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How about a sweet-as-pie love story for your Thursday, belles? Ellie and Grayson are University of Virginia sweethearts whose friendship turned into a budding romance over a summer spent writing letters to each other. After Ellie found out Grayson had called her daddy to ask if he could take Ellie on a date, they never looked back. Their relationship grew thoughtfully and intentionally–despite their busy college schedules, they kept a standing Wednesday garden date to reconnect, share their joys and challenges, and pray for each other. Fittingly, Grayson got down on one knee during the last garden date of their college careers! Just five months later, these two were married right down the road at Castle Hill Cider, where the talented Mallory Joyce helped them pull their vision of a “refined comfort” aesthetic to life. I love the way they combined family heirlooms, local flowers, and even custom art to create a celebration that was as gorgeous as it was meaningful!

Thank you so much to Elisa Bricker for sharing this dreamy day with us!

My grandma, mom, and I went to a small boutique in my hometown of Louisville. It was a place I’d passed many times growing up, never knowing when I’d wander in looking for my wedding dress! I tried on a bunch of dresses but was not enamored by any of them. After an hour or so, we decided to call it a day. On our way out, I quickly browsed a few more racks, just to make sure I hadn’t missed any. Tucked in the back, I found my dress. I knew it was the one before it came off the hanger. I tried it on and it was perfect!

Describe your wedding flowers. Our wedding planner, Mallory Joyce, is also an incredibly gifted florist (a woman with many talents!). The vision of our wedding was simple and organic. In keeping with that, she prioritized local flowers that were in season. Everything from the bouquets to the decorative flowers felt freshly picked and naturally beautiful.

We did not do a first look. We both felt convinced we wanted our first look to be the moment when we locked eyes at opposite ends of the aisle. And we are so glad we waited. That moment, when my laughing eyes met his tear-filled eyes, is one I will never forget. Never before has the world been so silenced. The only thing that mattered in that moment was that I was walking forward to marry my best friend.

We had our good friends play our ceremony music, which was really meaningful. While we loved the songs we chose, it was even more special that the beautiful music came from our talented friends! I walked down the aisle to a musical version of the hymn “All Creatures of Our God and King,” which was a beautiful expression of the joy and thanksgiving we had on that day. We walked back up the aisle to the piano and violin playing Ben Rector’s “Brand New.” We’d danced, laughed, and celebrated to that song during our engagement season, so it was fitting to kick off our marriage with such a celebratory and dance-worthy song. One thing we loved about our ceremony is that my grandparents were our ring bearers! They have been married for over 50 years and are still madly in love. They have a relationship based on faith and friendship, something Grayson and I hope to emulate. Grayson and I look up to them in so many ways, and it was incredibly significant to have them present our rings to us. We hope and pray our marriage will look like theirs in 50 years. They still go camping in a favorite spot in North Carolina, for goodness sake!

What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? At the beginning of our wedding planning, I was already stressing about some detail. Grayson sat me down and said, “Ellie, no matter how hard you plan, something is going to go wrong.” While this may sound a tad pessimistic, he was completely right. Some people didn’t receive the invitation we sent, expenses were higher than estimated, the list could go on. However, I held on to the second part of Grayson’s advice: “We are still going to be married, let’s keep our focus and joy set on that.” In twenty years (maybe even five), the little mishaps have no place compared to the immense joy of entering the covenant of marriage and celebrating that with all of your favorite people.

Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! I completed about 75% of the borrowed, blue, old, and new…does that count? The most significant was my something old. I got to wear my mom’s veil! The best part was that it matched my dress perfectly, and we didn’t even plan it that way. The lace appliqué detail on the veil resembles the appliqué on the skirt of my dress–something we discovered after we’d ordered the dress! I admire my parents’ relationship so much, and it was sweet to wear the veil that was with them at the start of their marriage.

Our relationship began in Charlottesville and it was really important to us that we were married there. The rolling Virginia hills hold so many memories, and it was only fitting that our wedding was in Charlottesville. We chose Castle Hill Cider for both our ceremony and reception because we had gone to a sorority formal there and loved the beauty of the setting and facilities.

