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When planning a wedding, it can be seriously temping to get so caught up in Pinterest boards and magazine pages that you forget the most meaningful source of inspiration: yourselves! Every couple and love story is so unique, and turning to your own history for wedding ideas pretty much guarantees that your celebration will be a lovely reflection of what matters most to you. Lauren and Michael did a fabulous job of this–from travel-inspired details (I love their table names!), to meaningful readings, to subtle nods to Lauren’s favorite Disney movies, they weren’t afraid to fill their wedding with personal touches at every turn. As a result, their wedding a great reflection of them, and they also remember their engagement as an especially fun time!

Thank you so much to Meredith Sledge for sending this pretty day our way!

Tell us about finding your wedding dress. I actually found it at the very first shop I went into. I was in Chesapeake, Virginia visiting my family and thought it would be the perfect time to begin my search, instead of having to coordinate with all of them to come up to DC. I had my squad with me: my mother, father, younger sister (my maid of honor), grandmother, older sister, and one of my nieces. They helped me pick out seven different dresses, each one so different than the next, and all within my budget. I tried on each one to tons of “oohs” and “ahhs,” but all of that stopped when I tired on the last dress. Everyone, including me, was silent. We all knew! My dress was the only A-line I tried on. I never thought I would go for a fuller dress, thinking I wanted something more form fitting. This Mikaella dress made me feel like I was floating on the wedding clouds. (Side note, after I got home from buying the dress, I was looking back through my Pinterest account and realized that I had pinned that exact same dress the month before!)

We had always wanted to do a first look so we could have a more private moment together and use that time to take more pictures. Having spoken with other friends who have gotten married, they shared either how great having a first look was in saving time, or how they regretted not doing a first look because they felt rushed to take all of the pictures right after the ceremony. Something important to Michael and I was attending our cocktail hour. Since we did a first look and took our portraits and the bridal party shots then, we only had to do family pictures after the ceremony, so we were able to attend 30 minutes of the cocktail hour. Our first look pictures are my favorite pictures of the day. Getting to have that special moment for just Michael and I was the sweetest.

What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? Did they have any special significance to you? Michael and I live in DC but I grew up in Southern VA and he in California. We were not tied to any spot in particular since everyone would have to travel to the wedding, no matter where we had it. That left us with tons of possibilities! We did venue research online and picked out five that were in our budget and looked like our style (although we were still trying to figure that out!)–two in DC, and three in Charlottesville, Virginia. We liked certain aspects of each venue, but didn’t have our “aha” moment until Mount Ida Farm. It was the last venue we visited, and while we were there, we were told they were also building a brand new venue. We drove over to look at the construction, and all that was up was the main barn and one chandelier, but we knew. I loved the view of the mountains, the Restoration Hardware feel of the rough cut wood and glass chandelier, and the grove area that was going to be the ceremony area. Two days later, we signed the venue and construction was finished in November 2015.

Before the ceremony, we played covers of Disney songs. I am a huge Disney fan and had to incorporate Disney somehow without it being too cheesy. It was perfect and all of the guests noticed. When I walked down the aisle, my brother played the electric ukulele and sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” That song was played the morning after Michael proposed when we were in Hawaii at breakfast by the beach. When we were thinking of what song to play at the wedding, that was the first one we both wanted. It was made even more special by having my brother play it.

Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? Michael and I wrote our own vows and read an excerpt from a poem together. Some of our favorite lines from Michael’s vows were, “If the last six years have taught me anything, I know that even the next 60 won’t be enough to show you how much I love you.” From mine: “There is something about you, an energy, presence, laugh, or smile that is electric. That is what drew me to you and hasn’t let me go. I love that you can walk into any room, make a friend, or win people over with your sweet dimples and charm. I always think to myself, wow, he is mine.” There was also a reading Michael and I said to each other before our vows, “Everything that happens is nicer with you” by Sandol Stoddard.

How did you plan for your marriage while planning your wedding? The best way we planned was through being open and honest with each other. We regularly discussed all aspects of our relationship and being married. This included all of our finances, expectations, dreams, ambitions, goals, etc. Even if those discussions were uncomfortable or hard to get through sometimes, we knew it was for the best and would get to a spot where we need to be, now and in the future.

Our favorite detail of the wedding was: We brewed our own beer that had special labels of us from Oktoberfest on it. We had a caricature artist on hand the whole evening to give our guests an even more special experience. Our guestbook was a painting of us from the Disney movie “UP,” where could sign a balloon. All of the wine and champagne we chose was from wineries we have visited in Napa and Sonoma. Instead of traditional table numbers, we named all of the tables after different countries, and the escort cards were tickets/passports to the guest’s destination (aka table). Any friend or family member could walk into the wedding and know it was ours.

