering you on, friends! And if you’d like to share, I’d love to hear something you’ve done right in your marriage in the comments :)

emily Written with love by Emily
1 Comment
  1. avatar Mike reply

    Love these wedding photographs! The bride looks so happy.

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I’ve had the privilege of helping many friends and family members plan their weddings over the years –when you work at a wedding magazine, you become the go-to gal! As much fun as it is to dream about color schemes and escort card ideas, the area where I feel I’m really able to add value is the logistics. A wedding day is a complicated event with a LOT of moving parts, and if you’ve never planned one before (and don’t necessarily have the assistance of a planner), it can be overwhelming.

A solid wedding day timeline is the best tool I know for making sure the right things happen at the right time with the right people present, and so today, we’re going to walk through how to create one!

A note: If you’re working with a wedding planner or day of coordinator, creating a wedding day timeline is likely something she will handle. If you’re on your own, it is absolutely essential that you create one of these yourself. (And trust me, there are very few things that I will say are essential for every single wedding!) A well-crafted timeline creates a seamless experience for your beloved guests (and maximizes your time with them!), helps your vendors do their best work, and cuts down on the amount of “managing” you’ll need to do on your wedding day — all very good things!

Let’s get started!

Begin by gathering information and materials. Collect all of the information you have, especially the parts that are externally set/not in your control. It might help to start by asking yourself these questions:

A note: Most ceremonies last approximately twenty minutes, but I would recommend rounding up to at least 30 minutes – and some can be much longer. Add up liturgy, readings, entrances, vows, homily, communion, rituals, etc. to get a ballpark.)

Whew! Answering these might require conversation with your vendors, particularly on subjects like food timing. Your caterer will have the best idea of how long it will take to serve all of your guests at your venue based on whether you’re having a plated dinner, a family style meal, or a buffet, and your photographer can advise you on how long portraits will take based on the list you give him. If they don’t offer this info, ask! Never assume you’re on the same page about how things will run – always confirm.

Add times and details as you confirm them. As decisions are made and information comes in, start plugging each piece into a doc (Word or Excel, your choice!). For example, you probably already know what time you have to vacate your reception venue, so that’s a great place to start! If you’re totally stuck, here’s the general arc most evening dinner receptions at two locations tend to follow:

Of course, there are many, many, many factors that can affect this timeline. Let’s discuss a few.

— One location or two. If your ceremony and reception are at different locations, be sure to build in time for your guests to get to their cars, travel, park, and walk. Take traffic into consideration. I would recommend underestimating the amount of time travel will take, because there are few things worse than having guests arrive to a reception that’s not ready for them!
Portraits. While there are many reasons to recommend them, first looks are not the only option – but, if you’re not having one, you need to be realistic about the time of year and time of day you’re getting married, and adjust your expectations accordingly. (i.e. If you’re having a winter ceremony at 5pm, don’t expect your photographer to be able to capture daylight portraits.) Whether or not you’re having a first look, I recommend checking off as many bridal party and family portraits as you can before the ceremony, and leaving a concise list of group portraits for after.
Location and transportation. Confirm where the gents and ladies will be getting ready, and if it’s not at the ceremony location, confirm transportation for everyone as well as how long it will take. If you’re taking portraits at the ceremony venue but getting ready elsewhere, consider putting on your gown once you arrive to make travel easier!
Dances. At our wedding, we moved immediately into our first dance when we entered the reception, which I loved. You could also use your first dance or parent dances to open the dance floor after dinner, or do them during dinner.
Toasts. I like when toasts are offered during dinner, perhaps between courses. I’d also recommend splitting them up, so guests are able to focus on each one individually.
Sunset. Your photographer will likely suggest taking a few bride and groom portraits at sunset. Even if you did a first look, I think this mini portrait session (10-15 minutes) is a great idea. You’ll be in a different “head space” than before the ceremony, and it will also give you a chance to be (mostly) alone in the middle of your reception. And, there will be lovely glowing light!

Photo by Blue Ribbon Vendor Sawyer Baird

And finally, a few tips to remember:

Guest will arrive early. Fact. Plan to begin your pre-ceremony music at least half an hour before the invite start time. Likewise, if you’re doing a first look or pre-ceremony portraits, have everything wrapped up and be “hidden” away from guests at least half an hour beforehand – otherwise you might get caught chatting with arriving guests when you’d rather be spending a few quiet minutes with your ladies.
Make multiple versions of your timeline. I had a typed, single-spaced, two-page timeline that outlined exactly where every person was going to be for nearly every minute of the day — but I certainly didn’t send it to anyone but my day-of coordinator. That would have been completely overwhelming! I made simplified versions for each major vendor, and emailed them out a week in advance. I also printed out personalized copies for family members and the bridal party, so everyone felt confident about where they had to be when.

