Bride (and dear SW friend!) Stephanie shares her Merrimon-Wynne wedding!
If I had to choose one bride out of the hundreds we’ve featured who most closely mirrors our mission at Southern Weddings — creating a wedding day inspired by your love story’s details, and celebrating not just the wedding but the marriage — let me say first that it would be a very tough competition. Y’all just get it, and we’re so grateful for that!
BUT, that being said, today’s bride, Stephanie, would be near the top of the list. You’ll remember we asked her to share her wedding planning process earlier this year, and it’s with great joy that I’m able to share her wedding to Rob today! I know you’ll be as inspired by the meaning they packed into their celebration as you are by Steph’s joy at tying the knot. Take it away, friend!
Tell us your love story in one sentence. From the moment Rob and I met (online!), we knew we had something incredibly special and lasting; God perfectly orchestrated our relationship and its timing, and we were certainly worth the wait for each other!
Tell us all about the proposal! Everyone asks if I was expecting Rob to propose when he did. I did, and I didn’t, all at the same time! There were only two things I had mentioned in passing to him about a proposal: I wanted it to be private, and I wanted to be totally surprised. On October 1, I worked a 12+ hour day in Chapel Hill at one of my weddings, then drove home to Raleigh. As soon as I pulled up to my home (yes, still wearing my vendor apron from the wedding, and yes, it was 11:50pm), I saw Rob outside waiting for me. He immediately came over and got down on one knee, pulled out a diamond ring, and said the sweetest things in the world. I was still in shock and a little speechless, asking him “wait, what?” a couple times as he told me how much he loves me, how excited he was to spend the rest of our lives together, and how much he wanted me to be his wife. By this point, I was shaking and crying (happy tears, of course!) and beaming! I remember saying “yes, yes, a million times yes” when he asked me to marry him. I’d always dreamed of what it would be like to be proposed to and get to share this news with loved ones, and it was even better than I had imagined.
When did y’all get married? Rob and I were married on April 1, 2017. (Rob always likes to say that “we’re two fools in love” since we got married on April Fool’s Day!)
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? around 200
Tell us the highlights of finding your wedding dress. Since we had a shorter engagement, at the very top of my priority list was finding a wedding dress. I have to admit that I have dreamed of going wedding dress shopping almost my entire life, and it was surreal to think that it was finally my turn to be the bride! I thought I found “the dress” at our first appointment (the second dress I ever tried on), and was about to place the order when I decided that I wanted to sleep on it. It turns out that I “slept on it” for over a week without giving the dress much thought, other than that it didn’t feel very “me.” Two weeks after my first appointment, all of our parents were in town to meet and to celebrate our engagement, and my dad was especially insistent that I needed to go try on dresses again that weekend. The night before our appointment, I couldn’t stop thinking about the very first dress I had tried on two weeks prior. It turns out, that dress was the only dress I tried on at our second appointment, and it was THE dress!! As soon as I tried it on again, I literally could not stop beaming! And I mean, beaming. Seeing it and feeling it on me felt so perfect. When we FaceTimed my sister to show her again, all four of us were in tears (all happy tears!).
We easily decided on Raleigh as the location for our wedding, as it’s home for both of us. We both loved the Merrimon-Wynne House, and we really didn’t consider another venue. We had been to a couple events there together, it’s my very favorite venue in Raleigh, we knew that it was the exact aesthetic and ambiance that we wanted, we had a large guest count of 200+, and little decor would be needed to bring our wedding design to life. It’s also in the heart of downtown Raleigh, which was super important to us. 80% of our wedding guests (and 100% of our families) live out of town, so we wanted a venue in Raleigh. As much as we love our church that’s only four blocks away, we knew we would strongly prefer a venue where we could have the ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception at one venue – and three separate spaces within that venue.
Did you decide to do a first look? Why or why not? We did not do a first look, and it was the perfect decision for us! Even as a wedding planner, I’ve known for years that I didn’t want a first look, and when I asked Rob his opinion, he was very firmly anti-first look, too. Rob and I both very much wanted to see each other for the first time as I walked down the aisle to him. That moment was so sacred, emotional, joyful, and special, and it’s one of the most vivid, happy moments from our wedding! We did decide to hold hands and pray around a door before our ceremony, which was one of the best decisions imaginable.
The ceremony was the most important part of our wedding day, and we tried to really focus on making it meaningful and reflective of our love – and most importantly, on Christ’s love for us and for all. We wanted to infuse our personalities into the details as well as keep things reverent and holy. From our vows, to the song choices, to the wedding party prayer, to our pastor’s homily, to serving communion together… we loved our ceremony and all that it symbolized. It was the perfect 74 degrees and sunny day for our outdoor ceremony (I literally prayed it would be 74 and sunny throughout our engagement!), and we said our vows underneath the sunshine, slight breeze, and a wooden cross adorned with Spanish moss and flowers.
