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Bride Lillie shares her cozy, eclectic barn wedding at Lake Oconee.

Please meet today’s bride, Lillie! With its eclectic style and joyful atmosphere, her wedding to Blake easily became an office favorite in our tenth-anniversary issue. From the beautiful location of Lake Oconee (where they shared their first kiss!), to romantic blooms that could make even a non-flower lover swoon, there’s so much beauty to take in. But, of course, the best thing about your wedding day might not be the details! Lillie said, “The most special part of the ceremony for me was walking hand and hand with my mother down the aisle all the while looking at Blake and realizing how lucky and blessed I was to be marrying my best friend.” Y’all, yes! And, get your tissues ready and be sure to read how Lillie sweetly honored her late father.

Thanks to Julie Cate for her sharing this lovely day with us!

P.S. We’re having a sale in our shop, so head over to see this wedding in all its print glory for a steal of a price!

Blake and I got married at 2:00pm on February 25, 2017, a day after my parent’s anniversary. The ceremony was held at Christ Our King and Savior Catholic Church in Greensboro, GA. All the guests parked at the Ritz Carlton Lake Oconee and then hopped on school buses to Sandy Creek Barn (a property of Ritz Carlton Lake Oconee). We chose to get married in the Lake Oconee area because it was very special to us. We spent many summers at my parent’s lake house. It’s where we had our first kiss.

Tell us about finding your wedding dress. Before trying on dresses, I knew I wanted something simple, and comfortable, that I could wear all night long. After doing a little research, I found a boutique that sold vintage and modern dresses and I made an appointment. The shop is called The Sentimentalist and it’s awesome! Gabi took one look at me and knew exactly what types of dresses would complement my shape. The fourth dress I tried on was the one! A sleek modern Houghton dress. I mean, it had pockets. I had to have it.

What was the biggest challenge you faced while planning your wedding? Honestly, finding bridesmaids outfits. I wanted everyone to wear something different. Who knew that concept would be so hard to achieve? After spending way too much time searching ASOS.com for bridesmaids’ dresses (about 3 months, I know, crazy), I went to BHDLN in Atlanta. They let me take over a corner of the store to hang dresses beside one another so I could get a full visual of what my bridesmaids dresses would look like together. On my second trip, my sister and I tried on dresses and set up an account so all my bridesmaids had to do was call and order their dress from the store. And just like that, my problem was solved!

How did you spend the morning or afternoon before your ceremony? With family. A few months before my wedding, I lost my father to cancer. I knew getting married within the same year was going to difficult. Needless to say, the entire wedding weekend was an emotional event for my family and I. But throughout the planning, I made sure to incorporate elements that would remind me of my dad. I made an offering to St. Joseph during the ceremony for a remembrance of my father.

Tell us a bit about the wedding ceremony. It was a short and simple Catholic wedding. The Deacon who met us with throughout our pre-Cana marriage prep, married us. He was so fun! I would have to say the most special part of the ceremony for me was walking hand and hand with my mother down the aisle all the while looking at Blake and realizing how lucky and blessed I was to be marrying my best friend.

What was the design inspiration for your reception? Cozy eclectic barn wedding and reception. I was inspired more by a feeling: the feeling you get when it’s cold outside and all you want to do is sit by a wood burning fireplace with a cup of hot cocoa. I wanted to achieve that feeling. We tried to make the reception as “homey” as possible, with yard games by the lake, multiple fire pits surrounded by cozy seating areas with an assortment of throws for extra warmth. Inside the barn, there were lots of intimate seating areas including one by the large fireplace right beside the dance floor (that one was my favorite).

