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A bride whose nickname growing up was Miss Scarlett, who has her wedding at an antebellum plantation, serves beignets, and puts “Roll Tide” in her interview? I think I might have found a new BFF (sorry KNW!)! Jessica and Thomas are absolutely my kind of folk! Southerners through and through, these two planned their wedding day with a “Gone With the Wind-meets-modern-elegance feeling” that I think turned out divinely! From their Alabama-inspired welcome baskets to mama-made praline favors, each detail was not only a nod to the South, but to their families and the traditions they had grown up with.

Big thanks to Ms. Leslie Hollingsworth for the gorgeous photos of their lovely day!

What was one way you saved money or cut costs at your wedding? Our wedding was definitely full of DIYs! My mom made the delicious praline wedding favors, and we had a very sweet family friend who designed the adorable stickers for the praline bags. My best friend/maid of honor/official matchmaker did the calligraphy for our save the dates and designed our wedding koozies. My mother-in-law and mom made most of the delicious goodies in our welcome bags. My mom and dad went above and beyond the “DIY call-of-duty” by re-covering lounge furniture and pillows so that I could have the lounge seating area I had always wanted!

As soon as we had our wedding venue booked, I knew I wanted to find my wedding dress. I am the most indecisive person on the planet, so I wanted to give myself plenty of time to make the decision! I made two appointments in Birmingham one Saturday with my mom, future mother-in-law, maid of honor, and my bridesmaid. At the first salon, I was so convinced that I had found the one, we almost didn’t go to the second appointment! We decided to go anyway, just to make sure. I am so glad we did because the last dress I put on absolutely took my breath away. I, along with the rest of my group, was in tears, and I didn’t want to take it off! I still loved the first dress, but there was definitely something very special about this second dress.

Did you decide to do a “first look”? Why or why not? We did decide to do a first look. As we started planning, we both realized that we were probably going to be nervous wrecks on the day of the wedding! We decided that it would help us relax to see each other beforehand, and I am so glad we did. It was such a special moment that we got to share alone during the craziness of the day, and seeing his face as I walked down the aisle was still one of the most wonderful moments of my life.

What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? Did they have any special significance to you? Thomas and I are Southerners through and through, so I knew our wedding had to be as Southern as possible! From day one, I knew I wanted to get married outside at an antebellum plantation under live oak trees, and have a reception in a beautiful white tent. Nottoway Plantation had everything on my wish list! One of our favorite parts about Nottoway was the fact that our ceremony, reception, and guest accommodations were all in the same place. This took so much stress away from us and our guests! Nottoway is also very close to New Orleans, one of our favorite places. We decided to make the whole weekend a getaway for our family and friends, starting with the rehearsal dinner in New Orleans that Friday night.

Describe your wedding flowers. I did not have a specific vision for flowers, but I knew I wanted them to be neutral with hints of blush. Kali at The Plantation Florist did such a wonderful job turning my vague vision into a beautiful reality! She used mostly white, ivory, and blush pink flowers with hints of greenery and dusty miller. My bouquet was mostly ivory and blush peonies. I cried the first time I saw it because it was so beautiful! We incorporated succulents into the reception flowers to add a little something different to the arrangements, and we wrapped all of the bouquets in gorgeous ivory and blush French silk ribbon from Frou Frou Chic.

Describe your wedding cake or dessert. Thomas and I are two of the biggest sweets lovers you will ever meet (and so are both of our families), so the wedding cakes were extremely important to us! After two different tastings, I finally chose a sour cream pound cake with layers of cream and fresh strawberries in between the layers, covered in a traditional buttercream frosting. Thomas chose a chocolate cake with chocolate icing covered in chocolate ganache, and needless to say, there wasn’t much left of it afterwards! As a nod to his love for hunting, he topped his cake with a fondant wood duck next to a sign that read, “The Hunt is Over.”

Our favorite detail of the wedding was: It is a close tie between our wedding cakes and the photo booth. Our cakes were unbelievably delicious, and I definitely had more than one slice of each! We ended up adding the photo booth at the last minute, and I am so glad we did. It has been so much fun to look back at the pictures of our friends and families having fun at our reception, and seeing some of our guests in a much different light than usual!

