That’s right, y’all! Only seven days until V5 arrives. To hold you over until then, how about a pretty wedding to feast your eyes on?
Leigh is a bride who knows exactly what she wants. Being a fashion and design lover, there was no doubt that she’d don a knockout Monique Lhuillier creation down the aisle and devote herself to imagining the sweetest ways to honor her family and their traditions. We love that Leigh + Lander bonded over their shared family history in cotton and showed it in their big day. We have to give big kudos to the ladies at Ooh Events for making the ideas a reality! Big hugs also go out to Tim Will for sharing this lovely day with us.
Tell us about finding your wedding dress: I knew exactly what I wanted to begin with – I wanted a showstopper. I wanted it to be soft, romantic and feminine but with a bit of edginess. It had to have a lot of subtle detail without being over-the-top. And it had to be big. I couldn’t walk down that magnificent avenue of oaks in anything less than something reminiscent of the spectacular dresses of my literary idol, Scarlett O’Hara. At the same time, my dress also had to be light and comfortable because I planned on doing a lot of dancing. Yes, I expected a lot from my dress. Nitsa’s bridal in Charlotte was first. They had a Monique Show coming up so I called and set up an appointment. A woman named Naomi called me back a day or two before my appointment to see what I was looking for. I mentioned all the things above, adding in the fact that I really liked the asymmetrical look of one shoulder dresses. We spent only five minutes on the phone when Naomi said, “I think I have the perfect dress.” I was skeptical, but when Naomi showed me the ML “Bailey,” I knew she was right. Naomi masterfully appealed to my love for design and we had the most fun over the next seven months getting that dress exactly the way I wanted it. We removed the second sleeve, but used it to create little tufts around the sweetheart neckline to balance out the very strong right shoulder. We also added a matching belt to further accentuate my waist and, in true Scarlet O’Hara style, we added more pickups to the skirt to create more oomph. As I stood there, I saw everything that I had been searching for: glimpses of old Hollywood, Southern charm, and a very happy girl about to get married to the love of her life, in the dress of her dreams.
We kept mostly traditional vows, but tweaked a few things here and there and added a line at the end from the book of Ruth, which was my favorite part. It goes, “Wherever you go I will go, and even death shall not part me from you.” There is a connection between the first half of this phrase and the lyrics of “All I Ask of You,” which was played during the ceremony. In the song, there is a line that goes “anywhere you go, let me go, too,” and I think the significance there is that Lander and I truly enjoy each other’s company. We are the best of friends and nothing could be better than being by each other’s sides no matter where we are.
We asked my step-grandmother to read “A Perfect Love” and the preacher to base his homily on passages from the Song of Solomon. These readings spoke to us because they talk about longing for love and how sometimes the search for “the one” seems utterly pointless. The great lesson for us was to realize that some stories must wait to be told because when the time comes, God will surprise us with a love more wonderful than any of us could ever dream. As Lander and I were both in our 30’s when we met, we both had to learn to be patient and put our trust in God. As any Southern girl knows, this can be hard to do, especially at an age when people stop telling you that you’re not being picky enough and start telling you that you’re being too picky. My heart kept telling me to hold on, that God had someone in mind just for me, and guess what? I have finally found the one whom my soul loves.
Describe the proposal. It was Christmas Day. I woke up and got ready to do my usual duty of driving to Grandaddy Griggs’ house with Dad while Mom stayed home with Grandma Johnson whom she takes care of full-time. But this year, Dad got up early and flat out left me. Just as I was about to say something about it, Mom asked me if I would stay with Grandma while she ran into town to pick up some laundry detergent. Without really waiting for an answer, Mom ran out the door just as it dawned on me. “Where in the world is she going to find laundry detergent on Christmas day in Hartsville?” Clearly, my family had gone nuts. When Mom returned some hours later, I finally got a chance to drive to my Granddad’s, but as I walked in the door, I realized my dad wasn’t there. When I inquired as to his whereabouts, someone said they’d seen him moving furniture down the street. If you’ve ever met my family you’d realize that this was not as weird as it sounds. Lander was supposed to arrive at around four and so I decided to stay there until he arrived. About 30 minutes before Lander showed, Dad walked in, acting as though this Christmas had been no different from any other so far. Sure that Mom wanted to see Lander, I was ready to say my goodbyes, but Dad was adamant that Lander and I go take a look at the little pond house he’d rebuilt. So I told Lander to jump in the car so we could make the quick trip — but he was insistent on driving his car too. Assuming that everyone was crazy at that point, I simply agreed. As soon as I walked in the door to the pondhouse I’d spent so much time in before it had burned down, I forgot all about the crazy Christmas Eve thus far. There were candles everywhere and Christmas music playing in the background. A Christmas tree had been set up, furniture had been moved in (courtesy of Leigh’s parents of course), and a garland had been placed along the fireplace. Lander had brought wine and cheese but continued to play it off like this was all just his Christmas present to me. He even gave me a “Christmas” present – a pair of bright red Ray-Ban’s I’d been wanting forever, and I loved them! Nearly an hour passed before Lander actually got down on his knee and asked me to be his wife, pulling out a gorgeous Asscher cut diamond and a bottle of champagne with 2011 written on it. As you all know, I said “yes” and we spent the next several hours driving from one family member’s house to the next. To make things even more special, the very next morning we all woke up to a vision of beautiful white snow – a rarity in South Carolina especially around Christmas time!
