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I’m sure that none of our love stories happened exactly the way we may have grown up expecting them to, and in Elisa and Craig’s cases, Instagram certainly wasn’t where they imagined they’d someday meet their future spouse! When they finally met face to face, however, their connection was undeniable–Craig knew as soon as he asked Elisa to be his girlfriend that he’d someday ask her to be his wife. While these two are no stranger to the challenges of a long distance relationship, it made their Gatsby-inspired Chapel Hill wedding day all the more special and sweet…though their chocolate wedding cake, passed cupcakes, and milkshake shooters certainly contributed to the sweetness factor, too!

P.S. If Elisa and Craig look familiar, it may be because they’re gracing the back cover of V8! So fun!

Thank you so much to Grain & Compass for sharing this gorgeous day with us!

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. I don’t think either one of us expected to meet in such a unique way. In 2013, my husband, Craig, and I met on Instagram, as crazy as that sounds. He was living in Los Angeles at the time and I was interning in New York City. We had one mutual acquaintance on Instagram, and from the follow, to likes, to comments, our interest grew. In fact, we still have the screenshot of our first exchange. After texting turned into phone calls and phone calls turned into “FaceTime dates”, Craig flew from Los Angeles to NYC to meet me in person and take me on our first real date. That weekend was its own fairy tale. Without a dull moment, we spent our days exploring museums, going to a Mets baseball game, kayaking on the Hudson River, and eating our way through the Big Apple. Craig asked me that weekend to be his girlfriend. I would later find out that in that moment, he knew he was going to marry me. After a year of dating 3000 miles apart, I finished school and moved to Los Angeles to be with him. Our long distance journey to marriage has given us such beautiful perspective, because we now know that simply being in each other’s company is a blessing to treasure each day we are together.

Tell us about finding your wedding dress. Finding my wedding dress was something I had always imagined doing with my mom. However, my living across the country from her in Los Angeles did not make this easy, as traveling back and forth was not very ideal or cost-effective. Since we got engaged right before Thanksgiving, Craig and I spent the holiday in North Carolina and my mom was able to reserve just one bridal appointment at Tre Bella in Durham, an hour before our engagement session was to begin. At one point, I tried on the dress I had not pulled and was weary about, stepped out, and saw my mom’s face. This dress was so classic, elegant, and simple in comparison to what I has walked in thinking I would want. But from the classic silhouette, to the soft, flowing fabric, to the Gatsby-esque beading up the back and on the shoulders, I realized this was it. I never expected to find my wedding dress after only 45 minutes of looking!

Did you decide to do a first look? Why or why not? We chose to do a first look and we wouldn’t have had it any other way! To be able to share an intimate moment before the wedding just talking, laughing, and treasuring the time leading up to becoming husband and wife allowed us to share the whole day together. It also allowed us to take most of our formal pictures before the ceremony, which gave us more time to sneak away after and share a quiet moment eating some small appetizers and sharing our first drink as a married couple together. It was perfect.

Our favorite detail of the wedding was: My mom handmade two amazing wreaths for the doors we stood in front of for the ceremony out of gold-painted magnolia leaves she collected from the yard. She put so much love and time into them and they were stunning!

Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding and why you chose them. I knew that I wanted to walk down the aisle to a song that pointed to the reason for our marriage and the importance of the covenant we were about to make. Craig’s talented groomsmen, Justin Gaston and Ben Schofield, performed the song “I am Set Free” by All Sons and Daughters. After the unity candle lighting, we had both families, as well as the bridal party, surround us in prayer. During this moment, Craig’s brother and sister-in-law performed Craig’s favorite hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” reminding us and everyone that our faithfulness to each other is based on how ever faithful God is to us. We were so thankful to have so many friends share their amazing musical talents with us to make our day so special.

Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? Using my parents’ vows as a guide, we wrote our own version of their wedding vows. We really value those vows because we admire both sets of our parents’ commitment and love for each other, and also how their marriage points to their individual relationships with God. A line from our vows that I love is, “to give my life to you by listening and empathizing with you, encouraging and enabling you, believing in you and in what Christ is doing through you.”

What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? Did they have any special significance to you? We were both raised in the South–Craig in New Orleans and me in North Carolina. We really wanted a venue with rich Southern history and beautiful grounds for our guests to enjoy! With guests traveling from all over, many from LA, we also wanted to minimize any travel between hotels and venues. We decided on the most amazing place that has it all: The Carolina Inn. As soon as we stepped into the Old Well Room (after we booked it from LA, I might add–another win for pictures and my amazing mom!), we knew it really was perfect for our elegant, Gatsby affair!

How did you plan for your marriage while planning your wedding? Craig has an amazing friend and pastor from college who really walked us through the goal and meaning of marriage leading up to our wedding. We were challenged to identify how our parents influenced us, as well as our own experiences, habits, and expectations. The greatest thing we focused on was preparing to become a unified team founded on love and respect–when a wife is loved, she feels respected, and when a husband is respected, he feels loved.

