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Christina and Matt met in the city of Ouagadougou in West Africa while volunteering for the Peace Corp–talk about an adventurous courtship! For their October wedding, they were inspired by their mutual love of the color green, and they wanted an aesthetic that was built around nature and inspired by leaves, trees, wood, and flowers. The talented Tara Guérard took the already gorgeous Lowndes Groves Plantation, and boy, did she up its game! She even brought the beauty of the great outdoors right inside their stunning tent. I would be remiss not to mention that Christina and Matt’s officiant included a few words of wisdom from that “great Southern philosopher,” Forrest Gump, in their ceremony. I know the whole congregation must have been tickled to hear that!

Thank you so much to Liz Banfield for sharing this stunner with us in V7!

How did the two of you meet? Tell us your story. Matt and I met in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso in West Africa, as Peace Corps Volunteers. I lived in Burkina and Matt lived in the neighboring country of Togo. The day we met–January 2, 2009–we had both been traveling with friends. My friends and I had plans to take a bus to Togo the next day. Matt gave me advice about where to go and what to do, and I invited him and his friends to join us for dinner, drinks, and dancing. Many hours later, in the early morning outside of a night club, Matt and his friends announced that they had decided to cut their vacation short and would join us on the bus to Togo. Matt escorted us all the way to his city, Lomé, and took care of us all week. While my friends spent an overnight in Ghana, I stayed behind and spent 48 hours with Matt. That was our unofficial first date. Eight months later, I moved to Togo and became a third-year volunteer in the town next to his. Until years later, he had no idea that I had done it for him. The day I arrived, we spent hours together in a group enjoying the festivities. At the end of the night, I went to my hotel room and closed the door, fretting about whether I had made the right decision, and if he was still interested in me. A few minutes later, there was a knock at my door. I opened the door and it was Matt. He took my arm, said “Christina,” and then kissed me. He finished his sentence before disappearing into the night: “See you tomorrow.”

I loved the way my dress maintained its dramatic shape whether I was walking, spinning, or standing still! It looked great from every angle and was unmistakably a wedding dress.

Who was one of the most special guests at your wedding? Rose Kpomblekou, of Peace Corps Togo, traveled all the way from West Africa to attend the wedding!

Who was your officiant? The pastor who married us is a close friend of Matt and a true Southern gentleman. He had tears in his eyes (and streaming down his kind face!) throughout the ceremony, and we were married with words of wisdom from that great Southern philosopher, Forrest Gump. He made everyone laugh while sharing his gifts as a spiritual and loving man.

Tell us a bit about the wedding ceremony. We had a string quartet playing songs we loved from Lord of the Rings, Braveheart, and some of Matt’s favorite video games. The ceremony was outside under a huppah of green leaves and a beautiful tree. Guests were facing a river and sitting on a mixture of chairs and pew-like benches. My dad and I emerged dramatically from the stunning Lowndes Grove mansion and had a nice long walk across the lawn to the center aisle–plenty of time for one last father-daughter chat before the I do’s!

No matter where we held the wedding, our families would have to travel. My family comes from in and around the New York Tri-State area, whereas Matt’s family lives in South Carolina and Florida. Elegant and cozy Charleston, South Carolina was the perfect location–not only because it is one of Matt’s favorite places in the world, but it was also a place that my family came to know and love through Matt’s eyes.

What was the design inspiration for your wedding? Why was this design special to you as a couple? I gathered fantastical images from Lord of the Rings and magical-looking forests. We both love the color green and wanted an aesthetic that was built around nature themes: leaves, trees, wood, flowers, etc.

What were some of the highlights of the reception? We LOVE to dance and the band was phenomenal. I danced to every song at our wedding except three: I missed two because of impromptu pictures and one because I was out of breath from jumping around with my brother. The speeches couldn’t have been more touching, funny, and apropos. The food was delicious and the service was flawless. Our sweetheart table experience turned into a surprise romantic dinner for two in the middle of our wedding!

My cousin, David Johnson, is a songwriter and musician, so we asked if he would perform one of his songs at the wedding. He came back to us a week later with a brand new song entitled “Face to Face,” which instantly became our song. The lyrics were as special to us as the songwriter, so we asked Dave and his son to perform it for our first dance. They were awesome and Matt and I had a blast dancing to this perfect song.

