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Monthly Archives: December 2008

We are back with more from our Southern Wedding of the Week. The wedding continued on at the {Shack Up Inn} in Mississippi with an amazing Southern dinner including jambalaya, greens, ribs, cornbread and sweet tea served in mason jars. From the bar, guests could enjoy Mint Julips.  The catering was done by Lance Banker, the uncle of the bride.  The cakes were made by JoAnn Brabam, the aunt of the bride.  (Quite a talented family!)  Nuts and sweets came from Clarksdale’s own {Miss Del’s}.  Entertaining guests through out the reception was {Terry “Harmonica” Bean and his Blues Band}.  Photography by {Benjamin Chan}.  Check out his work {here}.  This entire wedding celebration was planned by the bride with special help from friends and family.  Month-of coordination by the amazing Andria of {Andria Lewis Events}.  Andria has been a friend of ours for a while now and we are so honored to feature her.  Check out her blog post on Melissa + Dan {here}Happy Friday y’all!  Enjoy those Christmas leftovers!

Describe your wedding flowers: Melissa: We wanted our floral décor to really compliment the organic, homegrown feel of our event. And, as with everything, we had pretty tight budget to work within. We ended up using a lot of planters and vintage accents purchased from thrift stores. A family friend helped us by planting an assortment of wild flowers in bronze and aluminum colanders, which we later hung throughout our ceremony space. Our florist mimicked this design in our reception space by creating a chandelier of colander planters to adorn our buffet area. For our table arrangements, we saved a bundle by using four-inch planters set inside old tin cans interspersed with sprigs of flowers in vintage RC Cola bottles. Drawing inspiration from the region, our florist also worked cotton blossoms into the floral décor throughout our ceremony and reception spaces along with roses and locally-grown wildflowers and cleverly bound our boutonnieres and bouquets with burlap from the local feed and seed instead of ribbon. The resulting arrangements were so much fun and added so much beauty to the space.

Describe your wedding cake: Melissa: We lucked out by having a baker in the family. My wonderful and talented aunt made both our wedding cake and groom’s cake. The wedding cake had a floral topper and was a simple three-tier white butter cream icing construction, with yellow cake and strawberry cream cheese filling. At the groom’s request, my aunt also made a groom’s cake resembling a giant chocolate moon pie, with chocolate cake, marshmallow filling, and chocolate butter cream icing overlaid with a hardened hot fudge glaze. Oh, it was so good!

Our favorite detail of the wedding was: Dan: I don’t know if the setting of the wedding can be considered a detail since it envelops so many other details, but it really was for me. As was mentioned, we researched having the wedding in Chicago, but the costs were just so prohibitive, and we felt that if we did it in Chicago, we would have to follow the same formal conventions that didn’t really feel like “us”. Having the wedding in Missisippi allowed for more of our families to come together for a whole weekend, eating, talking, dancing and just feeling relaxed. The result was a wedding that felt holy because not only were we joining together, but our families had as well. Melissa: I have to say, we had an amazing assortment of musicians help make our event. Through an arrangement with Ground Zero Blues Club, we were able to treat our guests to one of Clarksdale’s musical legends, blues man, Jimbo Mathus, the night before our wedding. For our ceremony, the gospel choir from the church up the road from the Shack Up Inn graciously agreed to perform a selection of old favorites for us. We really enjoyed working with these beautiful people. But the party really got started with Terry “Harmonica” Bean and his band at our reception. People were up and dancing like aerobic superstars by the second song. It was fantastic!

What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? Melissa: Of course, planning a destination wedding is never easy, because you’re generally dealing with an unknown location and vendors. However, planning a non-traditional wedding in a non-traditional venue only doubles this stress. More often than not, we were forced to work without contracts and rely on good-faith promises that things would work out in the end. We had control over very little. The good news is that really things did work out for us. We encountered some last-minute challenges with our rental orders and some verbal agreements went unmet, but in hiring Andria Lewis Events to help out with the month-of coordination we didn’t have to really deal with any of these hassles. Also, to save on our spending, we really relied on the assistance and generosity of family and friends to meet all of our catering, photography, and site assembly needs. We still wanted these particular family members and friends to feel that they were able to be guests as well, so a major challenge for us was to find ways that we could support them as much as possible. Again, hiring Andria really helped to this end, as they were able to assist us in thinking through the supports these individuals would need and stay in constant communication with our special helpers throughout the weekend.