What was your reception like? Ummmm, the most amazing thing was everything! Music and backyard games with self-serve bar down by the lake. Up at the barn there were fire pits with cozy seating areas and throws for extra warmth. We had a seated dinner as the sun set under a clear tent. The food was a mix of fancy comfort food. When dinner was over (everyone was ready to get into the barn because the temperature was dropping), we danced into the barn for first dances and cake. After our exit (on a canoe, I might add), the first round of buses left the barn, but the “after party” also started up with the Jay Envy on the 1s and 2s. Also, a food truck opened up outside the barn for the remainder of the night, serving ethnic cuisines in little cones. We love to travel, so this was a fun way to incorporate that into our day.

Tell us about your wedding cake. It was salted caramel and amaretto white chocolate cake made by Kat at Lush Cakery. It was incredibly delicious, and I can’t wait to eat the top of the cake for our anniversary!

I know this sounds cheesy, but you could feel the love in the air. At the wedding, everyone was laughing and crying and laughing some more. At the reception, everyone seemed so happy and cozy. There might have been 160 people there but it felt like one big backyard family reunion to me.

How did the two of you meet? Tell us your story. Blake and I met our 8th grade year of middle school. We immediately became best friends. That friendship eventually blossomed into a relationship our senior year of high school. With our lives going in different directions after high school, and being hundreds of miles apart, we unfortunately couldn’t make things work and went our separate ways. Fast forward six years later, and we reunited with one another at a local establishment in our hometown of Statesboro, Georgia, and the rest is history.
Describe the proposal! Well, interesting story, the proposal was actually around the time of Blake’s birthday. So, I had the grand idea of surprising him with a mountain getaway in North Georgia, having no idea the whole time Blake was planning a proposal at my lake house for the same weekend. Luckily, I made the mistake of putting his email into Airbnb when I booked the cabin and he was notified of the sudden change of plans. He took it like a champ and went with the flow. On Saturday we went on an adventure and tried to find a hiking trail to no avail. We got lost and it was getting dark. But I remember being surprised at how determined he was to find this hiking trail. Luckily, we did find it, and there was still some daylight left, and it worked to our advantage because there was hardly anyone on the trail. As we were hopping from rock to rock while crossing a creek, he stopped me and got down on one knee in the middle of the creek. Looking back, I’m not sure how he did that (balancing on one knee on a small rock in the middle of a creek) It was perfect! It’s hard to explain the feeling of ultimate bliss after something like that happens, but I remember feeling it while walking the whole way back to my car.
How did you prepare for marriage while planning your wedding? Well, knowing each other basically our whole lives has definitely helped prepare us, but we also partook in Pre-Cana marriage preparation at the Archdiocese of Atlanta. It was an amazing experience!
How many guests attended your wedding? 160.
What was your favorite detail of the wedding? My mom and dad (before he passed) secretly had a wedding jug made (by a North Georgia Potter) with our names and wedding date as a surprise wedding present. Mom also recorded my dad talking about how he ordered the wedding jug for us and wishing us a happy marriage. Talk about emotional, but amazing nonetheless.
Who participated in your ceremony? Family and close friends. My mom walked me down the aisle, my sisters and Blake’s sisters were bridesmaids. Blake’s father and childhood friends were groomsmen. A couple of my close friends and Blake’s uncle, did the readings. Blake’s uncle (who is a Baptist preacher) also did the nuptial blessing, even though he was unaware of it until the ceremony. Deacon Mike surprised him by calling him up to the front to read the blessing. I thought it was a very cool, and symbolic of the mixing of our faiths (Blake being Baptist and me being Catholic).
What was the most memorable or touching moment of your wedding day? When Deacon Mike pronounced us husband and wife he said, “I present to you Lillie and Blake Coston,” which is my last name, not Blake’s. Everyone was laughing, and in that moment, I knew my Dad was there whispering that into Deacon Mike’s ear just to make everyone laugh.
Did you try anything new or nontraditional? My father-daughter dance was a little nontraditional. As you know, my dad passed away shortly before my wedding, so I asked his childhood friends to dance with me for the dance. I picked a song my dad loved, and I started to dance with one of his best friends then the other cut in to finish out the song. It was very sweet, and I couldn’t have been more thankful that they did that for me.
What was Southern about your wedding? Hopefully the hospitality! It was very important for us to provide a comfortable and memorable experience for our guests. We tried to make logistics easy (We hired shuttles to transport guests to and from the reception site in order to help alleviate parking concerns) and added lots of personal touches to make sure their experience unforgettable.
What advice would you give to someone currently planning his or her wedding? If it’s in your budget, hire a wedding planner. Melanie brought us almost all our vendors (who were amazing), made our vision a reality with her creative design, and just made our day easy and stress free. We could never have done it without her.
Best advice or most memorable comment someone made to you during the wedding celebration. The best was during our reception when Mac pulled me aside to look at everyone on the dance floor. He said “hey, this is our wedding.” And it was a great moment to just take everything in and remember to enjoy the moment.
Who was your favorite vendor and why? This is difficult because I would recommend all of our vendors. I would have to pick Melanie (our wedding planner) because without her, we wouldn’t have found some of our other vendors and she really brought everything together. But after her I would say our photographer, Jen Dillender. We’re not a couple who takes a lot of photos, so we were worried it might be kind of awkward but from the moment we met her, she put us right at ease. She made us feel so comfortable on the day and the photos were beautiful!

