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Finding a venue can be a challenging part of wedding planning (at least, it was for both me and Emily!), but for today’s couple, the decision was one of the simplest they made. From the sweeping lake views to the dramatic architecture, it’s easy to see why Katie and Ben fell head over heels in love with Villa del Lago–it was the perfect setting for their romantic, elegant, outdoor wedding. With the help of the prettiest blush florals and a touch of sparkle, the talented gals at Keely Thorne Events brought Katie’s wedding day vision to life!

Thank you kindly to Akil Bennett for sharing this beautiful wedding with us!

Tell us all about the proposal! I kind of knew it was coming when he told me, “Don’t plan anything for this weekend because I’m taking you on a special trip to the W in Austin…” He found out through the grapevine that I knew it was happening that weekend, so he decided to surprise me at his house before we left instead. I showed up with my bags packed. He was in the front entryway on one knee with roses strewn all over the floor, and he said, “Kathryn Leigh Sheen, will you marry me?”

My bridesmaid and wedding planner, Emily Moise, did a wedding at Villa del Lago and showed me pictures from the event. After I saw the pictures, I never even looked at any other venues. It was the first and only venue I looked at and I knew immediately it was exactly what I wanted. With a gorgeous pavilion, a perfectly cut lawn, a waterfall, and a ceremony site that overlooked Lake Travis and the Hill Country, it felt like a dream.

Did you decide to do a “first look”? Why or why not? No, I wanted him to be surprised. As the ceremony began, he turned around and faced the water. When I came down the aisle, he turned around and saw me for the first time. I couldn’t stop smiling and he was tearing up.
Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding and why you chose them. We had beautiful music for the ceremony. We hired Hill Country Strings and they were amazing–they played the harp, guitar, and violin. I especially loved the song I walked down the aisle to: “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” That was one of my favorite moments of the day.

Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? No, we really liked the traditional vows.
What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? Ben and I read surprise poems for each other. We each picked a poem that reminded us of one another. I choose “Sonnet XVII” by Pablo Neruda for Ben and he choose “These I Can Promise” by Mark Twain. It was really special to finally hear what his poem for me was.

A few of my favorite things I remember that made the day more perfect were my gorgeous bouquet, fried macaroni cheese appetizers, the rose-decorated cake, my father’s speech, our first dances, our final dance, and our heart-shaped sparkler grand exit. It was everything I had hoped for and more. All of the planning my amazing wedding planners and I had done really paid off. Of course, none of it would have mattered if I hadn’t had the perfect guy to say “I do” to, but luckily, I did.

What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? The outdoor setting, wooden benches and table, and lanterns added a Southern feel to our wedding. Fried macaroni and cheese appetizers were pretty Southern too! Our band also played a lot of country music, and our first dance was to a Southern song, “Feet Don’t Touch the Ground,” by Stoney Larue.

