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I knew I was going to love Jessica and Nick’s wedding as soon as I started reading their interview–their day was completely packed with some of our very favorite things! A meaningful location full of family history? Check. Details inspired by their love story and pulled together/created by family and friends? Check. Plenty of Southern traditions and cuisine? Check! Nick even built their beautiful sweetheart table, which now lives in their new house for them to enjoy their meals at every single day. Wedding details that can literally become part of your newlywed life are so special–not only are they a great way to remind you of your wedding in the years that follow, they can also help you focus on all the good that is to come when you’re in the midst of planning. Be sure to read J+N’s interview–I wouldn’t want y’all to miss a single sweet thing!

Thank you so much to Annamarie Akins for sharing this special day with us!

One of my bridesmaids lives in Charleston, and while visiting her, we had set up an appointment to look at bridesmaid dresses. I ended up trying on wedding gowns at the same time, and completely fell in love with one! The dress fit my style so well, and embodied everything I wanted my wedding to be: classic, modern, casual, and a little bit nautical! It was such a special moment with my bridesmaid, and there was no pressure or stress–that really helped me to know I was making the right decision. The salon was kind enough to ship the dress I loved back to Virginia so I could try it on with my family; once it was dad-approved, the decision was made! I was able to meet with the designer on our next visit to Charleston, and together, we customized a few details of the dress. I was thrilled to be able to purchase a gown from a Southern designer who was just launching her wedding gown line.

Describe your wedding flowers. I am so fortunate to have a mother-in-law who happens to be a fantastic floral arranger! Nick’s mom is an active member in the local garden club, and she organized for her garden club friends to come over to the house on Friday morning to make all the arrangements for the reception. Women I had never met were bringing flowers from their own gardens to help make our day beautiful–it doesn’t get more special than that! A local florist and family friend of the groom, who had provided flowers for my now-sister-in-law’s wedding, also provided gorgeous bouquets for the bridal party. I knew I wanted a relaxed, garden-style arrangement with natural colors of predominately white and green. The florist was also able to incorporate magnolia from my parents’ house in order to make my Alabama (my home state)-meets-Virginia (groom’s home state) vision come true in a magnolia and cotton wreath for the church doors.

Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding and why you chose them. We had a string duet play at the church for the ceremony, and they put together “The Book of Love” specifically for Nick–it’s one of his favorite songs! I walked down the aisle to “Canon in D,” the song that my mother had walked down the aisle to. We chose to sing “Be Though My Vision” as a congregation during the ceremony. A traditional hymn, this song is special to my family because we had just sang it at my sister’s wedding a year prior. Perhaps it will be a new family tradition!
Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? We chose to say traditional vows. There was something special about speaking the same words that our parents and grandparents vowed to one another so many years ago.

The most memorable moment was arriving to the reception by boat and seeing all our family and friends, drinks in hand, cheering and waiting for us to celebrate with them! Nick and I were so happy, and we couldn’t wait to get up to the yard and spend time with everyone. It was such a great feeling to have people from all walks of life standing in our favorite place, experiencing why we love this part of Virginia.

What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? Did they have any special significance to you? Nick and I spend most of our free weekends during the warmer months down on Gwynn’s Island, a remote area on the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia. Both sets of grandparents have a history there, my parents own a summer house on the island, and Nick’s parents live a short drive away. The house has a way of drawing us all together, no matter where we are in life, to watch the sunset and share meals together on Saturday nights. We knew immediately that we wanted to share this region with our family and friends. Nick’s family is a member of a stunning historic brick church where Nick was baptized, and it was so special to have our ceremony there! The river house and the church were natural choices to meld traditions from both our families.

My favorite detail of the wedding was the sweetheart table. Nick started hand-crafting our wooden table with his dad a few months before the wedding, and it was stunning! He searched for weeks for the perfect plans and images to create the table that we now use in our dining room of our new house. It’s so special to have a handmade piece of the wedding in our everyday lives!

