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Southern Weddings

Author: Marissa

When it comes to the many things that make a wedding Southern, the most obvious one is the geographical location, of course! Kara and Philip had that in the bag when they chose to tie the knot at Colleton River Plantation on Hilton Head Island. Though a Pennsylvania native, Kara grew up traveling to her family’s vacation home on the island, so to her, it is a place “that signifies family, joy, memories, and endless beauty.” Kara and Philip worked with their planner, Embellished Events, to create an open-air party where no walls could block the beautiful views. I’m sure this day began a whole new chapter of joyful memories on Hilton Head for this sweet couple!

We’re sure happy Tim Will was there to capture this lovely day!

Describe your wedding flowers. My flowers were untamed and gorgeous! They had an English garden feel, and were full of peaches, sages, and pinks, grounded in soft whites and finished with ribbon I found during my travels to India. The ribbons were used in all the bouquets, garlands, and table arrangements. Branches on Hilton Head Island captured my vision so beautifully.

Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? We did not; we chose to say the traditional vows instead. We felt these timeless words captured all we wanted to say.
What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? We had beautiful readings from the Bible. I particularly loved the Gospel reading from Mark, that included the verse, “They are no longer two but one flesh, therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” Wow, those words have gravity!

On our wedding day, we surprised our guests with the sounds of local Gullah singers harmonizing with joy to “Oh Happy Day” as we departed the church. We also hand-dipped oyster shells in gold and embellished each with a pearl for our escort cards. Guests could take these home as a way to remember the place and the day.

What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? Did they have any special significance to you? I grew up traveling to my family’s vacation home on Hilton Head Island, so it has always been a place that signifies family, joy, memories, and endless beauty to me.

We chose to avoid the cost of a tent, and with the suggestion of my planner, Jennifer Leiti, we chose to have an open-air party under café lighting. We were so happy we did because the environment was the reason I picked this location. There were no walls to block the beautiful, expansive views of the sunset over the river. Thankfully, despite some early morning rain, we were blessed with good weather that day.

My wedding cake was a simple, white, tiered cake with ruffled fondant and some pretty flowers in the colors of my bouquet placed up each tier. The best part was really what was inside–it was decadent! Each layer had a different filling. Minette Rushing from Savannah Custom Cakes is a baking genius!

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. We met in college. We lived in the same dorm, and then in the same apartment building. Two years after college, only after a big separation, did we realize our friendship was actually love. This has been true ever since and will be for the rest of our lives!
Tell us all about the proposal! We first talked about getting married around a year or so ago while on a trip to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. It was the first time Phil had ever been there, and I was overjoyed to be talking about our future marriage in this very special place. However, it was not until a very cold visit to Cape May, New Jersey that Phil decided to sneak a ring into my purse to be found at any time. We were sitting in a crowded bar and I was fishing around in my bag for something or other when I felt a little box…I think I knew what it was right away, and quickly looked up at Phil’s smiling face. I told him I wanted to move to our room for some privacy, where, conveniently, there was a bottle of champagne awaiting our arrival. Phil got down on one knee as I had always envisioned and the rest is history.
When did y’all get married? May 30, 2015
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 125
Tell us about finding your wedding dress. I found my dress in a shop called Elizabeth Johns Ardmore, Pennsylvania, right outside of my home city of Philadelphia. The dress was designed by Lela Rose and I felt it reflected me and my style, and it would complement the beautiful surroundings and climate of my Southern wedding.
Did you decide to do a first look? Why or why not? We did not. Seeing my soon-to-be spouse for the first time at the end of the aisle is a beautiful tradition we wanted to experience.
Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! My shoes had blue soles, I wore a delicate strand of pearls that were given to me as a baby, I borrowed my sister’s wedding garter, and everything else was new.
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Communicate with each other early and often, and don’t lose sight of what is important.
What’s next for you as a couple? What memories are you looking forward to making together? We would love to move to a new home, plant some deeper roots there, and start a family.

