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I remember when I saw Erica and John’s wedding for the first time in a draft for V8. I was immediately taken with their romantic color palette of pink, cream, and glittery gold, the stunning backdrop that Pippin Hill Farm provided, and, most of all, how joyfully in love these two are. With the help of Amore Events by Cody, Erica and John honored their respective upbringings with an “apples and cheese” theme running throughout their wedding details–Erica is from New York and John is from Wisconsin. This theme even carried into their late-night treats of cheesecakes and apple pies! Adorable theme and beautiful details aside, reading about John’s favorite part of their wedding makes their day even sweeter! One thing he mentioned was, “The 10 minutes with my wife immediately following the ceremony.” After seven years of marriage, I too can remember those unforgettable moments post-ceremony, and can attest to just how incredible and fleeting they are!

Thanks to Rachel May for sharing this beautiful day with us in print!

We got married at 6 P.M. on Saturday, September 5, 2015. When we got engaged, we knew right away that we wanted to get married outdoors in order to celebrate how much we love adventure, nature, and natural beauty. I knew that I wanted to get married in a barn, as the rustic chic look appealed to me as soon as I started wedding planning. We found a few barns in upstate New York that were pretty, but ultimately decided that we wanted to be in a location that had significance to both of us. We decided to start looking in southern Virginia because of all the amazing times we had spent together renting cabins in the Shenandoah. After some recommendations from friends, we drove to Charlottesville and starting looking for venues. Given that we got engaged at a winery (and how much we both love wine), we started thinking that a winery could be the perfect location. When we saw Pippin Hill, we fell in love with the beautiful scenery right away. We booked Pippin Hill about two days after first visiting, and we plan to go back year after year for our anniversary. It is such a special and beautiful place, and we are so glad we got to spend the best day of our lives there!

Describe your bridesmaids’ dresses. How did you choose them? When I first started looking at bridesmaid dresses, I fell in love with some pink Donna Morgan dresses and quickly sent them out to all of my bridesmaids. After searching through some blogs, though, I really started to like the mix-and-match bridesmaid dress look, and wanted to go that route. I found out two of my girls had already ordered the Donna Morgans, so I couldn’t go completely mix-and-match, as they had already started tailoring their dresses. I decided to do pairs of different dresses, and I love the way it all turned out!

I went dress shopping in both DC and New York with some of my bridesmaids and my mom. I thought I would love romantic tulle, but every time I tried on those dresses, something just didn’t feel right–like I wasn’t being myself. My style is very clean and classic, and I wanted to look like myself on my wedding day. It was important to me and John that we remained authentic to who we are on the day of our wedding, so I knew I had found my dress when I felt like the prettiest version of myself when I tried it on. My favorite thing about my dress is the way it made John react when he saw me for the first time. He just kept saying, “Your dress! Your dress! It’s beautiful. You look beautiful!” That was the reaction I was looking for.

Tell us a bit about the wedding ceremony. What part was most special to you? Did you include any special readings? Our wedding ceremony was the most beautiful and important forty minutes of our lives. My dad performed our ceremony, which was so special because he worked hard to make his remarks meaningful and personal. Both of our sisters-in-law read special passages, and every moment of the ceremony was emotional and true to who we are as a couple. It was truly gorgeous.

What songs did you use for your ceremony? For the bridal party processional, we used India Arie’s “Can I Walk With You.” I’ve wanted that song to be played at my wedding since I was a little girl, and it was so special to hear it on the big day! For my entrance, we used the traditional bridal march. For the recessional, we used Ray Lamontange’s “You Are the Best Thing.”

My favorite details were the ones that infused our apple, cheese, and literary motif. I’m from New York (“The Big Apple”) and John is from Wisconsin, which is known for its cheese. We’re both educators and we both love to read, so we wanted to infuse our love of books into the wedding as well. We had a beautiful logo made that was on our menu, welcome bag tags, and gift bags. We served cheeses from Wisconsin and New York during cocktail hour. For dessert, we served cheesecakes and apple pies. As a late night snack, guests enjoyed grilled cheese and apple sandwiches. Our centerpieces included a book display that looked gorgeous, and our cake stand was surrounded by books. I love how the theme was woven throughout the ceremony, reception, and all the small details of the wedding.

Describe some of the decorations or décor elements you used: Where to begin? Our colors were pink, cream and glittery gold, and the room was full of those colors. Our florist, Amy Webb of Blue Ridge Florals, did a wonderful job bringing the wedding colors to life through the flowers. My favorite part of the reception was the floral ladders hanging over the long farm tables. They were dripping with flowers and candles, and they were just gorgeous. We had bistro lights cascading from the beautiful wooden rafters at Pippin Hill. We had books to represent our love of literacy around the cake stand, in our logo, and on the tables. We also had apples as escort cards to go along with our apple and cheese theme. There were so many small details that made the wedding come together and it was absolutely perfect!

