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Bride Ariana shares her paper flower-filled wedding at The Elms Mansion.

Whether it’s the first dress they try on or the venue they’ve been dreaming of for years, some brides know exactly what they want and the vision that they have in mind. And some are like me: completely indecisive. That’s why I’m excited to introduce y’all to today’s bride, Ariana. She’s a combination of both! While she and Mike might have looked into every possible wedding venue in New Orleans before deciding on The Elms Mansion, once they stood under the gigantic magnolia tree, Ariana finally knew. She remembers looking at the gazebo and thinking, “that’s where we’re going to get married.” Of course, said gazebo needed a touch of something special to make it perfect. Ariana, who just so happens to own a paper flower and décor company, Love & Paper, created a huge 8 foot by 8 foot paper flower wall backdrop for their vows (and for guests to snap photos in front of all night long!). Wondering where else Ariana snuck in her paper flower work? Keep reading to find out!

Big SW hugs to Arte de Vie for sharing this sweet wedding with us!

How did you plan for your marriage while planning your wedding? Our parents all wanted to be involved in the planning process, which I know definitely made me closer with Mike’s parents and sister. I think it taught us all how to communicate with one another as a big family; there were times when one of us would get frustrated and the others quickly learned how to deal with that. If I ever needed help with something, I knew I always had at least six people who would probably jump on a plane for me. I love that my maid of honor was Mike’s sister, Lauren, and his best man was my brother, Erich. It’s a beautiful thing for my parents and in-laws to get along so well – we all spent this past Christmas together! From day one, marriage always meant the union of our two families, not just the two of us, and planning the wedding was a great exercise for that.

I was so in love with our wedding flowers. I had pages and pages of inspiration photos, and Diane from Fat Cat Flowers nailed it. The color palette was a mix of soft corals, pinks, peaches, light oranges, and yellows. When I first saw the gazebo at the Elms, I knew it had to have a floral chandelier, which turned out to be breathtaking. I love peonies and was somewhat heartbroken when I learned they wouldn’t be in season for the wedding. However, since I have a paper flower and decor business, Love & Paper, I just made my own peonies for my bouquet! I love that while the rest of the flowers wilted over time, I’ll always have the fluffy magenta peonies from my wedding bouquet on display in our home. I had paper flowers all throughout the wedding venue; some were out on display on the tables and other were hidden in with real bouquets.

I knew I wanted to wear a big ball gown, and I tried on so many beautiful dresses. There were a couple that I really liked a lot, but they didn’t give me that “feeling” you hear about. I eventually put on the Hayley Paige “Londyn” gown. The second I stepped out of the dressing room, my mom and I both looked at each other and teared up, knowing it was the one. I loved twirling in all that tulle!

We decided to do a first look because we wanted formal photos in the daylight, and it would be dark by the time the ceremony was over. It also allowed us to dive right into the party after the ceremony. We wanted to soak up every moment possible with our loved ones at our reception, which really does go by so quickly! The first look was such a special moment between the two of us, and gave us the opportunity to take each other in as bride and groom in a relaxed and private manner.

We knew we wanted to get married in New Orleans, since it was our home and where we both spent the majority of our adult lives. I think we looked into every possible wedding venue the city had to offer! Mike was actually the one who first wanted to look at The Elms Mansion, and it was one of the last venues we visited. After we walked through the beautiful historic mansion and lush gardens, we stood under the gigantic magnolia tree (one of the largest in the city), and I remember looking at the gazebo and thinking, “that’s where we’re going to get married.”

When I first started my paper flower business, I committed to making an 8 foot by 8 foot paper flower wall for people to rent for their events. When we got engaged, we knew we had to use it at our own wedding! So we planned on having it as the backdrop for our ceremony. On the morning of our wedding, Mike and his groomsmen skipped their hot shave to set it up with my mom in the gazebo, which was such an act of love. I was so nervous, because it had never even left our house before, let alone made it through an entire event, but it was so rewarding to see so many hours of hard work on display. And I’ve rented it out to two other brides since our wedding!

When I asked my godfather to do a reading, he replied, “no reading is good enough for you- can I write my own?” Seeing as he’s a professional speech writer, I knew he wouldn’t disappoint! He wrote the most beautiful speech for us celebrating our love and relationship. Another dear family friend read the “Blessing of the Hands” right before we exchanged rings, which was so special.

