Choosing a wedding venue is no small task–the location and your surroundings set the tone for your entire wedding day, and as a result, this decision can be one of the hardest for brides to make (it certainly was for me!). For Caroline and Will, however, their venue was a no-brainer: the stunning home that Caroline’s great-grandparents built in the 1920’s. Her parents had been married there as well, and along with the gorgeous property and its landscape, the history that the house held served as Caroline and Will’s biggest source of inspiration. Caroline’s family poured their hearts into renovations prior to the wedding, and the sweetness of the memories that it held were palpable as Caroline and Will became husband and wife. I can only imagine how special this place will continue to be for generations to come!
Thank you so much to Ali Harper for sharing this incredible day with us!
What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? Did they have any special significance to you? We were married in the front yard of my grandfather’s house. I’ve always wanted to be married there because my parents were married there as well, and it’s the most special place in the world to me. My great-grandparents built the house in the 1920’s, and just before I got engaged, my parents decided to buy and move into the house. This was no easy undertaking! My grandfather had recently passed away and the house was in major disrepair. The entire year before the wedding, my parents were up to their elbows in renovations, on top of wedding planning. Will and I are both so grateful and humbled by the fact that my parents would put in so much work to make our wedding dreams come true, and without a doubt, everything was more incredible than we could have imagined. One of the most amazing parts of the day was getting to share this place with all of our loved ones. There is an incredible warmth about the house, and it proved to be the perfect wedding venue. We wanted our wedding to have a reverence to it, but we also wanted people to feel comfortable and at home. Nothing achieves that more than a backyard wedding at your own home!
It doesn’t get much more Southern than an outdoor wedding under 100+ year old oak trees, does it? But more than that, one of the things I love most about the South is how much we Southerners value our heritage, and to Will and I, that meant honoring our families in details throughout the wedding. Of course, we were married in my family home, but we also tried to bring in other sentimental touches throughout. Will’s aunt gave me some Victorian, wax roses, which she and Will’s mom had both worn on their wedding days, that had belonged to their great-grandmother. We tied them to toasting goblets to use while we cut our cake. My grandfather loved bow ties and was always sporting some kind of festive tie, no matter the occasion, so we asked our guests to wear bow ties, and of course, the wedding party all wore mix and match green ties, too! The details like that, that most guests probably never noticed, served as little reminders that while this day was all about us, there are so many wonderful people who have made us who we are, and who we needed to honor on such an important occasion.
Did you decide to do a first look? Why or why not? The decision to do a first look really came down to timing and pictures. We wanted to go straight to the reception from our ceremony, rather than taking photos during that time. Plus, we knew that getting to see each other before the ceremony would help calm our nerves, and it might be the only alone time we’d get all day.
Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? We chose the traditional Episcopal marriage rite, but our officiant was Will’s step-grandfather. He did such an amazing job of speaking to our relationship during the homily. It was such a gift to have someone we know so well marry us, and he made our ceremony so moving and magical.
What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? We chose a variety of readings–scripture, a wedding prayer I found, and a poem by E.E. Cummings. It’s very overwhelming to choose readings that represent your relationship, but we decided to choose things that spoke to us, regardless of tradition.
I think what made our wedding day special was that we were in this gorgeous space that has so much history in my family and a personality all its own. It meant that every detail of our day was so personal, and our guests could really feel that love and warmth, not only between Will and me, but the love of all the family members who have spent time in this house, and all of the happy memories that have happened there. It was a dream come true for me, and since Will knew how important it was to me, it meant a lot to him too. The best part is that we’ll get to bring our children home to THEIR grandparents’ house one day, and we’ll get to share with them about all the great times that have been had there. It’ll be such an honor to pass along that tradition.
For both of us, our ceremony was simply magical. The sun was shining down through these gorgeous old oak trees, the breeze was blowing, the birds were chirping, and we had all of our loved ones right there with us. It was truly breathtaking to feel all of that love around us, and it made our whole day magical. I think every guest felt that–many of the male guests have admitted to me that they cried during our ceremony! And, of course, during the reception, there was great music playing, amazing food, loving friends and family, and endless bottles of champagne. What more can a bride and groom really ask for during their wedding reception?
Describe your wedding flowers. First and foremost, I wanted our wedding flowers to feel like they could have been gathered out of the yard. I wanted them to be unfussy, with lots of greenery, and I wanted to include flowers that smelled nice! My bouquet included garden roses, lily of the valley, sprigs of lavender, and seeded eucalyptus, and Will’s boutonniere had roses, lily of the valley, lavender, and rosemary.
