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Small town life is a beloved part of Southern culture–I’m certain many of y’all can relate to Molly’s pride in her quaint hometown! Molly loved growing up in Saxapahaw, North Carolina, and although she and Aaron met in Chapel Hill, they couldn’t resist the opportunity to dig into Molly’s roots and welcome their loved ones to Saxapahaw for their big day. Complete with hearty Southern cuisine, an abundance of family heirlooms, and many nods to their heritages, Molly and Aaron’s celebration held all the charms of a small town itself. Molly says, “The sense of small town community during our celebration was the most natural part for us, and by default, it was the most Southern part!”

Thank you so much to our Blue Ribbon Vendor A. J. Dunlap for sharing this lovely day with us!

Tell us about finding your wedding dress. Before flying home for winter break, my mom encouraged me to try on dresses in Austin with my best friend. I found the most wonderful secondhand/consignment designer dress shop, Second Summer Bridal. We had a great time while I tried on every style of dress, just for fun, until I tried on THE ONE. I knew I couldn’t buy a dress without showing my mom anything, so I tried to let it go. Back in North Carolina for Christmas, I tried on many more with my mom, but couldn’t get that one dress out of my mind. Knowing it was a one-time sale, I called back in January with the slightest bit of hope it was still in the store. It was fate–no one had bought it yet! I went in the first week I was back in Austin and sealed the deal! After all the dresses I tried on, this was the one that made me feel like a bride!

Our florist was Pine State Flowers. They only use locally grown, North Carolina flowers. This meant we had to be flexible to what type and colors of flowers were in season locally, and we had a beautiful and sustainable end result!

We were so grateful to have family friends who took part in our wedding and helped us save money. A dear friend did bridesmaids’ hair, family friends were the musicians, a church friend made our cake, my best friend designed the invitations and ceremony programs and wrote on all the windows and chalkboards, a dear friend directed the ceremony, and a family friend was our amazing DJ.

Did you decide to do a first look? Why or why not? YES! Knowing we wanted space and time to ourselves to be mindful, present, and soak in the powerful commitment we were about to make was of the utmost importance to us. Having that time for just the two of us to reflect, laugh, cry, joke around, and be ourselves was essential.

What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? Did they have any special significance to you? I am from the small town of Saxapahaw, and all of my maternal family is from small mill towns along the Haw River. In fact, my grandmother worked third shift in the Saxapahaw Mill while attending business college! Once the heart of the community, the Saxapahaw Cotton Mill closed in 1994 due to tornado damage. In high school, I would drive past it and admire the dilapidated and boarded up building. Over the past decade, the Mill has been renovated into a thriving, central part of the Saxapahaw community, and houses the Haw River Ballroom. My family has fallen in love with the rejuvenated sense of community in Saxapahaw, so the Ballroom was a natural first choice for Aaron and I. Fun side note: the wedding was the first time my grandmother had returned to the Mill since working in it.

The BEST part about our entire wedding was how community-centered and relationship-based it was. Aaron and I are both from small towns and value community, so we made it our goal to create a “church” within the ballroom, and to honor and celebrate the relationships and connections with our own church families, friends, individual families, extended family, and the community. All of the cotton used throughout the wedding was grown by a North Carolina farmer in Tarboro. The seating assignment windows were composed of various antique windows–the four-pane window came from Aaron’s great-grandparents’ homestead house that is over 150 years old, and the six-pane windows came from Aaron’s maternal grandfather’s historic shop. The handkerchief were gifted to my maternal grandmother on her wedding day. She recently found them, unopened! The drawers for cards came from my maternal great-grandmother’s Singer sewing machine. She taught my mom to love sewing, and I am named after her. The ring bearer pillow was sewn by my mom from her dad’s old jeans, and the smallest ring tied to the pillow was my baby ring! Aaron’s nephew, one of the ring bearers, carried my grandmother’s family Bible down the aisle. My veil was made from my mom’s blusher wedding veil. All the bud vases and bottles were collected during my engagement by my mother and grandmother. My grandfather passed away last winter, and these have been a blessing and the perfect project for my grandmother. There were also photos of our parents and grandparents on their wedding days displayed at the reception!

