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When a wedding planner and a chef tie the knot, you might expect beautiful styling, gorgeous details, and delicious food. And in the case of Elyse and Jack, you’d be right! Their wedding day at Stella Plantation had all of those things and more. Mixing together sweet details from their love story (yummy mini pizzas) with romantic decor (tons of dreamy candles, plus 13 different crystal chandeliers!), they created a celebration that was just as lovely as it was meaningful. I also love the way they weaved Elyse’s signature “xoxo” throughout their day, and right on into their newlywed home!

P.S. If you’re thinking the only way these photos could be prettier is if they were printed on glossy paper and surrounded by other wedding goodness, you’re in luck! We’re so glad Greer Gattuso was on hand to capture this beautiful wedding, and we were proud to feature it in Southern Weddings V8. If you don’t have your copy yet, look for it on news stands across the Southeast, or order it before we sell out here!

Since I’ve signed all of my letters to Jack with “xoxo” for years, we fell in love with the idea of having “xoxo” accents throughout the design! As guests were first introduced to the wedding through the save the dates, they noticed my handwritten “xoxo” at the top. We then commissioned one of the best local calligraphers to design our “xoxo” logo, which we used as a dance floor vinyl, had laser cut for our wedding cake topper, gold foiled on our napkins, printed on our koozies, and more! We even used “elysexoxojack” as our wedding hashtag! The “xoxo” has since carried over into our home decor, which continues to make me smile and think of our wedding.

Tell us about finding your wedding dress. Having shopped through New Orleans with my clients, I knew I’d have to travel to find my dress, so my mother, bridesmaids, and aunts joined me in Houston for a long weekend. Ironically, the bridal attendant had to force me to try my dress on! After removing the one-shoulder strap and some floral appliqués, it was exactly what I had envisioned myself wearing.

As the guests arrived for our wedding ceremony, they were greeted by my six honorary bridesmaids at our confetti bar! They were instructed to make their own mix of navy and metallic confetti to toss at us as we walked back up the aisle as husband and wife. Our immediate family members were given wedding bells to ring after our kiss, and my sorority sisters were each handed a Killarney rose–my sorority’s signature flower.

Tell us a bit about the wedding ceremony. My dad walked me down a long, tree-lined aisle as a cello and violin played. Once the celebrant greeted the guests, my aunt delivered an original ode to love. This was followed by the reading of the poem “Love” by Roy Croft, a poem read during recruitment in Delta Zeta Sorority, by my maid of honor, and a contemporary version of Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” sung by a dear friend. Thank goodness I had gifted Jack a “Mr.” hanky because I needed it a few times myself!
Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? We wrote an original set of vows for both of us to repeat during the ceremony. These vows were a little more traditional, but still so meaningful to us.

Did you have a cocktail hour? If so, what was it like? The cocktail party started outside of the tent at our champagne table, where we had rows of pre-poured champagne, each glass adorned with either a gold pom, a rock candy stick, or a rim of edible gold sugar. Our family and friends enjoyed cocktails around highboys with floral ties by the glow of our three 10-foot walls of candles.

New Orleans thrives on a buffet-style reception–they keep people moving, mingling, and dancing! Food was really important to Jack, as he’s a chef, but I am a picky eater, so we wanted to have food that could could represent us both. We offered elegant food like oysters bordelaise, turtle soup, red snapper filet with crawfish ravigot, cajun duck breast, and marsala mushroom-topped tenderloin to suit Jack’s sophisticated palate. Then, to represent my favorite foods, we served miniature Margherita pizzas and had a french fry and mac and cheese bar that guests could top with their favorite accoutrements!

Did you try anything new or nontraditional? Our guest book was a nod to the hopeless romantic in each of us! Like the Parisian love lock bridge, we asked guests to sign and add their well wishes for our relationship to a padlock, then lock in their love by attaching it to a trellis, which we continue to enjoy in the landscaping in our backyard!

