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Christina and Matt met in the city of Ouagadougou in West Africa while volunteering for the Peace Corp–talk about an adventurous courtship! For their October wedding, they were inspired by their mutual love of the color green, and they wanted an aesthetic that was built around nature and inspired by leaves, trees, wood, and flowers. The talented Tara Guérard took the already gorgeous Lowndes Groves Plantation, and boy, did she up its game! She even brought the beauty of the great outdoors right inside their stunning tent. I would be remiss not to mention that Christina and Matt’s officiant included a few words of wisdom from that “great Southern philosopher,” Forrest Gump, in their ceremony. I know the whole congregation must have been tickled to hear that!

Thank you so much to Liz Banfield for sharing this stunner with us in V7!

How did the two of you meet? Tell us your story. Matt and I met in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso in West Africa, as Peace Corps Volunteers. I lived in Burkina and Matt lived in the neighboring country of Togo. The day we met–January 2, 2009–we had both been traveling with friends. My friends and I had plans to take a bus to Togo the next day. Matt gave me advice about where to go and what to do, and I invited him and his friends to join us for dinner, drinks, and dancing. Many hours later, in the early morning outside of a night club, Matt and his friends announced that they had decided to cut their vacation short and would join us on the bus to Togo. Matt escorted us all the way to his city, Lomé, and took care of us all week. While my friends spent an overnight in Ghana, I stayed behind and spent 48 hours with Matt. That was our unofficial first date. Eight months later, I moved to Togo and became a third-year volunteer in the town next to his. Until years later, he had no idea that I had done it for him. The day I arrived, we spent hours together in a group enjoying the festivities. At the end of the night, I went to my hotel room and closed the door, fretting about whether I had made the right decision, and if he was still interested in me. A few minutes later, there was a knock at my door. I opened the door and it was Matt. He took my arm, said “Christina,” and then kissed me. He finished his sentence before disappearing into the night: “See you tomorrow.”

I loved the way my dress maintained its dramatic shape whether I was walking, spinning, or standing still! It looked great from every angle and was unmistakably a wedding dress.

Who was one of the most special guests at your wedding? Rose Kpomblekou, of Peace Corps Togo, traveled all the way from West Africa to attend the wedding!

Who was your officiant? The pastor who married us is a close friend of Matt and a true Southern gentleman. He had tears in his eyes (and streaming down his kind face!) throughout the ceremony, and we were married with words of wisdom from that great Southern philosopher, Forrest Gump. He made everyone laugh while sharing his gifts as a spiritual and loving man.

Tell us a bit about the wedding ceremony. We had a string quartet playing songs we loved from Lord of the Rings, Braveheart, and some of Matt’s favorite video games. The ceremony was outside under a huppah of green leaves and a beautiful tree. Guests were facing a river and sitting on a mixture of chairs and pew-like benches. My dad and I emerged dramatically from the stunning Lowndes Grove mansion and had a nice long walk across the lawn to the center aisle–plenty of time for one last father-daughter chat before the I do’s!

No matter where we held the wedding, our families would have to travel. My family comes from in and around the New York Tri-State area, whereas Matt’s family lives in South Carolina and Florida. Elegant and cozy Charleston, South Carolina was the perfect location–not only because it is one of Matt’s favorite places in the world, but it was also a place that my family came to know and love through Matt’s eyes.

What was the design inspiration for your wedding? Why was this design special to you as a couple? I gathered fantastical images from Lord of the Rings and magical-looking forests. We both love the color green and wanted an aesthetic that was built around nature themes: leaves, trees, wood, flowers, etc.

What were some of the highlights of the reception? We LOVE to dance and the band was phenomenal. I danced to every song at our wedding except three: I missed two because of impromptu pictures and one because I was out of breath from jumping around with my brother. The speeches couldn’t have been more touching, funny, and apropos. The food was delicious and the service was flawless. Our sweetheart table experience turned into a surprise romantic dinner for two in the middle of our wedding!

