By the time Sarah Jane and Brad’s wedding rolled into my inbox as a submission, it was almost like seeing the photos from a friend or cousin’s wedding. After all, anyone who read SJ’s Southern Bride of the Month interview probably felt like they had gained a new best friend — she’s just that chatty and warm! I’d venture to say her and Brad’s wedding turned out even more beautifully than she imagined; it was so fun to see ideas she discussed in her interview come to life, like the glowing cocktail tables! Huge hugs to Vue Photography for capturing the joy of this Florida beach wedding.
P.S. Want to be a Southern Bride of the Month, too? We’re looking for you! Take a peek at this page for application instructions and to see all of our past interviews!
Brad is a diehard UK Wildcat fan, and I bleed Volunteer Orange! The UK/UT football game always takes place on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and when it’s a home game for Kentucky, our tradition is to go to the game together. He patiently takes relentless punishment from his friends for walking into the stadium with me, as I wear so much orange that you can probably see me from space! I also sing every verse of Rocky Top whenever the appropriate occasion arises (Brad would say that is never). 2011 was the magic year for the Wildcats, and they won the matchup with Tennessee for the first time in 27 years. He proposed that weekend, and I’m still trying to decide whether he wanted to commemorate their historic win, or balance what he knew would be a tough loss for me with a wonderful memory! I’m choosing to go with the latter.
My dear friend Andrea has a line of children’s clothing, and she agreed to custom design our flower girls’ dresses. I didn’t give her any specific requests–I just showed her samples of my dress, the bridesmaid dresses, and an overall feel for the wedding design. She eclipsed every single expectation I could have ever had! She incorporated the most beautiful fabrics and wonderful details. She put each girl’s monogram on the swiss dot skirt under the lace overlay, and there were so many pleats! She also used lace she’d been saving, which was handmade by nuns over 100 years ago!
Daddy was absolutely amazing in a three-piece blue seersucker suit. He wore a bow tie from Vineyard Vines that is inspired by jockey silks as a nod to Kentucky. When I saw him in his wedding day apparel for the first time, I just squealed because he looked so amazing! I’m a Daddy’s girl, and we had so many sweet moments before, during, and after the ceremony and reception. Brad and I decided not to see each other before the ceremony, so I asked our photographer and videographer to be there for a “first look” with Daddy. It was the most incredible, emotional moment for us both. I will carry that sweet memory with me forever.
Tell us about finding your wedding dress. What was your favorite thing about it? The day we went shopping for my wedding gown was one of the most special days of my life! Mama, Brad’s mom, and all three of my bridesmaids joined me for a trip to Atlanta to make the selection. We had high tea at the St. Regis across from the bridal salon, and my darling sister (MOH) had the most beautiful bouquet of pink peonies made up for me to carry for the day. I had a very specific vision of what I wanted for my dress, because a couple of years prior, I had pulled a photo of a Monique Lhuillier design that I just knew would be perfect. It was lace, cut close to the body, and just beautiful. When we got to the salon, they still had the dress for me to try! I loved it, and was inches away from choosing it for the big day, when my sister, who had been perusing the other Lhuillier dresses on the racks, pulled one out and said, “You have to try this one, her name is Peony!!!” I tried it on for giggles, just because of the name, but as soon as I came out of the fitting room, I heard a collective gasp. I remained torn between the two for a bit, but there was really no competition in the end. I loved every minute of wearing that gown, and I didn’t want to take it off!
Monogrammed ring bearer bow ties — so fabulous!
We buried a bottle of Woodford upside down at the ceremony site, and the boys dug it up just before the ceremony. They toasted the occasion with the bourbon they had just retrieved–the bottle ended up empty, so I’m glad I didn’t bury a bigger bottle! New to this Southern tradition? Read our post on it here!
The first thing Brad said to me when we started planning the wedding was that he’d like to have sand in his toes while we said our vows. We chose the beaches of the Emerald Coast, because it’s about an hour south of where my sweet mama grew up. I have always known that I’d have to get married in May because that’s the month when peonies (my very, very favorite flower) are plentiful! We invited our families and friends to meet us down at the beach for the week before the wedding. We had the most amazing time with everyone, and the majority of our guests got to know each other prior to the wedding, so when the day arrived, we felt like one big happy family! The big day’s palette and theme were inspired by the way the beach looks just before sunset–the pearly beiges, pale pinks, and watery blues and greens.
