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With so many beautiful weddings in our print issues, it’s always hard to pick a favorite. However, when the bride emulates Jackie O’s elegant style, describes her wedding day look as “Kennedy-inspired,” and then calls their wedding day theme “Southern elegance” with personal touches, it’s hard not to choose it as my favorite! Lauren and John knew that fall in the South was just too pretty to pass up, so after consulting both the SEC football schedule and the Farmer’s Almanac weather projections, they decided it was the perfect time to celebrate with their family and friends. Their wedding at the Rye Patch pairs a beautiful and romantic color palette with the crisp air of fall in such a way that is as classic as Jackie O. herself! With the help of her sweet mama, a talented artist, Lauren incorporated hand-painted floral watercolors into their details that added even more beauty and meaning to their day.

Big SW hugs to Ashley Seawell for sharing her beautiful work with us in V8!

Tell us about finding your wedding dress. What was your favorite thing about it? I emulate Jackie O’s crisp, elegant style and wanted something structured and architectural. I knew lace or ruching (though beautiful!) was not me, and the “no ruche, no lace” rule left some boutiques with literally nothing to show me. The Amsale Jane dress caught my eye immediately at The House of the Bride in Augusta. It was the second dress I tried on, but being a “researcher,” I did not make the decision until after I hit the Boston boutiques. As I’ve learned, first loves are hard to beat! My Kennedy-inspired “simple with a twist” look was answered by the Amsale gown, complete with the classic bateau neckline and streamlined silhouette, and the unexpected organza train in the back made my heart flutter. I’ve always been a big shoe lover, so when I found my white Chanel shoes with white soles (and thick enough heels so as to not aerate the outdoor lawn location), the look was complete. I wish I could wear it again!
Describe your bridesmaids’ dresses. How did you choose them? I let my bridesmaids select their own dresses, and I gave them guidance of a neutral color palette. They are each such beautiful, special women; I wanted to see those unique personalities come through in their dress selections and have them feel comfortable in a dress of their choosing. I loved the differing textures and colors, and each woman looked stunning! I couldn’t have picked out better dresses if I tried.

Our two biggest themes were “Southern elegance” and “personal,” so we wanted our fingerprints all over the wedding. The ceremony was one of the most intimate and important details to us. We wrote our whole ceremony together, and the judge John clerked for was the officiant. Since we wrote the ceremony ourselves and are both music lovers, we viewed the ceremony and the music as our readings. We borrowed a line from a Native American blessing that we still love, as it speaks both the individuality and plurality of marriage: “Now you are two persons, but there are three lives before you: his life, her life and your life together.” Judge Cothran also imparted words of wisdom to “always have fun,” and we bring up his advice to provide perspective when we need it.

What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? Did they have any special significance to you?The venue was very important to ensure our classic Southern theme would come to life. Since we both grew up in Augusta, we wanted to get married in that area. We established two criteria: an outdoor venue with live oaks for the ceremony, and the ceremony and reception sites being within walking distance, so people only had to park once. When my mom sent pictures of Hopelands Gardens and The Rye Patch, we immediately fell in love with the location. It was the perfect venue for us.

We wanted the menu to scream Southern, but also include some family recipes. We had a carving station with beef tenderloin, Augusta green jacket salad, charcuterie and cheeses, shrimp and grits, and grilled pimento cheese with tomato soup, to name a few dishes. Boiled peanuts were strategically placed outside on various tables for people to snack on.

Tell us about your wedding flowers. Karin Jeffcoat of Cote Designs has exquisite taste, and incredible vision and execution. I wanted organically shaped bouquets, maidenhair ferns, and the feel that the flowers had been plucked from a Southern grandmothers’ beautiful garden for an afternoon party. Even though it was a fall wedding, we wanted a soft color palette for the wedding: moss greens, pale peach and whites. In the reflecting pool at the ceremony location, Karin built floating magnolia leaf wreaths around lanterns that shifted when the wind blew — it was stunning. She nailed that natural, simply elegant look, accented with vintage gold, brass and cut glass vessels. My mom’s hand-painted watercolors of botanicals and flowers echoed this theme and added extra personal touches to our décor. All the boutonnieres had flies tied on by the groom, in honor of his favorite pastime of fly fishing.