What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? The sense of small town community during our celebration was the most natural part for us, and by default, it was the most Southern part! On top of the family heirlooms used, we also incorporated the best kinds of Southern food! Served in small plates to encourage mingling and conversation during the reception, guests feasted on meatloaf with mashed potatoes and green beans, shrimp and grits, and macaroni and cheese with collards and black eyed peas. All catering was from the local “five star restaurant in a gas station,” the Saxapahaw General Store. There’s nothing more Southern than getting married in an old cotton mill, eating good Southern food, being surrounded by the community that raised you, and getting to spend the rest of your life with your best friend!

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. We met the first month of college at UNC Chapel Hill, living in the same dorm. Aaron helped Katie, my suitemate, carry some packages down to our rooms one day. Katie introduced me to this cute guy who helped her, and the rest was history! For the next four years of college, we were inseparable–study rooms, basketball games, football games, dance performances, the Varsity theater, Carver Street, He’s Not Here, Brown Summit, and Saxapahaw. After graduating, Aaron moved off to Charlotte, and I headed to the tiny town of Eden. During Christmas of 2011, we realized we couldn’t stand being apart any longer, and we haven’t been since. Fast forward to August 2013, and Aaron and I moved to Austin, Texas so I could attend graduate school at UT-Austin. Aaron found a corporate recruiting job here and graduated from Western Carolina’s online graduate school. We have been in Austin for over two years and are embracing the Texan way of life for now!
Tell us all about the proposal! We were so excited to return to UNC for homecoming in November 2014. Once we were back in Chapel Hill, Aaron suggested we walk through campus and visit the UNC Basketball Museum. While we were walking towards the museum, I thought I would be so romantic and suggested a stop at Craige, our freshman dorm, where it all started. After sitting on the front steps of the dorm where we fell in love, we stood up, I blinked, and Aaron was on one knee! After his proposal, we continued on to the basketball museum without calling anyone. #goheels
When did y’all get married? November 7, 2015
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 200
Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? We did not write our own vows–we used the less traditional vows from the United Methodist Church’s liturgy. A favorite line included: “I take you to be my husband/wife, from this time onward, to join with you and to share all that is to come.”
What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? My brother and two dear friends read at our ceremony–a task with more significance to us than being in the wedding party. They read three scripture passages: Song of Solomon 2:10-14, 16a; 8:6-7a, Romans 12:9-18, and Colossians 3:12-17.
Describe your wedding cake or dessert. A family friend made a gorgeous four-tiered pound cake with buttercream icing, with the top layer saved for our first anniversary! You can’t beat a good ol’ Southern pound cake!
How did you plan for your marriage while planning your wedding? We felt it was very important to keep our relationship at the center of the wedding planning and were mindful of discussing not only the details of the big day, but also what we wanted our future to look like together. Premarital counseling with our minister, readings books together, and spending the majority of our time together not wedding planning helped enormously with this!
If you are comfortable responding, what range did your wedding budget fall into? $10,000-$25,000
What is the one detail or vendor that you were so happy to have as a part of your wedding? One very special thing to me was having my brother walk me down the aisle to meet my father. My brother, Peter, and I have an incredible relationship and I wanted to honor that in this way.
What’s next for you as a couple? What memories are you looking forward to making together? We will stay in Austin, Texas for the next few years before returning home to North Carolina. We are so excited to make our new house a home together and continue to explore and enjoy this unique Southern town as partners in a new, married light!

Photographer: A.J. Dunlap Photography / Videography: Olivia Wilkes / Videography and Sound: Ana Caicedo Macia / Video Editing: Anna Norwood / Venue and Planner: Haw River Ballroom / Florist: Pine State Flowers / Wedding Cake: Brenda Moss / Caterer: Saxapahaw General Store / DJ: Jason Barnes of JMB Marketing / Bridal Salon and Hairpiece: Second Summer Bride / Gown Alterations: Kira Kouture / Bride’s Earrings: Judith Bright / Hair and Makeup: Tease and Blush / Bride’s Shoes: Toms / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: RenzRags / Menswear: Combatant Gentlemen / Groomsmen Ties: The Tie Bar / Invitations, Ceremony Programs, and Calligraphy: Linsey Gray Creative

A.J. Dunlap is a delightful member of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

lisa Written with love by Lisa
4 Comments
  1. avatar A.J. Dunlap reply

    Oh, how I loved this wedding! Thank you so much for sharing their day and their story!!! xoxo~A.J.

  2. avatar Anna Norwood reply

    Check out this video feature of Molly and Aaron’s special day!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UCbru_s6lj4

  3. avatar Laura reply

    What a beautiful wedding and sweet couple! Love the small town feel!

