Christina and Matt met in the city of Ouagadougou in West Africa while volunteering for the Peace Corp–talk about an adventurous courtship! For their October wedding, they were inspired by their mutual love of the color green, and they wanted an aesthetic that was built around nature and inspired by leaves, trees, wood, and flowers. The talented Tara Guérard took the already gorgeous Lowndes Groves Plantation, and boy, did she up its game! She even brought the beauty of the great outdoors right inside their stunning tent. I would be remiss not to mention that Christina and Matt’s officiant included a few words of wisdom from that “great Southern philosopher,” Forrest Gump, in their ceremony. I know the whole congregation must have been tickled to hear that!
Thank you so much to Liz Banfield for sharing this stunner with us in V7!
How did the two of you meet? Tell us your story. Matt and I met in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso in West Africa, as Peace Corps Volunteers. I lived in Burkina and Matt lived in the neighboring country of Togo. The day we met–January 2, 2009–we had both been traveling with friends. My friends and I had plans to take a bus to Togo the next day. Matt gave me advice about where to go and what to do, and I invited him and his friends to join us for dinner, drinks, and dancing. Many hours later, in the early morning outside of a night club, Matt and his friends announced that they had decided to cut their vacation short and would join us on the bus to Togo. Matt escorted us all the way to his city, Lomé, and took care of us all week. While my friends spent an overnight in Ghana, I stayed behind and spent 48 hours with Matt. That was our unofficial first date. Eight months later, I moved to Togo and became a third-year volunteer in the town next to his. Until years later, he had no idea that I had done it for him. The day I arrived, we spent hours together in a group enjoying the festivities. At the end of the night, I went to my hotel room and closed the door, fretting about whether I had made the right decision, and if he was still interested in me. A few minutes later, there was a knock at my door. I opened the door and it was Matt. He took my arm, said “Christina,” and then kissed me. He finished his sentence before disappearing into the night: “See you tomorrow.”
I loved the way my dress maintained its dramatic shape whether I was walking, spinning, or standing still! It looked great from every angle and was unmistakably a wedding dress.
Who was one of the most special guests at your wedding? Rose Kpomblekou, of Peace Corps Togo, traveled all the way from West Africa to attend the wedding!
Who was your officiant? The pastor who married us is a close friend of Matt and a true Southern gentleman. He had tears in his eyes (and streaming down his kind face!) throughout the ceremony, and we were married with words of wisdom from that great Southern philosopher, Forrest Gump. He made everyone laugh while sharing his gifts as a spiritual and loving man.
Tell us a bit about the wedding ceremony. We had a string quartet playing songs we loved from Lord of the Rings, Braveheart, and some of Matt’s favorite video games. The ceremony was outside under a huppah of green leaves and a beautiful tree. Guests were facing a river and sitting on a mixture of chairs and pew-like benches. My dad and I emerged dramatically from the stunning Lowndes Grove mansion and had a nice long walk across the lawn to the center aisle–plenty of time for one last father-daughter chat before the I do’s!
No matter where we held the wedding, our families would have to travel. My family comes from in and around the New York Tri-State area, whereas Matt’s family lives in South Carolina and Florida. Elegant and cozy Charleston, South Carolina was the perfect location–not only because it is one of Matt’s favorite places in the world, but it was also a place that my family came to know and love through Matt’s eyes.
What was the design inspiration for your wedding? Why was this design special to you as a couple? I gathered fantastical images from Lord of the Rings and magical-looking forests. We both love the color green and wanted an aesthetic that was built around nature themes: leaves, trees, wood, flowers, etc.
What were some of the highlights of the reception? We LOVE to dance and the band was phenomenal. I danced to every song at our wedding except three: I missed two because of impromptu pictures and one because I was out of breath from jumping around with my brother. The speeches couldn’t have been more touching, funny, and apropos. The food was delicious and the service was flawless. Our sweetheart table experience turned into a surprise romantic dinner for two in the middle of our wedding!
My cousin, David Johnson, is a songwriter and musician, so we asked if he would perform one of his songs at the wedding. He came back to us a week later with a brand new song entitled “Face to Face,” which instantly became our song. The lyrics were as special to us as the songwriter, so we asked Dave and his son to perform it for our first dance. They were awesome and Matt and I had a blast dancing to this perfect song.
