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I could not think of a more perfect venue for Caroline + Ben’s Virginia wedding than the Stoke farm — a historic Civil War era home that has been in Caroline’s friend’s family for years. For a bride who grew up playing in the boxwood gardens of the estate, having a reception there was a no-brainer, and the gorgeous gardens filled the night with something magical. Even the guests said they felt like they were in a movie! Of course, with a cute love story like these two (who friends thought were made to be because of their mutual height!), the movie-like setting was only a matter of good fortune and fond memories. The rest of the wedding was also decked in details contributed by family members and friends. One my favorites? The custom hand-painted crest that Caroline’s friend made for their paper goods. Gorgeous! Big thanks to Gabe Aceves for sharing this with us!

LOVE Ben’s big peony boutonniere! Caroline said peony season was a huge factor in setting a date. We don’t blame her at all.

I took my mom, sister and a bridesmaid to my first dress appointment. It was a lot more overwhelming than I had anticipated. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted but I knew what I didn’t want — no sparkles or extravagant beading, and no princess ball gown. I tried on about five dresses and the last one made my mom cry but I wasn’t sold. After that, I did a little online research and discovered that there were several Jim Hjelm dresses that I really liked. I called around and found a bridal store that carried this line; I also decided to go to this appointment on my own, as I have always enjoyed shopping solo. I tried on another five dresses. The fifth dress was Lazaro and this one in particular really stuck out. I brought my mom and best friend back a few days later and that sealed the deal.

Did you decide to do a “first look”? We decided not to do a first look. Photos were really important to me so I did consider it, but at the end of the day we both wanted to follow tradition and experience seeing each other for the first time walking down the aisle. I think we made the right choice for us!
What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? We chose to do the traditional wedding reading from 1 Corinthians and then a not-s- traditional reading that we really liked from Tobit 8:5b-8.
Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding. Our first dance song was “Gotta Have You” by The Weepies. If you listen to or read the lyrics it may seem like an odd choice for a first dance song, and we debated using it for this reason. It had become “our song” at some point during the early part of our relationship so we decided to go with it anyway. It just felt right.

There were lots of challenges throughout the process but the biggest one was probably the weather leading up to the big day. We wanted an outdoor reception and our entire vision revolved around not having a tent, but you can’t predict the weather. We went ahead and put a tent on hold but had to let them know if we needed it or not the Tuesday before our wedding. The weather report kept going back and forth between scattered showers and full on rain leading up to our wedding weekend and I was a mess. The forecast started improving as we got closer to Tuesday and after many discussions we decided to forgo the tent and hope for the best — if it poured we would figure out a backup plan on the fly. Luckily we ended up having a more beautiful day than we could have ever asked for with perfectly blue skies and a cool breezy spring temperature. It was perfect.

Describe your wedding cake or dessert: My aunt works for a gourmet food distributer so she has tons of great connections, including a friend who is a former White House pastry chef and now has a bakery in DC. My aunt’s friend made a lemon curd cake topped with fresh raspberries for my uncle’s wedding a couple years ago that was to-die-for. I am normally not a cake person but I told my aunt that when I got married, I needed this cake. Luckily for me she was able to make that happen. I am literally counting down the days until we can break into the leftover top sitting in my parent’s freezer!