Describe your wedding cake or dessert. This was a no-brainer for us! I have been known to eat pie for breakfast on multiple occasions, so we had an assortment of apple, pecan, and chocolate pies from our favorite Richmond bakery, Ukrops. We also had a small cake made of funfetti, the groom’s favorite! I hand-painted some oyster shells I found on the beach near the house and arranged them on top of the cake the morning of the wedding with my bridesmaids.

Our first dance was to an acoustic version of “Mean to Me” by Brett Eldredge. My dad had chosen our father-daughter dance song many, many years ago, long before I met Nick. It was so special to finally dance to “I Loved Her First” by Heartland with him after picturing this day as a little girl!

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. Nick and I met at Virginia Tech during our senior year; despite having many mutual friends, our paths hadn’t crossed before. We found out we lived a block apart from each other behind the football stadium, so Nick would walk his dog during the day hoping to catch me on my way to class. My big sister in my sorority had been dating one of Nick’s fraternity brothers for a while, and encouraged me to take Nick up on his offer to go to a pumpkin patch with the group on a Saturday morning. I had no idea it was a couple’s event and we would be paired up, but we had a blast, and Nick invited me over for a home-cooked meal later that week. I promptly called my dad, who works for the FBI, to get some advice (and a background check), and he gave me the thumbs up over the phone. Nick cooked a fantastic meal and we watched A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving on the couch–probably one of the best dates we’ve ever had!
Tell us about your proposal! The nearby town of Urbanna hosts an annual oyster festival, and our tradition is to attend with family and friends and then host a chili dinner, courtesy of my dad’s secret recipe. Nick and I had taken time off to celebrate our four-year anniversary by heading down on Friday to relax before the festival. We grabbed some beer and oysters at our favorite “rivah” oyster shack, Merrior, and headed back to the house for the sunset. It had started to drizzle, but Nick still wanted to take a walk out towards the water. It was then that I saw his handwriting in the sand, “Will you marry me?” Nick’s dad was hiding in the bushes to snap a few photographs, and later that evening, Nick had arranged for many of our friends from Washington D.C. to surprise me by arriving at the house to attend the festival with us the next day! It was so special to have our family and friends together for a river weekend to kick off a wonderful engagement.
When did y’all get married? June 20, 2015
How many people attended your wedding? 155
What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? There were so many Southern touches to the wedding; it’s hard to them narrow down! Nick and I love to cook and eat, especially Southern food. We sat down together and made a list of all the foods we love to eat, and then handed the unorganized list to our caterer. They turned it into an amazing, Southern Virginia-inspired menu, including Virginia ham biscuits, pimento cheese, shrimp and gouda grits, scallop succotash, honey chicken, pulled pork, fried okra, and a biscuit and cornbread bar. Our signature drinks were named after our home states, a Virginia Beau and a ‘Bama Belle. During cocktail hour, we had a champagne and oyster bar from Merrior, the oyster shack Nick and I ate at the day we got engaged. True to Southern tradition, we gifted our bridal party with monogrammed gifts galore–mason jars, seersucker shorts for the gals, and fishing shirts for the gentlemen (their monograms were disguised as nautical flags!). My mother-in-law hosted my bridesmaids and house party for lunch the day before the wedding, and I surprised everyone with a delicious pound cake with cake pulls! My mother-in-law read everyone’s fortune out loud as they pulled their charms. Thank goodness we buried a bottle of bourbon (that Nick had engraved with our wedding date!)–the rain held out until the end of the reception, and as soon as the last sip of moonshine was gone, the skies opened up! The most Southern thing about our wedding though? Having all our family and friends help us work on the house and yard to prepare to host the wedding. The months and weeks before the wedding were spent with our hands in the dirt planting flowers, and my bridesmaids accompanying me to the beach to search for the perfect-shaped oysters for the place cards. The true beauty of the venue came from all the hands that tended to it; it almost brought me to tears!
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? The biggest challenge we had to overcome was the remoteness of my parents’ house and limited vendors nearby. With a background in design, I knew exactly how I wanted everything to look, but when you’re in the country, sometimes you take what you can get!
If you are comfortable responding, what range did your wedding budget fall into? $25,000-$50,000
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Strive for a joyful and gracious attitude throughout your engagement, and into your marriage! There are always things that might not go according to plan.
What’s next for you as a couple? What memories are you looking forward to making together? We are starting our lives in Richmond, Virginia! We moved from Washington, D.C. to be closer to our families and embrace the smaller, slower city life. I will continue to work for my D.C.-based architecture firm (while writing a blog and pursuing graphic design and residential design on the side!), while Nick has started a new job in the medical information technology field. We are thrilled to live together in the downtown Fan neighborhood of Richmond and can’t wait to explore this Southern city!

