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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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When the setting of your wedding day is as naturally gorgeous as Dunaway Gardens, it’s hard to go wrong with decor. Meredith and Tyler worked with the team at Tailor and Table to fill their wedding with lush, organic blooms that complemented the surrounding greenery perfectly! For these two, who love to go on walks and hikes, the outdoor amphitheater and gardens made their wedding day feel like “something out of a fairy tale.” Meredith’s words, not mine, but I’d have to agree with her! Top off the day with fun corn hole games, a sweet ceremony, and yummy Southern comfort food from Sun in My Belly, and you’ve got a wedding any guest would be thrilled to attend!

Big hugs to Amy Arrington Photography for sharing this pretty day with us!

I was so lucky to get to go wedding dress shopping with my awesome mother, mother-in-law, and one of my best friends. We were the perfect team and ended up finding the dress pretty quickly, after I tried on just two other gowns. We had already chosen our gorgeous garden venue, so I when I tried on THE gown, I knew it would look perfectly in-place among the trees at Dunaway Gardens. I loved the interesting back detail, Queen Anne neckline, and, of course, the delicate Southern lace.

Did you decide to do a “first look”? Why or why not? Tyler and I did decide to do a first look. We wanted to make sure we carved out a special time for us to see each other before the ceremony, and to step away from all of the chaos for a moment. The first look was one of our favorite moments of the day and resulted in some of our favorite photographs, too!

We knew we wanted an outdoor ceremony and reception, and we wanted to hold the wedding a little further outside of Atlanta to make the weekend feel like a mini vacation for all of our guests. As soon as we saw Dunaway, we both fell in love with the property, its natural feel, lush trees, and outdoor amphitheater. It felt like something out of a fairy tale.

Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? Tyler’s dear family friend married us, which was incredibly special. The ceremony was a combination of traditional vows, personal touches, and tributes to our relationship, written by our awesome officiant.
What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? We were honored to have to have two of our brothers read during the ceremony: my brother read Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 and Tyler’s brother read 1 Corinthians 13:1-13.

We wanted our wedding to be a fun, Southern celebration of the outdoors! For cocktail hour, we set up custom corn hole boards for our guests to play while sipping on wine and local Atlanta beer from Monday Night Brewery. We also had some Southern comfort food on our menu, courtesy of Sun in My Belly: buttermilk fried chicken skewers, meatloaf sliders with sun-dried tomato mayo, and a salad with fried Vidalia onions.

Describe your wedding flowers. I knew I wanted to reflect the natural beauty of the garden by featuring heavy greenery, white anemones, and blue thistle. Luckily, I had the BEST design team to make it happen–Natalia Scott Perkins and Bart Scott of Tailor and Table. They created the most beautiful reception space, with a hanging statement at the head table, thick green garlands with soft white rose accents, and touches of blue from the anemones and thistle. The bouquets and boutonnieres also featured sprigs of rosemary, bay laurel, nigella, and chocolate cosmos.

“Marry Me” (Train) is on my list of most fun songs of the night, because I got to sing it with my college a cappella group, UGA Noteworthy, as part of a deep-rooted Noteworthy wedding tradition of the bride singing her solo at the reception. That particular song, as cheesy as it was to sing at my own wedding, was my solo on our 2012 album, Ladies First (available on iTunes!), and is always a blast to sing with my closest friends beside me. At the last Noteworthy wedding, I caught the bouquet at the reception. At my wedding, the Noteworthy girl that caught my bouquet was proposed to the following weekend, and is getting married in April! We can’t wait to see who’s next!

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. Tyler and I met on the school bus during our freshman year of high school. We became close friends, and since our families lived down the street from each other, we went on tons of walks and hikes together. At some point, these outdoor adventures started to feel more like fun dates, and we became inseparable. After high school, I went off to the University of Georgia and he left for Georgia State. We weren’t used to being so far from each other, but we definitely made it work! Needless to say, after our many years together and all we had been through, we (and our families) could not possibly have been more excited about our wedding!
Tell us all about the proposal! Tyler proposed at our favorite high school hiking spot at the Roswell Mill. It’s a beautiful place off of the Chattahoochee River where there are still remnants of an 1800 cotton mill and a still-functioning old dam. The evening of his proposal, I was feeling pretty down because my two best friends, with whom I was supposed to have dinner that night, had cancelled last minute. Tyler suggested a walk through the trails at Roswell Mill to cheer me up. At the top of the dam, he asked me to be his wife–I think I said yes at least 27 times! Still giddy with excitement, I rode with Tyler to a restaurant down the road, where he said he had made a reservation for the two of us. When we got through the door, I saw that my family, his family, and my two best friends were there to celebrate with us!
When did y’all get married? September 20, 2014
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 130
What was one way you saved money or cut costs at your wedding? We created a lot of the details ourselves–Tyler made the programs, and my mom and I made my veil and the basil seed favors.
What is the one detail or vendor that you were so happy to have as a part of your wedding? It is so hard to pick one! I’m going to have to go with the combination of Amy Arrington Photography and Tailor and Table Design Studio, without whom I would not have the gorgeous photos of our wedding, laden with the most beautiful flowers I have ever seen. I am beyond grateful to them for how perfectly everything turned out!
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Lean on your families and friends and delegate! Tyler and I definitely had a clear vision for our wedding, but we could not have done it (physically or emotionally) without the support of our awesome families and our close friends.
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you most looking forward to about married life? We are loving married life so far! We are currently most looking forward to bringing home a new puppy in a few months!

