Year after year, our sweet real wedding brides have proclaimed that their most memorable wedding day moments occur during their ceremonies. This year is no exception: from exchanging of specially written vows to walking back up the aisle as husband and wife, wedding ceremonies tend to hold treasured moments that are made even more special with sweet details. Everything from jaw-dropping ceremony backdrops to very special reserved seating for the parents of the bride. Our 2016 real weddings were overflowing with incredibly meaningful details and moments, and we’re excited to share ten favorites with you!
Y’all, as I was reading through Abigail and Ben’s interview, I kept nodding my head and thinking “Yes! That’s it right there!” Everything about their wedding day was filled with intention and joy, from their venue choice (inspired by Abigail’s upbringing on a plantation surrounded by oak trees) to their advice for couples currently planning a wedding. They not only prepared for their wedding day, but prepared their hearts well for their marriage–Abigail said, “We wanted to be intentional with every detail, giving it great meaning to who we are together, but also who we are in Jesus.” From the looks of it, I’m sure guests would agree that they did an brilliant job!
Gracious, we’re thankful Callie Davis of Nancy Ray Photography was on hand to capture their sweet day!
Believe it or not, my dress was the first dress I ever tried on. I wasn’t certain what style I wanted, but I knew I wanted my dress to be timeless and elegant. I met my mom and grandmother in Raleigh to begin our search. At our first appointment, at Lana Addison Bridal in Cary, I showed the consultant a few different pictures of what I thought I may like. She brought me four different dresses. I tried the first dress on and could not stop smiling and twirling around. I looked at my mom and grandmother and said, “I think this is it.” They encouraged me to try the others on just to be sure. I tried them all, but didn’t feel like they were me. I tried on the first dress again and still loved it, but I began to second guess myself and ended up going to our second appointment. I tried on three other beautiful dresses there and got a bit overwhelmed. We decided to call it a day, and as soon as we walked out of the store, I looked at my mom and said, “We have to go back to Lana Addison, it has my dress.” I fell in love with it all over again–from the high neck line, to the combination of the soft lace and tulle, to the beaded waistline, it was perfect. I made the decision that I was only going to let my mom and grandmother see my dress. It made finding my dress and sharing that experience with two of the most special women in my life even sweeter, and I didn’t want to be swayed by the opinions of others. I wanted the first time my family, closest friends, and guests would see my dress to be when I was walking down the aisle to my groom.
Did you decide to do a first look? Why or why not? Ben and I decided not to do a first look. We both wanted the first time we saw each other to be when I was walking down the aisle to marry him. We did, however, find a time before the ceremony to grab hands and pray with one another.
What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? We had one of our closest friends read 1 John 4:18-19. We chose this verse because it centered the entire day around Christ and we believe that without Christ loving us first, we would not be able to love one another. Another verse that is very important to us, Philippians 1:9-10, was on our dinner cards. We asked that our guest pray this verse over us and with us as we entered into marriage together.
We both liked the traditional vows, but also wanted to make them more personal and meaningful to us. We promised the same things to each other: “In the presence of God and according to his will I, Ben, take you, Abigail, to be my wife. I promise to love you, I promise to serve you, I promise to cherish you, as a testament to Jesus and his death on the cross, I give you my love.” We also wanted to affirm together the vows of having a Christian home. We were given this idea by our pastor and we loved it. “Depending upon God for strength and wisdom, do you both solemnly pledge yourselves to the establishment of a Christian home? Will you together, constantly seek God’s will and honor Christ in your marriage?”
What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? Did they have any special significance to you? I knew I wanted to be married in my hometown, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, and I knew I wanted it outside. I grew up on a plantation that is surrounded by the most beautiful oak trees and I always envisioned them in my wedding someday. When I told Darlene (a dear friend and my wedding planner) what I had envisioned for my day, she said she knew just the place, and told me about the Rose Hill Mansion. I looked it up and fell in love immediately. It had the oak trees with the beautiful hanging moss, enough space to create what we wanted from scratch, and we could have the reception there. I knew it was where I wanted to marry Ben and I booked it without even having seen it myself in person.
Our venue has a rich Southern history. It is an old cotton plantation and the mansion on the property has many antique artifacts to peruse inside. You can actually tour the mansion with the onsite staff and learn a lot about the history of the property and the people that lived there. It is an incredibly unique spot.
What was one way you saved money or cut costs at your wedding? Flowers and decorations for sure! Jana Qualey and Bridget Short, who are dear friends to me, have their own side business called Little Vase Events, and let me tell you, they are the best of the best! We repurposed bridesmaids flowers and went out and collected all the oyster shells that we used on the tables. Our gold and white stripped napkins were made by Bridget and Jana themselves!
