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While we try to share weddings that correspond with the season we’re currently in, one of the wonderful things about the South is that in some places, the season doesn’t really matter much! Ali and Matt were married on December 28, but in sunny Florida, that didn’t mean snow, pashmina scarves, and hot chocolate bars the way it does elsewhere; rather, it meant the perfect temperature for an outdoor ceremony and a reception under the stars. From the stone walls at their venue to their first dance, everything about Ali and Matt’s wedding day was incredibly romantic, and I can imagine that the December date made it feel even more intimate and cozy!

Thank you so much to Ash Imagery for sharing this lovely day with us!

Matt proposed on August 10, 2012. The plan was to go out to dinner for Matt’s dad’s birthday, so we got all dressed up and started walking to the restaurant. It was the summer, and Matt was extremely hot and started sweating. Since he was in a blazer, I kept telling him to just take off his blazer so he would be more comfortable, but he kept refusing, saying that “he looked good in it” (unbeknownst to me, he had the ring in his jacket and didn’t want me to accidentally see it!). We ended up walking almost all the way to the restaurant, and as we were walking through Rittenhouse Square (a really nice park in Center City Philadelphia), Matt just stopped. I turned around, and he was down on one knee!! I may have hit him with my purse in disbelief. Before I had the chance to call anyone, Matt ushered me to the restaurant, where my entire family and all of my closest friends were there waiting for us! It was absolutely perfect. We were able to have our private moment, and then share and celebrate with all friends and family.

Tell us about finding your wedding dress. I had been obsessed (thanks to Pinterest) with a fitted lace dress, so as soon as Matt proposed, I started my hunt to find it. When I finally found it and tried it on, I was completely underwhelmed. At my next dress shopping trip, my mom suggested I try a completely different style than what I was previously thinking, so I tried on a big ball gown and absolutely fell in love. As soon as I put it on, I felt great in it–it was unique and still classic at the same time!

Did you decide to do a “first look”? Why or why not? We decided to do a first look for a number of reasons. After picking all the hors d’oeuvres, live music, and decor, we wanted to be able to enjoy every aspect of the wedding, which meant we needed to do pictures beforehand. We also liked the idea of having a private moment between the two of us before hosting such a big event!

We had three readings–my cousin read the first and last, and my uncle read the second (the one in Spanish). The first reading was “Blessing For A Marriage” by James Dillet Freeman, the second was “Soneto XVII” by Pablo Neruda, and the third was “Union” By Robert Fulghum.

What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? Did they have any special significance to you? I am from Florida, but Matt is from Philadelphia (where we live now), so we started looking in both areas for wedding venues. As soon as we saw Bella Collina, we both knew that it was the perfect place. Neither of us knew that there was such a fantastic place in the outskirts of Orlando (where I grew up).

Matt and I had planned a whiskey and cigar bar with plenty of cutters and lighters, as well as matches that had our favorite book covers on them. However, the cutters somehow didn’t make it to the venue. Luckily, Matt had kept his wedding gift from me, a cutter and lighter, in his pocket, so everyone who wanted a cigar had to come say hi and chitchat with Matt to do so. We didn’t plan this at all, but it ended up being one of our favorite details because it made that part of the evening even more personal. We wanted everyone at the wedding to feel special, because they all are such important people in our lives.

For our first dance, we went with Louis Armstrong’s version of “La Vie en Rose.” I absolutely love this song–I find it so romantic, and Louis Armstrong’s version always makes me feel love. We wanted the DJ to skip the intro and start the song when Louis starts singing, but he must have misunderstood and only played the beginning trumpet solo. No one knew any different, and some of our guests even thought we did it on purpose and commented on how romantic it was!

Describe your wedding cake or dessert. I loved the idea of having a giant dessert bar with a bunch of tiny desserts, but we also wanted some cake. We decided on three small cakes (red velvet, marble, and carrot) that could be surrounded by all the mini desserts. The desserts included mini pear caramel bread pudding; mini Irish cream bread pudding; mini pies in cherry, apple, and pumpkin; Key Lime cupcakes; red velvet and chocolate Cabernet glitter cake pops; mini gingerbread bundts with powdered sugar; chocolate-covered Oreos; s’mores on a stick; raspberry tarts; hot chocolate on a stick; mini cannoli; lemon squares; fig tarts; Oreo truffles; and mini red velvet peppermint cupcakes. Our only regret of the night is not asking for a to-go box with one of each dessert! Somehow, the only dessert we got was the piece of cake we fed each other after the cake cutting!

