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It has been just over three months since my wedding, and what I think I’ll always remember most about that day is how gosh darn happy I felt. Looking through these images of Jenica and Dylan’s celebration, it’s so clear that they could say the same! They look so full of joy, from Jenica’s time getting ready with her girls, right down to their fabulous reception. I especially loved reading about their most memorable moments, because they’re probably ones that they didn’t anticipate being favorites. The unexpected moments are what make every wedding totally unique, and the ones Jenica and Dylan experienced are sweet as can be!

Thanks so much to Robert J Hill for sharing this special day with us!

I had gone to about four appointments at different bridal salons in Georgia, Florida, and Virginia, always with multiple friends and family. I finally found what I was looking for on a solo outing. Dylan was working that Saturday and I was new to the area and didn’t have many friends, so I went exploring on my own. When I saw the adorable bridal shop in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, I thought, “Why not, I’m engaged and still in need of a dress.” Without an appointment, I found a classic satin, a-line dress with lace details, a big bow, no sweetheart neckline, and in ivory–just what I wanted! With my mother-in-law-to-be in tow and my mom FaceTimed in, I returned a few weeks later to buy the dress.

Did you decide to do a first look? Why or why not? Yes! As progressive as we may be, we really value tradition, so this was not an easy decision. But we knew that as soon as we were married, we would be ready to celebrate with our friends and family. We did not want to miss any part of our day, including the cocktail hour. I also wanted taking our wedding pictures to be a great experience–calm and not rushed. It was very relaxing and romantic to have had that quiet time alone to share our excitement and focus on what the day was really about, without the dozens of eyes that were on us at any other point of the day.

How did you plan for your marriage while planning your wedding? As required by the church, we attended marriage prep courses that covered every subject you can imagine and led to constructive conversations that are always fun to have. We liked the class, and we dedicated time the night after each course to go over what we had talked about in the privacy of our home.

What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Focus on a few major things–the details that are must. Budget for them first and make sure there is someone, like a planner, there to execute them. Then, let the rest go! Put yourself in a position to just show up at your wedding and be grateful for what your family, friends, and vendors have done for you. Enjoy your day and cherish your groom, let go of your dreams, and live in the moment. In true Southern spirit, be a host with a gracious heart.

All of our dinner food was Southern: fried catfish, oysters, shrimp, a po-boy station, a grits bar, collards, and cornbread. We also had lots of Southern desserts! Our wedding logo featured our monogram, which we put on as many things as we could: the invitations, cups, napkins, fans, the advice sheet, etc. We had sweet tea with the sign “The South, where love and family are the sugar in our tea” next to it. We decorated with magnolias leaves in all of the arrangements and garlands. And of course, the venue itself was Southern–an old lumber mill on a bayou complete with Spanish moss, rocking chairs on the front porch, and mosquitoes!

What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? From Dylan: I wanted a second to myself to try and let the day sink in, so at one point, I walked out beyond the glow of the tent and stood alone under the willow tree. As I started to light the cigar my new mother-in-law had given me, everyone suddenly fell quiet. I looked up and saw the band leader reach out and help Jenica onto the stage. I knew, we all knew, that this was it, what everyone was waiting for and what I was hoping for: my wife was about to sing! Her “too good to be true” voice rang out into the night, “At last, my love has come along…” My friends finally noticed me in the back and pulled me to the dance floor. My lonely days were over, and in that moment, my life was a song. From Jenica: Honestly, probably leaving our wedding! A family friend let us use his red convertible Mustang as our getaway car. As we drove off, the driver turned up one of our favorite songs. Sitting on the back of the car while driving down the pitch black, windy road felt magnificent after sweating all day. The venue is very secluded and the sky was completely clear; we could see thousands of stars, something we don’t see in the city where we live now. We gazed up at the stars while singing at the top of our lungs, grinning ear-to-ear. We reflected on how perfectly our wedding day had gone and how happy we were to finally be married. It was so magical, and I’ll never forget it!

