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It’s hard for me not to feel akin to couples whose love stories mirror my own a little…reading their interviews quickly takes me back to my own perfect day eight years ago. I always feel this way with college sweethearts in particular, but never have I run into a story quite as similar to mine as Kelsey and Kevin’s. From college baseball to time in the minor leagues, and even sharing the same “most memorable moment” on our respective wedding days (be sure to read below to find out what that is!), I might have had to do a double-take while reading their interview. Unlike my wedding, on the other hand, Kelsey and Kevin’s Virginia wedding was filled with beautiful blue hues and gold and ivory accents. Eucalyptus, dusty miller, thistle, and cappuccino roses were used in the florals (created by Kevin’s cousin) to achieve a romantic and organic feel that perfectly complemented their venue, Castle Hill Cider. Making their day even sweeter, guests traveled from over ten states to celebrate with them, leaving them humbled to have all of the people they love together as they became husband and wife!

Big SW hugs to Michael and Carina for sharing this lovely day with us!

When it comes to growing up in the South, family is always number one. Although Kevin is from New Jersey, this was something I realized and loved about him and his family just as I had known it with my own. We chose to have a small wedding party–my sister was the maid of honor and Kevin’s sister was my bridesmaid. Kevin’s brother was his best man and his brother-in-law was a groomsman. We wanted all aspects of the weekend and that day to be about our family, who had supported us and believed in us over the past eight years.

I never ever thought we would do a first look. I had always dreamed about the feeling that the bride and groom have when they see each other for the first time when the bride is walking down the aisle. But, when the sun sets at 5 P.M. and your ceremony is at 4, you quickly realize you will not have enough sunlight following the ceremony to get all of the pictures you want. The first lesson of marriage, I guess–compromise! The first look was really beautiful and still felt extremely special and intimate. It was a cool November day with just enough afternoon sun to keep us from feeling the chill. Our pictures are incredible and it was worth doing a first look to have the lifelong treasures of our photographs.

Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? When we were planning our ceremony, we decided on personalized vows that blended some traditional pieces with some lines we felt strongly about. It definitely took some research, both online and in books, as well as some ideas from our officiant to create something that seemed right for the two of us. Our vows included the following: “I promise to encourage and inspire you, to laugh with you and to comfort you in times of sorrow and struggle; I promise to love you in good times and in bad, when life seems easy and when it seems hard; I promise to trust you and honor you; I promise to cherish you and to always hold you in highest regard. These things I give to you today and all the days of my life.”

We were so happy and honored to have Kevin’s cousin, Kathy, be our florist. I never thought it would be possible since she lives in New Jersey, so when she offered, we both felt such overwhelming gratitude and excitement. It was so special to have family involved with the wedding. Kathy is so talented and her work is stunning. I knew she understood my vision and I was blown away on the day of our wedding–we could not have loved them more.

What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? Did they have any special significance to you? We actually visited Castle Hill about a month before we were engaged. We took my mom on a weekend trip for her birthday and decided to stop by because none of us had been there before, and we had heard great things about the cider. I can remember the four of us sitting outside, enjoying a glass of Big Pippin and talking about how beautiful it was there. We had always planned to get married in the Charlottesville area, so when the time came to choose a venue, it seemed like the perfect fit. We loved the idea of being able to have the ceremony in the loft and the reception downstairs in the main barn area. The view from Castle Hill of the Blue Ridge (not to mention the drive in) really captured what we wanted our out-of-town guests to experience when they came to Virginia.

Our wedding cake was funfetti, but a little amped up! Our amazing baker went above and beyond to make the groom’s funfetti dreams come true. The cake was three tiers and featured a Bavarian cream filling and a vanilla buttercream with rainbow sprinkles cascading down.

What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? We really enjoyed the moments after we were announced as husband and wife, immediately following the ceremony, when we were in the suite while guests went downstairs for cocktail hour. We were surrounded by our families and there was no shortage of smiles and the happiest tears. Those few minutes of just being able to breathe, hold on to one another, and soak in the moment is something we will always cherish.