What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? What wasn’t Southern about our wedding?! A spring outdoor wedding at a beautiful antebellum home outside of New Orleans with a traditional ceremony is about as Southern as it gets! My nickname growing up was Miss Scarlett, so I knew I wanted the wedding to have a Gone With the Wind-meets-modern-elegance feeling. From my lace off-the-shoulder gown to our traditional Second Line dance at the end of the reception, everything about the wedding was quintessentially Southern. One of the most important parts of the wedding to us was having food with a Southern vibe, because we did not want our guests to leave hungry! We began the weekend with welcome bags full of mini king cakes, cheese straws, and elephant candy (ROLL TIDE!), all handmade by my mother and mother-in-law. For the reception, we served some personal favorites, like shrimp and grits and red beans and rice. We also had a sandwich station where guests could make their own barbecue sandwiches, topped with goodies like fried green tomatoes. We ended the night with mini corn dogs, sweet potato fries, and fresh beignets! As wedding favors, we passed out my personal Southern favorite: pralines handmade by my wonderful mother.

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. Thomas and I were introduced during our freshman year of college by our mutual best friend, Mary Meigs (my maid of honor!). Thomas began his college career at Auburn University while I was at the University of Alabama, but he came back home to Tuscaloosa to visit his friends regularly. Mary Meigs casually staged a “run-in” between us one weekend–little did I know that Mary Meigs and our other mutual friend Catherine (another future bridesmaid!) had been talking me up to Thomas via Facebook! We ended up going our separate ways shortly after we met, but I never forgot about him. He returned to Tuscaloosa for good that summer and began his quest to win my heart over (again). After over a year and a half, I finally agreed to go on a first date with him (again), and we have never looked back after over five years together!
Tell us all about the proposal! I spent the majority of last summer studying for the Alabama bar exam, while Thomas spent the majority of last summer trying to cheer me up while I was studying! When I got back from taking the bar, Thomas (still trying to cheer me up) suggested that we head up to Birmingham that Saturday to have a celebratory dinner and do some shopping. Deep down, I wondered if he was planning to propose, but I put it out of my mind because he seemed WAY too calm to be planning anything sneaky, and my mom was out of town that weekend and would have killed him if she wasn’t there for our proposal. As I was getting ready, his mom invited us to meet her and Thomas’ niece and nephew by the Black Warrior River for some yogurt on our way out of town–they knew I couldn’t resist ice cream and babies. When we got there, Thomas suggested we walk down to the river to wait for them, since they were running late. Well, instead of getting ice cream, he got down on one knee and asked me to be his wife! His wonderful sister-in-law captured the whole thing on camera, and when we headed back to his parents’ house for some champagne, he surprised me again by having my parents there waiting for us. It was absolutely perfect!
When did y’all get married? March 29, 2014
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 110
Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? We had a traditional Episcopalian ceremony, which we think is one of the most beautifully written ceremonies. Since we were not married in a church, it was very important to us to have a traditional Christian ceremony to keep God as an integral part of our wedding. Tradition is very important to us, and reciting vows that have been in our church for hundreds of years held a very important significance for us.
What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? We chose three traditional scriptures for our ceremony and had each of our sisters-in-law to read them: Song of Solomon 2:10-13, 8:6-7; Colossians 3:12-17; and John 15:9-12.
Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding and why you chose them. I walked down the aisle to Trumpet Voluntary–my heart swells every time I hear it, and I have always dreamed of walking down the aisle to it! Our first dance was “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” by James Taylor. Thomas told me the day after we got engaged that he always thought of us when he heard that song, so it was a no-brainer for our first dance. I chose “The Way You Look Tonight” for my first dance with my dad. It is one of my favorite wedding songs, and the Frank Sinatra version was a perfect fit for my dad and me.
Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! Of course! My something new was a beautiful cross necklace that Thomas gave to me the night before our wedding. For my something borrowed, I pinned the pearl drop that my dad gave to my mom on their wedding day on my bouquet. I wore a lace garter with blue ribbon for my something blue, and the ribbons for my bustle were also blue. For my something old, I carried my great-great-grandmother’s handkerchief and a dime in my shoe. The dime belonged to Thomas’s maternal grandmother and has been worn by his mom and both of his sisters-in-law on their wedding days!
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? It definitely wasn’t easy planning a wedding in Louisiana while I lived in Tuscaloosa and my mom lived in Mississippi. Thankfully, we were able to do so much over the phone and through email, and only had to make a few trips to Louisiana during the planning process. Thomas did not see our venue in the daylight until two weeks before the wedding! My mom and dad also live relatively close to New Orleans and Nottoway, and they were so sweet to take a few trips over there for us when we couldn’t get away!
What is the one detail or vendor that you were so happy to have as a part of your wedding? This is an absolute no-brainer: Leslie Hollingsworth! Leslie went above and beyond her job as photographer the entire weekend, and we were so lucky to have snagged her. There were definitely some tense and stressful moments that day, but Leslie was always there to calm me down and cheer me up. She made me feel like a rock star all day! Our pictures could not be more gorgeous and they perfectly captured the happiness and joy that Thomas and I felt on our wedding day. Brides, if you are in need of a photographer, book Leslie immediately before someone else does!
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Enjoy every minute! I was very fortunate to have two families and a wonderful fiancé who enjoyed helping me plan, so the whole process was a lot of fun for us. Soak up every precious moment because it is such an exciting time in your life, and it passes by way too quickly!
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you most looking forward to about married life? We bought a house in Tuscaloosa and are having so much fun decorating and making it our own. And our dog, Scarlett, is enjoying having her mom and dad under the same roof finally!

