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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
  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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We first got to know today’s bride, Cynthia, when she styled our Love Never Fails tee for Cozy Fall. At that point, she and Andrew were just a few weeks away from tying the knot, so you’d better believe that when their wedding day came around, I was checking in on her blog and Instagram for sneak peeks of the newlyweds! As you can imagine, we were delighted when Happy Everything Co. sent their lovely day our way, and we got to hear the whole stories behind Cynthia’s beautiful gown, how she and Andrew selected their dream outdoor venue, and even about the abundance of Southern cuisine our Blue Ribbon Vendor Sun in My Belly whipped up for the celebration. Cynthia and Andrew were no stranger to hardship throughout their engagement, so seeing what a joyful wedding day they had is all the more sweet!

Tell us all about the proposal! It was a complete surprise to me! We went to dinner on our third anniversary on January 11, 2013. Afterwards, he took me on a walk down this moonlit path at Roswell Mill. At one point, Andrew held me close and asked me if there was anything about our relationship that I would have changed over the past three years. I thought he was trying to be romantic, so I gave in to his cuddling and said, “No, we’ve had a pretty good run, would you change anything?” At that moment, he said “Yes I would. I’d change your last name.” He got down on one knee and asked me to marry him, to which I, of course, responded “Yes!”

Like many sorority girls, I had been pinning wedding things onto my Pinterest board for years, and once I was engaged, I recalled pinning the most gorgeous gown. The problem with Pinterest is that pins don’t always take you to the retailer’s website, so I spent weeks looking for this dress. I finally found out that it was by Stella York and started searching online for where I could buy it near me. A bridal boutique called Atlanta Bride Couture had it in their store, so I made an appointment for when my Grandma was going to be in town, and had my mom and my friend Ellie come with us. I picked a couple of dresses to try that day, along with the Stella York, and almost had a heart attack when I saw that the dress I had been lusting over for almost a year was under $900. When I put it on, I knew it was the dress for me!

I really love that earthy, organic style that looks as if you’ve gone through a meadow and picked a bunch of wildflowers for a bouquet. I loved the romantically wild look of our flowers created by Victory Blooms. She did a spectacular job creating table runners of silver dollar eucalyptus and a stunning mantel piece. Our head table was like something out of a dream, and the flower girl really loved her crown made of wax flower! She looked like a little princess.

Did you decide to do a first look? Why or why not? Yes! I love first looks. I think they are so romantic and a great way to ease the butterflies in your stomach. Andrew and I met by the lake and exchanged our written vows to each other, and shared some kisses and stories about our day. Besides that, we were also able to get all of our wedding party pictures done before the ceremony, which left more time for eating and merriment afterwards.

Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? We did write our own vows and exchanged them before our ceremony. We also said the traditional vows during the ceremony.
What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? We had a knot-tying ceremony at the wedding, which was a lot of fun and helped ease the nervous tension with laughter from the crowd when we messed up.

Our favorite detail of the wedding was: My favorite detail was the calligraphy we had done by Emily of Foster Pen and Ink. It was the smallest touch that I thought added a lot of personalization to our wedding. Andrew’s favorite detail of the wedding day was probably that he and his groomsmen got to go shoot the trap course the day of leading up to it. Our favorite detail together was definitely the venue. It was beautiful, the weather was perfect, we hardly needed to decorate because the interior was so gorgeous, and the sun sets just behind the ridge you get married on at Legacy Lookout. It was a dream! You hardly feel like you’re 25 minutes from the Atlanta airport.

True life: I married someone who hates cake. At cake tastings, I’d ask Andrew his opinion on the cake and he would just say “Well, you know I don’t like cake, so…I guess it was good.” I realized I’d be going at it alone when deciding on a cake. I found my baker through an open house at Foxhall. Lush Cakery was there for everyone to try. It’s perhaps the best cake I’ve had in my life, and she only uses buttercream to decorate with. We ended up getting the salted caramel and amaretto white chocolate raspberry flavors. We had a three-tiered cake with ruffles, pearl dots, and a cascade of garden roses and antique hydrangeas. I got a cake topper that said “Cynthia & Andrew” off of Etsy that we had painted gold.

