The South is absolutely full of the most dreamy outdoor venues–from ranches, to farms, to mountains, to vineyards, and so on and so forth. There are so many lovely options, I occasionally forget how many amazing indoor venues there are too, and the Hunter Museum in Chattanooga just might be one of my favorites. Betsy and Mike chose the Hunter Museum for their beautiful reception, which followed their ceremony at another incredibly special location: the historic woodland chapel near Betsy’s childhood home. Accented by plenty of natural greenery and calligraphy details that Betsy created herself, their celebration was full of nods to their personalities and favorite things!
My something old was my necklace–it has been passed down from my maternal grandfather’s side of the family through several generations. My something new was my wedding band. When my matron of honor, Brita, got married, she wore my sorority pin as her something borrowed. As I was getting dressed the morning of the wedding, she took out her own pin for me to wear–I was so touched she remembered that little detail–and we pinned it near my heart on the inside of the dress. I also borrowed my gorgeous mama’s pearl and diamond earrings and her tennis bracelet. My something blue was my little blue shoes!
Tell us about finding your wedding dress. Oh, boy. Well, my mom, sister and sweet bridesmaids took time out of their very busy lives to come all the way up to Chicago in the dead of winter to help me look for my dress (if that is not love, I don’t know what is!). Luckily, Chicago has an incredible selection of bridal shops, so we were able to schedule a lot of appointments in just a day and a half. Unfortunately for me, I loved Every. Single. Thing. that I tried on. I ended up finally choosing a dress, loving it, and then promptly freaking out and deciding I wasn’t sure. Long story short, I made best friends with the ladies at that bridal shop, bless them, because I was there about every week for months until I made my real final choice. I brought them many baked goods, tried on probably every dress they had, and ended up with the perfect dress for me. They were amazingly patient and lovely, and I’m so happy I gave myself the time to be totally certain. It’s a pretty big decision!
The florist we worked with was a genius. She listened to me prattle on in about seventeen different directions, and got it perfectly right. I wanted mostly greens, natural herbs, and very few flowers. I asked for a few specific additions: lamb’s ear, Queen Anne’s lace, thistle, eucalyptus, peonies, and rosemary, and left the rest up to her. The result of our collaboration was really extraordinary. The flowers were perfectly understated at the Little Brown Church, and looked stunning atop the estate tables and rounds at the Hunter Museum. I was so happy with how all of them turned out!
The ceremony was held at the Little Brown Church. It is very small woodland chapel within walking distance of my parents’ home, where I grew up, and it’s a big part of the neighborhood’s history. It is a stunning setting, and is only open during the summer. The old trees stretch over the roof providing lovely shade, and flowers bloom all around it. I drove past it every single day of my childhood, and couldn’t think of a more special place to say our vows. We both thought it was really exciting that we would always be able to see it whenever we visited my family home.
Did you decide to do a first look? Why or why not? We opted not to do a first look. We both felt pretty strongly about this tradition, and wanted to save seeing each other that day until I was walking down the aisle during the ceremony. We are both really happy we did, because it made seeing each other that moment at the chapel really special.
How did you plan for your marriage while planning your wedding? We did a really great job of remembering the reason for all of the planning: our marriage. It kept us grounded and put the decisions we needed to make into perspective. We trusted each other, compromised, and when one of us cared more than the other about something, that person got to make the final call.
For the reception, we chose the Hunter Museum of American Art. Chattanooga was such a major focal point of our wedding that we felt like it was the perfect venue to showcase that beautiful city. It combines both old and new in a really special way, and has the most incredible views of the water and bridges.
What was one way you saved money or cut costs at your wedding? I do calligraphy and hand lettering, so I did the save the dates, invitation suite, envelope calligraphy, escort and place cards, table numbers, and custom wedding crest myself. I worked with a stamp maker in Chicago to make the crest into a stamp, and was able to use it on so many of the details! All of those things can really add up, so we saved some money and I was able to create something that was special and unique to us.
Our favorite detail of the wedding was: Our wedding crest. I created it by hand with a dip pen and calligraphy ink. It incorporated our initials, a sketch of the chapel where we got married, and flowers from places we have lived. We ended up using it on everything: the invitation suite, photo booth photos, cocktails napkins, escort cards, etc.
My husband and I sampled about 16 different cakes with my parents, and all of us chose the same combination: white chocolate cake, real buttercream frosting, and raspberry filling. It was so delicious. Mike got to run wild with his groom’s cake, and went for a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and dark chocolate ganache, covered with berries. Our non-Southern friends were totally perplexed by the groom’s cake tradition–I think several of the married guests in attendance were pretty miffed they never had the opportunity to have a groom’s cake of their own! (I don’t think a single one of them minded having two cake selections, though.)