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Keep things in perspective. Your wedding is one day, your marriage is for the rest of your life. When you get overwhelmed, step away and do something fun. Don’t lose your joy in what is such a sweet time of your life, or your sight on what is most important. I started journaling during our engagement, writing down my thoughts and feelings, memories, and all the reasons I love Ben and wanted to marry him. I gave it to him the week of our wedding and I love looking back at it and reliving those days and seeing him read those pages for the first time.
Don’t miss Abigail and Ben’s wedding film by Heart Stone Films below!
How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. Ben would joke and say it was somewhat of an arranged marriage. Our brothers and Ben’s younger sister, who is also my best friend, had been trying to get the two of us together for years. Although I knew Ben’s whole family, it wasn’t until our sophomore year of college that we met for the first time at a mutual friend’s wedding. We crossed paths again a year later at Ben’s older brother Will’s wedding. This was the night Ben asked me to dance. I tease him now because he never called me after that night! Last year, I got a call from my friend to come visit with her in Greenville for a long weekend. I was living on Hilton Head Island at the time and I jumped at the chance to go and see her. I was unaware that only a few weeks before, Ben had moved to Greenville. I spent the whole weekend with them, and finally, Ben asked me out. When I had to head back home, Ben asked if he could still pursue me. I said yes, and we continued to talk and get to know each other. Soon after, I got a job in Greenville and made the move. Ben and I continued to grow closer to each other and the Lord, and now the rest is history.
Tell us all about the proposal! My family has a house in the outer banks of North Carolina that has been in our family since before I was born, and it is one of my favorite places. My family typically goes there over the 4th of July, so this time was no different, except Ben would be there. Every morning I woke up while we were there, I had a letter slipped under my door. I didn’t think much of this, only because of how thoughtful Ben always is. On July 4th, Ben asked if I would take a walk out to the dock with him. We sat down at the end and talked for awhile. When we got up, Ben grabbed both my hands with the biggest smile. I knew what was happening and said to him, “Is this really it?!” After saying many sweet words, he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. And I said YES! As soon as he was up and we were hugging, my brother ran down the dock with his phone (he was FaceTiming with Ben’s brother and his wife) to celebrate with us. My sister-in-law was snapping pictures and the rest of my family, who had been watching from the house, came out to hug us. Ben planned breakfast for dinner that night, my favorite. We made our way back to Greenville the next day and Ben told me there was one more surprise. When we got back home, we went to his brother’s house, where all our closest friends and family were waiting to celebrate with us!
When did y’all get married? November 14, 2015
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 175
How did you plan for your marriage while planning your wedding? Ben and I decided soon into our engagement that we wanted to prepare more for our marriage than our wedding. The most important thing for us while planning our wedding was to create a beautiful and meaningful event that glorified the Lord and reflected who we are. We wanted to be intentional with every detail, giving it great meaning to who we are together, but also who we are in Jesus.
What is the one detail or vendor that you were so happy to have as a part of your wedding? My day would not have been the same without Callie Davis with Nancy Ray Photography. I can not sing their praises enough. Having Callie and Olivia there to capture our day honestly added even more joy to an incredibly joyful day. They took the time through the whole process to pour into me and make sure that everything was perfect and ready to go for my wedding day. I gained two sweet friendships.
What’s next for you as a couple? What memories are you looking forward to making together? Well, we’re getting a puppy in two months and can’t wait to have a furry friend in our family. We look forward to lots of adventures, learning new things about each other, and just getting to do life with each other. Ultimately, having children and raising them together excites us the most about our future. We aren’t ready yet, but our biggest dreams usually involve a house full of children.
Photographer: Callie Davis of Nancy Ray Photography | Videographer: Heart Stone Films | Planner: Darlene Cranston | Venue: Rose Hill Mansion | Florist: Little Vase Events | Cake Baker: Ronnie’s Bakery & Cakes by Lou | Caterer: Downtown Catering Company | Rentals and Lighting: Amazing Event Rentals | DJ: Will Krause | Paper Products: Swoozies | Bride’s Gown: Theia | Bride’s Accessories: The Poinsett Bride | Hair Stylist: Amber White at Kaleidoscope Salon | Makeup Artist: Bride’s Side Beauty | Bride’s Shoes: Sam Edelman | Menswear: Jos A. Bank
Nancy Ray Photography is a delightful member of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!