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. Kevin and I met at UVA. Kevin was on the baseball team and a few of his teammates lived on the first floor of my dorm. I was on the dance team and had to move in early too, so they were some of the first people I met when I got there. Kevin and I started off as acquaintances, but by the end of spring semester, we went on our first few dates after I boldly reached out to him via AOL Instant Messenger (we still laugh about it to this day!). Mostly, our first dates were spent going to Blockbuster (Kevin is a huge movie buff) or walking to “the Corner” by campus to grab lunch between classes. When Kevin was drafted to the minor leagues following our third year at UVA, we began the long-distance stint of our relationship and were finally reunited in Charlottesville in the fall of 2014, when Kevin came back to finish his degree and work as a student coach at Virginia.
Tell us all about the proposal! Kevin proposed on a Saturday evening after I had been out running errands with my mom all day. My parents were renovating their kitchen, so we had a girls day–went to brunch, got our nails done, went and looked at light fixtures–all of that good stuff. When I got home, I was pretty tired and went to relax before we were headed out to see my sister later that evening. Kevin appeared, and at the time, I thought he had been out playing golf that day. He quickly said that, “he couldn’t lie” about playing golf and pulled out the ring to propose. I was in shock! He confessed that he and my dad had been out together that day ring shopping, and although he had made plans to propose the following weekend at the UVA homecoming football game in Charlottesville with all of our friends, the ring burned a hole in his pocket within the few hours he had it. I’m sure he had a good plan in place, but I would not trade the way it ended up happening for anything else. It was perfect.
When did y’all get married? November 12, 2016
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 180
Tell us about finding your wedding dress. Shopping for my wedding dress was surprisingly easy and stress-free, mostly because Annalise Bridal Boutique (and the owner, Lindsey) was an absolute dream to work with. It was a snowy Sunday morning in February when my parents, sister, grandmother and I went into the city for my appointment. I tried on maybe six or seven dresses, but knew which one I loved the most all along. The dress checked all of my boxes, and once we added the cathedral veil, I knew that it was the one. We were also able to FaceTime my then-future mother-in-law and sister-in-law to share the good news with them, and I couldn’t hold back the tears!
Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding and why you chose them. For the ceremony, we had a guitarist, which created a beautiful experience in the candlelit loft. Our guitarist provided us a breadth of unique selections. For the family and bridesmaid processional, we chose J.S. Bach’s “Sleepers Awake.” For the bridal processional, we chose “Wild Mountain Thyme,” and for the recessional, “The Mysterious Barricades” by F. Couperin. We both love country music, so our first dance song was “In Case You Didn’t Know” by Brett Young. At the reception, we had an awesome DJ who really understood the crowd and how to keep everyone up and dancing. We had a really fun group of guests, who would have likely been up there no matter what was played, but our DJ did a perfect job playing a great mix of music that all could enjoy. The crowd favorite was “Sweet Caroline” which most people know anyways, but it is a regularly played song at UVA sporting events, so our guests really got into it!
Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! I did! I wore a gold and pearl bracelet from my Nana. For my something blue, my Nana gave me an embroidered handkerchief as a gift, and she also gave me an ivory handkerchief that belonged to her mother, my great-grandmother. My something new was my wedding dress and veil.
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? You hear it from so many people when you start planning your wedding, but our biggest challenge was probably the guest list. When you have been dating as long as we had, you’ve been through so many stages and milestones in your life, both individually and together. Because of this, our first take at a guest list really added up. We had always imagined having an intimate wedding, so we had to work really hard to make the invitation numbers reasonable.
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? To save money, we ordered glass vases from the Dollar Tree to use as our candle holders in the loft. We were also able to bulk order the larger pillar candles, as well as the votives for the reception, and transitioned the ceremony candles from the loft down to the reception afterwards.
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? My biggest suggestion for anyone planning a wedding that is not where they currently live would be to hire a wedding planner. Our planner, who happened to be a friend from college, was my saving grace. I was traveling for work right before the wedding too, which could have added serious stress to the situation, but Maureen took care of everything with such grace and professionalism. I know we could not have done it without her.
What’s next for you as a couple? What memories are you looking forward to making together? We are really looking forward to making our new house our home. We watch way too much HGTV and are excited to start making our own list of what we want to tackle next, as husband and wife.