Were there any special family traditions you included in the wedding? Dan: It’s not a tradition (yet), but we did have a special moment where we asked both sets of parents to come and lay hands on us for a “parent’s blessing”. Our friend and pastor, Megan, led us in a prayer that helped us to center on what we were there for, to join families and to support one another. Melissa: For as long as I can remember, nothing has brought my family together more than good, southern home-cooking, so we recruited the best of best cooks for this sort of cuisine, my Uncle Lance, Cajun chef extraordinaire. To welcome our guests into town the night before the wedding, my uncle prepared a traditional low country shrimp boil. The fresh Gulf shrimp was delicious and it was so entertaining to see a few of my southern relatives trying to teach our squeamish, yet gracious northern guests how to pop the head off a boiled shrimp. Lance made our favorites throughout the whole weekend – including a breakfast of biscuits and gravy and a reception of BBQ ribs and jambalaya. It was so gratifying to see people really warm up to each other, remarkably so, over plate after plate of comfort food.

What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? Dan: The most memorable moment for me was actually saying the vows. I was such a cry baby, I could hardly get them out. A competing moment would be walking away from our “wedding chapel” towards our reception hall as the Gospel choir sang “Amen, Amen” right behind us. Melissa was squeezing my hand so tightly and I was just humming along with the music; it was an incredibly sweet and triumphant moment for me. Melissa: I don’t think there’s any experience that tops my trip down the aisle – letting go of my fathers arm, seeing my mom’s eyes filled with joyful tears, and reaching for my new partner’s hand. I was so nervous and excited and I could see in Dan’s face that he felt the same. From that moment on, I was all smiles – we’d finally made it! I was also really grateful for the roles others played in blessing us on our wedding day. Rather than having attendants, we incorporated loved ones into our ceremony through special readings, songs, and a portion during which friends and family came together to essentially “create” our altar by placing symbolic gifts on a table before us.

Scariest moment? Dan: For me, I started freaking out as soon as I heard the gospel choir start singing Melissa’s processional before she had even arrived at the chapel/carport. I didn’t know how to fix the problem, but our pastor just told me to calm down and not worry, so I let go of it and just laughed it off. And it just got funnier when the choir realized their mistake and just started over singing “Oh Happy Day” again when Melissa arrived, but this time they sang it as an ultra-slow dirge instead of the upbeat and cheerful song we’d meant it to be. But Melissa was so beautiful walking up the aisle that I don’t think anyone actually noticed. Melissa: On our wedding day, I was fortunately very sheltered from dealing with any logistical problems – this was, of course, very intentional. Our wedding planners and our special helpers worked very hard to make sure everything was taken care of and they did a fabulous job, for which I am eternally grateful. I’d heard that that there had been problems with counting seating, with our ceremony starting earlier than planned, with steak knives and dessert plates not showing up, confusion among our servers, etc., but by the time I knew about these issues, everything had already been resolved in some form or fashion. As far as I know, our wedding day could not have been anymore perfect. I was so happy to see how people really pulled together to help make our event wonderful and memorable.

What advice would you give to someone planning their wedding? Dan: Do as much work as you can up front, but on the day of just relax. Hiring a wedding coordinator to help us manage of all of our day-of details was really the best decision we made. Melissa: Don’t feel bound to all of the traditional conventions of weddings. We found that, far more often than not, people (even the skeptics) really enjoyed taking part in a non-traditional celebration. It was our initial hope that, in going the route we did, we could maintain all of the sacredness and fun of getting married, while also saving a lot of money and creating an event that was more true to who we are, and I think we succeeded.

What’s next for you as a couple? What are you looking forward to in the future? Dan: As we write this, we’ve just now settled into our new home in Doha, Qatar. We both have jobs working for a few American-based universities out here in the Middle East. We’re hoping to enjoy our time out here, travel a bit, and mostly save up a lot so that when we go back home we can afford our dream home.

Congratulations Melissa + Dan!  We wish you a lifetime of love and happiness together!

Written with love by Southern Weddings
  1. avatar David reply

    I love these two.

