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One of the very sweetest parts of working at Southern Weddings is the people we get to meet and the relationships that are formed over the years. Jessica interned for Southern Weddings back in the day, and ever since then, it has been so exciting to watch her start and grow her business, Simply Jessica Marie. Even more so, we’ve loved getting to witness her forever love story from day one! The joy she and Zack have found in each other is palpable, and when we heard the news of their engagement (don’t miss the story below!), we couldn’t resist asking Jessica to share their wedding planning experience with us. You can catch all of their posts here if you missed them, and now, we’re overjoyed to share their special day with y’all! Jessica and Zack, thank you so much for sharing your hearts with us, not only today, but over the last year and a half–we can’t wait to see where y’all go next!

We’re so glad our Blue Ribbon Vendor, Perry Vaile, was on hand to capture every moment for J+Z!

Our favorite detail of our wedding was how we infused one of our favorite elements of our love story: the letters we wrote one another throughout our relationship. To set the tone for our wedding and visually portray our relationship as a couple, I infused portions of a love letter Zack wrote to me as an art print on the back side of our invitations for our guests to keep and frame, as our envelope liner pattern, and printed on the back flap of our invitation envelopes. We sealed our suite with a custom gold wax seal featuring our custom wedding crest design, which reminds me of old school letter writing and epic romance. Zack said the wax seals remind him of Game of Thrones, so it was a win-win with both of us! He actually added all of the wax seals to our envelopes, and I loved including him in that way. We carried our love letters through to our day-of design–we used the same wax seals on our escort cards, and displayed them on the scoreboard of the golf course with a handful of our original letters framing the escort cards. Guests then found their tables with envelope table numbers lined with a floral pattern and soft pink calligraphy numbers. We also asked our guests to fill out “advice for the newlyweds” cards as their own letters to us, which we read after our honeymoon and have displayed in a keepsake box on our coffee table. I am excited to go back and read them again throughout the years!

Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! The something borrowed, blue, old and new tradition is one of my favorites, and I had so much fun gathering all of these pieces! A few of my sweet bridesmaids lent me their rings, each with blue stones, for my something borrowed and something blue. I had them tied to my bridal bouquet so that I could carry a piece of them with me throughout our wedding day. My something old was a handkerchief that belonged to my maternal great-grandmother. It is one of my favorite keepsakes! I had it with me while getting ready, and carried it in my clutch throughout the day. I then had a couple of something new items! My sister gifted me with the most gorgeous Kate Spade jeweled necklace. It made the perfect statement to complete my bridal look, and I cannot wait to pass it down to my daughters and granddaughters as an heirloom in years to come. Zack also gifted me with the most beautiful, delicate diamond earrings on our wedding day, which I wore paired with the earrings I donned during our engagement session!

Shopping for my wedding dress was so much fun! My mom came to Nashville one weekend and we went to three different bridal boutiques to get a sense of what styles I loved best, which designers I was drawn to, and what I had a feeling Zack would love. We walked away from the day feeling excited that we had an idea in mind of what I wanted to look for moving forward! My mom and sister then came back into town a couple of weeks later for Easter. I knew I wanted to take advantage of the time when my sister was in town to get her opinion, so we went to a local bridal boutique, B. Hughes. I tried on a handful of gorgeous gowns, but none of them felt quite right. There was one that I didn’t know if I loved from simply seeing it on the hanger, since the style was so different than what I had been trying, but I tried it on anyway, just to see how it looked. When I stepped out of the fitting room in front of the mirrors, I could not stop beaming! I kept touching each part of the dress, from the stunning beaded floral lace to the delicate tulle skirt, twirling all the while. I remember saying that I did not want to take it off, which is when my mom, sister, and I all realized that it was the one!! I loved my dress so much that I included the floral lace detail as a pattern on our invitations and as the backdrop for our escort card display!

Did you decide to do a first look? Why or why not? Yes, we did decide to do a first look! We really wanted to have a few sweet moments to ourselves, since the rest of our day would be spent surrounded by loved ones. Those few minutes are some of the moments I remember most clearly from our wedding day. Spending that time alone helped reaffirm why we were there that day: to join together as just the two of us with God, as husband and wife, to create a unique and love-filled family of our own!