John loves John Legend and I love his song “Stay With You,” so deciding on our first dance song was a really easy choice. John also loves live music, so he had the awesome idea to have one of his very talented groomsmen sing our first dance song. I heard Raphael practicing for the first time right after the ceremony (he wanted to keep the performance a surprise for us) and was astounded. He sounded amazing! John’s extremely talented orchestra teacher, Kendall Isadore, accompanied Raph on violin, and turned it into such a beautiful cover. The week of the wedding, John and I took a few dance classes, so we had some pretty cool dips and tricks up our sleeves!

Tell us about your wedding cake or sweets. Though I didn’t get a piece myself because I was too busy dancing, everyone said that the wedding cake was delicious. We had a marble wedding cake with vanilla buttercream frosting, as well as cheesecakes and apple pies to go along with our theme. We also had a s’mores pit for guests to enjoy a late night treat!

How did the two of you meet? Tell us your story. We met while on a business trip to Houston in March 2013. We were both training for new leadership roles, me to be a vice principal and John to start his own school. The trip was an orientation for the five-week leadership program. I did not know many of the KIPP DC people, and John, having been with the company for six years at that point, warmly welcomed me into the group. John even gave me one of his drink tickets that night, and we spent the entire evening talking and getting to know each other. We had breakfast the next morning and even changed our travel arrangements in order to fly back to DC together at the end of the weekend. Even though we worked for the same organization in DC, we had never met before that fateful weekend. John always reminds me that he knew of me long before meeting me, and had always wanted to know more about that fourth grade teacher folks were buzzing about. We’ve been inseparable since the day we met.
Describe the proposal: I knew John was the one within weeks of meeting him. In fact, the truth is that I proposed to John first (about 10 months before he did). It seemed like I was joking when I shouted at him, “We should get married!” But really, I knew I meant what I had said. When we planned a 2014 trip to Argentina, I thought it would be the perfect time to really get engaged. When I called my dad for a final farewell and he asked me where I was going and who I was going with, my anxiety kicked into high gear. Was my intuition wrong? Was John not going to propose? Surely, my dad would know if John planned on asking me to marry him while on this vacation. Finally, my birthday arrived (part of the reason we were going to Argentina was to celebrate my birthday), and I finally had something else to be excited about. My mind moved away from the potential proposal–I resolved to have fun in Argentina and enjoy time with the love of my life. When we woke up the morning before my birthday, John announced that we would be flying to Mendoza, the wine country of Argentina. The next day (my birthday), as we sat and ate breakfast in the tiny restaurant of our inn, I heard an old car horn beeping outside. When I walked out of the restaurant, I saw a small circle of people gawking at a old Model A-style convertible. Still forcing myself to believe that this was all just for my birthday, we got in the car and were whisked away to the famous Nieto Seniter Vineyard. We began walking around the property and John walked us to two horses being held by a traditional Argentinian gaucho (cowboy). Little did they both know, I am pretty afraid of horses. Nonetheless, after some persistent urging from John, I got on and we went for a beautiful horseback ride through the vineyard at the foot of the Andes Mountains. After a while, the gaucho motioned for the horses to stop, and John got me (reluctantly) off the horse. We walked down a path and there under a tree was a picnic, a book, and a bottle of champagne. John opened the book, and inside, was a gorgeous ring, and he asked me to marry him. I, of course, said yes. Then, remembering my conversation with my dad on the plane, I asked, “Does my dad know?” John said of course, my dad had been in on it the whole time. John then told me to look up, and I saw one of the photographers from earlier in a tree–he had captured the whole proposal. Next to the wedding, our proposal was the second best day of my life!
Tell us about your beautiful engagement ring and how/why your husband (or the two of you!) chose it: My diamond is a 1.5-carat, round cushion-cut diamond. After John designed my ring, the store loved it so much that they named my setting the “Erica Setting.” John chose my ring and diamond based on quality of stone and the pronounced setting arrangement. John says my bold love is nearly matched with my bold ring–the stone stands alone at the top, but is supported by smaller paving diamonds below. John likes to compare my ring to our love. Our love stands at the top and is the boldest of its kind, but we have lots of family and friends to support us and help us shine along the way.
Three adjectives that describe the day are: Beautiful, enchanting, unforgettable
How many guests attended your wedding? 140
Groom’s favorite detail of the wedding: A letter from my bride, the first look, a house to stay in with family in the days leading up to the wedding, fantastic food, local beer, Wisconsin cheese, Mi Amigo cigars, the mountain backdrop, a Kit-Kat s’more station, and the 10 minutes with my wife immediately following the ceremony.
What were some of the highlights of the reception? My favorite moment of the reception was at the end of the night when we played our last song, “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey. Our friends were singing at the top of their lungs, and John picked me up and swung me around right at the height of the song. It was awesome. I also loved my dad’s toast. It was so heartfelt and emotional, and was a very special moment.
Did you toss the garter or bouquet? We did a bouquet toss. My good friend caught it and I love her boyfriend so…fingers crossed!
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you looking forward to in the future? I am looking forward to having adventures with my husband for the rest of my life. Whether it is hiking four miles up a mountain in Yosemite, jumping off cliffs in Jamaica, riding horses in Argentina, or just enjoying a four-hour-long “Cops” marathon in our living room, I always have a great time when I’m with him. I’m looking forward to forever. Next, we are focusing on buying our first house and getting some more room for our dog, Stella!

