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Ali + Robert are about as cute as a pup in a little red wagon. Their September “I do’s” were full of details that sound beautiful, but came easily to the couple who just wanted to be themselves on their wedding day. Cowboy boots? You bet Ali and her dad wore them down the aisle, just because they wanted to be comfortable. Of course, it ain’t a proper celebration without good eats! Ali + Robert served delicious Southern fare and treated their guests to a bourbon tasting bar complete with personalized old fashioned glasses. We love seeing bourbon bars pop up at weddings, but we love that it’s extra special to the newlyweds since they bonded over bourbon when they first met!

Big hugs to Courtney Dox for sharing this lovely day with us!

My bouquet was a French mound style bouquet in varying shades of pinks using flowers such as watermelon ranunculus, garden roses, and dahlias. Lissa used geranium leaves as greenery in between the garden roses and geraniums — it smelled divine wrapped! The bouquet was wrapped in charcoal gray velvet to coordinate with the groom and then was embellished with a broach.

Reading about one of Ali’s most memorable moments (aside from her brother dancing with all of the bridesmaids at the reception) definitely adds another element to the next few photos!

We all still get a laugh out of the momentwhen my bridesmaid, Katie got attacked by one of the horses during pictures.  We were all lined up against the fence, when one of the horses came up from behind and gave her a huge lick up the middle of her back. It scared her to death! The horse then began to start munching on her hair! The candid photos of this are priceless!

Describe the proposal. (From the groom) I was on a work trip to Detroit, and I had planned to propose to Ali as soon as I came home and walked in the door.  On the way home, I bought two bouquets of flowers and I attached the ring to one bouquet. I brought the flowers in and presented them to her with a big smile on my face (happy to see her and hoping she would see the ring), however Ali just put them down on the counter and started asking me about my trip and saying I needed to play with Boog (her Pekingese). For about 15 minutes we talked about my trip while the flowers (and the ring!) sat on the counter.  It was excruciating trying to hold back my excitement. Finally, I got her to start arranging the flowers in the vase and, of course, she starts with the bouquet that doesn’t have the ring on it. During this time I am standing behind her waiting for her to see the ring so I can kneel down and I ask her to marry me.  I see the ring dangling there and I am sure she has seen it, so I kneel down waiting for her to turn around.  She then asks me a question and I answer her from below, at which point she turns around to see me kneeling. Not understanding what is going on, I point to the ring dangling there and asked her to marry me. Of course, she said YES!!!

What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? Robert and I had saved cards that we had given each other over the years for holidays and “just because” occasions. We decided to have my cousin, Katie, do a reading from one of our favorite cards, which was a promise to be each other’s best friend and to love each other unconditionally. We thought it would add a little bit of “us” by doing so.
Our favorite detail of the wedding was: As part of our ceremony, we chose to include a “Love Letter and Wine Box” ceremony.  Robert and I included a bottle of our favorite wine (that will age well) and of course, two cards in place of the love letters. We love the idea of adding a new card to the box every year on our anniversary, then having these cards to look back on and to commemorate our love for one another.

Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding. For our processional, we played Darius Rucker’s “History In The Making.” For the recessional, we played The Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love.” Our first dance was to Railroad Earth’s “Right In Tune.”

What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration?  What was Southern about your wedding? My father and I decided to wear cowboy boots for the big day! We wanted to be comfortable, and it seemed fitting. As part of their gift, I gave each bridesmaid a natural linen clutch with a lace flower that was each lined with different color seersucker and was personalized with their name. We wanted cocktail hour to be fun and a good way for people to meet and mingle. We decided to make it interactive, so we had a bourbon tasting bar as well as two signature cocktails using Firefly Sweet Tea and Firefly lemonade vodka from the distillery outside of Charleston, SC. For wedding favors, we etched double old fashioned glasses with the initial of each guest’s first name to use with the bourbon bar.  We thought it would be a nice token for each person to take home with them. We had a biscuit bar, complete with local butters, jams, and pimento cheese.  We also decided to have games such as corn hole and horseshoes — two great Southern traditions! As far as décor for the reception goes, we included black-eyed peas in the base of the centerpieces and used burlap overlays for an added “Southern” touch.  Also, each table was named after a different Southern city, which was displayed by using vintage postcards. This was actually Robert’s great idea! Our food was mainly comfort food such as mini meatloaves in mason jars, pecan-crusted chicken fingers, collards, BBQ, fried green tomatoes, grits, and mini tomato pies. We also had a plated heirloom tomato stack salad with buttermilk and bacon dressing. For our exit, we repurposed cotton bolls from the ceremony décor for guests to toss.

