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Last summer, I was a bridesmaid in one of my best friends’ weddings in Islamorada, and I can attest that it is such a beautiful place. It’s excluded from wildness of Key West, and filled with just the right amenities for a special wedding weekend! Believe me when I say, I can see why Lindsey and Greg fell in love with it so much, they decided to plan a destination wedding there in just seven weeks! From the blue heart made of her father’s shirt sewn into her dress, to the ribbon made from her mama’s wedding dress tied around her bouquet, even though they were short on time, Lindsey and Greg’s wedding day was certainly not short on meaningful details and fond memories.

Thanks to Natalie Watson for sharing this sweet day with us!

What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? Did they have any special significance to you? It took us a long time to find a wedding venue, but when we stumbled upon Islamorada, we knew we wanted to get married there! We both love the beach, and our family and friends love warm weather, so it was perfect. With that, we decided to plan a destination wedding in seven weeks! We took photos before the wedding at the quaint and adorable Moorings Village and Spa, and then headed across the street to Pierre’s, a plantation house and restaurant, for the ceremony and reception. The venues were a perfect backdrop to our breezy, December wedding.

Oh, wedding dress shopping! It is safe to say I tried on about 100 dresses. I just couldn’t find one that I absolutely loved. I shopped in Michigan, Knoxville, and Nashville, and even ordered dresses online, sent them back, and then even ordered the same ones again…just to be sure! That is actually how I found my wedding dress. I ordered it, sent it back because I wanted a white dress, then after trying on more and never finding anything right, I ordered it again. That time, I knew it was the dress for me!

Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! I borrowed an anklet from my mom that she wears every day. For my something blue, I had a blue heart sewed to the inside of my dress that was made from an old shirt of my dad’s. My bouquet was wrapped in a ribbon made out of my mom’s wedding dress, and I carried a hankie from my grandmother for my something old. As my something new, I wore a bracelet my dad gave me as a wedding gift right before he walked me down the aisle. It was such a sweet gift, because he gave the same one to my sister at her wedding, and he had a special message engraved in it.

One of the very last decisions we made for the wedding was what song I would walk down the aisle to. We have very different music tastes, and we chose “All of Me” by John Legend because we both love that song. Not only did we love it, it also set the mood for the ceremony–some of our family and friends were crying before I even reached the end of the aisle!

What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? My most memorable moment was walking down the aisle and seeing a normally stoic Gary holding back tears after seeing me for the first time. I will always remember it!

What is the one detail or vendor that you were so happy to have as a part of your wedding? All of our vendors were amazing and wonderful to work with! We especially loved our extremely talented photographer, Natalie. She captured all of the special moments and details of the entire day. We will be able to look at our wedding pictures for years to come and remember the love, happiness, and excitement we felt that day.

Our cake was very simple, but delicious! It was a two-tiered vanilla cake with buttercream filling and key lime buttercream icing on the outside. Everyone wanted seconds!

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. We met three years ago through a mutual friend at a bar in downtown Knoxville, Tennessee. We hit it off immediately and went on our first date a few days later. We’ve been inseparable ever since!
Tell us all about the proposal! We got engaged the day after Christmas! We had just gotten home from spending Christmas with my family in Michigan. Gary said he had to go run an errand, and then was going to bring dinner back for us. When he got back, we ate and opened the rest of our presents. The last one was a tiny box that had been hidden under the tree. He got down on one knee and asked me to marry him! I found out later that the jeweler had called while we were on our way home from Michigan to tell him that the ring was ready…that was the little errand he had to run!
When did y’all get married? December 5, 2014
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 20
Describe your wedding flowers. Our flowers were beautiful! Our florists used pale pink, blush, and ivory garden roses, dripping greens, and sea grasses. My bouquet had peonies in it too, since they are my favorite flower!
Our favorite detail of the wedding was: We rented cottages at The Moorings Village for the weekend, which allowed us to spend extra time with the special people in our lives who made the trip down.
What was one way you saved money or cut costs at your wedding? We were able to rent chairs and linens from our florist. By doing this, we saved money by only paying the delivery and set up/breakdown fee for one vendor!
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Trust your vendors, accept help from others, and remember what the day is really about!
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you most looking forward to about married life? We look forward to spending the rest of our lives together, enjoying whatever life brings our way!