Michael’s favorite dessert is pie. It doesn’t matter what type of pie, just as long as it is a pie! We had three different flavors (gooey butter, peach bourbon, and strawberry mint). We also had Georgetown mini cupcakes. Michael and I live across the river from Georgetown and always love to go to Georgetown Cupcakes. We worked with the company to design all of the fondant toppers and select four delicious flavors. For our wedding cake, we chose a simple white cake with etched-on gold. We also used a gold topper that said “You’re My Favorite,” since we say that to each other all of the time. It was simple, sweet, and delicious (honey lavender-flavored), and the sheet cake we served alongside it was champagne-flavored.

Don’t miss Lauren and Michael’s wedding film by WhiteFlair Productions below!

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. We both went to James Madison University during undergrad, but didn’t meet until our senior year. I led an alternative spring break trip, and the fall leading up to it, I got to meet my co-leader. We started to hang out and he began inviting his roommates along too. One of those roommates was Michael. During our second meeting, I became bold and gave him my number, and the rest is history.
Tell us all about the proposal! To celebrate completing our Master’s degrees, Michael and I went to Maui, Hawaii with the Lee family. On June 3, 2015, we took a flight over to Kona for a night and did a five-hour night snorkel adventure to see manta rays. We were on the first part of the snorkel, when the sun was still out, and after 30 minutes or so, we began to swim closer to the boat and coral. I saw what I thought was a piece of trash on the reef and thought, wow, someone littered! I kept swimming until Michael had to ask what it was. I went back over to check it out, and on the paper was one word: “Lauren.” We swam down and got the paper, and on the back, Michael had written a note asking me to marry him. Overtaken with joy, I began to giggle and shout OKAYYYYYYYY! When we got back onto the boat, Michael gave me the ring.
When did y’all get married? April 16, 2016
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 166
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? The only point of any contention while planning was the guest list. We both come from large families and have a number of friends, and we wanted to include all of them. However, due to the venue size restrictions, not everyone could be included. Working on the list and narrowing it down was a huge headache and pain in the side!
If you are comfortable responding, what range did your wedding budget fall into? $50,000-$75,000
What was one way you saved money or cut costs at your wedding? A great feature of our venue was that we could bring in our own alcohol. Instead of doing an open bar with our caterer, Michael and I selected and bought all of the wine, champagne, liquor, beer, and specialty cocktails. Not only did this save money, but we were able to select top shelf and the drinks that we enjoy. What bottles we had leftover (since we definitely over-bought), we were able to return to Total Wine and Costco for even more savings.
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? We both loved wedding planning because we made decisions as a team. Drink plenty of wine and planning becomes even more fun! I would also say, don’t worry so much about hurting others’ feelings. I say this not in a selfish sense, but you will find you are more concerned about how others will feel or react than you are about your own feelings. There is a time and place to be focused on yourself, and this is one of them.
What’s next for you as a couple? What memories are you looking forward to making together? We are looking forward to enjoying every day as husband and wife. We also can’t wait to continue to travel the world and see and experience new things!

Photographer: Meredith Sledge | Videographer: WhiteFlair Productions | Planner: Two Byrds Events and Design | Venue: The Lodge at Mount Ida Farm | Florist: The Flower Box | Cake Baker: Arley Cakes | Caterer: The Local | Rentals: MS Events | DJ: Party Masters | Paper Products: Wedding Paper Divas | Bride’s Gown: Style 1959 by Mikaella | Hair and Makeup: The Spot Beauty Shop | Bride’s Shoes: “Chrissy” by J. Renee | Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Styles 7289L, 7372L, 7366L, and 7257 by Alfred Angelo, Styles F15782, F15928, and F15933 by David’s Bridal | Menswear: Tuxedo by Sarno | Caricature Artist: About Faces Entertainment | Cupcakes: Georgetown Cupcakes

lisa Written with love by Lisa
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    When Dave and I were looking for a wedding venue, one of our biggest priorities was a place that made our family and friends know they were somewhere special from the moment they turned up the road. As far as venues that create that magical sense of anticipation go, Tuckahoe Plantation is at the top of my list–Emily and I were practically giddy when we drove down its pebbly road for our Fabric of a Southern Belle shoot last year, and I can only imagine that Sarah and Chad’s guests felt the same way! For this nature-loving couple, a venue with plenty of beautiful outdoor space was a must, and historic Tuckahoe turned out to be the perfect rustic, but still elegant, place for them to become husband and wife. They made wonderful use of the property, choosing different areas for the ceremony (how gorgeous are those trees lining the aisle?), the reception, and, very importantly, the spot where a bottle of bourbon was buried to ensure sunny skies!