Photographer: Michael and Carina Photography | Videographer: Danny Freshley of Altamira Film Co. | Planner: Maureen McKenna of Just a Little Ditty | Venue: Castle Hill Cider | Florist: Kathy Lynn Floral Design | Wedding Cake: Cakes by Rachel | Caterer: Harvest Moon Catering | Rentals: Festive Fare | Lighting and Ceremony Draping: Blue Ridge A/V and Lighting | Ceremony Guitarist: Peter Richardson | DJ: JG Entertainment | Paper Products: Rock Paper Scissors | Bride’s Gown: Style 5834 by Liancarlo | Bridal Salon: Annalise Bridal Boutique | Bride’s Veil: “Chelsea” by Sara Gabriel | Hair Stylist: Brianna B. Adams | Makeup Artist: Emily Artistry | Bride’s Shoes: Badgley Mischka | Bridesmaids’ Dresses: “Jacqueline” by Jenny Yoo | Men’s Attire: Jos. A. Banks | Calligraphy: Jodi Macfarlan Calligraphy and Joie de Vivre | Officiant: Jim Burton

marissa Written with love by Marissa
  1. avatar Bri A reply

    This was so fun to read! I loved all the personal touches and the interview was so joyful, even through the page. ;) Thanks for sharing!

  2. avatar Catherine reply

    What a beautiful day! This area of Virginia has so many gorgeous venues. I can’t wait to attend a wedding in Crozet, VA in May!

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I’m a big believer that wedding inspiration can come from anywhere–your dress, a favorite painting, the college campus where you and your beau fell in love…the sky’s the limit! Rebecca and Chad found inspiration for their spring celebration in a very unlikely place, and then incorporated it into their wedding in the sweetest ways. Ready to hear what it was? The name of the town where they were married! The Inn at Willow Grove in Orange, Virginia was not only a lovely, elegant place for them to tie the knot, it also gave Rebecca and Chad the idea to include oranges and orange blossoms throughout their decor. My favorite detail has to be Rebecca’s dreamy bouquet by Southern Blooms (plus I bet it smelled heavenly!), but the adorable orange cake pops in vanilla cake with orange zest (yum!) are a very close second.

We’re so delighted Rachel May sent this celebration our way for our ninth issue!

We got married in the spring, our ideal season for a wedding. The date was May 21, 2016. The ceremony and reception were both at the Inn at Willow Grove in Orange, Virginia. We chose the Inn at Willow Grove because it allowed our bridal party and some family and friends to spend the entire weekend together. It was like a destination wedding without having to travel far. We rented all four rooms and all ten of the cottages for the weekend. Once we arrived at the property Friday afternoon, we never had to leave. The rehearsal, ceremony, and reception were all on the property. Our dog, Jack, was even allowed to stay on the property all weekend. From the moment we found the Inn, we knew it was the perfect venue for us. We can’t wait to go back and celebrate anniversaries there. It is a truly beautiful place.

Tell us about finding your wedding dress. What was your favorite thing about it? Wedding dress shopping was a lot more fun than I was expecting. The first time I went was with a few of my bridesmaids and mom. It was so fun trying on all of the different dresses–there are so many styles! I was also surprised that I liked certain dresses on that I probably wouldn’t have picked at first. The dress I ended up getting was from Bella Rosa, which was closing, so I got it off the rack for a discounted price. The size from the store fit me almost perfectly, so there were not many alterations to be done. My favorite thing about my dress was the lace overlay. It was so beautiful and gave the dress a vintage feel. I also loved the scalloped detail on the neckline. The dress had a low back, and we added buttons down the back zipper. I loved the extra detail the buttons added.

