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On this Memorial Day, I can’t imagine a more wonderful wedding to share with y’all! Stefanie and Kevin are as all-American as a couple can be, and their Tennessee wedding was the perfect expression of their love for each other, for their families and friends, and for their country. Military families are no stranger to hardship (Stefanie planned the wedding while Kevin was deployed abroad), but the tough times these two have endured together made their wedding day all the more joyful!

Thank you from the bottom of hearts to Kevin and Stefanie, all of the military men and women and their families who serve our great country, and to our Blue Ribbon Vendor Bamber Photography for sharing this special day with us!

Instead of having a flower girl, my matron of honor’s little girl carried our family Bible that was given to my grandmother in 1954. Every woman in my family has used the Bible in their weddings. We each chose someone in our life that had been a spiritual mentor to us, and we let them choose the scripture they read during the ceremony. They chose Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 and Proverbs 3:5-9. Becca stood with the bridesmaids, and as each reader came to the front of the church to read, Becca handed them the family Bible to read from.

I’m very fortunate to have a dear friend who owns Ever After Bridal in Cleveland, Tennessee, and I’m so thankful I got to experience finding my dress with her. I had found one dress in her shop that I really liked, but it didn’t give me that feeling that everyone talks about having! I had convinced myself that I was just numb to dresses because I had worn so many beautiful gowns during my time as Miss Tennessee. My mother and future mother-in-law went with me to order the dress, and when we walked into her shop, I perused the racks of beautiful gowns one last time. Since Kevin’s mom was with us, I decided to try on a few more so she could enjoy the experience with me. I randomly pulled a Maggie Sottero fit and flare, beaded lace gown with a sweetheart neckline off of the rack. Kendra helped me into the dress (that was the opposite of what I thought I was looking for), I walked out to the mirror, and I finally had THE MOMENT! I had tried to find a dress that just wasn’t my style, and I never found it. When I finally just chose something that was ME, it happened!

Our favorite detail of the wedding was: People got dressed up and had a good time! Kevin and I both love to dress up, and my mother has always told me that its better to be overdressed than underdressed! I feel like weddings are getting more and more casual, and casual just isn’t in my vocabulary! In keeping with the classic military traditions of an evening wedding, and the fact that we wanted our guests to look and feel fabulous, we requested that our guests wear formal attire. Our guests looked so beautiful, and everyone said that they loved the excuse to pull out that dress they hadn’t gotten to wear in a while, or the excuse to buy something new! Because our guests felt good, they stayed, danced, and enjoyed drinks until the very end!

Describe your wedding flowers. Since we had a classic military wedding, where the men were in their uniforms and classic tuxedos and my bridesmaids wore beautiful nude gowns, we chose to go with flowers in all shades of white and ivory. They were arranged by Flowers By Gil & Curt. Flowers in the bouquets and reception centerpieces included roses, peonies, ranunculus, hydrangeas, and calla lilies.

We considered getting married at West Point in the Protestant Cadet Chapel. It’s a beautiful Gothic-style chapel with a cathedral ceiling and a gorgeous pipe organ. After thinking it through, we decided it would be too difficult to plan a wedding in New York, and it would be tough for all of our family and friends to make it. We set out to find a similar style church nearby, and discovered First Cumberland Presbyterian! It is SO similar in style to the Cadet Chapel, and it was in our hometown of Chattanooga. Before I left for Las Vegas to compete in the 2010 Miss America Pageant, my hometown and family gave me lovely going away reception at the Chattanooga Golf and Country Club. The venue is historic and beautiful, and the staff was so wonderful to work with, so we decided it would be the perfect spot for our wedding reception as well.

I always remember my parents telling me how their wedding day was such a blur, so I was bound and determined to soak in every detail of our wedding–I didn’t want to miss a thing! I’m sure there are some things I missed, but I certainly remember the big parts. I remember how I felt when I woke up that morning, I remember the look on my mother and daddy’s faces when they saw me in my gown for the first time, I remember the sweet smile on Kevin’s face when he turned around and we walked toward each other during our first look, I remember the facial expressions of each guest that I looked at as I walked down the aisle, I remember the beautiful words of the prayers that were said during the ceremony, I remember saying our vows, and I remember how amazing it felt to walk arm in arm under the Arch of Sabers with my new husband! I also remember the traditional pop on my booty as one of the saber guard members welcomed me into the United States Army! It was the perfect day, and I’m so thankful that we were able to share it with the ones we love the most.