Photographer: Julie Cate Photography | Videographer: Kenneth Munoz | Planner and designer: Molly McKinley Designs | Ceremony venue: Christ Our King and Savior Catholic Church | Reception venue and caterer: The Ritz Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee’s Sandy Creek Barn | Florals: Lindsay Coletta Floral Artistry and Design | Wedding cake: Lush Cakery | Bride’s gown: “Grady” by Houghton NYC | Bridal salon and veil: The Sentimentalist | Bride’s shoes: Jimmy Choo | Bride’s jewelry: Catbird | Bridesmaids’ fashion: “Inesse” in Cinnamon Rose, “Cleo” Top in Ivory and “Louise” Skirt in Rose Quartz, “Tully” Top and “Louise” Skirt in Harbor Mist, and “Eclipse” in Taupe by BHLDN | Hair stylist: Hair by Navarro NYC | Makeup artist: Lauren Smelley | Groom’s fashion: Benchmade Clothiers, Groomsmen fashion: Jos. A. Bank | Paper goods: Jamie Jimenez | Rentals and lighting: Goodwin Rentals | Linens: Nuage Designs | Reception lounges, favors, and escort display: Blue Eyed Yonder | Signage: Kate Turner Studio | Transportation: Samson Trailways | Slow motion booth: Shutterbooth | Late night food: Good Food Truck | Bands: Lilac Wine and Big Bling and the Funk Machine via East Coast Entertainment

Molly McKinley Designs and East Coast Entertainment are delightful members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor directory!

marissa Written with love by Marissa
1 Comment
  1. avatar Anjeev Chaturvedi reply

    That is the very nice story.We always dream that kind of marriage. Good images and beautifully explain……..

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Sharing our Home Town Celebration editorial from our tenth anniversary issue, inspired by Laurel, Mississippi!

We have the privilege of traveling all across the Southeast while making Southern Weddings, exploring pockets of the Southeast and dreaming up beautiful love stories along the way! It’s no secret that this particular story is inspired by our own hometown heroes, Erin and Ben Napier. After featuring their home tour back in 2014, it’s been our joy to see their love story and small town make it big on HGTV. Their love for each other and their passion for Laurel’s revitalization was a huge inspiration for this editorial, and we’re grateful for all the ways they made it possible for us to shoot in their sweet Mississippi town!

When we thought about the heart of hospitality behind this shoot, we knew there would be no better photographer than our dear friend and Blue Ribbon Vendor Davy Whitener. This editorial holds a special place in my heart, because Davy is shooting my wedding this April! After our V9 Cover Editorial, one of our former editors came back to the office and said to me, “I know you’re not getting married right now, but I’m pretty positive Davy Whitener is the perfect person to shoot your wedding when it comes time.” And she was right!

