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Southern Weddings

Author: Emily

One consistent thread at Southern Weddings is that we want to challenge you to think differently during your engagement – to interrupt any frustrating, paralyzing, negative thoughts and either swoop in with a solution or offer another perspective. Frustrated with a ballooning budget? Let’s talk about what really matters and ways to cut costs. Over the idea of tossing your bouquet? Skip it! We’ve got some other traditions you might like better.

Think premarital prep is a waste of time? Think again, my friends! We consistently hear from the couples we feature on SW how valuable, enlightening, challenging (in a good way!), and FUN the time they spent preparing for their marriage was.

If you’re open to the idea but not sure where to start, let me introduce you to To Have and To Hold by Carla and Byron Weathersbee, executive directors of a retreat center in Texas. (They’re the very couple who walked Chip and Joanna Gaines through pre-marital counseling, and as we all know, if there’s any couple who qualifies for #relationshipgoals, it’s those two!)

To Have and To Hold is a great resource for Christian couples leading up to their vows or in their first few years of marriage. In each of eight sessions (designed to be completed in eight weeks), you’ll work through four simple activities that address some of the issues vital to a healthy, lifelong relationship. Ideally, the sessions are designed for you to work through as a couple and then to meet with a pastor, mentor, or small group of other engaged couples for encouragement.

“Our goal in To Have and To Hold is for the two of you to interact, discuss, and possibly debate the subject matter,” say Byron and Carla. “We believe it is better for you to discuss your thoughts, ideals, fears, and questions rather than simply read the latest resource regarding each issue. We encourage you to color outside the lines and creatively adapt each session to meet your needs as you work through the study book.”

To Have and To Hold can help you:
— Understand the biblical purpose for marriage to establish a foundation that provides stability and oneness in your relationship
— Follow responsible stewardship principles for financial freedom
— Challenge your thinking regarding needs, intimacy, and oneness in marriage
— Grow in spiritual maturity together
— Learn the necessary skills to effectively communicate and manage conflict
— Create healthy expectations for marriage

The To Have and To Hold study book retails for $12.99 and can be purchased online here.

I’d love to hear: did you and your future spouse do any sort of premarital prep? Did you feel like it was helpful? Did it bring up any unexpected issues? Was it fun? :)

This post is sponsored by Lifeway. Thank you for your support of the brands who make Southern Weddings possible!

emily Written with love by Emily
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  1. avatar Alaina reply

    FYI- the links to cutting costs and to other traditions aren’t working!

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When I wrote my post on the most memorable details from my wedding a few weeks ago, I didn’t want the conversation to end there. Getting different perspectives is the whole point, because what constitutes a “meaningful wedding” is different for everyone! (Though I’d wager there are a few themes that run across the board…)

Today, I’m thrilled to have Jasmine, a recently-married friend of ours, here to share ten meaningful details from her Southern wedding. She and her now-husband let their favorite memories inspire their wedding day details, which seems like a great strategy. Hopefully her ideas will get your wheels turning for your own big day!

1. Our wedding location. As is traditional, Alex and I agreed that we should have the wedding in my hometown of Jackson, TN — the only major city between Nashville (our current hometown) and Memphis (Alex’s hometown). Driving down I-40 always makes for a memorable road trip, and now, it will remind us of our wedding, and hopefully in the future kids and even funnier stories!

2. Our preacher. The church we were married in was the church I’ve attended since I was born. My preacher, David Powell, not only married us, but he baptized me at the age of 13. He’s led my family through some of the happiest and direst times. When my father passed six months before my wedding, he led the service in the very same church. It was a comfort for us and a wish of my dad’s to have him lead our ceremony.

3. Our reception venue. Growing up, my sisters and I did pageants. My mom sewed our dresses and painted our faces with as little makeup as possible :) Then, we met Mrs. Rita, a former Miss Tennessee who helped coach here and there. She also owned Crown Winery. When I started looking for venues, I knew it was the one – she’s like family! Mrs. Rita’s husband also passed a few short months before my daddy, and having this connection drew us even closer together. We imagined that her husband and my daddy were in heaven having the best time as we partied below!

4. Our bridal party. Alex and I had a rather large party of friends that have been in our lives for seven or more years, from childhood, college, and our families. It was extremely meaningful to be surrounded by all of our cheerleaders throughout our engagement and on our wedding day. Choose wisely, whether that means having a larger or smaller group!

5. Our wedding stationery. For our paper goods, I searched and searched for something different that had a “feeling” behind it. I didn’t want something that people were going to just put on their refrigerator. We chose an invitation suite from Miss Design Berry because it created conversation and set the atmosphere for a dynamic day! Her animation suited Alex and I to a tee.

6. Our photographer. Looking for a photographer was a daunting task for us. That is, until I found John Sellers of Fernweh Fox in the small town of Martin, TN – the very town that started my parents’ 42-year-marriage! Despite living in a town with a population of 11k, he shoots weddings around the world. Don’t be afraid to find your vendor in a small town, especially if they have a sweet connection to your story!

7. Our catering, cake and candy bar. On Sundays, my Dad would always take us to Brooksie’s Barn for lunch after church. He kept the tradition going even when I started dating Alex seven years ago – Alex just came, too! At our wedding, we shared this “home cooked” buffet with our 400+ guests, to invite them into our family tradition.

8. Including family traditions. My mom and I have always greeted each other by rubbing noses, ever since I was a baby. Not having my Dad there to walk me down the aisle could’ve dampened my day, but seeing my mom there to greet me with our favorite secret greeting made my so happy.

