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We believe that preparing for your marriage is an incredibly important aspect of wedding planning, so I love how Karina and John used their time of engagement to do just that. Throughout the process, they practiced compromise, balanced priorities, and threw in a whole lot of fun along the way, all while keeping their focus on creating a strong marriage. With the help of their planner, Ashley Huffman Sanders of LFF Designs, Karina and John threw a wedding that felt like “a fun, Southern shindig,” inspired by their summers spent on the Carolina Coast!

Big SW hugs to Blue Ribbon Vendor Anna Routh for sharing this sweet day with us!

Wedding dress shopping was one of my favorite parts of wedding planning. My mom and I had scheduled an appointment at one of the larger wedding dress shops in town, but about a month before the appointment, I saw on Instagram that a new shop in town was having a trunk show that weekend. I called, and on a whim, my mom, two friends, and I went in for an appointment. I had a pretty clear vision of what I wanted and picked my dress out right off the rack. It was the third wedding dress I tried on and I knew it was the one. We bought it that day.

What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? Did they have any special significance to you? We had our ceremony and reception at a private home along the Intracoastal Waterway. Some friends of ours were also married there and we knew it was a very special place. It meant a lot to us to get married and celebrate right along the water where we’ve made so many memories together over the years.

Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? No, we used a traditional Episcopal wedding service. My uncle married us, which was extra special because he also married my parents.
Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding and why you chose them. We hired a ukulele player for our ceremony, which was so much fun. He played traditional wedding ceremony music with an island vibe. Our first dance was to “Magnolia Wind” by Guy Clark. That song seemed to capture our relationship perfectly and we both loved it.

We chose not to do a first look. My husband is pretty traditional and really wanted to see me for the first time when I was walking down the aisle. I’m so glad we made that decision because when our eyes met for the first time, it was such a magical moment!

What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? We both grew up in North Carolina and wanted the wedding to feel like a fun, Southern shindig. We served all Southern foods: deviled eggs, fried chicken, bourbon-glazed pork, mac and cheese, shrimp and grits, collards, hoppin john, and cornbread. We also had boiled peanuts, mini Moon Pies, and Pepsi for a late night snack. John and his groomsmen wore seersucker suits with bow ties, and part of the groomsmen gift included an NC flag Freeker (knit koozies made here in Wilmington).

We had a four-tiered cake with textured white buttercream frosting. Each layer was a different flavor and so delicious! The cake was decorated with flowers and greenery.

What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? I knew when we started planning an outdoor wedding that the weather would be a huge factor. The forecast looked pretty promising for our big day–just a slight chance of storms. All throughout the ceremony and cocktail hour, the weather was perfect. Just as we sat down to eat dinner though, the sky turned black and the wind really picked up. A few cocktail tables blew over and a tablecloth caught on fire! The cake almost blew over, but was saved by my quick thinking cousins! The radar showed a crazy storm headed our way. We rushed to cut the cake and prepare for the rain to come when suddenly, the sky cleared. It never rained. The light coming through the clouds as the storm passed was absolutely beautiful. Our photographer captured a picture of that sky over our tent, and it is my absolute favorite photo of the night. Once the threat of pouring rain was over, the band cranked up and we danced the night away!

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. John and I met through mutual friends on July 4, 2009 at Wrightsville Beach. We spent such a fun day boating with friends, and we really hit it off. We exchanged numbers that night and spent the next day together. He cooked me dinner the following week and I was sold! We dated for close to seven years before getting married–part of that time was long distance while I attended graduate school. John was so supportive and drove to Durham nearly every weekend so we could be together. We both knew if we could survive that separation, we could survive anything together. After school, I moved home to Wilmington and we got engaged the following year.
Tell us all about the proposal! We got engaged in November 2014 at Wrightsville Beach–where we met and where we spend most weekends in the summer. It was the day after my 30th birthday, and John woke up extra early to suggest we go to breakfast and then for a walk on the beach. I could tell he was a little nervous while we were walking along the water and thought something was up. A few minutes later, he was down on one knee. Later that night, we surprised all of our friends with the news at a party. It was a perfect day.
When did y’all get married? April 23, 2016
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? Around 175
Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! I borrowed a pearl bracelet from my mother-in-law, which served as my something borrowed and old. I wore Duke blue nail polish on my toes for my something blue. My dress, veil, shoes, and earrings were all new.
How did you plan for your marriage while planning your wedding? Wedding planning, in many ways, was good practice for married life. There was lots of compromising, budget discussing, and balancing of priorities. We managed to have a lot of fun throughout the process, and constantly reminded ourselves that our marriage was much more important than the wedding.
If you are comfortable responding, what range did your wedding budget fall into? $25,000-$50,000
What’s next for you as a couple? What memories are you looking forward to making together? Right now, we’re enjoying a low-key summer with family and friends and saving for our first home.