If I had to pick one design element that we used throughout and that carried the most meaning, it would be cotton. I am a farmer’s daughter, and the Griggs family has been in the cotton growing business since their arrival. Cotton from the Griggs family farm showed up in everything: my bouquet, our dad’s boutonnieres, around the cake, on the flower girl’s baskets, in the wreaths that my great-aunt made, and (my personal favorite) the cotton bale ring pillow carried by Lander’s nephew. As it turns out, cotton is in Lander’s family also, as Lander’s granddad was a cotton merchant at one point in his life. Since this was one thing we had in common, we would talk about my family’s farm often. Lander and I hadn’t known each other but eight months before we got engaged, and during the time right before our engagement, Lander’s granddad got very sick. It was nearing the holidays, and I tried to think of something to cheer him up while he was in the hospital. So, Lander and I made a trip to Hartsville and it occurred to me to take him a piece of cotton. Lander’s granddad started grading it immediately and after a quite thorough inspection, he told me to tell my dad it was some good-lookin’ cotton. I’ll never forget that moment. Lander’s granddad never made it to the wedding, as he passed a short while after our visit, so the cotton that was used everywhere was just as much a symbol for him as it was for my own family.
Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding. The prelude was “In the Garden” by C. Austin Miles. It’s my grandmother Doris’ favorite song. The processional was to “All I Ask of You” from Phantom of the Opera, my favorite musical. The bridal processional was to “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles. Our hymn was “Surely the Presence of the Lord is in this Place” by Lanny Wolfe. We recessed to “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee” by Henry van Dyke. Our first dance was to “Por Una Cabeza” from the movie “Scent of a Woman.” Lander and I performed the tango for our first dance. In my mind, there was no way around it. I had talked Lander into taking ballroom dancing with me while we were dating and as more incentive, I let him choose the dance we’d learn. So what did he choose? The tango. Every Wednesday night for several months, our “date night” included dinner, drinks and 30 minutes of tango. When months later, we told our instructor we were engaged and what we wanted to do, she got busy cooking up a brilliant, but difficult, routine. It took us two months to learn it, but it was totally worth it. I felt like we were straight out of the movie and we nailed it! The roar from the crowd sent chills down my spine!
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Plan like crazy, then just go with the flow. Things will come up, but don’t let them ruin your day. Don’t be afraid to get your dress dirty! Make your yoga teacher proud and stay in the moment. Every now and then throughout the day, look around, and take it all in.
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you looking forward to in the future? Lander’s graduation! Seriously though, no more school for either one of us.
How did the two of you meet? Tell us your story. We like to believe our love is the result of the many prayers prayed by ones who love us most, and God’s perfect timing. We knew many of the same people for years, but had met only briefly many years ago. The moment was so brief that one fateful evening some 10 years later when a mutual friend tried not-so-subtly to introduce us, I had forgotten the meeting entirely and began to introduce myself. There was no need for that though, as Lander remembered not only my name, but also where I was from! After that, we talked all night and I decided to do something I’d never done before and ask the guy out. It went something like this: “Hey, so I’ve got this golf tournament coming up soon and I really need to go to the driving range tomorrow. Want to join me?” How could he resist an offer like that?! I’m not sure we’ve played golf together since that first date, but it was the start of an adventurous courtship that included anything from picnics on rooftops, learning the tango on Wednesday nights, and numerous boat rides with our beloved dogs, Riley and Granger.
In what month did you get married? November, 5, 2011
How many guests attended your wedding? Approximately 250 super-awesome guests. Seriously, though, our guests are what made the weekend so special. I’ll never forget one of my friends jumping on stage pretty early on in the night and performing the robot by herself — I loved it! After my friend broke the ice, there was a lot more dancing and singing on stage with others starting dance-offs, and even some breakdancing broke out among the crowd! It made us so very happy to look around throughout the night, having all of our favorite people around us having such a great time. The love in the air for us was electrifying.
Did you decide to do a “first look”? We decided not to, for tradition’s sake. But honestly, if I had to go back and do one thing differently, I think seeing me before all the hoopla began might have calmed Lander’s nerves a little bit and been just as special.
Describe your wedding flowers: I wanted my flowers to embody the eclectic look and feel of the wedding and all the little details that made it special. I also wanted them to be gathered in a way that was totally organic and unkempt, like a patch of the most beautiful wildflowers that has sprung up from the ground in a way that shows you they were just meant to be. Admittedly, I don’t know much about flowers, but Ooh Events took the image right out of my head and made the most luscious, yet whimsical bouquet consisting of Juliet garden roses, soft yellow ranunculus, caspari balls, scabiosa pods, cotton pods, succulents, peach/coral hypericum berries, dusty miller, and a touch of seeded eucalyptus for a soft gray color with the stems wrapped in a band of burlap ribbon.