Photographer: Rachel May Photography | Videographer: Mwendo Weddings | Planner and Designer: Amore Events by Cody | Venue, Caterer, and Linens: Pippin Hill Farm and Vineyards | Florals: Blue Ridge Florals | Cake Baker: Sweethaus Bakery | Bride’s Gown: “Margot” by Anna Maier | Bridal Salon: Gabriella New York | Bride’s Shoes: Badgley Mischka | Bride’s Accessories:  BHLDN | Bridesmaid Dresses: “Annabelle” in Cashmere by Jenny Yoo, “Beaded Chiffon Blouson Dress” in Blush and Taupe by Adrianna Pappell, “Rachel” in Petal by Donna Morgan, “Laura” in Petal by Donna Morgan, “Tori” in Cream by Paper Crown | Hair Stylist: Top Knot Studio | Makeup Artist: Tiffany Lumpkin | Menswear: Allure Bridals | Paper Goods: Dandelion Patch | Rentals, Linens, and Reception Décor: MS Events | Favors: Fromagination | Transportation: Blue Ridge Tours | Lighting: Blue Ridge Lighting

marissa Written with love by Marissa
3 Comments
  1. avatar Perry Vaile reply

    Whoa this was beautiful! Rachel, beautifully done!

  2. avatar Jevettra Gardner reply

    Just a gorgeous wedding and the details are just oozing with wonderfulness!!

  3. avatar Chantal reply

    What a stunning affair – and beautiful photography. Might I ask where the bride got the ring box? I’m looking for one just like it. Thank you!

    xo,
    Chantal

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When a wedding planner and a chef tie the knot, you might expect beautiful styling, gorgeous details, and delicious food. And in the case of Elyse and Jack, you’d be right! Their wedding day at Stella Plantation had all of those things and more. Mixing together sweet details from their love story (yummy mini pizzas) with romantic decor (tons of dreamy candles, plus 13 different crystal chandeliers!), they created a celebration that was just as lovely as it was meaningful. I also love the way they weaved Elyse’s signature “xoxo” throughout their day, and right on into their newlywed home!

P.S. If you’re thinking the only way these photos could be prettier is if they were printed on glossy paper and surrounded by other wedding goodness, you’re in luck! We’re so glad Greer Gattuso was on hand to capture this beautiful wedding, and we were proud to feature it in Southern Weddings V8. If you don’t have your copy yet, look for it on news stands across the Southeast, or order it before we sell out here!

Since I’ve signed all of my letters to Jack with “xoxo” for years, we fell in love with the idea of having “xoxo” accents throughout the design! As guests were first introduced to the wedding through the save the dates, they noticed my handwritten “xoxo” at the top. We then commissioned one of the best local calligraphers to design our “xoxo” logo, which we used as a dance floor vinyl, had laser cut for our wedding cake topper, gold foiled on our napkins, printed on our koozies, and more! We even used “elysexoxojack” as our wedding hashtag! The “xoxo” has since carried over into our home decor, which continues to make me smile and think of our wedding.

Tell us about finding your wedding dress. Having shopped through New Orleans with my clients, I knew I’d have to travel to find my dress, so my mother, bridesmaids, and aunts joined me in Houston for a long weekend. Ironically, the bridal attendant had to force me to try my dress on! After removing the one-shoulder strap and some floral appliqués, it was exactly what I had envisioned myself wearing.