The wedding ceremony took place outside in the garden of the Inn. Although it was still a little chilly, the rain had stopped and the weather turned out pretty perfectly. With all of our family and friends surrounding us, it became a very intimate spot that I am so thankful we were able to use. Our friend, Pastor Win Davis, performed the ceremony. The part that was most special to me was how personal Win made the ceremony to us. Everything about it was perfect.

Chad’s two sisters each did a reading, which was very special to us. Chad’s niece and nephew were flower girl and ring bearer, and my cousin’s son was an additional ring bearer. Our chocolate lab, Jack, also walked down the aisle in his own bow tie as the Dog of Honor. Having our pup in the ceremony meant a lot to us.

What was the design inspiration for your wedding? Why was this design special to you as a couple? We wanted an elegant, simple feel for the wedding. We chose soft colors (dusty blue and champagne) as our main colors. Since the Inn at Willow Grove already provided a beautiful, elegant outdoor venue, the rest of the design inspiration was just to add that romantic wedding touch. The Inn is located in Orange, so we incorporated the orange blossom into our design for a unique, fun detail.
Tell us about your wedding flowers. How did you choose them? What did you love about them? Our wedding flowers were done by the very talented ladies at Southern Blooms. I love, love, love the work these ladies do and knew I did not have to stress about the flowers at all. They asked me a few questions, showed me what ideas they had, and then I left the decision making up to them. One way I took away some stress from wedding planning was letting the people who do their craft for a living make the decisions. I trusted that they would make it beautiful, and they did. I loved how perfectly the flowers fit us and our wedding style. Southern Blooms exceeded my expectations.

Our wedding cake was designed by Keya from Candy Valley Cake Company in Richmond. Keya had also made the cake for my sister’s wedding eleven months earlier, and not only was it the best wedding cake I’ve had, it was so beautiful. We had four different flavors: vanilla with raspberries and lemon zest, mocha Oreo, chocolate chocolate, and vanilla vanilla. The cake was white and decorated with orange blossoms. Keya designed the oranges out of fondant, and Southern Blooms added the flowers. It was really beautiful and tasted delicious. Keya also made us orange blossom cake pops that were made with a vanilla cake with orange zest.

Best advice or most memorable comment someone made to you during the wedding celebration: Chad’s brother, Drew, gave really good advice to Chad during his speech that I think is great advice for both of us to remember throughout our marriage. Drew said, “The best thing that you can do is treat Rebecca like you did when you first met, and realize and remember that she is still that special person.”

