Emily sure knew what she was doing when she sent me Claire and Michael’s gorgeous wedding for my first Real Wedding post! A traditional church ceremony, lots of romantic flowers, a brick-walled reception space and monograms galore are all straight from my list of favorite wedding details. As if that wasn’t enough to make me fall head over heels for Claire and Michael’s big day, I’m also touched and inspired by the way they made their long-distance dating relationship such a sweet success. Love truly never fails!
The talented Jennifer of Jennifer Laraia Designs brought Claire and Michael’s inspiration to life, and Watson Studios was on hand to capture every moment.
Jennifer sent over a few of the design boards she developed with Claire + Michael, and we thought you might like to see where everything started as well as how everything came together in the end!
So pretty, don’t you think? And here’s how everything turned out!
Seeing Michael on our wedding day brought me back to the very first time we laid eyes on each other, because we met at my sister’s wedding three years ago. Both members of the bridal party, I first noticed Michael for his witty sense of humor. However, his sharp tux probably didn’t hurt, either! I wasn’t sure how long it would last because we lived five hours from each other, but we both quickly realized it was worth putting in the extra effort. We chose to make up for the distance with long Skype dates at night, countless cards sent via snail mail and what seems like an endless number of weekend road trips visiting each other. There seemed to be a light at the end of the tunnel when Michael took a job in Nashville; however, we actually got further in distance because I spent one of my last semesters of college in Italy. After returning home, the new three-hour road trip between us was a breeze. I had plans to look for a job in Nashville after graduating, but I didn’t yet know that I would be moving there to finally live in the same city as my fiancé!
Tell us about finding your wedding dress. As it turns out, I am really good at finding wedding dresses. My mom and sister both came to Nashville, and we spent a weekend visiting bridal shops. I fell in love with four dresses, narrowed down from the original ten, but didn’t end up buying anything because I couldn’t choose between them. The next weekend, my mom came back into town, and we went to a new store. I pretty much knew right away that I had found my dress, but I needed my sister’s sign off before making the big purchase. Luckily, she approved!
I love floral crowns on just about anyone, but on flower girls, they’re particularly darling!
For the ceremony, we chose classic songs that sounded beautiful on the church organ, such as “Canon In D” and “Ave Maria.” The reception was a better opportunity for us to add some personality, so we chose Ray LaMontagne “You are the Best Thing” for our first dance. Since we were having a very traditional Catholic wedding, we opted for the traditional vows. We also both agreed that we couldn’t have said it better if we tried.
One of my favorite details was the light-up letters that spelled “Sullivan.” They looked so pretty outside the depot, all lit up at night. I love that it showcased my new last name, and they were extra special because my parents actually made them. I think if you asked Michael though, he might say getting to change into a white dinner jacket for the reception.
What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? For many of our guests, it was their first time in Knoxville. I really wanted to give them a taste of the city and its Southern charm. We had a calligrapher create our wedding monogram, which we used on everything from our invitations to the napkins my mom monogrammed for each place setting. The head table and table that our parents and immediate family sat at were large farmhouse tables. The other tables were covered in lace linens. Cigars were stationed around the Depot on top of old whiskey barrels, and we had vintage Knoxville postcards for guests to leave us a note on. I also decided that morning to go for comfort, so I wore my cowboy boots through the entire ceremony and reception. This decision was solidified as the right one when the band played Rocky Top for all of my friends and family to dance to.
Describe your wedding flowers. Full and romantic. I have a love affair with peonies and hydrangeas, so those were incorporated into the bouquets and centerpieces. The soft colors and textures helped create a romantic setting at the old train depot in the middle of downtown Knoxville.
What is the one detail or vendor that you were so happy to have as a part of your wedding? Jennifer Laraia Designs. As our wedding planner and designer, she really made it all come together. As the planner, she completely removed any worry so I could enjoy being engaged and planning our wedding. From the design aspect, it was invaluable to have someone completely understand the look we were going for and commit to achieving it for us. On the day of our wedding, it was incredible to see everything come to life from the style boards!
When we met, one of the first things we discovered that we had in common was our love of Funfetti cake, so it was an obvious choice for our wedding cake. In addition to cake, we had a snow cone truck pull up and serve late night treats, because anyone who knows me knows that my favorite food group is snow cones!
Tell us all about the proposal! Michael proposed to me the night of my graduation on December 9, 2011. It was truly perfect because he somehow managed to surprise me, and it was clear that he had put a lot of thought into asking me to marry him. He had given me a gorgeous necklace as a graduation present at brunch with my family, but he kept saying he had another gift to give me. I, of course, thought he meant another graduation gift. After dinner at my parents’ house, Michael took me outside on the porch. There were candles set up everywhere and a gift for me. I unwrapped a scrapbook he had made of all our adventures together since we first began dating. On the very last page, it hinted at spending the rest of our life together. When I looked up, Michael was down on his knee asking me to marry him!
When did y’all get married? April 6, 2013
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? Just over 200
Did you decide to do a “first look”? Yes, we wanted to have a special moment together to share the excitement and joy of our wedding day. We also knew that we had a party to get to after the ceremony, so it was less stressful getting the pictures out of the way beforehand!
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? Planning a wedding in Knoxville, while we were living in Nashville. Thankfully, my mom is awesome at this sort of stuff, and we hired a talented wedding planner to help out.
What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? The entire reception was a blast — the kind of party you wish you could throw over and over again. But if I had to choose one moment from the day, it would be when the church doors opened for me to walk down the aisle with my dad. Seeing my best friend waiting for me at the altar, having my dad by my side and all of my family and friends there to support us–I think that’s when it all hit me! Just before they opened the doors, my wedding planner gave me the best advice: to take a moment and take it all in. That was a moment I will never forget.
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Enjoy the process. Our wedding was a fabulous celebration with all of our family and friends, but I am equally as thrilled with all the special memories we created with each other leading up to our big day. Create memories that will last a lifetime and remember that in the end, it isn’t just about this one day; it is about kicking off the rest of your life with your best friend.
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you most looking forward to about married life?
We bought our first house, so we are thrilled to set up our home together in Nashville, host our family and friends, and take some time to just enjoy being married. We are also pretty excited about finally being able to stay out on the dance floor when they bring all the married couples out for a dance to see who has been married the longest!
Watson Studios and Jennifer Laraia Designs are delightful members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!