After working with Davy on this shoot, and getting engaged a few months later, he was one of the first people I emailed. His heart for hospitality, love for people, and ability to capture the often-unseen moments gave us the beautiful images you see here!

After arriving in Laurel, Emily and I headed straight to Laurel Mercantile Co. to pick up some of the goodies you see above in the welcome crates, including the darling City Beautiful Pennant you see tucked above!

While we ran errands, Lauren Soley of Lovegood Wedding & Event Rentals and her team were unloading and prepping the Rogers-Green House for the shoot. We couldn’t have pulled off our Home Town Celebration editorial without her!

I’m not at all embarrassed to tell you how often I think about the flowers Josie and Christine of The Petaler Co. created for us! The sunny pop of yellow in the Sally Homes roses, peonies, and white lilacs mixed with the sprigs of mint and oregano were such a unique combination that I still ooh and ahh over!

There are few things more Southern than a porch swing for bridal portraits! Our HGTV Home Town fans might recognize Bill and Jody’s porch swing from an episode in Season One. Not only did they open their home to us for shooting, but they graciously gave us a tour that evening and joined us for dinner. Trust me when I tell you there is no shortage of Southern hospitality in Laurel, MS!

Gingham dresses that can be worn again paired with embroidered monogram hankies are a sweet way to honor your special ladies!

Isn’t this the most darling lemonade stand you’ve ever seen? Our flower girls and ring bearers were the perfect lemonade hosts, making sure our entire team stayed refreshed all day long.

Keeping with the heart of the shoot and home town feel, two of Davy’s children suited up for the big day and Lauren’s cousins sported their biggest bows as flower girls.

Can you imagine the emotions going through our bride’s head as the doors to her childhood church are about to open? Knowing she’ll see her groom for the very first time in the same church she grew up in admittedly gives me some watery eyes!

Ask your caterer to prepare a private picnic basket or meal for you and your groom to enjoy together post-ceremony before heading into your reception. Bonus points if you’re able to cozy up in the back of a pick-up truck!

Is there anything more Southern than fried chicken, tomato pies, and pancakes? I think not! Lola Fleur outdid themselves with all the delicious food! I can say that because I was able to sneak a few bites in :)

These were genuine smiles from our tiniest models when we told them they could snack on our strawberry shortcake desserts.

Finally, a special treat for you: the crew from Bride Film was on-hand to capture a behind-the-scenes glimpse of this special day! Here’s a look, in two parts:

BTS Part 1: Southern Weddings Home Town Celebration from BRIDE FILM on Vimeo.

BTS Part 2: Southern Weddings Home Town Celebration from BRIDE FILM on Vimeo.

Laurel, you were a gem! Thank you for inviting us into your community with open arms!

See more of this feature in our tenth anniversary issue, on newsstands now and in our shop!

Planner and Vintage Rentals: Lovegood Wedding & Event Rentals | Photographer: Davy Whitener | Film Processing: Richard Photo Lab | Videography: Bride Film | Ceremony Venue: Laurel First United Methodist Church | Reception Venue: The Rogers-Green House | Florals: The Petaler Co. | Hair and Makeup: Blush Salon | Catering: Lola Fleur | Lighting: Celebrations | Paper Goods and “Just Married” Banner: Southern Fried Paper | Strawberry Shortcake Boats: Shop Sweet Lulu | Escort Card Board: Minted | Linens: La Tavola Linen | Hanky Embroidery: Needleworks | Bride’s Gown: “Heloise” by Leanne Marshall via The Sentimentalist | Veil: “Phoenix” by Sara Gabriel | Jewelry: ExVoto Vintage | Ring: Trumpet & Horn | Ring Box: The Mrs. Box | Bridesmaid Dresses: Anthropologie | Groom’s Blue Blazer: Bonobos | Ties: Macy’s | Flower Girl Dresses: Rachel Riley | Hair Bows: Wee Ones | Welcome Box and Napkins: Laurel Mercantile

Lovegood Wedding & Event Rentals and Southern Fried Paper are delightful members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

Written with love by Jess Metcalf
1 Comment
  1. avatar Lauren at Lovegood Wedding & Event Rentals reply

    This was such a fun day in Laurel, Mississippi with so many talented vendors from around MS and the Southeast. Thank you for including us!

