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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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When I hear a bride say she wants a dress “big and dramatic enough for Scarlett O’Hara,” my ears instantly perk up! So of course, I was already excited to see this stunning wedding from Blue Ribbon Vendor (and personal friend of mine!), Desiree Dawn Events, and, y’all, it did not disappoint! Mary Grace and Jason incorporated meaningful traditions into their wedding to honor the past, while also celebrating their future. There was plenty of sweet Southern hospitality and lots of special details, including hosting their reception in the same ballroom at The Biltmore that held their law school orientation dinner seven years prior! Jason even had an armadillo-shaped groom’s cake in honor of their favorite movie, Steel Magnolias. So fun!

Big hugs to Flora + Fauna for capturing this beautiful day!

I wanted a dress that was big and dramatic enough for Scarlett O’Hara–something that was Southern chic, with lace, a statement back, and a classic bow. I started my search by browsing images of dresses online, and came across Sheridan by Hayley Paige. When a dress takes your breath away, like when you have your first kiss with your husband-to-be, it must be the one!

Did you decide to do a first look? Why or why not? Yes, even though I’m very superstitious! We wanted to be able to savor that first moment of seeing one another on our wedding day–just the two of us, without all of our guests watching–and having that instant reaction and tender moment documented. A first look is a unique experience for each couple, so the way we saw each other for the first time on the most important day of our lives only added to our love story.


The Biltmore Hotel is the most storied landmark in Florida, and it holds special meaning to both of us. During orientation, our law school held a dinner at the Biltmore’s Country Club Ballroom. That dinner was one of the first times Jason and I crossed paths. Our reception took place in the same ballroom seven years later!

What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? The moment that stands out the most was our ride to and from the ceremony. Since our ride was a vintage car, the mirrors weren’t tinted, so everyone driving by could see us clearly through the glass. They tooted, waved, and hollered at us as they passed by, rolling down their windows to congratulate us. That moment, of seeing perfect strangers being joyful and genuinely excited for us on our day, has stayed fresh in our minds.

What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? Goodness gracious! Where do I begin? I wanted to incorporate meaningful traditions with my family to honor the past while celebrating our future, so I did a first look with my daddy and presented him with his gift–an embroidered handkerchief that can be passed down for generations. We gave miniature bottles of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey and mini jars of delicious Southern honey (for our youngest guests) as favors, which also doubled as escort cards. We served our signature drinks in mason jars with colorful striped straws that guests could take home. We had a family-style layout with long farmhouse tables and mismatched chairs, surrounded by round tables with lace overlays, which gave a sense of warmth and family. Our table names were common Southern sayings, which filled our wedding with nods to the South. To give our guests a taste of good ol’ fashion Southern hospitality, we served classic Southern staples during cocktail hour, including a whole hog that was served with mac and cheese and honey cornbread. And we couldn’t do without everyone’s favorite Southern tradition: the groom’s cake. Our groom’s cake was in the shape of an armadillo because we (and especially Jason) love Steel Magnolias. During cake cutting, we even gave ourselves the tail piece, just like what Ouiser served to Drum! At the end of the night, we were certain our guests felt truly hosted, and not just entertained, because through the details, our wedding was an outpouring of genuine love for our friends and family.

Our flowers were reminiscent of fall in the South, thanks to an overgrown/organic look with lots of greenery, purple and wine tones, burgundy, palest peach and blush, and pops of coral. We also incorporated blackberries into the bouquets, boutonnieres, and centerpieces for that extra touch of Southern charm!

Check out their wedding film by Flora + Fauna here!

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. Jason and I started law school at the University of Miami at the same time. We lived around the corner from each other, but we didn’t meet until October. My roommates and I threw a Halloween party (we dressed up as characters from The Wizard of Oz and I was the Scarecrow). Jason came and noticed me in my costume, which was enough to light a spark!
Tell us all about the proposal! One sunny morning, Jason took me back to the UM campus. We walked by our law school and stopped at a fountain. He proposed there, and told me that was the spot where he had first seen me.
When did y’all get married? We were married on November 9, 2014, seven years from the day we went on our first date. Our Canes were on a bye week that weekend, so it was meant to be!
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 150
Describe your wedding cake. The inspiration for our wedding cake was Southern elegance. The bottom tier was light gold with textured buttercream icing and the other tiers had smoother icing with some texture and were a similar shade of ivory to my dress. Our florist incorporated fresh flowers, red berries, and blackberries around the cake. The top tier of our cake was spice cake with apple cheesecake filling–perfectly appropriate for a fall wedding! The second tier was marble cake with chocolate Godiva filling, and the third was half chocolate and half vanilla cake with cappuccino filling. The bottom tier was Jason’s favorite: vanilla rum. We tried each flavor during our tasting, and they were all slices of heaven!
Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! Yes, to all of the above! My something old was my pearl necklace, which Jason helped me pick out when we were dating. My something new was my pearl bracelet, a wedding gift from my parents. My something borrowed was my sister’s Tory Burch perfume, which was literally and figuratively near and dear to my heart! My something blue was a sparkling blue crystal on the sole of my shoes. To complete my look, The White Magnolia sent me a sixpence for my shoe.
If you are comfortable responding, what range did your wedding budget fall into? $75,000-$100,000
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? When you’re planning your wedding, YOGMO–you only get married once! If you’re on a budget, but there is something that tugs at your heartstrings, do it and figure out where you can save money in other places. After the cake is cut and the last guest leaves, you’ll look back on your day without any regrets.
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you most looking forward to about married life? We were so busy planning our wedding that we didn’t have time to plan our honeymoon! Waiting until after we said “I do” turned out for the best because we both had the post-wedding blues, and planning our honeymoon has filled that void. We’ll be glamping in Montana in a honeymoon tent at The Resort at Paws Up this September.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your wedding? A little rain became a downpour. We got wet, and so did our guests, but it didn’t put a damper on our day, and actually added a bit of romance to the air. So brides, have no fear of some rain, because there’s something about it that’ll make your day beyond magical!