Photography: Annamarie Akins / Second Shooter: Nikki Santerre / Ceremony Venue: Ware Episcopal Church / Reception Venue: Private residence / Florist: The Wild Bunch / Bride’s Gown: Kate McDonald Bridal / Cake Baker: Cakes by Graham / Catering: The White Dog Bistro / Band: JB and the Get Down Browns / Hair and Makeup: Bombshell / Rentals: Paisley and Jade, Grand Rental Station, and Distinctive Events / Coordination and Styling: Ruie and Grace / Bridesmaid Dresses: BHLDN, J. Crew, LulaKate, Nordstrom, and Revolve / Bride’s Shoes: J. Crew and Jack Rogers / Menswear: Jos A. Bank and Bull + Moose / Raw Oyster Bar: Rappahannock River Oyster Company / String Duet: Strings and Things

Lula Kate, Kate McDonald Bridal, and Paisley & Jade are all delightful members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

lisa Written with love by Lisa
6 Comments
  1. avatar Annamarie reply

    Thank you so much for sharing one of my all time favorite wedding days!

  2. avatar Nick & Jess reply

    […] images can be seen as featured on Southern Weddings last […]

  3. avatar Daniel reply

    Stunning photos, love the boat picture!

  4. avatar Shore Thing | Creative Cake Toppers | Maine Wedding Venues, Photographers, Planners reply

    […] Painted oyster shells add an elegant touch to this simple white cake.  [Cakes by Graham  / Annamarie Akins via Southern Weddings] […]

  5. avatar Megan reply

    Just wondering if you could provide the name of the designer of the dress? I love the striped silk! I love the cut! Its so pretty.

  6. avatar Mike reply

    Beautiful pictures! Very interesting shell decor on the cake and the whole nautical theme is amazing!

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Last weekend, Lisa and I had a conversation about wedding photographs. BDK and I will be celebrating seven years of marriage this year, and I remember remarking to Lisa that when I look at the photos from my wedding day, they instantly give me a rush of those sweet feelings and memories. I’m sure Kalie and Bradford will feel the same way when they look back at these beautiful images, especially since their photographer, Annamarie Akins, is also a dear friend of the groom! Kalie said Annamarie “perfectly captured all the details and happiness of the day.” And what beautiful details there were–Stephanie at Viva L’Event turned the already lovely Merrimon-Wynne into the sweet celebration of Southern hospitality that Kalie and Bradford dreamed of.

Big hugs to Annamarie Akins for sharing this lovely day with us!

Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! My blue was my shoes, old was the diamonds in my wedding band (they were my great-grandmother’s), borrowed was a ring I wore during the ceremony from my matron of honor, and new was pretty much everything else!

I wanted the experience of finding my wedding dress to be a special one shared between just me and my mom. I had just under six months to get a dress ordered, so we drove down to Bridals by Lori in Atlanta the weekend after I got engaged. I knew I wanted my dress to be unique, but still very much feel like a wedding gown. Most importantly, I wanted the dress to have texture. It only took three dresses before I found the right one. I knew almost immediately, and by the time they added the veil and belt, I was certain.

One of the great things about having Stephanie as a wedding planner was that she was also my florist. She knew how to incorporate the flowers seamlessly into the overall design. I knew that I wanted the flowers to look soft and romantic, with a pop of color. We decided to go with lots of white and blush in my bouquet, and Stephanie added unique touches likes gold ferns, anemones, and ribbons. I couldn’t have been more thrilled!

