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I’m a classic wedding gal through and through! When I saw the very first photo of Grace and Ben’s beautiful day I knew I was going to love it. I mean, the cathedral length lace veil and monogram button down combo?! But, after reading their sweet interview, I am even more smitten. For these high school sweethearts, sticking with tradition, classic design, and beautiful florals was not just to create a stunning wedding day, but to honor their family and their own love story. Custom corn hole boards are fun, but for Grace and Ben it was not only a nod to the amazing tailgates we have as Southerners, but Ben’s time as a collegiate football player at Appalachian State. My favorite reason for a decision, however, is why they chose not to have a first look. Ben’s father (also his best man) told him: “One of the greatest feelings you’ll ever have in your entire life is when your bride walks down the aisle towards you for the first time; you feel like your chest is going to explode.” Oh, Southern gents, y’all break the mold!

Big SW hugs to Blue Ribbon Vendor Virgil Bunao for capturing this romantic day planned by fellow BRV member A Charleston Bride.

I found my wedding dress the week after we got engaged! At an appointment with my mom, I tried on about five dresses I liked, and then she pulled one from the rack that she thought I should try on. I did, not really sure if I would like it, and LOVED it as soon as I put it on, so much so that I decided I didn’t want to try on any more dresses and knew that it was the one! The only issue was that it was strapless, and I had always wanted sleeves. The amazing ladies at Joan Pillow worked with me over a period of about six months to create a custom designed bolero from coordinating Carolina Herrera lace to match my veil. I had a vision for it and they made it happen so beautifully!

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. Ben and I met at Charlotte Latin School. He played football and had a devastating knee injury his senior year. The injury resulted in multiple surgeries, causing him to miss so much school that he ended up choosing to repeat his senior year to get to play a complete season of football and re-earn his athletic scholarships to colleges. The doctors told him he might never walk again, and he ended up being an all-American college football player at Appalachian State as a tight end. Also, if he hadn’t had to repeat his senior year, we never would have met! I waved at him from my art class for a few weeks while he was playing foursquare outside for a physical education class. He asked one of my friends who I was, my friend gave Ben my number, and the rest is history!

What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? I grew up going to Kiawah Island with my family and have so many happy memories there, so as soon as we got engaged I had a feeling I wanted to get married there. Ben also loves it and has joined my family on lots of trips there. Whenever I was at Kiawah with my family, we attended Holy Spirit Catholic church and I thought it was beautiful. Plus, the people there are so kind and warm.
Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? We used the traditional vows at the church. Reciting the traditional vows that my parents and their parents before them promised to each other before God is something that was very special for me.
What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? Old Testament: Genesis 2:18-24, New Testament: 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:8a, Gospel: Matthew 7:21, 24-29 (My husband’s favorite scripture verses!)

Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding and why you chose them. We chose “God Who Created Hearts to Love” as the song to walk back up the aisle to once we were married because it completely sums up our belief about marriage — that we were created by God to love Him through loving each other. Our first dance was “All of Me” by John Legend; my husband specifically picked it out because the lyrics sum up what we are about. Neither of us are perfect, and we love that about each other. My dad picked our first dance song, “Lullaby: Goodnight, My Angel,” and we both cried. I loved that it was not a very common father-daughter dance song, and it brought back so many memories of my dad singing it to me when I was a little girl.

What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? We had custom corn hole boards set up off the back porch to entertain our guests during the cocktail hour. My husband played college football in the South and it was a great nod to the amazing tailgates we have as Southerners! We had chicken and waffles as a passed appetizer, with the waffle as a waffle cone and a piece of fried chicken with syrup inside of it– easy to eat and delicious! Along with Southern deviled eggs and macaroni and cheese balls, we also had a raw bar with local oysters and shrimp. One of our three entree options was shrimp and grits. Other than the food, the overall atmosphere of the event was very Southern in regards to the hospitality. As we planned the wedding, the main thought I always came back to was trying to make everything comfortable and welcoming for our guests. The staff at the River Course went above and beyond to make sure every one of our guests had what they needed at all times. Another way that idea was executed was in having lounge furniture right off the dance floor. The gorgeous upholstered sofas and chairs summed up what being Southern means to me – welcoming, comfortable, and relaxed elegance.

