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Did you know that less than one fifth of current marriages are preceded by any type of formal marriage preparation??? While we love gorgeous gowns and pretty wedding day details, we’re also big believers in preparing for your marriage and all the life that happens after those beautiful ‘I dos.’ Over the last few weeks, it’s been our joy to share a few different premarital resources, covering topics from money to love and respect, because we know that joining two lives means coming together on a lot of different issues.

As someone who’s a sucker for a good personality test and an advocate for the importance of communication (hello, I was a communications major in college!), Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts might just be my favorite premarital prep resource we’ve shared to date.

Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts is more than just a book – it’s a self-guided course that includes questions at the end of every chapter. The companion workbooks (hers + his) are full of exercises to help you apply what you learn along the way and individually-taken tests (I told you I love a good personality quiz!). Everything points to important conversation topics and is designed to facilitate good discussion – perfect for a cozy date night? :)

A few important topics the book addresses:
– Uncovering the most important misbeliefs of marriage.
– Learning how to communicate with instant understanding.
– Discovering the secret to reducing and resolving conflict.
– Understanding the three essential ingredients to lasting love.

Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts also includes seven crucial questions you should ask before – or even after! – you marry.

Given my background in communication studies and personal life mission as a love (and marriage) cheerleader, I think advice with real-life, practical application is worth its weight in gold.

The good news? You don’t have to just take my word for it. After asking if anyone else had read this book on social media, the replies started pouring in! Everyone from a couple who has been married 20 years to engaged gals who started the book just weeks ago shared their experiences and love of the book:

“I got engaged and my work friends got me more marriage books than you can imagine. This is my favorite, beyond a shadow of a doubt. There’s a section in the first chapter on the unconscious roles each spouse brings into a marriage, and it was an eye-opener. It changed me from the very first chapter! I think SYMBIS is an incredible resource for all brides and brides-to-be.”

“My husband and I read SYMBIS during our engagement and it was such a valuable resource in preparing us for marriage. It’s still useful four months in!”

“We are currently re-reading SYMBIS. We’re on week 5, and it’s truly the highlight of both mine and my fiance’s week.”

Want to learn more? You can grab a copy of this New York Times Bestseller wherever books are sold in physical, audio, and e-book form. Buy it here from Amazon!

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

kristin Written with love by Kristin
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The easiest way to guarantee I will cry buckets of tears at your wedding ceremony? Include “Be Thou My Vision.” We sang it during our ceremony, and to this day, anytime I hear it, I’m immediately transported right back to June 23, 2012. There’s something incredibly powerful about music and its ability to bring emotion to life’s most special moments – your wedding ceremony most certainly among them.

A darling reader bride recently asked us to share some of our favorite outdoor ceremony music suggestions, so I’ve happily compiled a few selections, from processional to recessional. (These would all work well whether you’re getting married indoors or out!) My main tip for outdoor ceremonies, though? Be proactive about the sound system, if you’re not hiring live musicians. If you want your guests to be able to sing along or enjoy the music, make sure everyone can hear it.

P.S. The linked headings below lead to a Spotify playlist, where you can listen to our suggestions! A perfect activity for a weeknight dinner :)

Favorite wedding ceremony classical processional songs:
• Wedding March – Mendelssohn
• Canon in D – Pachelbel
• Ave Maria – Bach or Schubert
• Water Music – Handel
• Ode to Joy – Beethoven

Favorite wedding ceremony hymns and songs:
• Abide With Me
• All Creatures of our God and King
• Be Thou My Vision
• Come Thou Fount
• In Christ Alone

Favorite non-religious ceremony songs:
• Wedding Processional – Rodgers and Hammerstein
• Can’t Help Falling in Love – Elvis
• Falling Slowly – from “Once”
• Make You Feel My Love – Adele
• A Thousand Years – Vitamin String Quartet

Favorite modern recessional songs:
• The Real Thing – The 5 Royales
• Book of Love – The Monotones
• Brighter Than the Sun – Colbie Caillat
• Everlasting Love – Carl Carlton
• Love, Love, Love – The Clovers

One final tip? When picking music, think about the overall feel of your big day – is it classic? romantic? laid-back? upbeat? Pick music that will tell your story and maybe even make you tear up when you hear it at a friend’s ceremony years later ;)

We have more ceremony music suggestions (along with heaps of helping ceremony planning recommendations) in our Joyful Wedding Planner. Snag one over in our shop!