Photographer: Tim Willoughby | Videographer: Hart to Heart | Planner: Embellished Events | Ceremony Venue: St. Gregory the Great | Reception Venue and Catering: Colleton River Plantation | Florist: Branches | Cake Baker: Savannah Custom Cakes | Rentals: Event Haus | Band: Fantastic Voyage Band | Gospel Choir: Voices of El Shaddai Ensemble | Bride’s Gown: Lela Rose | Hair and Makeup: Christine Stephens | Bride’s Shoes: Betsey Johnson | Bridesmaids’ Dresses: J. Crew

marissa Written with love by Marissa
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When a wedding planner and a chef tie the knot, you might expect beautiful styling, gorgeous details, and delicious food. And in the case of Elyse and Jack, you’d be right! Their wedding day at Stella Plantation had all of those things and more. Mixing together sweet details from their love story (yummy mini pizzas) with romantic decor (tons of dreamy candles, plus 13 different crystal chandeliers!), they created a celebration that was just as lovely as it was meaningful. I also love the way they weaved Elyse’s signature “xoxo” throughout their day, and right on into their newlywed home!

P.S. If you’re thinking the only way these photos could be prettier is if they were printed on glossy paper and surrounded by other wedding goodness, you’re in luck! We’re so glad Greer Gattuso was on hand to capture this beautiful wedding, and we were proud to feature it in Southern Weddings V8. If you don’t have your copy yet, look for it on news stands across the Southeast, or order it before we sell out here!

Since I’ve signed all of my letters to Jack with “xoxo” for years, we fell in love with the idea of having “xoxo” accents throughout the design! As guests were first introduced to the wedding through the save the dates, they noticed my handwritten “xoxo” at the top. We then commissioned one of the best local calligraphers to design our “xoxo” logo, which we used as a dance floor vinyl, had laser cut for our wedding cake topper, gold foiled on our napkins, printed on our koozies, and more! We even used “elysexoxojack” as our wedding hashtag! The “xoxo” has since carried over into our home decor, which continues to make me smile and think of our wedding.

Tell us about finding your wedding dress. Having shopped through New Orleans with my clients, I knew I’d have to travel to find my dress, so my mother, bridesmaids, and aunts joined me in Houston for a long weekend. Ironically, the bridal attendant had to force me to try my dress on! After removing the one-shoulder strap and some floral appliqués, it was exactly what I had envisioned myself wearing.

As the guests arrived for our wedding ceremony, they were greeted by my six honorary bridesmaids at our confetti bar! They were instructed to make their own mix of navy and metallic confetti to toss at us as we walked back up the aisle as husband and wife. Our immediate family members were given wedding bells to ring after our kiss, and my sorority sisters were each handed a Killarney rose–my sorority’s signature flower.

Tell us a bit about the wedding ceremony. My dad walked me down a long, tree-lined aisle as a cello and violin played. Once the celebrant greeted the guests, my aunt delivered an original ode to love. This was followed by the reading of the poem “Love” by Roy Croft, a poem read during recruitment in Delta Zeta Sorority, by my maid of honor, and a contemporary version of Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” sung by a dear friend. Thank goodness I had gifted Jack a “Mr.” hanky because I needed it a few times myself!
Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? We wrote an original set of vows for both of us to repeat during the ceremony. These vows were a little more traditional, but still so meaningful to us.

Did you have a cocktail hour? If so, what was it like? The cocktail party started outside of the tent at our champagne table, where we had rows of pre-poured champagne, each glass adorned with either a gold pom, a rock candy stick, or a rim of edible gold sugar. Our family and friends enjoyed cocktails around highboys with floral ties by the glow of our three 10-foot walls of candles.

New Orleans thrives on a buffet-style reception–they keep people moving, mingling, and dancing! Food was really important to Jack, as he’s a chef, but I am a picky eater, so we wanted to have food that could could represent us both. We offered elegant food like oysters bordelaise, turtle soup, red snapper filet with crawfish ravigot, cajun duck breast, and marsala mushroom-topped tenderloin to suit Jack’s sophisticated palate. Then, to represent my favorite foods, we served miniature Margherita pizzas and had a french fry and mac and cheese bar that guests could top with their favorite accoutrements!