Our pastor, whom we also did our premarital counseling with, was our officiant, and his homily was so touching and heartfelt. Our wedding party gathered around us and prayed over us while we were at the altar, and we had two of our favorite Bible passages read by my sister (and matron of honor) and Rob’s groomsman. As our first act together as husband and wife, we served communion to all of our wedding guests. Rob and I decided to use traditional wedding vows, as our parents, grandparents, and generations before had done. We did add an additional line, though, which read: “I vow to always pursue your heart and love you the way God does: unconditionally and never-ending.”
I think selecting music for your wedding is one of those areas in which a couple’s personality really shines through, and that was something we wanted to do! For our grand ceremony exit with streamers, I was absolutely set on walking back down the aisle with my new husband to Ben Rector’s “White Dress.” Rob compromised, and he jokingly suggested that he and his groomsmen walk down the aisle to Star Wars. I think he was shocked when I happily agreed! So our groomsmen walked down the aisle (with a little extra swagger, I’m convinced!) to Star Wars’ “A New Hope, Throne Room.” I love “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” and my bridesmaids walked down the aisle to that. In keeping with tradition, Rob and I couldn’t imagine me walking down the aisle towards him to anything but “Canon in D.”
What was your favorite detail from your wedding? We wanted our wedding, ultimately, to glorify God, to celebrate our love, and to celebrate all of our family and friends. I couldn’t wait to see the Carriage House at the Merrimon-Wynne House transformed into our wedding reception, which truly was seeing all of my longtime wedding dreams come to life! Honestly, getting to become husband and wife with Rob and joyfully celebrate by being surrounded by our incredible family and friends was the very best part of our wedding, and it was truly perfect in every way!
What was Southern about your wedding? Everything?! Ha! Most importantly, our wedding focused on marriage, honoring our family and traditions, incorporating and honoring our loved ones who had passed away, Southern hospitality and a feeling of warmth, joy, and welcome. We displayed family wedding pictures on the mantles of the house, we included my grandmas’ favorite flowers in my bouquet and our centerpieces, I carried lace from my mom’s wedding dress around my bouquet, I borrowed my sister’s veil, my grandma crocheted me a garter to wear on our wedding day, and we displayed marriage advice and wisdom that I collected from both sides of our families. We also had a custom leather Bible cover made by a friend with our names and wedding date, and inside, our guests wrote prayers, congratulations, and favorite verses on ribbon-adorned notecards as our guestbook.
I did a first look with my sweet daddy, and Rob and I waited to see each other til I walked down the aisle. My flowers were also very Southern, like the abundant dogwoods and Spanish moss we incorporated. Our venue is a gorgeous white historic Southern home, and it exuded Southern personality, very much setting the tone for our wedding day. And the size of our wedding party was most definitely Southern: we had 24 people in our wedding party! Our best friends are such a cornerstone in our lives, and we wanted to include and honor them as bridesmaids and groomsmen.
What was the hardest part about planning your wedding? I think the two hardest parts about wedding planning, for us, were budget and guest list. Our parents are so incredibly generous and gracious, and we had a sizeable budget (that we also contributed to). We tracked every penny and were super conscientious of what we were spending, as we wanted to honor the budget and stick to it. Many of the weddings and shoots that I have planned have much, much higher budgets than ours, and I tried very hard not to compare, especially since I’m surrounded by high budget weddings every single day. I wanted our wedding to portray us and be beautiful but at the price we were comfortable spending. And we knew that our wedding day was just day one of marriage, and we wanted our marriage to be even more beautiful than our wedding!
During our reception, we chose two of our favorite U2 songs for our wedding party and us to enter to. Our first dance was oh so sweet and special, and we swayed, twirled, and danced to Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” At the very end of the reception, after our guests walked outside for our big exit, we had a private last dance to Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me.” It was so incredibly special to be held by my new husband as the very best day of our lives was beginning to wind down, thinking about every moment from our wedding, and relishing every single moment.
What did you serve for your wedding cake or dessert? Why did you choose it? We served a fairly traditional three-tiered wedding cake, which is honestly the best cake we ever had. We still receive compliments about it to this day, and I love swinging by the bakery to pick up cupcakes in our wedding cake flavors! I never would have said that Rob or I were “cake people” before our cake tasting and wedding, but our wedding cake was absolutely divine, and we still talk about it all the time! I wanted our cake to fit our design and be fun and unique, so we went with a dusty French blue buttercream icing, a soft texture, and a wreath of fresh flowers and greenery. We chose three different flavors for our three tiers: dark chocolate cake with mocha buttercream (Rob’s absolute favorite!), strawberry with fresh strawberry buttercream, and vanilla with salted caramel fleur de sel. Heavenly, delicious, and such a statement!