Image round up: Jen Dillender, Tanja Lippert, Jen Fariello, Blue Ribbon Vendor Amy Arrington and Perry Vaile

kristin Written with love by Kristin
3 Comments
  1. avatar Savannah Fannon reply

    Any suggestions on playing music outdoors?

  2. avatar Patti reply

    I’m a church organist and singer and play at weddings all the time. For outside ceremonies, it will depend on what musicians you will have. I heard a string quartet playing Beatles tunes at a wedding and they played “Here Comes the Sun” as the bridesmaids came down the aisle. I’ve heard a recorded instrumental of “Someday My Prince Will Come” at an outdoor wedding. One of my daughters used recorded dulcimer music for her wedding that included the traditional “Here Comes the Bride” and for her recessional, she used “How Sweet it Is (to be Loved by You)” by James Taylor as her recessional. It was perfect.

  3. avatar EvDressau reply

    This is a great reference, I think I will listen to these music before my wedding, and then find out that I feel suitable for my wedding song.

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Bride Maiya shares her glamorous Hitching Post Hill wedding filled with dark, moody florals.

During our editorial shoot season, I search through hundreds of gorgeous gowns to find just the right ones to tell the sartorial stories in our print features. And I’ll admit, I occasionally play favorites. I may also play favorites with our real weddings gowns. I can’t help it!

So as the fashionista in the office, I am extra excited for y’all to meet Maiya! Her Calla Blanche is currently giving me all the heart eyes. I mean, the glamorous, beaded bodice; the classic, A-line satin skirt; and that dramatic, deep V back? Y’all. It’s the perfect fit for her dark, moody florals and the “formal but not stuffy,” dinner party vibe she and her beau Ryan worked with their vendors to create (think: “when men wore formal dinner jackets to meals at home,” says Maiya.) This Mad Men-loving gal can absolutely get on board with that!

Thanks for sharing, Robert Chicoine!

I developed the idea for patterns while hand-creating the invitation suite. It was a two-dimensional opportunity to select patterns, colors, textures, and metallic, similar to selecting finishes for a house but in paper form. Once I found an invite card, a discontinued wallpaper that I used to line the envelopes, a gold, black, and white floral paper, and fabric studs, I had all the same elements I’m used to working with on a much smaller scale. The diamond-shaped studs on the band holding the papers together once again pulled together patterns as a theme for our wedding. Using the thermography heater was one of the most fun projects, I used it to seal each invite closed with our gold foil crest, which I then also used to create custom name place cards for each guest that also contained the menu for the evening.

Being a designer and a creative type, any time a textile needed to be chosen I was in heaven. So for my bridesmaid dresses, I placed a lot of pressure on myself to come up with something unique. I’m still a little impressed by how well it worked out. Once I found the first dress that had a lattice pattern on it, I decided to see how I could incorporate that pattern within the moody dusty color palette I was working with. I love the pattern because it reminds me of spending time in formal English gardens; it was a nice nod to my heritage. My florist will tell you that the only color that was off the table was red. And any other colors were fair game so long as they had a patina and richness to them. All of the dresses were unique, but incorporated the diamond and floral lattice pattern. The colors all blended so well with each other and incorporated many of the details I love most in fashion: lace, brocade, silk chiffon, and beading. While I selected all of the dresses, they decided who wanted to wear what.

