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It’s no secret that Christmas is one of my favorite holidays—my TV is perpetually set to the Hallmark channel, peppermint hot chocolate is my drink of choice, there have been attempts at making sugar cookies with royal icing, and the best of all, I get to spend time at my grandparents’ homes in Kentucky.

This year, we kicked off the holiday festivities with the seventh annual Southern Weddings Gingerbread Barn Building Competition at the magical Carolina Inn!

Builders worked quickly to make their creations come to life—each complete with a creative story that wowed each of the judges.

As you can see, the Carolina Inn at Christmas time is sure to spark your holiday spirit. What a joy it was to take in the holiday decor and toast with hot chocolate to a great year with many of our remote team members!

Guests brought out all the stops with elaborate construction—a Southern dream shown here complete with a gingerbread front porch designed with candy cane columns.

This year was extra special with the sweetest (and littlest) additions to the Southern Weddings family taking part in the fun.

Taking home the top award was “No Room at the Carolina Inn,” a mash-up of the nativity story and a holiday take on a favorite Carolina event, Fridays on the Front Porch!

Honorable mentions were awarded for gingerbread barns that were Most Structurally Sound, Most Festive, Most Architecturally Creative, and for the barn with the Most Creative Story—although the builders this year certainly made it hard to choose!

Thank you so much to all our friends who joined us at this year’s competition, and to The Carolina Inn for hosting the festivities! We cannot wait to see what creations you dream up next year!

Written with love by Kaylee Hobbs
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    Two brand new babies and all the horses in Georgia couldn’t keep me from hitting the pause button on maternity leave to recap the most magical night: our celebration for the launch of our special tenth-anniversary issue a few weeks ago. Of course, we did it in high style at the Carolina Inn, with 300+ of our favorite friends and family, lots of fancy dresses and tuxedos, and a menu that would make your grandmama beam with pride.

    The launch party is one of our favorite nights year after year, but we knew we wanted to pull out all the stops to make this tenth-anniversary celebration one for the record books. The night started with a signature cocktail for each guest and ended with a dance party that I’m confident we will be talking about for years, maybe decades, to come.

    Biggest hugs to our dear friends McLean Events for pulling together all the details and to Brent from Live View Studios for all of these amazing photos! Our friends at Reel Special captured video coverage of the whole evening (don’t miss it at the bottom of this post!), and the Bourbon Booth made sure everyone left with legendary photobooth memories.

    Our darling Marissa wasn’t able to celebrate in person since her little fella, BDK3, was only hours away from making his grand debut, so we had to improvise to ensure she didn’t miss out on all the fun (and photos). Speaking of babies, I know I’m a bit biased, but I think all the miniature party guests stole the show.

    Lara started Southern Weddings in her tiny apartment on a PC computer nearly 10 years ago, and here we are, all these years later, with 9 team members (did I mention that we all missed Marissa like crazy) and all our families for an iconic tenth-anniversary team photo to commemorate the evening. Interested in a little Southern Weddings trivia? The SW babies and kiddos now outnumber the SW ladies. I’d also be remiss to not give all the kudos to Lindsey Regan Thorne and her Be Pretty squad for their help beautifying the whole Southern Weddings team and doling out some serious curls and lashes.


    We’re big believers in good ol’ Southern hospitality, so we greeted guests by name thanks to All She Wrote Notes‘s gorgeous hand-calligraphed nametags, and offered everyone a place to rest their tired feet compliments of furniture from Cottage Luxe. And what’s more hospitable than lovely fresh florals? Our friends at Tre Bella made all our pink-floral-loving hearts swell with gorgeous arrangements sprinkled all over the room, and Jessica with Empress Stationery outdid herself with the party invitation.

    As we say in our Sweet Tea Manifesto, “we believe that beautiful things have value simply because they make the world a more lovely place”. It’s such a joy to see this proclamation come to life with beautiful linens from CE Rental and gorgeous ‘walk down memory lane’ chalk signs from the Chalk Shop.

    Getting to hug Anna and David Shackleford, our cover photographers, along with so many other friends, including many dear vendors who helped us bring our tenth-anniversary issue to life, was such a gift. We’ve said it over and over, but we could not do this work without the help and support of so many talented friends.

    So many hugs!

    I told y’all that the food would make any Southern grandmama proud. We love to use the issue for inspiration for the menu, and the Carolina Inn chefs pulled out extra tricks this year. The shrimp po’boys went fast, and I personally enjoyed five or six miniature soups and grilled cheeses as well as my fair share of treats from the biscuit bar (who can say no to pimento cheese). And it wouldn’t be a Southern Weddings party without plenty of Cheerwine, who, coincidentally, is celebrating a big anniversary this year too.

    We were treated to amazing live music in the early phases of the evening, thanks to Bounce from EastCoast Entertainment and then an unforgettable dance party thanks to Joe Bunn DJ later. Whitney Houston’s iconic “I wanna dance with somebody” will be an instant flashback memory. And of course, the toasts are always a highlight. It’s such an honor to stand on the stage and raise a glass of thanksgiving to all the friends who helped make our latest issue happen.

