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This week marks one year that my boyfriend and I have been dating long-distance, so Brent and Graham’s story is extra special to me today! While I love reliving each real wedding we post through the pictures, the stories from the couple make the photos even more meaningful! Brent and Graham have the sweetest dating story, so be sure to read the story of how they met and how long they dated long-distance below. (Spoiler alert: it’s a lot longer than a year!) I’m positive I could learn a thing or two from this sweet couple on how to thrive in a long-distance relationship.

No amount of rain or chilly September air could hide the joy on their faces or the celebration in the air as you scroll through the photos below! I love how in the years ahead, the couple will be able to go back to Brent’s family’s home and relive their big day as their family grows!

Big SW hugs to Blue Ribbon Vendor Anna Routh for these images!

We went to Charlotte Latin School together from 5th grade onward, but hardly interacted until junior year of high school. We became good friends at the start of senior year and went on our first date the month before graduating. Because we like to make our lives *so* simple and easy, we began dating right after high school graduation – just days before he left for his summer internship in D.C. and the summer before we both headed off to separate colleges in separate states. Four years later, after racking up hundreds of Southwest Airlines miles to see each other on weekends, spending three summers in separate cities, and two study abroad semesters that resulted in us not seeing each other for six months, we both moved to New York City. Seven years and two months after we first began dating, Graham popped the question!

Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? We recited standard vows during the ceremony; however, I made sure to write him all of my vows, both serious and not so serious, in the letter that I had delivered to him the morning of our wedding.
What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? We had two! We asked Graham’s mentor and good friend to read an excerpt from Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables. My “other father”, the father of my best friend and maid of honor, followed with a reading from I John 4:7-8, 12. Our minister also gave a brief homily.

What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? It’s so hard to choose! I’ll never forget the moment my dad and I had together right before we walked down the aisle. We were both teary, emotional, shaking, and overwhelmingly happy. To share in such an intimate moment together was so special. He kept whispering in my ear “this is so surreal!” as we walked down the aisle.

Did you decide to do a first look? Why or why not? From day one, we both knew we didn’t want to do a first look and I’m so glad we didn’t. The anticipation of seeing his face as the church doors opened and watching him as he watched me and my dad walk down the aisle was a moment I wasn’t willing to forfeit. It’s still one of the many decisions that I have absolutely no regrets about, and it’s a moment I’ll remember so vividly for the rest of my life.

I grew up in the North Carolina countryside with my parents’ house sitting on 344 acres of land, centered around a steeplechase course. It’s my home and such a beautiful and unique setting – there was no question that that’s where we would get married. We debated having the ceremony on the property as well versus in our church, but deep down I’d always wanted to be married in our church – Christ Church of Charlotte – which just so happens to be where Graham and I were both confirmed together in 8th grade.

Honestly, everything about the weekend was just so “us”. The flowers stood out to us as really bringing the venue to life and making it feel like the most magical place on a rainy, chilly evening in September. We also made an effort to add touches of our personalities everywhere, from “Please Don’t Take My Drink, I’m Dancing!” napkins that were distributed at the bars once the band started (there’s nothing worse than putting your drink down only to find an efficient waiter has removed it two minutes later!), to a map of our food stations so people knew where to go for what, to a lawn jockey hand-painted with our wedding logo on it to welcome our guests as they entered the reception.

All southerners know the importance of good (fried) food, so we incorporated Southern twists into our food stations. A few of our favorites were Deep South BBQ Eggrolls with Carolina BBQ inside and the Southern Pimento Mac n Cheese. We had Fried Chicken and Waffle Skewers as our passed late-night snack since a good southern hostess never lets her guests go home hungry.

My sweet tooth is unmatched, though I sadly can’t say the same about Graham’s. We knew we wanted a more traditional cake, and Kathy Allen is the woman to go to in Charlotte for elegant cakes with a twist. Ours was five tiers with alternating layers of Spice Cake and Almond Cake. At the end of the night, I gave each of my bridesmaids a sugar flower from the cake in a glass dome to remember the weekend by. We now have a few of the flowers displayed around our house and every time I walk by them, it makes me smile. I’m counting down the days until our first anniversary and I can tear open our top layer in the freezer!