Bride’s favorite detail of the wedding: My mother is an artist, and she hand-painted watercolors of flowers/ferns/succulents to hang on the ceremony chairs and be placed at the reception tables. They also served as the artwork for the printed materials (gift bags and ceremony program), and the guests could take them as a parting gift. She also made pillows for the benches that screen grafted botanical prints. She’s incredibly talented, and I cannot thank her enough. My dad passed away from cancer in 2007. We celebrated him with meaningful details, which reminded me throughout the day that he is always with us: a surprise small framed picture in my bouquet so he could still “walk me” down the aisle, his famous mashed potato recipe served at dinner, and my brother and I’s dance to “Reach Out (I’ll Be There)” by The Four Tops, which was my dad’s favorite song. My mom, Todd, and I all danced together and had everyone laughing. Finally, we made a donation to the American Cancer Society on behalf of guests “in loving memory of those who have fought and lost, in loving appreciation of those who have fought and won, and in loving support of those who are still fighting.”

Our thought was that if one cake is good, 10 is better. We wanted the look of handmade treats brought in by many people, so we had several cakes, both naked and frosted, in different flavors. Cote Designs made sweetgrass pedestals and also placed some in bell jars. Coconut cake was the main cake, and displayed a topper from John’s parents’ wedding. We also served red velvet, seven-layer caramel as the charm pull cake, a German chocolate torte, pound cake with fresh berries and cream (John’s favorite), and my grandmother’s famous chocolate cake recipe.

How did the two of you meet? Tell us your story. In 2000, before heading to high school soccer practice in our hometown of Augusta, John approached me on the tennis court to introduce himself. At that moment, a 15-year road started. We reconnected as a couple in 2010 during a trip home to Augusta. We survived long distance between small town South Carolina and small town New Hampshire, until John made the ultimate romantic gesture: taking the Massachusetts Bar. That is probably the first and only time the Massachusetts Bar exam has been described as being romantic! John very graciously took his second state law exam so I could pursue my career in health care in Boston. After three wonderful years (and an engagement!) in New England, we moved back to Charleston the week before our wedding for John’s new job at a law firm downtown. Through our decade and a half of adventures, we have come to believe in the old saying: “Good things come to those who wait.”
Describe the proposal: In September 2013, John took me on a “mystery trip” (an activity we try to surprise each other with a few times a year) to Woodstock, Vermont. Woodstock is a classically charming New England town that has a special place in our history, as we visited for dinner and skiing several times during his visits to see me in business school. September in Vermont meant beautiful foliage–the perfect backdrop for a very memorable day. We went for a walk after breakfast, and John asked me to marry him in front of a classic Vermont covered bridge. After sharing the news with friends and family, we went for a hike and had dinner at our favorite spot, where (knowing how sentimental I am) he had pre-selected handmade wine glasses ready for us to enjoy during the meal and take home as a keepsake. We are still enjoying those glasses at dinners at home in Charleston.
Tell us all the basics of your wedding! On October 11, 2014, we had outdoor ceremony in Hopelands Gardens and a reception at the Rye Patch in Aiken, South Carolina. The 4:30 P.M. ceremony and beautifully sunny day took us into a gorgeous, dance-filled night under the stars (no tents! Which was a nervous gamble, but it paid off when the weather cooperated!). Both being huge SEC fans, I always joked that no self-respecting Southern woman would get married on a Saturday in the fall…which I promptly did anyway because the time of year for an outdoor wedding was too good to pass up. When picking a date, we consulted both the football schedules and the Farmer’s Almanac weather projections. In retrospect the “not too bad” game weekend ended up being closer/bigger than we had originally thought, but people were too busy dancing the night away to be missing the Dawgs or Crimson Tide too much!
Three adjectives that describe the day are: Personal, Southern, elegant
How many guests attended your wedding? Approximately 170 of our favorite people from all over the country gathered in Aiken for the weekend. We were able to rent out The Willcox, a historic, charming inn less than a mile away from Hopelands for most of our family and wedding party to stay in.
Groom’s favorite detail of the wedding: Having the judge John clerked for and remains close to officiating was very personal and special to both of us.
What was the design inspiration for your reception? The Rye Patch is a historic estate maintained by the city of Aiken. I wanted our reception to feel like it was a backyard reception at an elegant Southern grandmother’s home. The natural landscape and the pristine interior were a stunning backdrop, to which Karin at Cote Designs and my crafty mom added special details throughout. We risked it and went no-tent (not going to lie, that did cause a lot of anxiety in the days leading up to the event!), but the layout helped transition from sunset into the nighttime dancing. It was a magical garden dinner and dancing party under bistro lighting hanging from the huge oak tree. We loved it!
Were there any family traditions you included in the reception? We included family recipes and favorite dishes into the menu, including my dad’s famous mashed potatoes, John’s favorite cake, and my grandmother’s frosting recipe. We also had the wedding pictures of our parents and grandparents near the parting birdseed and vintage postcards that served as our guest book.
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you looking forward to in the future? Moving 1,000 miles from Boston to Charleston the week before the wedding and John starting a new job meant a lot of exciting change in October. We are looking forward to exploring our new hometown of Charleston, finally being within driving distance of family in Augusta, and enjoying our time as husband and wife.
What advice would you give to someone currently planning his or her wedding? If you are having an outdoor wedding, the rental costs for the space can be lower, but don’t forget about all the rentals you have to bring in (chairs, tables, linens, lighting, etc.). Don’t forget to check how much power you’ll need for lighting and a band…you may need an extra generator at the last minute!
Who was your favorite vendor and why? My mom is the MVP–she was incredibly patient, creative, and dedicated. We could not have had the wedding of our dreams without her support and love. Thank you to her, all our vendors, and to all our friends and family who made this day so special for us.

