Southern hospitality and an undeniable focus on marriage are two wedding “details” that never, ever fail to capture our hearts. From the day they started dating, to their charming Williamsburg wedding day, to their newlywed life now, Sarah and Chris exemplify both of these important qualities beautifully. My favorite example? The handwritten notes they wrote to each and every guest at their reception (an idea they got from this Southern Weddings shoot–we’re tickled pink!), as well as their request that their guests write to them, too! To this day, Sarah and Chris are still going through the sweet memories and marriage advice that their loved ones shared with them, and the notes are a constant reminder of their wedding day and what matters most.
Tell us about finding your wedding dress. We got engaged in mid-August, and we were slated to leave for a study abroad semester at Oxford University about ten days later. Since I would be gone for almost four months, I wanted to get my dress before I left the country. My mom and I went to an adorable boutique in our hometown, The Inspired Bride in Williamsburg, Virginia. I had never tried on dresses before, but knew that I wanted my wedding look to be timeless, classic, elegant, and simple. I tried on seven or eight dresses, but the one that stole my heart was one that my mom and dad had seen in the window a few days earlier and suggested I try. Neither of us cried; we were just too happy. We toasted the great find and then headed to a 1950s diner to celebrate!
What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? Did they have any special significance to you? We held the ceremony in my home church, so that was incredibly special. I have spent so much time in that sanctuary and those halls! I also really love my hometown, Williamsburg, so I wanted the reception to be in a location that showed off the town. Originally, I had been thinking of doing it somewhere in Colonial Williamsburg, but they required you to use their own vendors and I wanted to do everything on my own. Instead, we choose to have our reception at Williamsburg’s Community Building, which is a beautiful breezy hall downtown. It was only five minutes from church, and the architecture matched the church’s perfectly. We loved it!
What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? From Sarah: I have two: the moment before the doors opened to the church, when I was just standing clutching my dad’s arm. I had been so emotional up to that point, and then all the sudden, a calm came over me and we just started beaming as the doors opened and Chris saw me. Also, the moment when the pastor started leading into the vows during the ceremony. That’s when it all hit me–this was really happening! We were about to say our vows! From Chris: My most memorable moment was definitely seeing Sarah for the first time. I remember that as I stood up on the platform waiting for the doors of the sanctuary to open, I was just trying to catch any glimpse I could through the little cracks in the curtains on the double doors. Finally, I saw a white shape pass by, and I knew she was about to come in. What a rush of adrenaline! The doors opened, and there she stood, looking like an angel. At that moment, I was so happy that I was the one standing there at the end of the altar. I just stood there grinning like an idiot, feeling completely overwhelmed with happiness.
I think the most Southern thing about our wedding was the hospitality. I cherish my family and friends, and was so excited to be celebrating this special day with them. Their presence and support and love are what made our day so special, so I wanted each and every guest to know that. That’s why I wrote to everyone–so that I would be sure to let them know how much they mean to me. My parents were also the perfect hosts–they thought of everything. Gusts were greeted at their hotels by welcome packets that my mom made. My dad welcomed everyone to the reception and prayed for the meal; my mom thanked all the volunteers from church with flowers and cake and handwritten notes; my little sisters (who are six) were both escorted to their seats by groomsmen.
Our favorite detail of the wedding was: I think my absolute favorite was the letters. I had actually seen the idea to write every single guest a handwritten note, welcoming them to the reception, in an issue of Southern Weddings! I loved the idea of communicating with each guest personally, so I wrote notes to each person coming to our reception, including all the kids. My mom thought that it would also be neat if, in turn, all the guests wrote notes to me and Chris, so at every place setting, there was a beautiful white note card for the guests to use to write to us. We still haven’t finished reading all of them! People loved the whole idea, and we have so been blessed by everyone’s kind words, advice, and prayers.
I have never liked wedding cake, so I wanted to find a delicious and pretty alternative. We opted to have ladies from our families and church bake their families’ favorite cake recipes! We ended up with a spread that included Kentucky butter cake, three-layer German chocolate cake, five flavor pound cake, lemon chiffon cake, and chocolate cake with homemade vanilla icing and fresh berries! For the centerpiece cake, I bought a simple, round, two-layer almond pound cake with vanilla buttercream icing from a bakery by my house. I stacked the layers myself and then a friend added fresh roses to the top.