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Bride Wenjie shares her Atlanta wedding at the Fernbank Museum of Natural History with us!

Please meet Wenjie, our lovely bride for today! And y’all, I can totally relate to the hardest part of wedding planning for her. She said, “The big choices (venue, caterer, dress, etc.) were easy, but the hundreds of small details were the hardest part about planning.” I can definitely see why their venue was easy! She and her sweet groom Futhum instantly fell in love with the natural lighting, high ceilings, and dinosaurs (!) on their initial tour of Fernbank Museum of Natural History. It provided the unique and one-of-a-kind experience they were hoping to show guests. Another unique experience I’m sure their guests loved? Wenjie and Futhum incorporated their respective Chinese and Eritrean cultures into their wedding day. This even included teaching guests traditional Eritrean wedding dances, something I’m sure won’t be easily forgotten!

Thanks to Elle Golden for sharing Wenjie and Futhum’s sweet Georgia day with us!

Tell us the highlights of finding your wedding dress. I was #asentimentalbride! I loved the process of finding my dress at The Sentimentalist in Atlanta. It is the cutest bridal shop in little white house instead of in a mall or giant shopping center. The staff was super sweet and helpful and they had an amazing selection of designer and vintage dresses. They had a wide array of dresses including a stunning, fully beaded gown. It wasn’t the right dress for our wedding, but it was fun to try on! With the help of the staff and my bridesmaids, I found the perfect Nicole Miller gown on my first visit.

What was the hardest part about planning your wedding? The big choices (venue, caterer, dress, etc.) were easy, but the hundreds of small details were the hardest part about planning. It was difficult to foresee how it would all come together or how one small choice could affect the overall design (an ivory tablecloth vs. a slightly different shade of white). Luckily our wedding planner helped us navigate these options and even made some of the decisions for us.

Did you decide to do a first look? Yes! We wanted to have a private moment to share before all the guests arrived. It also took away some of our nerves and added to our excitement for the ceremony.

Tell us all about the proposal! We have known each other since high school. When the Georgia Aquarium first opened, Futhum bought me and my best friend tickets for Christmas. I thought it was a really thoughtful present, and he thought it was our first date. Luckily we still stayed close friends (and eventually dated). Ten years later, he surprised me with tickets to the aquarium again. This time, he took me on a special tour where we were able to swim with the whale sharks and sting rays. Afterwards, he took me to my favorite restaurant (Makan, where we later had our rehearsal dinner) and proposed!

At the last minute, Futhum asked a groomsmen to bring our dog, Roger, to the venue. He took the best pictures and stole the show!

What was one way you saved money or cut costs at your wedding? We were originally thinking about having a larger wedding, closer to 300 guests. As we began planning, we agreed that we wanted to invite close family and friends so that when we both look into the crowd during the ceremony we would only see familiar faces. We also invited the Obamas who were not able to attend so we really saved on security costs! They did send a nice card that is now framed in our house.

We did not write our own vows, but our officiant interviewed us and incorporated our responses into the ceremony. I talked to him about how much I appreciate Futhum’s openness to trying new and exotic Chinese foods. We’re pretty sure we had the only wedding ceremony to ever mention chicken feet and stinky tofu. Additionally, my dad wrote us a poem and read it at the ceremony in both Mandarin and English. There definitely was not a dry eye in the house, including Futhum’s, which was the first time I’ve seen him cry in 15 years.

We made sure to include our favorite artists such as Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Prince, and Outkast into our day. After the ceremony, we walked back up the aisle to “Signed, Sealed, Delivered!”