    Thank you so much to Sarah Jane Winter for sharing this beautiful day with us!

    Chad and I love spending time hiking and camping together, and the outdoors are very special to us. We considered a few other venues with outdoor spaces, but we knew Tuckahoe Plantation was the right fit for us pretty early on. With its expansive fields, gorgeous gardens, and rich history, Tuckahoe is timelessly elegant, but also has a very laid-back vibe.

    Before I went to look at dresses, I had a pretty good idea of what I was looking for: fitted, an elegant neckline, and allover lace. I’ve heard from so many friends who went into the store wanting one thing, but ended up falling in love with a completely different style once they started trying things on. This was the exact opposite for me–I ended up with the perfect dress that was exactly what I had originally had in mind. The dress I purchased was even the first dress I tried on!

    Did you decide to do a first look? Why or why not? Chad and I changed our minds about this so many times. On the one hand, we loved the idea of seeing each other for the first time as I was coming down the aisle towards him. On the other hand, we also loved the idea of getting to share some time together before all the hubbub. We ended up doing a first look, and we were so glad that we did! It was so nice to get to spend time together without any distractions and it definitely helped to calm both of our nerves during the ceremony.

    Our favorite detail of the wedding was: My favorite detail of the wedding was the ceremony space at Tuckahoe. The aisle is lined with rows of the most beautiful crepe myrtles that arch over the aisle, and almost look like a cathedral ceiling. Chad’s favorite detail was that a flock of geese flew right over us during the ceremony!

    What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? We buried the bourbon behind the ceremony arbor a month before our wedding to keep the rain away on our wedding day. It was actually pouring rain on us while we were out there burying it, which I think was double good luck!

    Our friends Corey and Jesse Wells are talented local musicians who play with several bluegrass groups around town. We chose to have them play songs that were meaningful to us as a couple during the ceremony. The groomsmen and our families walked down the aisle to an acoustic rendition of “Fearless” by Pink Floyd. This is one of my favorite Pink Floyd songs and it set the stage beautifully for the rest of the ceremony. The bridesmaids walked in to another of our favorite songs, “Sandusky” by Uncle Tupelo. My dad and I walked in to Van Morrison’s “Sweet Thing.” The wedding party recessed to an awesome rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Boogie on Reggae Woman,” which kicked off the celebration! Chad and I chose “Further on Down the Road” by Taj Mahal for our first dance. Every time I hear that song, it takes me back to cooking dinner and dancing around the kitchen together in our first house.

    What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? It was pretty amazing to have all of our friends and family members gathered together in such a beautiful place. It almost takes your breath away when you look around and realize how much love is all around you at one time. It really was the happiest day of our lives.

    How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. Chad and I met at a Widespread Panic show in Charleston. I was living in Richmond, Virginia at the time and he was living in Charlotte, North Carolina. Although we didn’t know each other, we had tons of mutual friends and ended up hanging out all night together at the show. We instantly clicked and he drove up to visit me in Richmond the next weekend. We took turns visiting each other every other week for the next year and a half, and then Chad’s company agreed to transfer him to Richmond.
    Tell us all about the proposal! After a few years of dating, we escaped the cold winter weather in Richmond and took a vacation down to Roatan, off the coast of Honduras. Chad proposed on the beach the first night of our trip. He even hired a photographer to hide and capture the moment!
    When did y’all get married? September 19, 2015
    How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 250
    Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! I borrowed my grandmother’s handkerchief to carry during the ceremony and my garter had a tiny blue ribbon on it. Chad also gifted me with a beautiful necklace the morning of our wedding that featured the diamond from his great-grandmother’s engagement ring. He had the stone reset, so that doubled as my something old and something new.
    How did you plan for your marriage while planning your wedding? For a little over a year, we met with our officiant every six weeks or so. We usually went out to dinner together or just met with him at his house to talk about marriage. He had lots of good advice for us and we have come to really admire him and his wife.
    If you are comfortable responding, what range did your wedding budget fall into? $50,000-$75,000
    What was one way you saved money or cut costs at your wedding? One good tip the woman who made our cake shared with us is that you can opt for a smaller tiered wedding cake to display and cut, and then ask the baker to also make a sheet cake that will be cut in the back and served to the guests. The sheet cake slices can be a fraction of the cost of the tiered cake slices.
    What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? We were engaged for over a year and I loved having a long engagement. We never felt rushed or pressured during the wedding planning process because we were so ahead of the game. Having that extra time allowed us to be really laid-back while we slowly ticked things off the list and enjoyed the process. If you aren’t planning to have a long engagement, my advice would be to focus on tackling things one at a time, and celebrate after you get each little task accomplished. When you first look at that long list of to dos, it can be overwhelming and intimidating. Just take it one thing at a time and don’t forget to enjoy the ride!
    What’s next for you as a couple? What memories are you looking forward to making together? We are taking a honeymoon in Europe this summer and are really looking forward to it. Now that all the wedding planning is behind us, we are enjoying mapping out our next adventure together.