Describe your wedding cake or dessert. We chose to incorporate two flavors into the three tiers. The top and bottom were white chocolate cake with chocolate hazelnut filling, and the middle tier was sour cream pound cake with strawberry filling. In terms of the design, I wanted to keep it simple and have it be a part of the overall design of the event. The middle tier said, “And they lived happily ever after,” in gold, as well. I really wanted to incorporate our love of Disney and our engagement in a subtle way.

Tell us all about the proposal! We both love Disney World, and our dating anniversary was January 1st. On New Year’s Eve, we decided to go to the Magic Kingdom together to celebrate seven years of dating. We spent the day there together and found a great spot to watch the fireworks starting at midnight, the start of our seven year celebration! We were right in front of Cinderella’s castle, and after the countdown to the New Year, as the fireworks were just beginning, Ben got down on one knee and whipped a ring out of his pocket and proposed! I was shocked and so unbelievably happy!
When did y’all get married? January 17, 2015
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 140
Did you decide to do a first look? Why or why not? We decided to not do one. Ben’s father (also his best man) has always told him: “One of the greatest feelings you’ll ever have in your entire life is when your bride walks down the aisle towards you for the first time; you feel like your chest is going to explode” We definitely wanted to share that moment of seeing each other for the first time that day as I walked down the aisle in the church and I’m so happy we did it that way. It was so incredible and Ben says he will remember that feeling for the rest of his life.
Our favorite detail of the wedding was: Our favorite detail was our custom logo designed by Studio R. It was our initials intertwined inside of a hand-drawn floral wreath. I loved it so much that we used it on our invitations, envelopes, cocktail napkins, corn hole boards, thank you cards, and most excitingly for me: our ice sculpture. I love ice sculptures, and knew I wanted one at our wedding. Our wedding planner suggested carving our custom logo on it. We placed shrimp and oysters on it, making it a raw bar set up in front of the huge bay windows. As the sun set, it illuminated and shone through the sculpture. It was beautiful and a custom touch I will always remember and cherish. It was also one of the first things our guests saw when they walked into the space for cocktail hour, and I believe it set the tone for the rest of the event.
Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! Yes! Borrowed: I had two! I first asked the florist to wrap my bouquet in my mom’s white rosary that she got in Italy. Secondly, I borrowed my mom’s gorgeous pearl earrings with diamond jackets. They are classic and elegant, just like my mom. I felt so special wearing them. Blue: Betty, the wonderful seamstress at Joan Pillow Bridal Salon, surprised me at our last fitting by embroidering the inside of my dress right over my heart with a blue GJ (my new initials), and our wedding date. After spending months designing my custom bolero with her, we became really close and it was very meaningful for me that she did that. Old: I also had the florist wrap my bouquet in a strip of lace from my mother’s dress. I loved having a piece of her dress as a part of my outfit as I walked down the aisle, and along with her rosary, I cherished holding onto it.
How did you plan for your marriage while planning your wedding? It was a lot of fun to work with Haley and the ladies of A Charleston Bride to plan our beautiful wedding, but for the year we were engaged, Ben and I were most focused and excited about preparing for our marriage and life together. After being together for over seven years at that point, we were so ready to commit to spending the rest of our lives together in front of God and our family and friends. We met with my local priest for premarital counseling and attended a weekend getaway with engaged couples where there were speakers on issues ranging from financial planning to spiritual development.
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? There were so many images I had seen on Pinterest and in magazines that I loved, but they were all very different from each other! It was hard for me to focus on what, exactly, I wanted our wedding to look like. It was overwhelming!! After my first meeting with Haley, all of my issues were totally gone, as she instantly was able to look into my head and know exactly what I wanted, but couldn’t articulate. She was able to read my taste completely, and helped me more than I can say with creating a vision. She is incredible.
What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? My most memorable moment was when the church doors opened for the first time, I stood with my dad, and looked out and saw the man I love more than anything in the world who was about to become my husband.
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? My advice would be to stress out as little as possible about it. At the end of the day, the most important thing is your marriage; the rest of it is just beautiful extras. However beautiful you believe your wedding will be, I promise it will be even more incredible than you imagined. Relax, soak it in, and enjoy it. It will be gorgeous and perfect no matter what little things go wrong.
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you most looking forward to about married life? Ben and I recently brought a new member into our family, our puppy English Bulldog named Brutus! We plan to continue settling into our first home together, tackling very very small home improvement projects as neither of us are handy, and enjoying this time together.

