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Sara and Lee’s Georgia wedding is pure and simple Southern goodness that will have me swooning for quite a few days! While I love bright colors just as much as the next girl, there is something so refreshing and romantic about their muted palette and classically styled reception under the twinkle light-draped tent at The Taylor Grady House. Let’s not even get started on Sara’s dreamy Hayley Paige ballgown–that tulle skirt! All the heart eyes, y’all! Of course, the beauty of their wedding day cannot overshadow the sweet nods to their family they incorporated throughout their day, like the pecan brittle favors in honor of Lee’s late father.

Big SW hugs to our darling Blue Ribbon Vendor Anna K Photography for sharing Sara and Lee’s pretty day with us!

We met at work, when we happened to sit next to each other at a farewell happy hour for a coworker. We mostly talked about Georgia football. A week later, Lee sent a follow-up email reminding me of the deadline to apply for UGA season tickets, and it happened to be Valentine’s Day. I thought I was having a pretty bad Valentine’s Day so far, as I had gotten into a car accident earlier that morning. But then Lee told me that he had just returned home from a business trip and discovered that his house had been broken into and, unbeknownst to him, the thieves stole the spare key to his car and came back to steal it the night Lee returned home! After an epic email exchange that transpired over the following weeks, we went on our first date: test driving cars. Most of the salesmen during our test drives that day probably thought we had been together forever since we were “shopping” for cars together, so there was a really fun dynamic to the date. After the last dealership closed, Lee asked me to dinner and drinks at one of the most romantic restaurants in town, Canoe. Before the date was over, Lee proposed something crazy: a vacation. He told me that if I could clear three days the following week, he’d plan the rest. Next thing we knew, we were off to St. Lucia for a whirlwind of a five-day third date. It was a complete leap of faith and something neither of us had ever done before. The rest is history!

Tell us about finding your wedding dress. Oh, trying on dresses was so much fun! I tried on a variety of different styles, but kept daydreaming of the big, traditional, princess-style wedding gowns. The trick was to find one that would fit in with our tented outdoor reception in Athens, Georgia. I finally felt like a bride when I tried on a gorgeous Hayley Paige creation: a full-skirted gown with generous ruffles made of sculptural tulle with horsehair trim and a crossover sweetheart neckline with a natural-waisted silk radzimir bodice. My dad and I initially joked that the ruffles looked a little like tissues, so we affectionately dubbed the dress the “Napkin Dress!” I tried on a few more styles, but the night after I tried on the Napkin Dress, I stayed up until 4:00 a.m. staring at pictures of it. I knew it was the one!

A string quartet played at our ceremony. The soft sounds of the strings complimented our traditional choices, including Handel’s “Water Music-Air” for the seating of the mothers, Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” for the processional, Pachelbel’s “Canon in D” for the bride’s processional, and Handel’s “Water Music-Hornpipe” for the recessional. Lee fell in love with “Canon in D” early in the engagement, so using that for my processional was very special. I’ll never forget hearing the quartet playing the first few notes as I waited outside of the Chapel doors with my dad before walking down the aisle!

What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? After the ceremony, Lee and I snuck to the side of the Chapel to enjoy a few moments alone and soak in the fact that we had just become Mr. and Mrs.! It was so nice to slow down and catch up after being apart for the whole day. I also got to show Lee the engraving inside his wedding band, which I secretly had done in the weeks leading up to the wedding. I engraved his ring with our wedding date and the phrase, “Forever Your Bunny,” which is our pet name for each other. Seeing his face after showing the engraving to him is a moment I will never forget!

What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? Lee’s father passed away, so we wanted to honor him and make him a part of the day by hand-making his famous pecan brittle recipe with Georgia pecans for our wedding favors. Lee helped his dad make the pecan brittle when he was a little boy, and he continues to make it for family and friends at Christmas. We packaged the pecan brittle, labeled them “Dad’s Pecan Brittle,” and set them on a table with a photograph of Lee’s dad.

One of the biggest money-savers was the fact that the Taylor Grady House let us bring in our own alcohol! We were able to set up a full bar and had a separate bourbon bar comprised of bourbons from Lee’s prized collection. Not only did the freedom to bring our own alcohol bring down the cost, but it allowed us to incorporate Lee’s passion for bourbon and share some of his favorites with our friends and family!