    Photographer: Sarah Jane Winter | Venue: Tuckahoe Plantation | Florist: Elizabeth Daly Designs | Cake Baker: The Buttercream Bee | Caterer and Lighting: Mosaic Catering + Events | Rentals: Classic Party Rentals of Virginia | Band: Soul Expressions | Paper Products: By Invitation Only | Bridal Salon: Jingles Bridal Salon | Hair and Makeup: Avenue 42 | Bride’s Shoes: Banana Republic | Bridesmaids’ Dresses: “Blair” and “Newbury” by Joanna August | Bow Ties: Collared Greens | Day-of Coordination: Tart Event Co. | Ceremony Musicians: Corey and Jesse Wells

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

      Thanks so much for sharing this, ladies! What an incredible day it was :)

    2. avatar Dana reply

      I love that sign they put at the entrance with their name in flowers!

    3. avatar Zookbinders Wedding Albums reply

      What a lovely wedding! I love the location!

    4. avatar Alden Rykard reply

      Beautiful wedding! Love the venue and floral detailing!

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    I’ve often joked that I wasn’t much of a flower person until we did some foraging at our first team retreat. While I still am as dumb as a box of rocks when it comes to the different flower types, my appreciation for florals has certainly grown, and after seeing Emily’s stunning blooms, I think it might be moving into a full-blown love. Sarah at the White Oaks Barn took Emily’s inspiration and created bouquets full of marsala-hued dahlias, flowing greenery, and even some gold accents that ultimately became one of Emily’s favorite details of the day. I can surely see why! But, when it came to her favorite moment? She and Ben chose “the overwhelming feeling of love and support from everyone that was able to be there with us.”

    Big SW hugs to Dash Photography for sharing this sweet day with us!

    I wanted our florals to include LOTS of flowing greenery, plus flowers in creams, blush, and marsala. I showed our florist, Sarah Warner, lots of pictures for inspiration and she absolutely nailed it with my bouquet and my bridesmaids’ bouquets. My bouquet had marsala-hued dahlias and ranunculus, muted pink garden roses, dusty pink antique roses, cascading seeded eucalyptus, and amaranthus. She surprised me with some gold accents as well. It was big and beautiful and I could not have loved it more!

    Tell us about finding your wedding dress. As much as I hate to admit it, I can be quite indecisive when it comes to making certain decisions. My friends joked that I would try on one hundred dresses before actually picking one. You can imagine everyone’s surprise when I picked the first dress I tried on at the first boutique I went to! I think I tried on six dresses total that day. Everyone says to stop looking when you find one you love, so that’s exactly what I did!

    Ultimately, we decided to do a first look because not only were we able to take a lot more pictures, but our reception was walking distance from the ceremony, so we wanted our wedding party to be able to enjoy the cocktail hour and reception right away. Wouldn’t want to waste any time getting the party started! Being able to see Ben before the ceremony was really nice and helped calm my nerves.

    Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? We did not. Instead, during out premarital counseling, Ben and I had to answer questions about each other and share our answers with our minister, Charlie. During the ceremony, Charlie surprised us by reading each of our answers to the question “What is the one thing you love the most about Emily/Ben?” It was a sweet, personal touch that meant a lot to us!
    What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? My cousin Jessica read Psalm 121, which talks about God and nature. It was perfect for our ceremony venue.

    We chose the venue because of the scenery. The mountains are special to both of us and it’s also the place where I feel closest to God, so I always knew I wanted to get married outside. With the leaves all turning colors, the view was so incredible. It’s impossible to not be grateful that God put something so beautiful on the earth for us.

    Our favorite detail of the wedding was: How can a girl pick just one?! It is a tie between my bouquet and the lounge area on the covered porch. CRUSH event rentals created the most beautiful lounge around a big stone fireplace, providing a stylish, cozy corner for guests to sit down and have a drink while enjoying the outdoors.