Photographer: Leslie Hollingsworth / Videographer: One Louder Productions / Venue and Catering: Nottoway Plantation / Florist: The Plantation Florist / Cake Baker: Sweet Impressions Bakery / Band: Rewind / Bouquet Ribbon: FrouFrou Chic / Bride’s Gown: Martina Liana / Bridal Salon and Veil: Ivory & White / Paper Products: Kyle Fine Stationery / Hair and Makeup: The Salon at Nottoway / Bride’s Shoes: Jimmy Choo / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: After Six / Bridesmaid Dress Salon: Sash Bridesmaid Boutique / Groom’s Attire: Jos A. Bank

Leslie Hollingsworth is a delightful member of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

marissa Written with love by Marissa
7 Comments
  1. avatar Abby reply

    wow!! what a stunning venue!!! Beautiful wedding! Congrats Jessica and Thomas!

  2. avatar Wedding Rental Supplies reply

    Gorgeous wedding! Loved the beautiful details and unique theme of this wedding. Also loved the pretty colors used.

  3. avatar Friday Fresh Squeeze #140 | Floridian Weddings reply

    […] elegance perfection (we wouldn't expect anything less!) from our Fave, Leslie Hollingsworth, at this plantation wedding in […]

  4. avatar Jessica & Thomas’ Nottoway Plantation Wedding | Leslie Hollingsworth, New Orleans Wedding Photographer | reply

    […] *FEATURED ON SOUTHERN WEDDINGS HERE […]

  5. avatar Danielle reply

    i am really interested in the green bridesmaid dresses how do I go about purchasing them? Please help many thanks Danielle

    • avatar Lisa reply

      Hi Danielle! The bridesmaid dresses are by After Six. You can find them here: http://www.dessy.com/bridesmaid-dresses/aftersix :)

  6. avatar Rachel reply

    I love the koozies. Where did you order them from?

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After working ten feet away from each other for six months, Lori remembers a moment when picking sour apples off the little tree behind her apartment as the first time she really “saw” Ryan. I love how this seemingly unremarkable moment of post-date fun will forever be imprinted in her mind. Not to overshadow such a wonderful memory, I’m sure Lori and Ryan’s wedding was full of moments they’ll remember forever, including their first look. Due to their very short time frame at their venue, Lori said “it was imperative that we focused on only the things that really mattered.” Focusing on what really matters? Yep, we’re all for that!

Big hugs to Mark Eric for sharing such a fun day with us (especially the second line)!

P.S. Looking for some memory-making dates for you and your beau? Check out our Spring Doins!

We had just arrived in Bluffton, South Carolina to visit Ryan’s dad and stepmom’s new home. He asked me to go check out the backyard with him, but he didn’t want to bring our dog, Squeaky, so that struck me as strange. He reasoned that the grass was high and there was no fence, so Squeaky was likely to run off in the woods. Made sense. When we had gotten about fifty yards from the house, Squeaky came bounding toward us with a neon green bow on his neck. When Ryan started untying the bow, I saw that my great-great grandmother’s ring (the one I had blatantly set on the dresser after we decided we wanted to pick out a diamond together) was tied to it. Ryan dropped down on one knee and asked me to marry him. His dad, stepmom, brother, and sister-in-law were inside taking photos and waiting for us with champagne. It was simple, sweet, and it involved our fur baby. It was our idea of perfection.

Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! Yes, a couple of each, actually! Old: On my right hand, I wore the ring that Ryan proposed to me with, which had been the wedding band of my great-great-great grandmother. New: My earrings, bracelet, and necklace were all new. Borrowed: My maid of honor borrowed a bracelet of mine at her wedding, so I asked to borrow something of hers. Around my bouquet, I entwined a necklace of hers with a locket that had been given to me by my childhood best friend, who passed away in high school. Blue: I wore royal blue shoes, as well as a label with my initials and the date in baby blue thread sewn into my dress. Also, right before I headed out, one of my bridesmaids grabbed my shoe and taped a penny in it. I had done the same for her a few years earlier, so she made sure to bring a penny to return the favor!

Did you decide to do a “first look”? Why or why not? Yes, we did, no hesitation and no regrets! We had a very short time frame at our venue, so to me, it was imperative that we focused on only the things that really mattered once the clock started ticking. Even if your time is a bit more flexible, why waste time standing around when you could be enjoying your guests and this fabulous event you spent so much time planning? Nothing could have been more intimate and special than experiencing that first look alone, when we could talk, laugh, hug, and just take our time enjoying the moment and appreciating each other.

We chose New Orleans because we wanted a place that was easy for my family and friends to get to, but that our friends in Michigan, New York, and Virginia would be excited to travel to as well–NOLA was an easy choice! Probably about 70 percent of our guests had never been to New Orleans, so I wanted to give them a true taste of the South. I looked at a dozen venues over the course of a weekend trip, and not only was Houmas House extraordinarily beautiful and set up perfectly to host weddings, they also allowed dogs–which was what really sold us, since we wanted to have Squeaky at our big day!

We had a violin and guitar duo, and for the family processional, they played “Ashokan Farewell” (because it’s beautiful and Ryan loved the Ken Burns Civil War documentary!). For the bridesmaids, they played “Falling Slowly” from the movie/musical Once, and then I walked down the aisle to “Sweet Thing” by Van Morrison, because we both love Van and it’s just such a hopeful song. For the recessional, they played “Louisiana Fairytale,” which, besides having a perfect name for the situation, is just such a dreamy song, like something you would hear in a beautiful, sunny daydream!

I have to note that “Falling Slowly” is one of my very favorite songs, thanks to BDK! We saw Once in theaters on one of our first dates!

Describe your wedding cake or dessert. I used a lot of crowns throughout the wedding decor, so a vintage crown made the perfect cake topper. The cake itself was four layers of almond cake with praline hazelnut filling (can Southerners ever get enough pralines?) and white icing with white, gold, and champagne-colored beads. We placed it on a 17th century baker’s table that the venue’s owner had purchased in France. As for the groom’s cake, my husband is a huge Washington Redskins fan, so Royal Cakery made an adorable three-tiered red velvet cake decorated like a football field in Redskin colors.

