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Southern Weddings

Author: Jess Metcalf

This week marks one year that my boyfriend and I have been dating long-distance, so Brent and Graham’s story is extra special to me today! While I love reliving each real wedding we post through the pictures, the stories from the couple make the photos even more meaningful! Brent and Graham have the sweetest dating story, so be sure to read the story of how they met and how long they dated long-distance below. (Spoiler alert: it’s a lot longer than a year!) I’m positive I could learn a thing or two from this sweet couple on how to thrive in a long-distance relationship.

No amount of rain or chilly September air could hide the joy on their faces or the celebration in the air as you scroll through the photos below! I love how in the years ahead, the couple will be able to go back to Brent’s family’s home and relive their big day as their family grows!

Big SW hugs to Blue Ribbon Vendor Anna Routh for these images!

We went to Charlotte Latin School together from 5th grade onward, but hardly interacted until junior year of high school. We became good friends at the start of senior year and went on our first date the month before graduating. Because we like to make our lives *so* simple and easy, we began dating right after high school graduation – just days before he left for his summer internship in D.C. and the summer before we both headed off to separate colleges in separate states. Four years later, after racking up hundreds of Southwest Airlines miles to see each other on weekends, spending three summers in separate cities, and two study abroad semesters that resulted in us not seeing each other for six months, we both moved to New York City. Seven years and two months after we first began dating, Graham popped the question!

Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? We recited standard vows during the ceremony; however, I made sure to write him all of my vows, both serious and not so serious, in the letter that I had delivered to him the morning of our wedding.
What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? We had two! We asked Graham’s mentor and good friend to read an excerpt from Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables. My “other father”, the father of my best friend and maid of honor, followed with a reading from I John 4:7-8, 12. Our minister also gave a brief homily.

What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? It’s so hard to choose! I’ll never forget the moment my dad and I had together right before we walked down the aisle. We were both teary, emotional, shaking, and overwhelmingly happy. To share in such an intimate moment together was so special. He kept whispering in my ear “this is so surreal!” as we walked down the aisle.

Did you decide to do a first look? Why or why not? From day one, we both knew we didn’t want to do a first look and I’m so glad we didn’t. The anticipation of seeing his face as the church doors opened and watching him as he watched me and my dad walk down the aisle was a moment I wasn’t willing to forfeit. It’s still one of the many decisions that I have absolutely no regrets about, and it’s a moment I’ll remember so vividly for the rest of my life.

I grew up in the North Carolina countryside with my parents’ house sitting on 344 acres of land, centered around a steeplechase course. It’s my home and such a beautiful and unique setting – there was no question that that’s where we would get married. We debated having the ceremony on the property as well versus in our church, but deep down I’d always wanted to be married in our church – Christ Church of Charlotte – which just so happens to be where Graham and I were both confirmed together in 8th grade.

Honestly, everything about the weekend was just so “us”. The flowers stood out to us as really bringing the venue to life and making it feel like the most magical place on a rainy, chilly evening in September. We also made an effort to add touches of our personalities everywhere, from “Please Don’t Take My Drink, I’m Dancing!” napkins that were distributed at the bars once the band started (there’s nothing worse than putting your drink down only to find an efficient waiter has removed it two minutes later!), to a map of our food stations so people knew where to go for what, to a lawn jockey hand-painted with our wedding logo on it to welcome our guests as they entered the reception.

All southerners know the importance of good (fried) food, so we incorporated Southern twists into our food stations. A few of our favorites were Deep South BBQ Eggrolls with Carolina BBQ inside and the Southern Pimento Mac n Cheese. We had Fried Chicken and Waffle Skewers as our passed late-night snack since a good southern hostess never lets her guests go home hungry.

My sweet tooth is unmatched, though I sadly can’t say the same about Graham’s. We knew we wanted a more traditional cake, and Kathy Allen is the woman to go to in Charlotte for elegant cakes with a twist. Ours was five tiers with alternating layers of Spice Cake and Almond Cake. At the end of the night, I gave each of my bridesmaids a sugar flower from the cake in a glass dome to remember the weekend by. We now have a few of the flowers displayed around our house and every time I walk by them, it makes me smile. I’m counting down the days until our first anniversary and I can tear open our top layer in the freezer!