What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? Kevin being deployed the entire year our families and I were wedding planning was challenging. It allowed me to stay busy, but it was hard because I wanted him to be a part of the decision making process in person. We made it work though! Thanks to technology, he was able to be a part of many decisions via text, FaceTime, and email. Even a world away, an eight-hour time difference, and the 200 soldiers he was responsible for, he still managed to help me so much! He’s a good man.

We wanted to make sure that not only were our cakes beautiful, they were also tasty! Breanne Hager of B’s Sweet in Chattanooga has the best cakes in town! I wanted something fairly simply, but accented with sparkle. We decided to go with a five-tiered Italian cream cake with buttercream icing. At the base of each layer were graduating strands of crystals, and on the top of the cake sat my Miss Tennessee crown with white roses tucked underneath its base. In keeping with military tradition, Kevin and I cut our cakes with his Officer saber.

What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? Aside from the loads of hairspray that filled the bridal parlor while we were getting ready (we sure love our hairspray in the South), the main thing that stands out was the Southern music. When I won Miss Tennessee, I had sang Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You.” The song is about loving someone enough to let them go. The song fit my relationship with my parents perfectly, and it was a reminder of a very beautiful time we all experienced together when I won the title. They’re so happy that the time in my life has come for me to start my own family and be with the love of my life, even though it means letting go of a part of life that is very difficult to part with. Family is so important to Kevin and me, and being able to have such sentimental moments with them was the best part of our wedding.

Kevin’s groom’s cake was an edible replica of a Walther PPK handgun, which laid on top of a gun case made of chocolate cake. Kevin is a gun collector and the Walther PPK is James Bond’s gun of choice in all of the Bond films. Kevin has a rather collection, but he did not have the Walther. When it was time to do the garter toss, Kevin reached under my dress, and in my garter, he found his very own Walther PPK gun! It was his wedding gift from me. His reaction was priceless, as he had no idea his new bride was packing heat! I had sneaked out right before the toss and secured the gun in my garter, and the surprise went off without a hitch!

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. As cliché as it sounds, we were high school sweethearts! I was a cheerleader and Kevin was a football player. Kevin’s dream was to serve his country, so after months of applying, interviewing, and going on recruiting trips during his senior year, he received his appointment from Tennessee Congressman Zach Wamp to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point, and we decided we would give long-distance a try. Four years and thousands of frequent flyer miles later, we made it through his time at the Academy. After he graduated, he was commissioned as an officer into the United States Army. During this time, I was in college and living out a few dreams of my own. In 2009 I was crowned Miss Tennessee. It was the honor of a lifetime, and a time that I will cherish forever! On January 10, 2010 I headed to Las Vegas to compete in the Miss America Pageant, and on that same day, Kevin left the country for his first year-long deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. As I stood on the Miss America stage, my heart was full, yet heavy, knowing that he was defending the freedom that allowed me to live out my lifelong dream. I finished as second runner-up to Miss America, and a year later, Kevin made a safe return home! I spent the next few years working and finishing my business degree at Belhaven University with the scholarships I had earned through the Miss America organization. Just when we thought that he was home for a while, another deployment was on the horizon. Once we knew the exact time he was going to be returning, we set our wedding date. He was the battery commander to 200 soldiers spread throughout three different countries, and I began planning our wedding! We are so proud that we maintained a close relationship, even though, at times, we were a world apart from each other. It makes our time together now so incredibly special, and we certainly do not take that time for granted.
Tell us all about the proposal! Because we are proud Americans to the core, and its our favorite holiday, Kevin proposed on the 4th of July. Under the fireworks, where it was just the two of us with a pizza and a bottle of wine, he popped the question with a gorgeous custom-designed Henri Daussi cushion cut diamond ring from our family jeweler, Rone Regency Jewelers of Chattanoooga. Kevin is private, and I love that about him. He wanted the proposal to be a special moment between the two of us, and he planned it just perfectly.
When did y’all get married? April 11, 2015
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 175
Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? We chose to speak traditional vows during our ceremony. My grandfather was a Southern Baptist minister for 49 years, and he married my parents in 1983, so we used the same vows that they used in their wedding. Both of our parents have had long, beautiful marriages, so if traditional vows were good enough for them, they’re good enough for us!
If you are comfortable responding, what range did your wedding budget fall into? $25,000-$50,000
What is the one detail or vendor that you were so happy to have as a part of your wedding? Documentation! Investing in a good photographer and videographer was the best advice I was given during planning, and it’s the best decision we made. John and Lindsey Bamber of Bamber Photography were indescribable! From the initial meeting, to the engagement shoot, to the sweet cards we received in the mail just saying they were thinking about us and praying for us along the way, they were such a blessing during our special day and in the months leading up to it. We were so comfortable with them, and they literally captured everything! Each time a guest came up to Kevin and me during the reception, either John or Lindsey was right there to capture a picture with that guest. It’s wonderful being able to send our guests that professional, beautiful picture! They truly are the best at their craft, and they’re just the best people you’ll ever meet.
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Take your time if you truly want to enjoy the process. I did not hire a wedding planner because I wanted to have my hand on every detail and experience that time with my mother. Also, include your future in-laws! Kevin’s parents really enjoyed the process as much as we did, and they loved hearing all of the updates as the months progressed closer to April. I understand that not all in-laws are the easiest to deal with, (just being honest), but I am very blessed with some good ones! And they’re Yankees! We won’t hold that against them too much ;)
What’s next for you as a couple? What memories are you looking forward to making together? As I type this, I’m surrounded by boxes, because we are making the move from North Carolina to Kentucky! Kevin has been posted here at Fort Bragg for the past three years as a Battery Commander, and now its time for him to take a new position at Fort Knox. We couldn’t be more excited–new marriage, new town, new jobs, new adventures, and we’re four hours closer to our family and friends in Chattanooga! And thank the Lord we’re still in the South! He’s excited to be in bourbon country, and I’m already planning my wardrobe for the Kentucky Derby next year!