Photographer: Virgil Bunao Photography | Videographer: Jim Jorden Productions | Planner:
Haley with A Charleston Bride | Ceremony Venue: Holy Spirit Catholic Church | Reception Venue and Caterer: The River Course Clubhouse at the Kiawah Island Club | Florist: A Charleston Bride | Wedding Cake: Ashley Bakery | Band: The Maxx from East Coast Entertainment | Paper Products: Studio R |
Bride’s Gown and Veil: Carolina Herrera “Alice” | Bridal Salon and Custom Bolero: Joan Pillow | Hair Stylist: Victora Melton | Makeup Artist: Moore Makeup | Bride’s Shoes: Kate Spade | Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Tadashi Shoji from purchased at Nordstrom | Groom’s Attire: Charleston Tuxedo

A Charleston Bride, Virgil Bunao, East Coast Entertainment, and Studio R are delightful members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

marissa Written with love by Marissa
  1. avatar Victoria reply

    Obsessed with this sweet couple and their story! Consider this comment a formal request for y’all to feature them for Southern Newlywed- with style like this I bet their home is adorable! XO

  2. avatar Jim reply

    What a sweet article Marissa! Here’s a link to: Grace & Ben Forever, Their Love Story

    Password – jordens (all lower case)

  3. avatar Jehnel Oboza-Davison reply

    I second that request, Victoria! We were so happy to have Grace and Ben make their way towards for their photos. When I found out their home was also adorable, I immediately told Grace to try her hand at applying for Southern Newlywed. I really hope she does! (=

  4. avatar reply

    Wow what an elegant event. We especially love the flowers around the fireplace & on the backs of the chairs and that cake is so pretty!

  5. avatar Abbey Angelle reply

    Would love to know where the mother of the bride dress came from? Designer? I love it.

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Colorful weddings can be fun, but there is something so beautiful about the understated elegance of Kelly and Barrett’s black and white affair. Accented with gorgeous gold details, the William Aiken House looks extra romantic and timeless! For two people who met at a wedding, I’m sure there was a bit of pressure to make their own day equally memorable. With venues deeply rooted in Southern history and a band that kept their guests dancing into the night, I’m sure Kelly and Barrett won’t soon forget how special their day was!

Big hugs to Blue Ribbon Vendor Virgil Bunao for sharing this pretty day with us!

My dress ended up being the first dress I picked out! I decided to go to Maddison Row in Charleston because they were having a Monique Lhuillier trunk show. I love and appreciate fashion, so I wanted something unique and classic. Monique Lhuillier’s Renoir gown was a great mix between the two and I loved it as soon as I tried it on! I spent the next couple of months looking for a dress I liked better, and I just couldn’t find one. It was the most beautiful piece of clothing I’ve ever worn and, as a bonus, it was comfortable too!

What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? Having the whole shebang in Charleston, one of the most iconic Southern cities, was very important for both of us. Both of our venues are deeply rooted in Southern history–the First Baptist church of Charleston was the first Baptist church in the South, and the William Aiken House is a historical landmark with a gorgeous garden and a sprawling piazza!

What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? I had my aunt read Colossians 3:12-17. I love this verse because it is simple advice for how we should live every day together as husband and wife.

