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Author: Marissa

Having worked with her professional photographer sister and brother-in-law, not to mention being the youngest of three girls, Gracey is no stranger to the wedding world. However, when it came to the details of her and Richard’s big day, Gracey gave her mama a bit of trouble when trying to narrow down exactly what they wanted. From one indecisive gal to another, I completely empathize with how tough those decisions can be! I love that Gracey and Richard ultimately chose to focus on making their wedding day a reflection of who they are as a couple, perfectly balanced with the desire for their wedding to be fun and unforgettable for their guests. And, Gracey’s advice for those planning a wedding is spot on! “Remember what the wedding is about: two people becoming one. Don’t lose sight of the marriage to follow that one day.”

Big SW hugs to Cassidy Dawn for sharing this sweet day with us!

Having worked in the wedding industry for years with my professional photographer sister and brother-in-law, we saw the value of doing a first look. We wanted that intimate moment to be able to see each before all eyes were on us. It was such an amazing moment. Our photographer sat us down on a bench in front of our venue with our eyes closed, told us to hold hands, and then to open our eyes on the count of three. We love these photos of our first look because of how it all went down–Richard misunderstood and thought we were to just hold hands (eyes still closed), so on the count of three, I opened my eyes as Richard just grabbed my hand! The moment was followed by quite a few laughs, and I said, “Richard, you can open your eyes.” His response and face when he saw me makes my heart melt to this day–hearing your soon-to-be husband gush over how pretty you look the moment he first sees you on your wedding day is something you will NEVER forget.

Tell us about finding your wedding dress. Ready to plan her last daughter’s wedding (I am the baby of three girls), my mom was just as excited as I was to start the search for the perfect wedding dress. I knew I wanted something beautiful and dreamy, but I also wanted something different than the dresses I had ever seen or worn before for styled shoots. My mom and I decided to stop by a local bridal boutique (Loretta’s Bridal) just to start getting an idea of what type of dress I would be interested in. An hour before we got to the store, a special shipment of dresses had arrived (a day early) for a weekend showcase they were hosting. I tried on dress after beautiful dress, but they didn’t quite have what I was looking for. Then, the owner, brought out the dress–a gorgeous strapless, blush Casablanca style. It was far more traditional than what I thought I would be drawn to, but I think the fact that it was blush, rather than white, is what hooked me in the end. We ordered it that day!

What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? My poor mother was so patient with me! I had a hard time narrowing down exactly what I wanted–it was so important to me that each and every aspect truly reflected who Richard and I are as a couple, while also balancing our desire for our wedding to be a fun and unforgettable for our guests. I don’t know what I would have done without my sweet mom there to help plan and guide me through the process. She’s just the best.

It was important to us to focus on the marriage that followed the wedding. We chose to work with a Christian counselor and go through premarital counseling to help prepare us for the changes ahead. This was a really great decision, if you ask me–it’s so important to set your relationship up for success!

Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? Our vows were very special to us. We wanted to make sure they were centered on what we feel our life calling and vision is: loving God and loving people. Though it’s hard to choose one line as a favorite, I think “I promise to create with you a home in which the peace of God is known, and the needs of others are recognized” sums up our hearts’ desire for our marriage.
What is the one detail or vendor that you were so happy to have as a part of your wedding? We adored ALL of the vendors for our wedding, but the most special would have to be our pastor from Florida who married us. He has been my family’s pastor for over 20 years, married all of my sisters, and is now mine and Richard’s pastor!

Travel and great food are two common threads in the history of our relationship. We knew we wanted a destination wedding and narrowed it down to Charleston, South Carolina. The Vendue fit our needs perfectly–it was the perfect embodiment of my artistic side (The Vendue is Charleston’s only art hotel), our love for mixing natural elements with industrial elements (we loved our open rooftop ceremony in the middle of a beautiful city), and of course, there was AMAZING food. We were so happy that we could have both the ceremony and reception in the same location, since all of our guest were traveling from out of town, but loved having a change of scenery by doing the ceremony on the open rooftop, dinner at the beautiful in-house restaurant (The Drawing Room), and heading back upstairs to the rooftop for dancing.

