How about a sweet-as-pie love story for your Thursday, belles? Ellie and Grayson are University of Virginia sweethearts whose friendship turned into a budding romance over a summer spent writing letters to each other. After Ellie found out Grayson had called her daddy to ask if he could take Ellie on a date, they never looked back. Their relationship grew thoughtfully and intentionally–despite their busy college schedules, they kept a standing Wednesday garden date to reconnect, share their joys and challenges, and pray for each other. Fittingly, Grayson got down on one knee during the last garden date of their college careers! Just five months later, these two were married right down the road at Castle Hill Cider, where the talented Mallory Joyce helped them pull their vision of a “refined comfort” aesthetic to life. I love the way they combined family heirlooms, local flowers, and even custom art to create a celebration that was as gorgeous as it was meaningful!
Thank you so much to Elisa Bricker for sharing this dreamy day with us!
My grandma, mom, and I went to a small boutique in my hometown of Louisville. It was a place I’d passed many times growing up, never knowing when I’d wander in looking for my wedding dress! I tried on a bunch of dresses but was not enamored by any of them. After an hour or so, we decided to call it a day. On our way out, I quickly browsed a few more racks, just to make sure I hadn’t missed any. Tucked in the back, I found my dress. I knew it was the one before it came off the hanger. I tried it on and it was perfect!
Describe your wedding flowers. Our wedding planner, Mallory Joyce, is also an incredibly gifted florist (a woman with many talents!). The vision of our wedding was simple and organic. In keeping with that, she prioritized local flowers that were in season. Everything from the bouquets to the decorative flowers felt freshly picked and naturally beautiful.
We did not do a first look. We both felt convinced we wanted our first look to be the moment when we locked eyes at opposite ends of the aisle. And we are so glad we waited. That moment, when my laughing eyes met his tear-filled eyes, is one I will never forget. Never before has the world been so silenced. The only thing that mattered in that moment was that I was walking forward to marry my best friend.
We had our good friends play our ceremony music, which was really meaningful. While we loved the songs we chose, it was even more special that the beautiful music came from our talented friends! I walked down the aisle to a musical version of the hymn “All Creatures of Our God and King,” which was a beautiful expression of the joy and thanksgiving we had on that day. We walked back up the aisle to the piano and violin playing Ben Rector’s “Brand New.” We’d danced, laughed, and celebrated to that song during our engagement season, so it was fitting to kick off our marriage with such a celebratory and dance-worthy song. One thing we loved about our ceremony is that my grandparents were our ring bearers! They have been married for over 50 years and are still madly in love. They have a relationship based on faith and friendship, something Grayson and I hope to emulate. Grayson and I look up to them in so many ways, and it was incredibly significant to have them present our rings to us. We hope and pray our marriage will look like theirs in 50 years. They still go camping in a favorite spot in North Carolina, for goodness sake!
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? At the beginning of our wedding planning, I was already stressing about some detail. Grayson sat me down and said, “Ellie, no matter how hard you plan, something is going to go wrong.” While this may sound a tad pessimistic, he was completely right. Some people didn’t receive the invitation we sent, expenses were higher than estimated, the list could go on. However, I held on to the second part of Grayson’s advice: “We are still going to be married, let’s keep our focus and joy set on that.” In twenty years (maybe even five), the little mishaps have no place compared to the immense joy of entering the covenant of marriage and celebrating that with all of your favorite people.
Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! I completed about 75% of the borrowed, blue, old, and new…does that count? The most significant was my something old. I got to wear my mom’s veil! The best part was that it matched my dress perfectly, and we didn’t even plan it that way. The lace appliqué detail on the veil resembles the appliqué on the skirt of my dress–something we discovered after we’d ordered the dress! I admire my parents’ relationship so much, and it was sweet to wear the veil that was with them at the start of their marriage.
Our relationship began in Charlottesville and it was really important to us that we were married there. The rolling Virginia hills hold so many memories, and it was only fitting that our wedding was in Charlottesville. We chose Castle Hill Cider for both our ceremony and reception because we had gone to a sorority formal there and loved the beauty of the setting and facilities.
Our favorite detail of the wedding was: We love collecting art when we travel, something to hang in our home and capture the memories of our experiences. We wanted to carry that tradition into our wedding for our guests to enjoy! Our stationery artist, Jessica McSweeney, painted a watercolor of Castle Hill with the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains. At each place setting, we had a 4×4 print of the piece with each guest’s name attached as a vellum overlay. We wrote a note on the back to welcome and thank our guests and share the story behind the painting. It is our hope that our guests took the watercolor home as a symbol of our gratitude for the impact they’ve had on our lives.
Despite good intentions, we did nothing to prepare for our first dance–no dance lessons or even living room practices to our song. That said, we’ve had years of learning each others’ dance moves from many formals and spontaneous swing dancing events. We walked onto the dance floor, totally unprepared, and all credit to Grayson, we nailed it. We danced our hearts out, dipping, spinning, and swinging our way across the dance floor to the song “(I Love You) More Today than Yesterday.” It was the most beautiful culmination of our years of dancing through life together, and foreshadowed a life of celebration and rejoicing together.