Photographer: Natalie Watson / Ceremony Venue: Morada Bay / Reception Venue and Catering: Pierre’s Lounge and Restaurant at Morada Bay / Florist and Rentals: Parrish Designs of London / Cake Baker: Bob’s Bunz Islamorada Restaurant & Bakery / DJ: Phil Barnes from Rock With U Entertainment / Flamingo Cake Toppers: BHLDN / Bride’s Gown: “Carina Corset” and “Ahsan Skirt” by Watters / Hair and Makeup: Carolyn Jones / Groom’s Attire: Jos. A. Bank / Groom’s Tie: The Tie Bar / Portrait Location: The Moorings Village / Flower Girl Dresses and Floral Crowns: ShopElizaDean / Officiant: Jill Atkinson

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

    Thanks so much for posting this darling wedding! As a photographer I absolutely loved both venues, they were very charming! Ralph Lauren was doing a photoshoot there the morning of the wedding. Lindsey’s flowers were stunning! I highly recommend these vendors if you are planning a destination wedding in the keys! They really made Lindsey’s vision come to life!

  2. avatar Lindsay Callahan reply

    You captured these moments beautifully! Do you know what vendor the menu cards came from. I’d love to know. So simple and elegant. Thank you

  3. avatar Victoria reply

    Hey there- your wedding was beautiful! I’m loving the flamingo cake toppers but I can’t seem to find them anywhere online that I can still buy. Would you be willing to sell me yours? I’d love to use them too. So adorable!!

  4. avatar Olivia reply

    This is serious inspo for my wedding! I was wondering what the dance floor situation was? I’m considering doing a partial buyout of the restaurant so was curious what happens when it’s time to dance!

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We all know I’m a classic wedding kind of girl; I love big pink blooms and puffy dresses (yes, I even wore a tiara at my own wedding!) But, y’all! Completely juxtaposed with what I traditional fawn over, there is something so lovely about Morgan and Coty’s wedding day that I am obsessed with! I’m pretty sure it’s their exuberant joy, but the handmade details, including the campfire log benches-turned-ceremony pews has a little something to do with it too! When Morgan told us about their guests singing “You Are My Sunshine” as they danced in dripping wet wedding day clothes after the rainstorm, my heart jumped right out of my chest!

I’m sure we can all agree that big hug are in order for Michael + Carina for sharing this sweet day with us!

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. Coty saw me on my first day of high school as I strolled out onto the floor in my cheerleading outfit during a pep rally. Our eight-year dating anniversary actually fell three days after our wedding!

I made my bouquet the day before the wedding. I recommend that all brides go to a flower market so you can actually see what a bloom looks like in person, rather than just in a catalog. I knew I wanted a pastel color palette, since there weren’t any set colors for our wedding, and the David Austin roses were perfect for the romantic look I wanted to achieve. The flower market was out of dahlias, so I chose white football mums for a similar texture. Ranunculus and the sweet feverfew added the perfect touch of fun and wild. I finished the bouquet with ripped strands of white fabric.

We have been camping and kayaking at Shortbranch Farms since we were teenagers. For the past several years, we have loved to sit by the river and dream about what we each would do if we were to ever decorate it for our wedding. The owners are family friends, and it was such a blessing that they allowed us to get married on the land where we have so many memories!

Our favorite detail of the wedding was: I am in love with our ceremony benches. I looked and looked for something I thought was appropriate, cost-effective, and aesthetically pleasing for the simple ceremony we desired. I didn’t want aisle or alter decorations, so I needed something that would speak for itself. The owners of the farm had small log benches around their campfire at their cabin, so we asked him if he could create something similar to seat 130-140 people! They came out perfectly!

What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? We are from Kentucky and we love our state! We had to include some Kentucky bourbon in our day, so Coty buried the bottle in his grandfather’s old ammo box, and he and his groomsmen dug it out the morning of the wedding for a toast. I have to say–it unfortunately didn’t keep away bad weather!

We live in a very rural area in the middle of the nowhere, Kentucky. We are an hour from a (small) mall and thirty minutes from the nearest grocery. One of our biggest challenges was finding vendors that offered what we loved in our tiny area. We ended up doing a lot of items ourselves–stationery, flowers, decor–and a lot of driving and ordering to get other items.

