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Friends! Thank you so much for all of your sweet feedback in my last “Lisa’s Southern Wedding” post. It means the world to me! I’m diving into mine and Dave’s wedding plans today, and I’m excited to share about how we made the hardest wedding decision we’ve made yet—our venues.

The longer version of this post’s title is “Choosing a Venue When You Have Too Many Options.” As you read in my last post, my handsome fiancé and I have a long list of places that are special to us, so even narrowing down a state to get married in was a challenge! Once we quickly nixed the idea of eloping in Austria where we met (though wouldn’t that be romantic?), Dave and I sat down over a barbecue lunch in Raleigh to discuss the pros and cons of our options. Here’s what we did know:

1. We are having a full Catholic Mass ceremony, so we need to have our ceremony in a church—preferably a beautiful one that we love and have some connection to.
2. I wanted an indoor venue for our reception, surrounded by beautiful outdoor space for pictures.
3. We were quite set on having a Saturday wedding in May 2015.

With that in mind, here are a few of our biggest pros and cons for each place:

Syracuse, New York. Pros: It’s Dave’s hometown and his whole family is there. Con: I don’t know anything about the wedding industry in upstate New York and would be starting from scratch looking for venues and vendors. Since Dave wasn’t tied to the idea of getting married there, we crossed NY off of the list first.

Austin, Texas. Pros: Dave and I LOVE Austin, and it would be an amazing destination for our guests. Con: Between the cost of an Austin wedding and the travel we would need to do, Austin was both our most expensive and least practical option.

Houston, Texas. Pro: My family and many of my friends are there. Con: It’s far away from Dave and I, as well as Dave’s family. While I’m sure Houston could have been a great option, I ultimately decided I wasn’t willing to relinquish quite as much control of the wedding over to my mom or a planner as I would have needed to.

Somewhere in North Carolina. Pros: Dave and I adore our church in Raleigh, and it would be fun to introduce our families and friends to our new home state. Cons: The reception venues I looked at near our church tended to lack the sweeping, outdoor views I was dreaming of, and it would be a destination for not one, but both of our families, plus most of our friends.

Somewhere in Virginia. Pros: I grew up there, so I loved the idea of getting married in my home state, every reception venue I looked at was more stunning than the last, and it’s a good “halfway” point for our families. Cons: We didn’t know of any churches in the area, and it would still be a destination for our guests.

Personal photo at King Family Vineyards

Phew! With all that in mind, we ended up with North Carolina and Virginia in a tie. I dove into research mode, determined to find something before the new year (we got engaged in mid-November) in case I could take advantage of any 2014 rates by booking in 2013–a tip I picked up in Emily’s amazing budgeting post. In North Carolina, we looked into Adaumont Farm, Raffaldini Vineyards, and The Sutherland, to name a few, but by early December, we were leaning heavily toward Charlottesville, Virginia. Dave even flew down so we could drive there together and take a look at a few places. As much as we loved one of the reception venues though (King Family Vineyards), we couldn’t find a church that we also loved, so we left Charlottesville a little disheartened. Dave flew back to New York that night, and I went back to my computer to focus on North Carolina. After a few hours of feeling embarrassingly frustrated, I had a revelation.

Dave and I love my church and our priest in Raleigh. When it comes down to it, the ceremony is by far the most important part of our wedding day, and no place was going to feel quite as “at home” as it would there. There was also a reception venue within reasonable distance that I had shrugged off early on as the “too predictable” choice—but in truth, it’s one of our favorite places in North Carolina. I called Dave while he was laid over in an airport on his way home and ran my new idea by him, and as I told him what I was thinking, we both knew it was the perfect fit.

And that is how we landed on our venues: the beautiful Sacred Heart Cathedral and the Barn at Fearrington Village!

Personal photos

The more we talked about it, the more everything seemed to click. I love the fact that we’ll truly be showing our guests two of our favorite places in North Carolina. As a true-blue city girl, I’m also excited that our ceremony is taking place in downtown Raleigh, but we won’t have to give up the beautiful landscapes I love for portraits. Here’s a closer look at Sacred Heart:

Top two photos by Michael Moss via Style Me Pretty, interior by Robyn Van Dyke, ceiling by Nancy Ray

Fearrington already holds so many special memories for both me and Dave–it really is one of our favorite places. The Barn is a relatively blank canvas, and the staff at Fearrington is so wonderful to work with. It’s the perfect place for us to show our guests the country part of NC! Here are a few of my favorite Fearrington wedding picures.