    What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? The entire day is filled with so many special memories, but my favorite would have to be the overwhelming feeling of love and support from everyone that was able to be there with us. We are lucky to have people in our lives who often tell us they love us, but it is the most amazing feeling to be shown that love by seeing all of your family and friends come from near and far to be there to support you. Ben and I were obviously excited for our wedding day, but seeing everyone else genuinely happy to be there with us was the best wedding gift of all. On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, my other favorite memory was getting behind the DJ booth to sing my lungs out to my all time favorite Celine Dion song! I’m a sucker for an open mic!

    How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. Ben and I met at a mutual friend’s birthday party. Ben was late to the party, straight off of a flight from Vegas, and I will never forget seeing him walk through the front door. For those few seconds, it was like there was no one else in the room! He came up to me later and introduced himself. We hung out all night and, as I like to say, Ben was smitten. After a couple of months, his persistence paid off and we officially became a couple. That was 3 1/2 years ago and the rest is history!
    Tell us all about the proposal! Ben’s family has a lake house in the Blue Ridge Mountains and it is one of my favorite places in the whole wide world to be. Not only is it beautiful, but it’s also where I started to fall in love with Ben, so it holds a special place in my heart! Ben and I hadn’t gone up there just the two of us in a while, so when he asked if I wanted to go, I couldn’t wait! In the back of my mind, I was secretly hoping he would propose that weekend, but little things here and there made me doubt that it was going to happen. We got to the lake house on Friday night and Ben told me he had made dinner reservations at a restaurant on the lake. We unpacked the car and then hopped on the boat to make it to dinner on time. On the way, I asked Ben if we could head home during the sunset so we could watch it from the boat (unbeknownst to me at the time, that was his plan all along). We finished dinner and practically ran back to the boat. The sunset was magical, and as I was taking pictures, like I always do, Ben pointed out a particularly pretty view. As soon as I turned around to snap a picture, the boat stopped…and so did my heart! I turned around and Ben was on his knee asking me to marry him! It was perfect. When we turned the corner back to the house, I saw all of our family and friends running outside to greet us. Ben had asked everyone to come to the lake to surprise me! The rest of the night was filled with so much love and joy–there were even fireworks! It was the best weekend ever!!
    When did y’all get married? October 24, 2015
    How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 200
    Describe your wedding cake or dessert. Our wedding cake was four tiers of vanilla almond and strawberry with a raspberry filling. Natalie from Cake Envy made the most delicious cake. The groom’s cake was a red velvet Georgia bulldog that looked amazing, and tasted great too!
    How did you plan for your marriage while planning your wedding? Ben and I did premarital counseling with our wedding officiant, Rev. Charlie Marus. This really helped Ben and I understand one others’ expectations for our marriage, and it was a good way to make sure we were on the same page about things like finances, chores, and children, just to name a few!
    What was one way you saved money or cut costs at your wedding? My sister, Allison, is extremely creative and talented. She hand-painted all of the signs and decor at the wedding, including the Bible verse sign at the ceremony site, the bride and groom signs that hung on our chairs at dinner, and the “Abernathy” sign that had greenery draped over it. She did everything for free, so that was a huge help. We also ordered our wedding invitations through Minted, which was much more cost effective than hiring someone to design and address them!
    What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Take your time to make decisions that are important to you and try not to rush yourself. Don’t sweat the small stuff and, if you can, hire a wedding planner!
    What’s next for you as a couple? What memories are you looking forward to making together? Ben and I are looking forward to enjoying our first holiday season as husband and wife! We will be spending time with our families, taking care of our precious golden retriever, Cooper, and going on a New Year’s trip cruising the British Virgin Islands!

    Photographer: Amanda Coker / Venue, Planner, Caterer, and Florist: White Oaks Barn / Wedding Cake: Natalie Roth / Rentals: CRUSH event rentals / DJ: Kyle MacDonald / Special Details: Allison Brown / Invitations: Minted / Paper Products and Koozie Design: Kristen Polsinelli / Bride’s Gown: “Style 1504” Blush by Hayley Paige / Bride’s Veil: Wedding Angels Boutique / Hair and Makeup: Molly Todd / Bride’s Shoes: “Lyndee” Sandal by Badgley Mischka / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Angelina Faccenda / Menswear: “Parker” Tuxedo in Black by Ike Behar / Photo Booth: Robot Booth

    marissa Written with love by Marissa
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