After the rain came, everyone grabbed a pie and ran to the covered bridge. Coty and I cut a soggy pie with our hands and fed it to one another. Everyone then sang “You Are My Sunshine” as we danced in our dripping wedding clothes. It was like being in a scene from a romantic movie.

Tell us all about the proposal! We met the amazing Alicia of Aesthetiica Photography in the woods for a frosty winter session in the middle of December. Coty and Alicia had brainstormed for weeks before and planned a secret cue for when he should pop the question. We cuddled up in the blanket for a few photos in the perfect light, and the photographer told me to throw the blanket off to the side. When I turned back around, Coty was on his knee!
When did y’all get married? August 23, 2014
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 130
Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? We did, but believe it or not, our vows were in Coty’s pocket during the rain, and both papers were smudged beyond recognition. Make sure your wedding vows are backed up somewhere so you can read them in fifty years!
Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding and why you chose them. We chose to have a banjo player for the ceremony–we love listening to modern bluegrass music and it is such a big part of our state’s history. He began playing slowly as everyone entered the ceremony, and for our exit, he played a fast tune in a manner Coty calls “pickin’ and grinnin’.”
If you are comfortable responding, what range did your wedding budget fall into? Less than $10,000
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your wedding? I didn’t look at the weather on the morning of the wedding–whatever happened was going to happen, and there wasn’t any amount of worrying that could change it. It started out in the mid-nineties, but I was just beaming from ear to ear that it wasn’t raining. At our reception, as we made our way to cut our pie, the heavens opened and the rain came flooding down. Everyone ran for the covered bridge and we all stood huddled together waiting for the rain to end. It didn’t. It rained 3.75 inches by morning. We had a blast playing in the rain, and although we wish everyone hadn’t gotten soaked–especially our sweet grandparents–we were married all the same.
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you most looking forward to about married life? Our newest adventure has been getting a golden doodle puppy! We actually had a dog when we got married, and now the two of them keep us busy and entertained!

Photographer: Michael and Carina Photography / Venue: Shortbranch Farms / Florist: Import Flowers, bouquet by the bride / Caterer: Brothers / Chairs: Brown Paper Bag of Kentucky / Band or DJ: Otis / Favors: The Succulent Source / Bride’s Gown: “9MK3576” by David’s Bridal / Hair Stylist: Riley Eskridge / Bride’s Shoes: “Jaxxon High-Back” by Gianni Bini / Groom’s Suspenders: No Slip Suspenders / Groom’s Bow Tie: Clip a Bow Tie / Groom’s Wood Wedding Band: Cool Natural Jewelry

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

    That bridesmaid breakfast looks like so much fun!

  2. avatar Erin | Elizabeth Anne Designs reply

    If I needed any more reasons to love Michael and Carina! This wedding is so fun and filled to the brim with the most gorgeous whimsy and perfectly rustic details. xo!

  3. avatar Michael and Carina reply

    Thank you so much for sharing one of our favorite weddings of 2014! Morgan and Coty are such a sweet couple and it makes us so happy to see their photos on here! xoxo M+C

  4. avatar Bonnie & Lauren reply

    My southern heart <3's Kentucky. Beautiful details (those watercolor invites!), and what a gorgeous, creative couple!

  5. avatar Michael and Carina reply

    Thank you for featuring our photos of this wonderful couple! <3 xoxo

  6. avatar Styled by Kyla: A Bountiful Pastel Farm Wedding | Kyla Mary reply

    […] by Graham Terhune via Southern Weddings, Pie bar captured by Michael and Carina Photography via Southern Weddings, Jam by Sidehill Farm captured by 822 Weddings via Snippet and Ink, Event design (ribbons) by Hey […]

  7. avatar Stacy {Woodsy Weddings} reply

    There are so many wonderful details like the groom’s red pants and suspenders and the natural stone stage. I can’t get over their invitations, though! The watercolor and customized picture is adorable.