Photo by Blue Ribbon Vendor Gandy Photographers

For all this talk of detail, though, hear this: your wedding timeline is a guideline. As long as you don’t keep guests waiting and the food is fresh, it’s totally fine to deviate from it as the day begins to flow. And that’s where a talented coordinator or planner comes in. I know one is not in every budget, but I would highly recommend making room for one if you can, and if not, at least arranging a handpicked family member or friend to be the point person on the big day. If you’re the type to stress over whether everything is getting set up correctly and whether little details are being taken care of, a coordinator could be the best gift you give yourself. I think a coordinator is also a gift to your family and friends – both because you’ll be less stressed, and because it will allow them to relax, as well. A win win!

Tell me: Do you have a timeline for your wedding day yet? Are you doing anything different with the flow of your day? I’d love to hear!

P.S. Does this advice sound reasonable to you? (Ha! Hopefully!!) Well, if you love it, you will surely love our Joyful Wedding Planner – there’s lots more where this came from!

emily Written with love by Emily
4 Comments
  1. avatar Kelly reply

    I love this information! So resourceful, I can’t wait to use it some day. :)

  2. avatar Kyla Shattuck reply

    This almost perfectly matches the timeline we built for our June wedding! Our timeline was crucial to ensuring that every meaningful moment had space in the day to be enjoyed, but also left room for spontaneous moments to bless us throughout the day! :)

  3. avatar Pixie Weddings reply

    Great article as always! Leaving contingency time in the morning is so important just in case of any last minute delays or dramas!

  4. avatar Kristina reply

    I’m a reader from Germany and have always been curious about one thing when reading about or hearing of American weddings. And that’s the fact that there is a definite end to the reception. Is there a traditional reason for that? All the weddings that I have been to ended after the last guest had left. And that is usually not until well into the early morning hours. It’s just one thing that has always struck me as a big difference between American and German weddings and I was just wondering if you, as the wedding experts, could tell me if there was a reason for it. Lots of love from Berlin, Kristina

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Crystal shares her sweet, meaningful wedding at Boone Hall’s Cotton Dock!

The weather at our office in North Carolina took a definite turn towards fall last week (hooray!), which had me anticipating all of the beautiful cooler-weather weddings to come! Crystal’s late winter/early spring celebration is a perfect one to share in this transitional season. Or really, any season: “It was really important to both Brandon and me that our wedding felt authentic to who we are as people and that it was a celebration of who we are every day,” she says. We couldn’t have said it any better ourselves :)

From their adorable meet-cute (grandmothers are involved!) to the gracious hospitality touch they included via their rentals, I loved learning more about Crystal’s sweet South Carolina celebration! Thanks to Taylor Rae for sharing!

We decided on a first look because we wanted plenty of time to take pictures, and we didn’t want to miss cocktail hour or pull guests in and out of cocktail hour to get in group shots. We both also knew that seeing each other for the first time was going to be emotional, so we enjoyed having our own moment together to feel all the feels before all eyes were on us.

Our dog Bingo was our ring bearer (Brandon’s little cousin walked him down the aisle). We found a service in Charleston that picked him up from our house a few hours before the ceremony, walked him around the plantation with us so that he could be in as many pictures as he would stay still for, sat with him through the ceremony, and then took him home! Brandon and I love Bingo probably a little too much, so having him there to celebrate and be in our photos was one of my favorite things that we were able to do.

Leading up to my first weekend of dress shopping, I was heavy on Pinterest trying to decide what I wanted. I texted a photo of a dress I really liked to my bridesmaid group text, and they all agreed it was totally fitting for my style. I found a store in Charleston that carried that exact dress, and that’s the one I ended up wearing!

We had a pretty traditional Jewish ceremony and that was very important not only to Brandon and me, but to our families, as well. Before the ceremony, both Brandon and I as well as our Rabbi and two witnesses (two of our groomsmen), gathered around a table and signed the Ketubah (Jewish marriage license) together. I started crying immediately, just thinking about how lucky Brandon and I were to have found each other, and to have such amazing friends and family surrounding us. That moment seemed so real and binding for me.

We framed our Ketubah once we got back from our honeymoon and we hung it right above our headboard in our room so we’re always reminded of what it says and of that moment.

Our ceremony took place under a chuppah made from driftwood. To cover the top of the chuppah, we used a tablecloth that my great-grandmother needlepointed as a special touch. The sides stay open to symbolize the home you are going to build together. My favorite tradition is that instead of sitting down, Brandon’s parents and my grandparents stood at the front with us beneath the chuppah, each one of them touching a corner of the structure. It symbolized the strength in family and the strength that they provided to us as we were growing up.

We walked back up the aisle to an instrumental version of “Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. We found ourselves dancing our way up the aisle instead of just walking!

Our first dance was to “Overwhelmed” by Tim McMorris. I haven’t met a ton of people who know this song, but it used to be on a Sam Adams commercial (of all things) that aired when Brandon and I were still in college. The first time I saw the commercial I was like, wait, this song sounds really sweet! When Brandon came over that night we listened to it, immediately fell in love with it, and from that day on, it has always been our song.