We were extremely blessed to have all the vendors that we had. The moment I heard Liquid Pleasure at a formal in college, I knew I wanted them to be the band for our wedding, and they made for a memorable dance floor! Virgil made everyone feel so comfortable, and his pictures make us both look good!! Also, having Ellen Robinson as a wedding planner was very comforting through all the planning, and especially on the big day. She was truly incredible.

Describe your wedding flowers. Sarah York Grimshaw Designs did a fabulous job with our flowers! My bouquet was made up of white ranunculus, ivory garden roses, sweet pea, astilbe, pieris japonica, parrot tulips, jasmine vine, olive branches, and other greenery, wrapped in ivory silk dupioni ribbon. She also did a great job with our bar setup–she designed a hanging greenery and branch installation over the bar with hanging candle votives. We loved it!

Jim Smeal designed our wedding cake to resemble the intricacies of my dress. He did an amazing job, while making it taste extremely delicious! The flavors were chocolate kahlua, hazelnut and coconut with key lime.

Our favorite detail of the wedding was: I loved our dance floor! The band kept our guests dancing from the first to the last song. At one point, I remember being onstage with my mother and bridesmaids, singing and dancing to “Proud Mary” and forming dance trains. We also provided funny props to guests on the dance floor, which made for some hilarious photos.

I wanted a venue that was gorgeous, but also accessible for guests. I loved that the William Aiken House was walkable from many accommodations, and that at night, it felt like a secret garden with a gorgeous glow in the middle of busy Upper King.

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. We actually met at wedding! He asked me to dance and we talked for the rest of the night. We were long distance between Charlotte and Charleston and drove back and forth as much as we could. Almost exactly three years after meeting, we were married!
Tell us all about the proposal! We planned a beach weekend at my parents’ beach house near Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, and I decided to go down a day early to stay the night in Charleston. Barrett planned to take me to one of my favorite restaurants (Fulton Five, yum!) that night as a late birthday dinner. We left a bit early to “meet” one of his friends, who was in town for business, for a drink before our reservation (later, I found out that the friend wasn’t in town at all). Barrett told me we were meeting him at “his hotel” downtown, a small B&B off King Street. We got to his room, which is when Barrett pulled out a key and I saw that the room was full of rose petals. Then, he got down on one knee! We went to dinner afterwards and got to spend the rest of the weekend with family and friends to celebrate.
When did y’all get married? October 11, 2014
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 200
Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding and why you chose them. For the first dance, we chose “Unchained Melody” by The Righteous Brothers. Our entire relationship was long distance, so this song really resonated with us, and we love that it’s a classic!
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you most looking forward to about married life? We just bought our first home in Barrett’s hometown, Hickory, North Carolina. It is wonderful being together and close to family.

Photographer: Virgil Bunao / Planner: Ellen Cohn Robinson / Ceremony Venue: First Baptist Church of Charleston / Reception Venue: The William Aiken House / Florist: Sarah York Grimshaw / Cake Baker: Jim Smeal / Caterer: Patrick Properties Hospitality Group / Rentals: Snyder Event Rentals / Lighting: Technical Event Company / Band: Liquid Pleasure / Paper Products: Studio R Design / Bride’s Gown: “Renoir” by Monique Lhuillier / Bride’s Veil: Monique Lhuillier / Hair Stylist: Tanesha Dupree / Makeup Artist: Kelly Campbell / Bride’s Shoes: Jimmy Choo / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Amsale / Bridesmaid Dress Salon: Bella Bridesmaid Charleston / Groom’s Attire: Saint Laurent / Groomsmen Attire: Charleston Tuxedo

Virgil Bunao and Studio R Design are delightful members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

marissa Written with love by Marissa
  1. avatar Loverly reply

    Loving the cake under that grand arch! Gorgeous wedding.

  2. avatar Stacy {Woodsy Weddings} reply

    The black bridesmaid dresses are bold, but I love how it is softened with the chiffon on one shoulder. Beautiful color palette.