Photographer: Ashley Seawell | Film Processing: Richard Photo Lab | Florals and Event Design: Cote Designs Floral and Event Designs | Ceremony Venue: Hopelands Gardens | Reception Venue: Rye Patch | Caterer: Tastefully Yours, LLC | Cake Baker: Donna Jannik | Bride’s Gown: “Jane” by Amsale | Bridal Salon and Veil: House of the Bride | Bride’s Shoes: Chanel | Hair Stylist: Hair by Robbin | Makeup Artist: Alexandria Taylor | Groom’s Fashion: Brooks Brothers | Rentals: Goodwin Events and All Star Events | Vintage China, Flatware, and Glassware: Southern Vintage | Linens: Nuage Designs and Cote Designs | Transportation: Lewis Bus Line | Videographer:Cinema Couture | Strings Ceremony Music: The Henrys | Gospel Trio: The Pinckney Sisters | Reception Music: The ATL Groove Factory | Bride’s Bouquet Ribbon: Silk and Willow | Rings: Boston Platinum | Calligraphy: Ann Erickson

marissa Written with love by Marissa
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    I remember when I saw Erica and John’s wedding for the first time in a draft for V8. I was immediately taken with their romantic color palette of pink, cream, and glittery gold, the stunning backdrop that Pippin Hill Farm provided, and, most of all, how joyfully in love these two are. With the help of Amore Events by Cody, Erica and John honored their respective upbringings with an “apples and cheese” theme running throughout their wedding details–Erica is from New York and John is from Wisconsin. This theme even carried into their late-night treats of cheesecakes and apple pies! Adorable theme and beautiful details aside, reading about John’s favorite part of their wedding makes their day even sweeter! One thing he mentioned was, “The 10 minutes with my wife immediately following the ceremony.” After seven years of marriage, I too can remember those unforgettable moments post-ceremony, and can attest to just how incredible and fleeting they are!

    Thanks to Rachel May for sharing this beautiful day with us in print!