What is the one thing you are most happy you splurged on? It’s definitely a tie between our food and having a live band.  Food and music are two things that can make or break the feel of a wedding! We wanted to make sure that none of our guests went home hungry and that everyone got out on the dance floor!

Describe your wedding cake or dessert: We decided to have a pie bar instead of a traditional wedding cake. We both LOVE pies, so we thought it would be a nice touch that would fit with the theme of our wedding!  We did however, have a NC State groom’s cake, which was red velvet with cream cheese frosting (Robert’s favorite!).

How did the two of you meet?  Tell us your story.  Robert and I met through my best friend, Rhi and her now husband, Dave.  Robert and Dave were good friends from Graduate School at Clemson. I had tagged along with Rhi on a weekend trip to Greenville to visit Dave.  The first night in town, Dave had a group of people over to his house. I kept noticing the quiet guy with the kind eyes. Robert and I bonded over beer pong and bourbon (classy, I know!) and have been together ever since!  Now, three years later, what’s better than two best friends marrying best friends?!
In what month did you get married? September
How many guests attended your wedding? 130
Tell us about finding your wedding dress: I had actually been “eyeing” my dress for over a year, after seeing it online.   We made the special trip to J. Major’s since they were the closest boutique that carried it.  I was so nervous about trying it on since I had been in love with it for so long, but wasn’t sure how it would actually look on me! It was the first dress I tried on, and knew it was “the one.”  I tried on several other styles, but nothing compared!
Did you decide to do a “first look”? We decided to not do a first look! Robert was actually more adamant about this than I was and wanted to stick to “tradition.” He didn’t ask for much during the wedding planning process, so I definitely wanted to honor this request since he didn’t have many!
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? Since we were doing personalized double old fashioned glasses for our guests as well as table assignments, we needed an exact head count and names of the people attending the wedding.  Trying to organize those two details was hectic, to say the least!
What range did your wedding budget fall into?  $25,000-$50,000
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Make sure to focus on the details that are most important to you and your fiancé. It’s your wedding, so you need to do what makes you both happy! Also, just take a minute to step back and breathe when it all seems to get a little stressful!
What’s next for you as a couple?  What are you looking forward to in the future?  Robert and I are taking our honeymoon to Italy in March, which we’re really looking forward to! We’re also now proud parents of a petite goldendoodle, Pearl, who is such a joy.  Though Boog is still trying to adjust to being a big brother!

nicoleyang Written with love by Nicole
12 Comments
  1. avatar shelby reply

    I love the bourbon tasting bar! such an awesome idea!

  2. avatar Emily reply

    I love those dahlia bouquets, and the photo of the groomsmen with the horse cracks me up!

  3. avatar Shafonne @ Pretty Pear Bride reply

    Love the bride and absolutely love the bourbon tasting bar! Need to do that for our vow renewal.

  4. avatar Jessica reply

    Wow! Love that tree awning!

  5. avatar Nancy Ray reply

    1. They have the cutest dog ever
    2. Mini meatloafs? I die!
    3. The groomsmen + the horse = amazing!

    Love this wedding so much!

  6. avatar Lisa reply

    Wow! Absolutely loving the bouquets, all the sweet and funny animal pictures, and that gorgeous bourbon bar!

  7. avatar Jennie reply

    The cowgirl boots are beautiful… Would love to know where they are from?

  8. avatar Margaret reply

    I absolutely love your wedding! Your details are lovely. Do you recall where you found the burlap table toppers? Its such fine burlap…

    Thanks!

  9. avatar April reply

    Congratulations! So happy to come across this. Looks like a great time, GREAT wedding ideas, beautiful pictures and happy couple! Thanks for sharing!

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  12. avatar Alicia reply

    Who designed the flowers? They are gorgeous!