  4. avatar Ryan reply

    Could anyone provide more details on the bridesmaid dresses? My fiancée and I are very interested in several of these dresses but cannot find the specific dresses on Renz Rags

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Hallie (who is an actual cowgirl, y’all!) always knew she wanted to get married at her family’s farm, but after saying “yes” to Griffin’s heartfelt proposal came all of the logistics! They quickly realized that their goal of having the whole wedding at this meaningful property was not in the cards. As a compromise, they gathered their closest loved ones there for the ceremony and a cake and champagne toast, then headed to The Haw River Ballroom for their reception. Hallie’s parents have been regulars at the Saxapahaw General Store restaurant since they opened, so even though it wasn’t home, the ballroom already held plenty of family memories. This self-proclaimed sentimental couple loved celebrating in both locations with all their loved ones, at a wedding that not only nodded to their own love story, but also their families and their Southern heritage.

We’re so happy our friend and Blue Ribbon Vendor Graham Terhune was on hand to capture this beautiful day!

Did you decide to do a first look? Why or why not? Yes, we did a first look, primarily to knock out as many photos as possible before our reception. After talking over our thoughts with our photographer, Graham, he created an amazing moment for our first look at the ceremony site. Griff stood with his back to me among the antique pews, and I came out of my grandmother’s front door and walked up behind him. It was an incredibly powerful moment and we were both so thrilled to finally see each other. Immediately following our first look, our groomsmen walked from my parents’ home on the opposite end of the farm through the field to my grandmother’s house, on the same path that I used to take between the houses as a little girl. Griff and I stood by the fence and watched them traipse through the field, sunglasses on, in their tuxedos. It was such a fun moment!

I can’t say enough good things about our wedding flowers and our experience with the Flower Patch of Hillsborough. It’s a family-run business that our family has loved for almost three decades. I was a bit of an atypical bride and wanted pumpkins, gourds and other earthy details to be a major element in all of our decor. Dionne from the Flower Patch took my wild ideas and brought them to life in the most incredible ways. From the garlands decorating our ceremony, to our bouquets, to the breathtaking arrangements at our reception, she truly captured and executed my vision flawlessly.

Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? We did not write our own vows–we borrowed traditional vows from the Presbyterian church. That said, since we were getting married in a nontraditional environment, we had the opportunity to write the rest of our ceremony with input from our officiant. Writing our ceremony together was one of the most fun and meaningful things we did together while wedding planning.

I borrowed the antique cameo necklace that my mother wore on her wedding day in 1980, as well as her antique diamond earrings from the 1920’s. My something old was the lace wrapped around my bouquet, which was taken from my mother’s wedding gown. My dress from Traditions by Anna in downtown Raleigh was new and my garter was Carolina blue–a nod to Griff’s alma mater.

What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? Griffin and I are incredibly sentimental people. Our wedding celebrated us, but it also truly embraced both the autumn season and our Southern ancestry. Wherever we could, we sourced elements of the day from our families and their traditions. Speaking of small details, one of Griff’s and my father’s favorite moments was the burying of the bourbon to ensure fabulous weather. In late September, we buried a bottle of Jefferson’s bourbon upside down on the spot of our ceremony, and it worked! Our day was a perfectly cloudless, 72 degree fall day. Griff dug up the bourbon immediately after the ceremony to celebrate. It was a wonderfully impromptu moment.

I have known that I wanted to get married on my family’s farm since I was a little girl. As soon as Griffin and I got engaged, we talked with my family about how to make it work logistically and quickly realized that we likely needed an unconventional plan to pull it off. We ultimately decided to have a small gathering for the ceremony in my grandmother’s front yard, in front of a 200-year-old oak tree, followed by a reception at our beloved Haw River Ballroom in Saxapahaw. My parents have been regulars at the Saxapahaw General Store restaurant since they opened, so working with their team felt almost like we were having the reception at home. It’s funny–as soon as we made this plan, everything else simply fell into place without issue, and it truly felt meant to be.

Our favorite detail of the wedding was: Beyond the incredible weather of that day, we both agree that our favorite detail was the very quick supper we enjoyed by ourselves at the Saxapahaw General Store while waiting to make our entrance. The buses dropped us off at the restaurant door adjacent to the Haw River Ballroom, and we got to sit down in one of the booths with all of the other diners, see our favorite folks on staff, and enjoy a few wonderful bites of our reception food. It was incredible to come in wearing our wedding attire and sit down just like any other Saturday date night!