    We got married at 6 P.M. on Saturday, September 5, 2015. When we got engaged, we knew right away that we wanted to get married outdoors in order to celebrate how much we love adventure, nature, and natural beauty. I knew that I wanted to get married in a barn, as the rustic chic look appealed to me as soon as I started wedding planning. We found a few barns in upstate New York that were pretty, but ultimately decided that we wanted to be in a location that had significance to both of us. We decided to start looking in southern Virginia because of all the amazing times we had spent together renting cabins in the Shenandoah. After some recommendations from friends, we drove to Charlottesville and starting looking for venues. Given that we got engaged at a winery (and how much we both love wine), we started thinking that a winery could be the perfect location. When we saw Pippin Hill, we fell in love with the beautiful scenery right away. We booked Pippin Hill about two days after first visiting, and we plan to go back year after year for our anniversary. It is such a special and beautiful place, and we are so glad we got to spend the best day of our lives there!

    Describe your bridesmaids’ dresses. How did you choose them? When I first started looking at bridesmaid dresses, I fell in love with some pink Donna Morgan dresses and quickly sent them out to all of my bridesmaids. After searching through some blogs, though, I really started to like the mix-and-match bridesmaid dress look, and wanted to go that route. I found out two of my girls had already ordered the Donna Morgans, so I couldn’t go completely mix-and-match, as they had already started tailoring their dresses. I decided to do pairs of different dresses, and I love the way it all turned out!

    I went dress shopping in both DC and New York with some of my bridesmaids and my mom. I thought I would love romantic tulle, but every time I tried on those dresses, something just didn’t feel right–like I wasn’t being myself. My style is very clean and classic, and I wanted to look like myself on my wedding day. It was important to me and John that we remained authentic to who we are on the day of our wedding, so I knew I had found my dress when I felt like the prettiest version of myself when I tried it on. My favorite thing about my dress is the way it made John react when he saw me for the first time. He just kept saying, “Your dress! Your dress! It’s beautiful. You look beautiful!” That was the reaction I was looking for.

    Tell us a bit about the wedding ceremony. What part was most special to you? Did you include any special readings? Our wedding ceremony was the most beautiful and important forty minutes of our lives. My dad performed our ceremony, which was so special because he worked hard to make his remarks meaningful and personal. Both of our sisters-in-law read special passages, and every moment of the ceremony was emotional and true to who we are as a couple. It was truly gorgeous.

    What songs did you use for your ceremony? For the bridal party processional, we used India Arie’s “Can I Walk With You.” I’ve wanted that song to be played at my wedding since I was a little girl, and it was so special to hear it on the big day! For my entrance, we used the traditional bridal march. For the recessional, we used Ray Lamontange’s “You Are the Best Thing.”

    My favorite details were the ones that infused our apple, cheese, and literary motif. I’m from New York (“The Big Apple”) and John is from Wisconsin, which is known for its cheese. We’re both educators and we both love to read, so we wanted to infuse our love of books into the wedding as well. We had a beautiful logo made that was on our menu, welcome bag tags, and gift bags. We served cheeses from Wisconsin and New York during cocktail hour. For dessert, we served cheesecakes and apple pies. As a late night snack, guests enjoyed grilled cheese and apple sandwiches. Our centerpieces included a book display that looked gorgeous, and our cake stand was surrounded by books. I love how the theme was woven throughout the ceremony, reception, and all the small details of the wedding.

    Describe some of the decorations or décor elements you used: Where to begin? Our colors were pink, cream and glittery gold, and the room was full of those colors. Our florist, Amy Webb of Blue Ridge Florals, did a wonderful job bringing the wedding colors to life through the flowers. My favorite part of the reception was the floral ladders hanging over the long farm tables. They were dripping with flowers and candles, and they were just gorgeous. We had bistro lights cascading from the beautiful wooden rafters at Pippin Hill. We had books to represent our love of literacy around the cake stand, in our logo, and on the tables. We also had apples as escort cards to go along with our apple and cheese theme. There were so many small details that made the wedding come together and it was absolutely perfect!