What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? Being in Charleston, it was a no-brainer to include some Southern Lowcountry fare. Chef Jon of The Drawing Room (The Vendue’s in-house restaurant) is brilliant! Not only did he make the entire meal gluten and dairy-free, he also made us the perfect spin on Lowcountry surf and turf that included our favorite foods (grits were a must!). My family is from Kentucky originally, so blackberry bourbon lemonade with cardamom was our Southern signature cocktail. Rather than driving away in a limo or car, we opted for something a little more “Charleston,” and left the wedding in a rickshaw!

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. After several years of working and traveling non-stop to build a family-owned startup, I realized I was ready for more in life. After talking to a few of my friends, I decided to join eHarmony. I filled out my profile with the parameters being focused more on the character and Godly leadership I was looking for in a husband, and less on matters like location. In the meantime, Richard also had long work hours and traveled often, and when he decided he was ready to add something more to his life, but wasn’t finding what he was looking for in his area, he signed up as well and then contacted me. Over the next week or so, we messaged back and forth before Richard took a step of faith and asked for a phone date. Though I’m not much of a “phone person,” I accepted on St. Patrick’s Day 2013. That phone call lasted 6 hours; we both quickly realized this was something worth pursuing. After three months of talking nearly non-stop, we finally met face-to-face. Richard drove 21 hours just to meet me. The moment we saw each other, we hugged and instantly knew this was it. It just felt right. That weekend, we officially started the journey of long distance dating, taking turns visiting each other for the next year. Finally, in March 2014, Richard made the big move to be with me.
Tell us all about the proposal! Years before we met, I had a favorite blue vintage bicycle that I took time to restore. Unfortunately, my bike was stolen and I never replaced it. Knowing he wanted to propose, Richard realized my upcoming birthday was the perfect stage to set up a proposal. For the six weeks leading up to my birthday, he tracked down and restored a bike that looked identical to my long-lost vintage one. He told me to be at his house early on the morning before my birthday for a day of birthday surprises. When he gave me the bike, I was so surprised and felt so loved that I was completely oblivious that this was just the beginning! We rode our bikes downtown, where we stopped at a small park for a picnic lunch. Before lunch, Richard wanted to walk around the park. We found a small gazebo, and while we were looking around, Richard asked, “Gracey, how long have we been going out?” I answered with a rough estimate. Richard replied, “How about we make that forever?” I turned around to see him down on one knee with a ring in hand, and he asked me to marry him. I couldn’t stop crying tears of joy as I shook my head yes! Did I mention, he had someone in the bushes taking pictures? Extra points for that! The rest of the day was filled with all of my favorite things. I’d say it was a birthday for the books.
When did y’all get married? March 17, 2015
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 45
Describe your wedding cake or dessert. Being gluten-free and not really loving cake, we wanted to do something a little bit different. We went with a crepe bar, complete with gluten-free crepes, a variety of berries, bacon, chocolate, goat cheese, and, of course, Nutella! Our guests loved getting to mix up yummy concoctions.
What was one way you saved money or cut costs at your wedding? We cut costs here and there by prioritizing what would truly make our wedding unforgettable and feel like us. Venue, food, music, and hair and makeup were important things for us. The key for us when cutting costs came down to a few things: we were married on a Tuesday (MEGA SAVINGS not having it on a weekend), and we used tables, chairs, and plates that the venue owned, rather than renting them.
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Remember what the wedding is about: two people becoming one. Don’t lose sight of the marriage to follow that one day, and make the day as much a reflection of who you are as a couple as possible. Yes, it’s important that your guests have a good time, but they are there because they love you and support you–the more your wedding reflects who you are, the more fun they will have.

Photographer: Cassidy Dawn Photography / Venue, Catering, and Cake: The Vendue / Florist: Branch Design Studio / DJ: DJ David Fox of Bunn DJ Company / Invitations: Paradise Papers / Bride’s Gown: Casablanca / Bridal Salon: Loretta’s Bridal / Bride’s Hair Accessory: Urban Outfitters / Hair and Makeup: Ash and Co. / Bride’s Shoes: BCBG / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: “Wrap Front Maxi Dress” by ASOS / Groom’s Attire: “Lazio Blue Plain” by SuitSupply / Groomsmen Attire: “SlimFit Suit” in Navy by H&M / Transportation: Charleston Rickshaw

Bunn DJ Company is a delightful member of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

marissa Written with love by Marissa
1 Comment
  1. avatar Cassidy Dawn reply

    Thank you so much for the feature! Aren’t they just the best?! XOXO

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Growing up, it was Ashton’s dream to get married on Cape Cod, but as she got older, she realized that North Carolina had truly became her home. There’s just something about the South, I tell ya! She and Brent chose to become husband and wife in the same state where they met and their relationship bloomed. With the help of their florist, Flowers on Broad Street, Ashton and Brent mixed old Southern charm with inspiration from their New England childhood memories, including white hydrangea, stunning greenery, and peach accents. While Ashton and Brent may not have done a first look themselves, how precious is it that Ashton not only did a first look with her dad, but with her brother as well? What a wonderful way to make the first men in her life feel so special (and make us tear up!).