My cousin, David Johnson, is a songwriter and musician, so we asked if he would perform one of his songs at the wedding. He came back to us a week later with a brand new song entitled “Face to Face,” which instantly became our song. The lyrics were as special to us as the songwriter, so we asked Dave and his son to perform it for our first dance. They were awesome and Matt and I had a blast dancing to this perfect song.

Describe the proposal: Matt and I were looking to buy a house, and finally, we found the one. We put a bid on it, and then found ourselves in a bidding war with another buyer, which we eventually lost. I was so disappointed, but nothing could be done about it. Matt left on a last-minute work trip and continued to be very busy for a while. Turns out, his “last-minute work trip” was really a train ride to visit my parents in New Jersey to ask for permission to marry their daughter, and to ask my mother to take him ring shopping. On the night he planned to propose, we had scheduled dinner with friends. My mom had been in town, but left on the morning of the dinner to take care of “taxes” in New York. On the way to the restaurant, Matt took a detour onto the street with the house. “Why would you take this street? It’s depressing!” I told him. I didn’t want to see the house that we had lost. He slowed down next to the house and pulled into the driveway. I asked him what he thought he was doing. “We’re trespassing,” I told him, “and we are late for dinner.” He replied, “I lied to you. We’re home. We got the house.” Inside, the living room was covered in red rose petals and 200 candles. A throw rug near the garden window was piled high with long stem red roses perched over a card. I knelt down to open and read the card, which said, “I love you so, so much. Turn around.” He was kneeling with the ring and proposed. The real estate lady was hiding in the bushes with the paperwork for the house. We signed on the dotted line and left to celebrate over dinner with our friends!
When did y’all get married? October 26, 2013
Three adjectives that describe the day are: Elegant, comfortable, euphoric.
How many guests attended your wedding? 180
Did you try anything new or nontraditional? I only have one sibling, so instead of choosing a maid of honor, I choose my brother to be my “man of honor,” and he truly filled the role to the fullest! My girlfriends all love him and were delighted to follow his lead–even through planning the bachelorette party! He gave a once-in-a-lifetime speech at dinner, and if I were ever unsure, I know how very much he loves me.
What was the funniest moment? What was the scariest? The funniest moment was when the pastor explained how when Matt and I met and some of his first words to me were “You smell good.” This was a huge compliment while serving in the Peace Corps!
Tell us about your grand exit. We drove off in a gorgeous, vintage getaway convertible while the guests cheered us into the night with sparklers.
What was Southern about your wedding? We incorporated Southern cuisine, hospitality, and sensibilities.
Did you take a honeymoon? If so, where? We went as far away as possible to New Zealand, a magical land of fjords, mountains, glacial lakes, diverse flora, and hobbits.
What advice would you give to someone currently planning his or her wedding? Prioritize taking care of your guests and don’t assume responsibility for any details on the day-of. A bride’s job is to be the joyous chief of the party!!

Photographer: Liz Banfield / Videographer: Artistic Eye Productions / Planner, Designer, and Florist: Tara Guérard Soirée / Venue, Caterer, and Bar Service : Lowndes Grove Plantation / Cake : Wedding Cakes by Jim Smeal / Ceremony and Cocktail Hour Music: Charleston Heartstrings Quartet for Debut, Inc. / Bride’s Gown: “Laetitia” by Anna Maier / Bridal Salon: Hitched Salon / Bride’s Shoes: “Isabel” by Jimmy Choo / Bride’s Earrings: “Elsa Peretti Pearls by the Yard Drop Earrings” from Tiffany and Co. / Bride’s Veil and Hair Accessory: Hitched Salon / Bridesmaid Dresses: #839 in Fern by Aria / Wedding Day Dresser: Cacky’s Bride+Aid / Hair Stylist: Kristy Cuthbert / Makeup Artist: Kori Mahoney / Getaway Car: Matt Buero / Men’s Attire: Grady Ervin & Co / Ice Sculpture: Ice Age Ice Sculptures / Paper Goods: The Lettered Olive / Rentals: Snyder Event Rentals / Linens: Immediate Tablecloth / Band: Big Swing and the Ballroom Blasters / Transportation: Absolutely Charleston and Marquee Limo / Lighting: Production Design Associates and Tara Guérard Soirée / Ceremony Director: Lori Lethco

marissa Written with love by Marissa
4 Comments
  1. avatar Anastasia reply

    OH I LOVE THIS. this is probably my favorite wedding published in a while. i love their adventurous and individualistic relationship and also their love of LOTR and natural beauty. perfect!!