Make sure you look closely at Sarah Jane’s program — her wording is so clever! More on having an unplugged wedding here.
Tell us a bit about the wedding ceremony. What part was most special to you? Did you include any special readings? One thing we did for the ceremony that was a little different is that we included a statement of support from the guests with the idea of including them in the vow ceremony. The officiant asked them to affirm their continued prayers and support for Brad and I in our new life together. It was one of the most inspiring moments of our ceremony.
Who participated in your ceremony? My uncle came all the way from California just to perform the ceremony. The evening before the wedding, he also baptized my niece in the ocean. It was such an amazing and inspiring time for my entire family!
Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? Brad and I elected to use traditional vows for our ceremony; there’s something so meaningful about making our promises to each other using the same words that couples have used for centuries.
Did you try anything new? I have always loved the song “Nella Fantasia,” sung by Sarah Brightman. I know it’s a bit of an untraditional bridal processional, but I knew from the way it made me feel every time I heard it that it had to be the one. I had so many guests tell me that they had both goosebumps and tears when they heard that incredible voice and melody while I was coming down the aisle to Brad. It’s the one decision I had the most trepidation about, and was the one thing that I’m so glad I did!
The funniest moment for me was during the ring ceremony, when Brad couldn’t get my wedding band on my finger. He actually had to lick my finger to get it on!
We held our reception at the Carillon Beach Meeting House. It has the most charming high ceilings, exposed beams, and everywhere you look is white! I also loved the transitional space from indoor to outdoor, as the doors on either side can be opened to the patio space on the left and right. We set the feature table on one patio, and the dance floor and lounge area on the other.
We had several dozen distressed lanterns of assorted sizes that we used to accent the space. We also used six tufted slipper chairs covered in the most beautiful pale pink linen in the lounge area. One of my very favorite details was the distressed cane back chairs we used for the feature table. Our event designer took my breath away with how she styled the interior of the Meeting House. I was so afraid that the décor would be very busy, and take away from the simple splendor of the venue. When I walked in to see the tables done in white linens with tall vases and candles, I couldn’t believe how gorgeous it looked.
What kind of food did you serve? I have to say, the food at our reception was just incredible! We had passed appetizers at the cocktail hour, including the most wonderful cheese-stuffed deep fried olives–yes, they were just as amazing as they sound! We wanted to highlight fresh local ingredients, so we chose things like grouper sliders, fresh fruit, and platters of grilled vegetables. We also had fried green tomato sliders made from the recipe they use at the Greenbrier (my favorite!) and we substituted fried okra for croutons on the salad.
We used Mama and Daddy’s cake topper from their reception on our cake, as well as their cake knife. My sister had used both of them at her wedding as well. We had our names and wedding dates engraved on the knife blade so that my nieces or anyone else who uses it in the future will know the history!
I tasked a dear friend of mine with putting something together for the children to do, and she surpassed every expectation I had! She made the most charming activity book for them, complete with caricatures of Brad and I, bride/groom trivia, and a scavenger hunt. She also included a blank card for them to write and/or draw on and give to us. We had the most fun opening them up the next day–they were so precious!
My favorite moment of the night was during the last dance at our reception. Brad and I had danced to every song up to that point, but at the last second, we flopped down on one of the lounge chairs at the edge of the dance floor, just to soak in every sight, sound, and sensation. Watching all of our dear ones laughing, dancing, and celebrating in the glow of the lights strung over the dance floor was so magical!
How did the two of you meet? Tell us your story. We met at one of our favorite local restaurants, which was hosting a benefit for autism that night. I had a girlfriend visiting from Southern California, and Brad was there with one of his buddies, who I’ve known for years because we work in the same industry. Jason stopped by our table to say hello, and immediately hit it off with my friend! As a result, Brad and I were thrown together for the remainder of the weekend, and by the time it was over, we had fallen hook line and sinker! We’ve been blissfully together ever since, and still marvel over the fact that we never met before that night, since Lexington is such a small town and we know so many of the same people. God’s timing is such perfection!