Tell us all about the proposal! It was almost the proposal that didn’t happen! I was determined to get my haircut that afternoon but just two days prior, Graham called and said his parents wanted to do a family dinner that same evening to celebrate my birthday, which was a few days away. Not unusual or suspicious in the least but something I tried to get out of in order to make my desperately-needed haircut. On the day of the proposal, my lovely coworkers threw me a surprise birthday celebration late that afternoon, complete with massive ice cream sandwiches. Never one to say no to sweets, I happily partook, but was left feeling less than stellar. I called Graham once again and tried to get out of the dinner, this time claiming I really didn’t feel well and dinner was the last thing I could stomach (pardon the pun). He once again convinced me I had to come, so we agreed we would meet up and cab to Central Park together since the restaurant, The Loeb Boathouse, was in the middle of the park. The taxi dropped us off at the edge and we wandered in along the pathways until we came to the Conservatory Pond, one of our favorite spots in Central Park. Before I knew it, Graham was telling me how much I meant to him and I immediately blacked out. I got so caught up in the moment that I had to ask him later on if I had even told him “yes.” (I had!) After we soaked in the moment together, we continued on through the park to meet his family for dinner as I frantically tried to call my parents who, of course, weren’t picking up the one time I needed them to. When we got to the restaurant, not only were his parents and two brothers there waiting with champagne, but my parents had surprised me and flown up for the occasion as well!
When did y’all get married? September 26, 2015
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 284
Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding and why you chose them. Walking down the aisle, back up the aisle, first dance, etc. In my piano-playing days, one of my favorite songs I played year after year was Canon in D by Pachelbel. Since I was a little girl, I’ve dreamed about walking down the aisle to that song. Our processional songs were Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring and Trumpet Tune in D by Purcell. We walked back up the aisle to Hornpipe from Water Music by Handel – it’s so joyful and uplifting, perfect for the occasion! We both love Van Morrison so our First Dance was to “Into the Mystic”. I danced with my dad to “Carolina in My Mind” by James Taylor, which was fitting both because my dad shared with me his love for James Taylor from early on in my childhood, and because although I’d been a New Yorker for nearly five years, Carolina will always have my heart. Graham’s first dance with his mom was to Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”. My mom and I also shared a dance toward the end of the night to The Tams’ “Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy”.
What was one way you saved money or cut costs at your wedding? I found it helpful to make a dream “wishlist” of things, from special foods to flowers to specific materials you want to incorporate into the weekend, and see it all listed out in one place. From there, it’s easier to figure out what you can afford to let go of and what’s an absolute must-have. The vendors are experts so if there’s something you don’t want to compromise on but you don’t have the budget for, they likely have another idea on how to get the same point across for less money.
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? I think there’s a big misconception that as the bride, you’re supposed to be glowing, happy and reveling in every minute of the planning process from start to finish. It’s OK to feel stressed and to dread certain parts of the planning (I’m lookin’ at you, list making!). Do your best to take it all in stride, and don’t be afraid to confide in and vent to your loved ones, especially the ones that have been through the process. Also, don’t take the timelines you see in all of the wedding books so literally. We found that many vendors we thought we had time with actually booked up much sooner than we would’ve thought, so be aware and start your research early!