How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. We met during my freshman year of college in New York City–we had classes together and a few mutual friends. We both signed up to go on a summer exchange trip to China, so we got to know each other more as we prepared for the trip. Apparently, everyone knew something was up with us, but I was oblivious! I didn’t realize I might like him until the last few weeks of the school year. On the last day of finals, Chris asked if we could go on a walk when I was done studying. We walked up Madison Avenue and over to the East River, where we watched the late night ferries to New Jersey. Finally, he summoned up the courage to say, “Well I guess you have noticed that I like you…what should we do about that?” And that’s how we started dating. :)
Tell us all about the proposal! We were on a weekend vacation with his family at Silver Beach on the Jersey Shore. He had been telling me for months about how much he loved to do time-lapse photography of the sunrise when he was at the beach, so when he started begging me to go with him, I thought it was totally normal. We planned to get up at 4:30 a.m. on Sunday, August 11 to go set up the camera on the shore. He sweetly woke me up and brought me hot coffee in a travel mug to take with me. He also packed a bunch of quilts and sweatshirts and donuts, because the morning was so chilly and he knew I would be starving. As it started to get lighter, Chris got more and more quiet. When the sun was just about to come over the horizon, he got up and suggested that we dip our feet in the water. I happily got up and went to give him a hug…and his heart was pounding SO fast. He knelt down and pulled a ring out of his pocket and the sun burst over the horizon. I was in total shock! We spent the next hour walking in the sand and the water, talking, laughing, and calling my parents with the good news. When we finally went back to the beach house, his whole family was waiting with hot breakfast sandwiches and hugs!
When did y’all get married? May 31, 2014
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? About 200
Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? We selected our vows primarily from the Book of Common Prayer. We really like the classic “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, so long as we both shall live.” We believe that while loving your spouse is a joy, it is also sometimes a choice. We wanted our vows to reflect our belief that love should be unconditional; our marriage is for life.
What was one way you saved money or cut costs at your wedding? We were on a mission to save money, so we did a lot of things ourselves. Family and friends provided drinks, desserts, cold foods, and appetizers. We bought wholesale flowers and made almost all the arrangements and bouquets ourselves (except for mine!). We held the ceremony in my church (free), and the reception at an affordable community building. We also had a squad of ladies searching consignment stores and yard sales for vintage milk glass in the months before the wedding!
What is the one detail or vendor that you were so happy to have as a part of your wedding? Rachel May did an incredible job capturing our day and was such a joyful person to be around. She was also the one person who made me cry during the wedding–I didn’t cry at all (I was too happy and don’t really cry in public) until the end of our reception when Rachel came up to me with tears in her eyes saying how much she had enjoyed being a part of our day.
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Remember that this is about a marriage, not a wedding, and that while all the special details are wonderful and important, they are not as wonderful or important as what you are promising to each other. Also, remember that this is a VERY special time to be able to share with family and friends. Even if it feels easier to just keep it small or go elope, take the time and effort to really concentrate on the people that love you. Soak up their love and support and allow yourself to be truly blessed by them, just as they are being blessed by your commitment and love for each other!
Photographer: Rachel May / Ceremony Venue: Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church / Reception Venue: Williamsburg Community Building / Bride’s Bouquet: Aleen Floral Designs / Wholesale Flowers: Bunches Direct / Wedding Cake: Carrot Tree Kitchen / Caterer: Williamsburg Concession and Catering / Rentals: Williamsburg Event Rentals / Ceremony Music: Tim Seaman / Reception Music: Eclipse Jazz Quartet / China Rentals: Something Vintage / Bride’s Gown: Stella York / Bridal Salon and Veil: The Inspired Bride / Paper Products: Minted / Bride’s Bracelet: BHLDN / Hair Stylist: Ashley Smith / Makeup Artist: Marylyn Toney / Bride’s Shoes: Ralph Lauren / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Alfred Sung for Dessy Group / Men’s Attire: Tony Bowls
Rachel May is a delightful member of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!