How did the two of you meet? Tell us your story. We actually went to high school together, but did not start dating until a few years later. We both attended Virginia Tech and during our third year as Hokies, we started seeing a lot more of each other around campus. We starting spending more time together and slowly became more than just friends. We dated our last year and a half at Virginia Tech and then both moved back to Richmond after graduation. We are so thankful Blacksburg brought us together–it was meant to be!
Describe the proposal: In May 2015, we decided we wanted to take a vacation to someplace we had never been. Chad said he was going to plan the trip and did not tell me any details. I was surprised and excited when I learned we were going to San Francisco–the first time on the West Coast for both of us. We spent three amazing days in San Francisco, then Chad said he had another surprise–we were headed somewhere new. We drove to a beautiful resort, the Carneros Inn in Napa. When we arrived, our room was not quite ready (although now I think it probably was), so we were given a glass of wine and a map of the property to go explore until the room was ready. We were walking around taking in the beautiful views when we came to an apple orchard that faced the mountains. In the middle of the orchard was a table. Chad started walking us towards it and that was when I knew. On the table was champagne, chocolate-covered strawberries, and a card. Chad handed me the card and I opened it to find the words, “Will you marry me?” I turned towards Chad and he was down on one knee. It was perfect. Then, we spent three days in beautiful Napa and Sonoma celebrating with great wine, great food, and each other. I was so impressed that Chad planned and coordinated everything on his own. I never wanted that trip to end.
How did you prepare for marriage while planning your wedding? We were lucky to have guidance from our friend and pastor, Win Davis from Cambridge Baptist Church in Henrico, Virginia. Win suggested we read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. The book is a great way to learn both about how you personally feel loved and how you can best communicate love to your spouse based on his or her love language. The book helps you realize that not everyone expresses or feels love in the same ways, and it provides simple examples of ways to better communicate love to one another. Our relationship and love for each other is so strong that I didn’t feel we needed to prepare too much. Marriage is lifelong, and we both already knew we were committed to putting in the work to make our marriage thrive. We really just took the time to enjoy our engagement and not let any stress from wedding planning take away from our relationship.
How many guests attended your wedding? Around 200
Tell us a bit about your first dance. Our first dance was one of the things I was most nervous about. Neither of us are big dancers, and I don’t like being in the spotlight when I dance. We took dance lessons, which I recommend to any couple, even if you are big dancers! Not only were the classes so fun, but it made us both feel more comfortable and able to enjoy the moment on our day. It turned out to be a fun moment for us.
Did you include any Southern traditions in your wedding? Since we were in Tennessee a month before the wedding, our family friends buried the bourbon for us. I think it is such a fun tradition, and it successfully kept the rain away for our ceremony!
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you looking forward to in the future? Right now, we are just enjoying being newlyweds in our new city of Nashville. We are looking forward to what our marriage has in store for us, and all of the adventures we will have together.
What advice would you give to someone currently planning his or her wedding? I would say try to enjoy every minute of your engagement, because it goes by really quickly. Being engaged should be about the two of you preparing to spend a life together and reflecting on how your relationship started and what you both want going forward. Planning a wedding shouldn’t be so stressful that you can’t enjoy your engagement at all. Also, pick vendors that you feel you can trust, and then let them do what they do best. Most vendors are in this business because they are passionate about what they do, and most of them have done many weddings before. I fell in love with all of my vendors, and did not have to stress about whether they would meet my expectations or not. I just couldn’t wait to see their work!

Photographer: Rachel May Photography | Videographer: White Flair Productions | Planner and Designer: Fête Weddings | Venue and Caterer: The Inn at Willow Grove | Florals: Southern Blooms | Wedding Cake: Candy Valley Cake Company | Bride’s Gown: “Jolene” by Mikaella | Bridal Salon and Veil: Bella Rosa | Bride’s Shoes: Antonio Melani | Bride’s Earrings: Nadri Jewelry | Bridesmaid Dresses: “Celestina” in Blue Harbor by BHLDN | Hair Stylist: Welsy Mourino of Elle Style Studio | Makeup Artist: LaCretia Baskfield of Elle Style Studio | Men’s Fashion: Style 790 in Slate Allure by Street Tuxedo | Invitations, Favors, and Day-Of Stationery: ‘ello Paper | Ceremony Sign and Handlettering: Type Delight | Linens: La Tavola Linen | Tent and Staging: Gibson Rental | Band: Dance Candy via Sam Hill Entertainment | Transportation: Ambassador Limousine | Lighting and Draping: Lighting Professors

Rachel May Photography is a delightful member of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

lisa Written with love by Lisa
  1. avatar Rachel May reply

    Thank you so much for featuring Chad & Rebecca’s wedding in the magazine and now here on the blog! It’s always such an honor to see my work featured by you ladies!

  2. avatar Alex reply

    I LOVE to see pups included in the wedding/ceremony, and hearing about dog-friendly venues! Our dogs are SO special to my fiancé and I, they must be included in our ceremony and stay with us on our special day! (I ESPECIALLY love when the featured dogs in question are labradors!)