Describe the proposal: Matt and I were looking to buy a house, and finally, we found the one. We put a bid on it, and then found ourselves in a bidding war with another buyer, which we eventually lost. I was so disappointed, but nothing could be done about it. Matt left on a last-minute work trip and continued to be very busy for a while. Turns out, his “last-minute work trip” was really a train ride to visit my parents in New Jersey to ask for permission to marry their daughter, and to ask my mother to take him ring shopping. On the night he planned to propose, we had scheduled dinner with friends. My mom had been in town, but left on the morning of the dinner to take care of “taxes” in New York. On the way to the restaurant, Matt took a detour onto the street with the house. “Why would you take this street? It’s depressing!” I told him. I didn’t want to see the house that we had lost. He slowed down next to the house and pulled into the driveway. I asked him what he thought he was doing. “We’re trespassing,” I told him, “and we are late for dinner.” He replied, “I lied to you. We’re home. We got the house.” Inside, the living room was covered in red rose petals and 200 candles. A throw rug near the garden window was piled high with long stem red roses perched over a card. I knelt down to open and read the card, which said, “I love you so, so much. Turn around.” He was kneeling with the ring and proposed. The real estate lady was hiding in the bushes with the paperwork for the house. We signed on the dotted line and left to celebrate over dinner with our friends!
When did y’all get married? October 26, 2013
Three adjectives that describe the day are: Elegant, comfortable, euphoric.
How many guests attended your wedding? 180
Did you try anything new or nontraditional? I only have one sibling, so instead of choosing a maid of honor, I choose my brother to be my “man of honor,” and he truly filled the role to the fullest! My girlfriends all love him and were delighted to follow his lead–even through planning the bachelorette party! He gave a once-in-a-lifetime speech at dinner, and if I were ever unsure, I know how very much he loves me.
What was the funniest moment? What was the scariest? The funniest moment was when the pastor explained how when Matt and I met and some of his first words to me were “You smell good.” This was a huge compliment while serving in the Peace Corps!
Tell us about your grand exit. We drove off in a gorgeous, vintage getaway convertible while the guests cheered us into the night with sparklers.
What was Southern about your wedding? We incorporated Southern cuisine, hospitality, and sensibilities.
Did you take a honeymoon? If so, where? We went as far away as possible to New Zealand, a magical land of fjords, mountains, glacial lakes, diverse flora, and hobbits.
What advice would you give to someone currently planning his or her wedding? Prioritize taking care of your guests and don’t assume responsibility for any details on the day-of. A bride’s job is to be the joyous chief of the party!!

Photographer: Liz Banfield / Videographer: Artistic Eye Productions / Planner, Designer, and Florist: Tara Guérard Soirée / Venue, Caterer, and Bar Service : Lowndes Grove Plantation / Cake : Wedding Cakes by Jim Smeal / Ceremony and Cocktail Hour Music: Charleston Heartstrings Quartet for Debut, Inc. / Bride’s Gown: “Laetitia” by Anna Maier / Bridal Salon: Hitched Salon / Bride’s Shoes: “Isabel” by Jimmy Choo / Bride’s Earrings: “Elsa Peretti Pearls by the Yard Drop Earrings” from Tiffany and Co. / Bride’s Veil and Hair Accessory: Hitched Salon / Bridesmaid Dresses: #839 in Fern by Aria / Wedding Day Dresser: Cacky’s Bride+Aid / Hair Stylist: Kristy Cuthbert / Makeup Artist: Kori Mahoney / Getaway Car: Matt Buero / Men’s Attire: Grady Ervin & Co / Ice Sculpture: Ice Age Ice Sculptures / Paper Goods: The Lettered Olive / Rentals: Snyder Event Rentals / Linens: Immediate Tablecloth / Band: Big Swing and the Ballroom Blasters / Transportation: Absolutely Charleston and Marquee Limo / Lighting: Production Design Associates and Tara Guérard Soirée / Ceremony Director: Lori Lethco

marissa Written with love by Marissa
4 Comments
  1. avatar Anastasia reply

    OH I LOVE THIS. this is probably my favorite wedding published in a while. i love their adventurous and individualistic relationship and also their love of LOTR and natural beauty. perfect!!

  2. avatar Laura reply

    That proposal story brought tears to my eyes, so sweet!

  3. avatar Ally reply

    I completely agree with her advice – take care of your guests! Any time you invite people to celebrate (even if they are celebrating you!), it’s always gracious to keep them comfortable and happy!

  4. avatar kate h. reply

    this is incredible.

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I love how Sara + Dom chose to separate the dinner from the dancing portion part of their celebration. (And oh my, what a celebration it was!) Tara and the team at Lowndes Grove worked together to create a dinner party feeling through estate tables, romantic chandeliers and low floral arrangements, then utilized modern lighting and a fun lounge area to create an upbeat space for dancing and more celebration. I love how ecstatic these two look in Liz’s photos!

Thanks again to Liz Banfield for capturing S + D’s soiree!

Dom is a big collector of matchbooks, so we had custom matchbooks made with our married monogram!