What was your reception like? As cocktail hour came to an end, the drapes of the tent were pulled back to reveal the reception inside. A golden-draped tent with 13 different crystal chandeliers added the backdrop and lighting for our perfect night! Our tables were a mix of round and square tables, the chairs were a mix of gold chiavari, gold estate, and ghost chairs, and our three different specialty table linens added various navy textures to the room. The whole room twinkled!

Our cakes added some wow factor! The wedding cake was a four-tiered fondant cake accented with gold leafing and topped with our xoxo wooden cake topper! It sat on a gold bar cart–a gift from my aunts for my bridal shower–adorned with candles on the bottom shelf and on the floor around the base. The backdrop was a custom painted and gold-leafed wall that our florist created. After we cut our cake, we asked the ladies of the bridal party to join us for a cake pulls–a Southern tradition where each girl pulls a charm out of the cake that is said to predict their fate. The groom’s cake was four stacked king cakes, a New Orleans speciality, with a fleur de lis topper and purple, green, and gold Mardi Gras beads scattered on the table!

Don’t miss Elyse and Jack’s wedding film by our Blue Ribbon Vendor Bride Film below!

How did the two of you meet? Tell us your story. In eighth grade, my parents moved to a new city right outside of New Orleans, where I made many new friends! One afternoon, I had joined my new girlfriends at the ballpark to watch their friends play baseball. After a foul ball was hit towards the stands, I scooped it up and chucked it back to the boys. Let’s just say that I didn’t throw like a girl! Impressed by my athleticism, Jack came to chat with me after the game. We spent many afternoons together at the ballpark after that, and the rest is history!
Tell us about a date you’ll always remember. For our one-year dating anniversary (keep in mind that we were 16 years old), Jack told me that he was going to cook pizza, my favorite meal, from scratch. He surprised me by writing “I <3 U” in pepperonis! He had already discovered his love for cooking (he's now a chef) and had gotten pretty good at it, so the fact that he simplified his dinner plans to cook this simple dish showed that he really understood and loved me. I’ve always told him just how special that meal made me feel! Describe the proposal: After the weather forced Jack to change his plans of proposing in the park in front of a photographer, the ring must have been burning a hole in his pocket. The very next day, he surprised me with another hand-tossed pizza, this one reading “Marry Me?” in pepperonis– a nod to our one-year anniversary date! Needless to say, we were too excited to eat the proposal pizza!
Three adjectives that describe the day are: Elegant, custom, lively
How many guests attended your wedding? 200
What did the groom and groomsmen wear? Jack had purchased a light navy suit months before the wedding, but three weeks before the big day, an editorial arrived in the mail with a velvet, navy tux blazer that he had to have! It arrived just in time! He also wore my late grandfather’s Rolex watch that my father asked him to wear. During my dad’s rehearsal dinner speech, he said, “Jack, I would like you to wear this watch this weekend so that Elyse’s grandfather can be a part of his granddaughter’s wedding. Keep it on your wrist so he can feel your pulse quicken as you watch Elyse walk up the aisle in her beautiful wedding dress.” It meant so much to me to have my Dide there in spirit! The groomsmen all wore matching black suits with navy skinny ties. We also gifted them polka dot socks for a fun touch.
Tell us about your wedding flowers. I really wanted my bouquet to have a hand-picked, natural feel, so we used lush blooms in whites, ivories, and blush mixed with loose, cascading foliage to give it lots of movement. We applied gold leafing to a few leaves for a gilded touch! We used Frou Frou Chic hand-dyed ribbon to tie it all together. As a finishing touch, I had “Mrs. Jennings” in my handwriting turned into a gold bracelet, which we wrapped around the stems. Just as the bridesmaids’ dresses were different, I wanted their bouquets to be different as well. Each had the same filler flowers and foliage, but a unique focal flower! I also made each of the ladies a handwritten gold bracelet with their names to wrap around their bouquets.
Tell us a bit about your first dance. We danced to “Amazed” by Lonestar, which has been “our song” since we first started dating in 2003–the year the song became most popular. We sang every word of the song to each other while we danced! So romantic and nostalgic!
Tell us about your grand exit. In true dramatic fashion, we ended our reception with fireworks over the Mississippi River to celebrate not only our love, but all of the love that surrounds us each and every day! It was a truly magical ending to the most incredible weekend of our lives, and the perfect start to our forever!

