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Southern Weddings

As y’all know, Southern weddings have a very particular style. Sure, they range from the rustic and laid back to the classic and formal, but inherent in celebrating our unique culture is a common thread pulling them all together. At times, it’s really difficult to combine two cultures that are both vibrant and specific, which is why we were pleasantly surprised when we saw Eva + Neil’s wedding.

The couple planned a day that incorporated both of their backgrounds into a Southern hometown soiree, finding that there are a few themes natural to all backgrounds (like an appreciation for family) and a few surprising things that they have in common (fried okra, anyone?). We love looking through these images from White Rabbit Studios and admiring E + N’s favorite detail of the big day: “Getting married to each other.”

How did the two of you meet? Tell us your story. Neil and I have known each other for ten years now. After college we both moved to Washington, DC (me from Alabama, Neil from L.A.) and met through mutual friends (DC is really like a small town where everyone meets eventually). We were friends for years, and were always running into each other at parties and coffee shops and would have a great time talking. When I went away to grad school, Neil stayed in touch by mailing me articles he had written about wonky things like environmental regulation with little post-it notes attached. I moved back to DC and eventually he won me over through a somewhat more romantic combination of singing, playing guitar and cooking for me. Now every year at Valentine’s Day he makes me the same dish he made the first time he made me dinner, which we now call “wooing pasta.” He still plays guitar all the time and surprised me at the wedding by singing and playing “I’ll be your Mirror” by the Velvet Underground.

Did you decide to do a “first look”? We decided not to do a first look because we both wanted to see each other for the first time that day right before the ceremony. It was the right thing for us because it made the whole thing that much more exciting.
What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? The first was Song of Songs 8:6-7, read by my cousin. My sister read a passage from Marcel Proust’s book Swann’s Way, which is Neil’s favorite book. Neil’s sister read the lyrics to the song, “Heaven” by Jani Lane (Warrant).

We said traditional vows, but also included some Indian wedding rituals like putting garlands over each other’s heads (similar to exchanging rings in an American ceremony) and feeding each other during the ceremony (good when you’re too nervous to eat much beforehand!). One of my favorite parts of the ceremony was actually right after we were officially pronounced as married and we went to all the elders on both sides of the family to show our respect to them–this is a traditional part of a Gujarati (Indian) ceremony, and it was important to us to start our married life letting our families know how important they are to both of us.

So many of our guests were traveling to the South for the first time for the wedding, so we wanted to really show off my home state of Alabama, while also incorporating elements from our families’ backgrounds (Indian on Neil’s side and Bolivian on mine). We made welcome bags that I hand stamped with Alabama and a heart over Crossville, filled with moon pies and guides of things to do in north Alabama. We also had local letterpress shop make a similar print for us to use as a guest book. I think the most Southern thing about the wedding was really how the community pulled together to make everything happen, from the flowers to the horse Neil came in on. We got married on my grandparents’ farm, which has been in the family for generations and where my parents, grandparents, great grandparents were also married. We also had Southern music (bluegrass, Southern rock, Southern soul), and kept the food and drink local: BBQ, cornbread, fried okra (the surprise cross-cultural food hit), wine from Wills Creek Winery where we had the reception, Straight to Ale beers from Huntsville (my hometown) and Back Forty Beers from Gadsden (where I was born) and local cheeses from Belle Chevre, among other places.

Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding. We had bluegrass music at the ceremony and asked them to play a few family favorites like Wayfaring Stranger (when the families walked in) and Wildwood Flower (for the flower girls). At the reception, we really wanted everyone to dance, and wanted to heavily feature great music from the South (Wanda Jackson, Drive by Truckers, Alabama, Lynard Skynard, Sam Cooke, Alabama Shakes) and sentimental favorites. We started out by giving the first dance to my grandparents to celebrate their 60th anniversary, which was that week, and they requested a song by Vaughn Monroe, who was popular when they were dating. Our first dance was “Stand by Me” by Otis Redding. The mother/son dance was “Sailing” by Rod Stewart. Our father/daughter dance was a song called “El Reloj” (the clock) by Trio Los Panchos, a song about the passing of time that was a favorite of my Bolivian grandfather. We also had another nod to my half-Bolivian roots by featuring a Bolivian traditional courting dance called the cueca. There was a good amount of hair metal, Neil’s favorite. We closed out the night with “Alabama Pines” by Jason Isbell, which is what I always listen to when I’m feeling homesick and is just a great song for any occasion.