Tell us all about the proposal! It was almost the proposal that didn’t happen! I was determined to get my haircut that afternoon but just two days prior, Graham called and said his parents wanted to do a family dinner that same evening to celebrate my birthday, which was a few days away. Not unusual or suspicious in the least but something I tried to get out of in order to make my desperately-needed haircut. On the day of the proposal, my lovely coworkers threw me a surprise birthday celebration late that afternoon, complete with massive ice cream sandwiches. Never one to say no to sweets, I happily partook, but was left feeling less than stellar. I called Graham once again and tried to get out of the dinner, this time claiming I really didn’t feel well and dinner was the last thing I could stomach (pardon the pun). He once again convinced me I had to come, so we agreed we would meet up and cab to Central Park together since the restaurant, The Loeb Boathouse, was in the middle of the park. The taxi dropped us off at the edge and we wandered in along the pathways until we came to the Conservatory Pond, one of our favorite spots in Central Park. Before I knew it, Graham was telling me how much I meant to him and I immediately blacked out. I got so caught up in the moment that I had to ask him later on if I had even told him “yes.” (I had!) After we soaked in the moment together, we continued on through the park to meet his family for dinner as I frantically tried to call my parents who, of course, weren’t picking up the one time I needed them to. When we got to the restaurant, not only were his parents and two brothers there waiting with champagne, but my parents had surprised me and flown up for the occasion as well!
When did y’all get married? September 26, 2015
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 284
Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding and why you chose them. Walking down the aisle, back up the aisle, first dance, etc. In my piano-playing days, one of my favorite songs I played year after year was Canon in D by Pachelbel. Since I was a little girl, I’ve dreamed about walking down the aisle to that song. Our processional songs were Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring and Trumpet Tune in D by Purcell. We walked back up the aisle to Hornpipe from Water Music by Handel – it’s so joyful and uplifting, perfect for the occasion! We both love Van Morrison so our First Dance was to “Into the Mystic”. I danced with my dad to “Carolina in My Mind” by James Taylor, which was fitting both because my dad shared with me his love for James Taylor from early on in my childhood, and because although I’d been a New Yorker for nearly five years, Carolina will always have my heart. Graham’s first dance with his mom was to Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”. My mom and I also shared a dance toward the end of the night to The Tams’ “Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy”.
What was one way you saved money or cut costs at your wedding? I found it helpful to make a dream “wishlist” of things, from special foods to flowers to specific materials you want to incorporate into the weekend, and see it all listed out in one place. From there, it’s easier to figure out what you can afford to let go of and what’s an absolute must-have. The vendors are experts so if there’s something you don’t want to compromise on but you don’t have the budget for, they likely have another idea on how to get the same point across for less money.
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? I think there’s a big misconception that as the bride, you’re supposed to be glowing, happy and reveling in every minute of the planning process from start to finish. It’s OK to feel stressed and to dread certain parts of the planning (I’m lookin’ at you, list making!). Do your best to take it all in stride, and don’t be afraid to confide in and vent to your loved ones, especially the ones that have been through the process. Also, don’t take the timelines you see in all of the wedding books so literally. We found that many vendors we thought we had time with actually booked up much sooner than we would’ve thought, so be aware and start your research early!

Photographer: Anna Routh Barzin | Planner: Dina Berg Blazek Events | Ceremony Venue: Christ Church Charlotte | Reception Venue: Brooklandwood | Florist: The Place For Flowers | Wedding Cake or Dessert Baker: Kathy Allen Cakes | Caterer: Queen City Catering | Rentals: Classic Party Rentals | Lighting: Classic Party Rentals | Band or DJ: Black & Blue Entertainment through East Coast Entertainment | Invitation: Arzbergers | Save the Date: Lee Ann Clark Calligraphy | Bride’s Gown: Leanne Marshall | Hair Stylist: Jami Svay | Makeup Artist: Jami Svay | Bride’s Shoes: BHLDN | Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Amsale Bridesmaids Chiffon G787C in French Blue | Groom and Groomsmen Attire: Loro Piana for J.Crew

Anna Routh and East Coast Entertainment are delightful members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

Written with love by Jess Metcalf
3 Comments
  1. avatar Sarah Elizabeth reply

    I love everything about this wedding! Especially that save the date & adorable picture of the flower girl & ring bearer!

  2. avatar Rhiannon reply

    This looks like the church sweet Em Thomas got married in. What a stunningly classic soiree!

  3. avatar Mary Kay reply

    What a beautiful wedding! I also appreciate Brent’s honest advice!

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After a long bout of warm weather for the season, we’re kicking off December by stocking the SW office with tea and hot cocoa and turning up the holiday music! In that vein, I can’t think of a more perfect wedding to share with you today than Peyton and Tyler’s beautiful day. The combination of Peyton’s long lace sleeves, the deep red of her bridesmaid dresses, and the natural backdrop of RT Lodge all add to the cozy feeling. While it was a hard decision, opting for a smaller guest list allowed the two of them to spend more time focusing on celebrating with the most important people in their lives, and I must say, it certainly made their whole day feel a bit more special! Huge SW thanks to Finch Photography for sharing Peyton and Tyler’s beautiful day with us!