What was the weather like on your big day? The weather could not have been more perfect! The sky was a little overcast, enough cover to keep the weather cool and comfortable, and to provide the ideal light for amazing photographs.
How many guests attended your wedding? We shared the day with 50 of our dearest family members and closest friends.
What was the biggest challenge you faced while planning your wedding? The most difficult thing during the planning process was editing! I adored such an array of details and elements that it was really challenging to make sure that I chose wisely and kept everything cohesive. In the end, I made the decision to use only the ideas that I couldn’t live without!
What did the groomsmen wear? The groomsmen each chose a light-colored suit that they loved, and wore green pocket squares with their monograms. We wanted them to have a very relaxed feel, so we asked them to wear their shirts open collar, with no tie. The ring bearers wore khaki linen pants/shorts, and had linen bow ties with their monograms. Brad’s nephew also had a seersucker cap.
Bride’s bouquet: My bouquet was made of lovely, fringed white peonies, white lisanthus, lamb’s ear, and cotton. It smelled just like heaven!
Bridesmaids’ bouquets: The girls carried sweet nosegays of all shades of pink peonies, accented with ranunculus and lamb’s ear.
What was the design inspiration for your reception? I’ve always been a huge fan of contrasts in texture and formality. We wanted our reception to feel comfortable and warm, but also to elevate some of the details to make it a special event.
Did you have a cocktail hour? If so, what was it like? Brad and I missed the first few minutes of our cocktail hour because we were still taking a few photographs on the beach. I’ll never forget how everything looked as we were driving up to the reception site. Everyone was laughing, talking, and enjoying the food, beverages and décor. The moment we entered, we were immediately enveloped with their excitement and true delight for us as a couple.
What were some of the highlights of the reception? Because our guest list was so small, we got to celebrate some special milestones with a few of our guests. We sang happy birthday to four guests who had birthdays on or just before our wedding day. My friend who designed the flower girl dresses and her husband celebrated their anniversary, so we were able to highlight that by playing their first dance song at the reception.
What was Southern about your wedding? We included cotton in my bouquet, as well as the boutonnieres. My family believes that food is love, and so many things that are innately Southern are also things to eat! We thought the menu would be the perfect place to incorporate our love of all things below the Mason Dixon Line. We also scattered cushions around the feature table and lounge areas with Southern phrases on them.
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you looking forward to in the future? Our wedding day surpassed every dream we had for it, but as incredible as it was, it’s really only a wonderful starting point for our lives together. We relive those memories all the time, but they simply can’t compete with the mundane fun of sharing our daily lives together. We can’t wait to see what God has in store for us as a couple!
Photographer: Genya Garrett of Vue Photography / Videographer: Joanna and Robert Banks-Morgan of Sixpence Productions / Planner: Avis Glenister and Victoria Volpone of Carillon Weddings / Florist and Designer: Christina Springfield of Events by Nouveau Flowers / Ceremony Venue: Carillon Beach, Walkover #7 / Reception Venue: The Meeting House at Carillon Beach / Catering and Linens: David and Donna Townsend of Townsend Catering / Bride’s Gown: “Peony” by Monique Lhuillier / Bridal Salon: Joan Pillow Bridal Salon / Bride’s Shoes and Clutch: Kate Spade / Bridesmaid Dresses: Amsale, assorted styles in Blush / Hair Stylist: Melia Schmidt, sister of the bride / Makeup Artist: Jamie Gummere of Paint Me Pretty / Groom’s Attire: Kenneth Cole / Groom’s Bow Tie: Vineyard Vines Lucky Julep in green / Groomsmen’s Pocket Squares: High Cotton Ties, Monograms by Sew Nice (Lexington KY) / Paper Goods: Miss Pickles Press / Rentals: Events by Nouveau Flowers and Townsend Catering / Flower Girl Dresses and Ring Bearer’s Monogrammed Bow Ties: Custom by Pippy Frances Clothing / DJ: Paul Kirker of Gulf Talent Services / Children’s Activity Books: Emily Carlson