Describe the proposal: Matt and I were looking to buy a house, and finally, we found the one. We put a bid on it, and then found ourselves in a bidding war with another buyer, which we eventually lost. I was so disappointed, but nothing could be done about it. Matt left on a last-minute work trip and continued to be very busy for a while. Turns out, his “last-minute work trip” was really a train ride to visit my parents in New Jersey to ask for permission to marry their daughter, and to ask my mother to take him ring shopping. On the night he planned to propose, we had scheduled dinner with friends. My mom had been in town, but left on the morning of the dinner to take care of “taxes” in New York. On the way to the restaurant, Matt took a detour onto the street with the house. “Why would you take this street? It’s depressing!” I told him. I didn’t want to see the house that we had lost. He slowed down next to the house and pulled into the driveway. I asked him what he thought he was doing. “We’re trespassing,” I told him, “and we are late for dinner.” He replied, “I lied to you. We’re home. We got the house.” Inside, the living room was covered in red rose petals and 200 candles. A throw rug near the garden window was piled high with long stem red roses perched over a card. I knelt down to open and read the card, which said, “I love you so, so much. Turn around.” He was kneeling with the ring and proposed. The real estate lady was hiding in the bushes with the paperwork for the house. We signed on the dotted line and left to celebrate over dinner with our friends!
When did y’all get married? October 26, 2013
Three adjectives that describe the day are: Elegant, comfortable, euphoric.
How many guests attended your wedding? 180
Did you try anything new or nontraditional? I only have one sibling, so instead of choosing a maid of honor, I choose my brother to be my “man of honor,” and he truly filled the role to the fullest! My girlfriends all love him and were delighted to follow his lead–even through planning the bachelorette party! He gave a once-in-a-lifetime speech at dinner, and if I were ever unsure, I know how very much he loves me.
What was the funniest moment? What was the scariest? The funniest moment was when the pastor explained how when Matt and I met and some of his first words to me were “You smell good.” This was a huge compliment while serving in the Peace Corps!
Tell us about your grand exit. We drove off in a gorgeous, vintage getaway convertible while the guests cheered us into the night with sparklers.
What was Southern about your wedding? We incorporated Southern cuisine, hospitality, and sensibilities.
Did you take a honeymoon? If so, where? We went as far away as possible to New Zealand, a magical land of fjords, mountains, glacial lakes, diverse flora, and hobbits.
What advice would you give to someone currently planning his or her wedding? Prioritize taking care of your guests and don’t assume responsibility for any details on the day-of. A bride’s job is to be the joyous chief of the party!!
Photographer: Liz Banfield / Videographer: Artistic Eye Productions / Planner, Designer, and Florist: Tara Guérard Soirée / Venue, Caterer, and Bar Service : Lowndes Grove Plantation / Cake : Wedding Cakes by Jim Smeal / Ceremony and Cocktail Hour Music: Charleston Heartstrings Quartet for Debut, Inc. / Bride’s Gown: “Laetitia” by Anna Maier / Bridal Salon: Hitched Salon / Bride’s Shoes: “Isabel” by Jimmy Choo / Bride’s Earrings: “Elsa Peretti Pearls by the Yard Drop Earrings” from Tiffany and Co. / Bride’s Veil and Hair Accessory: Hitched Salon / Bridesmaid Dresses: #839 in Fern by Aria / Wedding Day Dresser: Cacky’s Bride+Aid / Hair Stylist: Kristy Cuthbert / Makeup Artist: Kori Mahoney / Getaway Car: Matt Buero / Men’s Attire: Grady Ervin & Co / Ice Sculpture: Ice Age Ice Sculptures / Paper Goods: The Lettered Olive / Rentals: Snyder Event Rentals / Linens: Immediate Tablecloth / Band: Big Swing and the Ballroom Blasters / Transportation: Absolutely Charleston and Marquee Limo / Lighting: Production Design Associates and Tara Guérard Soirée / Ceremony Director: Lori Lethco