What is the one detail or vendor that you were so happy to have as a part of your wedding? We really did have the absolute dream team of vendors, and I’m still so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with such talented people. But if I had to pick one in particular to call out, I have to hand it to wedding coordinator, Belinda Belk (Blue Gardenia Events). I loved our meetings, during which we’d pour over inspiration pictures, specialty linens, florals, color palettes, etc. She helped add so many special details and elements that I wouldn’t have thought of myself. I literally cried when I walked into our venue on our wedding day and saw how perfect and beautiful everything was – exactly how I had pictured it all in my mind, except better. Belinda also just made things so much easier on us as the big day came near, and was extremely helpful with tasks and errands that weren’t even her responsibilities.

There were so many love-filled details of our wedding, it’s hard to choose a favorite. I spent countless hours making paper rose escort cards for our guests, which were pinned to gold frames of moss. The whole family was so helpful, and our little apartment felt and looked like a wedding decor factory. My mother-in-law also secretly made flip flops for our wedding guests, which were revealed at the wedding after our first dance. And they were a huge hit – not a single pair was left behind! Putting together the guests’ welcome bags was a huge collaborative effort. My mom made homemade “graNOLA” bars, a family friend of the Shlanskys made chapsticks, another family friend of theirs made the first aid kits (he even painted on the red crosses with help from Mike’s parents), my grandmother helped put on the personalized water bottle labels, Mike and his dad did shopping runs for Zapp’s potato chips and pralines from New Orleans School of Cooking, and everyone, including a helpful bridesmaid, helped to stuff and and deliver the bags. I think all of the work and love that went into putting those bags together makes them one of my very favorite details!

What was your most memorable moment from your wedding day? After our ceremony, we led a second line up and down St. Charles Avenue. Once we got back to the Elms Mansion, I remember standing on the front steps and looking down at the 175 people we love most in the world cheering for and waving at us. That was such a surreal moment. We then went upstairs and signed the marriage papers, and people wanted to give us a few minutes alone to gather our thoughts and eat some dinner. But we spent most of that time peering out the window wanting to rush down to the party! We were so giddy and thinking, “Come on, can’t we do this later!? Let us down there!”

Our wedding cake was half white almond with amaretto buttercream and half devil’s food layered with dark chocolate mousse. The three tier cake was iced with white buttercream and had peachy coral brushstrokes on the top tier and mint brushstrokes on the bottom tier. I wanted a watercolor effect, and Melissa’s Fine Pastries did such a beautiful job with it. I made the paper flowers that cascaded down the cake. Mike has a major sweet tooth, so we also had a table of assorted pastries: fresh fruit tartlets, cayenne bourbon pecan tartlets, carrot cake squares, lemon poppy seed cupcakes, Banana’s Foster cheesecakes, and pecan pralines. Yum!

What was Southern about your wedding? We didn’t have to do much to make our wedding feel Southern, because there is so much Southern history in The Elms Mansion, and the food their chef prepares is very New Orleans. We also had a New Orleans second line after our ceremony, which was such a rush. We’ve participated in many second lines in all of our years in New Orleans, but it was so surreal knowing that this parade was in celebration of us! All of our guests were handed monogrammed handkerchiefs to wave in the air and sweet tea and vodka cocktails to sip as we danced down historic St. Charles Avenue. The umbrellas that Mike and I held were the ones his cousin and his cousin’s wife (who was also one of my bridesmaids) used at their own wedding a few years prior. As wedding favors, I put together little jars of Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning, complete with custom labels that I designed.