  8. avatar Weekly Weddings Favorites No. 7 | Kyla Mary reply

    […]   Photos by Michael and Carina Photography via Southern Weddings […]

  9. avatar Styled by Kyla: A Bountiful Pastel Farm Wedding reply

    […] by Graham Terhune via Southern Weddings, Pie bar captured by Michael and Carina Photography via Southern Weddings, Jam by Sidehill Farm captured by 822 Weddings via Snippet and Ink, Event design (ribbons) by Hey […]

  10. avatar WEDDING DAY BREAKFAST RECIPES – NUTRITIOUS MUESLI – The Bijou Bride reply

    […] sources clockwise from top left – Wedding Forward via Pinterest, Southern Weddings & Mon […]

  11. avatar Weekly Weddings Favorites No. 7 – Kyla Mary reply

    […]   Photos by Michael and Carina Photography via Southern Weddings […]

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I served as matron of honor in my sister-in-law’s wedding this weekend, and seeing Brianna and Neal’s sweet day brings me right back to Saturday. There is nothing quite like the community and love at a Southern wedding, and it’s evident in these lovely photos by Virgil Bunao that Brianna and Neal experienced that same glorious love on their big day that I witnessed this weekend! While we were not quite as lucky in the weather department, Brianna and Neal were able to celebrate under the stars sans tent, and feel completely at home while watching the sunset over the Wando River at RiverOaks. Along with the bagpiper procession (be sure to read about that below!), I bet this was a wedding guests won’t ever forget!

Tell us about finding your wedding dress. I searched through countless blogs and Pinterest posts looking for inspiration for a dress and found the “Madame Butterfly” dress by Claire Pettibone. I instantly knew it was my dress, but after doing some research, I found out that the dress was discontinued. After an unsuccessful attempt to shop for a more practical dress option at one of the local bridal stores with my stepmother, I just couldn’t see myself in any other dress but the Claire Pettibone I loved. Luckily, I found a bridal shop in London that had a sample, and we purchased it. Everyone was so nervous, but I just knew it was the one!

Describe your wedding flowers. We used ivy, maidenhair fern, white and pink English roses from the RiverOaks rose garden, light pink astilbe, black and white anemones, and coral and white peonies. The stems of my bouquet were wrapped in ribbon fastened with pins that signified my father’s rank in the Marine Corps during the year I was born. Having my father explain this to me instantly brought me to tears–the pins served as a symbol of how close we have become as a family over the years while overcoming challenges military families face.

My favorite detail was the bagpiper and the memory that created. While staying downtown with my family, I saw a wedding procession walk through the streets of Charleston from the church to the reception, led by a bagpiper. Remembering how excited I had been about that as a child, my parents surprised me with a bagpiper. The RiverOaks team coordinated the bagpiper to lead our wedding guests down the path that led to the ceremony seating area while I watched from an upstairs window. I don’t think there was a dry eye in that bridal suite!

For the most part, our vows were traditional, but we added a hand fasting ceremony and a ring blessing. The rings were fastened around ribbon and rope, and passed to our family and friends at the ceremony so that each person could impart their well wishes on our marriage. I still look at my ring from time to time and think of all our loved ones who held our rings and gave us their blessings at the ceremony.

What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? Did they have any special significance to you? My dad is from Charleston, and we often visited the city to see extended family. When I was younger, we sometimes stayed in a condo on Church Street across from two churches. Almost every time we visited, we witnessed a wedding or two held at one of those churches, so I had always dreamed of having a wedding in Charleston. Wedding venues downtown are beautiful, but felt a little too formal for us. I wanted a more laid back, intimate feeling, like an outdoor oyster roast with close family and friends, and RiverOaks provided that feeling. The Spanish moss hanging from live oaks above us and a view of the sunset on the Wando River made us feel incredibly blessed and at home.

What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? Our food was hearty and Southern! Harvest Catering uses all local, seasonal ingredients and created an amazing, fresh menu for us, even though our choices were on the heavy side. We stuck with Charleston staples like shrimp and grits, fried green tomatoes, and pimento cheese fritters with pepper jelly. We also had oysters Rockefeller, a dish Neal and I can’t ever resist ordering at a restaurant when it’s on the menu!

After our initial (four hour!) meeting with Marianne and the ladies at RiverOaks, we felt at ease and trusted their process. They showed us some of Virgil Bunao’s work from a wedding he photographed at RiverOaks, and I fell in love with it. We were so happy and grateful that he was available for our wedding day. The RiverOaks crew handled every stressful situation with grace, and added in some very meaningful surprises to the event. Since we didn’t have an engagement photo session (looking back now, I wish we had), I was nervous about being in front of the camera! Virgil did a great job of removing any nervous energy by cracking jokes and making us laugh throughout the day.