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. We met at a small-town newspaper, the Battle Creek Enquirer, in southwestern Michigan. Ryan was fresh out of grad school, and I was looking a six-month stint to hold me over before beginning grad school in Wales. We actually applied for the same job, which I didn’t realize until a few months later–I got the job and they just liked him so much that they hired him too! I figured this had to be the reason he never spoke to me, ever. We owe our first real conversation to a Taco Bell craving. I stood up in the newsroom one day and declared that I was going to run for the border. He offered to join me. What I thought would be a painfully awkward lunch turned into the first spark of friendship that continued for several months after each of our respective relationships at the time dissipated. Our first date was a tennis game, where Ryan mercilessly schooled me and I had no fun whatsoever, but later in the evening, he agreed to go with me to pick sour apples off the little tree behind my apartment. I can still see him, Cubs hat on backwards, jumping up to try to pick the biggest apple on the tree for me. A seeming unremarkable moment, but I remember feeling a little flutter. I had worked 10 feet from him for six months at that point, but I’ll always remember that as the first time I really saw him.
When did y’all get married? November 9, 2013
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 150
Tell us about finding your wedding dress. When I initially tried on my dress, I liked it, but thought it was too big. I literally said, “I think it will scare my fiancé,” so I didn’t even write down the designer’s name. Thankfully, the sales assistant took a picture. When I later scrolled through photos of the day’s hunt, I kept coming back to that one. Turns out, it was perfect for the venue and the festive atmosphere I wanted at the wedding–not to mention, I saved $1,500 by buying the floor model! I wouldn’t have bought it had I not taken a picture, so I would advise any bride to do whatever it takes to get snapshots of the dresses you try on. Mirrors and fancy store lighting can be so deceiving, but when the wedding is over, all you have left is your pictures, and to me, it was critical to know how the dress photographed. If your sales associate insists that no photos be taken, then I promise, you’ll find just as good options elsewhere.
Describe your wedding flowers. I wanted something that played into my “sophisticated swamp” theme that complimented the venue and used the natural flora of Southern Louisiana. My florist, Erik of Bee’s Wedding Designs and Florals, was amazing and created such a stunning, poetic look. There was lots curly willow intertwined with greenery–ferns, moss, jasmine vine, eucalyptus, succulents, scabiosa pods–for the rustic element, counterbalanced with metallic accents. The flowers themselves were a mix of white hydrangeas, white anemones, roses, brunia berries, and dusty miller.
What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? I’m not sure if it gets more Southern than having a wedding at an old sugar plantation, but I tried to incorporate as many tastes of the South and local traditions as possible. We had a second line, complete with a brass band, hankies, and Mardi Gras masks, that paraded through the French Quarter. The moment guests stepped off the bus, they were offered mint juleps as welcome drinks. Much of the food we served was Southern and Cajun, such as fried jumbo gulf shrimp, crawfish bisque, and shrimp étouffée. Before the cake cutting, we did a traditional New Orleans cake pull with all the ladies in my wedding party. Speaking of wedding party, I had both bridesmaids and a house party, which I’ve never seen anywhere above the Mason-Dixon!
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? Definitely distance and the limited setup window. I went to New Orleans a few times before the wedding to pick the venue and do food tastings, but other than that, I had to rely heavily on the advice of my coordinator and the internet to pick vendors. Also, the venue only gave us a two-hour window to set up, and everything had to come down immediately after. It took a lot of logistical skill to pull it off, which is why it’s so important to hire people you trust!
What was one way you saved money or cut costs at your wedding? The first was buying the floor model of my dress. It needed hardly any alterations and I saved $1,500! I also saved about $600 by doing my own programs. I used a custom stamp I had made, bought some nice paper and card stock, and made them on my computer. I actually liked them much more than just about everything else I saw!
What is the one detail or vendor that you were so happy to have as a part of your wedding? Without hesitation, our planner, Elyse Skansi of Tying the Knot Wedding Coordination. From designing the reception to following up with vendors, from sticking up for me when I needed it to providing Ryan and I with Colgate wisps to brush our teeth after our meal, she thought of everything, including things I never would have dreamed to plan for. Most importantly, she was a voice of calm and reason, support and levity for me. She had thoughtful advice for every question I raised, and no concern of mine was ever too small. This would have been a completely different wedding and experience in every way possible without her, and I can’t sing her praises enough!
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Pick one thing a day to focus on, move on when you’re done, and don’t look back. Carefully choose your vendors, communicate well, and then let them do their thing. Hire a coordinator that is excited about their job and who you can be honest with. This person needs to be your advocate and ally, and the right person will listen to you and see that your dream is seen through. Take care of the small things NOW–whether it be writing notes to your bridesmaids or picking out a lipstick color, taking care of the small things sooner keeps them from piling up later. Put your money towards the things that matter most to you and skip the rest. And finally, have a receiving line! I spent so much time running around trying to make sure I got face time with everyone that I hardly spent any time on the dance floor. Shake everyone’s hand once early on, and then you’re free to enjoy the rest of the evening as you please!
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you most looking forward to about married life? Hopefully adopting another dog and moving to an apartment with direct sunlight. But that aside, I think it’s looking at everything in a “we” context. Even though we had been together for six years, we still kept separate bank accounts and didn’t talk too much about future planning. We’ve always been a good team, but now it’s like a whole new frontier, and it’s exciting and comforting to know that we chose such great partners to explore it with.

Photographer: Mark Eric / Planner: Tying the Knot Wedding Coordination / Venue and Catering: Houmas House Plantation and Gardens / Florist: Bee’s Wedding and Event Floral Design / Wedding Cake: Royal Cakery / Lighting: Luminous Events / Ceremony Musicians: Courtyard Kings / Band: Rockin Dopsie Jr & the Zydeco Twisters / Second Line Band: Smitty Dee’s / Ring Book: Secret Safe Books / Bride’s Gown: “Alcantara 119” by Rosa Clara / Invitations: Lucky Luxe / Bride’s Earrings and Bracelet: BHLDN / Bride’s Necklace: Tiffany & Co. /Bride’s Veil: Sposabella Lace / Hair and Makeup: Kiss and Makeup Beauty Services / Bride’s Shoes: Badgley Mischka / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: J.Crew / Groom’s Attire: Sebastien Grey Clothiers / Groomsmen Attire: The Black Tux / Favors: Pralines By Jean

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

    Hi! Does anyone know where the flower girl’s dress is from? It’s so adorable!

