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I’m sure that none of our love stories happened exactly the way we may have grown up expecting them to, and in Elisa and Craig’s cases, Instagram certainly wasn’t where they imagined they’d someday meet their future spouse! When they finally met face to face, however, their connection was undeniable–Craig knew as soon as he asked Elisa to be his girlfriend that he’d someday ask her to be his wife. While these two are no stranger to the challenges of a long distance relationship, it made their Gatsby-inspired Chapel Hill wedding day all the more special and sweet…though their chocolate wedding cake, passed cupcakes, and milkshake shooters certainly contributed to the sweetness factor, too!

P.S. If Elisa and Craig look familiar, it may be because they’re gracing the back cover of V8! So fun!

Thank you so much to Grain & Compass for sharing this gorgeous day with us!

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. I don’t think either one of us expected to meet in such a unique way. In 2013, my husband, Craig, and I met on Instagram, as crazy as that sounds. He was living in Los Angeles at the time and I was interning in New York City. We had one mutual acquaintance on Instagram, and from the follow, to likes, to comments, our interest grew. In fact, we still have the screenshot of our first exchange. After texting turned into phone calls and phone calls turned into “FaceTime dates”, Craig flew from Los Angeles to NYC to meet me in person and take me on our first real date. That weekend was its own fairy tale. Without a dull moment, we spent our days exploring museums, going to a Mets baseball game, kayaking on the Hudson River, and eating our way through the Big Apple. Craig asked me that weekend to be his girlfriend. I would later find out that in that moment, he knew he was going to marry me. After a year of dating 3000 miles apart, I finished school and moved to Los Angeles to be with him. Our long distance journey to marriage has given us such beautiful perspective, because we now know that simply being in each other’s company is a blessing to treasure each day we are together.

Tell us about finding your wedding dress. Finding my wedding dress was something I had always imagined doing with my mom. However, my living across the country from her in Los Angeles did not make this easy, as traveling back and forth was not very ideal or cost-effective. Since we got engaged right before Thanksgiving, Craig and I spent the holiday in North Carolina and my mom was able to reserve just one bridal appointment at Tre Bella in Durham, an hour before our engagement session was to begin. At one point, I tried on the dress I had not pulled and was weary about, stepped out, and saw my mom’s face. This dress was so classic, elegant, and simple in comparison to what I has walked in thinking I would want. But from the classic silhouette, to the soft, flowing fabric, to the Gatsby-esque beading up the back and on the shoulders, I realized this was it. I never expected to find my wedding dress after only 45 minutes of looking!

Did you decide to do a first look? Why or why not? We chose to do a first look and we wouldn’t have had it any other way! To be able to share an intimate moment before the wedding just talking, laughing, and treasuring the time leading up to becoming husband and wife allowed us to share the whole day together. It also allowed us to take most of our formal pictures before the ceremony, which gave us more time to sneak away after and share a quiet moment eating some small appetizers and sharing our first drink as a married couple together. It was perfect.

Our favorite detail of the wedding was: My mom handmade two amazing wreaths for the doors we stood in front of for the ceremony out of gold-painted magnolia leaves she collected from the yard. She put so much love and time into them and they were stunning!

Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding and why you chose them. I knew that I wanted to walk down the aisle to a song that pointed to the reason for our marriage and the importance of the covenant we were about to make. Craig’s talented groomsmen, Justin Gaston and Ben Schofield, performed the song “I am Set Free” by All Sons and Daughters. After the unity candle lighting, we had both families, as well as the bridal party, surround us in prayer. During this moment, Craig’s brother and sister-in-law performed Craig’s favorite hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” reminding us and everyone that our faithfulness to each other is based on how ever faithful God is to us. We were so thankful to have so many friends share their amazing musical talents with us to make our day so special.

Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? Using my parents’ vows as a guide, we wrote our own version of their wedding vows. We really value those vows because we admire both sets of our parents’ commitment and love for each other, and also how their marriage points to their individual relationships with God. A line from our vows that I love is, “to give my life to you by listening and empathizing with you, encouraging and enabling you, believing in you and in what Christ is doing through you.”