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. We went to high school together and knew of each other. He was a few years older, and we hung out with a similar crowd, but our paths never crossed much. It wasn’t until after college that we met again. I went up to him at a bar and started chatting away. When he asked for my number, I was so nervous that I ignored him and changed the subject. He messaged me on Facebook a few days later. We went on our first date the following weekend, and after that date, I knew he was the one, despite the fact that he took me to see Borat.
When did y’all get married? October 5, 2013
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 190
Tell us about finding your wedding dress. I went to Brickhouse Bridal in The Woodlands with my mom, sister, sister-in-law, and mother-in-law. They each picked a dress that they wanted me to try on and I wound up choosing the first one I tried. I especially loved my veil–the lace on it matched the lace on the dress perfectly.
Describe your wedding flowers. My wedding flowers had a very soft, romantic feel. I wanted muted colors like white, ivory, blush, and champagne. My bouquet had hydrangea, majolica spray roses, ivory ranunculus, gardenias, champagne vendela roses, and blush Keira garden roses. The stems were exposed and wrapped in ivory satin ribbon and topped with pearl beads. The bridesmaids carried spray roses, ranunculus, sweet peas, dahlias, and Juliet garden roses wrapped in ivory satin ribbon. The groom and groomsmen wore ivory ranunculus, accented with ivory snowberry and wrapped in natural woven ribbon. The reception flowers were similar, and we also chose to include a lot of candles, lanterns, and mercury glass accents.
If you are comfortable responding, what range did your wedding budget fall into? $50,000-$75,000
What was one way you saved money or cut costs at your wedding? We saved money in our floral bill because the wedding venue was so naturally beautiful that we didn’t need an excessive amount of flowers. Our wedding planner, Emily Moise, also advised me on where and when to cut costs. She was really good at telling me where I needed to spend a lot and where I should save.
What is the one detail or vendor that you were so happy to have as a part of your wedding? Keely Thorne Events wedding planners, Emily Moise and Sydney Mafrige. They made sure everything went perfectly! Our photographer, Akil Bennett, was amazing too. He not only did an excellent job at our wedding, but also on our engagement and bridal portraits. Ben liked him a lot. He made our engagement photos so easy and relaxing–nothing was forced or awkward.
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Get a wedding planner!
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you most looking forward to about married life? We are expecting our first child this June. It’s a boy! We can’t wait to meet him!

Photographer: Akil Bennett / Videographer: The Pros Wedding Videography / Planner: Emily Moise of Keely Thorne Events / Venue: Villa del Lago / Florist: Merveille / Cake Baker: Simon Lee Bakery / Catering: Pink Avocado Catering / Rentals: Premiere Party Central / Lighting: Illios Lighting / Band or DJ: The Grooves / Bride’s Gown: Enzoani / Bridal Salon: Brickhouse Bridal / Alterations: Beautiful U / Hair and Makeup: Nicki from The Perfect Face / Bride’s Shoes: Badgley Mischka / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Amsale / Groom’s Attire: Tom James / Groomsmen Attire: Jos. A. Bank

lisa Written with love by Lisa
  1. avatar Emily Moise reply

    Thanks so much for posting Katie & Ben’s wedding from KTE!!! It was a beautiful wedding for one beautiful, sweet couple.

  2. avatar Christen reply

    What a stunning wedding!!! Katie is my sister in law and was not only the most beautiful bride but the most gracious through the entire process! Akil did an amazing job. Great memories!!!

  3. avatar Nicole reply

    Oh guys. That line of banquet tables under the string lights kills me!! So beautiful.

  4. avatar Dana reply

    beautiful venue and that flower girl picture is so adorable!

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It’s that time of year again! One of the most fun things about putting together each issue of Southern Weddings is using reader models throughout our editorials. It’s our favorite way to make every photo shoot feel like something y’all could jump right into the pages of, and of course, we love that it gives us the opportunity to hug and hang out with some of our sweet readers in person! In V6, we were overjoyed to feature over 30 (!!) lovely SW readers and friends, and we hope to include just as many, if not more, of y’all in V7.

Our first shoot of the year will be held within an hour of Chapel Hill, NC on April 29. We are looking for a bride and groom, lots of bridesmaids, and a few darling flower girls to participate. All hair/skin colors are welcome! If chosen, we will need you to be available on site from about noon – 8 p.m. We might start later or end earlier, but we want you to be prepared!

If you’re interested, please send an email to howdy (at) with the subject line V7 Chapel Hill Model Call. Be sure to include a recent headshot (no need for professional photos, we just want to see your lovely face!), a few candid photos, and your height. We promise it’s going to be a blast!

lisa Written with love by Lisa
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  1. avatar Southern Weddings Weekly Round-Up – Southern Weddings Magazine reply

    […] Hill readers, want to model in an upcoming V7 shoot? See this post for details! Meredith let us in on some of the dreamy details she has planned for her wedding. […]

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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After working ten feet away from each other for six months, Lori remembers a moment when picking sour apples off the little tree behind her apartment as the first time she really “saw” Ryan. I love how this seemingly unremarkable moment of post-date fun will forever be imprinted in her mind. Not to overshadow such a wonderful memory, I’m sure Lori and Ryan’s wedding was full of moments they’ll remember forever, including their first look. Due to their very short time frame at their venue, Lori said “it was imperative that we focused on only the things that really mattered.” Focusing on what really matters? Yep, we’re all for that!

