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Small town life is a beloved part of Southern culture–I’m certain many of y’all can relate to Molly’s pride in her quaint hometown! Molly loved growing up in Saxapahaw, North Carolina, and although she and Aaron met in Chapel Hill, they couldn’t resist the opportunity to dig into Molly’s roots and welcome their loved ones to Saxapahaw for their big day. Complete with hearty Southern cuisine, an abundance of family heirlooms, and many nods to their heritages, Molly and Aaron’s celebration held all the charms of a small town itself. Molly says, “The sense of small town community during our celebration was the most natural part for us, and by default, it was the most Southern part!”

Thank you so much to our Blue Ribbon Vendor A. J. Dunlap for sharing this lovely day with us!

Tell us about finding your wedding dress. Before flying home for winter break, my mom encouraged me to try on dresses in Austin with my best friend. I found the most wonderful secondhand/consignment designer dress shop, Second Summer Bridal. We had a great time while I tried on every style of dress, just for fun, until I tried on THE ONE. I knew I couldn’t buy a dress without showing my mom anything, so I tried to let it go. Back in North Carolina for Christmas, I tried on many more with my mom, but couldn’t get that one dress out of my mind. Knowing it was a one-time sale, I called back in January with the slightest bit of hope it was still in the store. It was fate–no one had bought it yet! I went in the first week I was back in Austin and sealed the deal! After all the dresses I tried on, this was the one that made me feel like a bride!

Our florist was Pine State Flowers. They only use locally grown, North Carolina flowers. This meant we had to be flexible to what type and colors of flowers were in season locally, and we had a beautiful and sustainable end result!

We were so grateful to have family friends who took part in our wedding and helped us save money. A dear friend did bridesmaids’ hair, family friends were the musicians, a church friend made our cake, my best friend designed the invitations and ceremony programs and wrote on all the windows and chalkboards, a dear friend directed the ceremony, and a family friend was our amazing DJ.

Did you decide to do a first look? Why or why not? YES! Knowing we wanted space and time to ourselves to be mindful, present, and soak in the powerful commitment we were about to make was of the utmost importance to us. Having that time for just the two of us to reflect, laugh, cry, joke around, and be ourselves was essential.

What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? Did they have any special significance to you? I am from the small town of Saxapahaw, and all of my maternal family is from small mill towns along the Haw River. In fact, my grandmother worked third shift in the Saxapahaw Mill while attending business college! Once the heart of the community, the Saxapahaw Cotton Mill closed in 1994 due to tornado damage. In high school, I would drive past it and admire the dilapidated and boarded up building. Over the past decade, the Mill has been renovated into a thriving, central part of the Saxapahaw community, and houses the Haw River Ballroom. My family has fallen in love with the rejuvenated sense of community in Saxapahaw, so the Ballroom was a natural first choice for Aaron and I. Fun side note: the wedding was the first time my grandmother had returned to the Mill since working in it.

The BEST part about our entire wedding was how community-centered and relationship-based it was. Aaron and I are both from small towns and value community, so we made it our goal to create a “church” within the ballroom, and to honor and celebrate the relationships and connections with our own church families, friends, individual families, extended family, and the community. All of the cotton used throughout the wedding was grown by a North Carolina farmer in Tarboro. The seating assignment windows were composed of various antique windows–the four-pane window came from Aaron’s great-grandparents’ homestead house that is over 150 years old, and the six-pane windows came from Aaron’s maternal grandfather’s historic shop. The handkerchief were gifted to my maternal grandmother on her wedding day. She recently found them, unopened! The drawers for cards came from my maternal great-grandmother’s Singer sewing machine. She taught my mom to love sewing, and I am named after her. The ring bearer pillow was sewn by my mom from her dad’s old jeans, and the smallest ring tied to the pillow was my baby ring! Aaron’s nephew, one of the ring bearers, carried my grandmother’s family Bible down the aisle. My veil was made from my mom’s blusher wedding veil. All the bud vases and bottles were collected during my engagement by my mother and grandmother. My grandfather passed away last winter, and these have been a blessing and the perfect project for my grandmother. There were also photos of our parents and grandparents on their wedding days displayed at the reception!

What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? The sense of small town community during our celebration was the most natural part for us, and by default, it was the most Southern part! On top of the family heirlooms used, we also incorporated the best kinds of Southern food! Served in small plates to encourage mingling and conversation during the reception, guests feasted on meatloaf with mashed potatoes and green beans, shrimp and grits, and macaroni and cheese with collards and black eyed peas. All catering was from the local “five star restaurant in a gas station,” the Saxapahaw General Store. There’s nothing more Southern than getting married in an old cotton mill, eating good Southern food, being surrounded by the community that raised you, and getting to spend the rest of your life with your best friend!