  2. avatar Kristy reply

    I loved reading this article, even though I’ve been married for 22 years! If we could get married again I would model our wedding after this one. From the location at Houmas House plantation to the ” classy swamp” florals I loved it all!
    Congratulations!

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  4. avatar Lori & Ryan Tied the Knot | Tying the Knot BlogTying the Knot Blog reply

    […] When we started the design process, her vision was an Elegant Swamp Theme! Sounded like a contradiction at first, but then our team and I knew just what to do! And we loved designing something different- organic and glamorous! Turned out to be the perfect combination and Southern Weddings Blog loved it and featured it, too! See their national post here! […]

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Upon first look at Melati + Mark’s darling Charleston nuptials, I was overcome by how effortfully chic their entire day looks. The classic navy details combined with the relaxed burlap runners feel polished yet laid back — a difficult balance to strike that M + M couldn’t have made prettier! But, of course, you know I can’t just talk about how lovely their day is, after reading their interview. I know Kristin would agree that Melati’s outlook on married life is spot on! She said, with marriage, “there is added responsibility to always be the best form of yourself and added security, too, for when that doesn’t always happen.” YES!

Big thanks to Loren Routhier for sharing this sweet day!

Our work nickname (combining my first name and Mark’s last name) is “Belati.” We tied ribbons which were printed with “BELATI EST. 2013” around each set of silverware. The silverware was then laid across navy blue linen napkins at each table. This little touch, along with the hand-painted navy “B” on the burlap runners gave each table a special feel.

Tell us about finding your wedding dress. My wedding dress was a silk strapless sweetheart gown from Nicole Miller. I absolutely loved the draping in the front and felt like it gave the dress a romantic vibe. It was one of the first dressed I tried on, and from then on, I went on a search to find the best deal. Believe it or not, I ended up buying my dress brand new from eBay for a third of the cost. There are tons of deals out there if you are looking to find them!

Describe your wedding flowers. I was looking for a rustic look. The flowers were assembled in muted tones with a mixture of Juliet David Austin roses, assorted textural flowers, lavender, succulents and scabiosa pods for a little edge.

Mark was a huge advocate of seeing each other for the first time when I walked down the aisle. The park had a beautiful winding brick path, which actually provided me the opportunity to have a special moment with my father and acknowledge several guests. However, as soon as Mark and I locked eyes, it was complete tunnel vision. I even had to go back after the ceremony to see what the flowers that lined the aisle looked like. It was exactly as we had hoped, the butterflies and tears. I don’t know if it would have been as overwhelming if we had seen each other before.

Our favorite detail of the wedding was: There were three details in particular that were important to us. For our guest book, we found a North Carolina artist and asked them to paint the reception venue. We then installed a hard canvas on the back and had guests sign it. This painting will forever hang on our wall with the names of all who joined us. Second, our work nickname (combining my first name and Mark’s last name) is “Belati.” We tied ribbons which were printed with “BELATI EST. 2013” around each set of silverware. The silverware was then laid across navy blue linen napkins at each table. This little touch, along with the hand-painted navy “B” on the burlap runners gave each table a special feel. Third, we loved our custom stamp. The brown paper bag that Mark used in the proposal had the stamp from the bakery he bought it from on it (a funky rooster). Then, when we grabbed breakfast on our way to the soon-to-be-discovered ceremony and reception location, we were given our pastries in another brown paper bag with a whisk stamp. Last, that year, we picked up donuts in Kansas before our engagement party and, what do you know, but we got another brown paper bag with the store’s logo stamped on it. Needless to say we sensed the universe giving us a theme. We ended up framing those three paper bags and then created a custom stamp based off of the tree that we got married under. We used that not only on our own brown paper bags, but also throughout the programs and cards during the reception.

What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? In addition to the Spanish moss and old oak tree ceremony site and the Southern plantation reception, we wanted to give everyone a taste of the low-country in both style and food. Mark and the groomsmen wore navy blue bow ties (in assorted colors and patterns) in honor of Mark’s grandfather who was a tremendous influence in Mark’s life. We also featured a cocktail hour with crab cakes, peel-and-eat shrimp and prosciutto wrapped asparagus. For the main course we served shrimp and grits, beef tenderloin (for non-seafood lovers), cornbread, macaroni and cheese, roasted new potatoes and fresh green beans with almonds and bacon.