How did the two of you meet? Tell us your story. Ben and I were a year apart at Roanoke College. After Ben’s junior year, he went on an intensive study trip in the Bahamas and met two of my best friends (and future bridesmaids) who thought we should meet, particularly since Ben is 6’8” and I am 6’1”! After school resumed, my friends introduced us at a party and we immediately hit it off. Unfortunately, we were interrupted by one of Ben’s friends (a future groomsman) before we could exchange phone numbers. I mentioned this to another one of my friends (another future bridesmaid) who at the time was dating, and is now engaged to, one of Ben’s teammates on the men’s basketball team. She promptly informed me I would be attending a party hosted by the men’s basketball team the next weekend. Apparently, she also informed all of Ben’s teammates (including a slew of future groomsmen) I was coming to see him because as soon as I walked in, I was serenaded by a raucous version of “Sweet Caroline.” I have never been more embarrassed! Luckily, Ben quickly put me at ease and a few days later took me out on our first date so we could get to know each other away from our future bridal party and the rest is history!
Describe the proposal. The week Ben proposed he told me he had been feeling badly about spending a lot of time at work and wanted to take me to a nice dinner on Friday night. He said that he had heard good things about “this place” but that the only reservation he could get was early in the evening so I would need to head straight to the restaurant from work. I should have been suspicious but he handled it so casually that I didn’t think anything of it. That Friday, Ben called me at work and informed me that he would need to pick me up from work a couple hours early because we had a bit of a drive to the restaurant. I thought something was up at this point, a suspicion that was confirmed when I got in Ben’s car and saw he had the GPS turned so that I could not see where we were going. An hour or so later, we stopped in front of a historic hotel in Annapolis, Maryland, where Ben told me we had a room for the night and that his boss had arranged a dinner reservation for us at the yacht club on the water. After an amazing sunset dinner, Ben handed me an envelope containing a picture of us celebrating my birthday the year before on a boat in front of the Washington Monument. It’s one of my favorite pictures. At the top it said, “Gotta have you…” which is the name of our song and on the back he had written the sweetest note. I was in shock and trying not to cry and didn’t even notice that he had gotten onto one knee. It was an incredibly special moment. Once I had stopped crying and could properly form sentences again, Ben told me the plan for the rest of the weekend. The next morning we would be having a celebratory brunch with our parents back in Virginia and then Sunday we would be flying to Mexico for four days at a small resort. He had even arranged for time off with my manager! Needless to say, Ben was in trouble with all of our guy friends after that one.
In what month did you get married? June
How many guests attended your wedding? About 175
Describe your wedding flowers: Peonies, peonies, peonies!! They are my absolute favorite and the fact that they were in season definitely factored into choosing the date we did. A family friend preserved peonies from her own garden leading up to the big day and our florist purchased the rest. All of the bouquets and arrangements were variations of peonies and garden roses. My parents have a lot of family silver that they have inherited over the years so we decided to use various pieces from their collection for the centerpiece arrangements. I love that it added a personal touch and also complimented the classic, garden party feel of our reception.
Our favorite detail of the wedding was: It’s hard to choose one thing but I would have to go with the hand painted crest that my amazingly talented friend painted for us. I am a graphic designer so I did all of our invites, however, I wanted to add something special to really make them our own. I talked to my friend and bridesmaid about my vision and she was able to create a personalized watercolor wedding crest for us. I feel like it really helped tie everything together and brought my vision to life. We couldn’t have been happier with how the invitations and programs turned out thanks to her artwork.
What is the one thing you are most happy you splurged on? Our band. Ben and I both love music and we love to dance so we always knew that we had to have a band. The process of finding the right band is not easy. I did tons of research and eventually ended up reaching out to an agency. This was the best decision I ever made. The person that I worked with at The Washington Talent Agency was so helpful and turned us onto a band called Encore. The best part was that the agency held demo’s at their office so that we could hear the band live before making a commitment. We instantly fell in love with Encore, they were incredibly energetic and very communicative leading up to the wedding. In the end, it was one of the easiest and best wedding decisions that we made, hands down.
What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? I can’t choose one particular moment, but the overwhelming love and support that we felt was indescribable and we will never forget that feeling. It’s the happiest day of any couple’s life when they get married, but Ben and I are truly lucky not only to have one another but to come from the most supportive families and to have the most amazing group of friends. The day was made most special by having these people surrounding us.
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? The best advice we got was from Ben’s dad. Whenever we started to stress, he told us not to worry, that the event would carry the day. He couldn’t have been more right.
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you looking forward to in the future? Right now we are just enjoying married life and focusing on our careers. We both love to travel and hope to do lots of it in the next few years before really settling down and starting a family, one day.

nicoleyang Written with love by Nicole
7 Comments
  1. avatar Laura reply

    This is absolutely stunning! Beautiful, Gabe!!

  2. avatar Kaleigh reply

    Beautiful dress!! Looks like an amazing wedding. Congratulations

  3. avatar Kelsey reply

    Love this! And I’m going to need to know who did their wedding invitations/programs!!

  4. avatar Erin McLean reply

    Gorgeous!! I love all the details!!

  5. avatar gabe aceves reply

    Hi ladies, just wanted to say thank you so much for featuring this beautiful wedding! It was one of my favorites from 2012 and I am so happy to have it shown here. Thank you!

  6. avatar A Week’s Worth of Wedding Inspiration! | beautybrideorg reply

    […] Some foxy wedding invitations! (Scroll about a third of the way down.) —Southern Weddings […]

  7. avatar Brenda reply

    Would you please share the wedding cake recipe with the lemon curd filling and the rasberry topping? I don’t see the rasberries on top the cake picture; so if the rasberry was incorporated into the cake hidden beneath the frosting that would be a WOW factor with the frosting spread right over the rasberry glaze or jam? A great idea anyway. Hope you can share.

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Katharine would DEFINITELY say Washington, DC does NOT count as Southern, but I’m going to go ahead and post these delightfully frothy cherry blossom portraits in this column anyway.

Aren’t they perfectly springlike? I spotted these beauties on the United With Love blog, and you can see even more cherry blossom goodness on Gabe Aceves’ post (he’s the talented photographer behind the lens!)

P.S. DC brides — don’t worry, we totally love you, whether or not your location counts as truly Southern! :)

emily Written with love by Emily
5 Comments
  1. avatar Tenielle reply

    These are so gorgeous!!! We had our share of blossom sightings on our trip through Georgia 2 weeks ago. We were in heaven :)

  2. avatar marta locklear reply

    Love Gabe’s work. I was raised in Va and live just south of DC and am totally considered a bit “southern”…accent and all. Virginia (along with West Virginia) are considered the top two states in the South East Region and we love SW magazine here!

  3. avatar Erin reply

    HA! I was just having this conversation with my brand new husband this past weekend! We’re from northern Virginia (in a suburb of DC) and I said “I feel bad enough using the word ‘northern’ in an explanation of where I live when I’m reading/writing on the Southern Weddings blog! They probably don’t think I count!” HA! No matter how DC may land in the Northern/Southern debate, Virginia is still southern, even if I’m in the northern part, so I guess it’s okay. I’m with you, though, Emily, DC brides are still totally great! And nice mention of United With Love–as a northern VA girl I’m both on here AND that site daily!

  4. avatar Joey + Jessica reply

    Love the cherry blossom trees in DC! Beautiful portraits. We agree, D.C. is not the south, but these are too good to pass up.

    Love, Joey and Jessica.

  5. avatar gabe aceves reply

    Thanks so much SW ladies for featuring a few of Meg + Carlos’ photos! Maybe DC doesn’t count but we all live in Virginia and hopped across the Potomac for these, so I think we’re good ;)

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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