Big hugs to Mark Eric for sharing such a fun day with us (especially the second line)!

P.S. Looking for some memory-making dates for you and your beau? Check out our Spring Doins!

We had just arrived in Bluffton, South Carolina to visit Ryan’s dad and stepmom’s new home. He asked me to go check out the backyard with him, but he didn’t want to bring our dog, Squeaky, so that struck me as strange. He reasoned that the grass was high and there was no fence, so Squeaky was likely to run off in the woods. Made sense. When we had gotten about fifty yards from the house, Squeaky came bounding toward us with a neon green bow on his neck. When Ryan started untying the bow, I saw that my great-great grandmother’s ring (the one I had blatantly set on the dresser after we decided we wanted to pick out a diamond together) was tied to it. Ryan dropped down on one knee and asked me to marry him. His dad, stepmom, brother, and sister-in-law were inside taking photos and waiting for us with champagne. It was simple, sweet, and it involved our fur baby. It was our idea of perfection.

Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! Yes, a couple of each, actually! Old: On my right hand, I wore the ring that Ryan proposed to me with, which had been the wedding band of my great-great-great grandmother. New: My earrings, bracelet, and necklace were all new. Borrowed: My maid of honor borrowed a bracelet of mine at her wedding, so I asked to borrow something of hers. Around my bouquet, I entwined a necklace of hers with a locket that had been given to me by my childhood best friend, who passed away in high school. Blue: I wore royal blue shoes, as well as a label with my initials and the date in baby blue thread sewn into my dress. Also, right before I headed out, one of my bridesmaids grabbed my shoe and taped a penny in it. I had done the same for her a few years earlier, so she made sure to bring a penny to return the favor!

Did you decide to do a “first look”? Why or why not? Yes, we did, no hesitation and no regrets! We had a very short time frame at our venue, so to me, it was imperative that we focused on only the things that really mattered once the clock started ticking. Even if your time is a bit more flexible, why waste time standing around when you could be enjoying your guests and this fabulous event you spent so much time planning? Nothing could have been more intimate and special than experiencing that first look alone, when we could talk, laugh, hug, and just take our time enjoying the moment and appreciating each other.

We chose New Orleans because we wanted a place that was easy for my family and friends to get to, but that our friends in Michigan, New York, and Virginia would be excited to travel to as well–NOLA was an easy choice! Probably about 70 percent of our guests had never been to New Orleans, so I wanted to give them a true taste of the South. I looked at a dozen venues over the course of a weekend trip, and not only was Houmas House extraordinarily beautiful and set up perfectly to host weddings, they also allowed dogs–which was what really sold us, since we wanted to have Squeaky at our big day!

We had a violin and guitar duo, and for the family processional, they played “Ashokan Farewell” (because it’s beautiful and Ryan loved the Ken Burns Civil War documentary!). For the bridesmaids, they played “Falling Slowly” from the movie/musical Once, and then I walked down the aisle to “Sweet Thing” by Van Morrison, because we both love Van and it’s just such a hopeful song. For the recessional, they played “Louisiana Fairytale,” which, besides having a perfect name for the situation, is just such a dreamy song, like something you would hear in a beautiful, sunny daydream!

I have to note that “Falling Slowly” is one of my very favorite songs, thanks to BDK! We saw Once in theaters on one of our first dates!