Our favorite detail of the wedding was: Our head table was a dream come true. At 32 feet long, it seated all of our bridal party and their dates. My favorite floral detail was the lush garland that ran down the entire length of the table and had tall, white candles tucked in throughout. The head table also had beautiful place cards with Sarah Ingram’s romantic and organic calligraphy and copper wax seals with a custom logo that Sarah created for us! Sarah’s calligraphy also appeared on the menus set out at each place setting. The head table was everything I had ever dreamed of and more!

Anyone in Athens knows Cecila Villaveces’ Cakes! Our three-tier wedding cake was a vanilla cake with strawberry filling, but the real treat was the Tres Leches cake (vanilla cake soaked with special milks and fresh strawberries) that had to be served from a sheet cake, since it’s too spongy to hold up in tiers!

What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Be intentional about the vendors you choose to surround yourself with on your wedding day. In most cases, they’ll be with you for more of the day than you’ll be with your future husband! The best vendors will immediately click with you, will know your aesthetic better than you do, and will get things done even when you didn’t think it was possible. And, no matter how stressed you get, know that it’ll all melt away by the time your rehearsal dinner starts. At that point, all of your friends and family will be there ready to celebrate you, and you’ll feel such love and support and joy the second those festivities start!

Tell us all about the proposal! We went to Washington, D.C. for the weekend to attend a party hosted by my brother and sister-in-law. The day after the party, we planned to tour some of the museums and monuments. We were moving slowly after the party, and I remember that Lee didn’t say anything when I took a little longer getting ready and curling my hair for the day. We set out to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and stared at all of the breathtaking gems in the The Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals, including the Hope Diamond. Lee joked that I shouldn’t get any ideas from walking through the exhibit! When the museums closed, we walked through the National Mall. After walking nearly nine miles all day (me in my 4-inch booties!), we reached the Jefferson Memorial, Lee’s favorite. We walked around the Memorial, and then Lee brought me down to the tidal basin. He held both of my hands, dropped to his knee, and proposed! Mid-proposal, a middle school sports team swarmed the Jefferson Memorial and began cheering for us and taking pictures. After we soaked it all in for a few moments, Lee pulled me back to the spot where he proposed, told me to look behind me at the Jefferson Memorial, to look ahead at the Washington Monument, and to look right at the White House. He told me to remember the exact spot, because in twenty years, when we return with our family, we’ll be able to visit the exact spot where he proposed and would be able to do so for the rest of our lives.
When did y’all get married? September 12, 2015
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 135
What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? Did they have any special significance to you? Lee and I are both Double Dawgs, having attended the University of Georgia for both undergrad and law school. We wanted to share Athens, Georgia with our family and friends, so when we found out the Chapel on North Campus was available, we jumped at the opportunity. We are season ticket holders and return to Athens every fall for football games. We love that we’ll be able to walk by the place where we got married year after year when we return to the Classic City. We chose the Taylor Grady House for our reception.
Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? We said traditional vows. There is something so sacred, beautiful, and romantic about speaking the same words as generations of couples who have made this commitment before us.
What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? We included the Prayer of St. Francis to honor my dad’s Catholic faith.
How did you plan for your marriage while planning your wedding? We met with our officiant, Reverend Jonathan Spencer, throughout our engagement for marriage prep sessions. We loved making time to be intentional about our relationship and our marriage. We always walked away from our meetings feeling more connected and grounded to the things that truly mattered!
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? The hardest thing for me to do was to know when to stop searching for inspiration. There are so many beautiful magazines, blogs, Instagram accounts, and Pinterest boards that are wonderful during the initial planning stages and can be a real help when interviewing potential vendors to communicate your vision and aesthetic. At some point, though, I began feeling overwhelmed with all of the options and let my magazines stack up…which just made me feel more stressed about not being able to check off reading the magazines from my to do list! I relied so heavily on the support of my planner, Marilisa Schachinger of Chancey Charm. She helped move me along throughout the whole planning process when I’d get bogged down by certain details. Marilisa was SUCH a blessing and helped me trust my gut and make decisions!
What is the one detail or vendor that you were so happy to have as a part of your wedding? I had an incredible team of vendors that truly became my friends throughout the engagement. I was very intentional about selecting folks who not only had the aesthetic I was looking for, but–more importantly–were good people who were enthusiastic about what they do and were excited to be a part of our wedding day. The very first decision I made was to hire my photographer, Anna Shackleford of Anna K. Photography. I found her through Southern Weddings and, as soon as I read on her Blue Ribbon Vendor profile that she “specialized in happy brides,” I knew I had to meet her. She invited me to her beautiful home for our first meeting, and even surprised me with a Christmas gift of the most recent Southern Weddings magazine and a Starbucks gift card to get a tasty treat while I perused the magazine for inspiration! Anna truly set the bar for everyone else I worked with–she was so patient, kind, supportive, and genuinely excited for us. Anna constantly surprised us with little (and some not-so-little) gifts throughout our engagement and beyond. Having Anna with me throughout our wedding day felt like having an old friend there, who happened to create beautiful images, keep things on schedule, and could corral an entire, crazy family!
What’s next for you as a couple? What memories are you looking forward to making together? We’re settling into our new home in Atlanta, Georgia! We are looking forward to having friends and family over for dinner parties, special celebrations and holidays. We’re also thrilled to spend time together without the stress of wedding planning. I can’t tell you how many nights we’ve been sitting on the couch and just look over at the other and say that we can’t believe how lucky we are to have found each other and that we’re actually married!