Did you try anything new or nontraditional? Our guest book was a nod to the hopeless romantic in each of us! Like the Parisian love lock bridge, we asked guests to sign and add their well wishes for our relationship to a padlock, then lock in their love by attaching it to a trellis, which we continue to enjoy in the landscaping in our backyard!

What was your reception like? As cocktail hour came to an end, the drapes of the tent were pulled back to reveal the reception inside. A golden-draped tent with 13 different crystal chandeliers added the backdrop and lighting for our perfect night! Our tables were a mix of round and square tables, the chairs were a mix of gold chiavari, gold estate, and ghost chairs, and our three different specialty table linens added various navy textures to the room. The whole room twinkled!

Our cakes added some wow factor! The wedding cake was a four-tiered fondant cake accented with gold leafing and topped with our xoxo wooden cake topper! It sat on a gold bar cart–a gift from my aunts for my bridal shower–adorned with candles on the bottom shelf and on the floor around the base. The backdrop was a custom painted and gold-leafed wall that our florist created. After we cut our cake, we asked the ladies of the bridal party to join us for a cake pulls–a Southern tradition where each girl pulls a charm out of the cake that is said to predict their fate. The groom’s cake was four stacked king cakes, a New Orleans speciality, with a fleur de lis topper and purple, green, and gold Mardi Gras beads scattered on the table!

Don’t miss Elyse and Jack’s wedding film by our Blue Ribbon Vendor Bride Film below!

How did the two of you meet? Tell us your story. In eighth grade, my parents moved to a new city right outside of New Orleans, where I made many new friends! One afternoon, I had joined my new girlfriends at the ballpark to watch their friends play baseball. After a foul ball was hit towards the stands, I scooped it up and chucked it back to the boys. Let’s just say that I didn’t throw like a girl! Impressed by my athleticism, Jack came to chat with me after the game. We spent many afternoons together at the ballpark after that, and the rest is history!
Tell us about a date you’ll always remember. For our one-year dating anniversary (keep in mind that we were 16 years old), Jack told me that he was going to cook pizza, my favorite meal, from scratch. He surprised me by writing “I <3 U” in pepperonis! He had already discovered his love for cooking (he's now a chef) and had gotten pretty good at it, so the fact that he simplified his dinner plans to cook this simple dish showed that he really understood and loved me. I’ve always told him just how special that meal made me feel! Describe the proposal: After the weather forced Jack to change his plans of proposing in the park in front of a photographer, the ring must have been burning a hole in his pocket. The very next day, he surprised me with another hand-tossed pizza, this one reading “Marry Me?” in pepperonis– a nod to our one-year anniversary date! Needless to say, we were too excited to eat the proposal pizza!
Three adjectives that describe the day are: Elegant, custom, lively
How many guests attended your wedding? 200
What did the groom and groomsmen wear? Jack had purchased a light navy suit months before the wedding, but three weeks before the big day, an editorial arrived in the mail with a velvet, navy tux blazer that he had to have! It arrived just in time! He also wore my late grandfather’s Rolex watch that my father asked him to wear. During my dad’s rehearsal dinner speech, he said, “Jack, I would like you to wear this watch this weekend so that Elyse’s grandfather can be a part of his granddaughter’s wedding. Keep it on your wrist so he can feel your pulse quicken as you watch Elyse walk up the aisle in her beautiful wedding dress.” It meant so much to me to have my Dide there in spirit! The groomsmen all wore matching black suits with navy skinny ties. We also gifted them polka dot socks for a fun touch.
Tell us about your wedding flowers. I really wanted my bouquet to have a hand-picked, natural feel, so we used lush blooms in whites, ivories, and blush mixed with loose, cascading foliage to give it lots of movement. We applied gold leafing to a few leaves for a gilded touch! We used Frou Frou Chic hand-dyed ribbon to tie it all together. As a finishing touch, I had “Mrs. Jennings” in my handwriting turned into a gold bracelet, which we wrapped around the stems. Just as the bridesmaids’ dresses were different, I wanted their bouquets to be different as well. Each had the same filler flowers and foliage, but a unique focal flower! I also made each of the ladies a handwritten gold bracelet with their names to wrap around their bouquets.
Tell us a bit about your first dance. We danced to “Amazed” by Lonestar, which has been “our song” since we first started dating in 2003–the year the song became most popular. We sang every word of the song to each other while we danced! So romantic and nostalgic!
Tell us about your grand exit. In true dramatic fashion, we ended our reception with fireworks over the Mississippi River to celebrate not only our love, but all of the love that surrounds us each and every day! It was a truly magical ending to the most incredible weekend of our lives, and the perfect start to our forever!