Planning and Design: Elyse Jennings Weddings | Venue: Stella Plantation | Photographer: Greer Gattuso Photography | Videographer: Bride Film | Candles and Lighting: Luminous Events | Florist: Bee’s Wedding and Event Designs | Rentals: Perrier Rentals | Vintage Rentals: Distressed Rentals | Hair Stylist: Ginger Dickey | Makeup Artist: Ashley Sievert | Band: Groovy 7 | Catering: New Orleans Catering | Ceremony Musicians: New Orleans Finest Musicians | Officiant: Rev. Johnny Adams | Transportation: Bonomolo and Hotard | Save the Dates and Invitations: Tupelo Honey | Invitation and Envelope Calligraphy and Signage: Ebb and Flow | Cake Baker: Royal Cakery | Champagne Flutes: Anthropologie | Bride’s Gown: Ines Di Santo | Bridal Salon: Ivory Bridal Atelier | Bride’s Veil: Wedding Belles | Bride’s Earrings: Kendra Scott | Bride’s Shoes: Jimmy Choo | Bride’s Robe: Flora Nikrooz | Menswear: Express | Bridesmaid Dresses: Adrianna Papell and Badgley Mischka | Tinsel Stirrers: Em for Marvelous | XOXO Cake Topper: My Girl Josephine | Bouquet Ribbon: Frou Frou Chic | Name Bracelets: Yvonne Boutique | XOXO Floor Decal: Off the Wall Expression | Confetti: Inside My Nest | Frosted Go Cups and Napkins: For Your Party | Koozies: Discount Mugs

Greer Gattuso, Bride Film, and Stella Plantation are delightful members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

marissa Written with love by Marissa
7 Comments
  1. avatar Brittany reply

    By far one of my favorite weddings. It is the perfect mix of elegant and fun. I might be using some of these ideas :-)

  2. avatar Champagne bar with tinsel stirrers – Em for Marvelous – reply

    […] of my very favorite weddings from the latest issue of Southern Weddings is on their blog today! Elyse and Jack, who began dating when they were 16, blew me away with all of the thoughtful and […]

  3. avatar Elyse reply

    Our wedding was the very best day of my life and it’s made me smile from ear to ear to relive it through the magazine and the blog! You ladies are just the sweetest! XOXO

  4. avatar Sybil reply

    Beautiful wedding! I love alll the detail and how special it seems for the couple.

  5. avatar Nicole reply

    Beautiful…so this is what a wedding looks like when a super talented wedding planner makes the dream of her wedding day come to life. Details, Details, Details, Love, Love, Love!!!

  6. avatar Brooke reply

    This was one of my favorite weddings from the new magazine! Seeing even more pictures on the blog is just so exciting! I absolutely love the confetti bar and the mini chicken and waffles!

  7. avatar 5 Southern Wedding Traditions Any Couple Can Incorporate reply

    […] See the full wedding here! […]

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Y’all, you’re not always going to agree with your beau when it comes to wedding planning (or in your marriage!)….and that’s okay! Communication and compromise are incredible tools to combat these little tangles. For today’s darling couple, choosing a venue might not have been a disagreement, but it did take a bit of time for Evan to fully understand Hannah’s venue preference. Hannah had always dreamed of getting married in the historic chapel on her boarding school campus, and while Evan may not have shared her vision at the beginning, it only took one visit to Saint Mary’s before he was on board, telling Hannah “I totally get how special this chapel is to you now, and I’m excited to share a memory with you here.” And share they did! These two lived out one of my very favorite pieces of wedding day advice: stick together! Hannah and Evan vowed their lives to each other on their wedding day, but also promised not leave one another’s sides the whole day after the ceremony, helping them to experience their special day together and share the same memories. BDK and I also used this simple technique, and I cannot support it more!