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. We met in graduate school at Florida State University at a mutual friend’s birthday party. I actually had a first date planned for later that night, but was having such a good time with Dylan that I called it off. Best decision ever!
Tell us all about the proposal! He proposed on Christmas day 2013. He led me to believe that he was going to pop the question on a trip to St. Thomas that we had planned for after the holidays, but instead, he surprised me while I was in my gym clothes at Fort Washington Park as we overlooked a beautiful sunset on the Potomac River. This is a very special place for me, as I always go running there and love to explore the area with my family when I visit my grandparents. He knows that I am very close to my family, and he wanted them to be able to share in our special occasion.
When did y’all get married? May 16, 2015
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 160
Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding and why you chose them. Our first dance was to Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me.” This was a very easy selection for me. It is one of my grandfather’s favorites, so it has always reminded me of my grandparents and the love they shared for 60 years. This song speaks to the central truth about a strong marriage, that not if, but when, hardship comes, as long as we stand by each other, we have nothing to fear. Dylan and I danced to this song many times in our kitchen while cooking dinner together prior to our wedding day, so it also evokes some of our favorite memories. We surprised Dylan’s mother by having them dance to R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly,” a song that Mrs. Conley has told Dylan his whole life reminded her of him. She was beside herself on the dance floor when it came on, and all the guests joined in by waving their arms and candles.
Our favorite detail of the wedding was: Every detail of our wedding day was pretty perfect, but our favorite component of our wedding was that we celebrated for multiple days. Instead of having only the one day to say a few words to each guest, we rented a huge house in Watercolor, Florida for our families and bridal party. We also arranged other rentals within walking distance for extended family and friends. We celebrated from Wednesday through Monday with pool parties, personal chefs, catering, and games. The neighborhood is truly stunning, and is a place that Dylan and I love very much. Turing our wedding into a huge vacation made our year and half of planning all worth it!
If you are comfortable responding, what range did your wedding budget fall into? $25,000-$50,000
What’s next for you as a couple? What memories are you looking forward to making together? I moved to Rhode Island after graduate school and we recently bought a house! We are looking forward to settling into our new life in Rhode Island. We love to travel, so we look forward to many great trips before we start a family.

Photographer: Robert J Hill / Videographer: Garrett Dollar / Planner: Kaley Wells / Ceremony Venue: St. Rita Catholic Church / Reception Venue: Eden Gardens State Park / Florist: Events by Nouvea / Dessert Baker: Fatty Patty’s / Caterer: Dee’s Catering / Band: True Soul / Bride’s Gown: Tara Keely / Bridal Salon: The Bridal Garden / Hair Stylist: Misty Lemire / Makeup Artist: Christina Engman / Bride’s Shoes: Betsey Johnson / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: “Ann” in Melon by Little Borrowed Dresses / Menswear: Men’s Wearhouse

lisa Written with love by Lisa
  1. avatar Earcandy reply

    It was probably a magnificent sight for the bride to see her groom standing against the night sky underneath a willow tree. The fact that groom took the time to let it sink it probably made it all the more memorable – not that anyone could ever forget their wedding day.

  2. avatar Abbey reply

    I would love to know where you got the bridesmaid’s monogrammed pajamas? I’m looking for something similar.


  3. avatar Dana reply

    they are so happy!!! love it!

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Happy May! I’m so very excited to introduce you to our third Southern Bride of the Month. Readers, meet Megan! She comes with a handsome fiance, Brandon. Read on for all the details of her wedding planning journey, including her ah-mazing Southern reception menu (mac and cheese on a stick!) and the hilarious (and sweet) way they chose a first dance song.

Hi! What’s your name?

What’s your fiancé’s name?

How did the two of you meet? Tell us your story.
Oddly enough, a girl from New York and a boy from DC ended up at the same tiny college in Chattanooga, TN. We would see each other around the softball fields at school but never actually spoke to one another. Brandon remembers my braces. I remember when he actually had hair on his head! We were never in the same circle of friends, so it took us years to finally meet.