Photographer: Anna K Photography | Videographer: Rusticus Films | Planner: Chancey Charm | Ceremony Venue: University of Georgia Chapel | Reception Venue: Taylor Grady House | Florist: Martha McIntosh Creative Consulting | Wedding Cake Baker: Cecilia Villaveces Cakes | Caterer: home.made | Rentals and Lighting: Goodwin Events | Band: The Answer Band | Custom Map: Natalie Kilgore | Paper Products: Sarah Ingram | Bride’s Gown: “Londyn” by Hayley Paige | Bridal Salon: The White Magnolia | Bride’s Veil: Sara Gabriel | Hair Stylist: Tame | Makeup Artist: Becca Whitwinghill | Bride’s Shoes: Valentino | Bridesmaids’ Dresses: “Annabelle” in Lilac by Jenny Yoo | Groom’s Attire: Hugo Boss Red Label | Groomsmen Attire: Jos. A. Bank | Ribbon: Silk and Willow | Ceremony Music: Cobalt Strings

Anna K is a delightful member of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

marissa Written with love by Marissa
6 Comments
  1. avatar Marilisa Schachinger reply

    Aw thanks for sharing SW! It was such a pleasure to work with Sara on her wedding and we so appreciate you featuring it here! Now if we could all get our hands on some pralines to snack on while reading the feature ;)

  2. avatar Emily reply

    What a gorgeous gown!!

  3. avatar Sarah Chancey reply

    Thank you so very much for featuring this stunning wedding. Marilisa did such a great job working with these clients, and we are just thrilled to have been included. Anna killed it with these iamges!

  4. avatar Sara Clayton reply

    YAY!!!! Thank you so much for the feature!!! It’s so fun to relive our special day when reading this. We wouldn’t have these stunning images if it weren’t for Southern Weddings, which is how I found Anna Shackleford. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!!!

  5. avatar Audrey Eshman reply

    It was such a gorgeous wedding, and Sara was stunning! So glad that her special day is being shared!

  6. avatar L & S – CHANGEME reply

    […] Featured on Southern Weddings […]

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Wedding inspiration can come from anywhere, but the real trick is to match up the memories, values, and experiences that make you as a couple unique with an aesthetic “look” that captures that and wraps it into a cohesive event. For this wedding inspiration, the ladies of Chancey Charm brought to life real-life couple Chelsea and Tanner’s love for everything organic and natural (they are working on starting an organic farm in Alabama, and do mission work in Haiti in their free time!) with the painterly lines and sky blue colors of Britt Bass’s “Peri” painting.

Big hugs to Blue Ribbon Vendor Anna K. for sharing these photos with us!

From the planners, Candice Beaty and Danielle Hulsey of Chancey Charm:

Inspired by the blues and pastel colors of “Peri” by Atlanta artist and friend Britt Bass, we began to dream of a mountain escape. Britt creates such effortless combinations of color and movement and so it was easy to imagine blues from the sky paired with soft textures in the dress and floral details.

We were immediately drawn to Kellum Valley Farm, a stunning set of ruins in the middle of the North Georgia mountains, with breath­taking views and perfect weather. Rich in Georgia history, the Farm is the perfect venue for a Southern belle wanting to escape for a weekend surrounded by family and cherished friends.