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Though she was raised in Connecticut, Lauren’s parents (who both grew up in Chattanooga) shared their Southern roots with her by incorporating Southern culture (and grits!) into daily life as she grew up. And after a family trip to Blackberry Farm ten years before she would say “I do,” Lauren decided she would get married in the South, too. She and Luke worked with their planner, Jennifer Laraia, to craft a wedding weekend that showed off Lauren’s family roots, weaved in details of their shared love of whiskey, and gave guests a real taste of the South. From welcome bags that included their favorite cookbook and moonshine, to a rehearsal dinner full of Southern barbecue and a bluegrass band, and onto a reception complete with three straight hours of dancing, the result was a weekend-long celebration that was distinctly Lauren and Luke.

Gracious, we sure are glad Natalie Watson was on hand from start to finish, and that we were able to share Lauren and Luke’s love in our ninth print edition!

As a special treat, we get to begin this feature with a few snaps from Lauren and Luke’s welcome dinner…

We thought a lot about the design and feel of the wedding weekend. I would call it rustic chic or farm chic. We wanted the décor to be beautiful and elegant while incorporating the natural environment, the outdoors, and the farm atmosphere. We used a lot of natural wood, greenery, and elements of the farm that blended with the natural setting. Many of the weekend’s events were outside, and we used big picnic tables and wildflowers from the farm for the rehearsal dinner, fresh herbs at the reception place settings, and wooden and slate slabs for serving trays. We love the outdoors and the understated elegance of Blackberry Farm and the Smoky Mountains, so it was important to us that the décor did not interfere, but rather, enhanced our surroundings.

What was Southern about your wedding? The wedding had many Southern influences. My goal was to show off my family roots and give our guests a real taste of the South. The food at Blackberry Farm is definitely Southern, so we served some of our favorites throughout the weekend: deep-fried black-eyed peas, grilled pimento cheese sandwiches, fried chicken, shrimp and grits, biscuits and gravy, and so much more. Our rehearsal dinner was a full Southern BBQ, so guests were eating traditional Southern meals all weekend long. We also included Moonshine Cakes and GooGoo Clusters in our welcome bags. The whiskey bar gave everyone a taste of the South during cocktail hour, especially the mint juleps served in julep cups, and we served sweet peach tea during the ceremony. We also had a local bluegrass band playing at the rehearsal dinner, who of course played a strong rendition of “Rocky Top” to welcome everyone to Tennessee.

Tell us all the basics of your wedding! Why did you choose these things? Did any of these details hold special meaning for you as a couple? We were married at Blackberry Farm, a beautiful farm resort in the Smoky Mountains, located in Walland, Tennessee. We were married on May 7, the heart of the spring season, when the trees are beautifully lush and green and the flowers are in full bloom. Our ceremony was outside overlooking the mountains at 5 P.M., when the sun was still shining bright, and cocktail hour followed as the sun was going down. Tennessee is a very special place to me–both my parents grew up in Chattanooga, and despite living in Connecticut, my parents always instilled their Southern roots in our family, and Southern culture was a core element of my upbringing. We visited Blackberry Farm about ten years ago as a family and I immediately fell in love, even announcing to my father that one day I would get married there!

Tell us about finding your wedding dress. What was your favorite thing about it? I was pretty open about my dress. I didn’t have a specific dress or style in mind when I started looking, and I ended up wearing a Monique Lhuillier beaded sheath dress that had a 1920s style. I loved it, I still do, and it was pretty unique. It definitely was not your most common or traditional wedding dress, but it was very me.
Describe your bridesmaids’ dresses. How did you choose them? I didn’t do bridesmaid dresses. I don’t really like the look of everyone wearing the same dress. Instead, I just told my bridesmaids to get any dress in the rose, blush, peach, or natural color palette. Everyone picked their own dresses and we ended up with a great mix of complementary colors and styles that looked fantastic together, but also looked very natural.

The flowers were big, romantic, and natural. We used a lot of greenery to mix in with the outdoor setting, with a lot of white and pops of rose and light peach flowers. We used a lot of big garden roses and peonies. I loved the color scheme and the organic feel of all the flowers.