  2. avatar Rev. Virginia Bishop reply

    This sounded like an exquisitely beautiful and heartfelt wedding! I would love to know what readings or poetry they chose for the ceremony and what trinkets were placed on the altar. Congratulations! I loved the pictures!!!!

  3. avatar ForeverMusic reply

    Both of them so lucky having a aker aunt in the family. My wedding cake was fake. The bakery only provide 3 box of real cake, but the wedding cake was not real.ForeverMusic

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Melissa + Dan wed at {Shack Up Inn} by Megan Ramer of the Chicago Community Mennonite Church.  Through out the ceremony, the Clarksdale Community Gospel Choir performed, singing sweet hymns like O Happy Day.  Details included: flowers by The Flower Bouquet, paper goods by {Mok Duk}, photography by {Benjamin Chan}, month-of coordination by {Andria Lewis Events}. More to come from this fantastic wedding. 

How did the two of you meet? Tell us your story: Melissa: We met through mutual friends of ours. I was a sophomore in high school and he had recently graduated. His interest in me was immediately apparent (read: several phone calls a week and lots of instant messenger flirtation). At the time, I thought he was really cute and lots of fun, but I really wasn’t interested in dating. We became great friends instead – I think this was strategic on his part. By the end of my senior year, he had successfully bated me with desserts, movies, and his cool-guy, Chicago lifestyle (I lived in a suburb just outside the city). We started officially dating the summer I graduated high school and kept things going long-distance for two years and then for another four years, after I moved to Chicago, before our engagement. Dan: I met Melissa through one of my friends who was dating one of her friends. The first time I ever saw her, I thought she was the most gorgeous girl I’d laid my eyes on. But despite my best efforts, Melissa was pretty successful at keeping me at bay for a few years or so. However, it wasn’t too long before she began to see things my way; we finally kissed in the summer of 2002 and it’s been a wonderful and life-affirming experience ever since.

Describe the proposal: Dan: I picked up the ring around the beginning of February, and immediately started brainstorming romantic and memorable ways of proposing to Melissa. Over the course of a week, I had pretty much gone out of my mind in trying to come up with something that felt natural and was also really charming, etc. But on Sunday the 10th of February, we had dinner planned and I admitted to myself that I didn’t want to wait any longer—I couldn’t wait to see the ring slip on her finger and see the look on her face. So as we ate dinner, I secretly fumbled with the ring underneath the table and tried to carry on with normal conversation. After dinner as we were sitting and talking to each other while holding hands across the table, I casually slipped the ring on her finger and watched her jaw drop; I didn’t see much after that though, because I started to tear up as I finally choked out what I’d been waiting far too long to say: “Will you marry me?”

What attracted me to my husband was: Melissa: Dan is so easy to be around. From the first few times we hung out together, I was struck by how comfortable I felt with him, how quickly we could find dumb things to keep us amused, and how great he was at making thoughtful conversation. I was, maybe, a little shy when we first met, but he really drew me out of myself and he continues to do so. I think we energize each other. He is and has always been an amazing friend and an all-around beautiful person. I feel honored and so incredibly happy to be married to him today.

What attracted me to my wife was: Dan: I wasn’t always the best kid in high school or even college; I sort of partied and tried my best to not take life too seriously. But I saw something in Melissa that made me want to be a better person. She loves people and hates injustice, she is highly motivated and has plans for her life, she has a beautiful spirit and she and I have a very similar sense of humor. Not to mention, she’s downright gorgeous, the most beautiful woman I know. But what really set her apart for me was that she is able to carry all of that beauty on very humble shoulders and when she looks at me, I can see that she cares about me and wants me to lead a fulfilled life; it makes me want to do everything I can possibly do to also see her happy and fulfilled as well.

A date we went on that we’ll always remember: Melissa: We went on the most random dates the first summer we dated. I remember one evening in particular when I met Dan in Chicago after work, and, since we couldn’t think of any shows we wanted to see, Dan suggested setting out to look for a pair of nunchucks. I don’t think there was ever much of an explanation as to why he wanted the nunchucks. We ended up spending several hours roaming Chinatown purchasing all kinds of cheap stuff, which did include a pair of plastic nunchucks. Somehow we found all of these weird souvenirs, especially the ones with packaging containing terrible misspellings, really funny. Afterwards, he treated me to my first bubble tea and some mango chicken fried rice. That’s how it is with us – we find the stupidest things to entertain ourselves. We’re really good at just enjoying one another’s company.