I have a huge love of color, and knew I wanted our wedding flowers to reflect that! I included watercolor florals throughout our invitation suite design and day-of artwork, and the Rebecca Rose Events team brought those same florals to life on our wedding day. We used my favorite combination of flowers: blush and fuchsia peonies, peach garden roses, white anemones with navy centers, pink ranunculus, darling little peach hypericum berries, and lots of soft silver dollar eucalyptus and dusty miller! My bridesmaids’ bouquets were some of my favorite floral elements, as they were adorned with a sweet little gift from me. I adorned their silk bouquet ribbon with navy calligraphy that read, “a single rose can be my garden, a single friend, my world.” I thought it was so fitting for them and their bouquets!

Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? We chose to say traditional wedding vows, and are both so happy with that decision. There is something so special about saying the same words and making the same promises to each other that our parents and grandparents vowed to one another years before!
What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? We had two readings from the Bible during our ceremony. My sweet uncle read Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. We love this reading, because it focuses on two coming together, helping one another throughout life and making each other stronger. That is how we always want to view our relationship! Zack’s sweet cousin then read Colossians 3:14-20. We chose this reading because it reminds us to always let love, peace, and thankfulness be constants in our marriage. And most importantly, to let everything we do in our marriage be done in the name of the Lord!

The biggest challenge we had to overcome while planning our wedding centered around religious beliefs and traditions. We had many conversations together, with our parents, with a priest, with Zack’s uncle who is a pastor, and with friends about how to stay true to ourselves and our religious beliefs while also keeping each of our family traditions active and be respectful of them during our wedding. It was definitely a big lesson in compromise and blending of families, and we are both so happy with the decision we made! I could not imagine having been married by anyone other than Uncle LeGrand!

We looked at a few garden venues, and then Zack mentioned the idea of getting married at a golf course. I immediately loved that idea! Zack plays golf weekly with his friends, and I loved the idea that we could incorporate something that was a part of his life into our wedding day, since he was so graciously accommodating many of my wedding ideas! When we first visited Gettysvue together, I could not get over the gorgeous rolling greenery and stunning view of the Tennessee mountains. I knew it would make the perfect backdrop for our ceremony! It also had a unique setup that allowed us to make use of the entire venue for each element of our wedding day: a beautiful bridal suite and groom’s area for getting ready, a grassy mountain view area for our ceremony, a patio for our cocktail hour, a ballroom for dinner and toasts, and an area outside under a tent overlooking the golf course for dancing!

What was one way you saved money or cut costs at your wedding? Since our dinner was one of the details we were most excited about (it included a full mac and cheese bar with delicious toppings, a steak carving station, bacon-wrapped shrimp, and crab cakes!), we wanted to focus our food and beverage budget toward that, so we decided to save money in other portions of our food and beverage budget by opting for a simple beer and wine beverage package instead of a full bar or signature cocktails. We also saved money on our cake by only having two tiers, since we had a feeling our guests would be quite full after dinner!

While certain elements of our wedding were traditional, our wedding cake definitely was not! We knew we wanted to have fun with the design, and also include a couple of delicious flavors. We chose a delicate dusty blue for the bottom tier, with sweeping gold brushstrokes on the base tier to reflect the painted elements throughout our wedding design. To balance the more unique cake design, we kept things simple with a two-tiered cake adorned with one beautiful blush peony and a few eucalyptus leaves. The cake flavors are what really won us over with our cake designer! We selected two flavors, English toffee and strawberry. Zack loved the strawberry flavor, and I loved that it was pink! We especially loved smashing it in each other’s faces, haha! If you are on the fence about the cake smashing idea–we say go for it! It was really fun, and makes for awesome photos and video!

Don’t miss Jessica and Zack’s wedding film (by Zack’s brother and sister-in-law, Casey and Kristin!) below!