Did you decide to do a first look? Why or why not? We did not do a first look. We are both pretty traditional, and one of the things I had always looked forward to most on my wedding day was the moment when we both saw each other for the first time. As it turned out, the look on his face as I walked down the aisle was absolutely priceless, and I am so glad we decided to wait.
What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? Bradford surprised me during our ceremony by playing and singing a song called “Dancing in the Minefields.” He looked into my eyes, and I know I will never forget the sincerity with which he sang those lyrics. There may have been a lot of guests there, but in that moment, it was just the two of us.

What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? Did they have any special significance to you? I knew that I wanted the venue to have some Southern charm and a plantation feel, but I didn’t want to ask our guests to drive a long way from the city. The Merrimon-Wynne had everything I was looking for, and was perfectly located right in the heart of Raleigh. An added perk was that they had a space for the ceremony and reception, so I was thankful our guests wouldn’t have to get back into their cars and drive to another location.

Our venue was very Southern, and that charm was one of the things that immediately drew me in. Our food was delicious and Southern-inspired–during cocktail hour, guests enjoyed country ham biscuits, crab cakes, and a few other yummy choices. We did stations for dinner, which gave everyone so many options. We had a macaroni and cheese bar, shrimp and grits, pecan-crusted chicken, and beef tenderloin.

What is the one detail or vendor that you were so happy to have as a part of your wedding? Annamarie was not only our amazing wedding photographer, she has also been one of Bradford’s good friends since high school, and her husband was a groomsman. Having her there photographing our wedding day was extra special. I loved that she was there to both take photos and to genuinely partake in all the joy that day held. The photographs she took are incredible and so perfectly capture all the details and happiness of the day.

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. We were introduced by a mutual friend. She was a co-worker of mine and attended the church where Bradford led worship. Bradford and I had only talked briefly when he asked me to dinner. Our first date was full of laughter and great conversation, and by the time we finished our frozen yogurt, we both knew that this was something special.
Tell us all about the proposal! Bradford surprised me one Saturday with a trip to the aquarium. I had a wonderful time, but looking back, I realize how nervous Bradford was–I’m sure he wasn’t enjoying it nearly as much as I was! Later in the afternoon, we walked down to a pond a little ways from the aquarium. After some walking, we sat down at a picnic table nestled in some trees. It only took a few words before I knew what was happening. After I said yes, I was surprised to find out that my future sister-in-law and good friend had been there all along, taking pictures. We headed back toward home, where Bradford had gathered all our family members and friends to celebrate with us. It meant the world to me to get to share that special time with so many of our favorite people!
When did y’all get married? November 15, 2014
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 165
Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding and why you chose them. Bradford is a musician, so the music was extremely important to both of us. He actually wrote the music that I walked down the aisle to, which was one of my favorite details of the wedding and something I will always cherish. He titled it “Mentre Aspetto,” which means “As I Wait” in Italian. We walked back up the aisle to “White Dress” by Ben Rector, which felt very appropriate for the moment. Our first dance was also to a Ben Rector song, “Forever Like That.” Bradford recorded a version for our first Valentine’s Day together, and it just made sense that it would be the first song we danced to as husband and wife.
How did you plan for your marriage while planning your wedding? We are extremely blessed to have incredibly supportive family and friends and to be a part of a wonderful church community. We looked to them for advice and guidance, and we worked through a premarital book together. We also made sure that we took time to step away from all the wedding planning and events to focus on us, as that would be what mattered long after the wedding was over.
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you most looking forward to about married life? For now, we have settled down in Durham, North Carolina with our sweet pup, Harper, and have been loving the first few months of married life. We are eager to see what is next for us, and there’s comfort and excitement in knowing that whatever is next, we’re in it together.

