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!
I’m not sure anything makes a wedding celebration more special (or Southern!) than when family is weaved through the entire thing! Such was certainly the case for Katie and Alex, starting with their ceremony venue–these two followed in Katie’s parents’ footsteps by getting married at the University of Virginia chapel. Along with drawing inspiration from their families for their wedding details (they especially loved their family photo display and the groom’s cake designed in honor of their dog!), Katie and Alex’s loved ones also came through in a big way to bring this special day to life. The perfect example: when they couldn’t make it to Virginia a month before the wedding to bury the bourbon, Katie’s cousin took the task into her own hands! As you can see in these photos by Rachel May, the tradition was a great success, leading to many new family memories being created as Katie and Alex celebrated their marriage.
P.S. Don’t miss the stories of Alex’s Christmas proposal or Katie’s most memorable wedding day moment below–both are stories for the books!
The vendor that truly set our wedding apart from others was the very talented Kristy Rice from Momental Designs. Her team hand-painted all of our save the dates, invitations, ceremony programs, menu cards, table numbers, and welcome bag inserts. The designs they created for us were works of art that not only captured Charlottesville’s beauty, but also told our story as a couple. I also have to mention Jodi Macfarlan, who did the stunning calligraphy for our seating chart and place cards at the reception. Her work is seriously the prettiest calligraphy I have ever seen, and her ability to match the designs of our paper goods was beyond impressive.
Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! I did not have something borrowed, blue, old, and new. My mom told me that she didn’t partake in the tradition when she got married, and my parents have been married for over thirty-five years, so I didn’t feel the need to either!
Tell us about finding your wedding dress. It has always been a struggle for me to find dresses that fit well, so to be honest, I was sort of dreading the whole process. My parents were planning a trip from Atlanta to Houston to meet AY’s parents for the first time, so I thought it would be the perfect time to look for a dress with both of our moms and his sisters. We went to Ivory Bridal Atelier in Houston and I tried on several dresses. While every dress the store had was so beautiful, nothing seemed to fit me the right way. Just as I was losing hope, the store manager mentioned that a Fall 2015 Anne Barge dress had just come in. At first glance, I wasn’t in love–it was a light blush color and had an antique look to it. I wanted an ivory dress, but at that point, I was willing to give it a shot. As soon as I stepped into the gown, I got that first feeling of “this might be the one.” It had all this gorgeous lace on the bodice and at the very bottom of the dress. When I saw the matching veil, I was blown away. I knew this was my dress when I found out that I could order it in ivory! With a few magic touches from Linda’s Couture Alterations in Houston, it became everything I was hoping for. Looking back on the whole wedding planning process, dress shopping was absolutely one of my favorite memories and is such a special occasion that every bride should look forward to!
Our fabulous wedding planner, Cody Grannis of Amore Events, created the bouquets for the wedding party and the floral arrangements for the reception. Cody did an amazing job arranging different types of roses with dark greenery to accentuate the light pink in the bridesmaids’ dresses and really make them pop. For my bouquet, I wanted something that looked natural and almost messy, as if the flowers were picked from a wild garden. It came out even better than I had envisioned and was truly unlike any bouquet I’d ever seen. The flowers for the ceremony were designed by Amy Webb from Blue Ridge Floral Design. Amy completely got my vision when I told her that I wanted to have an entrance for the Chapel unlike anything that has ever been done there before. She created this gorgeous floral arch with white roses and greenery that surrounded the front doors of the Chapel. It was such a dreamy piece that perfectly established the entire look and feel for our ceremony.
The most memorable moment for me was seeing my grandfather at the front of the Chapel. My grandfather suffers from Parkinson’s and had a few rough days leading up to the wedding–so rough that we were concerned he might not be able to make it to the ceremony. When I met AY at the altar, I looked to my right and saw a light shining through the stained glass windows of the dark chapel right onto my grandfather. Tears immediately came to my eyes. It was such an unforgettable moment because it was everything that my family had been praying for leading up to the wedding. That same light beam later moved over to me and AY, shining down on us as we said our vows. I remember hearing gasps from the congregation right when it happened, and several guests even came up to us afterwards asking if we had planned it, but perfection like that can only be explained as a gift from above!