Describe your wedding cake or dessert. I used a lot of crowns throughout the wedding decor, so a vintage crown made the perfect cake topper. The cake itself was four layers of almond cake with praline hazelnut filling (can Southerners ever get enough pralines?) and white icing with white, gold, and champagne-colored beads. We placed it on a 17th century baker’s table that the venue’s owner had purchased in France. As for the groom’s cake, my husband is a huge Washington Redskins fan, so Royal Cakery made an adorable three-tiered red velvet cake decorated like a football field in Redskin colors.

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. We met at a small-town newspaper, the Battle Creek Enquirer, in southwestern Michigan. Ryan was fresh out of grad school, and I was looking a six-month stint to hold me over before beginning grad school in Wales. We actually applied for the same job, which I didn’t realize until a few months later–I got the job and they just liked him so much that they hired him too! I figured this had to be the reason he never spoke to me, ever. We owe our first real conversation to a Taco Bell craving. I stood up in the newsroom one day and declared that I was going to run for the border. He offered to join me. What I thought would be a painfully awkward lunch turned into the first spark of friendship that continued for several months after each of our respective relationships at the time dissipated. Our first date was a tennis game, where Ryan mercilessly schooled me and I had no fun whatsoever, but later in the evening, he agreed to go with me to pick sour apples off the little tree behind my apartment. I can still see him, Cubs hat on backwards, jumping up to try to pick the biggest apple on the tree for me. A seeming unremarkable moment, but I remember feeling a little flutter. I had worked 10 feet from him for six months at that point, but I’ll always remember that as the first time I really saw him.
When did y’all get married? November 9, 2013
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 150
Tell us about finding your wedding dress. When I initially tried on my dress, I liked it, but thought it was too big. I literally said, “I think it will scare my fiancé,” so I didn’t even write down the designer’s name. Thankfully, the sales assistant took a picture. When I later scrolled through photos of the day’s hunt, I kept coming back to that one. Turns out, it was perfect for the venue and the festive atmosphere I wanted at the wedding–not to mention, I saved $1,500 by buying the floor model! I wouldn’t have bought it had I not taken a picture, so I would advise any bride to do whatever it takes to get snapshots of the dresses you try on. Mirrors and fancy store lighting can be so deceiving, but when the wedding is over, all you have left is your pictures, and to me, it was critical to know how the dress photographed. If your sales associate insists that no photos be taken, then I promise, you’ll find just as good options elsewhere.
Describe your wedding flowers. I wanted something that played into my “sophisticated swamp” theme that complimented the venue and used the natural flora of Southern Louisiana. My florist, Erik of Bee’s Wedding Designs and Florals, was amazing and created such a stunning, poetic look. There was lots curly willow intertwined with greenery–ferns, moss, jasmine vine, eucalyptus, succulents, scabiosa pods–for the rustic element, counterbalanced with metallic accents. The flowers themselves were a mix of white hydrangeas, white anemones, roses, brunia berries, and dusty miller.
What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? I’m not sure if it gets more Southern than having a wedding at an old sugar plantation, but I tried to incorporate as many tastes of the South and local traditions as possible. We had a second line, complete with a brass band, hankies, and Mardi Gras masks, that paraded through the French Quarter. The moment guests stepped off the bus, they were offered mint juleps as welcome drinks. Much of the food we served was Southern and Cajun, such as fried jumbo gulf shrimp, crawfish bisque, and shrimp étouffée. Before the cake cutting, we did a traditional New Orleans cake pull with all the ladies in my wedding party. Speaking of wedding party, I had both bridesmaids and a house party, which I’ve never seen anywhere above the Mason-Dixon!
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? Definitely distance and the limited setup window. I went to New Orleans a few times before the wedding to pick the venue and do food tastings, but other than that, I had to rely heavily on the advice of my coordinator and the internet to pick vendors. Also, the venue only gave us a two-hour window to set up, and everything had to come down immediately after. It took a lot of logistical skill to pull it off, which is why it’s so important to hire people you trust!
What was one way you saved money or cut costs at your wedding? The first was buying the floor model of my dress. It needed hardly any alterations and I saved $1,500! I also saved about $600 by doing my own programs. I used a custom stamp I had made, bought some nice paper and card stock, and made them on my computer. I actually liked them much more than just about everything else I saw!
What is the one detail or vendor that you were so happy to have as a part of your wedding? Without hesitation, our planner, Elyse Skansi of Tying the Knot Wedding Coordination. From designing the reception to following up with vendors, from sticking up for me when I needed it to providing Ryan and I with Colgate wisps to brush our teeth after our meal, she thought of everything, including things I never would have dreamed to plan for. Most importantly, she was a voice of calm and reason, support and levity for me. She had thoughtful advice for every question I raised, and no concern of mine was ever too small. This would have been a completely different wedding and experience in every way possible without her, and I can’t sing her praises enough!
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Pick one thing a day to focus on, move on when you’re done, and don’t look back. Carefully choose your vendors, communicate well, and then let them do their thing. Hire a coordinator that is excited about their job and who you can be honest with. This person needs to be your advocate and ally, and the right person will listen to you and see that your dream is seen through. Take care of the small things NOW–whether it be writing notes to your bridesmaids or picking out a lipstick color, taking care of the small things sooner keeps them from piling up later. Put your money towards the things that matter most to you and skip the rest. And finally, have a receiving line! I spent so much time running around trying to make sure I got face time with everyone that I hardly spent any time on the dance floor. Shake everyone’s hand once early on, and then you’re free to enjoy the rest of the evening as you please!
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you most looking forward to about married life? Hopefully adopting another dog and moving to an apartment with direct sunlight. But that aside, I think it’s looking at everything in a “we” context. Even though we had been together for six years, we still kept separate bank accounts and didn’t talk too much about future planning. We’ve always been a good team, but now it’s like a whole new frontier, and it’s exciting and comforting to know that we chose such great partners to explore it with.