What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? A few things! A lot of our wedding revolved around Chattanooga and what makes that city unique. Our venues were both on the mountain and by the water. We included Moon Pies and Coca-Cola in the guest bags, along with a list of our favorite Chattanooga spots. We served Krystal burgers and chicken sandwiches (with root beer floats!) as our surprise late-night snack. Our “Tennessee” menu included some very Southern staples: deviled eggs, chicken and waffles, and copper pennies. A lot of what makes the South so special is the hospitality and genuine love and care for others. It was very important to us that we did everything we could to ensure everyone felt welcomed and taken care of.
How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. What really happened is Mike was an unsuccessful travel bookstore owner in England, and I was a famous actress. We came in and out of each other’s lives for a while, despite our very different professions and lives, until I realized that I was just a girl standing in front of a boy asking him to love her. Honestly, Mike and I met when Mike was training to be a fighter pilot with his best pal, Goose. There was a LOT of beach volleyball. No, no, no. Mike and I met when my family was vacationing in the Catskills. Mike was a bad boy dance instructor who won me over with his moves. I brought a watermelon to a party. We had the time of our lives. Nobody puts me in a corner. Okay, the real story is that Mike and I met online and went on a date. I almost chickened out because I was tired after a long work week and really wanted to go home, sit on my couch with the dog, watch Netflix and eat a pizza. I figured that I’d have one glass of wine and then call it a night. Instead, we hit it off, laughed the entire time, and ended up closing down the restaurant. Mike called me five seconds after he put me in a cab that night to ask me on a second date. We’ve been together ever since.
Tell us all about the proposal! Mike had just completed the Ironman triathlon in Louisville, Kentucky and my parents had driven up from Chattanooga to watch the race with me. Mike told my parents that weekend that he planned to propose as soon as we got back to Chicago. They didn’t give me a single hint of what was about to happen! When we returned home from our long road trip back, Mike casually suggested we go get a bite to eat somewhere in the neighborhood. We walked to a restaurant nearby, had a quick dinner, and then walked back to our apartment through a park on the Chicago River. We decided to sit on a bench for a minute to watch the birds and the city lights, when all of a sudden, I looked down and Mike was on one knee with a ring, asking me to marry him. (He said a bunch of other really great, romantic stuff, but I was in shock and have no recollection of any of it.) I said yes, emphatically. About 30 seconds later, the shock wore off and I ugly cried with happiness for probably a good ten minutes.
When did y’all get married? July 18, 2015
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 125
Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? We said traditional vows, but also wanted to write our own. Mike is very open with his emotions, while I’m more introverted and less of a “sharer.” Looking back, I’m so glad we did. We will have those unique words as only ours forever. One of my favorite parts of Mike’s vows was “I love you for so many reasons. I love you because you are delicate and beautiful, yet so strong and independent. I love you because you make me laugh and appreciate of all life’s little moments that can so easily pass us by. I love you because you challenge me to be a better man than I was yesterday.” From mine, “You are my best friend, my teammate, my partner in all things, my confidant, and my favorite person. I admire your kindness, your loyalty, your heart for other people, and your quiet perseverance to be the best human, partner, and friend you can be. You are the strongest person I know.”
What is the one detail or vendor that you were so happy to have as a part of your wedding? Our photographers were truly extraordinary–we can’t imagine the day without them. They made everyone so comfortable and captured the day perfectly. (I want to be best friends with them. Is that weird?) Truly, all of our vendors were so great–we really lucked out!
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Don’t let that beautiful, time-sucking siren, Pinterest, convince you of anything you don’t actually want or need. Every single person you know will likely have an opinion of what you should do or not do. Take good care of your guests, be true to yourselves as people, never forget the real reason you are all there (to get married!), and you’ll be fine.
Photographer: Bamber Photography / Videographer: Beckett Media Productions / Planner: Soirees of Chattanooga / Ceremony Venue: The Little Brown Church / Reception Venue: The Hunter Museum of American Art / Florist: Humphreys Flowers / Cake Baker: Cakemakers, Etc. / Caterer: Events With Taste / Dinner Band: 251 Main Street / Reception Band: The Answer Band / Ceremony Music: Donald & Mindy Grohman / Paper Products, Custom Wedding Crest, and Monogram: Betsy Letters / Bridal Salon: Dimitras Bridal / Hair Stylist: Beck Molina / Makeup Artist: Make Up by Angela R / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Joanna August / Groom’s Attire: Black Lapel / Late Night Snacks: Krystal / Photo Booth: Photo Magic
Bamber Photography is a delightful member of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!