Tell us all about the proposal! I grew up in Maryville and one of my favorite things about my hometown is the Foothills Fall Festival. Knowing how much I love going to the concerts at the festival, Tyler came up with a plan to propose there. Finally, it was the day of the proposal and everything was in place. Tyler’s parents and my grandmother had come into town for the big event. Both families and some friends all piled into the car and went to church together before heading to the festival. I was very concerned that Tyler was sick or something because his hands were extremely sweaty, which quickly became a funny joke to all of those in the know! Once at the festival, I was so excited by all the booths, crafts, and food that it was nearly impossible to get me to go to our seats for the afternoon concert. In between concerts, an announcer came off the stage and started talking to different people in the audience. Tyler and I (just so happened…) to have seats next to the aisle and in the front. The announcer started talking to us, and then, he asked us to look up on the screen. There was a note written by me when I was little about how I had had the best time at the fall festival. Tyler then got down on his knee and asked me to marry him. I already knew that Tyler was the one, but when he proposed, I was so surprised that I didn’t answer and simply stared at him! The announcer reminded me to think long and hard about the decision, and I finally said yes!

I had a pretty good idea of what my dream dress would look like–I wanted long lace sleeves (a winter wedding must!), an A-line shape (my most flattering look), and I wanted it to make me feel like a princess. I actually found the perfect dress on Pinterest and then went dress shopping to find something similar, but, of course, had no luck. Then I happily realized that the dress I had pinned was from Alfred Angelo, and that they had a store nearby. I put on the dress, everyone cried, and I bought it! I absolutely loved my wedding dress–it really was my dream dress!

What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? The guest list. Choosing who should be on the guest list and making cuts were the hardest parts. We wanted to include everyone we know and love, but it is just unrealistic with venue sizes and costs. We ended up having to invite only family and lifelong family friends. Also, we opted to have an adults-only wedding (minus children who had to travel with parents from out-of-town or that were in the wedding, for whom we offered child care during the reception). The guest list was difficult to make, but in the end, we felt like we had the people who meant the most to us there to share in our special day.

We did a first look. I was against the idea at first, based on tradition, but our wedding was at 4 P.M. and I was worried about getting pictures done with enough lighting after the ceremony. I am really glad that we did this! By the time the wedding day came, I was so anxious to see Tyler that I was glad it was before the ceremony so we could actually have a moment to see each other and talk. Tyler was so overjoyed and excited to see me in my dress that he stared to tear up the moment he saw me.

Tyler and I decided to write our own vows so that they would be promises from our own hearts. It was amazing how in-sync our vows ended up being, since neither of us heard or saw the other’s before the ceremony. My favorite part was that we both promised to keep Christ in the center of our relationship, and that no matter what, we were in this adventure together. During the ceremony, Tyler was incredibly sentimental and emotional during his vows, while I could not contain my joy and smiles as I made my promises. This was such a reflection of each of us and made the moment even more perfect.

What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? Did they have any special significance to you? We had both our wedding ceremony and reception at RT Lodge. This was the perfect location for us for so many different reasons. 1. I actually live less than two minutes from the venue. This was nice because it was so familiar to me! Growing up, my family used to take walks through the Maryville College woods past RT Lodge. Also, in the event that anything was left at home (which some things were!), it was easy for someone to go and grab whatever we needed. 2. The feel of the Lodge. There is something elegant, yet manly about the lodge, which fit both of us really well. Especially getting married in the winter, the lodge just fit the feel we were going for.

I was completely obsessed with my wedding flowers. My bridal bouquet was beautiful, made with lush, neutral blooms. My flower girls and maid of honor had some amazing flower pieces in their hair. We had logs covered with candles and flower petals leading down the aisle to our arch, which was adorned with flowers. At our reception, we had centerpieces that included deer antlers, which really was cool with the lodge atmosphere. Our flowers had a vintage, natural elegance feel that really captured the look we were wanting.

Describe your wedding cake or dessert. Since our last name is Camera, a camera-shaped groom’s cake was a definite must! Our guests thought this idea was so clever, and it was a huge hit. The bride’s cake was five tiers in simple textures with gold accents, which all came together into a simple, yet beautiful design. Both of the cakes were absolutely delicious!