    John loves John Legend and I love his song “Stay With You,” so deciding on our first dance song was a really easy choice. John also loves live music, so he had the awesome idea to have one of his very talented groomsmen sing our first dance song. I heard Raphael practicing for the first time right after the ceremony (he wanted to keep the performance a surprise for us) and was astounded. He sounded amazing! John’s extremely talented orchestra teacher, Kendall Isadore, accompanied Raph on violin, and turned it into such a beautiful cover. The week of the wedding, John and I took a few dance classes, so we had some pretty cool dips and tricks up our sleeves!

    Tell us about your wedding cake or sweets. Though I didn’t get a piece myself because I was too busy dancing, everyone said that the wedding cake was delicious. We had a marble wedding cake with vanilla buttercream frosting, as well as cheesecakes and apple pies to go along with our theme. We also had a s’mores pit for guests to enjoy a late night treat!

    How did the two of you meet? Tell us your story. We met while on a business trip to Houston in March 2013. We were both training for new leadership roles, me to be a vice principal and John to start his own school. The trip was an orientation for the five-week leadership program. I did not know many of the KIPP DC people, and John, having been with the company for six years at that point, warmly welcomed me into the group. John even gave me one of his drink tickets that night, and we spent the entire evening talking and getting to know each other. We had breakfast the next morning and even changed our travel arrangements in order to fly back to DC together at the end of the weekend. Even though we worked for the same organization in DC, we had never met before that fateful weekend. John always reminds me that he knew of me long before meeting me, and had always wanted to know more about that fourth grade teacher folks were buzzing about. We’ve been inseparable since the day we met.
    Describe the proposal: I knew John was the one within weeks of meeting him. In fact, the truth is that I proposed to John first (about 10 months before he did). It seemed like I was joking when I shouted at him, “We should get married!” But really, I knew I meant what I had said. When we planned a 2014 trip to Argentina, I thought it would be the perfect time to really get engaged. When I called my dad for a final farewell and he asked me where I was going and who I was going with, my anxiety kicked into high gear. Was my intuition wrong? Was John not going to propose? Surely, my dad would know if John planned on asking me to marry him while on this vacation. Finally, my birthday arrived (part of the reason we were going to Argentina was to celebrate my birthday), and I finally had something else to be excited about. My mind moved away from the potential proposal–I resolved to have fun in Argentina and enjoy time with the love of my life. When we woke up the morning before my birthday, John announced that we would be flying to Mendoza, the wine country of Argentina. The next day (my birthday), as we sat and ate breakfast in the tiny restaurant of our inn, I heard an old car horn beeping outside. When I walked out of the restaurant, I saw a small circle of people gawking at a old Model A-style convertible. Still forcing myself to believe that this was all just for my birthday, we got in the car and were whisked away to the famous Nieto Seniter Vineyard. We began walking around the property and John walked us to two horses being held by a traditional Argentinian gaucho (cowboy). Little did they both know, I am pretty afraid of horses. Nonetheless, after some persistent urging from John, I got on and we went for a beautiful horseback ride through the vineyard at the foot of the Andes Mountains. After a while, the gaucho motioned for the horses to stop, and John got me (reluctantly) off the horse. We walked down a path and there under a tree was a picnic, a book, and a bottle of champagne. John opened the book, and inside, was a gorgeous ring, and he asked me to marry him. I, of course, said yes. Then, remembering my conversation with my dad on the plane, I asked, “Does my dad know?” John said of course, my dad had been in on it the whole time. John then told me to look up, and I saw one of the photographers from earlier in a tree–he had captured the whole proposal. Next to the wedding, our proposal was the second best day of my life!
    Tell us about your beautiful engagement ring and how/why your husband (or the two of you!) chose it: My diamond is a 1.5-carat, round cushion-cut diamond. After John designed my ring, the store loved it so much that they named my setting the “Erica Setting.” John chose my ring and diamond based on quality of stone and the pronounced setting arrangement. John says my bold love is nearly matched with my bold ring–the stone stands alone at the top, but is supported by smaller paving diamonds below. John likes to compare my ring to our love. Our love stands at the top and is the boldest of its kind, but we have lots of family and friends to support us and help us shine along the way.
    Three adjectives that describe the day are: Beautiful, enchanting, unforgettable
    How many guests attended your wedding? 140
    Groom’s favorite detail of the wedding: A letter from my bride, the first look, a house to stay in with family in the days leading up to the wedding, fantastic food, local beer, Wisconsin cheese, Mi Amigo cigars, the mountain backdrop, a Kit-Kat s’more station, and the 10 minutes with my wife immediately following the ceremony.
    What were some of the highlights of the reception? My favorite moment of the reception was at the end of the night when we played our last song, “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey. Our friends were singing at the top of their lungs, and John picked me up and swung me around right at the height of the song. It was awesome. I also loved my dad’s toast. It was so heartfelt and emotional, and was a very special moment.
    Did you toss the garter or bouquet? We did a bouquet toss. My good friend caught it and I love her boyfriend so…fingers crossed!
    What’s next for you as a couple? What are you looking forward to in the future? I am looking forward to having adventures with my husband for the rest of my life. Whether it is hiking four miles up a mountain in Yosemite, jumping off cliffs in Jamaica, riding horses in Argentina, or just enjoying a four-hour-long “Cops” marathon in our living room, I always have a great time when I’m with him. I’m looking forward to forever. Next, we are focusing on buying our first house and getting some more room for our dog, Stella!