Mark has a serious sweet tooth, so when it was time for the tasting, we simply could not choose just one flavor. We featured eight wedding cakes with flavors ranging from lemon custard, strawberry buttercream (with local strawberries), grapefruit, coconut, peanut butter chocolate and more. Mini cupcakes were also available in fresh blueberry buttercream and mint chocolate.

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. We met in 2009 at an ad agency we both work for in Durham, North Carolina. I was originally recruited to work for Mark, but, luckily for our future relationship, once I was hired, I was placed on a different account. Though we often saw each other in the office and out with friends, our relationship started more than a year after our first meeting. Since we both love the outdoors and our dogs, our first date was a five-hour hike during which we introduced our furry family members. Our second date was less than 24 hours after the first, and since that time, we have been inseparable. Mark and I pride ourselves on the DIY spirit we both infuse into our home and experience daily by living in Durham. Naturally, our wedding was an outdoor, DIY event in a romantic city that serves as our most frequent getaway destination, Charleston, SC.
Tell us all about the proposal! Early in our relationship, we developed the habit of going to the Durham Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings. When I was dying to sleep in, Mark would often go solo and bring home breakfast and flowers (I’m a lucky gal). In August of 2012, Mark came home at 8am and woke me up with a call to join him in the kitchen. Thank goodness I washed my face and brushed my teeth first, rather than stumbling in half asleep! There were two brown paper bags on the counter. Mark pointed to one that held my breakfast and then reached behind him to grab what I thought was his bag. Instead, he pulled out a ring and got down on one knee. It turns out he had called both of my parents and both of my sisters beforehand to get everyone’s blessing. We celebrated with mimosas and tearful phone calls. Even our dogs got special treats to mark the occasion.
When did y’all get married? June 1, 2013
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 101
Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? We thought it was very important to write our own vows to each other. Mark’s blew me away—we’re talking serious tears. My favorite lines were from his vows, which read: “I promise to always love you, stand by you, and protect you. I will be strong in times of challenge, tender in times of pain, as playful with our children as we are with each other and, above all, your steadfast partner and best friend for the rest of our lives.”
What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? Instead of religious readings, we opted for “The Blessing of the Hands.” “These are the hands of your best friend, young and strong and full of love for you, that are holding yours on your wedding day, as you promise to love each other today, tomorrow, and forever. These are the hands that will work alongside yours, as together you build your future. These are the hands that will passionately love you and cherish you through the years, and with the slightest touch, will comfort you like no other. These are the hands that will hold you when fear or grief fills your mind. These are the hands that will countless times wipe the tears from your eyes; tears of sorrow, and tears of joy. These are the hands that will tenderly hold your children. These are the hands that will help you to hold your family as one. These are the hands that will give you strength when you need it. And lastly, these are the hands that, even when wrinkled and aged, will still be reaching for yours, still giving you the same unspoken tenderness with just a touch.”
Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding and why you chose them. (Guests Arrival) Mumford and Sons, Bob Marley, Stevie Wonder: We wanted a collection of low-key and upbeat music that represents the vibe we live by. (Mothers’ Entrance) “All You Need is Love” by The Beatles: It was such a celebratory song that really hit home because of how much both of our mothers have built their lives around showing, giving and nurturing love. (Wedding Party) “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)” by Natalie Cole: We love this song also because of the upbeat nature. It’s fun, a little old fashioned (which we can be), and gives folks a cute pep in their step when they walk to it! (Walk Down Aisle) “Forever” by Ben Harper: This song in so many ways represents the journey the two of us have been through and our pledge to each other. This was very much my song dedication to Mark, like our first dance was his song dedication to me. (Recessional) “Ho Hey” by The Lumineers (starting at 0:52) (First Dance) “I’ll Be Your Lover Too” by Van Morrison: This song represents Mark so incredibly well and was one of the first songs he shared with me when we first started dating. (Father/Daughter Dance) “Up on the Roof” by The Drifters: My father sang this to me when putting me to bed throughout my childhood. The song was a surprise to him until the morning of the wedding. However, he was certain that would be the one! (Mother/Son Dance) “Let it Be” by The Beatles.
Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! My something old was a baby bonnet Mark wore home from the hospital that was sewn under my dress. For my something borrowed, I also wore an heirloom pearl and gold bracelet from her mother’s side of the family in Malaysia. For my something new, I splurged on a pair of Miguel Ases pearl and gold chandelier earrings (they were to die for). For my something blue, I fell in love with a pair of navy suede Kate Spade wedges.
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? There were two main challenges we faced when planning the wedding. The first was planning a wedding as an out-of-town bride. It became incredibly important that all of our vendors were personable and prompt on the phone/email. It was also important that we could communicate our vision and hopes and dreams and that they could not only echo them back, but add to them. Through vendors building on our ideas, we were able to get a feel for who really “got us” and who was just “giving good phone.” The second biggest challenge was planning a budget. For Mark and I, it was very important to have the wedding we had always dreamed of without compromising our financial future, as we were just starting the build a life together. There were a lot of times when I had to ask myself if an idea or detail was critical for the day or if there were ways that I could recreate a look myself. Etsy and Pinterest became my go-to resources for inspiration on achieving different looks myself or to finding an artist who could do it for less than I would be charged otherwise.
If you are comfortable responding, what range did your wedding budget fall into? $10,000-$25,000
What is the one detail or vendor that you were so happy to have as a part of your wedding? There are two answers for this question too. One was my photographer, Loren Routhier. She was such a blessing throughout the entire process. She was flexible and responsive, and when she showed up on-site, she just fit right in and exuded warmth, making everyone feel comfortable. Additionally, she went above and beyond after the wedding to make sure I had everything I could have dreamed of to document the day! The other person was our day-of-coordinator who manages the reception site, Margaret McKenzie. She offered her services when we visited the site and I was sold. And thank goodness, because she played such a pivotal role.
What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? My favorite part of the wedding day was by far and away when we delivered our vows. We were holding hands, staring into each other’s eyes and were somewhere between laughing and crying the whole time. At one point, Mark forgot part of his vows because he was just overcome with the moment and my heart was so full. It sounds funny to say that that was my favorite part but I still smile just thinking about it.
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Be sure that the wedding you plan is the wedding you want. It can be very hard when friends and family offer opinions (and sometimes they do so very strongly). Just remember that this is YOUR day. Respectfully thank them for their input and let them know that you’ll keep their ideas in mind as you decide how everything flows together. By addressing that type of feedback upfront, it will be easier to follow through with your own desires as your (and their) nerves and anticipation grow.
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you most looking forward to about married life? Just spending more and more time together. We postponed our honeymoon until early 2014, as we spent the week leading up to and after the wedding with our families. Everyone asks if being married feels any different. It doesn’t really. But, perhaps, there is added responsibility to always be the best form of yourself and added security too for when that doesn’t always happen.