Photographer: Bamber Photgraphy / Videographer: Tim Curry / Day-Of Coordinators: Kendra Collins and Trinity Pearson / Ceremony Venue: First Cumberland Presbyterian Church / Reception Venue and Catering: Chattanooga Golf and Country Club / Florist: Flowers By Gil and Curt / Cake Baker: B’s Sweets / Rentals: The Meeting Company / DJ: Ted Gocke / Paper Products: David’s Bridal / Bride’s Gown: “Marianne” by Maggie Sottero / Bridal Salon and Bridesmaid Dress Salon: Ever After Bridal / Bride’s Tiara: Symphony Bridal / Hair Stylist: Gordon Robison of Gordon & Co. Salon / Makeup Artist: Angela Folmar of Luminous Beauty Boutique / Bride’s Shoes: Badgley Mischka / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: “Style 19931” in Nude by LaFemme / Tuxedos: Southern Charm Clothing

Bamber Photography is a delightful member of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

lisa Written with love by Lisa
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    I think that all weddings are filled with joy (as they should be!), but sometimes, we feature weddings of couples so bubbling over with joy, one can’t help but smile while looking through the photos! That’s how I feel about Caroline and Will. I swear, Caroline has the biggest, most contagious smile in almost every photo Robyn Van Dyke captured! After years of long distance dating, deployments, and many moves, it’s no wonder these two are all smiles on their wedding day. Throw in perfectly classic details and boys in their military uniforms, and you’ve got the recipe for one sweet Southern soirée!

    With Memorial Day right around the corner, we’re so honored to share this wedding made up of just a few of the brave men and women who protect and serve our great country. Big hugs to our friend Robyn for sharing it with us!

    Girls after my own heart! I spy a few pairs of Jack Rogers to go with their monogrammed robes!

    What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? One of our dearest friends and groomsmen read Revelation 19:5-9 right before they opened the doors and I walked down the aisle with my dad. Our other sweet friend read Ephesians 4:32-5:2 later in the service. Both the scriptures and the readers made our ceremony very special, and we couldn’t have loved it more. Our pastor, Russ Andrews, did an amazing job of keeping our ceremony focused on Jesus Christ. Russ gave a small sermon to make sure our families and friends knew Will and I weren’t taking any credit for finding each other, and that our marriage was going to be based on our faith in the Lord.

    Describe your wedding flowers. Our florist was Kelly Odom, and his work is absolutely flawless. I told him my colors and asked for white and very pale pink flowers. I told him as long as the bouquets were round and full with those colors, he could choose the rest. The flowers were breathtaking and exactly what I wanted.