What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? Did they have any special significance to you? This is an easy one! My parents also graduated from the University of Virginia and were married at the University Chapel on June 28, 1981, so from the moment AY and I started dating during college, I dreamed of following in their footsteps. The University Chapel is so beautiful and rich in history and is such a meaningful place for my family–I really couldn’t imagine us getting married anywhere else. For the reception venue, Charlottesville has so many stunning venues for brides to choose from. AY and I wanted to pick somewhere memorable to us from our time together at UVA. Wine tasting at King Family Vineyards was always one of our favorite activities, and, their views of the Blue Ridge Mountains are breathtaking and second to none!
Our favorite detail of the wedding was: Is it okay if we have two favorites? A detail we were really excited about was the Moscow mules, which were passed during cocktail hour. Served in a cute copper mug, they seem to always bring smiles to faces. That’s how we knew Moscow mules would be the perfect signature drink for our wedding–plus, they are also really refreshing on a hot summer day! Another detail that was definitely a wow-factor was the wedding memory table, a display of old family wedding photographs designed by my mother. It was a special way to remember our history and give a presence to our loved ones who have passed. It turned out so beautifully and was something our guests really enjoyed.
A Southern tradition we included in our wedding was burying the bourbon, believed by Southerners to keep the rain away. I tend to worry about silly things like the weather, so when I heard about this tradition, I had to find a way to make it happen, especially because every wedding planner will tell you that Charlottesville weather is the most unpredictable. My cousin and a bridesmaid in our wedding, Jayne Anne, is currently a student at UVA, and offered to bury the bourbon for us at King Family Vineyards, as we live in Dallas, Texas and couldn’t find time to make the trip. In true UVA fashion, she chose to bury Jefferson Reserve, and exactly a month later, we had the most beautiful weather for our big day. To Jayne Anne’s surprise, AY and I asked her to do the honors and dig up the bourbon at the reception, too! We owed her big time for bringing us sunny skies and high-70 temperatures at the end of June! It was such a funny sight to see Jayne Anne trying to dig up the bourbon with the massive shovel provided by King Family–an image we will continue to laugh about for years to come! Once the bourbon was retrieved, AY and I said cheers with two antique sterling silver shot glasses from Tiffany’s, given to us by my mother as a wedding present a few days before the wedding. Each shot glass had our new initials engraved on the front and are keepsakes we will forever cherish in remembrance of the tradition.
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Especially when times get stressful, try to remember what the day is really about. A dear friend of mine would remind of that by saying, “No more or no less married” when I would start to worry or compare our wedding with others. It’s easy to get wrapped up in it all and lose sight of what’s really important, but your wedding will be perfect in its own way. As you make it about the love that you have for each other, it will, without a doubt, be the best day of your life.
The cake mastermind, Anita Gupta of Maliha Creations, made both our wedding and groom’s cakes. Our wedding cake was a four-tiered cake with roses and gold leaf flakes decorating the rim of each tier. The cake flavors were hummingbird cake with cream cheese frosting and vanilla butter cake with French vanilla buttercream. I was so blown away by our wedding cake–it was beautiful inside and out and looked like something out of a magazine! Our groom’s cake was designed to look like AY’s beloved family dog, Ellie B. Young, who wasn’t able to travel to Charlottesville to celebrate with us. The cake was around two feet tall and featured chocolate cake with Oreo chocolate icing. It was such a sweet surprise for the Youngs that Ellie B. could make an appearance at the wedding, even if it was just in cake form! Having parents that grew up in Charlottesville, there are several local spots that are sentimental for my family. One of those places is The White Spot located on the Corner. It serves an infamous dessert called the “Grillswith,” a grilled and butter-brushed Krispy Kreme donut with vanilla ice cream on top. Our caterer, C&O Restaurant, replicated the recipe perfectly and served Grillswiths to our guests as the late night snack at the reception. I swear, I’ve never seen people react in such a way to a dessert! Everyone couldn’t stop talking about how delicious they were and it was definitely a fun treat for our guests who also know and love The White Spot.