What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? Did they have any special significance to you? We were both raised in the South–Craig in New Orleans and me in North Carolina. We really wanted a venue with rich Southern history and beautiful grounds for our guests to enjoy! With guests traveling from all over, many from LA, we also wanted to minimize any travel between hotels and venues. We decided on the most amazing place that has it all: The Carolina Inn. As soon as we stepped into the Old Well Room (after we booked it from LA, I might add–another win for pictures and my amazing mom!), we knew it really was perfect for our elegant, Gatsby affair!

How did you plan for your marriage while planning your wedding? Craig has an amazing friend and pastor from college who really walked us through the goal and meaning of marriage leading up to our wedding. We were challenged to identify how our parents influenced us, as well as our own experiences, habits, and expectations. The greatest thing we focused on was preparing to become a unified team founded on love and respect–when a wife is loved, she feels respected, and when a husband is respected, he feels loved.

Tell us all about the proposal! From Craig: I knew I wanted to create a really special moment for the proposal. We had been planning on going to a Christmas tree lighting at the Grove here in LA with a few friends when one of them mentioned that they do an epic fireworks show there, too. If anyone knows my wife, they know she LOVES fireworks. Since there was a group of us going, I told a few of our friends my plan: distract her for long enough to get in position, pull out the ring, and drop on one knee in front of everyone as soon as the fireworks started to go off. I knew this was going to be really tough because we would be hanging out for a while and I didn’t want anyone to break down and give it away–not to mention, being a wreck trying to keep the secret myself. The night came and went like a flash. Before I knew it, the tree was lit and it was time for the fireworks show. There I was, in the center of a sea of thousands with booming lights all around, asking the girl of my dreams to marry me. Several stutters later and not without plenty of iPhone photos and videos from both strangers and friends, I was an engaged man.
When did y’all get married? April 17, 2015
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? Just under 200
Describe your wedding flowers. My vision for the day was a classic, elegant, Gatsby affair. We chose black, gold, and white as our colors–this made my husband and in-laws, who are from New Orleans, very happy, because they just so happen to match the New Orleans Saints colors. It was a win-win for everyone in my book! I knew I wanted to keep the florals elegant and simple, with light yellow and white bouquets and a touch of greenery.
Describe your wedding cake or dessert. I wanted our wedding cake to be classic and match our aesthetic, but most importantly, I wanted the inside to be chocolate! We designed a two-tiered cake with a hand-painted gold base and a white top, joined by a fondant black stripe and white geometric piping. In addition, we passed out plates and plates of chocolate and yellow cake cupcakes with white frosting and gold dust sprinkled on top, letting everyone know it was party time! Our love of desserts did not stop there–milkshake shooters and hot cookies were enjoyed by all to keep the sugar rush high and the feet on the dance floor!
Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! I borrowed my sister-in-law’s veil, as well as my bridesmaid’s earrings. I also had my grandmother’s diamonds with me. We had always talked about my wedding when I was growing up, and she passed away the day after my wedding.
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? Our greatest advice would be to trust the experience of the vendors you have chosen and give them freedom to shine in their skills. Our vision was clear for each selection that was made, but the results of our planning, decoration, hair, makeup, photography, florals, stationery, etc. was because we let our vendors run with our ideas instead of keeping them bound by only are ideas or concepts.
What’s next for you as a couple? What memories are you looking forward to making together? For us right now, it’s building our life together in Los Angeles. We are both pursuing our passions and there’s no telling what the future holds. I’m sure there will be many trips back to our Southern roots in Louisiana and North Carolina, as well as abroad–we are excited for our 2016 trip to Europe!

Photographer and Videographer: Grain and Compass / Planner: Erin McLean Events / Venue and Caterer: The Carolina Inn / Florist: Barbara Long / Cake Baker: Once in a Blue Moon / Rentals: CE Rental / DJ: The Local DJ / Paper Products: Alissa Bell Press / Bride’s Gown: “Selia” by St. Patrick / Bride’s Hair Accessories: Yes Dear & Co. / Hair and Makeup: Lula Hair and Makeup / Bride’s Shoes: Nina / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: “Sleeveless Lace Cocktail Dress” by Aidan Mattox / Menswear: “Slim Fit Tuxedo” in Black by Calvin Klein

Erin McLean Events and Lula Hair and Makeup are delightful members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

lisa Written with love by Lisa
1 Comment
  1. avatar Dana reply

    The Carolina Inn looks like the perfect venue for a Gatsby inspired wedding!