Top photo by Nancy Ray, middle two photos by Kate Headley via Snippet & Ink, family photo by Eric Kelley from our V5 Family Heirlooms shoot!

How did you go about choosing your venue/venues? Next up, I’ll be telling y’all about our photographer(!!)—that decision was significantly easier than this one!

P.S. Fun fact: Ironically, I’m the first Southern Weddings gal who, since starting to work at SW, is having a wedding in the South! Emily was married in her home state of Connecticut and Katharine was married at her alma mater in Massachusetts. That’s how we came up with this series name, Lisa’s Southern Wedding!

In case you missed a post…
I’m Engaged!
The Main Characters

lisa Written with love by Lisa
  1. avatar Alana reply

    Oh Lisa! Sacred Heart is by far one of the most beautiful churches!! And a wedding there….oh so much more perfect!! Hope all the wedding planning goes just wonderfully : )

  2. avatar Catherine Grace reply

    The ceiling of the cathedral is stunning! :)

  3. avatar Robyn Van Dyke reply

    YAY!!! So excited for you, Lisa!! I remember discussing all the many gorgeous venue options with you – LOVE your final choices!!! Woop woop! :)

  4. avatar Dana reply

    they’re so perfect!!!! so glad I got to see them in real life!

  5. avatar Emily reply

    Hooray! Such good choices, and together they encompass such a wide variety of environments – perfect for you guys! LOVE that starry ceiling!

  6. avatar Sadie reply

    Lisa, as a Southern Catholic lady myself, I am SO excited to follow your wedding planning journey! Definitely looking forward to the personal touches you’ll add to the already beautiful Sacred Heart Cathedral!

  7. avatar Meredith reply

    Helloooooooo King Family!! Sorry, I got really distracted when I saw your pic there and I recognized it instantly. I’m getting married there in ~2 months (4/12/14)!!!!

    The church and venue y’all picked sounds perfect for you :-) I’m excited to follow your planning adventures even though mine will be coming to an end soon! Best wishes, Meredith

    • avatar Lisa reply

      We absolutely loved King Family! Wishing you all the best in your last two months of planning! :)

  8. avatar Molly reply

    I’m getting married in May of this year and finding our venue was the hardest part! We chose a destination wedding in the NC mountains and randomly stumbled on the venue when looking for houses to rent on the Sotheby’s website, which is odd, but it turned out to be a hidden gem of a venue! I love reading about your wedding planning!

    • avatar Lisa reply

      Thanks Molly! Love that y’all found your venue in such an unexpected way!

    • avatar Molly reply

      I just realized that a nice way to incorporate Syracuse might be through your stationery/invitations! It’s home to the 2 best letterpress lines in the country, Bella Figura and Smock…and they take a lot of pride in their city! I’m their NC dealer so let me know if you ever want to see the albums in person! Cheers!

  9. avatar Christina L. Frederick reply

    My heart is bursting with excitement for you! Your church is beautiful and who could resist a wedding by the Belties! :) Twp perfect venues for two perfect people! Big hugs!
    xo Christina

    • avatar Lisa reply

      Thank you, sweet friend! We definitely can’t wait for our guests to see the Belties! :)

  10. avatar Whitney reply

    We had such a similar situation because we both live in Columbia and neither of us is “from here.” But we’ve been attending Trinity Cathedral for years and we knew we wanted to have a full service there. The reception venue was secondary but turned out to be awesome! You won’t regret getting married in a space that is so beautiful and special to you all at once, and you get to re-live a bit of it everytime you go to church on Sundays! I linked the sneak peak from our December wedding so you can check it out :) best of luck to you!

    • avatar Lisa reply

      LOVE that–such a good point! Your church is so gorgeous! Thanks for sharing the pictures! :)

  11. avatar Whitney reply

    Oops – forgot to link it!