How did you spend the morning or afternoon before your ceremony? We actually had breakfast together with a bunch of family and friends. Blackberry Farm breakfast is not to be missed, and since everyone on property was attending the wedding, it was a very social breakfast. I then did yoga with some of my bridesmaids and other wedding guests, and then spent most of the afternoon doing hair and makeup and just relaxing with my bridesmaids. Luke spent most of the afternoon with his groomsmen, lounging by the pool and just having fun with all of the wedding guests. We were both very relaxed and really enjoyed the beautiful day.

My dad and I shared a few very personal moments that were special. I gave him a handkerchief with a personal note embroidered into it and he wore it as a pocket square that day. I was his last child (of four) and last daughter to get married, so I think the day had an added significance for him. After he walked me down the aisle and stood with me at the end, he held my hand very tightly and gripped my arm firmly with a long pause before answering the question of who gives me away. It was a wonderful and emotional moment between the two of us, and it felt like no one else was around. I’ll never forget it. And, more importantly, I’ll never forget the huge smile on Luke’s face while we stood there and waited for our wedding ceremony to begin.

Tell us a bit about the wedding ceremony. What part was most special to you? Did you include any special readings? Our ceremony was officiated by my uncle, who is a minister. We had a rather traditional Episcopalian, but also short and sweet, ceremony outside on the front lawn overlooking the Smoky Mountains. My uncle gave a great homily about the history of the mountains and the surrounding area, and the relevancy to our marriage. We loved it. It was a great way to incorporate the significance of east Tennessee to my family and why it was a special place for Luke and me to start our married life together. Once it was finished, we recessed to the Stevie Wonder song “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.”

Cocktails were outside on the patio by the wine cellar. We had a whiskey bar that was made out of whiskey barrels and served three of our favorite specialty whiskey cocktails: a summer Old Fashioned, a Manhattan, and a mint julep (it was Derby day). It was a fun way to incorporate a local Tennessee favorite and our mutual love for whiskey. We served various hors d’oeuvres, all with Southern influences. One of my favorite elements was the bags of deep-fried black-eyed peas served on every table.

The cocktail hour was outside on a patio by the wine cellar, so everyone had to walk through the outstanding wine cellar to reach the reception. The reception dinner was in the beautiful barn, which has stunning exposed wooden beams and an open kitchen. It’s one of my most favorite buildings on the property, and probably anywhere. After dinner, we moved to a tent outside of the barn for three straight hours of dancing.

We love to cook so we tried to incorporate some favorite cooking elements–each guest was given a Blackberry Farm cookbook (it’s one of our favorites) as part of their welcome gift, we used fresh herbs at each place setting, and at the rehearsal dinner, we used our favorite kitchen dish towels as napkins. We also incorporated our love for whiskey throughout the weekend with whiskey barrel tables, a whiskey bar serving specialty cocktails, and our welcome book was an old whiskey barrel top that everyone signed. Of course, a lot of the wedding was centered around my family’s Southern roots, but we incorporated Luke’s home state of Michigan and Italian roots as well. I think everyone walked away from the weekend thinking it was a wedding that was very distinctly ours.

Tell us about your wedding cake or sweets. We didn’t do a wedding cake. We were not that into the idea of cake and were far more excited about offering a variety of Southern sweets, so we had a big dessert table that had mini fruit crisps, banana puddings, chocolate fudge bars, and many uniquely flavored cupcakes like carrot cake, key lime pie, and caramel. I also have a real sweet tooth for candy, so we had apothecary jars filled with all sorts of gummy candies and chocolates, as well as Jordan almonds, a tradition from Luke’s Italian roots.

The reception was pure fun. Our band, Simply Irresistible, was spectacular and played for three hours straight. The dance floor was packed and they kept everyone dancing until the wee hours. I don’t think Luke and I ever took a break–it was too much fun and there never was a dull moment. The band even let Luke finish off the evening with a performance of “All I Do is Win,” which easily was the highlight of his weekend!

Don’t miss Lauren + Luke’s sweet highlight film by Hampton Road Studios!

