Y’all know that I cry just reading about weddings, so it should be no surprise that I have cried at every single wedding I’ve been in, plus all but one I’ve attended! However, ironically enough, neither BDK nor I cried during our own ceremony. There was such a feeling of peace and joy that we simply couldn’t stop laughing or smiling! A childhood friend of mine, also known for crying at weddings, told me afterwards that he didn’t cry at our wedding either, because we were smiling so much! I’m sure the small group of family and friends who were present at Leila and Sterling’s ceremony felt the same–I hope the photo of them laughing during their ceremony is on their favorites list! After the joyful, intimate ceremony, Leila and Sterling danced the night away at The Camp at Esseola Lodge alongside guests and the big, vibrant flowers. How amazing is that floral chandelier, y’all?
Thank you to our Blue Ribbon Vendor Anna Routh for sharing Leila and Sterling’s wedding day!
Tell us about finding your wedding dress. I was adamant about only spending one day looking for my dress, because the dress was not a huge priority for me. I knew exactly what I wanted (or, rather, what I didn’t want): something with lace and a natural waist, and nothing strapless or bright white. A friend flew in from New York for a weekend in early January, and she, along with my mom, came with me to two shops in Raleigh. At the second shop, Alexia’s, we found the perfect Lela Rose gown. I had heard a few horror stories about dress shopping, but my experience was the opposite–very low key, low stress, and really fun to do with one of my best friends and mom.
We had two readings. My cousin read “The Irish Blessing,” which has special significance to my family. It has been read at many weddings on my mom’s side of the family, including my parents’. My older brother passed away a few years ago and we read it at his memorial service as well. The message is one of hope, enjoying the “simple things in life,” and the promise of heaven–great reminders on our wedding day. For our second reading, Sterling’s best friend read a poem that Sterling wrote himself. He is an English teacher and a great writer. The poem, “These Patient Rings,” speaks to our family history and the fate that brought Sterling and me together.
What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? Did they have any special significance to you? I grew up going to my grandparents’ house in Linville–it’s a beautiful, tiny, casual, very unique mountain town in North Carolina. Sterling and I have enjoyed spending weekends there throughout our relationship. I knew when I started dating Sterling that I wanted to marry him and that I wanted it to be in Linville! We thought it would be a fun place for our family and friends to get to visit, and since it’s so small, all of our guests spent the full weekend together with us. Since we had a big reception, we wanted the ceremony to feel more intimate, so we chose to do it at Wee Kirk Presbyterian, an adorable little white wooden church. Sterling and I loved the simple and personal “vibe” of our ceremony. It was fun and comfortable, and everyone in the chapel was a close family member or friend who had been in our lives for a long time. The reception was at The Camp at Eseeola, an indoor/outdoor pavilion overlooking a beautiful lake and golf course. It really stuck with the rustic mountain theme.
What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? The most Southern thing about our wedding, in addition to the gorgeous location in the North Carolina mountains, was the FOOD. We felt strongly about serving filling, delicious, Southern food to our guests, and the Eseeola Lodge pulled through with an amazing menu. I don’t think anyone left hungry! At four separate stations, we served ham biscuits, mac and cheese, shrimp and grits, fried oysters, rolls with tenderloin, sliced tomatoes, and lots more.
My mom was the genius behind our beautiful flowers. The only thing I knew was that I did not want traditional, formal, pale/muted arrangements. I wanted lots of color that reflected the season and the mountain vibes–she made it happen beautifully! Our arrangements were big and vibrant, and the most amazing part was a huge “floral chandelier” hanging above the main bar right at the entrance to The Camp.
How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. Sterling and I have known each other since we were little. Our dads went to high school together, and all four of our parents were friends in college at UNC. His mom is actually my godmother! Sterling and I lost touch as adults–though we always kept up with each other through his mom–but reconnected at a wedding about a year before we started dating. He was living in Baltimore and I was living in San Francisco at the time. When we both moved back to North Carolina a few months later, Sterling asked if I wanted to go to a concert with him, and that turned into our first date. We fell in love very quickly and were engaged nine months later.