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. Oh, our love story–it is one of my favorites to tell! It all started one Friday evening in May 2014. I was getting ready for a fun night out with my girlfriends, when I jokingly turned to my roommate and swore we were going to meet our boyfriends that night. She laughed, and we carried on getting ready. Later that evening, as we were about to head home, we stopped by one of our favorite places and I was happy to see my friend Sierra (a former SW employee!), who I hadn’t seen in months. I was even happier when I noticed that she was with a new group of friends, including a dapper boy wearing a sport coat. Something immediately drew me to him (he claims it was his sport coat!), so I walked right up to him and introduced myself! We talked and laughed for what felt like hours. We made plans to meet up the next night, and after another fun evening, planned our first date for that upcoming week. I knew that there was something extra special about him when he showed up at my doorstep with a single red rose!
Tell us all about the proposal! Fast forward eight months from the day we met–months full of fun trips, holidays spent with families, and more thoughtful and sweet date nights–to January 24, 2015. Zack, his brother, and his sister-in-law had gifted me a promo video for my business as a Christmas gift, and this was the big day that filming was supposed to take place. Little did I know, it was also the day Zack was going to propose!! The big morning came, and I got all dolled up for my “promo video.” Zack knew this was the perfect decoy, because I would be wearing a cute outfit, I would have my nails painted, my friends would be with me the whole day, and he would catch everything on both video and camera. After a morning full of girly activities with my friends, we quickly grabbed lunch while Zack, Casey, and Kristin went back to my house to set up for my “interview.” As I walked into my house, I saw Zack standing in the hallway leading to my office. He wore the same sport coat that he was wearing when we first met. I hadn’t caught on to what was happening yet–I was still so focused on what I would be saying during my interview! Zack led me into my office where he had a couple of collages set up displaying our favorite pictures together. On my desk, I saw a note that had my name on it sitting atop the journal that we keep together. As instructed by the note, I flipped to the bookmarked page, which said, “On December 17th, I bought an engagement ring.” At that moment, I was in SUCH shock! Zack led me to the middle of the room, took my hands, and said the sweetest things I have ever heard in my entire life–words that I had been so excited to hear since we first met! Once I heard the words “Will you marry me?” I immediately screamed “Of course!!” and hugged Zack, without even taking a glance at my ring! Once we started to settle down from the excitement, he told me that he promised my mom that she would be the first person we would call. The tears that started to well up upon hearing my mom’s voice turned into screams of joy as she walked around the corner and into my room!! My entire family, Zack’s mom, and my friends all followed her into the room, and I felt so surrounded by love. It was the perfect ending to the most wonderful surprise!
When did y’all get married? May 14, 2016
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 120
What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? One of the things that was most Southern about our wedding was that it truly was a family affair! All of our vendors were either family, friends, or people we had previous working relationships with, which made our day feel even more special because we knew they were pouring their hearts into each detail just for us! Not only did our family and friends help bring our wedding day to life, but we also honored our family through our details. We included all five of our little girl cousins as flower girls since we simply couldn’t favorite just one, we had a table in our reception area with photos, albums, and heirlooms from our parents and grandparents on their wedding days, we used my parents’ champagne flutes during our toast, and our ceremony backdrop was made of three fabric panels, each with my parents’ first dance song, Zack’s parents’ first dance song, and our first dance song that I lovingly calligraphed on the flowing fabric. I loved the idea of creating a statement piece that tied together our families! Since the majority of my guests and some of Zack’s guests were traveling in from all across the country (and one from overseas!), making sure they felt comfortable throughout our entire wedding weekend was of the utmost importance to us. We tried our best to show true Southern hospitality, from the welcome gift boxes our guests received at their hotels, to our post-rehearsal dinner get-together, to ensuring that there was something for every age group to do during our wedding reception. We had a lounge area with games and playing cards where people could rest their feet while still having fun, corn hole for our competitive Southern friends, and a dance floor with continuously amazing music for those who simply wanted to dance the night away! Zack and I also each relived our college days through songs at our reception–my sorority sisters surprised me by singing one of our Sigma Kappa songs after our first dances were through, and Zack’s University of Tennessee friend group gathered together to sing and dance to Rocky Top!
How did you plan for your marriage while planning your wedding? We found it most helpful to seek counsel from our parents and friends who have been married, asking them about their marriages and what advice they would provide to us as we were going through our engagement and preparing for the years to come. We also worked together to be as open and honest as possible about not only what we love about each other, but also about how we could help each other grow. We learned how to compromise together, make decisions as a couple, and communicate better. Learning each other’s love languages early on in our dating relationship really helped with this! Growing as a couple is a continuous learning process, and I couldn’t ask for a better person to help me grow as a wife and eventually as a mother than Zack. I hope to be able to support him as much as he always supports me!
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? We are so excited to continue planning travel adventures together! Zack and I fell in love with traveling overseas during our Italian honeymoon, and always want to be planning one major trip each year. We are currently planning a trip to Ireland with another one of our couple friends, and cannot wait to explore that part of the world together! Zack has also taken up woodworking, and has built us a new coffee table and a beautiful coat rack for our entryway. He is so talented! I cannot wait to keep these pieces in our home for years to come, and pass them down to our children and grandchildren one day.