    It never fails that the photobooth is the most popular spot for the whole evening. The line was never-ending as friend after friend piled into the Bourbon Booth to capture a few memories. Looking back at my first launch party where we proudly piled all five Southern Weddings gals in for a picture, I might have to admit that one of the hidden SW team talents is cramming more and more of us into the photobooth each year.

    Before leaving, all our party guests grabbed their very own copy of Southern Weddings and some treats to help them relax the rest of the evening — pralines from Loose Sugar Bakery and a Milk Bath from Southern Traditions Home. Not a bad way to end a wonderful party.

    There’s something so special about having your memories captured on video, so thank you to Reel Special for allowing us to relive this sparkling evening over and over again.

    I’m going to go on record and proclaim our tenth-anniversary celebration the best one yet. Thank you so much to everyone who celebrated with us, from near and far, for your love and support of the Southern Weddings mission and our special tenth-anniversary issue. We love y’all more than all the biscuits in the world.

    Venue and catering: The Carolina Inn | Planning and design: McLean Events | Photography: Live View Studios | Videography: Reel Special | Music: Bounce via East Coast Entertainment | DJ: Bunn DJ Company | Flowers: Tre Bella Florist | Linens: CE Rental | Lounge furniture: Cottage Luxe | Sweets: The Cupcake Shoppe Bakery | Chalkboard Art: Chalk Shop Events | Photo booth: Bourbon Booth | Signage: All She Wrote Notes | Invitations: Empress Stationery | Hair and makeup: Lindsey Regan Thorne | Pralines: Loose Sugar Bakery | Milk bath containers: Southern Traditions Home

    East Coast Entertainment, Bourbon Booth, McLean Events, Bunn DJ Company, Live View Studios, Reel Special, Chalk Shop, and Cottage Luxe are delightful members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory

    kristin Written with love by Kristin
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    1. avatar Ryan Worthen reply

      It was such an awesome celebration and we were SO honored that you asked us to film the launch party! Congratulations on 10 amazing years, and here’s to many more!

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    While I know spring tends to get most of the love from brides thanks to the blooms and the weather, as a December bride myself, I might be a tad bit partial to winter weddings, especially ones that take advantage of already-in-place Christmas decor. From the big red bow-accented garlands to the twinkle lights, there is something so magical about classic holiday decor that makes everything feel extra special! I love than Anne and Nick chose the beautiful Carolina Inn for their December celebration because of its rich history and central location to their families. This sweet couple then took full advantage of the Inn’s gorgeous holiday decor and added just the right amount of their personalities and meaningful details. And y’all, how classic and lovely is Anne’s all-white bouquet, accented with magnolia greenery? So dreamy!

    I’m so glad our friend and Blue Ribbon Vendor Robyn Van Dyke was on hand to capture this joyful day!

    Tell us about finding your wedding dress. I am a really decisive person when it comes to clothes, and my wedding dress was no exception! I had an amazing time looking at dresses with my mom, thinking about Nick and my special day, and playing dress up! We looked at Diva’s Bridal Boutique in Greensboro and almost immediately decided on a gown. I had actually put on the gown and wasn’t crazy about it, but when they made it “fit me” (i.e. pulled it back so that I had a waist, etc.), I just knew. I loved it, my mother loved it, and I knew it was right.

    Describe your wedding flowers. I knew from the start that I wanted to use whites and greens. Kathy at The Purple Puddle turned that desire into something beautiful. I loved the use of magnolia greenery, white hydrangeas, roses, and gardenias. They were so beautiful and fragrant!

    The first look was the best decision Nick and I made about our wedding! We were guided by our amazing photographer, Robyn Van Dyke, to consider a first look because the light level was low on our wedding day. We fully trusted the Van Dykes and realized very quickly that this was a special opportunity to be together on our wedding day in the midst of the chaos. The moment was just what we had hoped for–better even! We saw each other for the first time that day surrounded by our friends, we had time together to pray, talk, and process what that day meant, and it was the most special and memorable moment of all of the wedding festivities!

    Our wedding music was special from the start. Music is such a beautiful part of worship, and we wanted to glorify the Lord through the music we chose. Not all of it was Christian, but most was, and all was classic. A dear friend from dental school played the violin and the organist for CUMC played the organ and the piano. Nick and I each met multiple times with the organist to discuss our musical selections, hear his input and interpretation, and decide on the final selections. Our favorite hymn, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” was selected as a special song. It was a time of transition in our service and meant so much to both Nick and me. We do not take for granted our many blessings–family, education, calling to service, friends–and the musical interpretation by Gentry (our violinist) and the pianist brought us to tears. We both pray our marriage brings us closer to the Lord and gives us the opportunity (and the challenge!) to glorify Him. It was just so special.