Our first dance was to “Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy” by The Tams. We thought this song was perfect for us, as AY’s last name (and now mine) is Young. The song also has a great Motown beat and is super easy to dance to!
How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. We first met at the Foxfield Races, an annual horse race in Charlottesville, during our first year at the University of Virginia. I was introduced to him as “AY,” short for Alex Young, and continue to call him AY to this day. We really didn’t get to know each other until we had a class together our second year. He was in the 8:00 A.M. class section of Commerce 180 and I was in the later section that everyone wanted to be in at 11:00. On the first day of class, AY slept in and missed his section, so he snuck into the later one. During the class, our professor asked the students to divide into groups for the semester. To this day, I can still picture the moment AY walked down the classroom hallway over to me and nervously asked to be in my group. I told him that he had to ask the professor for permission, once he admitted to being in the earlier section. Thankfully, the professor said yes, because I truly believe that our love story began with that study group. I spent more time laughing at his terrible jokes than actually doing work, but I also got to see what a great guy he was…and, he did most of the work. We were both dating other people at the time, but we became great friends because of the class. We finally started dating a month before graduation, and have been together since!
Tell us all about the proposal! AY came to Atlanta to spend Christmas with my family. On Christmas morning, he pulled me aside and told me that I needed to open my present early. He described it as “Christmas-y” and hinted that he wanted me to have a chance to use it before the day was over. He handed me a medium-sized box, and inside were six ornaments holding pictures of special moments during our relationship. I thought it was such a sweet present and understood why he wanted me to open it early. As I started to hang the picture ornaments on my parents’ Christmas tree, AY mentioned that he forgot to include one ornament in the box before he wrapped it. He hung the last ornament on the tree and asked me to look at the picture. Busy trying to find vacant spots on our very full tree, I just said, “Oh, that’s very cute” without really examining the picture. AY laughed and told me to look closer. When I did, I screamed, as I realized it was a picture of AY down on one knee in front of his family’s Christmas tree back home! He then got down on one knee and asked me to marry him in front of my family, who ran into the room as soon as they heard me scream. My mom was just as surprised as I was–she thought we had knocked over the Christmas tree!
When did y’all get married? June 25, 2016
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 175
Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding and why you chose them. Having a male vocalist sing “Ave Maria” by J.S. Bach was one of the most important parts of the ceremony for us. My grandfather, who was a professor at UVA and a big reason why I went to school there, has always loved that song. His father (my great-grandfather) was a self-taught opera singer and sang “Ave Maria” at my grandparents’ wedding. We hoped it would evoke special memories, while also creating new ones for our families, and it certainly did!
How did you plan for your marriage while planning your wedding? Father Stephen Alcott, a priest from my grandparents’ church in Charlottesville, officiated our ceremony. Leading up to the wedding, AY and I met with Father Stephen several times for marital guidance and counseling. I would definitely encourage other couples to do so as well. Getting to know Father Stephen better and talking through our plan as a married couple put us completely at ease during our ceremony, allowing us to really enjoy and appreciate the moment.
What’s next for you as a couple? What memories are you looking forward to making together? We were very fortunate to have a wonderful wedding and a dream-come-true honeymoon. Now that we are officially the Youngs, we are looking forward to having some down time and getting the chance to be newlyweds. I also have to admit that our wedding diet kept us from trying the hot new restaurants in town, so we are pretty excited about not having to be good anymore!