    Photographer: Rachel May Photography | Videographer: Mwendo Weddings | Planner and Designer: Amore Events by Cody | Venue, Caterer, and Linens: Pippin Hill Farm and Vineyards | Florals: Blue Ridge Florals | Cake Baker: Sweethaus Bakery | Bride’s Gown: “Margot” by Anna Maier | Bridal Salon: Gabriella New York | Bride’s Shoes: Badgley Mischka | Bride’s Accessories:  BHLDN | Bridesmaid Dresses: “Annabelle” in Cashmere by Jenny Yoo, “Beaded Chiffon Blouson Dress” in Blush and Taupe by Adrianna Pappell, “Rachel” in Petal by Donna Morgan, “Laura” in Petal by Donna Morgan, “Tori” in Cream by Paper Crown | Hair Stylist: Top Knot Studio | Makeup Artist: Tiffany Lumpkin | Menswear: Allure Bridals | Paper Goods: Dandelion Patch | Rentals, Linens, and Reception Décor: MS Events | Favors: Fromagination | Transportation: Blue Ridge Tours | Lighting: Blue Ridge Lighting

    marissa Written with love by Marissa
    3 Comments
    1. avatar Perry Vaile reply

      Whoa this was beautiful! Rachel, beautifully done!

    2. avatar Jevettra Gardner reply

      Just a gorgeous wedding and the details are just oozing with wonderfulness!!

    3. avatar Chantal reply

      What a stunning affair – and beautiful photography. Might I ask where the bride got the ring box? I’m looking for one just like it. Thank you!

      xo,
      Chantal

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    Small town life is a beloved part of Southern culture–I’m certain many of y’all can relate to Molly’s pride in her quaint hometown! Molly loved growing up in Saxapahaw, North Carolina, and although she and Aaron met in Chapel Hill, they couldn’t resist the opportunity to dig into Molly’s roots and welcome their loved ones to Saxapahaw for their big day. Complete with hearty Southern cuisine, an abundance of family heirlooms, and many nods to their heritages, Molly and Aaron’s celebration held all the charms of a small town itself. Molly says, “The sense of small town community during our celebration was the most natural part for us, and by default, it was the most Southern part!”

    Thank you so much to our Blue Ribbon Vendor A. J. Dunlap for sharing this lovely day with us!