What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? At the end of our reception, everyone was on the dance floor having a great time, singing and busting moves. Then, to Tyler’s and my surprise, everyone circled around us and sang “As Long As We’re Here” by Kristy Starling–an all-time favorite song of mine. It was such a spontaneous and special moment. We felt so loved being completely surrounded by our favorite people. Immediately after this moment, we headed to our sparkler send-off on the RT Lodge lawn. It was the perfect end to the perfect day!

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. Tyler and I met on August 30, 2013. It was the first weekend back at school and some friends invited me over to their house. I was sitting on a couch with a friend in the living room when Tyler walked through the front door and we instantly locked eyes. It was one of those moments when reality actually felt like a movie (Tyler even says that the second he saw me, he knew that I was going to be his girl). We basically maintained eye contact for the next ten minutes, until I realized he was shy and I was going to have to make the first move, so I walked over to him and introduced myself. We ended up talking for the rest of the evening and exchanged numbers before we left. The next morning, I woke up to a text from him asking when he could see me again. We ended up hanging out every single day for the next few months. He asked me to be his girlfriend on October 19 and then proposed exactly a year later.
When did y’all get married? December 19, 2015
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 325
Our favorite detail of the wedding was: Two of the most special pieces of our wedding were the arch and the guest “log.” Tyler was so insistent on having a “power arch” (as he called it), and we were having zero luck. My papaw offered to build us exactly what we wanted, and it was so perfect! We are planning to put the arch in the backyard of our new home. For the guest log, we had everyone sign an actual wooden log. My papaw cut down the log from his yard and gave it to me. Following the wedding, he turned the log into a bench for us to put into our home.
How did you plan for your marriage while planning your wedding? We are both so fortunate to have parents who are still married. Tyler and I took time to sit and talk with our parents about the keys to having a lasting, successful, and blissful marriage. Tyler and I also participated in marriage counseling leading up to the wedding. We took the time to talk and pray together about the future, and continuously asked happy couples in our lives for advice.
If you are comfortable responding, what range did your wedding budget fall into? $50,000-$75,000
What’s next for you as a couple? What memories are you looking forward to making together? Since the wedding, I graduated from college and we moved back to my hometown. Tyler and I are now starting our new life in the cutest, old, cottage-style home. We spend a lot of time having bonfires and celebrations with our friends and family. We are so excited to see what is ahead for us on this adventure together!

Photographer: Finch Photography / Videographer: Milestones / Venue, Planner, and Caterer: RT Lodge / Florist: Whimsical Gatherings / Wedding Cake: Cheryl McMillan Cake Design / Lighting and DJ: Ogle Entertainment / Paper Goods: The Happy Envelope / Bride’s Gown and Accessories: Alfred Angelo / Hair Stylist and Makeup Artist: Bangs and Blush / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: White Lace and Promises / Menswear: Jos. A. Bank

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

Written with love by Jess Metcalf
3 Comments
  1. avatar Olivia reply

    What a beautiful wedding! We are getting married in January and love the fur stoles the bridesmaids are wearing. Where are they from?

  2. avatar Gosia reply

    I am not a fan of red, but after seeing this weeding I might change my mind!

  3. avatar The most wonderful time of the year… | ZsaZsa Bellagio – Like No Other reply

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When my boyfriend moved to a different state last year for his job, I insisted on buying him a guest book for his new apartment. He indulged me, and now there are pages full of notes from friends and family members (and me, of course!) recounting the memories made in his new city! When I mentioned that on a whim in a team meeting a few months ago, the team started sharing stories about guest books, and our newest product evolved from there.

You see, we don’t create products for the sake of creating products. In everything that we do–the content we create, the products we design, the conversations we have with our readers–our hope is to provide couples with purposeful information and inspiration to celebrate their story through dating, engagement, wedding, and their marriage!

With that, and from my own story, I’m tickled pink to introduce our Welcome Home Guest Book!

The Welcome Home Guestbooks come in coral, blue, and natural linen, and each is foil-stamped with hand lettering from Hand Lettered Designs. There are 100 lined pages to fill with guest names, dates, and happy memories! The biggest question now? Which color to choose!

Our guestbook is the perfect vessel to hold all of your memories with the loved ones who will fill your home over the coming years. Like Nicole, my favorite part of this guestbook is that it’s something you can start together, whether you’re dating or have been married for years. It also makes the perfect gift for your loved ones!

We can’t wait to see how you fill each line! Grab your Welcome Home Guest Book to start recording the memories of the days and years to come today!!

P.S. Head to the Southern Weddings Shop to grab the Welcome Home Guest Book in Linen as part of the Ultimate Southern Bride Bundle during our Holiday Sale for only $99!

Written with love by Jess Metcalf
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