Planning and Design: Elyse Jennings Weddings | Venue: Stella Plantation | Photographer: Greer Gattuso Photography | Videographer: Bride Film | Candles and Lighting: Luminous Events | Florist: Bee’s Wedding and Event Designs | Rentals: Perrier Rentals | Vintage Rentals: Distressed Rentals | Hair Stylist: Ginger Dickey | Makeup Artist: Ashley Sievert | Band: Groovy 7 | Catering: New Orleans Catering | Ceremony Musicians: New Orleans Finest Musicians | Officiant: Rev. Johnny Adams | Transportation: Bonomolo and Hotard | Save the Dates and Invitations: Tupelo Honey | Invitation and Envelope Calligraphy and Signage: Ebb and Flow | Cake Baker: Royal Cakery | Champagne Flutes: Anthropologie | Bride’s Gown: Ines Di Santo | Bridal Salon: Ivory Bridal Atelier | Bride’s Veil: Wedding Belles | Bride’s Earrings: Kendra Scott | Bride’s Shoes: Jimmy Choo | Bride’s Robe: Flora Nikrooz | Menswear: Express | Bridesmaid Dresses: Adrianna Papell and Badgley Mischka | Tinsel Stirrers: Em for Marvelous | XOXO Cake Topper: My Girl Josephine | Bouquet Ribbon: Frou Frou Chic | Name Bracelets: Yvonne Boutique | XOXO Floor Decal: Off the Wall Expression | Confetti: Inside My Nest | Frosted Go Cups and Napkins: For Your Party | Koozies: Discount Mugs

Greer Gattuso, Bride Film, and Stella Plantation are delightful members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

marissa Written with love by Marissa
6 Comments
  1. avatar Brittany reply

    By far one of my favorite weddings. It is the perfect mix of elegant and fun. I might be using some of these ideas :-)

  2. avatar Champagne bar with tinsel stirrers – Em for Marvelous - reply

    […] of my very favorite weddings from the latest issue of Southern Weddings is on their blog today! Elyse and Jack, who began dating when they were 16, blew me away with all of the thoughtful and […]

  3. avatar Elyse reply

    Our wedding was the very best day of my life and it’s made me smile from ear to ear to relive it through the magazine and the blog! You ladies are just the sweetest! XOXO

  4. avatar Sybil reply

    Beautiful wedding! I love alll the detail and how special it seems for the couple.

  5. avatar Nicole reply

    Beautiful…so this is what a wedding looks like when a super talented wedding planner makes the dream of her wedding day come to life. Details, Details, Details, Love, Love, Love!!!

  6. avatar Brooke reply

    This was one of my favorite weddings from the new magazine! Seeing even more pictures on the blog is just so exciting! I absolutely love the confetti bar and the mini chicken and waffles!

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Libby and Matt’s interview is so full of insight into how they planned for not only their wedding day, but also for their marriage, with intentionality and joy. There is no better a place to show this than during the ceremony! Knowing what a big deal it is to promise your life to someone, Libby and Matt chose to say traditional vows in front of their friends and family, and then personal vows privately during communion. From Matt protecting Libby from spiders, to Libby promising to dance with Matt “anytime, anywhere,” I love that these two wrote vows that reflected their commitment to each other and their relationship, as well as a peek into the fun that they want to carry into married life.