    Tell us about finding your wedding dress. Before flying home for winter break, my mom encouraged me to try on dresses in Austin with my best friend. I found the most wonderful secondhand/consignment designer dress shop, Second Summer Bridal. We had a great time while I tried on every style of dress, just for fun, until I tried on THE ONE. I knew I couldn’t buy a dress without showing my mom anything, so I tried to let it go. Back in North Carolina for Christmas, I tried on many more with my mom, but couldn’t get that one dress out of my mind. Knowing it was a one-time sale, I called back in January with the slightest bit of hope it was still in the store. It was fate–no one had bought it yet! I went in the first week I was back in Austin and sealed the deal! After all the dresses I tried on, this was the one that made me feel like a bride!

    Our florist was Pine State Flowers. They only use locally grown, North Carolina flowers. This meant we had to be flexible to what type and colors of flowers were in season locally, and we had a beautiful and sustainable end result!

    We were so grateful to have family friends who took part in our wedding and helped us save money. A dear friend did bridesmaids’ hair, family friends were the musicians, a church friend made our cake, my best friend designed the invitations and ceremony programs and wrote on all the windows and chalkboards, a dear friend directed the ceremony, and a family friend was our amazing DJ.

    Did you decide to do a first look? Why or why not? YES! Knowing we wanted space and time to ourselves to be mindful, present, and soak in the powerful commitment we were about to make was of the utmost importance to us. Having that time for just the two of us to reflect, laugh, cry, joke around, and be ourselves was essential.

    What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? Did they have any special significance to you? I am from the small town of Saxapahaw, and all of my maternal family is from small mill towns along the Haw River. In fact, my grandmother worked third shift in the Saxapahaw Mill while attending business college! Once the heart of the community, the Saxapahaw Cotton Mill closed in 1994 due to tornado damage. In high school, I would drive past it and admire the dilapidated and boarded up building. Over the past decade, the Mill has been renovated into a thriving, central part of the Saxapahaw community, and houses the Haw River Ballroom. My family has fallen in love with the rejuvenated sense of community in Saxapahaw, so the Ballroom was a natural first choice for Aaron and I. Fun side note: the wedding was the first time my grandmother had returned to the Mill since working in it.

    The BEST part about our entire wedding was how community-centered and relationship-based it was. Aaron and I are both from small towns and value community, so we made it our goal to create a “church” within the ballroom, and to honor and celebrate the relationships and connections with our own church families, friends, individual families, extended family, and the community. All of the cotton used throughout the wedding was grown by a North Carolina farmer in Tarboro. The seating assignment windows were composed of various antique windows–the four-pane window came from Aaron’s great-grandparents’ homestead house that is over 150 years old, and the six-pane windows came from Aaron’s maternal grandfather’s historic shop. The handkerchief were gifted to my maternal grandmother on her wedding day. She recently found them, unopened! The drawers for cards came from my maternal great-grandmother’s Singer sewing machine. She taught my mom to love sewing, and I am named after her. The ring bearer pillow was sewn by my mom from her dad’s old jeans, and the smallest ring tied to the pillow was my baby ring! Aaron’s nephew, one of the ring bearers, carried my grandmother’s family Bible down the aisle. My veil was made from my mom’s blusher wedding veil. All the bud vases and bottles were collected during my engagement by my mother and grandmother. My grandfather passed away last winter, and these have been a blessing and the perfect project for my grandmother. There were also photos of our parents and grandparents on their wedding days displayed at the reception!

    What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? The sense of small town community during our celebration was the most natural part for us, and by default, it was the most Southern part! On top of the family heirlooms used, we also incorporated the best kinds of Southern food! Served in small plates to encourage mingling and conversation during the reception, guests feasted on meatloaf with mashed potatoes and green beans, shrimp and grits, and macaroni and cheese with collards and black eyed peas. All catering was from the local “five star restaurant in a gas station,” the Saxapahaw General Store. There’s nothing more Southern than getting married in an old cotton mill, eating good Southern food, being surrounded by the community that raised you, and getting to spend the rest of your life with your best friend!