Tell us your love story. I had just moved into an apartment on Napoleon Avenue in New Orleans, and Lucy (my small dog), escaped from my yard. Thinking she had gone through a hole in the fence, I rang the next door neighbor’s doorbell asking if he had seen her. My neighbor told me that he saw a little dog in the middle of the (very busy) street furiously licking a hamburger wrapper as honking cars swerved around her. Thankfully, I got her back later that day. That same neighbor ended up coming over to my birthday party a couple months later, and we became good friends (as did Lucy and his dog, Cole). We remained “just friends” for a year before we decided to start dating, and my next door neighbor became my boyfriend, then my roommate, then my fiance!
Tell us all about the proposal! Over the summer of 2015, I had this feeling that he would propose. I don’t know why, and I definitely didn’t admit it to anyone (I barely admitted it to myself), but that feeling grew stronger and stronger as our annual summer vacation to Block Island, RI approached. When Mike didn’t propose on Saturday night, I thought to myself, “Eh, okay, I was just being silly and my imagination was in overdrive!” On Monday, we were rushing around packing because we had to make a ferry. We were cutting it pretty close (as always), and I had started off toward the car when I saw something written in chalk on the drive ahead of me. I stopped in my tracks and just stared, dumbfounded at what was in front of me: “Ariana, will you marry me?” surrounded by hearts. After what felt like seconds to me, but probably minutes to Mike, I slowly dropped my bags and turned around, only to see Mike on one knee holding a ring! It all felt so surreal that I’m not sure I’d remember all the details if it weren’t for his best friend Jason documenting the entire thing on his iPhone. I went to him and said, “of course!” but was suddenly hit with the reality that we were about to say goodbye to one another for a week. “But now we have to leave?” I asked, through tears. He answered, “Nope, we’re staying ’til Friday!” Apparently, it took a small army, the zipped lips of all four of our parents, PhotoShopped plane tickets to New Orleans and Boston, fake work obligations that had been in place for a month or so in advance, and very careful monitoring and deletion of any emails, texts, or pictures that might tip me off to pull off this very elaborately planned ruse. He said he knew that I might think he’d propose in Block Island, which is why he threw me off by “having to leave” and waiting until the very last minute to do it.
When did y’all get married? October 22nd, 2016
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 175
Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding and why you chose them. I walked down the aisle to Pachelbel’s Canon in D, which I’ve loved ever since I learned how to play it on the piano when I was little. I really wanted a trumpet to play as my dad walked me down the aisle, and I can’t wait to hear and see it on the video, because I don’t remember it at all! I was too distracted by everyone and everything else around me. My father helped me choose the rest of the ceremony music, since he’s the family expert on classical music. Our first dance song was “You Are the Best Thing” by Ray LaMontagne, which Mike and I chose just a couple nights before the wedding. We only had to listen up to the first refrain to know it was perfect – upbeat, not too sappy, but with a sweet message that resonated with us. We did a combined father/daughter and mother/son dance to “Ain’t that Love” by Ray Charles. It was so lighthearted and sweet; I just love the photos from that moment.
Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! I borrowed a pearl bracelet from my mom that my dad gave to her when I was born. My something old was a “Magic Hankie” that was given to me at me as a baby and used as a bonnet at my Christening; I had it tucked into my dress to wipe away any happy tears! I had my toes painted light blue as my something blue, and my dress, veil, shoes, and earrings were all new.
What was one way you saved money or cut costs at your wedding? Aside from our letterpress invitations, I did pretty much all of the design work using Photoshop and InDesign for our wedding materials. I designed the save the dates, the A&M monogram, the welcome bag brochures, the ceremony programs, the menu (with help from Belinda), the spice jar favor labels, and small signage. Not having to outsource any of those design jobs helped us save money, and I enjoyed doing it. Another small way I saved money was forgoing expensive designer shoes for a pair of cute, inexpensive flats. A bride will often splurge on a fabulous pair of Jimmy Choos or Christian Louboutins for her wedding day (and there’s nothing wrong with that!), but I personally didn’t see the point, as no one was going to see my shoes under my dress, and I wanted something comfortable as I knew I’d be on my feet all night.
What’s next for you as a couple? We actually just moved to Connecticut at the end of March! We miss New Orleans greatly, but are so excited to really start our life together up here. Mike got an amazing job offer, and we’ll be closer to our parents, which will be wonderful once we’re ready to start a family of our own in a year or two. I’m also really looking forward to bringing my business to a new market and expanding Love & Paper’s reach. We still have a lot of family and friends who live in New Orleans, so we’ll be back often for visits (especially during the snowy northeastern winters).

Photographer: Arte de Vie | Videographer: Dyle Films | Planner: Blue Gardenia Events | Ceremony and Reception Venue: The Elms Mansion | Florist: Fat Cat Flowers | Wedding Cake or Dessert Baker: Melissa’s Fine Pastries | Caterer: The Elms Mansion | Rentals: Event Rental | Lighting: Fat Cat Flowers and Blue Gardenia Events | Band or DJ: Bucktown Allstars | Paper Products: Scriptura | Bride’s Gown: “Londyn” by Hayley Paige | Bride’s Hair Accessories/Veil/Jewelry: Toni Federici | Hair Stylist: Flawless Bride | Makeup Artist: Flawless Bride | Bride’s Shoes: Dessy | Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Amsale, Hayley Paige, Dessy | Groom’s Attire: Calvin Klein | Groomsmen Attire: Vera Wang Black | Paper Flowers: Love & Paper | Calligraphy: VCalligraphy | Ceremony musicians: New Orleans Classical and Jazz | Second Line Band: Young Pinstripe Brass Band | Linen: Nuage Designs

marissa Written with love by Marissa
1 Comment
  1. avatar Denis Lunyakin reply

    Divine photos! Thank you for your work!