Our favorite detail of the wedding was: We love collecting art when we travel, something to hang in our home and capture the memories of our experiences. We wanted to carry that tradition into our wedding for our guests to enjoy! Our stationery artist, Jessica McSweeney, painted a watercolor of Castle Hill with the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains. At each place setting, we had a 4×4 print of the piece with each guest’s name attached as a vellum overlay. We wrote a note on the back to welcome and thank our guests and share the story behind the painting. It is our hope that our guests took the watercolor home as a symbol of our gratitude for the impact they’ve had on our lives.

Despite good intentions, we did nothing to prepare for our first dance–no dance lessons or even living room practices to our song. That said, we’ve had years of learning each others’ dance moves from many formals and spontaneous swing dancing events. We walked onto the dance floor, totally unprepared, and all credit to Grayson, we nailed it. We danced our hearts out, dipping, spinning, and swinging our way across the dance floor to the song “(I Love You) More Today than Yesterday.” It was the most beautiful culmination of our years of dancing through life together, and foreshadowed a life of celebration and rejoicing together.

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. It was freshman year at the University of Virginia and I was on my way out of a class when I noticed a familiar face holding the door for me (a true gent). I recognized Grayson from a brief encounter after our Christian fellowship’s weekly gathering. I reintroduced myself to him as we made our way back to our neighboring dorms. We quickly realized we had a lot in common, including our aspiration to apply for the business major. That sparked many hours spent studying together for the classes we shared. Rumors buzzed that we were dating after we were spotted having lunch after class in the cafeteria (gasp!), which we completely denied for the remainder of our freshman year–we had effectively “friend-zoned” each other. Summer came, and Grayson worked as a counselor for a camp where he grew up spending summers. Without cell service to keep in touch, Grayson struck up letter writing with me. I started to fall for this boy who wrote me letters, and returned to school eagerly anticipating what it could bring for the two of us. I mean, he wrote me letters…that must mean something, right?! Our nonchalant first interaction after summer quickly deflated any hopes I had. Little did I know that Grayson was definitely interested, but wanted to play his cards close to his chest until he know I had a sweet spot for him. Thus began the stalemate: both interested, both too scared to do anything about it! One day, when I was on the verge of giving up hope, I received a call from my mom telling me that Grayson had reached out to my dad asking if he could take me out for a date–a gesture that landed Grayson major points with my Southern-mannered dad. After a few dates hiking and brunching, Grayson finally revealed his admiration for me, and I got to do the same for him. We started slow, but our relationship was so worth the wait! We both really value the firm foundation of friendship on which our relationship began.
Tell us all about the proposal! We had a standing garden date every Wednesday of our senior year. We asked each other the same seven questions weekly and jotted down each other’s answers in a shared notebook. The consistency of the questions helped us realize growth and challenges, as our answers changed weekly. It was through this structure of seven questions that we began our discussions around marriage. On our last Wednesday date of our college career, I showed up in the garden as usual. Although it had been torrentially raining that morning, the sun decided to pop out just in time for our date. We struck up conversation and per routine, we whipped out our notebook of seven questions. We went through the first few, answering questions about joys, challenges, ways we could serve each other better, and prayer requests. Then came the question, “Is there anything left unsaid between us?” When it came Grayson’s turn to answer, he started speaking in poem! Grayson recited a thirty-line poem that he had written about the history of our relationship and the reasons he wanted to call me his wife. He ended with, “So get up now and stand, as I get down on one knee, Elizabeth McKinnon, will you marry me?” and of course, I said “yes!” Not only did Grayson plan the perfect proposal, he had also planned a surprise engagement party with 200 of our friends that evening. We had friends who had walked alongside us through every phase of our relationship celebrating the engagement. It was truly the best day of our lives, until the wedding!
When did y’all get married? October 29, 2016
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 200
Did you write your own vows? We did not! We kept to traditional vows.
What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? We had dear mentors of ours read two different passages. One couple who had mentored us through our relationship and conversations about engagement selected and read Romans 12:9-13. A professor who discipled Grayson in college read Philippians 2:1-20. It was incredibly special to have some of the most influential people in our lives minister to us and our guests through those readings.
Describe your wedding cake or dessert. It was fall in Charlottesville, which means one thing: pie. We had a simple mini cake for the traditional cake cutting, while our guests enjoyed an assortment of pies á la mode! As an ode to my hometown, we served Derby pie, a favorite of Louisvillians (mostly because of the equal portions of bourbon, brown sugar, and chocolate it contains). The pies helped make our wedding feel so homey and warm. They were the perfect addition!
How did you plan for your marriage while planning your wedding? We actually planned for our marriage before we planned our wedding. Through the guidance of our mentors, we completed pre-engagement counseling sessions. We went through the same content as premarital counseling, just before we were engaged. Because there was no ring, social media post, or save the date, we were able to freely address fears and concerns about marriage. These conversations ultimately led us to a place of confidence in our relationship. When we got engaged, we felt well prepared (as much as you can be, at least) for marriage. Throughout our engagement, we continued to seek wisdom from our mentors, parents, and friends.
What’s next for you as a couple? What memories are you looking forward to making together? We are loving living together in our apartment and creating a home together! We are just starting to form regular rhythms and adjust our habits to each other. What we’re loving most is the joy of just doing life together, from starting and ending our days together–it’s the little moments of laughter, bad jokes, and takeout Chinese that we treasure. After packing lots of life change into 2016, we’re hoping 2017 will be filled with fun as we discover the new normal. We are planning to join a small group through our church and are looking forward to making new friends in the area! With all of our free time now that we’re not planning a wedding, we hope to explore Richmond and discover favorite date spots, coffee shops, and walking trails. We will also return to Charlottesville to watch some basketball and cheer on the Hoos!