Anna captured the moments and intimate embraces between the bride and groom perfectly. With a love poem and antiqued paper escort cards, Jenn Gietzen added personal and romantic touches to the table and mantle. Southern Vintage Company elevated the warm and cozy environment with furniture settings for the guests and colorful table settings. We wanted to create a unique tablescape that would welcome guests into a wedding day and represent a soft and elegant color palette. Luscious chocolates from local delicacy shop Condor Chocolates were a thoughtful touch for an end of the evening treat.

Venue: Kellum Valley Farm | Planning, design, and styling: Danielle Hulsey and Candice Beaty of Chancey Charm Weddings | Photography: Anna K. Photography | Florals: Bloomin’ Bouquets | Rentals: Southern Vintage Co. | Paper goods: Jenn Gietzen | Bridal gown: White Magnolia | Bridesmaid gown: White Magnolia | Groom’s suit: The Modern Gent | Cake: Lush Cakery | Hair and makeup: Jennifer Lewis of Pastel | Painting inspiration: “Peri” by Britt Bass Turner | Favors: Condor Chocolates

Anna K Photography is a delightful member of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

emily Written with love by Emily
3 Comments
  1. avatar Meg Gravley reply

    Really love the un-iced cake – very trendy this year. The deep blue and gold pops create almost a royal vibe, while the unique greenery in the bouquet/tablescapes has a softening effect. Very abstract and adorable!

  2. avatar Kelsey reply

    This is beautiful and so unique! Speechless.

  3. avatar Elle reply

    That location is gorgeous.. Love all the stone! And the touch of blue is just perfect.

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Don’t get me wrong – I love an all-white kitchen or living room as much as the next 20-something gal. But all white everything isn’t the only way to achieve a warm, pretty space, and I adore Mary-Kate and Nick for proving that for us today. In addition to being beautiful, their home just looks so interesting – I feel like I could wander it for hours and still find more things to look at and wonder over! Other highlights: the helpful touches they’ve added to make guests’ stays easier (I’m making my own wi-fi password sign tonight!) and the creative ways they’ve honored their story through carefully-chosen decor.

Big hugs to Blue Ribbon Vendor Anna K Photography for these photos. She may as well be our Southern Newlywed fairy godmother, as she sent us Mary Hester and Andrew’s home tour, too, and is in the process of photographing her own home to share! Want to participate? See below for more details on how your home or apartment could be featured here!

The couple: Mary-Kate (24) and Nick (26)
Years married: 2
Where you live: St. Augustine, Florida
Tell us a little bit about yourselves. We are both originally from Georgia. We met in college at Valdosta State University. Nick is an American Sign Language interpreter and instructor at the Florida School for the Deaf & the Blind and is getting his Masters in Interpreting. Mary-Kate is a Fine Art Consultant at the Cutter & Cutter Galleries.

Tell us your love story in one sentence. We were friends in college, long distance daters, and fell in love in St. Augustine…with a lot of Chick-fil-a sprinkled in there.
What is your favorite part of being married? Having a constant companion to share day to day life. I love that whenever one of us says “I have an idea…” the other one is always on board with support. I also love that we can dream together. Whether it is what we want for dinner or where we will be in 25 years, we get to do it together!

Tell us a little bit about where you live. We currently rent a beautiful little home that was built in 1910. We have the home owners’ blessing to make the space our own, so we have really enjoyed the freedom to make home-improvements that make this house feel like home. We love our location because we are both in walking distance to work. We look forward to owning a home one day, but for now we love where we are.
Tell us about the process of moving in together. Nick lived in a tiny one bedroom home, so when we got married, we had the challenge of blending two lifestyles in 450 square feet! I love the philosophy, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” Having less “stuff” really helped us when moving into our current home. All of the things we have in our home are a reflection of us as individuals and a couple.

What most makes your house feel like home? In the gallery where I work we have a saying, “If someone was to go into your home when you are not there, would they know you and who you are from what they would see?” For us, I hope so. We have made every decision with a lot of thought, in hopes that it reflects who we are. I hope that our home shows that it is filled and decorated with so much love and intention. I want it to feel wonderful to not just us, but to anyone who walks through the door.