How did the two of you meet? Tell us your story. We met in business school while on a trip to Dubai hosted by a mutual friend. Despite attending the same school for a year and a half and sharing some mutual friends, we had never met before the trip. We were in a music club in Dubai with our group of classmates, and there was only one seat available at the table. It was next to me, so Luke took the open seat and struck up a conversation. We immediately hit it off through our casual interaction, and Luke asked me on our first date later that night (although it took me a few weeks to say yes).
Describe the proposal: We got engaged in Kenya while on a safari. Luke wanted it to be a surprise and I was truly shocked, although I figured out it was coming right before the actual proposal. He and the resort had planned a beautiful cocktail hour set up in the middle of the bush during one of our afternoon game drives, complete with a fire overlooking the open plains. Luke was oddly focused on what I was going to wear and how the weather was evolving–a big thunderstorm was rolling in and everyone was a bit frantic about getting there before the rain–so I started to sense something bigger was happening even though I couldn’t fathom it was actually a proposal. Needless to say, we beat the rain (barely), the setting was stunning, and I was still truly surprised.
How did you prepare for marriage while planning your wedding? You get a lot of solicited and unsolicited advice on marriage when you are engaged, which can be varying degrees of helpful. But a lot of conversations with friends, family, and colleagues definitely helped us prepare. We also made sure we sat down together and had honest discussions on some of the obviously important topics and pain points for married couples.
How many guests attended your wedding? About 180
Bride’s favorite detail of the wedding: We gave small bags of Tennessee grits with personalized tags that included my family’s signature recipe as a thank you gift to guests. I made the tags and assembled them myself, so maybe I was biased, but I loved them. Grits are a staple at my family’s breakfast table, and growing up and living in Connecticut, we were always introducing our Northern friends to them for the first time. It was a fun way to introduce all of our wedding guests to a traditional Southern food, not to mention a family favorite.
Tell us a bit about your first dance. Our first dance was to Jackie Wilson’s “Higher and Higher.” We wanted an upbeat song that set the tone for the night and that was also fun for us to dance to. It also had a fitting message! We were so excited to be married and to celebrate with all of our friends and family so we wanted to make sure our song choice reflected that. Luke is a big Motown fan too, so it was perfect on many levels.
Tell us about your grand exit. After the band finished its three-hour performance, Luke and I departed with a sparkler exit, which was fun. The energy was high and all of our wedding guests lined the outside of the tent and started singing “America the Beautiful” as we ran down the whole line. The exit was fake though because we “exited” to the late-night party, where there were late night snacks and more dancing for those guests who still had energy.
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you looking forward to in the future? We are just excited to finally live together in the same city after two years of long-distance, and can’t wait to continue our life together. Life together has been truly amazing thus far, but we know the best is yet to come. And we will continue to eat and travel our way through it, even when we have kids!

Photographer: Natalie Watson Photography | Videographer: Hampton Road Studios | Planner and Designer: Jennifer Laraia | Venue and Caterer: Blackberry Farm | Florals: Floressence | Dessert Baker: Magpies Bakery | Bride’s Gown: Monique Lhuillier | Bride’s Shoes: Manolo Blahnik | Hair Stylist: Bangs and Blush | Makeup Artist: Claire Balest | Men’s Fashion: J. Crew | Paper Goods: Swiss Cottage Designs | Calligraphy, Escort Cards, and Place Settings: Laura Hooper Calligraphy | Rentals: All Occasions Party Rentals | Linens: La Tavola Linen | Transportation: Chariots of Hire | Lighting: Bandit Lites | Photo Booth: The Photo Blaster | Band: Simply Irresistible | Guest Lodging: Tremont Lodge and Dancing Bear Lodge | String Trio: Farr Horizons Trio

marissa Written with love by Marissa
  1. avatar Natalie reply

    Thanks for posting! xx

  2. avatar Bri A reply

    Another feature where you can hear the joy and excitement coming through the interview! They did such a great job incorporating so many personal touches into their wedding and it looked so chic! Loved this – thanks for sharing!

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