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One of my favorite parts of getting our Real Weddings ready to share with y’all is reading each couple’s vows. From the traditional classics to creative rhymes, and even some jokes and lighthearted moments, vows are an incredibly meaningful part of each day, and usually offer some insight into the couple reciting them. Erin + Steve’s vows really struck a chord in my heart, especially this line from the groom: “I, Stephen, take you, Erin, to be no other than yourself. Loving what I know of you, trusting what I do not yet know, I give you my word, my faith, and my solemn vow.” Heavens, that makes me tear up just reading it!

Beyond their sweet, sweet vows, I love how Erin’s mama played a big role in the handmade decor of their day. She not only created the invitations and decorated their getaway bikes, she utilized Hobby Lobby and Lowes to put together some seriously gorgeous centerpieces! Big hugs to our friends at Landon Jacob for sharing this colorful affair! Seriously, y’all, pay attention to the heartwarming moments they captured tucked into every corner of this feature!

I initially tried on wedding gowns in upscale boutiques in the suburbs of Philadelphia with my mother and sister in-laws-to-be. I fell in love with a $6,000 Monique Lhuillier dress, completely clueless of the wedding market value of dresses. Back home in Columbia, SC I went to a local bridal salon with my mom, sister in-law, and aunt where I found the winner: Lazaro 3101, a great mix of lace with Spanish flair. I again had sticker shock at the $3,000 price tag and tried to bargain. I scoured recycledbride.com, preownedweddingdressses.com, and finally found the winner on Ebay for $1200. Upon arrival, the dress fit like a glove and needed no alternations. It was meant to be!

Did you decide to do a “first look”? We did. At first I was totally opposed to the idea but was inspired by my best friend’s wedding that I attended a month prior and the sharing of an intimate moment together instead of a more public, shared moment at the ceremony. It eased a lot of our nervous energy and I’m very happy with our decision.
Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? My mother is an interfaith minister who had tons of books on creating ceremonies and rituals lying around. We came upon some vows that I believe were shared between her close friends that spoke to us and the incredible risk and trust that marriage demands. Our chaplain was quite fond of them as well: “I, Stephen, take you Erin to be no other than yourself. Loving what I know of you, trusting what I do not yet know, I give you my word, my faith, and my solemn vow.”

One of my favorite things about our wedding was all the detailed creations of my mom, Heidi Darr-Hope, which included the invitations, centerpieces, bikes and lanterns. She bought lanterns from Hobby Lobby and filled them with rocks, candles, and objects from Mexico and draped them in sparkling gold ribbon. She blew up our invitation (that she created) as a sign, and decorated Steve’s and my bicycles. For centerpieces, she gathered Hobby Lobby paper flowers, paper birds, moss-covered rocks, dried beans, candles and bold-colored linens from Palmetto Party Rentals! It was an eclectic mix of fabulousness.

The weather was also amazing! Seventy-degree, sunny perfection graced us in October and made for a fabulous weekend. We also served gourmet shrimp and grits in martini glasses by Loosh Culinare and incorporated some non-traditional elements as well. Our moms and dads walked us down the aisle (both parents raised us, right?). We loved being hoisted in the air on chairs as in Jewish celebrations, and we passed Italian wedding cookies around instead of a traditional cake to honor Steve’s Italian heritage (he’s an Italian citizen!).

Describe your wedding cake or dessert: My colleague at work, who is a life insurance product specialist by day and photographer, jewelry, dress, and (apparently) ornate cake maker by night, created the three-tiered white cake with her mother and transported it, driving 20 miles an hour, from Lexington, SC. It was a work of art and tasted delicious!

What was the most memorable moment from your wedding day? Two moments. One was walking down the aisle with the veil covering my face and my parents in both arms. It was truly surreal with the light twinkling in, a sea of smiling, loving faces, and harp notes drifting through the breeze. Another was that we had SO much fun riding bikes around the fountains as our exit. We were having so much fun that we went for a second ride through the tunnel of guests and then hopped on a pedicab to our afterparty at Nonnah’s.