  12. avatar lena reply

    What perfect choices!

  13. avatar Classic Vineyard Wedding by Candi Coffman – Southern Weddings Magazine reply

    […] my favorite Southern wedding destinations–so much so that my fiancé and I considered it for our own wedding! I wasn’t the least bit surprised when I read that Jane and Marty selected the gorgeous […]

  14. avatar Anastasia reply

    Lisa this is all so beautiful! I’m so happy you two were able to decide!

  15. avatar Bethany H. reply

    I started reading this series because of today’s post – I got engaged in December 2013 (in Disney World!) and am getting married May 29, 2015 at The Sutherland, and it’s fun to read about a bride getting married and going through the same timeline of events as I am! Best of luck to you, Lisa!

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As you may have read a few weeks ago, I’m newly engaged! Despite what my job description might lead you to believe, I have definitely not been planning my wedding for years, and I’m still overjoyed at the fact that I get to do so now. Emily’s wedding planning series has already been invaluable to me, so I sincerely hope that having another SW gal’s wedding planning journey at your fingertips will be helpful…or, at least, fun!

Y’all already know a little bit about me, but I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce you to my handsome fiancé, Dave, and tell you our love story, which spans three countries, five states, and four years. It’s a long one, so y’all get comfortable! Let’s start from the beginning, shall we?

I graduated from the University of Texas, but before I went there, I spent my first two years of college at Franciscan University. Their study abroad program is unique in that everyone studying abroad goes together to their “satellite” campus in the Sound of Music-esque little town of Gaming, Austria. Here’s where we lived—stunning, isn’t it?

In spring 2010, I headed to Austria myself, where Dave had already spent the fall, and was spending the spring as well. He was an RA, so my very first memory of Dave was when I was randomly put into his group for an orientation meeting. We officially met about a month or so later, in the cafeteria. He sat down next to me at dinner with some mutual friends, and after asking me where I was from, we found out that one of my high school friends was one of his best friends. Side note: I went to high school in Qatar, so this was a pretty unlikely thing! A few weeks later, we hung out for the first time while on a 10-day school trip to Italy, and clicked immediately. Here’s the first picture ever of just the two of us, taken in Assisi.

As friends, we made some amazing memories in Europe, and left that semester knowing that what we had was incredibly special. But, we didn’t know what to do about it–I was all set to transfer schools right after Austria, and once we got back to the States, we didn’t keep in touch. We didn’t talk for about three years.

In that time, we both grew immensely. I realized my dream job of working for a wedding magazine and dove headfirst into pursuing that, which included starting a blog and transferring colleges again—this time to UT. He graduated, moved back to his hometown (Syracuse, NY) for his first job in finance, and started graduate school in New York City. We also both ended the relationships we had been in. I remember thinking that in my next relationship, I wanted someone who made me feel the way Dave had in Austria, but I didn’t even dare to imagine that I could end up with Dave himself.

Finally, just a little over a year ago in January 2013, I had brunch with one of my best friends from high school (who happens to be the sister of mine and Dave’s mutual friend), and mentioned to her that I’d be open to reconnecting with Dave. Little did I know, Dave had never stopped talking about me to her brother, so after our brunch, she went to tell him, and he immediately called Dave. Dave started planning what to say to me after all these years, while I, at the same time, started planning my own “casual” hello. A few days later, I drove back to Austin for my last semester of school, planning a Facebook message in my head the whole way. By the time I arrived, I was surprised to have a message from Dave already in my inbox. I sent him my number, and he called me during the Golden Globes. We talked for three hours that night, and three more the next night, and so on and so forth. He says he knew within a week of talking again that he was going to marry me.