Photographer: Anna Routh Barzin | Planner: Dina Berg Blazek Events | Ceremony Venue: Christ Church Charlotte | Reception Venue: Brooklandwood | Florist: The Place For Flowers | Wedding Cake or Dessert Baker: Kathy Allen Cakes | Caterer: Queen City Catering | Rentals: Classic Party Rentals | Lighting: Classic Party Rentals | Band or DJ: Black & Blue Entertainment through East Coast Entertainment | Invitation: Arzbergers | Save the Date: Lee Ann Clark Calligraphy | Bride’s Gown: Leanne Marshall | Hair Stylist: Jami Svay | Makeup Artist: Jami Svay | Bride’s Shoes: BHLDN | Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Amsale Bridesmaids Chiffon G787C in French Blue | Groom and Groomsmen Attire: Loro Piana for J.Crew

Anna Routh and East Coast Entertainment are delightful members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

Written with love by Jess Metcalf
3 Comments
  1. avatar Sarah Elizabeth reply

    I love everything about this wedding! Especially that save the date & adorable picture of the flower girl & ring bearer!

  2. avatar Rhiannon reply

    This looks like the church sweet Em Thomas got married in. What a stunningly classic soiree!

  3. avatar Mary Kay reply

    What a beautiful wedding! I also appreciate Brent’s honest advice!

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We’re switching things up in Southern Style! While I’m still talking fashion, today I’m answering a question that we often receive from brides. I’m actually quite familiar with today’s question, as I asked it myself when planning my own wedding! And it is: “Can my wedding be black tie?” The simple answer? Yes! For the longer version, here are a few things to keep in mind when considering a black tie wedding…

When we were planning our wedding, my husband Brandon was very laid-back, as usual. However, he had one request: to wear a tuxedo with tails. Needless to say, we had not intended to have a celebration quite that formal, so we compromised: he wore tails, but not white gloves or a top hat! :) With his fashion choice confirmed, a few other wedding day details were settled for us, like our ceremony and reception start times. Traditional etiquette recommends no black tie before 6pm; however, modern etiquette has allowed that if the reception begins after 6, black tie is acceptable.

Image credit: Alex + Andrew and Lyndsie + John

Brandon’s attire also helped shape our bridesmaid dress selection. Since the groomsmen were wearing tuxes with tails, my gals needed to wear long gowns with a bit more formality than originally planned. I opted for black silk floor-length gowns that were dressed up even more with classic pearl necklaces (my bridesmaid gifts!). While black tie does limit the groomsmen color palette, it doesn’t have to narrow your bridesmaid choices. Black tie bridesmaid attire is a fun place to bring in color and even a bit of sparkle, like Lynze did with her girls. Do note that your gals gowns should be floor-length regardless of color.

Image credit: Lyndsie + John, Jordan + David, and Alex + Andrew.

A few other details to marinate on if you’re considering a black tie celebration:

– The venue. While chic tents are natural fits for black tie events, it might not be real easy to wear a floor-length gown down a dirt path. If your guests will be dressing in black tie (and likely heels, too), make sure you’ve thought through the ways they’ll navigate your ceremony and reception spots.
– The decor. While simple is often better, guests won’t feel overdressed if your tables are dressed up, too!
– The menu. I might be speaking for myself, but I can’t imagine how scared I’d be to eat juicy BBQ while wearing a beaded gown. We’re all for a mix of high- and low-brow details, but your guests will probably expect the food to reflect the effort they’ve put in to look their best for you, so make sure it’s delicious and feels a bit fancy!
– Your gown. A groom standing beside you in a tuxedo is the perfect opportunity to choose that extra ruffly or sparkly gown you’ve been eyeing. But if a more casual gown is more your style, consider adding some extra elegance through your accessories.
– Your couple style. While Brandon and I tend to be homebodies, we knew we wanted to get all dolled up for our wedding day and give our guests an reason to get a little extra fancy, so black tie was the right fit for us. But it’s definitely not the right fit for everyone, so be sure to think of your personal style.

And last but certainly not least, your guests! According to Emily Post, black tie calls for gents in black tuxedos with formal (piqué or pleated front) white shirts, bow ties, and cummerbunds. Gloves are not required, and in the summer white dinner jackets with black tuxedo paints are acceptable. Belles should don formal floor-length gowns, a very dressy cocktail dress, or their dressiest little black dress. Of course, if you do go with a cocktail dress, be sure to dress it up with your sparkliest jewels and highest heels! Ms. Post also says that you should not mention attire on a formal invitation. However, she does say that you can mention it on a reception invitation or card. Your wedding website is also a great place to include dress code.