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“Money is the number one issue that causes couples to argue.” So says Toni Coleman, renowned psychotherapist and relationship coach… and, well, pretty much everyone I’ve ever talked to about marriage – ha!

One of the things I’m most grateful for in my marriage is that my husband and I have always been on the same page about money… but what if that’s not you and your significant other? Are you just doomed?

NO! Sorry-not-sorry for the all caps, but you’re 100% not doomed. There are some incredible resources out there to help you both get on the same page and change your future with money, and one of the best ones I know is Dave Ramsey’s book Total Money Makeover.

In his book, Dave condenses 20 years of financial teaching and counseling into seven organized, easy-to-follow steps that will lead you out of debt and into a total money makeover. It’s a plan designed for everyone, regardless of income, age, or religion (though Dave himself is a Christian).

Total Money Makeover can help you:
— design a sure-fire plan for paying off ALL Debt
— recognize the 10 most dangerous money myths
— secure a comfortable nest egg for emergencies
— radically change your life and your family’s legacy

Sounds good, right? But so do a lot of things. To show you what an impact Dave’s principles can have on real couples, I reached out to a few readers to share the effect this book has had on their marriages and financial future. I hope these stories inspired you as much as they did me — these ladies (and gents) are rocking it!!

Who they are: Ashley and Josh
What Dave’s principles helped them accomplish: They have paid off $18,700 of debt in four months using the snowball method. Their goal is to be 100% debt free in two years.
How they did it: Gazelle intensity! Ashley started a side business (on top of her full-time corporate job) to help pay off debt, and Josh has picked up two extra jobs (one in the evenings after work, and one on the weekends), to help accelerate their debt snowball. By the end of July, they will have paid off close to $23,000!
Their biggest takeaway from the book: “The most amazing thing we’ve gotten from following Dave’s model is unity. Dave talks about the fact that when you and your spouse are both focused with gazelle intensity on ONE goal together, you become more unified than ever, and that has rung true for us.”

Who they are: Bethany and Kent
What Dave’s principles helped them accomplish: Sticking to a budget on smaller salaries (she’s a teacher, he works in ministry at a summer camp), including putting over $1,000 a month toward student loan debt.
How they did it: “Making a budget and following through with it was a HUGE eye-opener. If we didn’t have a budget and stick to it, I can guarantee that we’d just blow that money on food, clothing, and other material possessions, none of which we actually need.”
Their biggest takeaway from the book: “Working towards a common goal has strengthened our marriage and our faith. While my husband has always been a man of few possessions, I definitely have not. I want the beautiful home, the nice and newest clothes, and the coffee treats. Because we only use cash for personal spending, I don’t have a way to exceed my budget. It forces me to not look for satisfaction or happiness in material things, but seek satisfaction in the Lord.”

Who they are: Diana and Kyle
What Dave’s principles helped them accomplish: “The “baby steps” outlined in Total Money Makeover helped us pay off $30K of debt in less than a year and build an emergency fund that now always holds at least $10,000. That emergency fund is for true emergencies–we have a separate short-term savings account we use to save money for hospital bills, replacing a car, etc.–so we’ve never had to dip into it. It’s amazing to live with margin and without a lot of financial stress weighing heavy on our marriage.”
How they did it: “We started by tracking everything we spent so we would have enough understanding of our expenses to create a budget. We had no clue what we were spending–it was eye-opening! (Read: Horrifying.) Then we created a budget, tracked every dollar we spent, and got a little radical about our spending. Surprisingly, it was fun in a weird way. We felt really united as a couple tackling our debt together and became creative and resourceful about achieving our goal.”
Their biggest takeaway from the book: “We still love Dave’s famous encouragement that, ‘If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.’ It’s tough to live below your means when most people around you don’t, but patience and contentment pays off! To us, this quote doesn’t mean that if we live frugally now, we’ll get to enjoy a plush life when we’re older; it means that we will get to give radically because our own financial needs won’t be a concern anymore.”