Did you have a cocktail hour? If so, what was it like? Our cocktail hour was fantastic.   As you entered the house, you saw a gorgeous old-fashioned champagne tower.  There was also an oyster bar, cheese trays and delicious shrimp and grits in edible spoons.

One of the biggest hits was a soup sampler we served as part of dinner.  There were three different soups served together that people could not stop talking about: gazpacho, curry crab, and split pea.  The split pea and gazpacho were served cold, so they were also refreshing.

I’m smitten over these chargers – the cut-out detail is simple yet ornate all at the same time. I can see pairing them with my grandmother’s vintage china for an Easter brunch!

We always knew we wanted to separate the dinner and dancing portions of the evening.  We wanted dinner to feel like a dinner party and then we wanted to create a much more upbeat atmosphere for the dancing part of the evening.  The two spaces were adjacent to each other and as dinner ended, the dancing tent with the dance floor and lounge floor was unveiled for all to see.

I saw the idea for mini cakes in Vogue, and could not wait to re-create it!  I thought the idea of having individual cakes for everyone was so different, and also delicious.  We had three different flavors: carrot cake, caramel, and chocolate.  The cake tower that held them all looked perfect.

As soon as Kristin and I both saw Sara’s getaway dress we absolutely flipped! This girl is ready for a party!

We had rented an old Rolls Royce that had to cancel at the last minute so we ended up with a vintage green Lincoln coupe convertible and it was even better!  We left through the house doors and ran through the sparklers to the car and drove off to everyone cheering.  We went for a ride around the battery before heading to our after party.  It was an amazing feeling to drive around the battery as every car we passed by honked and people were wishing us well.  We were just trying to take it all in and enjoy the best night of our lives.

And please enjoy this film of the day from Joel Serrato!

Tell us a bit about your first dance. We danced to “Stand by Me” by Ben E. King.  We went back and forth on many different songs as we wanted as we wanted something that was a little upbeat.  “Stand by Me” turned out perfectly.
Favorite design element of your big day: My whole idea for dinner was to have the feeling of an intimate dinner party surround by friends.  That was executed with the long tables, lit candles, and the beautiful chandeliers hanging from the tents.
What was the funniest moment?  What was the scariest? Our funniest moment was when one of our friends was dancing on the stage with the band and jumped up and came down into a split.  The crowd could not believe it and when he showed up at our brunch the next day, the room gave him a standing ovation for his incredible dance moves.
What was Southern about your wedding? The location, the plantation, the food, and the specialty cocktails.

marissa Written with love by Marissa
4 Comments
  1. avatar Lauren reply

    I love the beautiful fabric draped ceiling. It’s so whimsical and delicate and paired with the gray and blue accents it is perfection.

  2. avatar Emily reply

    I adore their champagne tower and monogrammed table linens!

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Sara + Dom knew they wanted to get married in Charleston and after seeing Lowndes Groves Plantation, they instantly felt that this venue would be perfect location for their big day. I tend to agree! With the help of Tara Guerard and her Soiree team, S + D worked to create an elegant wedding that is so effortlessly chic, I can’t get over it! Sara said, “We really wanted to maintain the Southern plantation feel, but to add modern touches, too.” Mission accomplished, doll!

Big hugs to the very talented Liz Banfield for sharing these gorgeous images with us.

Looking to make your own Charleston welcome tote? Check out our tips (and free download!) here!

Oh my beautiful paper! I’d like to lay this out on my coffee table and just stare at it all day!

Y’all! A monogrammed bouquet wrap, say what?! And did you spot the personalized boxes each bridesmaids’ bouquet arrived in?

My mom and sister came to NYC for the weekend for the search for my gown. We looked all weekend, and I tried on so many dresses at so many different boutiques.  I considered several dresses, but when I put on the strapless beaded gown by Amsale and saw my mom tear up, we all said that was it.  My favorite thing about it was the beading detail and scalloped bottom.  It really had everything that I was looking for.

For the bridesmaids, I knew that I wanted each girl to be able to pick her own style in the grey color I had chosen.  My sister and I tried on every single bridesmaid dress line out there, and felt that the Monique Lhullier line was light and airy and had enough styles for each girl to be happy.  Each girl’s dress ended up reflecting her own personal style.  I let my sister have a different dress as the maid of honor, and she had her dress designed and made in NYC.  I could not believe how perfectly her dress complemented the other bridesmaid dresses.

Briefly describe your wedding flowers:  They were fresh and spring-like. We had all whites with hints of grey and lots of texture. All of the bouquets were wrapped with ribbons that were custom monogrammed for each individual.

A mama’s girl myself, I’m especially smitten with this sweet way Sara honored her mother.

My mom, who helped with the entire wedding process from start to finish, walked me down the aisle, which was a very special moment of the day. 

Now that is a chuppah!