    Since Will is in the military as a Navy pilot, we had all military attendees wear their military uniforms, and we had a sword arch out of the church, announcing Will and I as husband and wife for the first time. We had a pretty large wedding party with eight bridesmaids, seven groomsmen, and eight flower girls/ring bearers. We served lots of Southern food at our reception, including shrimp and grits, chicken tenders, and BBQ sandwich sliders. The most important thing to both Will and I are our families and friends, which I like to think comes from us being from the South. We could not have been happier having all the people we love the most under one roof, dancing the night away.

    Did you decide to do a “first look”? Why or why not? Will and I decided that we wanted that moment of seeing each other for the first time to be when I was walking down the aisle to him to become his wife. There is something so special and amazing about seeing each other in that moment after a long day of preparation and chaos, and knowing that your future starts right there.

    What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? Did they have any special significance to you? Will and I knew we wanted to get married in a church, but my parents’ church was in transition and was meeting at my old high school auditorium at the time. I knew there was absolutely no way Will would get married at his rival high school, so that was out. Will’s family are members at Edenton Street United Methodist church in downtown Raleigh, and once I walked into the empty sanctuary with the gorgeous chandeliers, tall ceilings, and stained glass everywhere, I knew that was it. I had been to a service there before, but seeing it empty and imagining our wedding there was perfect. The reception venue was the Carolina Country Club, where I grew up going with my family. We had made so many memories there in the past that it seemed fitting to make one of our biggest memories there as well.

    LOVE Caroline’s face in this shot!!

    What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? The biggest challenge during our ten months of engagement was planning our wedding while I was in North Carolina and Will was in Texas. We were both in school, and trying to find time to plan was a little harder then we had expected.

    Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding and why you chose them. The church where we got married has an amazing organ with the most talented organist. He helped me choose the music for the seating of the guests, grandmothers and mothers. I didn’t really have a preference on those songs as long as it was played by him. I walked down the aisle to “Love Never Fails.” When I first listened to the words of this song, I got chills everywhere. It seemed so appropriate for a bride walking to her groom to be bound in love through Jesus Christ. Our first dance song wasn’t really up for discussion because we both knew what it would be. Coming from oldies-loving families, we decided on “Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green. It was perfect.

    What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? It’s hard to choose a most memorable moment, but Will and I think it was the dancing and gathering of our friends. Being a part of the military, most of our friends are spread out all over the country or deployed overseas. Getting to see everyone at the same time is very rare, and even though we still had some dear friends missing, sharing our wedding with those who could make it was so special. Our military friends have no problem starting the dance party!