Photographer: Mark Eric / Planner: Tying the Knot Wedding Coordination / Venue and Catering: Houmas House Plantation and Gardens / Florist: Bee’s Wedding and Event Floral Design / Wedding Cake: Royal Cakery / Lighting: Luminous Events / Ceremony Musicians: Courtyard Kings / Band: Rockin Dopsie Jr & the Zydeco Twisters / Second Line Band: Smitty Dee’s / Ring Book: Secret Safe Books / Bride’s Gown: “Alcantara 119” by Rosa Clara / Invitations: Lucky Luxe / Bride’s Earrings and Bracelet: BHLDN / Bride’s Necklace: Tiffany & Co. /Bride’s Veil: Sposabella Lace / Hair and Makeup: Kiss and Makeup Beauty Services / Bride’s Shoes: Badgley Mischka / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: J.Crew / Groom’s Attire: Sebastien Grey Clothiers / Groomsmen Attire: The Black Tux / Favors: Pralines By Jean

marissa Written with love by Marissa
  1. avatar Hillary Greene reply

    Hi! Does anyone know where the flower girl’s dress is from? It’s so adorable!

  2. avatar Kristy reply

    I loved reading this article, even though I’ve been married for 22 years! If we could get married again I would model our wedding after this one. From the location at Houmas House plantation to the ” classy swamp” florals I loved it all!

  3. avatar Sponsored Post: Jewelers Mutual – Southern Weddings Magazine reply

    […] Lori + Ryan | Mark Eric […]

  4. avatar Lori & Ryan Tied the Knot | Tying the Knot BlogTying the Knot Blog reply

    […] When we started the design process, her vision was an Elegant Swamp Theme! Sounded like a contradiction at first, but then our team and I knew just what to do! And we loved designing something different- organic and glamorous! Turned out to be the perfect combination and Southern Weddings Blog loved it and featured it, too! See their national post here! […]

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