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. We met the first month of college at UNC Chapel Hill, living in the same dorm. Aaron helped Katie, my suitemate, carry some packages down to our rooms one day. Katie introduced me to this cute guy who helped her, and the rest was history! For the next four years of college, we were inseparable–study rooms, basketball games, football games, dance performances, the Varsity theater, Carver Street, He’s Not Here, Brown Summit, and Saxapahaw. After graduating, Aaron moved off to Charlotte, and I headed to the tiny town of Eden. During Christmas of 2011, we realized we couldn’t stand being apart any longer, and we haven’t been since. Fast forward to August 2013, and Aaron and I moved to Austin, Texas so I could attend graduate school at UT-Austin. Aaron found a corporate recruiting job here and graduated from Western Carolina’s online graduate school. We have been in Austin for over two years and are embracing the Texan way of life for now!
Tell us all about the proposal! We were so excited to return to UNC for homecoming in November 2014. Once we were back in Chapel Hill, Aaron suggested we walk through campus and visit the UNC Basketball Museum. While we were walking towards the museum, I thought I would be so romantic and suggested a stop at Craige, our freshman dorm, where it all started. After sitting on the front steps of the dorm where we fell in love, we stood up, I blinked, and Aaron was on one knee! After his proposal, we continued on to the basketball museum without calling anyone. #goheels
When did y’all get married? November 7, 2015
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 200
Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? We did not write our own vows–we used the less traditional vows from the United Methodist Church’s liturgy. A favorite line included: “I take you to be my husband/wife, from this time onward, to join with you and to share all that is to come.”
What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? My brother and two dear friends read at our ceremony–a task with more significance to us than being in the wedding party. They read three scripture passages: Song of Solomon 2:10-14, 16a; 8:6-7a, Romans 12:9-18, and Colossians 3:12-17.
Describe your wedding cake or dessert. A family friend made a gorgeous four-tiered pound cake with buttercream icing, with the top layer saved for our first anniversary! You can’t beat a good ol’ Southern pound cake!
How did you plan for your marriage while planning your wedding? We felt it was very important to keep our relationship at the center of the wedding planning and were mindful of discussing not only the details of the big day, but also what we wanted our future to look like together. Premarital counseling with our minister, readings books together, and spending the majority of our time together not wedding planning helped enormously with this!
If you are comfortable responding, what range did your wedding budget fall into? $10,000-$25,000
What is the one detail or vendor that you were so happy to have as a part of your wedding? One very special thing to me was having my brother walk me down the aisle to meet my father. My brother, Peter, and I have an incredible relationship and I wanted to honor that in this way.
What’s next for you as a couple? What memories are you looking forward to making together? We will stay in Austin, Texas for the next few years before returning home to North Carolina. We are so excited to make our new house a home together and continue to explore and enjoy this unique Southern town as partners in a new, married light!

Photographer: A.J. Dunlap Photography / Videography: Olivia Wilkes / Videography and Sound: Ana Caicedo Macia / Video Editing: Anna Norwood / Venue and Planner: Haw River Ballroom / Florist: Pine State Flowers / Wedding Cake: Brenda Moss / Caterer: Saxapahaw General Store / DJ: Jason Barnes of JMB Marketing / Bridal Salon and Hairpiece: Second Summer Bride / Gown Alterations: Kira Kouture / Bride’s Earrings: Judith Bright / Hair and Makeup: Tease and Blush / Bride’s Shoes: Toms / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: RenzRags / Menswear: Combatant Gentlemen / Groomsmen Ties: The Tie Bar / Invitations, Ceremony Programs, and Calligraphy: Linsey Gray Creative

A.J. Dunlap is a delightful member of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

lisa Written with love by Lisa
4 Comments
  1. avatar A.J. Dunlap reply

    Oh, how I loved this wedding! Thank you so much for sharing their day and their story!!! xoxo~A.J.

  2. avatar Anna Norwood reply

    Check out this video feature of Molly and Aaron’s special day!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UCbru_s6lj4

  3. avatar Laura reply

    What a beautiful wedding and sweet couple! Love the small town feel!

  4. avatar Ryan reply

    Could anyone provide more details on the bridesmaid dresses? My fiancée and I are very interested in several of these dresses but cannot find the specific dresses on Renz Rags

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While the biggest moments on your wedding day are the ones between you and your groom, we also have a soft spot for the moments that naturally occur when you’re surrounded by your sisters and your best girlfriends. Chances are, these ladies have seen you at your best and at your worst (middle school, anyone?), and it’s such a sweet comfort to know that even as you enter a new stage of life, they’ll always be there for you. We love when brides go the extra mile to make sure their bridesmaids look and feel beautiful, and we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite looks from 2015 below!