How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. It was freshman year at the University of Virginia and I was on my way out of a class when I noticed a familiar face holding the door for me (a true gent). I recognized Grayson from a brief encounter after our Christian fellowship’s weekly gathering. I reintroduced myself to him as we made our way back to our neighboring dorms. We quickly realized we had a lot in common, including our aspiration to apply for the business major. That sparked many hours spent studying together for the classes we shared. Rumors buzzed that we were dating after we were spotted having lunch after class in the cafeteria (gasp!), which we completely denied for the remainder of our freshman year–we had effectively “friend-zoned” each other. Summer came, and Grayson worked as a counselor for a camp where he grew up spending summers. Without cell service to keep in touch, Grayson struck up letter writing with me. I started to fall for this boy who wrote me letters, and returned to school eagerly anticipating what it could bring for the two of us. I mean, he wrote me letters…that must mean something, right?! Our nonchalant first interaction after summer quickly deflated any hopes I had. Little did I know that Grayson was definitely interested, but wanted to play his cards close to his chest until he know I had a sweet spot for him. Thus began the stalemate: both interested, both too scared to do anything about it! One day, when I was on the verge of giving up hope, I received a call from my mom telling me that Grayson had reached out to my dad asking if he could take me out for a date–a gesture that landed Grayson major points with my Southern-mannered dad. After a few dates hiking and brunching, Grayson finally revealed his admiration for me, and I got to do the same for him. We started slow, but our relationship was so worth the wait! We both really value the firm foundation of friendship on which our relationship began.
Tell us all about the proposal! We had a standing garden date every Wednesday of our senior year. We asked each other the same seven questions weekly and jotted down each other’s answers in a shared notebook. The consistency of the questions helped us realize growth and challenges, as our answers changed weekly. It was through this structure of seven questions that we began our discussions around marriage. On our last Wednesday date of our college career, I showed up in the garden as usual. Although it had been torrentially raining that morning, the sun decided to pop out just in time for our date. We struck up conversation and per routine, we whipped out our notebook of seven questions. We went through the first few, answering questions about joys, challenges, ways we could serve each other better, and prayer requests. Then came the question, “Is there anything left unsaid between us?” When it came Grayson’s turn to answer, he started speaking in poem! Grayson recited a thirty-line poem that he had written about the history of our relationship and the reasons he wanted to call me his wife. He ended with, “So get up now and stand, as I get down on one knee, Elizabeth McKinnon, will you marry me?” and of course, I said “yes!” Not only did Grayson plan the perfect proposal, he had also planned a surprise engagement party with 200 of our friends that evening. We had friends who had walked alongside us through every phase of our relationship celebrating the engagement. It was truly the best day of our lives, until the wedding!
When did y’all get married? October 29, 2016
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 200
Did you write your own vows? We did not! We kept to traditional vows.
What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? We had dear mentors of ours read two different passages. One couple who had mentored us through our relationship and conversations about engagement selected and read Romans 12:9-13. A professor who discipled Grayson in college read Philippians 2:1-20. It was incredibly special to have some of the most influential people in our lives minister to us and our guests through those readings.
Describe your wedding cake or dessert. It was fall in Charlottesville, which means one thing: pie. We had a simple mini cake for the traditional cake cutting, while our guests enjoyed an assortment of pies á la mode! As an ode to my hometown, we served Derby pie, a favorite of Louisvillians (mostly because of the equal portions of bourbon, brown sugar, and chocolate it contains). The pies helped make our wedding feel so homey and warm. They were the perfect addition!
How did you plan for your marriage while planning your wedding? We actually planned for our marriage before we planned our wedding. Through the guidance of our mentors, we completed pre-engagement counseling sessions. We went through the same content as premarital counseling, just before we were engaged. Because there was no ring, social media post, or save the date, we were able to freely address fears and concerns about marriage. These conversations ultimately led us to a place of confidence in our relationship. When we got engaged, we felt well prepared (as much as you can be, at least) for marriage. Throughout our engagement, we continued to seek wisdom from our mentors, parents, and friends.
What’s next for you as a couple? What memories are you looking forward to making together? We are loving living together in our apartment and creating a home together! We are just starting to form regular rhythms and adjust our habits to each other. What we’re loving most is the joy of just doing life together, from starting and ending our days together–it’s the little moments of laughter, bad jokes, and takeout Chinese that we treasure. After packing lots of life change into 2016, we’re hoping 2017 will be filled with fun as we discover the new normal. We are planning to join a small group through our church and are looking forward to making new friends in the area! With all of our free time now that we’re not planning a wedding, we hope to explore Richmond and discover favorite date spots, coffee shops, and walking trails. We will also return to Charlottesville to watch some basketball and cheer on the Hoos!
Photographer: Elisa Bricker | Videographer: DeVries Productions | Planner and Florist: Mallory Joyce Design | Venue: Castle Hill Cider | Wedding Cake: Arley Cakes | Caterer: C & O Restaurant | Rentals: Festive Fare | Lighting: East Coast Entertainment | Band: TFC via East Coast Entertainment | Paper Products: Poppy and Scooter | Bride’s Gown: Style D1751 by Essense of Australia | Bridal Salon: Rebecca’s Wedding Boutique | Hair Stylist and Makeup Artist: Anna Breeding | Bride’s Shoes and Bridesmaids’ Dresses: BHLDN | Men’s Attire: Jos. A. Bank | Tablecloths: Willow Knows | Napkins: Dot and Army
Mallory Joyce and East Coast Entertainment are delightful members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!
I’m loving all these gorgeous Virginia Wine Country weddings lately, and this one is no exception! Her dress is to die for!