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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
7 Comments
  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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There is no one way to have a Southern wedding–from family farms to city halls, we love them all! It’s not the decor that makes a wedding Southern, or even necessarily the location; rather, it’s the hospitality shown and the focus on creating meaningful moments for the bride and groom and guests alike. Kaki and Jay’s Chattanooga wedding was fabulously chic and modern, and they took great strides to ensure their guests felt involved and taken care of. From the hymn everyone sang during the ceremony to the gelato and chilled towels passed around to keep guests cool in the middle of June, Kaki and Jay made sure that everyone at their wedding felt like family. What could be more Southern than that?

We’re so grateful to our Blue Ribbon Vendors, Bamber Photography, for sharing this beautiful day with us!

Jay proposed to me at my parents’ house, and it was a complete surprise! He had the ring in a small pouch tied around my dog Zoe’s collar, and after I chased her down in the yard and realized what it was, Jay got down on one knee and proposed. It was such a special moment, and it was even better that my family was there to celebrate with us!

We wanted our service to be uplifting and joyful, so we chose songs and verses that we thought went along with this theme. The guests sang “To God be the Glory” during the service. At the reception, we entered to the band playing “Oh Happy Day,” and they surprised us with special lyrics–they inserted our names, Kaki and Jay, into the song. We exited the reception to the band playing “Love Train” with their horns, and the guests leading us down to our car!

What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? Did they have any special significance to you? We were married at the Presbyterian church where my mother was also married. My grandfather and mother have been major cheerleaders of the Hunter Museum for a number of years. I loved the beautiful river setting there, and it made for a beautiful backdrop!

What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? To cool the guests down at our summer wedding, we had fans and cold washcloths for the dance floor that were kept frozen in coolers. They were a big hit on such a hot day! Along with that, we had a local company, Milk and Honey, serve delicious and COLD gelato. As a shoutout to Jay’s football days in high school, I threw a football that had “You’re Next” written on it at the end of the reception!

Golf has been a big part of both of our lives, so when we were making our exit at the reception, the wedding party and guests surprised us by holding up golf clubs and making a tunnel that we ran through to our convertible!

When did y’all get married? June 21, 2014
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 250
Tell us about finding your wedding dress. My mom and I scheduled a number of appointments at different bridal boutiques in Atlanta. Lo and behold, after trying on just three dresses, I knew the search was over. I had found the dress I had always dreamed of! Since I found my dress in record time, my mom and I cancelled our other appointments and had a nice, long, leisurely lunch and a day of fun together.
Our favorite detail of the wedding was: Our getaway car! A friend of my dad let us use his ’57 Bel Air Convertible that had a banner with our new married names on it as we left the church! We loved cruising to the reception with the top down–especially since a huge storm had passed through before the ceremony began!
What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? I was so excited as the preacher pronounced us man and wife that I began to literally jump for joy! I was completely unaware I had done this until I was at the reception and guests were laughing about it!
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? One of the best pieces of advice I received was from my mom, who told me, “You have to remember, it is only four hours out of your life,” which could not be more true! It is easy to get caught up in all of the details and get stressed, but it is so important to keep everything in perspective and remember what this day is truly about!
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you most looking forward to about married life? After we returned from our honeymoon, we purchased a house, so we have been very busy settling in and doing small projects. We are just happy to be settling back into normal life, which includes lots of golf, tennis, and playing with our dog, Zoe!

Photographer: Bamber Photography / Reception Venue: Hunter Museum of American Art / Bridal Salon: Joan Pillow / Flowers: The Clay Pot / Caterer: Lee Towery Catering / Gelato: Milk and Honey / Grilled Cheese Truck: The Muenster Truck / Bridesmaid Dress Salon: Prado / Band: Big Blast and the Party Masters / Paper Products: Shadow Box Paperie

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

lisa Written with love by Lisa
4 Comments
  1. avatar Emily reply

    LOVE their car sign + garland – perfection!

  2. avatar Lindsey Bamber reply

    Thanks for the feature! We always love reading the Southern Weddings blog!!

  3. avatar Loverly reply

    That Chevy is just amazing- what a way to exit the most perfect day!

  4. avatar Inspiration No. 4 (Shades of Green) reply

    […] Sources from Left to Right: Getaway Car, Emerald Bridesmaids, Classic Green Tie, Magnolia Escort Cards, Candlelight Fireplace, Mint Juleps, […]

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