For Rachel and Cory, it seemed as though the timing was never quite right…but then, seven years after first meeting, it finally was. A cold night, two cups of hot chocolate, and a kiss in his pickup later, Rachel and Cory’s story was officially ready to start a new chapter. Their story played a significant role in planning their wedding, from the venue to the food they served. Since they fell in love while Cory was stationed in Florida, they knew that celebrating their wedding where they first exchanged the words “I love you” would be a sweet nod to their time there spent dreaming about their future. Though their wedding day was an important milestone, Rachel shared that “the ordinary days in marriage are just as important as the extraordinary, and that perspective has served us well.” Be sure to read their interview for the sweetest stories, and more sage advice. I might advise having a hankie nearby!
Thanks to Cassidy Carson for capturing Rachel and Cory’s 30A wedding!
After our fabulous photographer, Cassidy Carson, recommended doing a first look (for a few reasons), we decided it was the best choice for us. Cory and I hadn’t considered a first look because we weren’t sure how it would impact the magic of walking down the aisle. Ultimately, we did a first look because it was a way for just the two of us to spend time together and soak in the joy; it forced us to slow down and be present in the moment on an otherwise fast-paced day. It didn’t take away from walking down the aisle in the least. The weather for our first look was absolutely stunning, which was our saving grace, as not 30 seconds after our ceremony ended, thunder rolled and we were caught in a torrential downpour!
When we were choosing our wedding location, we made two things a priority: community (friends and family who would be present) and the location’s significance to our story. Cory was stationed in Florida for the majority of our dating life and we would spend hours upon hours playing in the waves and exploring Seaside on 30A. It’s where we fell in love, where we first exchanged those words, and where we spent so much time dreaming about our future. 30A is a critical part of our story and we wanted our celebration of marriage to be a reflection of that. Eden Gardens is a little hidden gem about ten minutes inland–a quiet, historic plantation home with beautiful oaks and dreamy Spanish moss. It was the perfect way for us to incorporate a Southern-style venue while hosting friends and family in a place that means the world to us.
Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? We wrote our vows together. Some couples write them separately, but for us, it was important that we approached our vows as a team (we, not I), like we do the rest of our relationship. In addition to our own promises, we incorporated select bits and pieces of traditional vows as well. My favorite phrase from our vows has to be “I promise to speak my truth and honor yours; to seek forgiveness humbly and offer grace without condition.” Speaking truth and life in our home is a priority and we work hard to set boundaries to protect our bond and create a home where it’s safe to be completely vulnerable with each other.
What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? A lot of our premarital counseling was based on work by Brene Brown and John Gottman, so it was fitting for some of it to be weaved into our ceremony–specifically, the anatomy of trust, vulnerability, the art of boundaries, and empathy as they pertain to interpersonal relationships and the sacred bond of marriage. Being a couple who seeks to know Jesus and grow spiritually as individuals and as a couple, we included scripture readings at our ceremony as well (heavily from Ruth and Ecclesiastes).
How did you plan for your marriage while planning your wedding? The first thing we planned (before we booked a date or a venue) was our premarital counseling sessions. We contacted the therapist who helped me through the loss of my dad and planned out our bi-weekly sessions. She’s a therapist with the educational credentials and science to back it up, but she also loves Jesus; she was the perfect fit for us as a couple. Working through devotionals and books together, in addition to premarital counseling, was the best investment we could have made in our relationship. From the beginning, Cory and I were on board that while we were incredibly blessed to be able to afford a celebration of marriage (wedding), it wasn’t the only important milestone in our lives. The ordinary days in marriage are just as important as the extraordinary, and that perspective has served us well.
What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? Cory and I were both born in the South and we carry it with us wherever we go; there’s no place quite like it. We knew we needed touches of Southern flair in our special day, starting with barbecue for Cory (his favorite food) and fresh lemonade (with a little somethin’ somethin’) for me. And how could we forget the yard games? Every good Southerner knows you must have corn hole boards and games on hand for company at all times–what better way to spend a Saturday in the South than football and a competitive game of corn hole? Apart from specific wedding details, Cory and I wanted our wedding weekend to embody the Southern host/hostess mentality: community. We intentionally kept our celebration under 100 people and only included those who love and support us in daily life.
We decided to forgo a traditional wedding cake and instead opted for piles and piles of fresh, locally made donuts from our favorite little shop in Alys Beach. When we asked our florist to “flower up” our donut cake, she didn’t miss a beat; large blooms and succulents adorned piles of sugary goodness, complete with a gold calligraphy topper proclaiming “Donuts for each other.” Hardly a day has passed when we haven’t risen from our slumber craving that donut cake. Smaller donut cakes were piled high with maple-glazed, applewood-smoked bacon donuts. Bless it.
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? Shortly after picking our September 2nd wedding date, we received word that Cory would be deploying in October, just weeks after we would say “I do.” We knew it could potentially happen, as he was eligible for deployment, but it wasn’t confirmed until after we had secured our date and venue. I’ll be honest, it’s a hard battle to hold onto your joy as you prepare for marriage and plan a wedding while knowing your love will have to leave shortly after you become newlyweds. As I write this, we’re a third of the way into deployment and almost four months into marriage. Being on this side of it, we can both honestly say that we’re able to own this as part of our story and use it to enhance and strengthen our marriage (not to mention I’m totally milking it for a second honeymoon when he returns–I’m only sort of teasing). I share this to let other brides know that there is never an ideal time for anything–surprises pop up and blindside your well-laid plans, but you cannot let it railroad your joy. Choose joy in the imperfection!