After about a month and a half of talking constantly, we decided it was time for us to see each other and find out exactly what this was, so I flew to Syracuse. I remember standing outside the airport in the cold (it was March 1) waiting for him to pick me up, and thinking, “These are the last few moments of my life before everything changes.” And I was right! That feeling of waiting for him is what I imagine it’ll be like waiting for our first look on our wedding day, and I will never, as long as I live, forget what it was like to finally see him in person after all those years. That day, we officially started dating. Here’s one of the few pictures we took on my trip. Jumping pictures are an Austria tradition of ours. :)

Since that first visit, Dave and I have been dating long-distance—him in Syracuse and me in Austin, then Houston, and now Chapel Hill. We have gotten to know each others’ families (I even went camping with the Kirks, which is SO far out of my comfort zone!), taken some amazing adventures (spontaneously meeting up in New York City for a weekend), and even though he isn’t here yet, we’ve started to make North Carolina feel like our home. It was only fitting that he proposed in North Carolina—at the V6 launch party, no less!

Dave is my best friend in the world—he brings out the best in me and has taught me more every day what “love never fails” means. I still can’t believe that I get to marry him!!

I am so excited and honored to share our wedding planning journey with y’all, and would love to know what you’d like to hear about! We’re saying “I do” on May 2, 2015, so we have lots of time to chat about all things wedding! :)

lisa Written with love by Lisa
  1. avatar MacKenzie reply

    Well, I loved that! After getting the “short” version via email, it was awesome to sit with my coffee and read about your romance (with photos too!). So happy you two reconnected at the perfect time in your lives. And SO happy we’ll be part of your next adventure! xo

  2. avatar Aelish reply

    LOVE IT. so excited for this wedding! xo

  3. avatar Dana reply

    you left out the best part of the story! while in austria my beautiful family came to visit and Dave followed us on all of our travels pretending to be surprised that he crashed into us wherever we went.

  4. avatar Sarah Becker Lillard reply

    Lisa, this is the sweetest start to this blog series! Wedding planning, for me, is quite a blur (and it was less than 2 years ago!) and I know these posts will be invaluable to you as you wish to recall all the good and bad that can be planning such a huge event! So excited for you + Dave! Can’t wait for the next post. ;) xoxo

    • avatar Lisa reply

      Thank you so much, Sarah! I’m so excited to have a record of this sweet time–Dave’s grandma encouraged us to keep journals of our engagement, so we’re doing that as well! :)

  5. avatar Sara reply

    I LOVE this!!! Yay Lisa!!

  6. avatar jacin reply

    what a sweet story!!!! so happy for you!

  7. avatar Emily reply

    Love this and love y’all! It’s a beautiful story with impeccable timing. I can’t wait to read (and see!) the next chapters!

  8. avatar lena reply

    I’m so thrilled you’re going to be blogging about the planning process–and delighted to get to know more about your wonderful relationship!

  9. avatar Aimee reply

    I remember you getting up for that call during the Golden Globes and showing us all his picture once you got that Facebook message! So perfect how it all worked out. Remember, I also told you at the time, “If you guys get married, you’ll have the perfect story…”

  10. avatar Christina L. Frederick reply

    I love this! I love your story and am so happy to read a long as you share your wedding planning adventure! Sending hugs from Houston as you write this wonderful chapter! xo

  11. avatar Nancy Ray reply

    SO excited about this series, Lisa! Your wedding is going to be so lovely in every way, because you are. And Dave is quite the Southern gentleman – I can’t wait to read about how everything unfolds!

  12. avatar Sarah reply

    Congratulations! I lived reading your story and am so excited you’re going to be blogging your entire planing experience :)

    Also, I love the dress you wore when you were proposed to!!! Where is it from?

    Wishing you all the best from Atlanta!

    • avatar Lisa reply

      Thank you so much, Sarah! The dress is from LulaKate–they made all of our dresses for the V6 launch party. Mine had the “Paige” bodice and “Sassy Stripes” skirt, and I absolutely loved it!

  13. avatar sarah tucker reply

    This made me tear up! So incredibly sweet. I am SO happy for you!! God writes the best love stories (:

  14. avatar Anastasia Kristina reply

    Lisa this is such a beautiful story! So happy for you two :)

  15. avatar Samantha reply

    So beyond happy for you, Lisa! You’re going to make such a beautiful bride and I’m excited to follow along on this sweet journey you’re stepping into! (:

  16. avatar Hannah reply

    So exciting! I love y’alls sweet story!!

  17. avatar Lindsay {Everistta} reply


Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

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