Which items from your wedding registry do you use the most often? Absolutely our china. I struggled with registering for china because I always grew up expecting that I would have an everyday, formal, and holiday china pattern. When it was finally my turn, I did not feel connected to the idea of having all of the extra china that would go unused throughout the year. We decided to go with a beautiful everyday china from Juliska and it has served us elegantly, whether dinner for two or hosting our friends and family.
Who cooks dinner? We are typically in the kitchen together. It was a fun learning experience figuring out how to work together when cooking. It usually involves good music, laughter, and a few “oops”!

Which room in your home is your favorite, and why? That is a tough one to answer. We love our living area because it is so comfortable to us and is filled with a lot of beautiful elements that reflect our story. Nick would answer the front porch though… we can spend an entire morning out on our swing, talking to neighborhood locals and playing with our kitty, Lewis.

Where do you splurge and where do you save when decorating? We have decorated our home one piece at a time. I love the saying “buy the best, and you’ll only cry once.” We focus on buying things that are not too “trendy” in hopes that we can enjoy them for a long time. Much of our home was antiqued, thrifted or passed down from family. I like pieces with a story; sometimes that means spending and other times it is all about finding a sweet little treasure.
How do you remember your wedding in your home? Art is a big part of our life. Many special memories from our wedding day are hanging on our walls. We have photos and our invitation framed. We also commissioned some special paintings from local artists: a portrait of a favorite wedding photo, as well as a watercolor of my bouquet.

What is your favorite memory from your wedding? At our reception, the song by The Lumineers, “Ho Hey” played during our cake cutting. As we looked up from cutting our cake, everyone had crowded around the table and was clapping and singing, “I belong with you, you belong with me, you’re my sweetheart.” That moment of being surrounded by the people who love us most, and the love that filled the room, was an unforgettable feeling for us.
What’s your best tip for balancing your relationship and other life priorities? It can be tough… my gallery hours cut into the typical “date nights” and our days off are never the same. While we rarely have full days off together, we have learned to cherish the moments and when we do have the rare day or weekend where our schedules match up, we make it memorable!

How does your family handle finances? When we got married, we had a deep desire to be debt free in our marriage. We had some student loans that we were serious about paying off quickly. We set a strict budget and used a cash envelope system to stay on point. We focused one of our salaries on living and the other completely on loans and savings. We were debt free in one year! Now we are not as strict, but we do still focus on financial goals.
Do you have a favorite date night idea to share? Living in a town like St. Augustine, we have learned that there is always something fun (and usually free) happening in the community. We love packing dinner and picnicking at outdoor bay-front movies. I suggest looking up your town’s calendar and seeing what is happening in the community… that is where we have found some of our favorite outings!

What is one small way you love or serve your spouse? Nick loves words of affirmation, so I am always reminded to say or write down the things I love about him, rather than keeping them to myself. Something that seems simple to me usually means so much to him. From Nick: Knowing that Mary-Kate’s love language is gifts, I do my best to surprise her with little (and sometimes big) surprises we call “S’s.” I usually try to find a clever way to reveal the gift.
What has been the most surprising thing about marriage? How much you learn about yourself. You see yourself through another person’s eyes and that can be exciting and also convicting. We are also constantly learning how to balance our life as a team while growing as individuals.
Before getting married, I wish someone had told me… My grandparents did tell us to follow these rules: 1.) Always put God first and one another second. 2.) Don’t have any secrets. 3.) Have fun together.
This year, our family is most excited about… upcoming family time. We have some weddings and vacations that we are really looking forward to. While we have really enjoyed moving to our own town to start our life together, we love coming together with our family, so we are counting down the days!

Big hugs to Mary-Kate and Nick for sharing their hearts and home with us!

A little reminder: we’d love to hear from you! Our hope is to feature REAL couples in the South – not just folks who write blogs (though we love them, too!), but also your inspiring friend, super talented cousin, or neighbor with the cutest house – the kind of person everyone would love to “e-meet.” We are also really hoping to feature some apartment dwellers! If that sounds like you or someone you know, take a peek at our Southern Newlywed submission page and shoot us an email!

emily Written with love by Emily
2 Comments
  1. avatar Lauren Carnes reply

    Love all of the little details of this home!

  2. avatar Niamh reply

    A lot of beautiful thing you have! Love the way your house is decorated – stylish and unobtrusive! Greetings

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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