Tell me a bit about the wedding ceremony. We chose to have my uncle be our officiant.  In the weeks leading up to our wedding, he reached out to all the members of our wedding party and had them each share their favorite story about us.  He then weaved all of these stories into the ceremony, which gave it a very personal and intimate touch.  It was incredible.  I was so impressed.

What was the most memorable or touching moment about your wedding day? My husband giving a wonderful toast as dinner finished.  He gave a special thank you to each important member of our family and ended the toast with special words for me.  It was an incredible speech.

How did the two of you meet? Tell us your story.  We met at a mutual friend’s birthday party.  We talked throughout the party, but then when Dom asked for my phone number, he got my name wrong! I soon learned he is terrible with names but on that night I was not sure I would hear from him again.  I was wrong. We started dating and we both knew early on we had something special.  We dated for three years before getting engaged.
Describe the proposal: We went to Jackson Hole for my birthday because we both love to ski and our first-ever trip together was to Vail, Colorado. Ski trips hold a special meaning for us.  We got there mid-day and got our ski stuff together so we would be ready early the next morning.  We got back to the room and there were flowers all over, which I thought were for my birthday.  I turned around and he was on one knee in front of the fireplace proposing! I could not have been happier.  My sister and other friends also joined us on the trip later that day and they had no idea Dom proposed.  When we saw them, we were able to share the news with them in person, which made the whole night even more special
Tell me all the basics of your wedding! Our wedding was in the spring in Charleston, SC at Lowndes Grove Plantation. We knew that Charleston was the most likely place we wanted to get married as I had been visiting there for years after my mom relocated there eleven years ago.  When we saw Lowndes Grove Plantation in person, we knew we had found the venue that could host the type of wedding we envisioned.  It wasn’t until we met the team at Soiree that we knew we had all the pieces to the puzzle. We knew that they would be able to create the vision we had for the entire event.  They surpassed anything we had even expected.
Three adjectives that describe the day are:  Spectacular, elegant, intimate.
What was the weather like on your big day? Cloudy but the sun broke through
How many guests attended your wedding? 136
What was the design inspiration for your wedding?  Why was this design special to you as a couple?   We really wanted to maintain the Southern plantation feel, but to add modern touches, too.  We saw photos of a wedding in Italy that was both formal and intimate at the same time and we felt that really went well with the vision we had for our wedding.
How did you spend the morning or afternoon before your big day?  I spent the morning getting ready with my mother, mother-in-law, sister and best friends. I had given my bridesmaids robes as part of their gift and we all lounged around in our robes and relaxed to having lunch and drink champagne while getting our hair and makeup done.  My sister had little surprises for me, like a pin to wear on my bouquet and a hanger with the wedding date that she had ordered for my wedding dress.  She thought of everything and I could not have gotten through the day without her.
Who participated in your ceremony? We also had a close friend Dom went to college with do a reading from the book Tuesdays with Morrie, which is a personal favorite of both of ours.
Did you write your own vows? We wanted the ceremony to be very personal, so we wrote the entire ceremony, including all of our vows.  The entire ceremony from start to finish was beautiful.
Were there any family traditions you included in the ceremony? Yes, in Jewish ceremonies you break the glass at the end of the ceremony to signify the frailty of life and to show that as the glass shatters, it is permanent – the same as our marriage.  Dom broke the glass at the end of the ceremony. 

marissa Written with love by Marissa
14 Comments
  1. avatar Lisa reply

    Her dress is stunning, and so perfect with that gorgeous bouquet!

  2. avatar Emily reply

    I adore their stationery suite, and I love those monogrammed bouquet wraps!

  3. avatar Lauren reply

    Her dress. Oh her dress. I love it so much.

  4. avatar Ann McWilliams reply

    Love the monogrammed bouquet wrap! Any idea where she got this?

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  6. avatar Jenny Clark reply

    Love the Charleston tote shown above. Where can we purchase this template?

    • avatar Heather reply

      Jenny Clark: Did anyone answer you? I also am very interested in having some made up!
      Please let me know if anyone did thanks Heather

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  8. avatar Kristin reply

    Beautiful!!! The styling & colors were using in September – I can’t wait!! Anyone know where the brides earrings are from?! Would love to find similar :)

  9. avatar Kristin :: Teal White Garden reply

    Absolutely love this wedding!! We’re working towards the same style & feel for our September wedding and I can’t wait :)
    Does anyone know where the earrings are from?! They’re stunning!

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  11. avatar Christine reply

    This Amsale dress is stunning! Would anyone happen to know it’s specific name? I can’t find it anywhere!

  12. avatar Andi reply

    I absolutely love the embroidered monograms on the bouquets. Curious what type of ribbon you have to use for that.

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