The weather on our wedding was: Melissa: The forecast for our wedding weekend was not good at all. It was supposed to be sunny and perfect the week leading up to our wedding and then overcast with an 80 percent chance of scattered showers over our wedding weekend. Many of the weekend’s events were going to be held outdoors, including the ceremony, so I was pretty nervous – I had my mom praying a lot. As it turned out, there was a heavy downpour of rain that lasted for five minutes Friday morning and that was it. The rest of weekend was gorgeous, cool and breezy – somewhere in the high-70s. It was absolutely beautiful.

What was the design inspiration for your wedding? Melissa: With a big, fancy Chicago wedding costing upwards of 20K, we quickly decided on making our event very low-key and begun looking outside the Chicago area. We had lots of great memories traveling through northern Mississippi — much of my family lives in southern Mississippi and Louisiana — so we decided on a Delta destination wedding that would really play up the local flavor. A kitschy B&B (“Bed and Beer”) called the Shack Up Inn in Clarksdale, Mississippi was the perfect setting for our non-traditional event. The property was filled with rusted-out farm equipment, blues memorabilia, and all kinds of vintage knick-knacks, set amongst refurbished shacks to accommodate guests, an old cotton gin, and a commissary that had been converted into a great juke joint. We ended up turning the carport onsite into a chapel of sorts and using the commissary for our reception festivities.

Favorite design element of your big day: Dan: The flowers. We had some difficulty with florists understanding what we wanted to do. Most seemed to think we wanted to bring some sort of ultra-elegant or extremely formal arrangements into our setting, and that got to be a bit frustrating. However, once we were introduced to Craig at the Flower Bouquet in Clarksdale, we knew we had a winner. Craig understood the designs we were looking for immediately and was a pleasure to work with on the business-side as well; his quotes were always timely and reasonable and the amount of work they put into building the arrangements on the day of the wedding was incredible. Their work really helped bring some intimacy into our locations while still staying within the theme of our wedding. Melissa: Ah, it’s hard to pick one – I really don’t think I can. I do have to pay my respects to the amazing graphic design skills of Anne Benjamin of Mok Duk ( Anne did all of our design work for our invitations, programs, and favors. Her art set the tone for the weekend. For our invites, she created kitschy posters for “A Weekend of Southern Delight” that included an itinerary for the wedding and events leading up to and following the ceremony. And her programs were fantastic, resembling old-school church fans. We received so many compliments from guests on her fun and innovative designs — we couldn’t have been happier with her work.

Tell us about finding your wedding dress: Melissa: Bridal shops really aren’t my thing – even as a bride I felt incredibly out of place in them. I ended up doing most of my shopping online on designer consignment wedding websites. I had my eye on a lacy Monique Lhuillier gown, with a gorgeous, willowy trumpet hem. Through I found a great seller and was able to purchase the dress of my dreams for less than 45 percent of its retail value. I tried it on for the first time only after receiving in the mail – it was absolutely perfect.

Check back shortly for more…

Written with love by Southern Weddings
  1. avatar David reply

    These two are really frickin’ cute. And I like the date where they spent time looking for nunchucks :-)

  2. avatar Ivana reply

    This is incredibly sweet. Almost got all choked up!

  3. avatar Denise reply

    Wow beautiful photos!

Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

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Merry Christmas from SW!

by in News on

We’re out of the office enjoying pecan pie and a little r and r until January 5th (which also happens to be the day before our print edition launches!!!  WE ARE SO EXCITED!).  I’m off to Colorado, Laura is in Cincinnati, Rachel is in Asheville and Kirstin is in VA with her family.  Wishing everyone a blessed Christmas!  We have a lot prepared for you while we are out… enjoy!

Written with love by Southern Weddings
  1. avatar Rebekah at EAD reply

    Merry Christmas Team SWS!

  2. avatar ksenija :) reply

    merry christmas!! :) ps. love the pink stars — so cute!

  3. avatar Alex Rodriguez reply

    Merry Christmas to you and your family! Many blessings for the new year.

  4. avatar Woodward + Rick Photographers reply

    Great card guys!! Next time you’re in Asheville we’ll do a "shoot" for next years collage! Happy b-day Lara!!!xoxoxo,brian + gry

Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

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