Photographer: Perry Vaile | Videographer: Casey and Kristin | Planner and Florist: Rebecca Rose Events | Venue and Caterer: Gettysvue Polo, Golf, and Country Club | Cake Baker: Art of Cakes Bakery | Rentals: HoneyBee Events | Tent Rental and Lighting: All Occasions Party Rentals | Lighting, DJ, and Getaway Car: Music in Motion | Paper Products, Signage, Watercolor Painting, and Pocket Squares: Simply Jessica Marie | Bride’s Gown: “Heavenly Lace” by Reem Acra | Bride’s Veil: “Athena Cathedral Veil” by BHLDN | Bride’s Necklace: “Crystal Arches Necklace” by Kate Spade | Bride’s Bracelet: J.Crew | Bride’s Earrings: Kay Jewelers | Hair and Makeup: Bangs and Blush | Bride’s Shoes: “Isabella Scalloped Heel” by BHLDN | Bridesmaids’ Dresses: BHLDN, Amsale, and Lulus | Menswear: Kenneth Cole and Ralph Lauren | Ties: The Tie Bar | Vintage Stamps: Verde Studio | Silk Ribbon and Ceremony Backdrop Fabric: Adorn Company | Guitarist: Logan Murrell | Macarons: Sweet Darling Patisserie | Bridal Party Robes: Plum Pretty Sugar | Bride’s Reception Dress: “Shined Cocktail Dress” by BHLDN

Perry Vaile and Rebecca Rose are delightful members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

lisa Written with love by Lisa
5 Comments
  1. avatar Dana reply

    Been waiting for this wedding to be posted! So beautiful!

  2. avatar Kirsti Cook reply

    I have been following Jessica for years and am SWOONING over how her wedding turned out – not that I am surprised! I think this is one of my favorite weddings I’ve seen in SW!

  3. avatar Amy Loochtan reply

    I absolutely love her dress. And the crest on her paper products! I wish I could go back and have a wedding do-over! Would love to meet y’all one day as I’m in Durham!

    Coffee Beans and Bobby Pins

  4. avatar Logan Murrell reply

    It was such an honor to be a part of such a loving wedding!! The real deal!!

  5. avatar Sheffield Wedding Photographer reply

    Such a lovely post. Thank you for sharing.
    Sheffield Wedding Photographer

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Jessica and Travis wanted their guests to feel like family, which was pretty easy for them considering their parents grew up together! Both Jessica and Travis come from long lines of Floridians, so when it came to choosing where they’d say “I do,” Jessica’s family’s orange grove was a natural choice. Especially with her sister’s beautiful yard just 100 yards away, these family properties combined to become the perfect backdrop for a classic backyard party! Under thousands of twinkle lights, hung by Jessica and her father, these two celebrated with a Southern affair complete with seersucker, shrimp and grits, and a banjo to boot! Though their celebration took place at Jessica’s family’s property, I love the way they incorporated pine branches from Travis’ family’s ranch into their decor as well–such a sweet sign of the joining of two families.

Thanks for sharing, Sarah & Ben!