Our table settings had mason jars instead of regular glasses, which I loved because we actually use mason jars instead of regular cups at our house! It was another detail that was authentic to us. We also used big wooden farm tables that we set without tablecloths, and arranged them in two long rows so everyone was sitting together. We left a few empty chairs at the ends of each table so people could move around and talk to each other easily.

We didn’t want it to be a big fancy day where people felt like they had to sit or go where they were told, but like they were just at home with their family. We also made sure the food matched our Southern venue: fried green tomatoes, pimento cheese biscuits, mashed potatoes… all the good Southern staples!

Tell us your love story in one sentence. I think Brandon and I were destined to be together since the moment we met on the horseshoe at USC, after our grandparents plotted to get us together by asking him to give me a tour of campus when I was trying to decide where to go to college.
Tell us all about the proposal! Brandon and I moved to Charleston, SC together after I graduated college and after two years of being long distance. On our first night in Charleston after a full day of moving, we decided to stop for take-out on the way home from a Target run. We stopped at Shem Creek Park where there is a long dock that runs out into the ocean, and we walked to the end. It was so beautiful, and I remember that we just kept saying how glad we were to be back together in the same city and in such a beautiful place. A few months later, Brandon proposed at that same dock.
When did y’all get married? March 26, 2017
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 110
What did you serve for your wedding cake or dessert? Why did you choose it? We served a wedding cake for our dessert – it was four tiers, two of lemon cake with vanilla frosting and lemon curd (my absolute favorite) and two of vanilla cake with raspberry frosting and chocolate ganache (Brandon’s favorite). It was iced as a naked cake and had fresh sugar berries on it. It was beyond perfect and exactly what we wanted!
What was your favorite thing about wedding planning? My favorite thing about wedding planning was how much it brought everyone together! Both of our families and all of our friends were so excited to take a trip to look at dresses or even come visit us and help us put stamps on all of our invites, and we loved how happy everyone was to be a part of our planning process. It was also really fun when we finally got to the big day to see all of the hard work come together. You picture it in your mind over and over, so getting to the end and finally being able to share it with our friends and family was really fulfilling.
If you are comfortable responding, what range did your wedding budget fall into? $25,000-$50,000
What was one way you saved money or cut costs at your wedding? We didn’t hire a videographer which I don’t regret at all, as well as using a DJ instead of a live band. Our favors were little wine bottle corkers that had our initials and wedding date etched into them – they were from Etsy and really affordable. We also didn’t go too crazy on the flowers and table arrangements. The Cotton Dock at Boone Hall is a work of art even when there’s absolutely nothing in it, which is one of the things we loved most about it. We wanted decor that would complement that, not completely take it over. At the end of the day, it’s not the flower arrangements or the number of tea lights or how expensive our favors were that we wanted people to remember. We wanted the focus to be on all the love and light that comes from all the people who are important to you gathering in one spot to watch you devote yourselves to each other.
What advice would you give to someone currently planning a wedding? Remember what your wedding is actually about. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the things other people want for your wedding and all the details that you have to choose, especially if you’re planning it yourself. When it gets overwhelming, I’d say that’s the perfect time for a date night with your hubby, turn off your phones, don’t talk about the wedding, and just spend time with each other. Every time Brandon and I did that, that’s when the planning became fun again because my focus would be on celebrating that I get to spend the rest of my life with my best friend instead of what color the napkins should be. Also, make sure you at least get a day-of coordinator! The day goes by so quickly, you don’t want to be worrying about the schedule or the glass someone dropped on the dance floor. It’s so worth it to have someone there to make your day as easy as possible!

Photographer: Taylor Rae Photography | Day-of Coordinator: Natalie Knox at Boone Hall Plantation | Venue: Boone Hall Plantation | Florist, Rentals, and Lighting: Ooh! Events | Wedding Cake: WildFlour Pastry | Caterer: Cru Catering | DJ: Austin Haney via Pinnacle Charleston | Bride’s Gown: “The Magnolia Tree” by Lela Rose | Bridal Salon: Maddison Row | Hair Stylist: Chris Piraino of Studio Piraino | Makeup Artist: Jonny Cosmetics | Bride’s Shoes: “Hamptons Sandal” in Platinum by Jack Rogers | Bridesmaids’ Dresses: “Annabelle” in Seaglass by Jenny Yoo | Groom’s Tuxedo: Indochino

emily Written with love by Emily
3 Comments
  1. avatar Jessica Downs reply

    I love this! Would love to know what vendor they used for the dog as we’re hoping to do the same thing, but don’t want to make it the responsibility of someone we’d like to have with us for all of the festivities.

    • avatar Emily reply

      Hi Jessica! I’m not sure which service Crystal used, and she may very well chime in, but I just stumbled across a Charleston-area service which advertises “wedding nanny” services: Dog Tired! dogtiredsc.com Might be worth checking out :)

  2. avatar Rachel Nordgren reply

    Oh my goodness! I love that Crystal and Brandon included Bingo in the celebration. Yay dogs! My husband and I have a dog named Banjo, and he and Bingo look like they could be twins :)

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