After graduation I was offered a job teaching second grade and spent the summer planning for my first real classroom. Brandon and I were both with friends at a local Chattanooga Lookouts game when we were introduced. It wasn’t love at first sight. In fact, we both had our hearts in different places at the time. That summer, however, Brandon basically became like another roommate around my house. The turning point in our friendship was when he met my mom. She spent a week helping me set up my new classroom, and at the end swore he liked me. Moms are always right about these things!

From that point on, things had changed. We never spent another day apart. And he spent many of those days asking me to be his girlfriend. And even though it took some time, saying yes was the best decision I ever made.

Image credit: Leslie Woodard

Now tell us alllll about the proposal.
Although Brandon and I had talked about getting married, he did his best to throw me off course for a while. Brandon got down on one knee on many occasions before he actually asked me to marry him. Sometimes he would get down on one knee… and pick something up. Or get down on one knee, look at me… and tie his shoe! He thought those games were clever! Me, not so much.

Our proposal was simple and sweet and, most, importantly, us. One Friday evening after work, we picked up a few slices of pizza and drove out to the beach. We laid out a big towel on the sand and had a yummy picnic. We kicked off our sandals and went for a walk along the water. Brandon stopped and got down on one knee. I tried to pull him up, and told him to stop playing these games with me. He told me he loved me and he couldn’t wait for me to be his wife, and took out a beautiful ring. I dropped down onto my knees and hugged him and kept asking, “Is this real this time?” Please don’t be joking!”

When’s the big day?
May 29, 2011

Where might you two be tying the knot?
Eden Gardens State Park in Point Washington, FL

Image of Eden Gardens by Pure7 Studios. See more from this wedding here + here!

How did you pick your ceremony and reception venues? What do you love most about each space?
We knew we wanted to choose a venue that would offer a warm Southern welcome to our families traveling from up north. I had been to Eden Gardens years ago for a friends wedding, and found myself comparing each venue we looked at to it.This is the venue of my dreams. We will be getting married under a huge moss-draped oak tree, and celebrating, in true outdoor fashion, under strings of white cafe lights.

Image credit: Jose Villa via Snippet & Ink

Who or what has been most inspiring in the wedding planning process?
I am a wedding blog stalker! Even before Brandon and I got engaged, I was saving pictures to my wedding folder of all the colors and ideas I loved. Southern Weddings features the most beautiful weddings, and saving pictures of centerpieces, cakes, dresses and decor was such a great place to start.

Who or what has been most helpful in the wedding planning process?
It’s amazing how much people are willing to help with wedding projects. Our families and friends have been so supportive of our ideas, that many of them have stepped up to the plate to take things off our hands. For example, last weekend my aunt and grandmother went to a farmer’s market and basically bought out 30 pounds of ripe organic strawberries to make jam for our wedding favors. A lady from our church is making us wooden signs. My roommates helped me make banners, table numbers and even stuff our invitations. We really are so blessed to be surrounded by so many people who love us.

Has your vision for your wedding changed or evolved over the course of your engagement? If so, how?
Being realistic about our budget has definitely evolved my wedding vision. Along the way there have been many times where I’d have to stop and ask myself, “Do I need this? Is this a non-negotiable?” Some things fell into the “worth the splurge” category, and others didn’t make the cut.

Have you picked your dress yet? How’d that go? What will you be wearing on the big day?
My mom and sister flew down from New York to go dress shopping with me. I had no idea what I wanted. I didn’t even bring any pictures with me! The girls at Solutions Bridal are amazing! They selected six dresses for me to start with, but by the time I tried on my second dress, I was sold! I will be wearing a Marisa 737 gown and it was made for me!

I knew what my bridesmaids would be wearing, however, way before I had a clue what I would put on: navy Amsale dresses in six different styles. They are fabulous!