Photographer: Rachel May Photography | Planner and Florist: Amore Events | Ceremony Venue: University of Virginia Chapel | Reception Venue: King Family Vineyards | Ceremony Florals: Blue Ridge Floral Design | Wedding Cake: Maliha Creations | Caterer: C&O Restaurant | Rentals: MS Events | Lanterns: Blue Ridge A/V and Lighting | Cocktail Hour Guitarist: Peter Richardson | Band: Attraction via Sam Hill Entertainment | Calligrapher: Jodi Macfarlan Calligraphy and Joie de Vivre Calligraphy | Paper Products: Momental Designs | Bride’s Gown and Veil: “Avallon” by Anne Barge | Bridal Salon: Ivory Bridal Atelier | Bridal Gown Alterations: Linda’s Couture Alterations | Bride’s Hair Piece: Lila Accessories | Hair Stylist: Brianna B. Adams | Makeup Artist: Gohar Makeup | Bride’s Shoes: Jimmy Choo | Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Various styles in Bellini by Amsale | Bridesmaid Dress Salon: Bella Bridesmaids | Groom’s Tuxedo: Suit Supply | Groom’s Cuff Links: Ledbury | Groom’s Bow Tie: The Cordial Churchman | Bride’s Robe: Girl with a Serious Dream | Bridesmaids’ Robes: Plum Pretty Sugar | Bridesmaids’ Earrings: Erwin Pearl | Maid of Honor’s Hair Accessory: Twigs & Honey | Bouquet Ribbon: Silk & Willow | Wedding Dress Hanger: Poppy and Scooter | Custom Napkins and Drink Stirrers: Laura Hooper Calligraphy | Transportation: Ambassador Limousine and Albemarle Limousine | Ring Box: The Mrs. Box | Stage: Skyline Tent Company
I remember when I saw Erica and John’s wedding for the first time in a draft for V8. I was immediately taken with their romantic color palette of pink, cream, and glittery gold, the stunning backdrop that Pippin Hill Farm provided, and, most of all, how joyfully in love these two are. With the help of Amore Events by Cody, Erica and John honored their respective upbringings with an “apples and cheese” theme running throughout their wedding details–Erica is from New York and John is from Wisconsin. This theme even carried into their late-night treats of cheesecakes and apple pies! Adorable theme and beautiful details aside, reading about John’s favorite part of their wedding makes their day even sweeter! One thing he mentioned was, “The 10 minutes with my wife immediately following the ceremony.” After seven years of marriage, I too can remember those unforgettable moments post-ceremony, and can attest to just how incredible and fleeting they are!
Thanks to Rachel May for sharing this beautiful day with us in print!
We got married at 6 P.M. on Saturday, September 5, 2015. When we got engaged, we knew right away that we wanted to get married outdoors in order to celebrate how much we love adventure, nature, and natural beauty. I knew that I wanted to get married in a barn, as the rustic chic look appealed to me as soon as I started wedding planning. We found a few barns in upstate New York that were pretty, but ultimately decided that we wanted to be in a location that had significance to both of us. We decided to start looking in southern Virginia because of all the amazing times we had spent together renting cabins in the Shenandoah. After some recommendations from friends, we drove to Charlottesville and starting looking for venues. Given that we got engaged at a winery (and how much we both love wine), we started thinking that a winery could be the perfect location. When we saw Pippin Hill, we fell in love with the beautiful scenery right away. We booked Pippin Hill about two days after first visiting, and we plan to go back year after year for our anniversary. It is such a special and beautiful place, and we are so glad we got to spend the best day of our lives there!
Describe your bridesmaids’ dresses. How did you choose them? When I first started looking at bridesmaid dresses, I fell in love with some pink Donna Morgan dresses and quickly sent them out to all of my bridesmaids. After searching through some blogs, though, I really started to like the mix-and-match bridesmaid dress look, and wanted to go that route. I found out two of my girls had already ordered the Donna Morgans, so I couldn’t go completely mix-and-match, as they had already started tailoring their dresses. I decided to do pairs of different dresses, and I love the way it all turned out!
I went dress shopping in both DC and New York with some of my bridesmaids and my mom. I thought I would love romantic tulle, but every time I tried on those dresses, something just didn’t feel right–like I wasn’t being myself. My style is very clean and classic, and I wanted to look like myself on my wedding day. It was important to me and John that we remained authentic to who we are on the day of our wedding, so I knew I had found my dress when I felt like the prettiest version of myself when I tried it on. My favorite thing about my dress is the way it made John react when he saw me for the first time. He just kept saying, “Your dress! Your dress! It’s beautiful. You look beautiful!” That was the reaction I was looking for.
Tell us a bit about the wedding ceremony. What part was most special to you? Did you include any special readings? Our wedding ceremony was the most beautiful and important forty minutes of our lives. My dad performed our ceremony, which was so special because he worked hard to make his remarks meaningful and personal. Both of our sisters-in-law read special passages, and every moment of the ceremony was emotional and true to who we are as a couple. It was truly gorgeous.