Will you/did you have a black tie wedding? I’d love to hear from you!

marissa Written with love by Marissa
4 Comments
  1. avatar Ellie reply

    We’re having a black tie optional wedding to make it a little easier on guests. My dress is pretty grand, my fiance has a midnight blue tux, and our venue is a histroic space in Charleston, so black tie felt like the natural way to go!

    • avatar Marissa reply

      Ellie! That sounds like an absolute dream! I am sure guests will be tickled pink to get all gussied up! Love the midnight blue tux option as well. xx, MAK

  2. avatar Emily reply

    Marissa, I always love all your posts, but this one is just SO up my alley! I agree with everything you said here related to black tie – from timing, to the white dinner jacket exception, to ladies in cocktail length dresses taking it up a notch with accessories and heels, and most of all, to NOT including attire info on the formal printed invite! My wedding is this Saturday and the ceremony starts at 5:30pm, meaning a 6pm cocktail hour and 7pm reception. We have always wanted black tie and went for it based on modern etiquette rules! We considered pushing ceremony to 6pm, but since it is outside, our photographer really recommended we keep it at 5:30pm for lighting reasons. Glad you agree that what we did is A-OK :) Thanks for a great post!!

    • avatar Marissa reply

      Emily, you just made my day! Thank you so much for your kind words. I was married in December, so we too were chasing light. Our ceremony was at 5pm and the reception started at 6pm, so we just slid right in with etiquette. I’m sure your wedding will be magical and congratulations for the upcoming weekend!! xx, MAK

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For fellow college sweethearts Megan and Jack, getting to know each other meant walking to and from their dorm rooms for early morning classes at UVA. But when it came time to plan their wedding, they knew they wanted their celebration to highlight the beauty and history of their hometown of Richmond. With many out of town guests, Megan and Jack wanted to share as much of its charm as possible, so it’s no surprise they chose the beautiful Tuckahoe Plantation as their reception venue! Instead of a traditional sit-down dinner, guests were served family-style as a way to encourage connections — a choice that easily became Megan’s favorite from the night!

Thanks to Ashley Cox for sharing M + J’s beautiful black tie wedding with us!

I love cascading bouquets, and I chose flowers that were mainly white with hints of blue and green. My bridesmaids’ dresses were a neutral color, so I wanted the flowers to provide a small pop of color. Our florist did an amazing job taking my vision and putting together bouquets that reflected my style.

Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding and why you chose them. For the ceremony, we chose mostly classical music. For walking down the aisle, we wanted something sweet and peaceful, so we chose Pachelbel’s “Canon in D.” At the reception, we had an incredible band called Soul Expressions who played mainly Motown and jazz music. We wanted music that would get everyone up and dancing. Our first dance song was “More” by Frank Sinatra. We love his music and felt that this song really encapsulated how we feel about one another.

Our priest, Father Michael Renninger, was wonderful. He met with us many times before the wedding to really get to know us as a couple, and he did a pre-rehearsal rehearsal for just the two of us so that we wouldn’t have to worry about making any decisions the day before the wedding (for example, what we wanted to be introduced to the congregation as). He has been a family friend for many years, but it was great to talk to him as a couple. More than half of our guests are not Catholic, and we think that Father Mike did a great job of making everyone feel welcome and comfortable.

Tell us about finding your wedding dress. Shopping for my wedding dress was surprisingly easy and stress-free. I went to one salon and only tried on two dresses. I knew exactly what style I wanted, and that I wanted to have a long-sleeved lace jacket made to wear for the ceremony and remove for the reception.