Photographer: Anna Routh Photography | Planner: Ashley Huffman Sanders of LFF Designs | Venue: Private residence | Florist: Fiore Fine Flowers | Wedding Cake: One Belle Bakery | Caterer: Gibbs Catering | Rentals: L&L Tent and Party Rentals | Lighting: High Performance Lighting and Power | Band: Mr. Potato Head Band | Ukulele: Kent Knorr of North Carolina Ukulele Academy | Paper Products: Reeves Engraving | Bride’s Gown: “MJ101” by Madison James | Bridal Salon and Veil: Coastal Knot Bridal | Hair Stylist: Kelli Kuperus and Megan Gregory from Sea Grass Salon and Day Spa | Makeup Artist: Amy Kennison | Bride’s Shoes: “Danya” by Naturalizer | Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Joanna August | Menswear: Jos. A. Bank | Trolley: Azalea Limo

Anna Routh, Fiore Fine Flowers, One Belle Bakery, and Coastal Knot Bridal are delightful members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

marissa Written with love by Marissa
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  1. avatar Karina + John » Anna Routh Photography reply

    […] Thanks also to Southern Weddings for featuring this sweet wedding recently. Check it out here. […]

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Erin and Joe’s love story is a testament to the idea that “when you know, you know.” They knew after their first meeting that what they had found in each other was worth starting a long-distance relationship for. Joe knew by his first Christmas with Erin’s family that he would someday ask her to marry him. That same confidence carried into their engagement as they planned their Salt Harbor celebration, knowing that they wanted to start their marriage surrounded by community. Their big bridal party and the effort they put into caring for their guests is proof of that, and I can only imagine how palpable the love for this sweet couple was on their special day!

Thank you so much to A.J. Dunlap for sharing Erin and Joe’s wedding with us!

I traveled down to my friend’s bridal store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to find the perfect gown. I thought I wanted something with lace, but after trying some on, all of the lace dresses felt too formal for me. When I tried on my beautiful ombre gown, I knew it was the one. It had the special touch I was looking for, and the silk organza was so soft and light. It was perfect, and I knew right away that it was the dress I would wear on my wedding day.

Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! As my something old, I had a gold “A” brooch that belonged to my paternal great-grandmother and a gold heart charm necklace with my maternal grandparents’ names on either side that I attached to the stem of my bouquet. My grandparents were not able to make the trip to the wedding, so the necklace was in honor of them. My dress, shoes, veil, jewelry, hairpiece, and garter were new. At the last minute right before the ceremony started, my mom gave me her engagement ring to borrow for the evening–since she has such small fingers, I wore it on my pinky finger!

Our favorite detail was our GIANT wedding party, which included important people in our lives from lower school and beyond. We also had gentlemen (my brother and a friend) who stood on my side and ladies (Joe’s sister, sister-in-law, and a friend) who stood on his side.

For our ceremony and cocktail hour, we had a quartet that was led by my former high school orchestra teacher. I knew from the beginning of wedding planning that I wanted him to play for the ceremony. It was especially meaningful because our officiant, my maid of honor, and my brother are all former students of his as well, so it felt like a little reunion.

What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? Did they have any special significance to you? Our ceremony and reception were held in the same place–we were aiming for simplicity and did not want guests to have to travel between different locations to get from the ceremony to the reception. We “flipped” the ceremony space into a reception, which was the easiest and most efficient way for us to achieve that goal. The food and the cake were provided by the country club, and having an all-inclusive experience helped us streamline our vendor list.

We planned our wedding with the emphasis on making it as easy and fun for our guests as possible. We had shuttles take our guests to and from the wedding, so drinking and driving wouldn’t be a concern. We were blessed with cool summer weather, but held our events under nautical sail cloth tents that provided shade, and created our programs in the shape of fans, just in case of warm temperatures. We had corn hole boards set up that were painted with UNC and Vanderbilt themes (in honor of our alma maters). We also had a bourbon bar (Joe is a whiskey man), where guests could sip their favorites, and my brother painted us a sign to hang over the bar that said “Franklin & Broadway” in honor of the main streets in Chapel Hill and Nashville. During the cocktail hour, the bourbon bar served mint juleps and Moscow mules for guests to enjoy.