Tell us all about the proposal! From Craig: I knew I wanted to create a really special moment for the proposal. We had been planning on going to a Christmas tree lighting at the Grove here in LA with a few friends when one of them mentioned that they do an epic fireworks show there, too. If anyone knows my wife, they know she LOVES fireworks. Since there was a group of us going, I told a few of our friends my plan: distract her for long enough to get in position, pull out the ring, and drop on one knee in front of everyone as soon as the fireworks started to go off. I knew this was going to be really tough because we would be hanging out for a while and I didn’t want anyone to break down and give it away–not to mention, being a wreck trying to keep the secret myself. The night came and went like a flash. Before I knew it, the tree was lit and it was time for the fireworks show. There I was, in the center of a sea of thousands with booming lights all around, asking the girl of my dreams to marry me. Several stutters later and not without plenty of iPhone photos and videos from both strangers and friends, I was an engaged man.
When did y’all get married? April 17, 2015
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? Just under 200
Describe your wedding flowers. My vision for the day was a classic, elegant, Gatsby affair. We chose black, gold, and white as our colors–this made my husband and in-laws, who are from New Orleans, very happy, because they just so happen to match the New Orleans Saints colors. It was a win-win for everyone in my book! I knew I wanted to keep the florals elegant and simple, with light yellow and white bouquets and a touch of greenery.
Describe your wedding cake or dessert. I wanted our wedding cake to be classic and match our aesthetic, but most importantly, I wanted the inside to be chocolate! We designed a two-tiered cake with a hand-painted gold base and a white top, joined by a fondant black stripe and white geometric piping. In addition, we passed out plates and plates of chocolate and yellow cake cupcakes with white frosting and gold dust sprinkled on top, letting everyone know it was party time! Our love of desserts did not stop there–milkshake shooters and hot cookies were enjoyed by all to keep the sugar rush high and the feet on the dance floor!
Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! I borrowed my sister-in-law’s veil, as well as my bridesmaid’s earrings. I also had my grandmother’s diamonds with me. We had always talked about my wedding when I was growing up, and she passed away the day after my wedding.
If you are comfortable responding, what range did your wedding budget fall into? $25,000-$50,000
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Our greatest advice would be to trust the experience of the vendors you have chosen and give them freedom to shine in their skills. Our vision was clear for each selection that was made, but the results of our planning, decoration, hair, makeup, photography, florals, stationery, etc. was because we let our vendors run with our ideas instead of keeping them bound by only are ideas or concepts.
What’s next for you as a couple? What memories are you looking forward to making together? For us right now, it’s building our life together in Los Angeles. We are both pursuing our passions and there’s no telling what the future holds. I’m sure there will be many trips back to our Southern roots in Louisiana and North Carolina, as well as abroad–we are excited for our 2016 trip to Europe!

Photographer and Videographer: Grain and Compass / Planner: Erin McLean Events / Venue and Caterer: The Carolina Inn / Florist: Barbara Long / Cake Baker: Once in a Blue Moon / Rentals: CE Rental / DJ: The Local DJ / Paper Products: Alissa Bell Press / Bride’s Gown: “Selia” by St. Patrick / Bride’s Hair Accessories: Yes Dear & Co. / Hair and Makeup: Lula Hair and Makeup / Bride’s Shoes: Nina / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: “Sleeveless Lace Cocktail Dress” by Aidan Mattox / Menswear: “Slim Fit Tuxedo” in Black by Calvin Klein

Erin McLean Events and Lula Hair and Makeup are delightful members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

lisa Written with love by Lisa
1 Comment
  1. avatar Dana reply

    The Carolina Inn looks like the perfect venue for a Gatsby inspired wedding!

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We had high expectations after our first Ultimate Southern Challenge, but y’all did not disappoint with round two! But before we announce the winner, we do have one very important piece of information to share:

Now, once again we were so impressed with the creative, crafty, and OH so Southern entries we received. It was tough to choose a winner, but using a combination of reader votes and editor opinions, we did reach a consensus!

Congratulations to Palm Papers + Catie Ronquillo! We adored their simple, but pretty brilliant, idea of sweet tea mason jars, and loved their suggestion of stacking the jars for a sweet and cost-effective centerpiece. Make sure you take another look at their fabulous idea here! You can also view more of Catie’s photography here, and Palm Papers’ work here!

Kudos also to our runners-up, Absolutely Fabulous Weddings. Check out their extremely unique project here!

And lastly, one more congratulations to ALL of our finalists — Carlee Sizemore + Leslie Kerrigan, Scobey Photography + Pretty Peachtree, and Nancy Ray + Erin McLean. We had tons of ideas sent in, so we hope you consider it an honor to be chosen as a finalist, because we certainly do!