9. Our entertainment. I come from a singing family! Our gatherings turn into concerts. It was a no brainer that my sister Valerie June and my backup singing brothers would take the stage for my and Alex’s first dance. It was a treat for our guests, as well!

Thank you so much for joining us, Jasmine! Friends, you can connect with the new Mrs. Sweet on her Instagram and blog.

All photos by Fernweh Fox

emily Written with love by Emily
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Unless you have Chip and Joanna or Ben and Erin at your side, completely renovating an old home requires a little more patience than TV magic. Put our friend Whitney Neal into the equation, though, with the same sort of passion she pours into her heartfelt photography, and you’ve got a new brand of magic. What’s even more beautiful than the finished product? The way Whitney and Michael’s marriage was strengthened over their two-year home renovation. We’re sharing the “afters” and a little bit about that journey today!

Thanks to Whitney for snapping for these beautiful photos, and Lynnesy Catron for the beautiful portraits!

The couple: Whitney and Michael Neal
Years married: Seven
Where they live: Louisville, Kentucky

Tell us about the process of fixing up a house. When visiting our house for the first time, we knew we had stumbled upon something good. It had lots of character, beautiful natural light, a great layout, and it was in a neighborhood we love. A lot of work was needed, but we shared the same vision for how we could bring everything up-to-date, and the same excitement for turning the house into a home—a place we could call ours. So, we snatched it up before anyone else could, and the moment we got the keys, we started the LONG process of fixing it up. After six months passed and it came time for us to move in, we weren’t exactly where we had hoped we would be, but it was “livable,” so we moved into the construction zone.

Some would call us weekend warriors, but as a photographer who works most weekends and a cop who works nights and all different days of the week, we often end up waging the war with our home on just about any day/hour that we can (without neglecting the other things we need in life: being with our family and friends and adventuring outdoors with each other and our German shorthaired pointer puppy). The only thing we knew for certain about our renovation process was that we were doing it together, and every project was going to take SO much longer than we had expected. An afternoon project turns into a weekend project, a weekend project turns into a month-long project, and a six-month renovation process ends up taking two years!

Which projects did you do yourselves, and which did you leave to professionals? We took on every project that we didn’t think would put our lives or the quality of the project at-hand at risk. Michael uncovered and refinished all of the hardwood floors, we sanded and painted every wall, gutted the kitchen and a bathroom, updated plumbing, laid tile, and more. None of it would have been possible without the help of our friends and family–my uncle who is a contractor, our friend who is a plumber, and our fathers, who are some of the most knowledgeable men that we know. Professionals were hired to refinish the pedestal tub that was original to the home, to add electrical throughout the house, and to install the range hood, tile, and shelving in our kitchen.

Did you run into any unexpected challenges? Over, and over, and over again. Every project had its own set of challenges that required problem solving, a new skill, or a different tool. In the beginning, we would easily get discouraged when a problem came along, or a project would begin to run behind, but we quickly learned to be patient and laugh at ourselves…especially when we had to make the third or fourth trip to the hardware store in a day.

Which room in your home is your favorite and why? Michael has two favorites: the dining room and living room, where there is the most natural light. My favorite is the kitchen. After so many months of takeout and frozen meals, I will never take a home-cooked meal on a real plate for granted!

While fixing up our house, we dreamed together, practiced teamwork, and got silly while pulling all-nighters over our favorite pizza and beer. We had so much fun! But… things got hard at times. We over-extended ourselves, cursed and cried, and fought with one another. We saw each other at our best, but we also saw each other at our worst during these days. The most rewarding part of it all is not being able to enjoy the fruits of our labor, but knowing one another so much more intimately, and loving one another so much more deeply than we could have ever imagined.

What most makes your house feel like home? That our hands have touched almost every part of it. We came together and made a decision about every color, every light switch cover, every handle and knob. It feels like ours.

Where do you splurge and where do you save when decorating? We like to splurge on things that will stand out and make a statement, like a marble lamp, an accent wall of tile, or a colorful Turkish rug. Or, we like to splurge on things that we will get good use out of, like a heavenly linen duvet cover or a gas range. We’re not known to splurge on much, though, and are BIG fans of finding a steal. Our John Boos Block kitchen island is from Craigslist, our bedroom dresser is from an outlet store, and most of our other furniture is from antique stores.

What are some of your dreams and plans for your home over the next five years? Next up on our to do list is a privacy fence, a new concrete patio for an outdoor lounge area, and a big fire pit. We spent the first two years on the inside of the house, and now we’re dreaming up a place for our life to spill out onto, especially as our family begins to grow beyond the two of us.


Whitney Neal is a delightful member of our Blue Ribbon Vendor directory!

emily Written with love by Emily
5 Comments
  1. avatar Abby reply

    Stunning!! I love the neutral colors and rich wood details! This is a timeless house! Congrats! All the hard work paid off!

  2. avatar Whitney reply

    Thanks for sharing, friends! It never gets old to reflect on all our hard work!

  3. avatar Anna reply

    Love this gorgeous home! Amazing job, Michael & Whitney!

  4. avatar Lindsay reply

    HOUSE ENVY! What a beautiful home…so specifically curated, and it SHOWS! You can tell you both poured your heart and soul into it, and I am so tickled for you both that you get to spend your lives, growing old there. Be well!

  5. avatar Wedding Pixie reply

    What an amazing job they did on the decor, simple yet stunning. Love it.

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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