  3. avatar Getting Hitched « Sunday Design Studio // Blog reply

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I served as matron of honor in my sister-in-law’s wedding this weekend, and seeing Brianna and Neal’s sweet day brings me right back to Saturday. There is nothing quite like the community and love at a Southern wedding, and it’s evident in these lovely photos by Virgil Bunao that Brianna and Neal experienced that same glorious love on their big day that I witnessed this weekend! While we were not quite as lucky in the weather department, Brianna and Neal were able to celebrate under the stars sans tent, and feel completely at home while watching the sunset over the Wando River at RiverOaks. Along with the bagpiper procession (be sure to read about that below!), I bet this was a wedding guests won’t ever forget!

Tell us about finding your wedding dress. I searched through countless blogs and Pinterest posts looking for inspiration for a dress and found the “Madame Butterfly” dress by Claire Pettibone. I instantly knew it was my dress, but after doing some research, I found out that the dress was discontinued. After an unsuccessful attempt to shop for a more practical dress option at one of the local bridal stores with my stepmother, I just couldn’t see myself in any other dress but the Claire Pettibone I loved. Luckily, I found a bridal shop in London that had a sample, and we purchased it. Everyone was so nervous, but I just knew it was the one!

Describe your wedding flowers. We used ivy, maidenhair fern, white and pink English roses from the RiverOaks rose garden, light pink astilbe, black and white anemones, and coral and white peonies. The stems of my bouquet were wrapped in ribbon fastened with pins that signified my father’s rank in the Marine Corps during the year I was born. Having my father explain this to me instantly brought me to tears–the pins served as a symbol of how close we have become as a family over the years while overcoming challenges military families face.

My favorite detail was the bagpiper and the memory that created. While staying downtown with my family, I saw a wedding procession walk through the streets of Charleston from the church to the reception, led by a bagpiper. Remembering how excited I had been about that as a child, my parents surprised me with a bagpiper. The RiverOaks team coordinated the bagpiper to lead our wedding guests down the path that led to the ceremony seating area while I watched from an upstairs window. I don’t think there was a dry eye in that bridal suite!

For the most part, our vows were traditional, but we added a hand fasting ceremony and a ring blessing. The rings were fastened around ribbon and rope, and passed to our family and friends at the ceremony so that each person could impart their well wishes on our marriage. I still look at my ring from time to time and think of all our loved ones who held our rings and gave us their blessings at the ceremony.

What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? Did they have any special significance to you? My dad is from Charleston, and we often visited the city to see extended family. When I was younger, we sometimes stayed in a condo on Church Street across from two churches. Almost every time we visited, we witnessed a wedding or two held at one of those churches, so I had always dreamed of having a wedding in Charleston. Wedding venues downtown are beautiful, but felt a little too formal for us. I wanted a more laid back, intimate feeling, like an outdoor oyster roast with close family and friends, and RiverOaks provided that feeling. The Spanish moss hanging from live oaks above us and a view of the sunset on the Wando River made us feel incredibly blessed and at home.

What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? Our food was hearty and Southern! Harvest Catering uses all local, seasonal ingredients and created an amazing, fresh menu for us, even though our choices were on the heavy side. We stuck with Charleston staples like shrimp and grits, fried green tomatoes, and pimento cheese fritters with pepper jelly. We also had oysters Rockefeller, a dish Neal and I can’t ever resist ordering at a restaurant when it’s on the menu!

After our initial (four hour!) meeting with Marianne and the ladies at RiverOaks, we felt at ease and trusted their process. They showed us some of Virgil Bunao’s work from a wedding he photographed at RiverOaks, and I fell in love with it. We were so happy and grateful that he was available for our wedding day. The RiverOaks crew handled every stressful situation with grace, and added in some very meaningful surprises to the event. Since we didn’t have an engagement photo session (looking back now, I wish we had), I was nervous about being in front of the camera! Virgil did a great job of removing any nervous energy by cracking jokes and making us laugh throughout the day.