Being able to relax during cocktail hour and enjoying the company of our guests was important for us, so planning a first look was the smartest choice. Our close friend and photographer, Robert Chicoine, also encouraged us to do a first look because he knew how important capturing real emotion in the photographs would be. He was also working with film and wanted to capture as much natural light as possible. When we met with all our vendors, we emphasized the importance of the evening feeling as though we were hosting a large dinner party. My exact words were something obnoxious like “imagine when men wore formal dinner jackets to meals at home.” We both like formality but not stuffiness, and knowing our guests came from all over the world to celebrate with us, we didn’t want to miss a single minute of our party. By having a first look, we were able to take a few moments of time for ourselves to reflect and enjoy before the day became the happiest blur of our lives.

I ultimately found my dress while shopping in New York with one of my bridesmaids and my husband’s cousin. We spent the weekend in a cloud of white dresses, delicious food, and laughter. After pulling apart the boutiques and doing everything they tell you not to do (including trying on dresses without knowing how much they cost), my friend found the perfect dress with the most elegant beading and a full satin skirt. I tried it on at Wedding Atelier and immediately knew it was the one. When else in my life would I be able to wear something like that?

Isn’t there a saying about how the best things are in your own backyard? We searched all over the country for a wedding venue and ended up finding the perfect location less than a mile from our house. We knew we wanted a small intimate feeling for our wedding, but the elegance and grandness you find on old historic plantations and manors. Having too much or too little space can impact the entire feel of the event. Most of the beautiful spaces we toured either required serious décor changes or impossible-to-find rentals to realize our vision. When we first toured Hitching Post Hill, we immediately felt at home with enough feeling of wonder and curiosity because of the owner’s one-of-a-kind French art collections and old-world charm. Hitching Post Hill had all of the things we were looking for: historical significance, a beautiful huge front porch, and owner/proprietors with impeccable taste.

What were some of the most meaningful or special parts of your ceremony? Did you write your own vows? One of the most special parts of our ceremony was what was unplanned. Put simply, we got married in the most beautiful living room I have ever encountered. The living room was our “plan B” in case of rain but during our planning stages, it was more of a joke. It wasn’t going to rain on our wedding day! We were going to get married on the front lawn with the estate in the background! Well it rained, for both our rehearsal dinner and wedding day.

Our officiant took the opportunity to surprise us during the ceremony and go off-script, making us turn to face everyone standing with us during our short ceremony. We stood and reflected about how as one unit, our support system of family and friends (literally) stood with us as we took our vows and began our married life. We wrote our own vows, taking pieces of our beliefs that we plan to hold each other to throughout our life. We also decided rather than each repeating vows separately we would repeat the words together, starting our promise to each other in unison. Just as we plan to travel through life, as one!

What was your most memorable moment from your wedding day? The entire day was overwhelmingly beautiful. We will never forget the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to gather all of our family and friends in one place, share dinner under the stars, listen to live music, and dance the night away.

What was your favorite detail from your wedding? Seeing the transformation that our florist, Porter and Ives, made to our venue! She made the outdoor tent and carriage house into a candlelit outdoor garden room complete with bowls overflowing with fruit for our dinner feast under a 300+ year old champion tree. The vines she hung in our ceremony space were a work of art, and the heirloom roses she works with filled the house and tent with an unbelievable scent. Working with the owners of Hitching Post Hill was also an amazing experience. They are talented graphic designers and had so many unique objects that we wove into the outdoor area as well, such as fireplace mantels and original doors that we placed inside the tent to create a magical warm environment.

What was Southern about your wedding? An outdoor dinner party under a 300+ year old champion tree nestled next to a Greek revival house and taking portraits on the wrap-around porch is about as Southern as it gets. Our band and dance floor used to be a carriage house. We also used Southern touches such as old fashioned drinks from the bar, sweet potato pie as part of our dessert spread, lawn games, and had tons of green, white, and peach pumpkins from Ryan’s family farm.