    How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. We met the first month of college at UNC Chapel Hill, living in the same dorm. Aaron helped Katie, my suitemate, carry some packages down to our rooms one day. Katie introduced me to this cute guy who helped her, and the rest was history! For the next four years of college, we were inseparable–study rooms, basketball games, football games, dance performances, the Varsity theater, Carver Street, He’s Not Here, Brown Summit, and Saxapahaw. After graduating, Aaron moved off to Charlotte, and I headed to the tiny town of Eden. During Christmas of 2011, we realized we couldn’t stand being apart any longer, and we haven’t been since. Fast forward to August 2013, and Aaron and I moved to Austin, Texas so I could attend graduate school at UT-Austin. Aaron found a corporate recruiting job here and graduated from Western Carolina’s online graduate school. We have been in Austin for over two years and are embracing the Texan way of life for now!
    Tell us all about the proposal! We were so excited to return to UNC for homecoming in November 2014. Once we were back in Chapel Hill, Aaron suggested we walk through campus and visit the UNC Basketball Museum. While we were walking towards the museum, I thought I would be so romantic and suggested a stop at Craige, our freshman dorm, where it all started. After sitting on the front steps of the dorm where we fell in love, we stood up, I blinked, and Aaron was on one knee! After his proposal, we continued on to the basketball museum without calling anyone. #goheels
    When did y’all get married? November 7, 2015
    How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 200
    Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? We did not write our own vows–we used the less traditional vows from the United Methodist Church’s liturgy. A favorite line included: “I take you to be my husband/wife, from this time onward, to join with you and to share all that is to come.”
    What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? My brother and two dear friends read at our ceremony–a task with more significance to us than being in the wedding party. They read three scripture passages: Song of Solomon 2:10-14, 16a; 8:6-7a, Romans 12:9-18, and Colossians 3:12-17.
    Describe your wedding cake or dessert. A family friend made a gorgeous four-tiered pound cake with buttercream icing, with the top layer saved for our first anniversary! You can’t beat a good ol’ Southern pound cake!
    How did you plan for your marriage while planning your wedding? We felt it was very important to keep our relationship at the center of the wedding planning and were mindful of discussing not only the details of the big day, but also what we wanted our future to look like together. Premarital counseling with our minister, readings books together, and spending the majority of our time together not wedding planning helped enormously with this!
    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? One very special thing to me was having my brother walk me down the aisle to meet my father. My brother, Peter, and I have an incredible relationship and I wanted to honor that in this way.
    What’s next for you as a couple? What memories are you looking forward to making together? We will stay in Austin, Texas for the next few years before returning home to North Carolina. We are so excited to make our new house a home together and continue to explore and enjoy this unique Southern town as partners in a new, married light!

    Photographer: A.J. Dunlap Photography / Videography: Olivia Wilkes / Videography and Sound: Ana Caicedo Macia / Video Editing: Anna Norwood / Venue and Planner: Haw River Ballroom / Florist: Pine State Flowers / Wedding Cake: Brenda Moss / Caterer: Saxapahaw General Store / DJ: Jason Barnes of JMB Marketing / Bridal Salon and Hairpiece: Second Summer Bride / Gown Alterations: Kira Kouture / Bride’s Earrings: Judith Bright / Hair and Makeup: Tease and Blush / Bride’s Shoes: Toms / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: RenzRags / Menswear: Combatant Gentlemen / Groomsmen Ties: The Tie Bar / Invitations, Ceremony Programs, and Calligraphy: Linsey Gray Creative

    A.J. Dunlap is a delightful member of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

    lisa Written with love by Lisa
    4 Comments
    1. avatar A.J. Dunlap reply

      Oh, how I loved this wedding! Thank you so much for sharing their day and their story!!! xoxo~A.J.

    2. avatar Anna Norwood reply

      Check out this video feature of Molly and Aaron’s special day!
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UCbru_s6lj4

    3. avatar Laura reply

      What a beautiful wedding and sweet couple! Love the small town feel!

    4. avatar Ryan reply

      Could anyone provide more details on the bridesmaid dresses? My fiancée and I are very interested in several of these dresses but cannot find the specific dresses on Renz Rags

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