    How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. Will and I met our senior year in high school in 2007. My best friend was dating his best friend, and after being introduced by them one night, I decided he wasn’t going to get away. Will played soccer for his school, and for the last few games of the season, I made sure I was at every one. I don’t think it took Will too long to notice, so he asked me if we could hang out after school one day so I could give him a haircut…very smooth of him. That afternoon led to more after-school get-togethers, movie nights with our friends, and both of our senior proms. After high school, Will was going to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland while I was staying at Meredith College in our hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina. We knew this was going to mean a lot of long distance and an unknown future, but being without each other would be harder then any of that. We decided to give it a chance. From June-August while he was at boot camp, all we could do was write letters to stay in contact, and that’s exactly what we did. It was a hard summer for both of us but we know it made us so much stronger in the end.
    Tell us all about the proposal! Will was in flight school to become an F-18 pilot in Kingsville, Texas at the time. We had been doing long distance for about five years at this point. During my fall break from school in October 2012, I flew to Texas. There isn’t a whole lot to do in the small town of Kingsville, so we drove to Fredericksburg, a little German town with vineyards everywhere. Neither Will nor I had ever been to a vineyard, so that Saturday, we had the best time doing tours and wine tastings. After we were ready to go to dinner, Will started driving up a hill, the opposite direction from town. He kept telling me he just wanted to see if we could see the sunset from the top, and of course, I was fine with that. As we drove to the top, all we could see were construction signs and tape and we couldn’t drive any further. Thinking about it now, I know Will’s stomach must have dropped because he didn’t really have a plan B. He had also taken the ring out of the box and placed it by itself in his pocket, so we drove on to dinner and Will spent the whole night clenching his right jean pocket! That night, we got back to our place, and as we stood on the porch about to walk inside, Will pulled me close and began to tell me how much he loved me and some other things I can’t remember, because he got down on one knee and I’m pretty sure I blacked out. Once I caught my breath, I had to ask him if I had even told him yes–I was so shocked and so overwhelmed with joy and love! I had been waiting for this moment for five long years and it couldn’t have been more perfect.
    When did y’all get married? August 24, 2013
    How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 350
    Tell us about finding your wedding dress. Finding my dress was probably the thing I was looking forward to the most during wedding planning. My mom and my aunt drove with me to Nitsa’s in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. I am in love with any kind of shopping, so we prepared ourselves for what we thought was going to be a full day of me trying on every dress in the store. As I was looking through the racks, one dress in particular caught my eye. I had to try it on and I wanted it to be the first one. I had never understood why girls cry when they try on wedding dresses or find the dress of their dreams, but I became that girl that day. I saw myself in the mirror and it was so surreal. It was the exact dress I had pictured myself in and I knew Will was going to love it too. I tried on a few more dresses to see if any compared, but none did.
    Describe your wedding cake or dessert. Will and I were very excited about the wedding cake! Cinda’s Creative Cakes gave us amazing cake design and flavor options. Our cake was four tiers high and round. Cinda copied the look of the beaded band around my wedding dress on each tier on the cake, and used all white frosting and flowers on the top tier. The end result was beautiful and absolutely delicious. The flavors we chose were strawberry, funfetti (with pink sprinkles), chocolate, and cinnamon swirl. We can’t wait until our anniversary so we can eat it all over again!
    Our favorite detail of the wedding was: Having the sword arch as a part of our wedding was probably my favorite detail. I have seen it done at many other military weddings, but seeing it from the bride’s view walking out with her new husband is indescribable.
    What is the one detail or vendor that you were so happy to have as a part of your wedding? We couldn’t have been happier with our pictures taken by Robyn Van Dyke and her husband Jordan. Because of their amazing talent, we will never forget one detail of our special day. The other vendor that played a huge part in our wedding day was our band, Black & Blue. My parents had heard them for the first time at a friend’s wedding a year before, and she knew right away that we would love them too. To say we had a dance party is an understatement. Will and I still talk about how much fun we had and how we wish we could have our reception all over again!
    What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Always remember the real reason you are having the wedding. Planning a wedding can be stressful, even when you think it’s going to be a breeze, so don’t let the little things cause issues in your relationships. Enjoy every second because it goes by so fast, including the planning!!
    What’s next for you as a couple? What are you most looking forward to about married life? We are stationed in Virginia Beach for now. It is going to be a huge change for me because I have never left Raleigh or my family, but after six years of distance, I would have gone anywhere to finally start our lives together. We have waited so long for this and could not feel more blessed to be close to home and finally have each other in the same time zone!

    Photographer: Robyn Van Dyke / Ceremony Venue: Edenton Street United Methodist Church / Reception Venue: Carolina Country Club / Florist: Kelly Odom / Cake Baker: Cinda’s Creative Cakes / Band: Black & Blue / Bride’s Gown: “Mackenzie” by Amsale / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Amsale / Hair Stylist and Makeup Artist: Images by Denise / Bride’s Shoes: Toms / Groomsmen’s Suits: and Suits by Mantoni from Ticknors

    Robyn Van Dyke is a delightful member of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

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

      What a beautiful couple!! All of the military traditions they included are so special–loved reading about her going through the sword arch from a bride’s point of view!

    2. avatar featured: southern weddings » Robyn Van Dyke Photography Blog reply

      […] happy day, y’all! It’s always such an incredible honor to be featured on Southern Weddings, and we’re soo excited to have Caroline & Will‘s gorgeous military wedding featured […]

    3. avatar Rachel Nordgren reply

      “Russ gave a small sermon to make sure our families and friends knew Will and I weren’t taking any credit for finding each other, and that our marriage was going to be based on our faith in the Lord.” – I love that! I think basing your marriage on Christ from the very beginning is a beautiful and hugely important thing.

      Also, using a sword to cut the cake? Epic.

    4. avatar Julianne Bussey reply

      This whole article is flawless! I love every part of the wedding from the scripture readings and prayers to the sword arch! I love that you really tried to keep it focused around Jesus Christ :) What’s funny is that I live in Virginia Beach and totally didn’t expect to see that you are stationed here!

    5. avatar The Sweetest Father-Daughter Wedding Moments – Wedding Party reply

      […] Robyn van Dyke via Southern Weddings […]

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