I was a very decisive bride from day one, and I knew exactly what kind of cake I wanted and where I wanted it to be in the house! We have this great photo of my parents cutting their wedding cake in the dining room, exactly where our cake was, and that picture served as my inspiration for our cake. We chose a classic, three-tiered almond cake with buttercream icing and white flowers in between the layers. It was unfussy, but elegant. Will wanted a decadent chocolate and peanut butter groom’s cake, so that’s what he got!
How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. We met at a mutual friends’ wedding! Will walked me to my seat in the church, and the rest is history. Even though we lived in different states at the time, we visited each other as often as we could, and became inseparable immediately.
Tell us all about the proposal! After asking my dad, Will knew he had to pop the question fast before the news got–secrets don’t last long in my family! He took me to our favorite restaurant in Atlanta, called ahead to secure my favorite table, and as soon as we sat down, they brought us champagne. I have no idea how he asked because my head was spinning, but I said yes! It was so special to have a few hours to ourselves before calling all of our friends and family and sharing the good news!
When did y’all get married? April 26, 2014
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 250
Tell us about finding your wedding dress. I had always dreamed of wearing my mother’s wedding dress, which is just the epitome of classic elegance–an a-line, off-the-shoulder satin gown. But when I tried it on soon after getting engaged, I didn’t get that magical feeling I always thought I would. I agonized over whether to look for my own gown or wear my mom’s for months, until finally, my mom convinced me to go dress shopping. If I didn’t find anything I liked better, the decision would be made for me. One weekend, my mom, mother-in-law, and I all planned to spend a Saturday trying on dresses in Atlanta, but the second I put on the first gown at our first appointment, I knew it was the one. It seemed like the entire store went quiet, and it just went perfectly with everything we’d already planned for the day. We cancelled all the other appointments we had made and never looked back!
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? Our biggest challenge was that we were planning a wedding in a construction zone, so it was easy to let nerves and worry creep in. A month before the wedding, the house still had a long way to go, but we just had to stay calm and decide that no matter what came together at the last minute and what had to be left off the list, we were going to run with it. Throwing a wedding in your own home is not for the faint of heart! It’s worth it, but terrifying!
If you are comfortable responding, what range did your wedding budget fall into? $25,000-$50,000
What was one way you saved money or cut costs at your wedding? If you’re getting married in a non-traditional wedding venue, especially a private residence, throw whatever budget you may have found online out the window! You’ll have a lot of expenses most brides don’t have to worry about (like renting chairs, glasses, dinnerware, a dance floor, and lighting), but you’ll also get to save money in places, too. For example, if you get to hire your own bartenders and don’t have to go through a venue’s bar, we found a lot of savings in places like that. First and foremost, we made a point to look at all of our vendor options before making a decision, and I think that’s where we were able to be the most conscious of our budget.
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? If you have the opportunity to choose a venue that you truly love and that speaks to you, it’ll pay off in spades. For one, you won’t need to do as much decorating in the space, and having a venue with personality will help guide all of the decisions you make. Our venue had gorgeous old oak trees and lush greenery everywhere, so we knew that all of the other details needed to have a similar feel. Also, if you’re getting married in your own home, you need to hire a day-of coordinator. This was an expense that my mom initially thought we didn’t need, but our coordinator, Jenna, was amazing and really enabled my parents to be parents of the bride on the wedding day, rather than owners of the wedding venue. I’m so grateful for that. Also, something WILL go wrong, and you don’t want to have to fix it yourself.
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you most looking forward to about married life? Our big project right now is turning our little 1920’s bungalow in Atlanta into our cozy sanctuary in the city. We both love creative projects, and we have big plans for our little cottage!
Photographer: Ali Harper Photography / Videographer: Mehran Moin / Day-of Coordinator: Wedding and Events by Jenna Laine / Venue: Private residence / Florist: Ron Barrett / Cake Baker: Couture Cakes / Caterer: Clifton Morrissette Catering / Rentals: Mobile Popcorn Company / Ceremony Musicians: Atkinson Duo / Band: Square One / Bride’s Gown: Reem Acra / Hair Stylist: Cameron Bush of Cara & Company / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: J. Crew / Groom’s Attire: Hugo Boss / Groomsmen Attire: Jos. A. Bank