Who she is: Jennifer
What Dave’s principles helped her accomplish: Jennifer had the margin to follow the call to work in ministry (her dream job!) because she no longer had student loan debt from an expensive graduate degree.
How she did it: “My Dad has been a Dave fan for many years and gifted all of my siblings with his book upon graduating high school. A few years later, though, I found myself signing on the line for $60,000 worth of Master of Architecture loans. After graduate school, I found Total Money Makeover again and finally put it to use. I paid off all of my student loans in under two and a half years by taking on a second job (which provided me free housing) and throwing all of my money at my loans.
Her biggest takeaway from the book: “I’m very thankful for the financial freedom I have now. It’s allowed me to finally say yes to the call to work in ministry that’s God has been placing on my heart for a while now. I know if I were still paying my student loans each month I wouldn’t have been able to consider the career move (financially, yes, but also from the guilt of switching while still paying for that grad degree!).”

Who they are: Britt and Dustin
What Dave’s principles helped them accomplish: They paid cash for their entire home renovation ($180,000 over about three years). “It was an old home that had caught on fire and we naively bought from a family member not having a clue what we were doing – it needed to be entirely gutted.”
How they did it: “Several years ago we took the leap and started working with a financial coach (who had learned under Dave’s principles initially) to get us headed in the right direction. It only took a few phone calls of us connecting together with him to get a better understanding of the purpose behind organizing our finances better. Since then, we’ve made a zero based budget every. single. month. Which just blows my mind, considering my husband was anything but excited about the concept of a budget from the beginning. Now it’s just a habit: it takes us five minutes on the last day of every month, and I don’t foresee us stopping anytime soon.”
Their biggest takeaway from the book: “Dave’s principles have changed us as individuals, changed our perspective on marriage and truly being a team, and allowed us to pay cash for everything we do now. We simply don’t buy it if we can’t pay cash, and we believe that’s the best thing for us and what we ultimately want for our life and our family.”

Ready to get your own financial house on track? Total Money Makeover is available wherever books are sold in physical, audio, and e-book form, and it makes a great gift for an engagement party, bridal shower, or newlywed couple. Buy it here on Amazon, and grab a few accompanying freebies right here!

This post is sponsored by Harper Collins. Thank you for your support of the brands who make Southern Weddings possible!

emily Written with love by Emily
6 Comments
  1. avatar Lindy reply

    I LOVE this article! (I’m a bit of a Dave Ramsey fan, and while I’ve never read the Total Money Makeover, I have listened to a LOT of his podcasts. They motivated me while my husband and I were completing Baby Step 6, which we just finished last week! Woohoo!)

    • avatar Emily reply

      My husband and I are huge fans of his Entreleadership podcast! So much good stuff even if you’re not a business owner!

  2. avatar Lauren reply

    I originally gained insight into Dave Ramsey through Emily’s personal blog and borrowed the book from the library. I was able to pay off $5,000 in credit card debt with his principles! Love this post!

  3. avatar Emily B. reply

    I too borrowed the audio book from the library and ended up listening to it twice since it was so good and had so many good nuggets of information. Year to date I’ve paid off $6,800 towards my car loan and have vowed to never finance a vehicle again. So happy to see other women so fired up about personal finance!!! Thanks Emily for a great post!

  4. avatar Emily M. reply

    What a great post! I’m a big fan of Dave Ramsey, and really believe his approach allows couples to grow in new, financially-healthy ways! My fiance and I love his podcasts too!

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For Southern Weddings V9, we asked a few of our wisest, most creative, and just plain fun friends how they celebrate their anniversaries. From simple takeout dinners served on wedding china, to trips back to honeymoon destinations, and everything in between, their ideas spanned every timeframe, budget, and tradition we can think of. Whether you’ll be celebrating your first anniversary or your fifteenth this year, we hope these ideas inspire you–we’ll be sharing a new one each Sunday!

Jen Dillender

Every year, we make a point to get out of town for a few days to really celebrate our anniversary well, usually in the North Carolina coastal town where we got engaged. Getting away helps us to truly disconnect from the noise of everyday life, and unwind enough to really look at each other face to face! We love music and driving through our beautiful state, so every year, we make a new anniversary road trip playlist to enjoy along the way. We also make it a point to stop for the best NC barbecue while we’re on the road! While we’re there, we make and eat great meals together, and have at least one fun and different adventure (last year, we rode horses on the beach!).
– Samantha Ray of Lula Hair + Makeup, married 4 years

Written with love by Southern Weddings
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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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