My mom, sister, mother-in-law, and I went dress shopping in Winter Park, Florida. I was adamant that I did not want a strapless dress, but the romantic, illusion neckline dresses that I had coveted in the magazines were not at all flattering on me. My sister picked my dress on a whim and told me to just try it on. When I put it on, it felt perfect. The lace applique, cathedral-length train made from layers upon layers of tulle, and wispy tulle layer at the neckline made it feel like much more than just a strapless lace gown. My seamstress, however, would not believe me that I planned to go barefoot in Vera Wang–she was horrified!

How did you plan for your marriage while planning your wedding? Preparing for our marriage was the most important part of planning the wedding. We both felt strongly that it was important to understand our vows before we recited them to each other. Travis’ family’s pastor, who married us, offered premarital counseling as part of the preparation. He has a wonderful, soft way of giving advice.

Our favorite detail of the wedding was: The pine cross at our ceremony. Travis and I gathered old heart pine branches from his family’s ranch. We used a draw knife to scrape off some of the old gray exterior and expose the beautiful dark red wood, and Travis cut notches in the branches and bolted them together. Travis hung the cross from the big pine tree where the ceremony was held, and the florists decorated it with very natural arrangements that echoed the flowers in my bouquet. The process of making the cross with Travis, and bringing in natural elements from his ranch, was such a meaningful experience.

What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? 1 John 4-17 and 1 Corinthians 13:4-13. Although 1 Corinthians 13:4-13 is read at many weddings, this was especially meaningful to us. A friend of ours told Travis that if we live by the words in this scripture, we will always have a strong marriage. Before we were married, Travis printed it out, highlighted it, and put it on my refrigerator as a reminder to us both. We don’t always live by this scripture, but when we do, our bond is stronger.

We got married in my parents’ orange grove on the Indian River lagoon, where I grew up. Both of us come from a long line of multi-generational Floridian families, so we knew that we wanted to get married in Florida. When it came to picking a venue, it was an easy choice, as my family is blessed to have the perfect set up for a waterfront wedding venue. The ceremony was held under a hundred-year-old pine tree adjacent to my parents’ house. After the ceremony, the guests moved to my parents’ backyard for cocktail hour, and then to my sister’s backyard for the reception, which is conveniently only 100 yards away. My dad and I spent countless hours putting up thousands of white twinkle lights, he also hung giant white paper lanterns across my sister’s yard. My parents, sister, and brother-in-law are some of the most warm, hospitable people I know, and they helped make our wedding day truly special.

What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? We wanted our wedding to feel like a classic, Southern, backyard party, where everyone felt like family, which was relatively easy since our parents grew up together and share many loved ones. It was dressed up, but not stuffy, which to me, is very much a Southern tradition. Of course, the seersucker, linen bow ties, and banjo didn’t hurt either.