    What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? Did they have any special significance to you? We love Chapel Hill! Both of our families have a history in this area, we met and fell in love here, and it was a central location for our loved ones. Christ United Methodist Church has a kind wedding ministry, and everything about the church began to line up with our values. The music was lovely, the services were classic, and the structure of the wedding ceremony was everything we could have hoped for. It was perfect! The Carolina Inn has everything perfected–it was so easy to coordinate with our vendors because just about everyone had worked at the historic inn before. We quickly realized that December 20 was the perfect weekend to have a wedding there–the inn is decorated beautifully for Christmas, and it is a relatively calm time for them. The Carolina Inn is a gorgeous, well-oiled machine, a classic Chapel Hill landmark, and extremely reliable. It was a dream come true!

    At our reception, Nick and I danced to Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud.” We first heard this when we were apart over the summer of 2014–I was in Utah and Nick was in Africa. We heard it, both teared up, and knew it was the right song for our first dance. In particular, the line, “Honey, your soul can never grown old, it’s evergreen,” spoke to us. We couldn’t help but see how special our parents’ and grandparents’ marriages were and hope for a lifetime of devotion to one another.

    Sweet Memories made the most delicious cake! We had two flavors: sweet potato spiced cake with caramel and white chocolate filling, and lemon cake with white chocolate mouse and raspberry puree. Both were incredible!!!

    How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. We met in dental school! Nick was a first year and I was a second year. We went to medical school prom with friends and became inseparable. We spent about two weeks together before I called my mom and dad and told them I was in love (so crazy!)! Nick and I began officially dating on Easter Sunday 2013 and were engaged less than a year later!
    Tell us all about the proposal! Nick and I love time when we can be alone together, laughing and talking. We had planned a spring break trip to camp in Death Valley and Joshua Tree and spend a night in Vegas. On the way to the airport, Nick pulled off the road and said, “Let’s go on a walk; it’s a beautiful day!” I suspected what was about to happen and noticed that both of us were shaking! It was hilarious and awesome and absolutely perfect. We arrived to a quad on UNC’s campus where we had enjoyed many picnic dinners during our courtship. I had no makeup on, and we were just completely relaxed at the beginning of an amazing week together. It was more perfect than I had ever imagined!
    When did y’all get married? December 20, 2014
    How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? About 175
    Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? We said classic vows, which was a very intentional decision. We wanted everything to be traditional.
    Our favorite detail of the wedding was: I loved wearing my mother’s earrings and the same veil that both of my sisters wore in their weddings. I also wore the bracelet that Nick’s grandmother, mother, and sisters wore in their weddings and the pearl bobby pins that once belonged to my grandmother. It all made me feel like these women were with me throughout the day, which meant so much!
    How did you plan for your marriage while planning your wedding? I think the reason that wedding planning was so fun was because we were focusing on preparing for our marriage! We read several books, including “The Five Love Languages,” “Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts,” and “Things I Wish I’d Known Before I got Married.” We also met for premarital counseling several times with the pastor at CUMC. We had conversations over dinner about our hopes, dreams, short-term and long-term goals, and aspirations, and made sure we let each other know why we loved one another. We prayed quite a bit and sought wise counsel from family and friends who are married. All of these things really added to the depth and meaning of our engagement.
    What was one way you saved money or cut costs at your wedding? We decided on the things that really mattered (venue, great food) vs. the things that didn’t (buffet vs. plated dinner, monogrammed vs. non-monogrammed napkins) and allocated funds according to those decisions. We also knew that for our crew, beer and wine were sufficient. We did all of the toasts at the rehearsal dinner, so there was not champagne at our reception; instead, we served spiked cider during our cocktail hour.
    What is the one detail or vendor that you were so happy to have as a part of your wedding? Robyn Van Dyke!!! We LOVE our photos and were thrilled to have our day documented by friends. They did an amazing job, and I still can’t believe we were so blessed to have them as such a major part of our wedding day. They really were perfect.
    What’s next for you as a couple? What memories are you looking forward to making together? We are so looking forward to having control over our time so that we can travel together! We are excited for Nick to graduate from dental school and for me to hopefully match at the pediatric dental residency of my choice. We are on the brink of major changes and professional growth, which is thrilling! We are also excited to have children one day, although that will have to wait a few years. :)

    Photographer: Robyn Van Dyke Photography | Planner: Carly of Events by La Fete | Ceremony Venue: Christ United Methodist Church | Reception Venue and Catering: The Carolina Inn | Florist: The Purple Puddle | Cake Baker: Sweet Memories Bakery | DJ: McSound Productions | Paper Products: Reaves Engraving Inc. | Bride’s Gown: Martina Liana | Bridal Salon: Diva’s Bridal and Boutique | Hair Stylist: Becca of Salon 135 | Makeup Artist: Stephanie Sevilla | Bride’s Shoes: Badgley Mischka | Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Alfred Sung | Menswear: Tom Dixon at The Executive’s Cutting Edge

    Robyn Van Dyke is a delightful member of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

    marissa Written with love by Marissa
    2 Comments
    1. avatar Erica reply

      Beautiful tray! I would love to feature this in my kitchen!

    2. avatar featured: southern weddings » Robyn Van Dyke Photography Blog reply

      […] to share that Anne & Nick’s gorgeous winter wedding at The Carolina Inn was featured on Southern Weddings during the week of Christmas! The joy from this wedding day will always make it one of my all-time […]

    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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