Thank you again to all who participated! And stay tuned, because the next Ultimate Southern Challenge will be posted next week!! Suggestions for future challenges are welcomed below :)

emily Written with love by Emily
  1. avatar Catie Ronquillo reply

    Thanks y’all! What an honor! :) We loved working on this little project and glad y’all liked it too :)

  2. avatar Kristine {In Love, Engaged} reply

    Yaaay! My favorite entry won! Great job Palm Papers and Catie Ronquillo! LOVE these!

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Howdy, ladies! We have a really fun week coming up, where we’ll be unveiling the top five finalists in our second Ultimate Southern Challenge. A few weeks back we asked y’all to submit your best ideas for the most Southern and inspiring mason jar concepts, and we were once again delighted by the submissions! We’ve decided to post the top five this week, and the winner (who gets Southern Weddings bragging rights!) will be determined by reader popularity (i.e. the number of comments on their post) and the opinion of the SW editors. So let’s get cracking!

First up is the dynamic duo of Nancy Ray Photography + Erin McLean Events! Read on for all of the details behind their red velvet mason jar cake pull extravaganza!

From the ladies:

“Here is a fun little styled shoot, featuring mason jars as red velvet cake containers with whipped cream cheese icing. Also featuring the fun, traditional “cake pull,” where each ribbon baked inside has a little charm attached for whomever pulls it out. It’s a two-in-one wedding cake + wedding favor duo!”

Thanks so much, Erin + Nancy! Readers, if you love this idea, be sure to let us know in the comments! And remember, you’re welcome to give a vote of support to more than one concept.

emily Written with love by Emily
  1. avatar lauren jolly reply

    what an amazingly adorable idea!! i love reading creative ideas like this to keep in mind for my future wedding! this is sooo cute!!

  2. avatar Jenn reply

    SUCH a cute idea!! and so perfectly southern! might have to pass this along to a friend or two :)

    LOVE Nancy Ray and Erin McLean, both!

  3. avatar Robyn reply

    SO pretty, and what a unique idea!! Love it! :)

  4. avatar Amy reply

    These are aesthetically pleasing and look delicious! Love them!

  5. avatar Amy reply

    Love this shoot! Such a creative wedding favor! I’ve never even heard of a cake pull before! So cute!

  6. avatar Allyson reply

    What a great idea!! Love the charm idea :).. And great photography as always nancy! I love your work :)

  7. avatar Jordan reply

    LOVE this idea. So cute.

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  9. avatar Jess reply

    Looks delicious!! Not to mention these would make the cutest wedding cakes and favors! Too bad our wedding has already passed but it’s still fun to see the creative things folks come up with. At least we were blessed to have beautiful photos like these of our wedding day :) You’re great, Nancy!!

  10. avatar Melissa Tuck reply

    These are too adorable and so creative. Love!

  11. avatar Amber reply

    I absolutely love the lace, and yum love the red velvet cake. What a wonderful, traditional, and tasty way to send your guests home!

  12. avatar Brandy reply

    These are so adorable and look absolutely delicious! It helps that red velvet is my fave :) Wish I would’ve thought of something like this for my wedding a couple of weeks ago…

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  14. avatar mike gothard reply

    Fantastic concept and photos…exactly what I’d expect from these super creative ladies! Way to go, Nancy & Erin :)

  15. avatar shelby reply

    Love everything about this! My favorite part is the cake pull…you hardly see this anymore I feel like (unless you’re from New Orleans!), so it’s such cute way to incorporate this southern tradition in a modern wedding!

  16. avatar Linnea reply

    This is beautiful! Well done Nancy & Erin! I just want to grab a jar & eat up!

  17. avatar lindsay reply

    i would love to reach into my computer screen, take one of those mason jars, and dig my spoon right in! anyone would enjoy eating cake out of a mason jar! what a lovely idea.

  18. avatar Bethany Ann reply

    I LOVE this idea! I especially love that they added a cake-pull in it. :) Wonderful!

  19. avatar denise reply

    This idea is so clever, and not just because I LOVE red velvet cake. I would love to know what kind of charms they used. I am not familiar with this tradition, but I think it is so sweet!
    Way to go, Nancy and Erin!!!!

  20. avatar Noreen reply

    That is the most original and adorable idea! It is cute to introduce some “southern charm” especially if you are not from here! It is so unique!!

  21. avatar Shannon reply

    Love this idea! You could use it so many places:)

  22. avatar Kristina G reply

    Love!!! Makes me wanna eat my computer looking at it. Such a cute and creative idea.

  23. avatar Stephanie reply

    I love this! Super cute! I love things that make me feel childlike elegance. It makes me think of the tea parties that my mom used to set up for me and my friends. I love it.

  24. avatar cyn reply

    YUMMMY! And gorgeous images! Did y’all make me one ;)

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  26. avatar Penelope reply

    I did something similar at my own wedding and used cake pulls from and everyone loved them!

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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