Photographer: Elisa Bricker | Videographer: DeVries Productions | Planner and Florist: Mallory Joyce Design | Venue: Castle Hill Cider | Wedding Cake: Arley Cakes | Caterer: C & O Restaurant | Rentals: Festive Fare | Lighting: East Coast Entertainment | Band: TFC via East Coast Entertainment | Paper Products: Poppy and Scooter | Bride’s Gown: Style D1751 by Essense of Australia | Bridal Salon: Rebecca’s Wedding Boutique | Hair Stylist and Makeup Artist: Anna Breeding | Bride’s Shoes and Bridesmaids’ Dresses: BHLDN | Men’s Attire: Jos. A. Bank | Tablecloths: Willow Knows | Napkins: Dot and Army

Mallory Joyce and East Coast Entertainment are delightful members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

lisa Written with love by Lisa
1 Comment
  1. avatar Catherine Marks reply

    I’m loving all these gorgeous Virginia Wine Country weddings lately, and this one is no exception! Her dress is to die for!

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One of the best things about weddings is their ability to take people away from their everyday lives, inviting them into the most special moments of a couple’s story, and reminding them that what truly matters, more than anything else, is love and family. This was certainly the case at Anne Sydney and Jesse’s wedding, where they literally transported their guests up a mountain, overlooking their beloved hometown. The setting was breathtaking, and dotted with sweet details in honor of their Kentucky roots, it was a magical place for these childhood sweethearts to celebrate their marriage!

We’re so grateful that Melanie Mauer and Jaclyn Journey shared this gorgeous day with us in V7!

Tell us all the basics of your wedding! The wedding was on June 29, 2013 at 5:30 P.M. at the First Baptist Church in Pikeville, Kentucky. The location was chosen because it was the church that we attended as children and both of our families were active in membership. We share many memories of our younger years there, as we participated in church plays, musicals, vacation Bible school, and other church-related activities together.