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. Matt and I met teaching English in Chile. Matt had been there for four months, and I was one of the newbies. We hit it off as friends right away, and then developed crushes on each other, but being in another country, we didn’t really think that we would be able to last as anything more than friends. When we got back to the States, it was pretty obvious that we wanted to keep seeing each other!
When did y’all get married? December 28, 2013
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? Around 250
What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? Our wedding was on December 28 and it was held entirely outside; this could only happen in the South!
What range did your wedding budget fall into? More than $100,000
What was one way you saved money or cut costs at your wedding? I think the biggest way we saved money was on the invitations. We used Wedding Paper Divas and they turned out amazingly! Wedding Paper Divas had so many options for such a great price. Also, instead of using a calligrapher, we found and downloaded a really pretty font and printed the addresses right on the envelope. I found a how-to on the internet and it was so easy!
What is the one detail or vendor that you were so happy to have as a part of your wedding? We decided to splurge on our videographer (Moetic Wedding Films) and photographer (Ash Imagery), and we were so happy we did! People tell you that the wedding day goes by so quickly that you will barely remember it, and unfortunately, that is true! Having a good videographer and photographer really paid off because we are able to relive our wedding day through our photos and video. They both did an incredible job and we are so grateful to have picked them!!
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? For the ladies, I would say two things. First, Pinterest is your best friend during the initial stages of wedding planning, but once you start making decisions, stop looking!! Second, a day-of wedding planner is a must! I was able to relax and not think about a single detail on my wedding day because our planner/coordinator was taking care of it all! Matt’s advice for the gentlemen is “Make sure your suit fits and be on time.”
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you most looking forward to about married life? We are staying in Philadelphia for a little bit. Matt is finishing law school and I just got a job working in early childhood education. However, we can’t stay away from the South for too long, so I think that once we start expanding our family, we will make our way back to sunny Florida.

Photographer: Ash Imagery / Videographer: Moetic Wedding Films / Planner: Alison Watkins of Blush by Brandee Gaar / Venue and Caterer: Bella Collina / Florist: Lee James Floral Design / Wedding Cake: Party Flavors / Dessert Bar: Two Sweets Bake Shop / Lighting: Kaleidoscope Event Lighting / DJ: DJ Wade of Other Brother Entertainment / Paper Products: Wedding Paper Divas / Bride’s Gown and Veil: Rivini / Bride’s Jewelry: Solutions Bridal / Hair and Makeup Artist: Cristi Miranda / Bride’s Shoes: “Something Blue” by BHLDN / Men’s Attire: Point Click Tailor

Two Sweets Bake Shop is a delightful member of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

lisa Written with love by Lisa
9 Comments
  1. avatar Kyle reply

    Thank you for featuring this stunning wedding!!! We can’t get enough of it!! Ash Imagery did such a fantastic job capturing their joy and the gorgeous details!!

  2. avatar Loverly reply

    Her dress is absolutely stunning, so unique!

  3. avatar Lauren Taylor reply

    Wow! Her dress and all the details are so beautiful! The bride and groom look so incredibly happy, too!

  4. avatar Steph – Ivy Ellen reply

    Such a beautiful wedding – the dress looks perfect on Ali, she definitely chose right!

  5. avatar Kim @ Hello Wedding reply

    I love how they let the small things that didn’t go as planned turn into the memorable moments at their wedding. Just beautiful.

  6. avatar Blush by Brandee Gaar – Orlando, Florida Wedding and Event Planner » Blush featured on Southern Weddings!! reply

    […] You guys!!!  I have been waiting months to share this with you and I’m out of my skin excited that not only do we get to share this wedding with all our Blush fans, but that all the wonderful Southern Weddings readers will see it too.  It’s that gorgeous!!  I am head over heels in love with all parts of this wedding.  The bride’s joy, the sweet details, her gorgeous dress, the stunning tent, the perfect sparkler exit…I mean it doesn’t get much better than this!!!  If you do one thing today, it should be checking this amazing wedding captured by Ash Imagery out on Southern Weddings!! […]

  7. avatar Kristen reply

    Can anyone find out if the bride is willing to sell her veil?!! I love it and it would look perfect with my Rivini dress! Thanks!

    • avatar Michelle reply

      Kristen, did you ever find/buy a rivini veil? I am looking for the exact same one and would DIE to have it! Willing to buy it off of you if you did!

  8. avatar – Solutions BridalSolutions Bridal reply

    […] Thanks  Southern Weddings and Ash Imagery for sharing.  […]

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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.

Big hugs to our Blue Ribbon Vendor, Rachel May, for sharing Sarah and Chris’ beautiful wedding with us!

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!

lisa Written with love by Lisa
5 Comments
  1. avatar Rachel May reply

    And I’m teary eyed again. Thank you SO much for sharing their wedding!! <3 <3 <3

  2. avatar Emily reply

    Sarah’s dress looked so beautiful twirling on the dance floor! I love it!

  3. avatar Erin | Elizabeth Anne Designs reply

    gorgeous! love every single detail and the bride is absolutely stunning!

  4. avatar Sarah reply

    Gorgeous! Do you have any information on the bride’s beautiful necklace?

  5. avatar Karen Roa reply

    A beautiful wedding full of intentionality and love. We were blessed to be part of Sarah and Chris’ wedding in a small way. It is a delight to see their well thought out celebration featured on Southern Weddings!

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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