As the guests arrived for our wedding ceremony, they were greeted by my six honorary bridesmaids at our confetti bar! They were instructed to make their own mix of navy and metallic confetti to toss at us as we walked back up the aisle as husband and wife. Our immediate family members were given wedding bells to ring after our kiss, and my sorority sisters were each handed a Killarney rose–my sorority’s signature flower.

Tell us a bit about the wedding ceremony. My dad walked me down a long, tree-lined aisle as a cello and violin played. Once the celebrant greeted the guests, my aunt delivered an original ode to love. This was followed by the reading of the poem “Love” by Roy Croft, a poem read during recruitment in Delta Zeta Sorority, by my maid of honor, and a contemporary version of Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” sung by a dear friend. Thank goodness I had gifted Jack a “Mr.” hanky because I needed it a few times myself!
Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? We wrote an original set of vows for both of us to repeat during the ceremony. These vows were a little more traditional, but still so meaningful to us.

Did you have a cocktail hour? If so, what was it like? The cocktail party started outside of the tent at our champagne table, where we had rows of pre-poured champagne, each glass adorned with either a gold pom, a rock candy stick, or a rim of edible gold sugar. Our family and friends enjoyed cocktails around highboys with floral ties by the glow of our three 10-foot walls of candles.

New Orleans thrives on a buffet-style reception–they keep people moving, mingling, and dancing! Food was really important to Jack, as he’s a chef, but I am a picky eater, so we wanted to have food that could could represent us both. We offered elegant food like oysters bordelaise, turtle soup, red snapper filet with crawfish ravigot, cajun duck breast, and marsala mushroom-topped tenderloin to suit Jack’s sophisticated palate. Then, to represent my favorite foods, we served miniature Margherita pizzas and had a french fry and mac and cheese bar that guests could top with their favorite accoutrements!

Did you try anything new or nontraditional? Our guest book was a nod to the hopeless romantic in each of us! Like the Parisian love lock bridge, we asked guests to sign and add their well wishes for our relationship to a padlock, then lock in their love by attaching it to a trellis, which we continue to enjoy in the landscaping in our backyard!

What was your reception like? As cocktail hour came to an end, the drapes of the tent were pulled back to reveal the reception inside. A golden-draped tent with 13 different crystal chandeliers added the backdrop and lighting for our perfect night! Our tables were a mix of round and square tables, the chairs were a mix of gold chiavari, gold estate, and ghost chairs, and our three different specialty table linens added various navy textures to the room. The whole room twinkled!

Our cakes added some wow factor! The wedding cake was a four-tiered fondant cake accented with gold leafing and topped with our xoxo wooden cake topper! It sat on a gold bar cart–a gift from my aunts for my bridal shower–adorned with candles on the bottom shelf and on the floor around the base. The backdrop was a custom painted and gold-leafed wall that our florist created. After we cut our cake, we asked the ladies of the bridal party to join us for a cake pulls–a Southern tradition where each girl pulls a charm out of the cake that is said to predict their fate. The groom’s cake was four stacked king cakes, a New Orleans speciality, with a fleur de lis topper and purple, green, and gold Mardi Gras beads scattered on the table!

Don’t miss Elyse and Jack’s wedding film by our Blue Ribbon Vendor Bride Film below!