What songs did you use for your ceremony? For the bridal party processional, we used India Arie’s “Can I Walk With You.” I’ve wanted that song to be played at my wedding since I was a little girl, and it was so special to hear it on the big day! For my entrance, we used the traditional bridal march. For the recessional, we used Ray Lamontange’s “You Are the Best Thing.”
My favorite details were the ones that infused our apple, cheese, and literary motif. I’m from New York (“The Big Apple”) and John is from Wisconsin, which is known for its cheese. We’re both educators and we both love to read, so we wanted to infuse our love of books into the wedding as well. We had a beautiful logo made that was on our menu, welcome bag tags, and gift bags. We served cheeses from Wisconsin and New York during cocktail hour. For dessert, we served cheesecakes and apple pies. As a late night snack, guests enjoyed grilled cheese and apple sandwiches. Our centerpieces included a book display that looked gorgeous, and our cake stand was surrounded by books. I love how the theme was woven throughout the ceremony, reception, and all the small details of the wedding.
Describe some of the decorations or décor elements you used: Where to begin? Our colors were pink, cream and glittery gold, and the room was full of those colors. Our florist, Amy Webb of Blue Ridge Florals, did a wonderful job bringing the wedding colors to life through the flowers. My favorite part of the reception was the floral ladders hanging over the long farm tables. They were dripping with flowers and candles, and they were just gorgeous. We had bistro lights cascading from the beautiful wooden rafters at Pippin Hill. We had books to represent our love of literacy around the cake stand, in our logo, and on the tables. We also had apples as escort cards to go along with our apple and cheese theme. There were so many small details that made the wedding come together and it was absolutely perfect!
John loves John Legend and I love his song “Stay With You,” so deciding on our first dance song was a really easy choice. John also loves live music, so he had the awesome idea to have one of his very talented groomsmen sing our first dance song. I heard Raphael practicing for the first time right after the ceremony (he wanted to keep the performance a surprise for us) and was astounded. He sounded amazing! John’s extremely talented orchestra teacher, Kendall Isadore, accompanied Raph on violin, and turned it into such a beautiful cover. The week of the wedding, John and I took a few dance classes, so we had some pretty cool dips and tricks up our sleeves!
Tell us about your wedding cake or sweets. Though I didn’t get a piece myself because I was too busy dancing, everyone said that the wedding cake was delicious. We had a marble wedding cake with vanilla buttercream frosting, as well as cheesecakes and apple pies to go along with our theme. We also had a s’mores pit for guests to enjoy a late night treat!
How did the two of you meet? Tell us your story. We met while on a business trip to Houston in March 2013. We were both training for new leadership roles, me to be a vice principal and John to start his own school. The trip was an orientation for the five-week leadership program. I did not know many of the KIPP DC people, and John, having been with the company for six years at that point, warmly welcomed me into the group. John even gave me one of his drink tickets that night, and we spent the entire evening talking and getting to know each other. We had breakfast the next morning and even changed our travel arrangements in order to fly back to DC together at the end of the weekend. Even though we worked for the same organization in DC, we had never met before that fateful weekend. John always reminds me that he knew of me long before meeting me, and had always wanted to know more about that fourth grade teacher folks were buzzing about. We’ve been inseparable since the day we met.