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. We met in the Okefenokee Swamp Park in South Georgia, where we had both gathered with friends and family to support the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition–a 100-day, 1000-mile trek across Florida from the Everglades to the Okefenokee Swamp as part of a campaign to raise awareness about the need to connect and protect a green belt stretching across the state of Florida. Travis was there to support his brother, a wildlife photographer, and I was there to support a good family friend, both of whom had participated in the Expedition. Travis’ black labrador, Molly, introduced us. She sought me out as the person most likely to throw a pine cone for her to retrieve, and she didn’t leave me alone until her dad finally came looking for her. Travis now claims that he had his dog well trained. About a year later, we went on our first date. It was a romantic, rainy evening at Travis’ family cattle ranch in Limestone, Florida. It also just so happened to be the end of hunting season, so eight of Travis’ muddy, camouflage-clad hunting buddies were there to witness the magic. The rain eventually stopped, the hunting buddies actually went hunting, Travis made a campfire, and we spent time under the stars. It was the perfect beginning to our love story.
Tell us all about the proposal! The weekend before my birthday in November 2014, we had decided to camp in my backyard. Travis set up a tent and a campfire and pulled my T.V. outside so we could watch college football while eating dinner. After dinner, I went inside to put cookies in the oven, while Travis panicked and hid the ring under a napkin. When I came back, he sat there staring at me until I picked up the napkin. He got on one knee, and I cried while he proposed. His brother, sister-in-law, and their toddler got in their car and drove over with a bottle of champagne. I have no idea who won the game, and I burned the cookies, but it was a perfect night.
When did y’all get married? May 2, 2015
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? About 325
Did you decide to do a first look? Why or why not? No. We are both fairly traditional and we wanted the moment when I walked down the aisle to be special.
Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding and why you chose them. At the ceremony, we had a string quartet, which included a banjo player to give the music a very slight, but not overwhelming, bluegrass feel. Travis and I had a great time picking out three 80s and 90s ballads for them to play while guests were being seated. I don’t know if anyone recognized Journey “Don’t Stop Believin'” or Mr. Big “To Be With You,” but we thought the idea was hilarious. My middle name is Sunshine and many people still call me that, including my parents. I surprised my dad by having the musicians play “You Are My Sunshine” for our walk down the aisle. The string quartet played it beautifully with just a hint of banjo. When my dad heard the song begin, he teared up, looked at me, and we both started singing. Several people in the crowd joined in. It was a moment that I will never forget. During the ceremony, we had everyone sing Doxology. This song always reminds me of my days at Camp Merrie-Woode, where we would sing it before Sunday supper. Travis and I walked out of the ceremony to a beautiful old hymn, “Blessed Assurance,” by Fanny J. Crosby and Phoebe P. Knapp. It’s one of my all-time favorite hymns! We had a hard time narrowing down our choices for our first dance. We both love music, so this was a big decision! We had asked Travis’ best friend, a musician named Zach Ashton, to play our first dance song, whatever it may be. He came over to our house one evening about a week before the wedding to help us select a song, and ended up playing us a song he wrote called “The Ceiling.” We both immediately knew it was the perfect choice. On our wedding day, Zach belted out the most beautiful acoustic version of his song and, thanks to him, our first dance was an amazing, surreal moment that made me wish I had decided to hire a videographer.
Describe your wedding cake or dessert. Neither of us really appreciate wedding cake, so we opted for blueberry cobbler and vanilla ice cream. I thought my mom was going to disown me when I told her I didn’t want a wedding cake, but she eventually decided to let me get away with this break from tradition.
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? Since we got married in my parents’ backyard, we had to arrange for all vendors to come to us. Merritt Island, Florida is beautiful, but it isn’t exactly close to a major metropolitan area. We had vendors from all over the state! Getting married at a private home is wonderful, but it certainly adds a lot of extra work to the planning.
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Take time to remember what your wedding is really about. It is so easy to get caught up in having the perfect wedding with all the perfect details but, in the end, the perfect flowers, food, and groomsmen attire are not what you will remember. At one point during wedding planning, I became obsessed with having linen napkins in the perfect blue hue. I spent hours trying to find perfect napkins (that weren’t the price of a small wedding) until I finally realized how crazy I was acting. No one noticed that their napkins were a poly blend, but so many people told us how much they felt the love between us.
What’s next for you as a couple? What memories are you looking forward to making together? We are expecting a baby in October, which I know will be the biggest adventure of our lives!

Photographer: Sarah & Ben | Planner: Kelly Hancock Event Planning | Venue: Private residence | Florist: Eau Gallie Florist | Caterer: Arthur’s Creative Events and Catering | Linens: Kate Ryan Linens | Reception Chairs and Tables: A Chair Affair | Ceremony Chairs, Stage, and Dance Floor: Kirby Rentals | Band: Derek and the Slammers | Paper Products: Decoratifs | Bride’s Gown: “Leda” by Vera Wang | Bride’s Veil: Vera Wang | Hair and Makeup: Collective Creations | Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Lilly Pulitzer | Suits: Jos A. Bank | Tie and Bow Ties: High Cotton Ties | Ceremony Music: Music by Pegge

marissa Written with love by Marissa
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  1. avatar published: southern weddings » Sarah & Ben I Tampa Wedding Photographers reply

    […] Go relive every picture perfect moment (and crush on Jessica’s stunning Vera Wang gown all over again!) over on the Southern Weddings Blog! […]

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