Tell us all about the proposal! Sterling proposed to me in Freedom Park in Charlotte on a beautiful Saturday in December. I was totally surprised, since the day had been a completely regular day for us. We went to the park to walk my dog, Riggins, and he got down on one knee beside the lake and proposed with my grandmother’s engagement ring. It was the biggest surprise of my life. After I said yes, we looked across the lake and all four of our parents were hiding in the woods. We had the most fun celebration with our families for the rest of the weekend. Sterling planned a proposal that was exactly what I would have asked for – casual, thoughtful, and involved our families.
When did y’all get married? September 12, 2015
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 255
Describe your wedding cake or dessert. Sterling and I decided not to have a traditional wedding cake. We did not want to pause the party to cut the cake and did not have strong feelings about a particular style or flavor, so we thought, “Why force it?” Instead, the Eseeola Lodge created a really fun dessert table with all sorts of options: cake pops, fruit, brownies, and more. Throughout the planning process, we wanted to make decisions that made sense to us, not just do things because “that’s the way it’s done.” The wedding cake was just one example of us following our hearts and breaking the mold if something didn’t fit with our personalities.
How did you plan for your marriage while planning your wedding? Sterling and I loved the marriage counseling we did with our minister, Christopher. He became a really important part of the engagement period and helped us think beyond the wedding towards the important part, the marriage. We learned a lot about each other and ourselves, and the sessions we did with Christopher made us even more confident in this huge step we were about to take.
What was one way you saved money or cut costs at your wedding? Sterling and I decided early on what was important to us: a lively band, delicious Southern food and an open bar, transportation for all of our guests, and having the venue in Linville. Beyond that, our response to most decisions was, “Which is cheaper?” Sometimes, our moms had other opinions, but for the most part, we invested in the things we cared about and cut costs elsewhere. We also decided not to have a bridal party, which ended up being one of the best decisions we made. It allowed us to cut costs and save some headache around logistics (pictures, timelines, hair and makeup, dresses, gifts). But, most importantly, our amazing friends still made us feel so supported and loved throughout the whole process, and isn’t that the main reason for a bridal party? Whether or not to have a bridal party is a really personal decision, but one that proved right for Sterling and me over and over again.
What is the one detail or vendor that you were so happy to have as a part of your wedding? OUR BAND. Perfect 10 was everything we hoped for, and our dance floor did not clear out once throughout the night. We were so sad when the party had to end because the momentum was still soaring late into the night. The band was easy to work with and really listened to what we wanted. They interacted with the crowd the perfect amount. When we think back on our reception, we both have an amazing mental picture of a dance floor packed with guests.
What’s next for you as a couple? What memories are you looking forward to making together? Being newly married is a hopeful and joyful time in life. Sterling and I have a lot to be grateful for in this moment, and also a lot to look forward to in our future–travel, kids, more rescue dogs, careers, and the simple, special moments of marriage. We are very lucky!
Photographer: Anna Routh Photography | Second Shooter: Robyn Van Dyke | Videographer: Story Spark Films | Planner: Events by Elizabeth Ashley | Ceremony Venue: Wee Kirk Presbyterian | Reception Venue: The Camp at Eseeola Lodge | Florist: Callista Designs | Dessert Baker, Caterer, and Rentals: Eseeola Lodge | Band: Perfect 10 | Paper Products: Snow In July Designs and Taylor’s of Raleigh | Bride’s Gown: “The Forest” by Lela Rose | Bride’s Earrings: Gabrielle Jewelry
Anna Routh and Robyn Van Dyke are delightful members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!
Her mama made all of the flowers herself!??! Wow! What a wonderful gift to her daughter! I particularly love the chandelier…you know me, the more color the better. :)
These florals are some of the most beautiful wedding florals I’ve seen. I especially love how the front of the church was decorated.