Gracious, we’re delighted Blue Ribbon Vendor Robyn Van Dyke was on hand to preserve all these memories with photos!

Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! While growing up, my grandmother gave me a sapphire ring, which was the first piece of jewelry she had received from my grandfather after their wedding. It is a special reminder of their love and faithful commitment to each other after fifty-five years of marriage and was an extra special “blue” and “old.” In addition, I wore diamond earnings that were passed down to my mother as my “borrowed” memento. Finally, my “new” veil was made my by maid of honor, who is an incredible designer.

I was so excited when the time finally came to go wedding dress shopping. Being a pretty decisive person, I was expecting to fall in love with one of the first dresses I found. Oh, was I wrong! I was surprisingly overwhelmed and indecisive; they were all so stunning in different ways. After three stores and a little imagination, my mom had the big moment, not me. I knew the dress was all I had ever wanted: simple, lace and classic. Each time I went back for a fitting, it transformed, and I fell more in love with it.

Did you decide to do a first look? Why or why not? Brent was very insistent from the beginning about waiting to see me until I walked down the aisle. He wanted to share our first look in front of everyone during the ceremony. While I was reluctant at first, this is one traditional aspect I was so happy we kept. Sharing this moment, and our reactions, with all of our friends and family was one of our favorite moments of the entire day.

While I was growing up, it was my dream to get married on Cape Cod, where we spent many summers during my childhood, but as I got older, North Carolina has truly become home. I took a lot of inspiration from the New England charm of my childhood, especially when it came to the flowers. We chose white hydrangeas, which were accompanied by stunning greenery and peach accents.

What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? Our day was filled with tears of joy. These tearful and emotional moments turned out to be our most favorite moments of our wedding day. During my mom’s matron of honor speech, my first look with my dad, and when I saw my brother for the first time, we all broke down. These people have constantly shown Brent and I strength and guidance, and these moments perfectly captured our overflowing love for each other. These are the moments that will be perfectly engraved in my memory forever. The ultimate moment, though, was when the doors opened from the back of the house and I walked down the aisle. Taking it all in, Brent punched his fists together and was swaying from side to side, attempting to hold back his tears. His reaction was priceless–as I arrived to the top of the stairs, Brent let out all of his excitement with a huge “whoo!” I could not have imagined a better reaction.

Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? This was another aspect of our wedding that we wanted to ensure was very personal to us. We want a God-focused marriage and wanted our vows to be an outward expression of the covenant we were making. Hands down, our favorite line was “I will love you as Christ loved the church, laying my life down for yours.”

Both of our families are from the New England area, but Brent and I have grown up in North Carolina and it has become our home. We wanted our wedding venue to have old Southern charm that reminded us of New England, but with a touch of rustic elegance. One of our favorite parts of Highgrove was the ability to have both indoor and outdoor elements to our wedding.

Brent is a huge cake lover–more specifically, he loves cupcakes! While planning a wedding has its stressors, no one can disagree that cake tasting is a welcomed event. This was one of our favorite things to do in preparing for the wedding. In addition to cake, one of our favorite mountain-inspired details was a fire pit that featured a s’mores bar. It even included Brent’s favorite peanut butter marshmallows! They were quite a hit!