  2. avatar Laura reply

    That proposal story brought tears to my eyes, so sweet!

  3. avatar Ally reply

    I completely agree with her advice – take care of your guests! Any time you invite people to celebrate (even if they are celebrating you!), it’s always gracious to keep them comfortable and happy!

  4. avatar kate h. reply

    this is incredible.

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Although it is practically impossible to come up with any real “rules” of wedding planning, there are a few guidelines that I think almost always apply: to work with your venue’s style and colors rather than against them, and that simple is often better. Cassidy and Mark hit it out of the park on both of these accounts, and as a result, their Outer Banks wedding was the stuff of beach wedding dreams! Their venue, The Saltaire House, needed very little decoration, so they included just a few thoughtful details that focused on their guests’ experience and let the romantic gardens and ocean views take care of the rest.

Thanks to Ben Lowry for sharing this beautiful wedding with us!

Tell us about finding your wedding dress. Right after we got engaged and I returned to Raleigh, I looked up wedding dress shops online. I called a place I had seen before called Traditions By Anna, and as it turned out, they were having a sample sale the following week and were taking appointments. I made one with the intention of going to find out what I was looking for, not to actually buy. My good friend came with me and I picked out four dresses. The second one I tried on was stunning! The ladies at the shop said no one had ever tried it on in front of them. When I walked out into the front room where the natural sunlight was coming in, I knew it was my dress. The light caught the crystals in the dress beautifully. It was like no dress I had ever seen and I loved it!

I walked down the aisle to the sound of live steel drums playing Canon in D. I played piano growing up and it was always my favorite song. I was ecstatic when I learned that they could actually play it on steel drums. When they announced us, the drums played “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? Did they have any special significance to you? My family and I have traveled to the Outer Banks for many vacations. We thought it would be nice to have our wedding and a vacation combined so we could all spend more time together. When Mark and I went to look for a venue in the Outer Banks, I immediately fell in love with the Saltaire House.

The Saltaire House has a wraparound porch, a “saloon”-like bar, and gorgeous Southern decor. To keep people cool, we offered gorgeous paper fans from BHLDN and refreshing cucumber water. Our specialty cocktail was a John Daly (vodka, lemonade and sweet tea). Our food from Enchanted Cuisine was Southern and delicious–for appetizers, we had hush puppies, pickled shrimp with smoky cocktail sauce, and pimiento and crab on cornbread crostinis. Our main courses included NC pulled pork BBQ sandwiches, mac and cheese, watermelon and feta salad, and smoked chicken over Lowcountry red rice.

Describe your wedding cake or dessert. Yum! Just Desserts made our three-tiered wedding cake. It had ombre green layers, and was decorated with hydrangeas and white starfish. She did a wonderful job! Two of the layers were chocolate eclair, and the third layer was macadamia nut.

Our favorite detail of the wedding was: The caterers and service staff were fantastic, but I think the music is what really made our night. The steel drums were unique and sounded so beautiful during the reception and cocktail hour. During and after dinner, our DJ was amazing at feeling out the crowd and playing things we loved. There was so much dancing–that was Mark and I’s favorite part about the evening.