Describe your wedding cake or dessert. We had a simple, three-tiered wedding cake, but as a little surprise, it was a funfetti cake with strawberry cream in the middle! It’s too easy for a wedding to feel “stuffy,” so we wanted to go with a cake flavor that so many of us loved growing up. We also had a groom’s cake that was Vanderbilt-themed (because Joe loves Vanderbilt sports), with a perfect replica of a football helmet on it. The cake was Rocky Road flavor, which was definitely a guest favorite!
Did you pull any wedding inspiration from memories you have together? Tell us about it! Joe and I enjoy going to UNC and Vanderbilt sporting events together, so our exit with pom poms in our schools’ colors was a fun little addition! As we were waiting for everyone to get lined up so we could run through, we could hear people yelling the schools’ chants. It was a very memorable end to our wonderful night.

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. We met over Memorial Day weekend in 2011 on the patio of a little bar in Topsail Beach, North Carolina. We were both in town visiting friends for the holiday weekend, and met through mutual friends. After chatting for most of the night, we realized there was something special between us and we wanted to see each other again, even though we were living five hours apart (I was in Durham, North Carolina and Joe was in Washington, D.C.). We spent the next year driving to see each other on the weekends, before we got the chance to move to Boston together for two years of grad school (yay, no more long-distance!).
Tell us all about the proposal! Joe proposed over Memorial Day weekend in 2014, at the very same beach where we had met three years prior. I had spent most of the day at the beach while Joe stayed up at my parents’ house. Later in the afternoon, Joe met me down at the beach, and we proceeded to set up our beach tent so we could enjoy some time together. I was laying on my stomach reading when he got down on the beach towel next to me and started talking about how much he loved me. He then pulled a ring box out of his pocket and asked me if I would marry him. I, of course, said yes, and then we celebrated with a bottle of my grandpa’s homemade wine, which had been given to Joe the first Christmas he spent with my family. He said he knew when he received it that it would be the wine that we would use to celebrate our engagement someday.
When did y’all get married? May 24, 2015
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 150
What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? We did not have any formal readings, but Joe’s brother recited a verse from the Old Testament and a prayer, which talked about being physically and mentally present for each other throughout our lives, especially in the first year of our marriage. It was really special.
If you are comfortable responding, what range did your wedding budget fall into? $50,000-$75,000
What was one way you saved money or cut costs at your wedding? We purchased a GoPro camera for guests to use to videotape the ceremony and reception. We were able to save money, and the GoPro provided more personal candid shots of the wedding, which was what we wanted. We also made our own save the dates instead of purchasing them from a paper vendor.
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Use spreadsheets to track everything (budgets, guest lists, gifts received, vendor contacts), and be as organized as possible. Also, let people help you with wedding tasks–don’t try to do it all yourself. You will find that you’ll enjoy the wedding planning journey a lot more if you distribute some of the work. People will offer to help, so let them (and then thank them for making things easier for you).
What’s next for you as a couple? What memories are you looking forward to making together? We just returned from our honeymoon in Puerto Rico, and we are excited to ease into a “normal” life of cooking together and spending our free time on the weekends together. There are many date nights in our future!

Photographer: A.J. Dunlap Photography / Planner, Florist, and Rentals: Salt Harbor / Venue, Catering, and Cake: Country Club of Landfall / Tents: Sperry Tents / Furniture Rentals: Party Suppliers / Lighting: High Performance Lighting / Band: Band: Mr. Potato Head via East Coast Entertainment / Invitations: Invitations by Dawn / Programs: Woodlark Designs / Save the Date Stickers: Social Print Studio / Bride’s Gown: Martina Liana / Bride’s Jewelry: Nadri / Bride’s Hairpiece: Richard Designs / Hair Stylist: Wedding Hair by Liz / Makeup Artist: Lauren Tedino / Bride’s Shoes: Jimmy Choo / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Donna Morgan / Bridesmaids’ Necklaces: Stella & Dot / Groom’s Attire: Hugo Boss / Groom’s Shoes: Ted Baker / Groomsmen Attire: Savvi Formalwear / Groomsmen’s Cuff Links: Release Me Creations / Bridal Salon: Bustle / Dress Alterations: Isabel Donnelly / Bridal Suite: The Loft on Front / Transportation: Wilmington Trolley Company and Cape Fear Transportation

Invitations by Dawn and Donna Morgan are delightful Southern Weddings advertisers. Bustle, Sperry Tents, and East Coast Entertainment are members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory.

lisa Written with love by Lisa
5 Comments
  1. avatar Yours Truly Wedding Albums reply

    Breathtaking images! What a gorgeous wedding!

  2. avatar A.J. Dunlap reply

    Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful southern wedding that we had the privilege of photographing. We are so honored to see it featured here!!! xoxo~A.J. & Kyle

  3. avatar Dana reply

    I like his sweet, low-key proposal!

  4. avatar Reece reply

    Love Social Print Studio!!! I used their photostrips and tinybooks as my save the dates. ❤️

  5. avatar Tatyana Lee reply

    That bouquet is incredible!

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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