Thank you to Lynnsey Catron for sharing this sweet Kentucky day with us!

I thought I would try on a billion dresses and have a hard time finding “the one.” I ended up only trying on about ten! I was trying to decide between two lace gowns when my soon-to-be mother-in-law pointed to another dress and remarked about how different it was. I tried it on for fun and ended up loving it! It was so different than what I had imagined, but it far exceeded what I could have ever dreamed up!

Did you decide to do a first look? Why or why not? We decided not to see each other before the ceremony. Matt in particular felt strongly about not seeing each other until I walked down the aisle. We are so happy that we went with tradition! We did exchange gifts without seeing each other earlier in the day. We got to hold hands and I’ll never forget the feeling. As hard as it was not being able to see each other until later in the day, the anticipation made the walk down the aisle so surreal! There was so much weight and meaning behind that first time seeing each other–it was the culmination of everything we had been through and hoped for!

What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? My grandma read Ephesians 4:32: “Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you,” and Ephesians 5:1: “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.” This was so special because these verses are also my grandparents’ marriage verses. They have been married for over 50 years!

We recited traditional vows in front of our guests during the ceremony. Later, after a time of worship and communion, we read our personal vows to each other privately. This was our favorite and definitely the most emotional time of the ceremony! Promising your life to someone is BIG, but we both had such certainty and peace. My favorite part of Matt’s vows was when he promised to always protect me, especially from spiders. Matt’s favorite part of my vows was when I promised to scratch his neck in the car and to always dance with him, anytime, anywhere.

Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding and why you chose them. Two of our friends sang “In Christ Alone,” accompanied by a three-piece string section, while our wedding party processed. My dad walked me down the aisle to “The Butterfly Waltz” by Brian Crain. It sounds like the perfect garden party music–so pretty! One of my bridesmaids sang “Ever Be” by Bethel during our time of communion and personal vows. We love that song and it perfectly explains the relationship we get to have with our Heavenly Father! And finally, we celebrated to Beyonce’s “Love on Top” for the recessional because nothing says “WE’RE MARRIED!!” like Beyonce.

We included lots of Southern traditions in our wedding! We got ready in a beautiful Antebellum-style house with the original furnishings. Our wedding party was huge–the more friends and family included, the better! Our programs doubled as fans for the warm weather that accompanies a summer garden wedding in Kentucky. And most Southern of all: we had a HUGE BBQ dinner! We served brisket, barbecue chicken, mac and cheese, green beans, and sweet tea. Theres nothing more Southern than that!

What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? Did they have any special significance to you? Matt and I took a walk around the Whitehall gardens one evening after hearing how beautiful the venue is. I didn’t expect to get emotional over a garden, but we could both see our wedding day taking place there and it was so dreamy! There was such peace and joy in that decision; we didn’t even really look at other venues!

What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? The biggest challenge was definitely the last minute details. We (cough cough Libby) found ourselves trying to add “just one more” detail on top of one more detail. With the stress of wanting everything to be just right, it was a challenge not to get caught up in the tiniest decisions. The only way to overcome this challenge was to gain some perspective. In 50 years, Matt and I won’t remember if each table had the same excessive number of votive candles. Instead, we will remember what it felt like to spend an entire day celebrating our commitment to each other and making our guests feel welcomed and loved.

Don’t miss Libby and Matt’s highlights film by Bryan Starr Cinematography below!