Robin certainly didn’t expect to meet her future husband while on a girls day out with friends, but sure enough, that’s the day Jon came into her life…and a few short months later, she was on a plane across the pond to spend four months in England, so the two could date in the same city! They were engaged in London, and set out to plan their wedding in Robin’s hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina. While such long distance planning required a little bit of creativity and a lot of faith, with the help of our talented Blue Ribbon Vendor Rebecca Rose Events, Robin and Jon’s wedding became the perfect way to introduce their international guests to the South, as well as a deeply meaningful time for them to become husband and wife!
How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. In May 2014, Jon came to Georgia to visit a friend. Left on his own one day, walking around the small town, he meandered into a coffee shop. I was sitting among a group of friends when Jon approached us because he recognized a woman at my table. It turns out they had met two years earlier, albeit for five minutes, in a cafe halfway around the world in Kigali, Kenya. He started chatting with our table and found he had many mutual friends with our group. I hadn’t even looked up from my laptop at this point–truthfully, I couldn’t have been less interested in his British accent. When my friend invited him to go kayaking with us the next day, I was actually a little peeved that he would be interrupting our girls day out! The next day, it rained, so instead of kayaking, we went back to the coffee shop, where Jon and I chatted for almost two hours, and my friend wandered off, leaving us to ourselves. When we finally made it kayaking, my friend bailed, so Jon and I spent four hours out on a still lake, just the two of us, floating and chatting. We bumped into each other a few more times that week, and when he left Georgia, we kept in touch, chatting almost daily. Within a couple of weeks, I knew he was the one for me. Two months later, I flew to the U.K. to visit him for a week. After a few days, he asked me to extend my stay for four weeks. Within the month, we planned to spend Christmas together, and I planned to move to England in January for four months so that we could date in the same city.
Rebecca Rose Events designed our flowers to complement and enhance the overall aesthetic of our wedding day. Right from the start of the planning process, we decided on a wedding that would emphasize a family gathering in an intimate setting, and we selected a color palette of calming blue and olive tones with pops of burgundy and gold. These colors are all inspired by heirloom treasures. Our designer, Becca, created bouquets, centerpieces, and other elements that captured the essence of romance found in nature, with organic texture and plenty of movement. I love peonies, but since those are pretty hard to come by in the month of September, she used beautiful, lush garden roses instead to create a similar look. I also loved the olive branches, thistle, and other interesting textures used in the designs.
Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? We decided to write our own vows. There were two lines in my vows to Jon that I especially love and try to meditate on continuously: “I vow to create peace in our home by trusting God and trusting you as the leader of our family. I vow, regardless of circumstance, every decision I make will be to demonstrate my love and obedience first to the Father, and also to you.”
What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? During the ceremony, we washed each other’s feet. Jesus did this with his disciples as a symbol of his devotion to humble himself as a leader and serve his followers. It was the only part of the ceremony when I cried. It was also memorable that Jon couldn’t quite figure out the straps on my shoes, so instead of putting them back on, we finished the ceremony with bare feet.
Since I lived in England during four months of our engagement, I had to do all my venue searching online. We knew we wanted to get married in my home state of North Carolina and that it would need to be close to an international airport. My mom lives in Charlotte and I grew up in Raleigh, so I scoured the Internet for venues in both cities. As a wedding photographer myself, I had seen enough weddings to know my priorities. In my mind, the perfect backdrop would be a classic, Southern home with lots of white and antique fixtures. When I found the Merrimon-Wynne, I thought it was too good to be true! I immediately sent one of my Raleigh-native bridesmaids to inspect the place and confirm that it was indeed as amazing as it looked on the website. Having our wedding in Raleigh meant that all our friends and Jon’s family could experience the Southern culture I was rooted in growing up. Fifty of our guests came in from out-of-state and of the twelve in our bridal party, only two people were from the South! Raleigh was the perfect city to show off our pride in BBQ and hospitality. The Merrimon-Wynne was the most stunning, accommodating, and centrally-located venue we could have asked for.
What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? The vintage setting of the Merrimon-Wynne made for the most Southern atmosphere. Food is the best language of culture, and so we opted for a rehearsal dinner that showcased good North Carolina BBQ, and a wedding caterer who knew how to honor Southern cuisine with his menu. We served braised shrimp and lots of local veggies. We made it a weekend affair–one of my aunts even hosted a traditional Southern “morning after” brunch for the wedding party and family.
How did you plan for your marriage while planning your wedding? I knew planning a wedding would overwhelm and overtake our engagement if it was left up to me. The best decision I made for our wedding was to hire Rebecca Rose Events to plan and design the day. They took away so much of the stress. Jon and I had so much more time to focus on planning and preparing for the most important thing: our marriage.