Our welcome boxes for our guests included macarons, sour hard candies, and M&M’s, all in our wedding colors. We also included a fun folded map and directional guide, which also included information on local restaurants and other attractions. For logistical purposes, we had all the guests bused up to the mountain after the ceremony. We included custom-made “bus tickets” with the ceremony programs, proclaiming that it was “Time to Celebrate Y’all,” and that this was their “Ticket to Ride.”

What was your favorite detail of the wedding? I was surrounded by ladies who played large roles at different stages in my life. Whether they were from high school, college, or my family, they were there to support me on the most important day of my life as my bridesmaids and maids and matrons of honor.

We wanted the flowers to reflect the feeling of the event–classic, laid back, sweet, fun, and beautiful. We chose white and ivory garden roses and mixed in some pops of peaches and corals, plus some dusty miller and lamb’s ear to bring in the greyed jade tone of the bridesmaids’ dresses. We used ivory Jeanne Moreau garden roses, caramel antique garden roses, white ranunculus, peachy coral Romantic Antique garden roses, peach and coral ranunculus, peach Juliet David Austin garden roses, dusty miller, and white peonies.

Who was one of the most special guests at your wedding? From Jesse: My grandfather on my father’s side. The Saturday before, he had buried my grandmother and his wife of over 60 years. I knew he was still reeling from the loss, but his presence in the front row of the church was a reassuring presence on our big day.

Groom’s favorite detail of the wedding: While not planned to intentionally coincide, our wedding date was also my parents’ 39th anniversary. In addition, our rehearsal dinner and wedding ceremony were at the same country club and church where my parents tied the knot all those years ago. It was a special feeling to know that nearly 40 years ago to the day, my father and mother were standing in the same place, committing themselves to each other.

The mountaintop venue inspired quite a lot of the design. We knew from the beginning that we wanted a sailcloth tent because we love the soft, illuminated feel that they bring. We had it set up at the edge of the mountain so that guests would have an incredible view. We wanted everything to feel soft, sweet, and classic. One of my favorite details was the custom wooden bars my brother-in-law built especially for our wedding. We also included a few pieces of polished coal on top of the bars, as well as affixing coal on push pins to secure the calligraphed seating charts to their display boards, as a nod to our Eastern Kentucky roots.

Did you have a cocktail hour? If so, what was it like? We did! The all-female bluegrass band, Coaltown Dixie, provided the music for the al fresco, café-lit event, which was immediately next to the sailcloth tent, facing the town of Pikeville below.

Were there any family traditions you included in the reception? My maternal grandmother made wedding mints for all her five children’s wedding receptions, as well as many other church weddings. It was fitting that a dear family friend used her recipe and made them for our wedding reception.

Dinner was served once all guests had arrived at the reception site. The meal was fully prepared at the remote location by the caterer and was simply some of the best food that we have ever eaten. Next on the agenda was dancing under the tent to music by the Jump Street Band. They were fantastic, playing a mixture of old and new, fast and slow tunes, keeping the dance floor overflowing from the time they began playing until the night was done. Late in the evening, late night snacks of warm beignets and mini coffee milkshakes were passed to guests.

After exiting the winding road to the beautiful mountaintop venue, we did not want the night to end yet, so we ended the evening by driving though our small hometown, being chauffeured by my father-in-law, reflecting on the tremendous day that we had just enjoyed.