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. Neal and I met through mutual friends when I was in nursing school. My friend was dating one of his good friends, and they acted as matchmakers for us. After a few get-togethers with those mutual friends, Neal and I started dating.
Tell us all about the proposal! We went to visit some of my family in Charleston for a weekend in May. After a seven-hour drive from Virginia, I wanted to get dinner downtown with my brother and the rest of the family as soon as we arrived. Neal suggested we start heading toward the restaurant, so I texted everyone to invite them out, but everyone declined. Everyone knew Neal’s plan except me, and I remember being upset that no one wanted to join us! Neal and I had such a great time having dinner at a fun place off East Bay Street that I forgot about being upset. We walked across the street to Waterfront Park and stopped in front of the pineapple fountain. I was telling Neal about how I used to wade in the water when I was a little girl, and then I turned around to see him on one knee! It was great to be able to celebrate with family that weekend!
When did y’all get married? April 26, 2014
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 90
Did you decide to do a “first look”? Why or why not? We decided to do a first look to help calm our nerves that day. I didn’t want to be an emotional, crying mess the moment I saw him. The moment we first saw each other at the ceremony was just as meaningful as I had imagined, minus tears and mascara running down my face!
Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! My something old/borrowed was Marianne Caldwell’s beautiful veil that she wore on her own wedding day. My something blue was the sapphires (Neal’s birthstone) in my engagement ring. My something new was my gold Jack Rogers wedges.
What was one way you saved money or cut costs at your wedding? The RiverOaks crew did a great job shifting certain costs around to get the most bang for our buck. The arrangements on the tables saved on floral costs by having more ivy and greenery than flowers. They were absolutely stunning, and one of my favorite parts of the decor. Thanks to prayers from the RiverOaks staff and family, we were blessed with beautiful weather. That led to us saving money on having to rent a tent! We hired a DJ instead of our original wish to have a band play our reception music–we thought a band would encourage our guests to dance and have a good time, but our DJ had the same effect. Everyone had a great time dancing!
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you most looking forward to about married life? We moved into our new house, and we’re working on making it a home with our dog, Hobie. Having my best friend by my side for whatever happens in our future is a great feeling!

Photographer: Virgil Bunao / Planning, Venue, and Lighting: RiverOaks Charleston / Florist: Deborah Gibson Design / Cake Baker: Charleston Cakes Etc. / Catering: Harvest Catering / Rentals: Polished!, EventWorks, Sperry Tents / Ceremony Musician: Lee Barbour of Charleston Virtuosi / Bagpiper: Cathleen Nixon / DJ: Crescendo Entertainment / Paper Products: The Business Press / Calligraphy and Invitation Design: Lydia Robins Hendrix / Bride’s Gown: “Madame Butterfly” by Claire Pettibone / Hair Stylist and Makeup Artist: Kelli Hoff of Elysium Salon / Bride’s Shoes: Jack Rogers / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: J. Crew / Bridesmaid Jewelry: Kate Spade / Menswear: Jos. A. Bank / Bar Service: Squeeze On Site / Custom Monogram: Allison R. Banks Designs

RiverOaks is a delightful member of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

marissa Written with love by Marissa
  1. avatar Lisa reply

    Such a beautiful wedding! Leave it to sweet Marianne to lend a bride her veil for something borrowed :)

  2. avatar Emily reply

    What a gorgeous beaded gown, Brianna! It looks like you had the most beautiful day!

  3. avatar wilkes barre limo reply

    very elegantly done! love the black and white checkerboard!

  4. avatar Stacy {Woodsy Weddings} reply

    The location is beautiful, I love that cute, cozy building! And, glad she stuck it out for the right dress, it is stunning on her!

  5. avatar Sandra | Simply Peachy reply

    This is absolutely beautiful. Such an elegant soiree and am loving those blooms. Anemones are by far my fave!

  6. avatar Marianne reply

    Marissa, thank you for the heartfelt compilation in words of Brianna and Neal’s day. Brianna, thank your sweet appreciation of our team Lauren Heuber , Deborah Gibson, Jennigray Hewitt, Sara Hicks and Simone Gebsattel. To all the other kind comments, thank you, as well .

  7. avatar Jehnel Oboza reply

    Great work again, Virgil! Brianna and Neal are a beautiful couple to just look at! All of the vendors did such an exceptional job.

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