Photographer: Amy Arrington Photography / Venue: Dunaway Gardens / Florist: Tailor and Table / Wedding Cake: Publix / Caterer: Sun in My Belly / DJ: Spectrum Entertainment / Paper Products: Paper Snaps / Bride’s Gown: “Erin” by Watters / Hair Stylist: Lindsay at NV Hair Studio / Bride’s Shoes: BHLDN / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: “Kami” by J. Crew / Menswear: Men’s Wearhouse

Amy Arrington and Sun in My Belly are delightful member of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

marissa Written with love by Marissa
13 Comments
  1. avatar liam smith reply

    stunning location, love the colour and clarity of the images

  2. avatar Emily reply

    I love all of the greenery at the reception, and Meredith’s lace dress is beautiful!

  3. avatar Dunaway Gardens Wedding : Meredith + Tyler reply

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  4. avatar Marilisa S. reply

    Bravo Natalia & Bart on the stunning florals! Congrats to the beautiful couple!

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  10. avatar Elizabeth reply

    Where was the adorable cornhole board purchased?!?

  11. avatar 25 Engagement Party Ideas – DIYs.com reply

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  12. avatar Woodstock Corn Hole Games reply

    The Monogram corn hole set in article was custom made by Woodstock Corn Hole Games.

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Out of everything that is magical about the South, we believe that the feelings of hospitality, graciousness, and belonging are what captivate people the most. We adore biscuits, sweet tea, and groom’s cakes, there’s no denying that, but even without a single one of those things, a wedding can be characteristically Southern simply by the way people feel as soon as they walk through the venue doors. Andrea summed it up perfectly when she described her and Erick’s Nashville wedding: “We had people from all over the world, most of whom did not know one another. We ate, drank, danced, celebrated, and felt like family for one night. I’m so thankful that the South I know is filled with a spirit of sharing life stories and experiences, mutual acceptance of differences, blended families of relatives and friends, dancing, delicious food, and fun.”

We’re so glad that Kristin Sweeting shared Andrea and Erick’s meaningful day with us!

Tell us about finding your wedding dress. My younger sister went with me to the White Room on a Saturday, without an appointment. We looked through every rack and on the last one, I found the dress. I instantly knew it was the one I wanted, and begged the lady there to let me have a dressing room for a very brief try-on, but everything was booked. Serendipitously, someone called and canceled their appointment at that exact time. I got to try on the dress and fell in love, but the neckline went down to my belly button and I’m a little more modest. I bought it anyway, along with some extra fabric to fill in the neckline. When the dress came in, it came without the fabric. The White Room assured me we could get it in time, so I waited. Luckily, they have the best seamstress in the world, Tu Holman–she only had three weeks to take the dress in several inches, hem the bottom, replace beads, and create a new neckline. Five days before the wedding, my mom and I went to pick up the dress, and she had done beautiful work, but it just wasn’t what I had envisioned. My sister and best friend went back with me three days later and we stayed past midnight at the seamstress’ house until we had the top right. I’m so thankful for Tu and her insistence that we get the dress right, no matter how long it took, because on my wedding day, it was perfect and I loved wearing it.

There was an amazing Southern spirit at our wedding. We had people from all over the world, most of whom did not know one another. We ate, drank, danced, celebrated, and felt like family for one night. I’m so thankful that the South I know is filled with a spirit of sharing life stories and experiences, mutual acceptance of differences, blended families of relatives and friends, dancing, delicious food, and fun.

What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? Did they have any special significance to you? It was the only place we could agree on! I liked all the small, rustic, restaurant venues, and Erick liked all the big, industrial venues. We walked away from touring Sambuca and both said, “We could get married there.” It was perfect and we love that we can go back there for dinner every year on our anniversary.