Thank you to Almond Leaf Studios for being on hand to capture this beautiful day!

Tell us about finding your wedding dress. I’m a decisive girl, but would much rather have five things to pick from than twenty. I went wedding dress shopping with my mom, my sister, and my maternal grandmother in Charlotte, where I grew up and these ladies live. We went to a great boutique downtown called Hayden Olivia and I ended up finding my dress that day! I walked in and told the Hayden Olivia girls that I was not a fan of lace…and then, lo and behold, I walked out with a full lace dress. The way that I knew I had “the dress” was that when I put it on, I felt completely confident and like myself.

I went to an all-girls high school in Raleigh, North Carolina for boarding school and have always dreamed of getting married in the historic chapel on campus. My sweet groom was so patient through the whole planning process, and when I described how special Saint Mary’s is to me, he was on board with being married there. When Evan finally visited the chapel on one of our planning trips to Raleigh, he hugged me and whispered “I totally get how special this chapel is to you now, and I’m excited to share a memory with you here.” Saint Mary’s agreed to let us have our reception on campus too, since the girls were out for summer break. It ended up being perfect and so convenient for us, our bridal party, and our guests!

What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? Unbeknownst to us, our officiant asked our parents and grandparents to write a short piece of marriage advice for us, which she read during her homily. It was so special and completely a surprise!

What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? It’s hard to pinpoint what was specifically “Southern” about our wedding because Southern is just who we are, but there are a few things that stand out. We served ham biscuit and chicken and waffles passed hors d’oeuvres with mojitos and sangria during cocktail hour. Our cocktail hour entertainment was a bluegrass trio, which is pretty darn Southern. We served Jack Daniels and craft beers from Tennessee and North Carolina, each of our home states, during the evening. The grandmothers and mothers wore corsages. Our reception entertainment was a movin’ and shakin’ soul band out of Atlanta called Evolution Party Band.

Evan and I vowed not to leave one another’s sides the whole day after the ceremony, and that was the best decision we made that day. It meant that all of the memories that we made on our wedding day were made together and in the same moment. A wise man gave me the advice that when it’s all said and done, this day is about your newly declared obligations to your spouse and your spouse’s to you. Greet your guests, have fun with them, but don’t forget to make all of the memories together with your new spouse. That’s the most important person on your wedding day and for the rest of your life.

We wanted our whole day to be reflective of us, so I chose wedding flowers that felt very natural and organic. We used lots of greens, whites, and some blush colors in loose arrangements. Gregg of Brides & Bouquets even incorporated some fresh herbs and blueberries into the arrangements, which was way cool!

What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? I think the most important thing to think about is that you’re not planning a wedding–you’re planning a marriage. The dress and frills are great and all, but at the end of the wedding day, you should really be thinking about the fact that you entered the ceremony as individuals and left the ceremony a new family. That happens in a mere matter of minutes and that’s pretty darn amazing. It’s really important not to lose sight of that. Also, if you have room in your budget, hire a wedding planner! Even if just for the day, it’s nice to have someone be “in charge” so you, your mama, and your bridal party can just enjoy the wedding.

Evan gave me my (now our) dog, Honeybee, in college. My parents weren’t totally on board with me having a dog in college, but my dad is a beekeeper and I decided that naming the dog “Bee” would surely win my parents over. Cha-ching, it worked! The honeybee kind of became a theme at our wedding, thanks to our dog being named Bee, the outdoorsy feel of the wedding, and my dad’s honey from his latest harvest being our favors. We decided that having a cake that looked like a beehive would be a neat way to tie everything together. It looked amazing and tasted even better! We had one tier of lemon, one tier of almond, and one tier of confetti cake. We cut into the confetti cake tier–so fun!

Don’t miss their wedding film by Heart Stone Films below!

