Southern Weddings

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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
1 Comment
  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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