We had a brief private moment after the ceremony while our guests were enjoying cocktail hour. Our caterer brought us champagne and hors d’oeuvres. It was amazing to be able to celebrate our marriage just the two of us and take a deep breath before jumping into the reception.

We knew we wanted to get married in the city of Atlanta and Fernbank Museum of Natural History was one of the first venues that came up in our search. We instantly fell in love with the amazing natural lighting, high ceilings, and dinosaurs on our initial tour. We also knew this would be a unique and one-of-a-kind location and experience.

What advice would you give to someone currently planning a wedding? Hire a planner! It really took the stress out of wedding planning. Even though it is an extra cost, it is well worth it and your planner will help save costs elsewhere. Create the type of wedding that you would want to go to! Remember that it is a day for BOTH of you and include the groom in the planning.

What was your favorite detail from your wedding? While we planned our wedding in a more American tradition, we included small touches from our own cultures (Chinese and Eritrean). Our favors were in Chinese silk pouches and included samples of Chinese green tea and Eritrean coffee which are both very important in our culture. We also played a few Eritrean wedding songs and had a blast teaching all of our guests the traditional dances.

What was Southern about your wedding? It was hot! We did not incorporate many traditional Southern aspects into our wedding, but our wedding definitely demonstrated Southern hospitality. We had guests from literally all over the world from different backgrounds and cultures. We were so happy seeing all of our guests welcoming each other and becoming friends as the night went on.

Tell us your love story in one sentence. “We are all a little weird and life’s a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love”. -Dr. Seuss
When did y’all get married? August 6, 2016.
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 150.
If you are comfortable responding, what range did your wedding budget fall into? $50,000-$75,000.
What did you serve for your wedding cake or dessert? We served a red velvet wedding cake from Sweet Hut Bakery. Sweet Hut is one of our favorite restaurants, and we love their Asian-style cakes, because the frosting is very light and subtly sweet. I guess our guests enjoyed it too, because it was devoured in a few minutes and we heard people were fighting over seconds.
What was your favorite thing about wedding planning? Our wedding planner! Whitney from Whitewood Events made wedding planning a breeze. We nicknamed her our magical wedding fairy because she made sure everything was perfect and even anticipated our needs. The cake and catering tastings were a favorite too!

Photographer: LeiLani Golden of Elle Golden Photography | Planner: Whitney Downs of Whitewood Events | Venue: Fernbank Museum of Natural History | Florist: Bloomin’ Bouquets | Wedding Cake or Dessert Baker: Sweet Hut Bakery & Cafe | Caterer:  Bold American Events | Lighting and DJ: Nice Entertainment | Paper Products: Oconee Printing | Bride’s Gown: “Janey” by Nicole Miller from The Sentimentalist | Bride’s Hair Accessories/Veil/Jewelry: BHLDN | Hair Stylist: Claudia Verduzco | Makeup Artist: Dominique Doyle of So Chevon | Bride’s Shoes: “Cacique Peep Toe Pumps” by Badgley Mischka | Bridesmaids’ Dresses: “Kate Lace Maxi Dress” by ASOS | Groom’s Attire: Hugo Boss | Groomsmen Attire: The Black Tux | Groom’s and Groomsmen’s socks: Sock Fancy

marissa Written with love by Marissa
3 Comments
  1. avatar Chef Aaron Butler reply

    The details of your wedding day sound amazing! I bet the wedding cake was amazing too! Red velvet cake is always a crowd pleaser!

  2. avatar Fernbank Museum Wedding | Futhum + Wenjie | Whitewood Events – Atlanta Wedding Photographer – Fine Art Film Photography – Elle Golden Photography reply

    […] and Futhum are featured on Southern Weddings. Here are a couple more quotes from their interview with the SW team. Make sure you pop over […]

  3. avatar Aram Hovsepian reply

    Refreshing and airy. Thank you for sharing!

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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