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. Neal and I met through mutual friends when I was in nursing school. My friend was dating one of his good friends, and they acted as matchmakers for us. After a few get-togethers with those mutual friends, Neal and I started dating.
Tell us all about the proposal! We went to visit some of my family in Charleston for a weekend in May. After a seven-hour drive from Virginia, I wanted to get dinner downtown with my brother and the rest of the family as soon as we arrived. Neal suggested we start heading toward the restaurant, so I texted everyone to invite them out, but everyone declined. Everyone knew Neal’s plan except me, and I remember being upset that no one wanted to join us! Neal and I had such a great time having dinner at a fun place off East Bay Street that I forgot about being upset. We walked across the street to Waterfront Park and stopped in front of the pineapple fountain. I was telling Neal about how I used to wade in the water when I was a little girl, and then I turned around to see him on one knee! It was great to be able to celebrate with family that weekend!
When did y’all get married? April 26, 2014
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 90
Did you decide to do a “first look”? Why or why not? We decided to do a first look to help calm our nerves that day. I didn’t want to be an emotional, crying mess the moment I saw him. The moment we first saw each other at the ceremony was just as meaningful as I had imagined, minus tears and mascara running down my face!
Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! My something old/borrowed was Marianne Caldwell’s beautiful veil that she wore on her own wedding day. My something blue was the sapphires (Neal’s birthstone) in my engagement ring. My something new was my gold Jack Rogers wedges.
What was one way you saved money or cut costs at your wedding? The RiverOaks crew did a great job shifting certain costs around to get the most bang for our buck. The arrangements on the tables saved on floral costs by having more ivy and greenery than flowers. They were absolutely stunning, and one of my favorite parts of the decor. Thanks to prayers from the RiverOaks staff and family, we were blessed with beautiful weather. That led to us saving money on having to rent a tent! We hired a DJ instead of our original wish to have a band play our reception music–we thought a band would encourage our guests to dance and have a good time, but our DJ had the same effect. Everyone had a great time dancing!
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you most looking forward to about married life? We moved into our new house, and we’re working on making it a home with our dog, Hobie. Having my best friend by my side for whatever happens in our future is a great feeling!

Photographer: Virgil Bunao / Planning, Venue, and Lighting: RiverOaks Charleston / Florist: Deborah Gibson Design / Cake Baker: Charleston Cakes Etc. / Catering: Harvest Catering / Rentals: Polished!, EventWorks, Sperry Tents / Ceremony Musician: Lee Barbour of Charleston Virtuosi / Bagpiper: Cathleen Nixon / DJ: Crescendo Entertainment / Paper Products: The Business Press / Calligraphy and Invitation Design: Lydia Robins Hendrix / Bride’s Gown: “Madame Butterfly” by Claire Pettibone / Hair Stylist and Makeup Artist: Kelli Hoff of Elysium Salon / Bride’s Shoes: Jack Rogers / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: J. Crew / Bridesmaid Jewelry: Kate Spade / Menswear: Jos. A. Bank / Bar Service: Squeeze On Site / Custom Monogram: Allison R. Banks Designs

RiverOaks is a delightful member of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

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

    Such a beautiful wedding! Leave it to sweet Marianne to lend a bride her veil for something borrowed :)

  2. avatar Emily reply

    What a gorgeous beaded gown, Brianna! It looks like you had the most beautiful day!

  3. avatar wilkes barre limo reply

    very elegantly done! love the black and white checkerboard!

  4. avatar Stacy {Woodsy Weddings} reply

    The location is beautiful, I love that cute, cozy building! And, glad she stuck it out for the right dress, it is stunning on her!

  5. avatar Sandra | Simply Peachy reply

    This is absolutely beautiful. Such an elegant soiree and am loving those blooms. Anemones are by far my fave!

  6. avatar Marianne reply

    Marissa, thank you for the heartfelt compilation in words of Brianna and Neal’s day. Brianna, thank your sweet appreciation of our team Lauren Heuber , Deborah Gibson, Jennigray Hewitt, Sara Hicks and Simone Gebsattel. To all the other kind comments, thank you, as well .

  7. avatar Jehnel Oboza reply

    Great work again, Virgil! Brianna and Neal are a beautiful couple to just look at! All of the vendors did such an exceptional job.

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