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. Griffin and I met in 2008 while working at one of Chapel Hill, North Carolina’s most beloved watering holes. He was finishing up his degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and I had just returned home from Montana, where I had been working as a cowgirl. Griff was a lead server at Top of the Hill, and trained me on my very first day. We immediately became friends and, though we had both sworn that we’d never be in a relationship with another redhead, we started dating a little less than a year later.
Tell us all about the proposal! We were living near the Chapel Hill Botanical Gardens when we first adopted our dog, Bear. There are multiple trails leaving the botanical gardens, and our favorite was the one to Merritt’s Pasture–a beautiful, pastoral spot in the middle of Chapel Hill. On the day of the proposal, which was also our four-year anniversary of dating, Griff talked me into taking Bear for a walk there again, even though it was misting outside. He had a backpack, which I assumed held a towel and water for the pup, but once we got to a bench at the top of Merritt’s Pasture, looking down over the creek and trees, he whipped out champagne and glasses. That was when I knew something was up! He proposed with his grandmother’s diamond, which was special in that it was from his father’s side of the family, and his father had passed away unexpectedly a few years before. Unfortunately, I never got to meet his father, so to have this connection meant the world to me. We had the diamond set by the incredible team at Wade’s Jewelers of Gibsonville to match my great-grandmother’s wedding band from 1913, which is now my wedding band.
When did y’all get married? October 25, 2014
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? We had 75 at the ceremony and 220 at the reception.
Describe your wedding cake or dessert. Immediately following our small ceremony, we held a cake and champagne cocktail hour with that intimate group at the farm before heading to the Haw River Ballroom for the larger reception. My incredibly talented sister made the wedding cake we enjoyed at that time from devil’s food cake and buttercream icing recipes that have been in our family since the 1800s. The recipes were my great-grandmother’s, and I am named for her husband, my great-grandfather Hallie, so it felt like a wonderful tribute. We opted to not have a second cake at our reception. Instead, I wanted to celebrate and embrace autumn with an array of seasonal pies and desserts so that everyone could find something to enjoy. The team at the Saxapahaw General Store pulled that vision off to perfection.
How did you plan for your marriage while planning your wedding? In the year leading up to our wedding, we worked hard to understand one others’ communication styles better, especially as they applied to finances. We also made sure to take time away from planning to talk about our future beyond the big day–especially about our goals and dreams, both short and long term. Those times kept us grounded and focused on what was important, and I believe it started us off on the best foot possible once we were married.
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? The biggest challenge for us came early on–accepting that our initial vision for both a ceremony and reception on the farm wasn’t going to work. At first, it was frustrating for a time, because we wanted to share the place we loved with all of the people we love, but the logistics for our vision continued to be prohibitive in so many ways. When we realized how much stress holding both events at home would add, and therefore possibly detract from our families’ enjoyment of the day, we pivoted and got the best of both worlds. We were married on the farm, but enjoyed the reception in a place where every detail was handled for us.
If you are comfortable responding, what range did your wedding budget fall into? $25,000-$50,000
What’s next for you as a couple? What memories are you looking forward to making together? We purchased a 1930’s bungalow in downtown Durham shortly after our wedding and we are so looking forward to putting some time and love into it in the coming months and years. We’re also tentatively planning a trip abroad sometime in 2016–likely to Ireland!

Photographer: Graham Terhune / Planner: Carly Abernathy of La Fête / Ceremony Venue: Private Residence / Reception Venue: Haw River Ballroom / Florist: The Flower Patch / Wedding Cake: Sarah Sessoms / Caterer and Dessert Baker: The Saxapahaw General Store / Rentals: American Party Rentals / Band: The Troupers / Paper Products: Ply / Veil: Bespoke by Olga’s Bridal & Formal Couture / Hair and Makeup: Lanee Brooks Salon / Bridesmaids’ Dresses and Bride’s Shoes: J. Crew / Bridesmaids Robes: Belles of Cotton / Groom’s Attire: Brooks Brothers / Groomsmen Attire: Julian’s of Chapel Hill / Jewelry: Wade’s Jewelers / Ceremony Strings: Elegant Ensembles / Officiant: Ed Sansbury / Quaker Wedding Certificate: Emily Brooks Designs

Graham Terhune and Ply are delightful members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

marissa Written with love by Marissa
3 Comments
  1. avatar Graham reply

    Still one of our favorite weddings ever! Such a fabulous couple!! Thank you for sharing their day!

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