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. Brent and I met at College Life during our sophomore year at Appalachian State University. The introductory ice breaker was “speed dating.” Brent noticed me from across the room and cut a direct path through the groups, moving the other guys out of the way! After a bunch of wacky ice breaker questions, we hit it off so well that we didn’t even notice others rotating around us. Thanks to some charming persistence and many long nights of chatting, Brent took me on our first date to Beacon Heights lookout off the Blue Ridge Parkway to go star gazing. The rest is history!
Tell us all about the proposal! During Memorial Day weekend in 2014, we took a trip up to Boone to visit our favorite old stomping grounds. We had planned out the whole weekend to make sure we hit all of our favorite shops, restaurants, and hiking spots. Brent suggested we hike the Grandfather Ladder Trail–and I quickly discovered a fear of heights as we climbed up eight wooden ladders hanging off the side of the mountain. Brent took my camera and documented every last part of the hike, which was very unlike him. As we made our way over the tree line, we met an older couple hiking the same trail. They were such a great reminder that I could overcome this new fear–if they were doing it, I sure could! Finally, we reached the top of the mountain and were in completely in awe of the beautiful view. We took tons of photos, and decided to soak in the view before heading down. Brent finally gave me the camera, and while I was taking photos of the view, he said “Hey, take a picture of this!” I turned around and saw that he was down on one knee, on top of the most beautiful mountain in our favorite place, and he asked me to marry him. I shrieked in excitement and slight shock! He then insisted we practically run down the mountain, where some of our closest friends were waiting to surprise us in Boone to celebrate. It was the most beautiful day and so worth overcoming my newfound fear of heights!
When did y’all get married? May 22, 2015
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 120
What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? We included a version of Numbers 6:24-26 in the conclusion of our ceremony that has been passed down through generations in my family as a nighttime prayer.
How did you plan for your marriage while planning your wedding? We participated in a premarital class through our church and then met with our pastor and his wife regularly, discussing a few books and reviewing a list of questions that we had answered independently. This has made a huge impact on our marriage from the start; there were many topics and expectations that we were able to discuss and receive advice about before the big day, and it quickly opened up our communication channels.
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? My best advice would be to relax and enjoy the process. I tried planning out tasks and to-dos day by day, because I was determined to enjoy the sweet season right before the wedding and to soak in all the moments. There will always be endless ideas online, but don’t overdo it–pick a few ideas that are the most impactful and meaningful to you and your groom.
What’s next for you as a couple? What memories are you looking forward to making together? Brent and I first bonded when we found out that we both wanted a yellow lab and to name her Riley. On our first date, Brent bought me an Appalachian State puppy collar, and soon, we will be bringing our sweet little Riley home! We are so overwhelmed by the Lord’s plan in our lives and how He has completed this chapter over the past five years. We can’t wait to see what is next.

Photographer: Robyn Van Dyke Photography / Venue and Caterer: Highgrove on Laurel Lake / Florist: Flowers on Broad Street / Cake Baker: Sweet Memories Bakery / Rentals: CE Rentals / Lighting and DJ: Stylus SE / Bride’s Gown: “Dakota” by Rosa Clara / Hair and Makeup: Haute Concepts / Bride’s Shoes: Steve Madden / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Ann Taylor / Menswear: Men’s Wearhouse / Car: Classy Transportation / Bridesmaid Robes: Wedding Prep Gals / Bridal Robe: In Bloom By Jonquil / Invitations: Fine Stationery / Groomsmen Socks: Happy Socks / Ties and Bow Ties: Ralph Lauren

Robyn Van Dyke is a delightful member of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

marissa Written with love by Marissa
  1. avatar Ashton Dreyer reply

    I am loving all these brides named Ashton!!

  2. avatar featured: southern weddings » Robyn Van Dyke Photography Blog reply

    […] hooray! It’s always a dream come true to be on Southern Weddings, and we are overjoyed to have Ashton & Brent‘s joyful, love-filled wedding day featured […]

  3. avatar Maureen reply

    I love the roasting marshmallows shot! You can tell this couple really enjoys spending time together and enjoying the simple things in life. :)

  4. avatar Lisa reply

    Cannot get over how sweet all of these men’s reactions were to her! What a precious family!

  5. avatar Elle reply

    Love the subtle differences in the blue bridesmaids dresses!

  6. avatar Meg Gravley reply

    Bringing New England charm to the south was a perfect idea! I mean – c’mon – who wouldn’t want to get married in NC?!

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Inspiration can be so helpful when planning a wedding, but it can also become overwhelming, which is why I can completely understand why Gabriella and Colin were so thankful to have their wedding planner, Eventi by Diana Venditto, helping them edit down all the adorable ideas that they came across. Together, they chose to include meaningful details that were not only sentimental, but also oh so fun, like their bow tie bar and their balloon release! While it was a fun experience for guests, releasing the balloons was also a sweet nod to Gabriella’s parents, who released balloons at their wedding many years before. Including subtle details like this, and having all their friends and family along to celebrate, made Gabriella feel like “the luckiest girl in the world!” Y’all, I hope every bride feels that way!