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. It was never the right time for us. I had a boyfriend when we first met on a bus to a band party my sorority was hosting. After staying in touch loosely through the months, he held the door open for me to the parking deck one day, and we both had an “Aha, there you are” moment. However, he had a girlfriend at the time, so we stayed friends. One day in October, when I realized I was getting feelings for him, I decided to tell him I couldn’t hang out with him anymore. Fate had a funny way of intervening that day, and he and his girlfriend broke up the same day I mustered up the courage to end our friendship. A couple of weeks later, we had our first kiss and the rest is history!
When did y’all get married? October 23, 2015
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 110
What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? Did they have any special significance to you? Andrew and I are both into outdoor sports: he’s a hunter (he only hunts for meat he will eat, not sport) and I ride horses competitively. When we found Foxhall, we were captivated by how it combined both of our interests, and the setting was spectacular. We loved that we were able to bring our own food and drink onto the property to help save some money as well.
What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? The food! I am a huge Southern food advocate and I wanted to include as much Southern flair in our cuisine as possible, so we hired Sun in my Belly to cater our reception. Appetizers consisted of mini lumps of crab cake, shaved ham on a sweet potato croquet, duck confit and bing cherry toasts, and fried green tomatoes. For dinner, we served baby spinach salad with a balsamic drizzle, fried chicken, fig braised pork loin, truffled fingerling potatoes, and mac and cheese. We also served local beer from Sweet Water Brewery for our guests.
How did you plan for your marriage while planning your wedding? Andrew and I already had great communication skills, but we had other areas we needed to work on. We both had talks with our families about marriage and how we are a team now. We worked on being better people for the other person’s sake and we talked about supporting each other’s dreams for the future. He wants to go to grad school and I want to have my own business, so it was important to us that we were ready to accept the challenges that lie ahead for those dreams of ours.
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? We didn’t have a fairy tale engagement, and we even pushed our wedding back from June to October because my mom was diagnosed with small intestinal cancer a month after we got engaged. It was a really scary time for us. During her treatment, all wedding planning was off, but we were conflicted as to what to do: do we get all the big things out of the way and pray my mom was going to be there for the wedding, do we wait and just push off getting married indefinitely, or do we elope and just skip the wedding altogether? There was no right answer for what to do during this situation. Thankfully, my mom finished her treatment in October and has since received a clean bill of health.
If you are comfortable responding, what range did your wedding budget fall into? $25,000-$50,000
What’s next for you as a couple? What memories are you looking forward to making together? As a couple, we hope to figure out our lives as adults in the next couple of years. We have a lot of goals we want to reach, like being debt free, buying a house, and opening a business, so we are going to work on attaining those before we bring in any other responsibilities.

Photographer: Happy Everything Co. | Planner and Paper Goods: Shelley Legg of Aubree Elle Events | Venue: Legacy Lookout at Foxhall Resort and Sporting Club | Florist: Victory Blooms | Cake Baker: Lush Cakery | Caterer: Sun in My Belly | Linens: Creative Coverings | DJ: DJ Q-Tip | Calligraphy: Foster Pen & Ink Calligraphy | Bride’s Gown: Style 5932 by Stella York | Bride’s Earrings: Kendra Scott | Hair and Makeup: Linda Margarita | Bride’s Shoes: “T Strap Wedges in Blush and White Crystal” by Dune London | Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Style 6639 in Celadon by After Six | Menswear: Savvi Formalwear

Sun in My Belly is a delightful member of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

lisa Written with love by Lisa
  1. avatar Kristin Winchester reply

    So much to love about this sweet day!

  2. avatar Katie reply

    I see you post the link to the dresses- and I love them so much! What color are they from the site?

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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