Tell us your love story in one sentence. College sweethearts who fell in love in the rain.
Tell us all about the proposal! Ryan picked me up from work on a Friday evening to celebrate our five-year anniversary. Little did I know, he had been busy working with a local jeweler to design my engagement ring and incorporate stones from his grandmother into the setting. (Cue the tears.) He proposed on the roof of the Kennedy Center overlooking the monuments in DC. The part of the story he loves to tell is that I made him propose twice. It all happened so quickly and I was in such a state of amazement that I barely remembered him getting down on one knee and I wanted to cement it in my mind. So I asked him to get down on one knee again. Of course, the natural thing to ask of someone who just confessed their love to you is to make them do it again.
When did y’all get married? October 1st, 2016
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 70+
Tell us the highlights of finding your wedding dress. My friends and family know that I like to wear well-structured clothing with embellished details, so searching for a wedding gown online and in magazines was frustrating because nothing seemed right. I wanted the skirt from one, the beading from another, the fabric of another dress, and the back of a top in my closet. For years my mother has catered to my fashion whims and helped me create items that suit my petite frame. My mother has altered almost every dress I have ever worn. So when I started to look for a wedding dress, I knew no matter what, I was not going to put her through that for this. But she gave me the foundation and appreciation for what a quality dress should look and feel like.
What was your favorite thing about wedding planning? Taking my love of interior design and using those same visual cues and inspirations with event design was an incredible experience. I couldn’t believe how similar the planning was. I worked with familiar things but in a different way. For example, I subtly infused a diamond-shape pattern and large dark moody florals to many aspects of the design in order to give the feeling of a Dutch still life painting. As a theme, they found their way into my bridesmaid dresses and onto the invitations, china, and tablescape. It was something that few people probably noticed, but was a key component to unifying the look. That’s how I like to create unfussy unity in spaces.
What advice would you give to someone currently planning a wedding? Don’t get too caught up in the process and forget the reasons why you are getting married. We kept our future marriage and our love and respect for each other at the top of our priority list. Planning our wedding was a way to share our love with those most important to us. If you and your partner are not already a team, become one. This is not the time to not communicate as a unit. Always have a plan B, acknowledge that some things are outside of your control, and that you just have to let some things go. But stay on top of your planning early so that everything two days out (if not sooner) can be forgotten about. Re-read every contract you are sent with a magnifying glass and recognize that no one, not even your wedding planner, cares more about your wedding than you do. That is 100% normal and to be expected.
Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! I borrowed my mom’s earrings, blue was covered by the sapphire ring I received from one of my mother’s closet friends at my bridal shower that my amazing bridesmaids planned for me. My something old was my great-grandmother’s diamond and sapphire art deco bracelet, and the new item, no surprise, was my dress. And since I was planning on dancing all night, I didn’t put a six pence in my shoe.

Photographer: Robert Chicoine | Venue: Hitching Post Hill | Florist: Porter & Ives | Wedding Cake: Buttercream Bake Shop | Caterer: Spilled Milk Catering | Rentals: Select Event Group | Band: Bachelor Boys Band | Paper Products: Handmade by the Bride | Bride’s Gown: Calla Blanche | Bride’s Veil: Veiled Beauty | Bride’s Jewelry: Charles Schwartz & Son | Bridal Salon: Wedding Atelier | Hair and Makeup: Natalie and Jeff of Style Me Bar | Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Rent the Runway | Bouquet Ribbons: Silk & Willow | Groom’s Attire: Charles Tyrwhitt | Rehearsal Dinner Venue: Cipolla Rossa | Robes: Le Rose Gifts | Guest Accommodations, After Party, and Farewell Brunch: The Mayflower Hotel

marissa Written with love by Marissa
1 Comment
  1. avatar Mimi Winkelvoss reply

    It was a magical night and Maiya’s talent and effort took your breath away. She was truly the most beautiful bride I have ever seen!

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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