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. Evan and I met during our freshman year of college at the University of Tennessee. Mutual friends organized a backpacking trip in the Smoky Mountains and invited both of us along. After a weekend of camping, hiking, no showering, and sleeping on the ground, Evan still wanted to take me on a date! We returned from our backpacking trip on Sunday and Evan took me on our first date on Monday evening. Seven years together passed before our wedding day! To this day, being outside together is still our favorite pastime.
Tell us all about the proposal! After college, Evan and I both decided to pursue our dreams together, but apart. He worked on a boat in the Bahamas and I worked in an art gallery in London. To make things even more convenient, we were accepted to graduate schools in different states. When he started dental school in Memphis Tennessee, I started graduate school for art education in the mountains of North Carolina…a fun eight-hour drive apart! Evan asked my dad (and siblings) for their blessing over Christmas break of 2013, knowing that being all the way in Memphis meant that he might not see my family again for a long time! Nine months later (the secret nearly killed my sister), Evan flew out to Western North Carolina to visit me for a weekend in October 2014. We decided to go for a hike with my dog to enjoy the perfect fall weather and take in the changing leaves. We got to our summit spot on the hike and sat for a little picnic. After we ate lunch, Evan popped the question. I did not see it coming and was totally surprised! The best things about the proposal were that it was reminiscent of the way that we met, and we got to enjoy the moment all to ourselves for a few hours as we hiked back down the mountain!
When did y’all get married? June 20, 2015, nine months after the proposal
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? Around 200
Did you decide to do a first look? Why or why not? No first looks. We decided to keep it traditional, and the tears in our eyes when we saw each other made the wait totally worth it.
Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding and why you chose them. We had a guitarist and a violinist as our ceremony musicians. They played “What a Wonderful World” during the seating of the mothers and grandmothers, “Here Comes the Sun” during the bridesmaid processional, “Water is Wide” when my dad and I walked down the aisle, and “Oh Happy Day” when we left the chapel. We had a bluegrass trio to entertain during the cocktail hour and an larger band during our reception.
Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! Sure did. I borrowed my mom’s veil, had my new monogram stitched into my dress in blue thread (and my bridesmaids wore blue!), the diamond in my ring was Evan’s grandmother’s, and my dress was new. I also wore a handmade lace garter that has been worn by women on my mother’s side of the family for several generations. We even remembered to rub a sixpence in my shoe before the ceremony, another family tradition, for good luck!
What’s next for you as a couple? What memories are you looking forward to making together? We will be in Memphis until Evan finishes up dental school, so I’ll be painting and teaching, and then who knows. To infinity and beyond!

Photographer: Almond Leaf Studios | Videographer: Heart Stone Films | Planner: Orangerie Events | Ceremony Venue: The Chapel at Saint Mary’s School | Reception Venue: Saint Mary’s School | Florist: Brides & Bouquets | Wedding Cake: Sugar Euphoria | Dessert Baker: Sweet Water Ices | Caterer: Belle’s Catering | Rentals: Party Reflections and Paisley and Jade | Lighting: Get Lit | Band: Evolution Party Band of East Coast Entertainment | Special Details: One and Only Paper | Paper Products: Little House Shoppe | Bride’s Gown: Modern Trousseau | Bridal Salon: Hayden Olivia | Hair Stylist: Studio Etica | Makeup Artist: Makeup for Your Day | Bride’s Shoes: Jimmy Choo | Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Donna Morgan | Menswear: Jos. A. Bank | On-site Painting: Ben Keys of Wed on Canvas

Heart Stone Films, Orangerie Events, and Sugar Euphoria are delightful members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

marissa Written with love by Marissa
1 Comment
  1. avatar Paisley & Jade reply

    We absolutely love this wedding! The Orangerie styling of our chalkboard bar is gorgeous and our London Doors as a popcorn bar?! Just awesome. Thanks so much for featuring Hannah and Evan’s beautiful day!

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Have any of y’all seen the show GCB? I’m obsessed! It’s my new guilty pleasure – over the top, a bit campy, and completely fabulous. And, it’s based in the South! Holla! Y’all know I love big Southern hair, and this show is full of it!