How did the two of you meet? Tell us your story. In eighth grade, my parents moved to a new city right outside of New Orleans, where I made many new friends! One afternoon, I had joined my new girlfriends at the ballpark to watch their friends play baseball. After a foul ball was hit towards the stands, I scooped it up and chucked it back to the boys. Let’s just say that I didn’t throw like a girl! Impressed by my athleticism, Jack came to chat with me after the game. We spent many afternoons together at the ballpark after that, and the rest is history!
Tell us about a date you’ll always remember. For our one-year dating anniversary (keep in mind that we were 16 years old), Jack told me that he was going to cook pizza, my favorite meal, from scratch. He surprised me by writing “I <3 U” in pepperonis! He had already discovered his love for cooking (he's now a chef) and had gotten pretty good at it, so the fact that he simplified his dinner plans to cook this simple dish showed that he really understood and loved me. I’ve always told him just how special that meal made me feel! Describe the proposal: After the weather forced Jack to change his plans of proposing in the park in front of a photographer, the ring must have been burning a hole in his pocket. The very next day, he surprised me with another hand-tossed pizza, this one reading “Marry Me?” in pepperonis– a nod to our one-year anniversary date! Needless to say, we were too excited to eat the proposal pizza!
Three adjectives that describe the day are: Elegant, custom, lively
How many guests attended your wedding? 200
What did the groom and groomsmen wear? Jack had purchased a light navy suit months before the wedding, but three weeks before the big day, an editorial arrived in the mail with a velvet, navy tux blazer that he had to have! It arrived just in time! He also wore my late grandfather’s Rolex watch that my father asked him to wear. During my dad’s rehearsal dinner speech, he said, “Jack, I would like you to wear this watch this weekend so that Elyse’s grandfather can be a part of his granddaughter’s wedding. Keep it on your wrist so he can feel your pulse quicken as you watch Elyse walk up the aisle in her beautiful wedding dress.” It meant so much to me to have my Dide there in spirit! The groomsmen all wore matching black suits with navy skinny ties. We also gifted them polka dot socks for a fun touch.
Tell us about your wedding flowers. I really wanted my bouquet to have a hand-picked, natural feel, so we used lush blooms in whites, ivories, and blush mixed with loose, cascading foliage to give it lots of movement. We applied gold leafing to a few leaves for a gilded touch! We used Frou Frou Chic hand-dyed ribbon to tie it all together. As a finishing touch, I had “Mrs. Jennings” in my handwriting turned into a gold bracelet, which we wrapped around the stems. Just as the bridesmaids’ dresses were different, I wanted their bouquets to be different as well. Each had the same filler flowers and foliage, but a unique focal flower! I also made each of the ladies a handwritten gold bracelet with their names to wrap around their bouquets.
Tell us a bit about your first dance. We danced to “Amazed” by Lonestar, which has been “our song” since we first started dating in 2003–the year the song became most popular. We sang every word of the song to each other while we danced! So romantic and nostalgic!
Tell us about your grand exit. In true dramatic fashion, we ended our reception with fireworks over the Mississippi River to celebrate not only our love, but all of the love that surrounds us each and every day! It was a truly magical ending to the most incredible weekend of our lives, and the perfect start to our forever!

Planning and Design: Elyse Jennings Weddings | Venue: Stella Plantation | Photographer: Greer Gattuso Photography | Videographer: Bride Film | Candles and Lighting: Luminous Events | Florist: Bee’s Wedding and Event Designs | Rentals: Perrier Rentals | Vintage Rentals: Distressed Rentals | Hair Stylist: Ginger Dickey | Makeup Artist: Ashley Sievert | Band: Groovy 7 | Catering: New Orleans Catering | Ceremony Musicians: New Orleans Finest Musicians | Officiant: Rev. Johnny Adams | Transportation: Bonomolo and Hotard | Save the Dates and Invitations: Tupelo Honey | Invitation and Envelope Calligraphy and Signage: Ebb and Flow | Cake Baker: Royal Cakery | Champagne Flutes: Anthropologie | Bride’s Gown: Ines Di Santo | Bridal Salon: Ivory Bridal Atelier | Bride’s Veil: Wedding Belles | Bride’s Earrings: Kendra Scott | Bride’s Shoes: Jimmy Choo | Bride’s Robe: Flora Nikrooz | Menswear: Express | Bridesmaid Dresses: Adrianna Papell and Badgley Mischka | Tinsel Stirrers: Em for Marvelous | XOXO Cake Topper: My Girl Josephine | Bouquet Ribbon: Frou Frou Chic | Name Bracelets: Yvonne Boutique | XOXO Floor Decal: Off the Wall Expression | Confetti: Inside My Nest | Frosted Go Cups and Napkins: For Your Party | Koozies: Discount Mugs

Greer Gattuso, Bride Film, and Stella Plantation are delightful members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

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

    By far one of my favorite weddings. It is the perfect mix of elegant and fun. I might be using some of these ideas :-)

  2. avatar Champagne bar with tinsel stirrers – Em for Marvelous – reply

    […] of my very favorite weddings from the latest issue of Southern Weddings is on their blog today! Elyse and Jack, who began dating when they were 16, blew me away with all of the thoughtful and […]

  3. avatar Elyse reply

    Our wedding was the very best day of my life and it’s made me smile from ear to ear to relive it through the magazine and the blog! You ladies are just the sweetest! XOXO

  4. avatar Sybil reply

    Beautiful wedding! I love alll the detail and how special it seems for the couple.

  5. avatar Nicole reply

    Beautiful…so this is what a wedding looks like when a super talented wedding planner makes the dream of her wedding day come to life. Details, Details, Details, Love, Love, Love!!!

  6. avatar Brooke reply

    This was one of my favorite weddings from the new magazine! Seeing even more pictures on the blog is just so exciting! I absolutely love the confetti bar and the mini chicken and waffles!

  7. avatar 5 Southern Wedding Traditions Any Couple Can Incorporate reply

    […] See the full wedding here! […]

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