Photographer: Annamarie Akins / Planner and Florist: Stephanie Cisko of Viva L’Event NC / Ceremony and Reception Venue: The Merrimon-Wynne House / Cake Baker: Edible Art Bakery / Caterer: Beau Catering / Rentals and Lighting: CE Rental and Party Reflections / DJ: Mitch Woodward of Joe Bunn DJ Company / Paper Products: Minted / Bride’s Gown: “Bijou” by Amsale / Bridal Salon and Bride’s Veil and Belt: Bridals by Lori / Bracelet: Kate Spade / Earrings: Nadri / Hair and Makeup Stylist: Makeup by Ashley Mooney / Bride’s Shoes: Tory Burch / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Bill Levkoff / Menswear: Jos A. Bank

Joe Bunn DJ Company is a delightful member of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

marissa Written with love by Marissa
11 Comments
  1. avatar Annamarie reply

    Thank you so much for the beautiful feature! This was such a perfect day!

  2. avatar Bradford Mitchell reply

    Thanks for featuring our wedding! You had typed that my wife’s name is Katie. That’s my sister’s naming funny enough. Also. I would not have agreed to a navy and pink wedding. Kalie told it was blush? She must have tricked me. She’s a devious one that Kalie.

    • avatar Lisa reply

      Thank you both so much for sharing your love story and your beautiful wedding with us!
      P.S. So sorry for the typo–it’s been fixed! :)

  3. avatar Viva L'Event NC reply

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  6. avatar Alex reply

    What is wrapped around the cocktail tables as the gold band?

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For today’s groom, just writing about the memory of their proposal gets him all choked up, so it’s no surprise that when Emily and Jim tied the knot, their day was sweet and completely romantic! Paired with lots of delicate lace and the prettiest peachy pink color palette, Emily and Jim created a fun barbecue atmosphere, complete with a Coke toast, to ensure their day felt Southern, comfortable and welcoming! Obviously, in addition to their gorgeous day, we also love the adorable snuggling sheep Annamarie Akins captured at Hunt Club Farm!

Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! I sure did! My something borrowed was a pair of pearl earrings from my mother. My something blue was an “I Do” sticker for the bottom of my shoes from my MOH. My something old was a vintage pearl ring that my grandmother had given my mother on her 16th birthday, which she passed down to me at my bridal shower. My something new was my sparkly gold Badgley Mischka shoes!

Finding my wedding dress wasn’t as easy as I had hoped it would be. When I first went shopping, I took everyone with me. It came down to two different dresses that I couldn’t decide between–my group’s preferences were split in half. Finally, I decided if either was the “one,” I would have known it. I continued my search and went to Pure English with just my mom and her best friend. The dress I ended up purchasing was the one for me, and I knew it when I kept wanting to put it back on!

Always so fun seeing Southern Weddings Shop products incorporated into real weddings!

My aunt Melanie officiated our ceremony, and when we were determining the readings for the ceremony, this one really stuck out: “Before I pronounce you married partners, I have just one more thing I want you to do. Your wedding day is one that seems to fly. It’s a day filled with emotion, friends, rings, and dances. Many people remember how fleeting their own wedding day was. So I want you to take a few seconds to look into each others’ eyes. Think about the happiness that you are feeling in this place, in this moment. Really let that feeling register in your heart and your mind. Now, I want you to think about your life together in 20 years. Where are you? What are you doing? We all know that your visions of the future are not identical, but always complimentary. John Lennon once said, ‘A dream you dream alone is only a dream, a dream you dream together, THAT is reality.’ That new reality starts now.”

What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? Did they have any special significance to you? When we were first engaged, I saw that a friend had been married at Hunt Club. I asked Jim if he wanted to check it out as a venue. We went, and as soon as the Hunt Club coordinator told him that there was a BBQ company that would come and cook onsite all day, he was sold. That was it!

What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? The whole vibe of the wedding was Southern! From the friendly and fun atmosphere to the BBQ, to the drinks out of mason jars, to the coke toast, we felt like our day was comfortable, welcoming, and laid back–which is what being Southern is all about.

Describe your wedding cake or dessert. Which one?! We had so many desserts, and it was because we simply couldn’t decide on one. Jim’s absolute favorite dessert is blueberry cheesecake, so Emma from Sweet Emma Lou put cheesecakes in small mason jars. I love apple and peach crisps, so she made them into mason jar desserts for me as well! We also had white almond raspberry and cookies and cream cupcakes, candy, macarons, donuts, and a six-inch cake for us to cut. We definitely went all out on desserts!