The ladies of GCB have yet to sample chicken and waffles on screen, but I’ll bet it’s only a matter of time, as this sweet and savory bite is a Southern staple! On that note, oh heavens, please someone keep me from licking this computer screen! Seriously, the mini cones?? I think Emily’s mini food obsession is rubbing off on me!

A little history: Chicken and waffles is a soul food dish that combines delicious waffles with (usually) fried chicken. The waffle is usually drizzled with butter and/or syrup, which only adds to the deliciousness factor (and, yes, the calorie count). The exact origin of this semi-crazy combination is unknown, but according to one story, it actually has deep roots, dating from the 1790’s, when Thomas Jefferson brought a waffle iron home from France. The combo of chicken and waffles started appearing in cookbooks shortly thereafter.

A Bryan Photo via Southern Weddings (food by Cru Catering), Diana M. Lott, Ingalls Photography via Martha Stewart Weddings, Jessica Lorren, last two by Vitalic Photo via Style Me Pretty

No matter where this tradition started, we Southerners have embraced it! According to my secret Northerner source (shh, it might be Miss Emily), this Southern delicacy is particularly baffling to our counterparts up North. I’m not sure what to tell her except that perhaps it’s in our genes!

On a final note, I am personally so excited to see this delicacy being served at Southern fetes. We all know I’m a bit of a tradition freak, so seeing couples serving this truly Southern combo to their guests has me tickled pink. Because chicken and waffles is such a flexible dish, it’s perfect for almost every wedding event, from cocktail hour to a midnight snack to a going away brunch the next morning. We also love the idea of printing your grandmother’s waffle recipe on a muslin bag and sending it home with your guests as a homespun favor!

Tell me: Do you love chicken and waffles? What’s your favorite Southern food? Will you be serving a Southern delicacy at your wedding?

Psst… hungry for more?
Our Southern fixin’s Pinterest board
Black-eyed peas
Benne wafers

Jessica Lorren and Cru Catering are fabulous members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

marissa Written with love by Marissa
13 Comments
  1. avatar Brit {Colure Weddings} reply

    You’re right Emily!

    Sincerely, a completely baffled northerner. ;)

    • avatar Marissa reply

      Too funny! I’m sure there are some Northern foods that would completely us Southerners! It’s all fair in the end! ; )

  2. avatar Sarah K reply

    We had chicken and waffles at our wedding day-after send-off brunch. Most of my husband’s people had never tried it and now they are obsessed. SOOOOO yummy!

  3. avatar Vanessa {vanilla and rose} reply

    There’s very little on here that surprises me when it comes to Southern food! I’m from the North but my father was born and raised in Alabama so I’ve been exposed to Southern style and food most of my life but ladies you got me on this one! What?! This is definitely an interesting combination!

  4. avatar Jennifer reply

    Don’t know if you noticed the detail in the home kitchen when all thoses chicken wings were served last week, there was an in counter fryer. How did I not know this existed. Love GCB!

  5. avatar Natalia reply

    Chicken and waffles – YUM! It was a must-have on our “breakfast for dinner” rehearsal dinner.

    Oh my goodness – I looove GCB!! Completely hysterical.

  6. avatar Wedding Food – Comfort, Your Style « thehighlifesuite reply

    […] Yogurt Parfait from Pinterest, Pancake Bar from Green Wedding Shoes, Chicken and Waffles from Southern Weddings Magazine & Pinterest, Bacon Waffle w/ Fried Chicken, Gravy & a Fried Green Tomato from Pinterest, […]

  7. avatar Grass Fed reply

    Even when I was a kid, I love eating chicken and waffles. But I haven’t tried to have them simultaneously. This is a great southern delicacy that I am very excited to try.

  8. avatar LJ reply

    We served brunch for our wedding reception. The chicken and waffles were a hit!

  9. avatar Shawna reply

    Your photos are so beautiful.

  10. avatar Kimberly reply

    Mmmmh!

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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