Describe your wedding cake or dessert: Ours was a four-tiered pale ivory cake with butter cream icing and a flower design that was inspired by my dress. Our bottom tier was caramel cake, the third was carrot cake, the second was chocolate/caramel cake and the top tier was another carrot cake.
What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? As far as Southern goes, the first thing that comes to mind is the fact that we were married at the picturesque Litchfield Plantation. Litchfield’s history dates back to the 1700’s and the scenery is simply enchanting. Majestic live oaks dripping with Spanish moss provided a stunning natural cathedral ceiling for our ceremony. To add to the “church-like” flavor, Ooh Events brought in church pews to mark the family’s reserved seating. After the ceremony, we guided the guests with these adorable signs that my great-aunt made out of wood from one of the old barns on our farm, to the back of the plantation house where cocktails were served. My family and I had rented the plantation house for the weekend, so it was easy to feel like we had all stepped out of a scene from Gone With the Wind. This place has an old-world charm and tons of character — just like us Southerners! Moreover, my family owns a sinfully delicious meat-and-three out in the country where I grew up. For our favors, my step-grandmother made several batches of their famous biscuits, and we passed them out along with the recipe. As far as traditions go, there were many. Our parents both had 1st Corinthians as the passage read at their weddings. Thus, we incorporated some of the wording from 1st Corinthians into our “thank you” to our parents in the wedding program. My something borrowed was a bracelet that my mother-in-law designed and that I truly admired. What made it even more special was the fact that the pearls were given to her by her husband and the golden broach that served as the clasp to the bracelet was given to her by her father. My something old was a garter that my aunts made from the pearls and lace of a dress that my grandmother once made. I am my grandmother’s namesake, and although she passed before I was born, I’ve always felt a special connection to her. I decided not to throw a garter, so even though no one even saw it the whole night long, it was the most precious item I wore all night. Another tradition (and another something old) that we incorporated in the wedding were these two old dolls of my mother’s that were dressed up as brides. I have always admired them ever since I was a little girl. One of the dolls was made to look like my mom on her wedding day, so it only seemed fitting that she would be there on my wedding day! The song “In the Garden” was my grandmother Doris’ favorite song and was also played at my older cousin’s wedding. Our “getaway car” was a 1965 red convertible mustang, which belonged to my late uncle with whom I shared a special connection. He was always trying to “adopt me” as his daughter and I would joke and tell him I would go for it if he bought me a shiny red convertible in exchange. Unfortunately, he passed away just weeks before we got engaged. It seemed only fitting to honor him at our wedding by driving away in that shiny red convertible he always promised me.
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? Lander and I had too many things going on at once and more importantly, within the last three months before our wedding. Throughout the year, I had been planning a wedding whilst in the busiest time of my career as an attorney, which proved difficult enough. But in the last three months before the wedding, we really piled it on. I started interviewing for new jobs and moved out of the house I had rented for three years. Lander moved out of his rented apartment and moved in with his parents, and we attempted to buy a new house while trying to sell the house Lander owned but had been renting out. It was, surprisingly so, not the end of our relationship — and I think I have to give a lot of the credit here to the wonderful ladies at Ooh Events. It was at this point that I really had no choice but to turn everything “wedding” over to them, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. Jerri was my hero and I don’t know what I would’ve done without her. She had everything organized to the last detail and I trusted her wholeheartedly with my most precious of days. Terri was my confidant and served as an ear when I need to vent, listening to all my ranting about the world all with a smile on her face. Lisa was my fairy godmother and she made my dreams of having a storybook wedding come true.
What is the one thing you are most happy you splurged on? Our band, “The Mighty Kicks.” Anybody who knows Lander and I knows that we love music, and that we love to dance. It was important to us to have a band that could bring the music-lover out of everyone and make each of our guests want to hit the dance floor. They were a hit! Our guests complimented the band all night long and danced the night away. One of our guests even tried to book them that night for her own upcoming wedding!
What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? Lander’s favorite moment of the wedding day was when we were eating dinner in an intimate little room set aside just for us. It was really the only alone time we had together until the night was over. My favorite moment of the whole weekend may have actually happened the night before. When you’re as involved as I was in planning your wedding, nothing is really a surprise. But at our rehearsal dinner, after all the toasts were given, Lander got up to toast his bride. I will never forget the words he spoke as he shared some verses from scripture, comparing me to a woman depicted in the Bible as good, strong, faithful, smart, beautiful, and loving. His speech was a total surprise to me, and the comparison he made touched me deeply; I hope to live up to it for the rest of my days. As for the ceremony, one of my favorite moments was hearing about how God added his own touch to the wedding and allowed the sun to come out and shine bright right behind me as my dad and I walked down the aisle to “Here Comes the Sun.” Now how is that for timing? I also loved every bit of saying my vows to Lander and cherished the meaning of the words as I spoke them. During the reception, other than nailing our first dance, I think my favorite moment had to be when Lander jumped on stage to sing the song that he’d written for me called “Farmer’s Daughter” (some of the lyrics made it on to the back of the koozies we’d been handing out) and I was right there beside him, dancing on along.