Describe the proposal. We love to go to concerts together and for my birthday last year Neil got us tickets to see one of my favorite duos, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. The only show we could go to was in Portland, Maine over Thanksgiving weekend, which was a little further than we usually travel for a concert. He proposed after the show at the cozy B&B we were staying at and we had glasses of champagne by the fireplace to celebrate (after a few excited texts to my best friend and family). Neil told me later that a Gillian Welch show in DC years ago was the first time he saw me out at a concert and realized we had something in common. The friend who had taken him to that show ended up marrying us.
In what month did you get married? October, right around my grandparents’ 60th anniversary.
How many guests attended your wedding? Around 100
Tell us about finding your wedding dress: I was traveling a lot before the wedding and looked at dresses in some of the places I was in, which meant that I had looked on three continents (Birmingham, Washington, DC, New York, London, Cape Town) and the search was feeling ridiculous. I sew and my mother has always made all my formal dresses for me, and I just wasn’t finding anything that I didn’t think we could make better and with nicer fabric for less money. I was about to give up and found out about a place in New York called the Sample Room that has a roomful of beautiful sample dresses at a huge discount. I found my dress there and it fit perfectly with just a few simple alterations that my mother was able to do.
Describe your wedding flowers: My mother picked cotton and wired it onto stems for bouquets and centerpieces and also made boutonnieres out of it. We ordered Queen Anne’s lace and ranunculus online, and the rest of the flowers came from our dear family friend June (who grew up with my grandparents), cut from her own garden and arranged on the tables for us. We had simple hand-tied bouquets that the bridesmaids pulled together right before the wedding.
Describe your wedding cake or dessert: We had fried apple pies, peach peeling pies, chocolate cake (for the wedding cake) and carrot cake (the groom’s favorite, for his cake).
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? Planning from a distance. We live in New York, which is far enough away, but the summer before the wedding I was in South Africa. Fortunately, we had great support from our parents, my grandparents and brides-crew, who all helped so much. We couldn’t have done it without them.
What range did your wedding budget fall into? $10,000-$25,000
What is the one thing you are most happy you splurged on? Do I have to pick just one? I’d say photos and music. Ashley and her husband (White Rabbit Studios) were so wonderful and now I can see all the parts of the wedding I couldn’t take in. We felt a little extravagant having both a band and a DJ, but it was a great decision. I loved having the band and I loved that Matt played almost exclusively records (since Neil and I spend lots of our weekends going record hunting). The party wouldn’t have been the same without all the great music.
What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? One of my favorite memories is the ride from the ceremony to the reception. A friend and neighbor of my grandparents has this beautiful 1953 Ford that homecoming queens in Crossville (where the wedding was) ride in for the homecoming parade. My dad and I arrived in the car and Neil and I were driven from the ceremony to the reception in it. It was the first time all day that we were alone and got to reflect on the fact that we’d just gotten married. The car was so solid feeling, and it gave us a calm time to be together.
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Keep it loose and enjoy your time with all of these wonderful friends and family who have gathered to celebrate with you. Having so many loved ones in one place doesn’t happen all that often. Enjoy the day and don’t worry too much if all the little details don’t work out.
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you looking forward to in the future? We took a short honeymoon right after the wedding, but because I had midterms, we had to get back. We’re taking a long trip in January (when I have a school break) so we’re really looking forward to having a few weeks without work or school obligations to be together. We still haven’t figured out where we’ll go yet, but it will be somewhere far away that will feel like an adventure.

nicoleyang Written with love by Nicole
2 Comments
  1. avatar Jessica Clinch reply

    I love that they gave the first dance to her grandparents for their 60th anniversary. That was such a sweet touch!

  2. avatar Kelly Cummings reply

    I love the vintage photos at the reception! And all of the gorgeous photos that Ashley took, of course! Lovely!

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