How did the two of you meet? Tell us your story. From Jesse: It was so long ago that I’m not sure either of us truly remembers. Our families went to the same church when we were kids. We think our first meeting was in a children’s Sunday school class. In any event, Anne Sydney’s family moved into town when she was in 6th grade and we went to school together thereafter.
Describe the proposal: From Jesse: It was the Thursday night before Memorial Day in 2012. We were planning to be apart that weekend so Anne Sydney could attend her friend’s bachelorette party. Little did she know, she wasn’t making the trip. In anticipation of our days apart, we had dinner at our favorite restaurant in downtown Lexington. My initial plan was to pop the question on our walk home from dinner down the historic and quaint South Mill Street. This idea was frustrated by the un-concealable size of the little blue box. Instead, we walked in the door to my home, and as Anne Sydney started up the stairs, I fell to a knee. The next morning, we traveled to the Greenbrier Resort to meet our parents and begin to plan for the great time ahead.
Three adjectives that describe the day are: Magical, surreal, and breathtaking.
How many guests attended your wedding? About 470
What was the biggest challenge you faced while planning your wedding? Logistics–the site offering beautiful mountaintop views was not equipped with water, power, sewer, or any other modern convenience. The degree of planning to pull it off was immense. All of the needs of the over 450 guests had to be anticipated and provided for the 4+ hours that they were to be on the mountain celebrating with us. Luckily, my father is an engineer and was able to speak the language to the vendors and suppliers to pull off the event without a hitch.
Tell us about finding your wedding dress. I, my mother, my future mother-in-law, and my mother’s best friend traveled to NYC for appointments. After numerous fittings and rejections at Kleinfeld, I reluctantly took the advice of the consultant assisting me and tried a strapless Peter Langner gown. At first sight of me wearing this dress, everyone in the traveling party said in unison that this was it!! We kept our other scheduled appointments and learned that Mark Ingram Atelier carried Peter Langner gowns. Late that night, my mother went online and discovered that Mark Ingram was currently hosting Langner’s trunk show. She called at the first opportunity the next day, scoring an appointment for that same day. We later discovered that it normally takes six months for an appointment at this salon. I knew at that point that this was the dress that was meant for me!!
What advice would you give to someone currently planning his or her wedding? During the planning process, be sure to spend time with each other and make an attempt to not discuss wedding plans! It’s difficult, but planning a large celebration can become very overwhelming and stressful, and it is easy to lose sight of the true purpose of the celebration!

Photographer: Melanie Mauer / Videographer: Blueberry Creative / Planner: Weekend Wedding Warrior / Designer, Florist, and Decor: Jaclyn Journey / Ceremony Venue: First Baptist Church / Caterer: Apiary Fine Catering & Events / Cake Baker: Martine’s Pastries / Bride’s Gown: “Puccini” by Peter Langner / Bridal Salon: Mark Ingram Atelier /Bride’s Shoes: Jimmy Choo / Bride’s Earrings: Marco Bicego and “Paisley” by Justine M. Couture /Bride’s Veil: Peter Langner / Bridesmaid Dresses: “Kylie,” “Sinclair,” and “Louisa” in Dusty Shale by J. Crew / Bridesmaids’ Earrings: Kendra Scott / Flower Girl Dress: Isabel Garreton / Guest Books and Pens: Blue Sky Papers / Ribbons: M & J Trimming and The Ribbon Jar / Vintage Postage: Verde Studio / Favors: The Little Candy Cake Company / Ceremony Music: Highland Chamber Players / Cocktail Hour Band: Coaltown Dixie / Reception Music: The Jump Street Band from East Coast Entertainment / Pyrotechnics: Louisville Wedding Fireworks / Hair Stylist: Justin Greer and Ryan Reeves of Lux Hair Bar / Makeup Artist: Ana Crane of Applied Cosmetic Services / Men’s Suits: Jos. A. Bank / Men’s Shirts: Brooks Brothers / Men’s Ties: Collared Greens / Paper Goods: Hound Dog Press / Calligrapher: Rachel Fisher Calligraphy / Rentals and Lighting: Camargo Rentals / Linens: La Tavola and Wildflower Linens / Transportation: Bluegrass Tours

lisa Written with love by Lisa
4 Comments
  1. avatar Yours Truly Wedding Albums reply

    Love the color palette! Great moments! Love the fireworks after the party!

  2. avatar melanie mauer reply

    this family is among the gems on the planet…it’s difficult to articulate *just* how amazing they are. and they’re humble about it. this day was nothing short of m-a-g-i-c – i’m so grateful to southern weddings for sharing it so other brides can be inspired! warmly, -melanie-

  3. avatar katie reply

    *teary eyed* how cute are they! what a memorable day :)

  4. avatar Fresh and unique spring wedding bouquet ideas for springtime brides – Wedding Party reply

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