If you are comfortable responding, what range did your wedding budget fall into? $25,000-$50,000
What was one way you saved money or cut costs at your wedding? I like to think we did an excellent job at saving money and sticking to our firm budget! From the beginning, we prioritized what was most and least important to us as individuals and as a couple. This definitely came in handy throughout the wedding planning process, as we saved many, many thousands of dollars in various ways. It does help that I’m in the local wedding industry, which was very advantageous and wonderful. We got to work with the best of the best vendors, whom I already work with regularly and who were exceptional at our wedding. We chose to have all of our wedding (ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception) at one venue so we didn’t need to hire transportation for our guests, we went with just beer and wine for our bar, we hired our favorite DJ instead of having a band, and we opted not to have a videographer (though we thankfully have our entire ceremony and toasts on film!). All of these decisions (and many more smaller ones) drastically impacted our savings, and we are both so glad we prioritized where we did so that we came in on budget and still had the wedding of our dreams!
What was your most memorable moment from your wedding day? I asked Rob to answer this too, and he said that seeing me walk down the aisle was the most memorable, magical part of our wedding day. He remembers thinking, “there’s my wife!” – and I remember him waving to me as I approached him! Rob also said that our reception entrance was unlike anything he’s ever experienced, as he was hit with a wave and roar of excitement and cheering as we entered our reception! I’m not sure how I can narrow down my most memorable moment from our wedding day, as every single moment is etched in my memory so vividly. Holding hands with Rob around a door and praying and talking together is definitely one of them! I remember Ally, our photographer and dear friend, coming over to me after I had put on my wedding dress and veil saying that it was time to pray with Rob. I was suddenly hit with overwhelming emotion: endless excitement, nervous, giddiness, and happiness! I started tearing up as I walked towards the door, and I couldn’t help it as the tears rolled down my cheeks. Getting to hold my soon-to-be husband’s hand, hear his voice, and pray together was incredibly memorable, touching, and sweet, and I was filled with peace and excitement. It was far and away one of my favorite moments of the day! Every moment of our ceremony is so vivid too, and I remember standing at the altar, facing my handsome husband, holding hands, and seeing his huge smile as we listened to our pastor. I literally heard birds chirping as we recited our vows with the softest breeze through my veil. I remember thinking that life couldn’t get any more perfect in that moment – and how abundantly grateful I was to the Lord for all of it. Moments after our ceremony exit, we ran into the main house, and it was just the two of us for that brief minute as our bridesmaids and groomsmen walked back down the aisle. Our photographer Bobby also happened to be in there, and I remember twirling around with Rob, kissing him over and over again, excitedly exclaiming that we were married, and looking at our rings. I showed off my dress, and he said all of the sweetest things. It was also unbelievably surreal to be surrounded by the most loving, supportive, encouraging, and fun family and friends, all in one place – and to celebrate us! Our wedding day was just plain fun!!
What advice would you give to someone currently planning a wedding? I also asked Rob to give his answer to this question, and his response is the best. He said that anyone planning a wedding needs to know what’s ultimately most important – and that’s marriage. At the end of the day, your marriage is even more important than your wedding, and I agree with Rob completely. Rob also said to marry a wedding planner, or hire Steph to plan yours! ;)
Photographer: Ally and Bobby | Planner and Designer: Stephanie Shaul Events | Day-of Coordination: Happily Ever After | Venue: Merrimon-Wynne House | Florist: Serendipity Designs | Wedding Cake: The Cupcake Shoppe | Caterer: Beau Catering | Rentals: Cottage Luxe and CE Rental | Brass Candlesticks: Greenhouse Picker Sisters | Ceremony Cross: Homemade Bride | Cocktail Napkins: For Your Party | Ceremony Streamers: Flutter Fetti | Taper Candles: 100 Candles | DJ: Steve Stowe via Bunn DJ Company | Guestbook Bible: IV Leather Goods | Invitations, Programs, and Signage: Sage Paper Co. | Place Cards, Escort Display, and Day-of Signage: Stephanie Shaul Events | Invitation Stamps: Verde Studio | Bride’s Gown: Allure Bridals | Bridal Salon: New York Bride and Groom | Bride’s Earrings: Moon + Lola | Bride’s Bracelet: Kate Spade | Rings: Diamonds Direct | Hair and Makeup: Teighla Norris | Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Alfred Angelo | Groom’s Tie: High Cotton Ties | Groomsmen’s Ties: The Tie Bar | Officiant: Tyler Jones from Vintage Church
Ally and Bobby, Cottage Luxe, Serendipity Designs, Stephanie Shaul Events, Bunn DJ Company, High Cotton Ties, and Teighla Norris are delightful members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!