Who is your favorite vendor you’ve booked so far?
I am so excited about our caterer, Dine by Design. The owner, Kim, has been so helpful throughout the entire planning process. Brandon and I wanted fun food, that put a Southern spin on comfort food! Dine by Design is knocking this one out of the park! You might wanna sit down for this. Macaroni and cheese on a stick, two-bite burgers, garlic mashed potatoes, grits, and my dream-come-true biscuit bar just to name a few.

Image credit: Anna Robin (see more from this V3 shoot here!)

Do you have a favorite Etsy store you’d love to tell us about?
Etsy is addicting. By Invitation Only made our gorgeous invitation suites. We got so many compliments on them! And Weddingcollaborator made our adorable flower girl dresses.

What has been the best part of wedding planning? The worst part?
The best part of this planning process would have to be how invested my groom is! Brandon isn’t much help when it comes to color palettes and flowers, but watching him eat six pieces of wedding cake and hug our cake vendor was priceless! He even picked out our wedding song in the middle of a pet store. He heard a song playing over the speakers, pulled me in to dance with him in the middle of the dog food aisle, and told me he found our wedding song.

What do you wish you would have known at the beginning of your engagement?
I wish I had known how much work goes into a true outdoor wedding. Since both our ceremony and reception will be outside, we will be renting everything from spoons to stoves. I had my wedding goggles on when the planning began. I only saw the possible challenges I wanted to see, and now I truly see how much work and how many details are going into the event.

Image credit: Leslie Woodard

Any advice you’d like to pass along to fellow brides?
Become a blog obsessed bride like me, and enter as many contests and giveaways as possible! It doesn’t hurt! And you’ll be so excited and overjoyed when you finally win something. I even won a free wedding website through Wedding Window!

Now it’s your turn to ask for advice – is there anything you’d like to poll the SW readers on?
It feels like there are a hundred gifts to buy before our wedding arrives. There are no shortage of suggestions for bridal party gifts, but what will you be giving your groom, parents and readers?

Thank you so much for playing along, Megan! Readers, if you’d like to apply to be a Southern Bride of the Month, check out this post for all the details! If you’ve already emailed me, you’re still in the running for future months!

The Southern Bride of the Month header was designed by our intern Sierra, with illustration by Curious & Company!

emily Written with love by Emily
  1. avatar Lisa reply

    Southern Bride of the Month has become one of my new favorite blog features! Megan, you are so adorable and you are going to be a gorgeous bride!

    • avatar Kelly reply

      Megan! Hi from the April Southern Bride! :) I am from Destin, FL and Eden Gardens is one of my all time favorite spots! I’ve been there numerous times just to walk around and sit on the dock that overlooks the bay! It’s absolutely gorgeous there!!! Congratulations! It’s almost here!

    • avatar Jess reply

      Oh my heck, I LOVE the doily “Love is sweet” banner! It matches these fabric doily hangings I made for my reception

  2. avatar Alison reply

    Congrats Megan! You will be a beautiful bride! I am also in desperate need of ideas for gifts! We need ideas for southern, meaningful gifts for our moms and dads. Any ideas out there???

  3. avatar Amanda reply

    Megan, I am recently engaged and my wedding is not until June 2, 2012. But, I already have bought my fiance’s wedding gift!! When we were having my engagement ring resized at his jeweler, he pointed out the Tag Heuer Carrera Calibre watch. I secretly put it on layaway for him and he has no idea. My advice for your groom gift: give him something he REALLY wants, but that he would never buy for himself, nor would you likely buy for him on a birthday or Christmas. One of my other friends bought her husband a riding law mower, the kind that turns 360 degrees. She rode up to the reception on it in her wedding dress! Coolest wife ever.

  4. avatar erica reply

    Thanks for featuring our infamous tree image again! And a big congrats to Megan & Brandon!

  5. avatar Weekly Round-Up « Southern Weddings Magazine reply

    […] plans, their gorgeous venue, and yes, the macaroni and cheese on a stick they’re serving here! Save Facebook it Tweet […]

Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

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