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. Mark and I first met in November 2008. My friend was dating his friend, and I was dating someone else, and we all met up at the designated “Ohio State” bar to watch a big game. We are both from Ohio, but lived in Raleigh at the time. A little over a year passed, and once I had split with my boyfriend, I signed up for Match.com. I emailed Mark because I thought he was cute, but I didn’t remember having met him. He immediately recognized me. Fortunately, he was the only man I had to go on a date with through Match, and on our first date, I knew that he was the one.
Tell us all about the proposal! We went to Las Vegas to celebrate Mark’s 30th birthday. He planned for us to take a gondola ride at the Venetian, then to go to a nice dinner, and finally, to go see Phantom of the Opera (my favorite Broadway show). After a little gambling and relaxing, we made our way to the Venetian for the gondola ride. Mark was frantic because we were running late for the “reservation,” but I didn’t think it was that serious. We eventually made it to the ride. Under the second bridge, Mark pulled out my GORGEOUS ring, turned to me, said some lovely words, and asked me to marry him. I was stunned! However, before I officially said yes, I really wanted him to ask on one knee. Mark is a big rule-follower, so he asked the gondolier if he could undo his velcro seatbelt and get on one knee. I got two proposals when he asked me all over again! Of course, I cried and said yes!
When did y’all get married? June 22, 2013
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 85
Did you decide to do a “first look”? Why or why not? We did not. We both wanted to see each other for the first time in front of all of our friends and family. It was an amazing moment.
What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? My older sister read a “quote” from Bob Marley that I loved! “She’s not perfect–you aren’t either, and the two of you may never be perfect together, but if she can make you laugh, cause you to think twice, and admit to being human and making mistakes, hold onto her and give her the most you can. She may not be thinking about you every second of the day, but she will give you a part of her that she knows you can break–her heart. So don’t hurt her, don’t change her, don’t analyze, and don’t expect more than she can give. Smile when she makes you happy, let her know when she makes you mad, and miss her when she’s not there.”
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? Staying within a budget was very challenging, and we took a lot of time to create our menu. My husband and I LOVE food, so that was one of the biggest priorities of the day. My brother-in-law, who is a chef, helped create the menu, and my caterer, Gwen Hart from Enchanted Cuisines, was so nice and accommodating. She did an amazing job creating the food we asked for and everyone raved about it.
If you are comfortable responding, what range did your wedding budget fall into? $10,000-$25,000
What was one way you saved money or cut costs at your wedding? Once I had a budget, I mapped out how much we could spend in each area. Once we had that, I worked very hard to stay within it, which helped a lot. I didn’t spend a lot on centerpieces or flowers, because the home and the outdoors lent itself to beautiful pictures and decor.
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Do what makes you happy. Decide what is most important to you (food, drinks, flowers, decor) and go from there. Food, drink and photos mattered most to us, and that was where we were willing to spend more. And at your reception, DANCE!
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you most looking forward to about married life? We are moving back to Ohio soon to be closer to our families and to eventually start our own family. We will miss North Carolina, but it will always be a place we can return to for vacations and visiting friends.

Photographer: Ben Lowry / Venue: The Saltaire House / Florist: The Embellishers / Wedding Cake: Melinda Gregory of Just Desserts / Caterer: Enchanted Cuisine / Rentals: Ocean Atlantic Rentals / Ceremony Musicians: One Love Caribbean Steel Drum Band / DJ: DJ Fresh, Clarence Randall / Bridal Salon: Traditions by Anna / Paper Fans: BHLDN / Bride’s Earrings: Kate Spade / Hair Stylist: Ashley Dashiell of Dimensions Hair / Makeup Artist: Chelsey Crago / Bride’s Shoes: DSW / Groom’s Attire: Tommy Bahama / Shuttle: Island Limo

lisa Written with love by Lisa
4 Comments
  1. avatar Kat reply

    I love her dress & the simplistic way they styled everything. What a beautiful beach wedding!!

  2. avatar Dana reply

    love her dress! she is styled so beautifully!

  3. avatar tungsten carbide ring reply

    wow,your post is so nice,and the wedding dress are so beautiful!!!i hope you will lilke ,it’s a best choice for your wedding!!!tungsten carbide ring

  4. avatar Julie Wirthman reply

    I attended my niece Cassidy’s wedding – it was amazing.. she was a beautiful bride – the venue, the food, everything was perfect!!! This article is the topping on the cake!!

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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