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. Matt and I met in 2008 when he became friends with my brother through school and baseball. We met again in the summer of 2013 when we were both asked to lead a Bible study for high school students. We got together one day to discuss what the year of Bible study might look like, and ended up talking for four hours. From that point on, we were inseparable and became best friends. I was apprehensive to date due to past experiences, but Matt continued to pursue me with consistency, gentleness, and patience. We began dating months later and the Lord used Matt to re-align my misconstrued idea of love with Godly love and pursuit. Somewhere along the way, I became certain that he was the one I would spend my life with–the best feeling in the world!
Tell us all about the proposal! Matt and I got engaged on November 1, 2014. Matt picked me up for dinner, which he had made himself, complete with roses, candles, and appetizers. After dinner, Matt suggested we go to our favorite spot, a gazebo in historic Middletown Park. We had spent time there dreaming about a future together at the beginning of our relationship and had re-visited the gazebo on special occasions. These visits usually involved slow dancing and being silly together. The night of the engagement, I almost didn’t get out of the car (It was FREEZING outside and I had a dress on!) but Matt wanted to dance (and propose, unbeknownst to me), so I agreed. We danced and Matt told me how much he loved me and that he wanted to spend our lives together. He got on one knee and asked me to marry him! I said YES and cried like a baby. Afterwards, Matt took me to my parents’ house to tell them the news, where I was surprised by a full house of family and friends! He had even gotten my sister from Florida and one of my best friends from Alabama there to celebrate. Cue even more crying like a baby. It was the best night!
When did y’all get married? August 2, 2015
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 250
How did you plan for your marriage while planning your wedding? Matt and I did premarital counseling through our church and met with mentors as our wedding day approached. We also did some at-home counseling through a study called “Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts” by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott. It helped us keep our focus on the importance of the marriage that follows the excitement of the wedding day. We found that we learned a lot about each other and really enjoyed the time we put in to paving the way for a healthy and God-honoring marriage!
If you are comfortable responding, what range did your wedding budget fall into? $10,000-$25,000
What was one way you saved money or cut costs at your wedding? My bridesmaids were amazing. They would come over for movie nights and sit on the floor putting programs together or helping to assemble table numbers. I would have been far more stressed and spent far more money without them! The same goes for my mom! She is an expert planner and is so good at organizing the tiniest details, which helped save so much money. I would have been lost without her! I made our “Husband” and “Wife” chair signs and our “Just Married” sign for the getaway car. We were blessed with lots of family friends who volunteered to set our reception tables and they did an amazing job. Serving dinner buffet-style instead of plate service helped save money too.
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Just relax and have fun! Remember that what happens after the wedding in your marriage is the most important thing. Marriage is a gift and the time spent planning for it is special and unique! Also, definitely spend time finding a photographer/videographer that will capture the day perfectly for you. Looking back is so fun! And just remind yourself that you get to take a vacation with your best friend when it’s all over :)
What’s next for you as a couple? What memories are you looking forward to making together? We would love to spend some time traveling in the next few years! Europe is on the top of our list but we would also love to take a trip down the coast of California on Highway 1. We dream about having a big family with lots of babies! And no matter where we are, we want to do ministry and love on people the way we have been loved!

Photographer: Lynnesy Catron | Videographer: Bryan Starr Cinematography | Planner: Aletia Thompson, Debbie Weiss, and Sally Parks | Venue: Whitehall Mansion and Gardens | Florist: Country Squire Florist | Cake Baker: Lady A Cakes | Caterer: Bootleg BBQ | Rentals and Lighting: Reliable Rental | DJ: HAY DJ | Calligraphy: Anna K. Ashley | Invitations: Wedding Paper Divas | Bride’s Gown: “River” by Blush by Hayley Paige | Bride’s Veil: “Stella” by Sara Gabriel | Hair Stylist: Hali Breitenstein of Hali B & Co. Salon | Makeup Artist: Bethany Tiesman of BEAUTY by Bethany | Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Style B2078 in New Shell Pink by B2 by Jasmine | String Musicians: Highland Chamber Players

marissa Written with love by Marissa
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  1. avatar Wedding: Libby & Matt » Lynnesy Catron Photography reply

    […] seen on Southern Weddings, Libby and Matt’s day was breathtaking.  I could go on and on about how beautiful the […]

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