Tell us all about the proposal! For our first Christmas together, one of Jon’s gifts to me was an envelope that read, “Do not open until you get to England.” Mid-January, I would be traveling over to the U.K. to live near him. I’m not very patient with surprises, so I was desperate to know what was in the envelope. I waited the three weeks to open the envelope, and as soon as he picked me up from the airport, I ripped it open. Inside was ANOTHER envelope that read, “Don’t make plans for January 24.” This envelope also read, “Do not open until instructed.” I kept that date clear and waited patiently until I was allowed to open the envelope. A couple days before the date, he let me see what was inside: two tickets to see Les Miserables on West End–my favorite musical! That Saturday, we put on our fancy clothes and drove to London to see the show. It was, of course, incredible. After the show, he took me on a walk along the River Thames. It was getting close to midnight, and Westminster Bridge was still filled with tourists, but once we reached the London Eye, there was no one in sight. As we walked, talking and laughing, I heard the faint music of a busker standing nearby. Before I had a chance to look at the guy playing his guitar (who turned out to be Jon’s best mate), Jon turned me to look out at the river. By the time I recognized that he was playing our song, Jon was down on one knee. I was so frantic, repeating, “Is this happening? I can’t believe this is happening!” Neither Jon nor I quite remember what he actually said, but I said yes a thousand times! We danced and danced by the water under the stars. It was a full minute before I actually looked down at the ring. When I did, I couldn’t believe it. The ring he placed on my finger was the ring I’ve always imagined wearing–my grandpa gave it to my grandmother 68 years ago when he proposed. Later, I found out that my mom snuck the ring to Jon through my suitcase over Christmas!
When did y’all get married? September 13, 2015
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 90
Tell us about finding your wedding dress. I found my dress two months after Jon proposed, while I was still living in England. I knew I wanted to go dress shopping with only one or two other people because I’m easily swayed by others’ opinions. Jon’s dear friend, Jane, who had by then become my dear friend and bridesmaid, went with me. After just one shop, I knew what I liked: sheath, lace, and a Queen Anne neckline. I looked online and narrowed down my choices to five gowns I knew I wanted to try on. I found a shop that carried all the gowns, and the first one I tried on ended up being the one! It was a surprisingly simple and relaxing process, and we got a day trip to the beautiful Windsor, England out of it.
Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding and why you chose them. We chose songs of worship to play throughout our wedding. I walked down the aisle to “Steady Heart” by Steffany Gretzinger, and the wedding party recessed to “Future/Past” by John Mark McMillan. Songs of worship to God are the most important and joyous songs we could include in the celebration of our wedding. We spent such a long time deciding which songs we wanted! The most significant part of the ceremony music was having some of my dear friends perform the songs live and lead us all in worship during the ceremony. For worship, we chose the songs “Never Run Dry” by Housefires, “Your Glory” by All Sons and Daughters, and the classic hymns, “Nothing but the Blood” and “In Christ Alone.” For our first dance, also played live, we chose a song by Brooke Fraser called “Sailboats.” Jon had this song on several mixes in his car when we traveled around England during the first month of our relationship. Every time it plays, I think of him driving while I sit peacefully looking at the beautiful mountains of England’s Lake District.
Our favorite detail of the wedding was: We had our favorite scriptures written in calligraphy on banners and hung them as decorations throughout the house. We wanted decorations that we would use again after the day. They have become lovely keepsakes. I even used one as a table runner for our Thanksgiving dinner!
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Some of the decisions Jon and I argued over seem so silly now. Compromise with each other and don’t stress over the details. You won’t remember them after the day is over! What you will remember is how you loved one another through the engagement process. Take time to focus on what you want your marriage to look like. Spend more time having conversations about your future life than your wedding day plans.
What’s next for you as a couple? What memories are you looking forward to making together? In mid-July, we will be welcoming our first little one! We are both very excited to be parents and make more memories here in the U.K. while we have time close to Jon’s family.
Photographer: Callie Davis of Nancy Ray Photography | Videographer: Story Spark Films | Planner and Florist: Rebecca Rose Events | Venue: The Merrimon-Wynne House | Cake Baker: Cakes by Chloe | Caterer: Beau Catering | Rentals and Lighting: Party Reflections | Bands: Glenn and Erin Deuel and The Derringers | DJ: Bunn DJ Company | Paper Products: Rebecca Rose Creative | Bride’s Gown: “Aveline” by WTOO | Bride’s Hair Accessories/Veil/Jewelry: BHLDN and Crowning Glory Designs | Hair Stylist: Estee Salon | Bride’s Shoes: Nina | Bridesmaids’ Dresses: “Annabelle” by Jenny Yoo | Groom’s Attire: Jos A. Bank | Envelope Calligraphy: Calligraphy by Carole | Scripture Banners: Sarah Cason Designs