Photographer and Videographer: Flora + Fauna / Planner: Desiree Dawn Events / Ceremony Venue: St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church / Reception Venue and Caterer: The Biltmore Hotel / Personal Flowers: Julia Rohde Designs / Reception Flowers: Petal Productions / Cake Baker: Elegant Temptations / Rentals: Hitched Event Rentals / Vintage Rentals and Table Runners: Unearthed Vintage / Lighting and Band: AAMusicians / Linens & Overlays: Petal Productions / Chargers: Tastebuds Catering / Cake Stand: BHLDN / Paper Products: Make Merry! / Bride’s Gown: “Sheridan” by Hayley Paige / Veil: Cynthia Kay from The White Magnolia / Jewelry: Tiffany & Co. / Hair and Makeup: Amy Palma of South Beach Makeup Studio / Bride’s Shoes: “Conrad” by Something Bleu / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: “Lacey” by Joanna August / Photo Booth: Sideshow Booth Co. / Late-Night Snacks: Yardbird Southern Table & Bar / Groom’s Cake Baker: Todo Dulces / Menswear: The Black Tux / Groom’s Bow Tie & Pocket Square: Everett K Handcrafted Ties & Bow Ties / Groomsmen’s Ties: The Tie Bar / Flower Girls’ Dresses: “43312” in Oatmeal by Seahorse / Choreographer: Luis Lopez of Arthur Murray Dance Center / Vintage Car: Florian’s Classics

Desiree Dawn Events and Make Merry! are delightful members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

marissa Written with love by Marissa
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  1. avatar Mary-Grace and Jason | Biltmore Hotel | Miami Wedding Cakes | Elegant Temptations reply

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    […] involved in Mary-Grace and Jason's wedding was a dream! Their entire day was filled with Southern charm at the Biltmore Hotel. Every detail […]

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With such a long growing season, I think our gorgeous blooms are one of the most distinctive features of the South. Not only the South as a whole, though — different flowers are forever associated with particular states in my mind! That was the theme for our bouquet feature in this issue, and happily, we had an incredibly talented crew to bring it to life. Many thanks to our flower whiz Janie Medley for her gorgeous bouquets (and to Florabundance for some of the blooms!); Courtney Spencer for styling magic; and Patricia Lyons for the crisp and clear photos!

Isn’t the calligraphy gorgeous? It’s by our talented friend Elizabeth Porcher Jones!

We think of Alabama as ground zero for all things pink and girly, so this clutch of peonies, azaleas (in honor of the Trail Maids!), and sweet peas is right on target. An extra-wide ribbon (almost 4 inches!) from Midori finishes it off.

Moody and elegant flowers with lots of greenery combine to capture the feel of Tennessee. This bouquet makes us think of dark skinny jeans and banjos!

Virginia brides know that “simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication,” so this bouquet’s classic elegance is sure to please. A photo charm is the perfect finishing touch — we used a photo from my parent’s wedding for this one!

Our Kentucky bouquet gives the run for the roses a run for its money, adding in white peonies, white ranunculus, and white tulips for extra pop. A boldly striped scarf and sweet pin finish the look.

Our Florida bouquet is as bright and vivacious as our Southernmost brides! A cheery silk ribbon hold these citrus-colored blooms together.

Last but certainly not least is West Virginia, and it’s as “wild and wonderful” as that great state. We think it feels like a field of flowers in miniature! We used all delicate blooms for this one and tied it together with a strip of Liberty fabric.

What do you think, belles? Which bouquet is your favorite? Did we capture your state accurately? After all these months, I’m still trying to decide whether I’m more partial to Alabama or West Virginia…

emily Written with love by Emily
9 Comments
  1. avatar Allyson W. reply

    Although I live in NC now I’ll always be a Florida girl, and I love how you represented the state! The Florida bouquet is beautiful!

  2. avatar Janie reply

    Thanks SO much for the beautiful feature! I had such a great time making all the pretty bouquets for your gorgeous publication!!

  3. avatar Plum Pretty Sugar reply

    Stunning blooms! We absolutely adore all of these floral beauties!

    xo

    http://www.PlumPrettySugar.blogspot.com

  4. avatar Stephanie reply

    This was one of my favorite features in SWV6 – y’all always do the perfect job of creating unique, jaw-dropping, and meaningful bouquets, and I love the State theme, too! I just love the blackberries & gingham in the Tennessee bouquet.

  5. avatar Pamela reply

    Love sweet peas and peonies, my favorite is the Alabama.

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