We’re so lucky Marta Locklear was on hand to capture this beautiful day!

I grew up on an island on the Chesapeake Bay–our house on the Magothy River has the most beautiful sunsets. We have a large, close-knit family and lifelong family friends on the island who were all an important part of the wedding weekend. I always knew I wanted to get married on the Island, and having our whole extended family and my island family involved in our wedding was so special.

What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? Diana set up a beautiful bow tie bar, where we asked guests to exchange their traditional ties for bright bow ties! We also walked down the aisle to music by a live bluegrass band.

Our favorite detail of the wedding was: There were so many little details! Diana, our wedding planner, did such an amazing job tying them all together. It’s really easy to go on Pinterest and decide you want to do every adorable thing you see. Diana really understood our vision and did a great job editing what we wanted to make it special without being overwhelming. The groomsmen and ring bearers wore bow ties that matched the napkins, menus, save the dates, invites, etc. We also had a bow tie bar! I think the most special and meaningful part of the wedding was when we released balloons after the ceremony. It is something my parents did at their wedding, so it just felt like such a beautiful, subtle way to honor them.

Our main dessert was s’mores! We wanted to do something casual and fun. My parents have a fire pit that created the perfect bonfire. Our caterer, Sascha’s, makes their own marshmallows with coconut, and we provided all different chocolates to use in the s’mores. We also had a small chocolate wedding cake so we could do a traditional cake cutting.

What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? At the end of the night, the DJ started to play “Piano Man.” All of a sudden, in such an organic way, the entire dance floor made a big circle, singing along arm in arm. I remember looking around the room and seeing both of our our families and friends from all different parts of our lives, from near and far, all together. It was such a powerful moment for me. I knew our wedding would be such a special day for Colin and I, but I never realized I would truly feel like the luckiest girl in the world!

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. Colin and I met while working for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Colin started working for Brady after surviving the Virginia Tech massacre (he was shot four times). He is a passionate advocate for gun violence prevention. I started working at Brady after college, before I joined Teach for America.
Tell us all about the proposal! He surprised me at school! He had a whole plan set up with my principal and the other teachers at my school. They set up a meeting with me at the end of the day, and then Colin showed up. I was really confused at first, but then he got down on one knee. Neither of us can remember what he said! We immediately called our families and friends. Everyone was so happy for us–it was just a great day.
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 260
Tell us about finding your wedding dress. When I showed my mother and mother-in-law-to-be the dress I had ordered online, they politely told me I should return it. The next day, my mother offered to take me to a bridal salon, which is where I chose my gorgeous Vera Wang gown.
How did you plan for your marriage while planning your wedding? Both my parents and Colin’s parents have amazing marriages, and they have both modeled to us what a happy, healthy marriage looks like. I think it was the best gift they could have given us.
What was one way you saved money or cut costs at your wedding? It was really hard to set our budget! I think having a wedding planner helped us set and stick to our budget because she had a better understanding of how much things would cost. She also helped us figure out what to spend money on and decide what wasn’t as important.
What is the one detail or vendor that you were so happy to have as a part of your wedding? All of our vendors were just incredible. I would call our planner, Diana, with an idea and she would take it, run with it, and come back with something so perfect. She really was the magic behind the whole wedding! We also had an amazing caterer, Sascha’s, who took our vision and created a fantastic menu that really complemented our wedding. There were bacon straws, s’mores, and Southern bbq–we were in heaven!
What’s next for you as a couple? What memories are you looking forward to making together? We are really just enjoying our time together! In the future, we hope to start a family.

Photographer: Marta Locklear / Videographer: Bowen Films / Planner and Florist: Eventi by Diana Venditto / Caterer: Sascha’s / DJ: Marc Wilner / Band: Skribe / Paper Products: MLC Design / Bride’s Gown: “Delaney” by Vera Wang / Bride’s Veil: Vera Wang / Hair Stylist: Rumors Hair Salon / Bride’s Shoes: Michael Kors / Bridesmaids’ Dresses and Menswear: J. Crew / Photo Booth: Pixilated Photobooth

marissa Written with love by Marissa
  1. avatar madeline reply

    what a joy working with eventi by diana and this amazing couple! beautiful feature of this extraordinary wedding

  2. avatar Ksenia reply

    So romantic wedding!

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