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. From Jim: Floating around different projects at work, I was fortunate enough to be taking the spot of the most beautiful woman in the company, as she was moving to a new job. We had a week of transition, and I flirted a little. I waited a month or two before asking her out, and we started dating. A year later we moved to Virginia beach, and a year after that, we were engaged. Here we are three years later, married!
Tell us all about the proposal! From Jim: The adventure started in San Francisco where we bee-bopped around town for a few days without any set plans–just a goal to explore. To depart San Francisco in style, we rented a red Corvette convertible. Needless to say, it made the cruise down Route 1, the Pacific Coast Highway, to Monterey a little more enjoyable. Monterey was a blast, and on the next to last day, Emily said, “My friend mentioned this one park we should go check out, Point Lobos.” Unbeknownst to her, she would be engaged to me the next day, in that very park! I said we could check it out tomorrow, no big deal, which was playing into the plan of being there at EXACTLY 2 p.m. That day, we wandered down to Hidden Beach in Point Lobos and looked around. I said to Emily, “Do you want to do something crazy?” “Sure,” Emily responded. “Do you want to marry me?” Writing it gets me choked up again, just like it did that day. She jumped around for a minute or two before actually saying yes…but she did. The whole experience was captured by a photographer hidden in the woods.
When did y’all get married? May 31, 2014
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 150
Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding and why you chose them. When choosing our wedding songs, we thought about the people and time periods in our lives that they would represent. I walked down the aisle to Bright Eyes’ “First Day of My Life.” That song tells the story of meeting someone and how it feels like your life begins right in that moment. For the bouquet toss, instead of the classic “Single Ladies,” I chose “Settlin’” by Sugarland, a song that reminds my friends and me of the time in our 20’s when there wasn’t a care in the world, and we wouldn’t settle for anything less than what we deserved.
What was one way you saved money or cut costs at your wedding? BBQ! Mobile Pignic showed up onsite six hours before the wedding, smoked ribs and chicken, and then served it as a family-style buffet. It was perfect for the vibe and saved us a ton of money over traditional wedding caterers. Plus, no one had to answer chicken or beef on their invite.
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Have fun with it. You aren’t going to please everyone, so try not to worry about making everyone happy. I know it’s easier said than done, but try to remember that your wedding is all about you and your future husband.
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you most looking forward to about married life? As a couple, we’ve accomplished a lot this past year… we bought a house, planned a wedding, and had the most amazing wedding day ever. We think we will take a break and relax for a little while, plan some adventures, and enjoy life at home with our two boxer pups, Coral and Reef.

Photographer: Annamarie Akins Photography / Planner: Hannah Hildebrandt Events / Venue: Hunt Club Farm / Florist: Johnson’s Gardens Inc. / Dessert Baker: Sweet Emma Lou / Catering: Mobile Pignic / Rentals: Bluebird’s Garage / DJ: Rodney Charles of Astro Entertainment / Paper Products: Minted / Bride’s Gown: Watters / Bridal Salon: Pure English / Hair and Makeup: Aubrey Lynn of Behind the Veil Studios / Bride’s Shoes: Badgley Mischka / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Bill Levkoff / Menswear: Jim’s Formal Wear

marissa Written with love by Marissa
5 Comments
  1. avatar Michael and Carina reply

    This wedding is absolutely lovely!!!
    So many gorgeous details <3
    xoxo M+C

  2. avatar Jan Pruden reply

    We felt so very blessed to witness these two and their families come together as ONE bigger and happier family. The LOVE was truly in the air! And so so many special thoughtful touches. Jim and Emily are the sweetest couple. May God bless them with everything wonderful!

  3. avatar Annamarie Akins reply

    Thank you so much for featuring Emily and Jim!! They are the best and I am so excited about this! Dream come true! :)

  4. avatar Cheryl Trebi reply

    I was the “best friend” that accompanied my best friend, Emily’s Mom, to “Pure English” where the gorgeous bridal gown was found! Being a mom of two sons, this was absolutely thrilling for me! I love this beautiful love story of Emily & Jim – they “glowed” in every picture, and still do!

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