How did the two of you meet? Tell us your story. We met three years ago during our first days as graduate students in the School of International Business at USC. We both used the exact same word to describe our initial reaction to each other: Intrigued. For several months, we pursued our interest, curiosity, and desire of one another, developing a deep friendship. However, things weren’t all easy. Steve would be leaving the country soon for his eight-month internship and I felt the tension of wanting to be clear and definite about the nature of our relationship on one hand, and just allowing our love and connection to come in its own time on the other. I chose to allow, not force, the excitement, pleasure, and hope at each step along the way to bring us closer together. It was our inevitable separation for language study and internships in South America that brought clarity to our hearts about the depth and commitment of our feelings. Stephen had to leave for Brazil and shortly thereafter, I was to be in Mexico and then Chile. I realized that I was truly in love when while in Mexico, instead of enjoying the experience, I found myself spending all my time Skyping with Steve. Thanks to the wonders of Skype and a chance to be together for a few weeks in Brazil, our love and friendship grew and blossomed, despite the long separation.
Describe the proposal. Once we were both back in South Carolina, Steve hatched the perfect plan to propose that involved secretly getting his parents from Philadelphia, along with my parents, and tucking them away in a house on Sullivan’s Island. Then there was a very long and hot bicycle ride on the beach until he could find some privacy, a sandy knee for Steve, many tears of joy for me, and finally, a great big surprise party with both families back at the beach house when we returned newly engaged and deeply in love.
In what month did you get married? October
How many guests attended your wedding? 200
What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? Walt Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road” and “The Way.”
Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding. We liked the cello and harp duo, both USC students, that played. Steve walked down the aisle to Bach’s “Cello Song,” “The Swan” was played for the bridesmaids and groomsmen, and I walked down the aisle to Debussy’s “Girl with the Flaxen Hair,” which I did a solo ballet dance to as a moonbeam when I was young. It reminds me of grace, freedom, and lightness — just how I felt walking down the aisle. Steve’s sister and operatic genius, Megan, sang the “Glory of Love” with the cellist and harpist during the ceremony. For our first dance, we went back and forth on songs and finally settled on Stevie Wonder’s “You are the Sunshine of my Life.” We took dance classes at Vista Ballroom in the three weeks prior to the wedding and learned some basic American Rumba moves with dips and spins. Our band played the song live on the wedding day and it was a bit slower than practiced. We made it through laughing and feeling awkward the whole time but it was so fun!
Describe your wedding flowers: I’m not huge on flowers and told my mom only this: “Keep it local and vibrant and I like succulents.” She worked with a local florist but did the majority of the work herself – purchasing lots of succulents from Lowe’s.
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? Moving from surveying the options to making a decision! There were a lot of wonderful choices on all levels of detail, but getting momentum moving and checking items off the list relieved a lot of stress.
What range did your wedding budget fall into? $25,000-$50,000
What is the one thing you are most happy you splurged on? I felt very happy about not splurging on anything. It gave me a big sense of peace knowing that this day was about celebrating our union, not amassing debt or getting carried away on extravagant details. We creatively saved money at all points in the planning process and I felt amazing!
What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? Two moments. One was walking down the aisle with the veil covering my face and my parents in both arms. It was truly surreal with the light twinkling in, a sea of smiling, loving faces, and harp notes drifting through the breeze. Another was that we had SO much fun riding bikes around the fountains as our exit. We were having so much fun that we went for a second ride through the tunnel of guests and then hopped on a pedicab to our afterparty at Nonnah’s.
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Soak it in. It is intense to feel so much love and support from everyone in your life, so try to let go of the “plan” you’ve been scheming for months and soak in the wonderfulness of the day. Don’t get caught up in the “what’s next” part.
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you looking forward to in the future? We are renovating an old home and will be happy to move in and do what we love to do most – lay around in sweatpants, cook, drink wine or coffee and chat! We also have a pretty impressive travel lineup going: Patagonia, Berlin, Rio, Colombia, Sonoma, and more! We have a lot to look forward to!

marissa Written with love by Marissa
8 Comments
  1. avatar Katie @ Lovebird Productions reply

    The bright colors, the getaway bikes, her dress….it is such a wonderful Southern affair. I love it!

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  5. avatar alex reply

    who makes the berry colored bridesmaid dress? beautiful!

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