Photographer: Loren Routhier | Ceremony Venue: Wide Awake Park | Reception Venue: Old Wide Awake Plantation | Florist: Wildflowers Inc | Wedding Cake Baker: Sugar Bakeshop | Caterer: Crazy Dutchman Catering | Rentals: Snyder | Bride’s Gown: Nicole Miller | Hair Stylist & Makeup Artist: Paper Dolls | Additional Vendors: In lieu of traditional wedding favors, the couple made a donation to the ASPCA.

marissa Written with love by Marissa
7 Comments
  1. avatar Lisa reply

    I am completely head over heels for the bouquets and that gorgeous venue! I also love Melati’s perfectly gracious advice for people currently planning a wedding. Brides, take note! :)

  2. avatar Nicole reply

    So sweet!! I’m a total sucker for puppies, so I love that their first date was a chance for their dogs to meet and that their furry family family members were even a part of the engagement celebration :)

  3. avatar Marilyn Schultz reply

    How wonderful to read about all the details of Melati (my niece) and Mark’s wedding in Southern Weddings. I live in California, and since I was unable to attend the wedding, seeing the photos and reading Melati and Mark’s answers to the interview questions was the next best thing to being there! Such a beautiful southern wedding and a stunning couple. Thank you!

  4. avatar Emily reply

    What a seriously gorgeous bouquet! I adore the dahlias.

  5. avatar Summer reply

    Where did you get your bridesmaids dresses? Love the different styles!

  6. avatar Lynsey reply

    Where did you get your bridesmaid dresses? They are gorgeous. I really like the strapless one with the deep V. Have friends planning a wedding and are desperately looking for that dress!

  7. avatar The Wedding Planner’s Wedding Part II: Obstacles & Compromise reply

    […] Elizabeth Fogarty via Style Me Pretty; Outdoor ceremony – Loren Routhier Photography via Southern Weddings; Handfasting Ceremony – One Love Photography via Style Me Pretty; Ballyseede Castle – […]

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