Describe the proposal: I knew John was the one within weeks of meeting him. In fact, the truth is that I proposed to John first (about 10 months before he did). It seemed like I was joking when I shouted at him, “We should get married!” But really, I knew I meant what I had said. When we planned a 2014 trip to Argentina, I thought it would be the perfect time to really get engaged. When I called my dad for a final farewell and he asked me where I was going and who I was going with, my anxiety kicked into high gear. Was my intuition wrong? Was John not going to propose? Surely, my dad would know if John planned on asking me to marry him while on this vacation. Finally, my birthday arrived (part of the reason we were going to Argentina was to celebrate my birthday), and I finally had something else to be excited about. My mind moved away from the potential proposal–I resolved to have fun in Argentina and enjoy time with the love of my life. When we woke up the morning before my birthday, John announced that we would be flying to Mendoza, the wine country of Argentina. The next day (my birthday), as we sat and ate breakfast in the tiny restaurant of our inn, I heard an old car horn beeping outside. When I walked out of the restaurant, I saw a small circle of people gawking at a old Model A-style convertible. Still forcing myself to believe that this was all just for my birthday, we got in the car and were whisked away to the famous Nieto Seniter Vineyard. We began walking around the property and John walked us to two horses being held by a traditional Argentinian gaucho (cowboy). Little did they both know, I am pretty afraid of horses. Nonetheless, after some persistent urging from John, I got on and we went for a beautiful horseback ride through the vineyard at the foot of the Andes Mountains. After a while, the gaucho motioned for the horses to stop, and John got me (reluctantly) off the horse. We walked down a path and there under a tree was a picnic, a book, and a bottle of champagne. John opened the book, and inside, was a gorgeous ring, and he asked me to marry him. I, of course, said yes. Then, remembering my conversation with my dad on the plane, I asked, “Does my dad know?” John said of course, my dad had been in on it the whole time. John then told me to look up, and I saw one of the photographers from earlier in a tree–he had captured the whole proposal. Next to the wedding, our proposal was the second best day of my life!
Tell us about your beautiful engagement ring and how/why your husband (or the two of you!) chose it: My diamond is a 1.5-carat, round cushion-cut diamond. After John designed my ring, the store loved it so much that they named my setting the “Erica Setting.” John chose my ring and diamond based on quality of stone and the pronounced setting arrangement. John says my bold love is nearly matched with my bold ring–the stone stands alone at the top, but is supported by smaller paving diamonds below. John likes to compare my ring to our love. Our love stands at the top and is the boldest of its kind, but we have lots of family and friends to support us and help us shine along the way.
Three adjectives that describe the day are: Beautiful, enchanting, unforgettable
How many guests attended your wedding? 140
Groom’s favorite detail of the wedding: A letter from my bride, the first look, a house to stay in with family in the days leading up to the wedding, fantastic food, local beer, Wisconsin cheese, Mi Amigo cigars, the mountain backdrop, a Kit-Kat s’more station, and the 10 minutes with my wife immediately following the ceremony.
What were some of the highlights of the reception? My favorite moment of the reception was at the end of the night when we played our last song, “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey. Our friends were singing at the top of their lungs, and John picked me up and swung me around right at the height of the song. It was awesome. I also loved my dad’s toast. It was so heartfelt and emotional, and was a very special moment.
Did you toss the garter or bouquet? We did a bouquet toss. My good friend caught it and I love her boyfriend so…fingers crossed!
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you looking forward to in the future? I am looking forward to having adventures with my husband for the rest of my life. Whether it is hiking four miles up a mountain in Yosemite, jumping off cliffs in Jamaica, riding horses in Argentina, or just enjoying a four-hour-long “Cops” marathon in our living room, I always have a great time when I’m with him. I’m looking forward to forever. Next, we are focusing on buying our first house and getting some more room for our dog, Stella!
Photographer: Rachel May Photography | Videographer: Mwendo Weddings | Planner and Designer: Amore Events by Cody | Venue, Caterer, and Linens: Pippin Hill Farm and Vineyards | Florals: Blue Ridge Florals | Cake Baker: Sweethaus Bakery | Bride’s Gown: “Margot” by Anna Maier | Bridal Salon: Gabriella New York | Bride’s Shoes: Badgley Mischka | Bride’s Accessories: BHLDN | Bridesmaid Dresses: “Annabelle” in Cashmere by Jenny Yoo, “Beaded Chiffon Blouson Dress” in Blush and Taupe by Adrianna Pappell, “Rachel” in Petal by Donna Morgan, “Laura” in Petal by Donna Morgan, “Tori” in Cream by Paper Crown | Hair Stylist: Top Knot Studio | Makeup Artist: Tiffany Lumpkin | Menswear: Allure Bridals | Paper Goods: Dandelion Patch | Rentals, Linens, and Reception Décor: MS Events | Favors: Fromagination | Transportation: Blue Ridge Tours | Lighting: Blue Ridge Lighting