How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. Cory and I grew up in the same town, but didn’t truly cross paths until winter break of our freshman year of college. A mutual friend was having a birthday celebration, and upon arriving, we immediately made eye contact and gravitated toward each other, spending the rest of the evening talking and laughing. When it was time to leave, he kissed my hand and we went our separate ways. Cory was earning his civil and environmental engineering degrees from the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and I was attending the University of Georgia in Athens, a mere 1,400 miles apart. We kept in touch casually, but the distance was a lot for two 19-year-old kids. Fast forward a year, and my world was rocked. My dad was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer and he passed away a few short months later. Around this time, Cory migrated back into my life. I needed to face grief and embrace healing head on, and Cory knew it even before I could come to terms with it myself. It would be years before we would move back into each other’s lives. This time around, he was stationed in Florida and I was living in Georgia, and we went out for frozen yogurt while he was home visiting family before a deployment. Cory returned from his deployment the next January and asked me to have dinner with him. I was terrified! Timing hadn’t been in our favor over the previous seven years and I didn’t want to get hurt. We planned to have dinner on Thursday January 23, but then wouldn’t you know it, my niece was born that day and I had to cancel on him. We rescheduled for that Saturday. He picked me up for an early movie and then dinner at a sweet little local restaurant. We had time to spare before dinner and the weather was frigid that night. He pulled the truck over, sprinted through the freezing cold into a local coffee shop, and came back with hot chocolate and a grin that stretched a mile wide. Then he kissed me. And I was a goner. We spent the rest of the night at our little table, tucked away in the corner of the restaurant, laughing and catching up, completely oblivious to the world around us. It was finally our time.
Tell us all about the proposal! In the fall of 2015, Cory was picked up for Squadron Officer School in Montgomery, Alabama, spanning late October thru mid-December. On December 19, when Cory arrived at our home, he wanted to go to a nice dinner and then spend the rest of the night snuggled up beside the outdoor fireplace in our backyard. After dinner, we headed home and it was a balmy 20 degrees outside. Brrrrr! Not having a clue as to what was about to happen, I sprinted upstairs and changed into one of his warm sweatshirts, my favorite yoga pants, and fuzzy socks. Cory, however, did not change out of his dress clothes and I remember thinking, “Well, that’s strange.” I even offered him a sweatshirt with an emphasis on the temperature outside, but he declined. I still didn’t really sense anything was about to happen. I headed downstairs and waited for what felt like forever. He finally made his way downstairs and all but pushed me out the door into the backyard. We snuggled up with hot tea and blankets next to the fire and just enjoyed the fact that we were home together. Then, he turned to look at me and poured his genuine heart out for the next few minutes–about halfway through, I began to bawl my eyes out and thought, “This is everything a girl wants to hear from the man she loves–I think he’s about to ask me to marry him! If he doesn’t, I’m really going to be crushed!” Cory slid out of his chair and dropped to one knee in front of the fire. He asked me to be his wife with a grin a mile wide, and those dimples driving me wild, as per usual. I was crying too hard to verbalize a “yes,” so I nodded my head up and down like my life depended on it! I was holding onto him so tightly that he actually had to say, “Hey beautiful. I have a ring for you and I need you to let go of my arm for a second so I can put it on your finger.” I didn’t even realize he had a ring! And to be honest, I wouldn’t have cared. We laughed, he put the most beautiful ring on my finger, I continued crying, and we held onto each other tight. We ran out to grab champagne to celebrate–me in my sweatpants and fuzzy socks while he was still in his dress clothes. I nearly took out an end display of bubbly as I was distracted by my sparkly left hand. It was perfect. Sweatpants and all.
When did y’all get married? September 2, 2016
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 80
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? The little things don’t matter. Okay, let’s say that together now: the little things DON’T matter. Look at your partner. Have you been treating them with love and kindness throughout the wedding planning process? Now look at your friends and ask yourself the same question. If the vision of a perfect wedding is altering your behavior, take a step back and remember what matters. And I’ll let you in on a little clue: a perfect wedding doesn’t exist. Cory and I decided from the beginning not to have a bridal party or to adopt a lot of the traditions that can make weddings stressful and distract couples from the true purpose. Marriage is about you and your spouse committing to sharing life, not about your bridesmaids’ nail polish color or asking them in elaborate ways to be in your wedding. Don’t get me wrong, there are benefits to having a bridal party, but focus on what matters.
What’s next for you as a couple? What memories are you looking forward to making together? First order of business when Cory returns home from deployment is to celebrate and take a mini-moon (second small honeymoon) to celebrate his homecoming and the gift of marriage. We love to travel and explore new cities, which we plan on doing a lot in 2017 (and beyond). But we’re also excited for the slow Saturday mornings of cooking breakfast together and enjoying our home with our sweet pup, Luna. Leaning into newlywed life, growing as a couple, and creating our own family traditions have both of us excited about what’s next.
Photographer: Cassidy Carson Photography | Day-Of Coordinator: Serene Occasions | Venue: Eden Gardens | Florist: Flowers by Milk & Honey | Dessert Baker: Charlie’s Donut Truck | Popsicles: Swell Pops | Caterer: Jim ‘N Nick’s | Rentals and Lighting: The Big Day Rentals | Ceremony Music: Top Hat Live | DJ: Rock the House | Custom Invitation Suite: Love Supply Co. | Bride’s Gown: BHLDN | Bride’s Veil: Paris by Debra Moreland | Bride’s Jewelry: Kendra Scott | Hair and Makeup: Lanna Bloodworth | Bride’s Shoes: Betsey Johnson | Groom’s Attire: Awearness Kenneth Cole via Men’s Wearhouse | Gown Alterations: Rodica Lazarian