We wanted our wedding to highlight the beauty and history of Richmond. Many of our guests were from out of town and were visiting for the first time, so we wanted them to experience as much of the city, its history, and its charm as possible. The Cathedral is in the heart of downtown Richmond and was built in the late 1800s. It is impressive, but not ostentatious. We didn’t need to fill the space with flowers and decorations because it is beautiful by itself. For our reception, we chose Tuckahoe Plantation. The plantation is about 20 minutes outside of the city, on the James River. Being UVA graduates, we were drawn to Tuckahoe because Thomas Jefferson lived there for several years as a child. The house and gardens were open for our guests to tour, so they had a chance to learn some of the history of the estate.

Our favorite detail of the wedding was: We loved the family-style dinner. It provided a chance for us to place together groups of people who might not know each other, but who we thought would get along. It was fun to look out during dinner and see everyone passing platters, laughing, and getting to know one another over amazing food. Our caterer did an incredible job of adding beautiful garnishes to the dishes so that each platter looked like a decoration in itself.

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. Jack and I met at UVA. We lived in the same dorm our first year and had the same early morning class first semester. We got to know each other while walking to and from class together. We were close friends for our first two years of school and started dating the summer before our third year. I was in Charlottesville taking a Spanish class, and Jack was interning in DC and would drive down every weekend to visit. For our first date, we went our for chocolate milkshakes at Ben and Jerry’s.
Tell us all about the proposal! Jack proposed the Friday after Thanksgiving in 2014. His family was in Charlottesville for the holiday, and my family was at our house in Richmond. We all drove out to meet at Pippin Hill to spend the afternoon wine tasting and then to get dinner with both families. Shortly after my family arrived, Jack pulled me aside to go on a walk. He proposed in the vineyard’s grapevines.
When did y’all get married? June 25, 2016
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 180
Describe your wedding cake or dessert. Our wedding cake was lemon with raspberry filling and vanilla buttercream frosting. Because it was the middle of summer, we wanted something that was lighter. We decided to have a small, two-tiered wedding cake for the cutting, but we served mini cupcakes to the guests in a variety of flavors (including our wedding cake flavor) so that everyone could taste a few different ones.
Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! I did! I borrowed earrings from my mom, and had my new monogram embroidered in blue into the hem of my wedding dress. The diamond in my engagement ring comes from Jack’s great-great-grandmother, I wore a bracelet that Jack’s mom gave me that was given to her by her mother (it dates back to the early twentieth century), and I wore a pair of Ferragamo shoes that were my late grandmother’s as something old. My something new was my wedding dress and veil.
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? Our planning was shockingly stress-free. Both of our families were very helpful in divvying up tasks. The one thing that does stand out as a challenge, though, was the guest list. There were many people that both families wanted to include, so we had to make some difficult decisions. One thing we did decide was to not include any plus-ones.
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Don’t stress about things that don’t go perfectly, because none of the guests know the whole plan, and they will never know if something was or was not meant to happen. For example, our getaway car showed up thirty minutes late, which allowed us to have an impromptu receiving line as our guests were getting on the buses to leave. Everyone thought that it was such a great touch that we got to say goodbye and give hugs, and no one knew that it wasn’t part of our initial plan!
What’s next for you as a couple? What memories are you looking forward to making together? We didn’t live together before we got married, so we are looking forward to setting up our new home and starting this next chapter!

Photographer: Ashley Cox Photography | Planner and Caterer: Lona Crittendon of Cater 2 Events | Ceremony Venue: Cathedral of the Sacred Heart | Reception Venue: Tuckahoe Plantation | Florist: Vogue Flowers | Wedding Cake: The Mixing Bowl Bakery | Rentals and Lighting: Commonwealth Event Company and Classic Party Rentals of Virginia | Band: Soul Expressions | Paper Products: The Preppy Pink Pony | Bride’s Gown and Accessories: Alyne | Gown Alterations and Bolero: Fariba Bridal Alterations and Design | Hair Stylist: Circle Square Salon | Makeup Artist: Kelsey Dewberry | Bride’s Shoes: Salvatore Ferragamo | Bridesmaids’ Dresses: “Annabelle” in Mist Grey by BHLDN | Menswear: Vera Wang | Transportation: James River Transportation

marissa Written with love by Marissa
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