When I was in Rwanda, I worked for Monique Lasdosz (Nanny, as we all call her) at the organization Widow’s Might. She started a craft workshop, along with several other business startups, for the widows and orphans of the 1994 genocide. We employed the craftspeople to make place card holders, drink stirrers, and our cake topper. Along with Nanny’s presence at our wedding, these details were extremely special because of the significance of our meeting and our heart for Africa.

We had a two-layer Italian cream cake with raspberry filling, ivory fondant, and gold art deco accents. The topper was intertwining giraffes made my artists at a craft workshop in Rwanda.

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. Erick is Rwandan, and ten years ago, I spent a summer working in Rwanda. The woman I worked for, Monique (Nanny) was good friends with Erick. She introduced us (with Erick’s girlfriend sitting next to him) and we had an instant connection. Lucky for me, the girlfriend was on her way out, so Erick and I hung out for the rest of my stay, but knew it wasn’t likely we could make a relationship work. We kept in touch and literally chased each other around the world. I started traveling around the world with the intent to go back to Africa, and Erick moved to the States. I returned from my trip six months later, and Erick’s job moved him to Guiana. A few years later, he moved back to the US and came to Nashville (where my boyfriend was sitting next to me). A few years and a breakup after that, we decided we had to make a relationship work. We did two years long distance between Nashville and Boston before Erick made the move South. We were soon engaged in October 2013 and married on October 18, 2014.
Tell us all about the proposal! Erick and I had been talking about getting engaged all summer. However, in September, my older sister got engaged, which was a welcome surprise to the whole family. Their engagement made our plans a little less immediate in every one else’s eyes. One day in October, Erick suggested “we spend the whole day together.” I had my suspicions, so I got dressed and planned a fun day. We went to Arrington Vineyards, shared wine, had wonderful conversation, and left without getting engaged. As we were leaving, Erick asked if I wanted to go out to eat. I was a little let down and neither of us was very hungry, so we decided to just go home and watch a movie. Once we were home, I hurried into my pajamas, made popcorn, and settled onto the couch. That’s when Erick walked over, got down on one knee, and asked me to marry him. It was private, without makeup or fancy clothes, in our home, and it was perfect. Then we proceeded to call my parents with the surprise of wedding number two scheduled for 2014!
When did y’all get married? October 18, 2014
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 40 for the ceremony and dinner, 80 for the reception
If you are comfortable responding, what range did your wedding budget fall into? $25,000-$50,000
What was one way you saved money or cut costs at your wedding? We had beautiful elements all around, but we kept it reigned in and as simple as possible. Also, we knew we wanted a small and intimate ceremony, but to celebrate with all our friends, so we had only 40 people at the ceremony and dinner, and then had a great dessert and dancing reception with all our friends afterwards.
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Focus on your relationship and marriage, and let the professionals handle the details. It was so much fun being a guest at my own wedding. I had zero stress because I had zero control, but I knew the people in charge wanted the best for us and I was paying them to do a great job without my help.
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you most looking forward to about married life? We plan to keep our day-to-day very much the same–working, playing with our dog, cooking dinner, hiking, reading, and being best friends. We look forward to working on our house and yard, visiting Rwanda, growing our friendships, and welcoming children whenever that happens.

Photographer: Kristin Sweeting / Planner: Kristin Kaplan of Stunning Events / Venue and Catering: Sambuca / Florist: Brocade Designs / Wedding Cake: Nashville Sweets / Rentals: Visual Elements / Lighting: Nashville Audio Visual / Ceremony Musician: Eric Knutsen / Reception Music: Cosmo Creations / Special Details: Rwandan craft workshop / Bride’s Gown: “Gianna” by Maggie Sottero / Alterations: Tu Holman / Bride’s Hair Accessories: “Art Deco Bridal Headband” by Veiled Beauty / Hair and Makeup: Debbie Dover / Bride’s Shoes: “Angela” by Coloriffics / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: “041893600,” “04241040,” and “041885760” in Navy by Adrianna Papell

lisa Written with love by Lisa
4 Comments
  1. avatar Hillary @ Brocade reply

    We were so delighted to share in Andrea and Erick’s celebration with the Event Design, Floral, and Paper Goods design. Thank you so much for the feature!

  2. avatar Olivia Fischer reply

    Love the glittering bridesmaids dresses and nice photography too!

  3. avatar Featured on Southern Weddings | Stunning Events | Nashville Wedding Planner | Event Production & Design reply

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