Amanda‘s sky blue chiffon BHLDN dresses (photo by Whitney Neal)

Catherine‘s sparkly gold dresses with fur stoles (photo by Mike Cassimatis)

Lindsay‘s short mismatched white dresses (photo by Natalie Watson)

Allann‘s mismatched dresses in rich fall colors by Amsale, Dessy Collection, Alfred Angelo, Ceremony by Joanna August, and BHLDN (photo by Kristen Kilpatrick)

Stephanie‘s bow-back dresses by Alfred Sung (photo by Rachel May)

Jessica‘s mismatched long dresses in shades of blue and lavender, paired with floral crowns (photo by Jen Dillender)

Lindsey‘s navy blue dresses and Derby-ready fascinators (photo by Elaine Palladino)

Jessica‘s mismatched gray and silver styles by BHLDN, J. Crew, LulaKate, Nordstrom, and Revolve (photo by Annamarie Akins)

Brianna‘s emerald Amsale dresses with different sleeves and straps (photo by Elisabeth Carol)

Caroline‘s elegant silver LulaKate dresses (photo by Courtney Dox)

Whitney Neal, Kristen Kilpatrick, Rachel May, Jen Dillender, Elaine Palladino, Elisabeth Carol, Courtney Dox, and LulaKate are delightful members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

lisa Written with love by Lisa
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    Holly and Austin may have met in a rather unconventional way (through an Instagram hashtag!), but their wedding day was full of traditional Southern fare and all the classics we know and love. Inspired by Holly’s Tennessee home and deep Southern roots, one of the highlights of their Swann Plantation celebration was their tasty “breakfast for dinner,” which included country ham, eggs, chicken and waffles, and biscuits and gravy. The Southern spirit of hospitality continued throughout the reception–to keep guests extra cozy, Holly and Austin provided seating areas around fire pits that were perfect for snuggling up around under quilts, all handmade by generations of Holly’s family!

    Ais Portaits captured all of this sweet day, and we’re sure glad about that!

    Tell us about finding your wedding dress. After searching online, I came across a dress that peaked my interest, so I printed out a copy of the details. Two days later, my mother and I decided to run into David’s Bridal to try and find it. At first, the front desk told me my dress has been discontinued, which made the first 20 minutes of my wedding dress shopping experience terrible. However, the manager saved the day by informing her employee and myself that my dress was brand new! I tried on my tea-length wedding dress and fell in love. I only tried on two dresses, the second only because the employee insisted. I was so happy that the special moment was shared between my mother and I. She hugged me, cried with me, and babied me for one of the last times before I became a Mrs. It was a shopping trip I’ll never forget.

    We decided to keep it traditional and let the first time he saw me be when I walked down the aisle. We did get to exchange cards and say a prayer together first (with his eyes shut). When he did see me walking down the aisle, it was priceless. Definitely worth not having a first look!

    Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding and why you chose them. I got my Bachelor’s degree in music, so this was a very important part of the service to me. We had a small choral ensemble, a trumpeter, and a pianist/organist. The trumpet and organ played “Canon in D” when I walked into the church, which was special for me because my mother also used this song in her wedding. After the ceremony was over, we wanted to let people know the party was starting, even though they had to make a little drive to the reception site. As the church bells were chiming and we were standing in front of the congregation, the song “Everybody Dance Now” started playing. At this point, I surprised my new husband by taking a selfie (because we met on Instagram), and then the entire bridal party danced out of the church and onto the bus to head to the party!

    What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? Did they have any special significance to you? I loved the traditional aspect of the church where our ceremony was held. There are lots of beautiful stained glass windows, and it’s one of the only churches in the area with just a center aisle. Our reception venue just captured the feel I was aiming to achieve. I’m Southern and I wanted that to be a part of our day, and this plantation was perfect because it had a charm and elegance to it. It allowed my guests to experience the Southern charm in the way I wanted it to be displayed.

    Tennessee is home to me, and I wanted a wedding that I felt took me back to my roots. Our guests were given small homemade sweet potato pancakes with their choice of toppings and our signature drink, McMosas (mimosas). We served breakfast for dinner, including country ham, eggs, chicken and waffles, gravy and biscuits, potatoes, and anything you would consider traditional Southern breakfast. We offered a fall orange and cranberry juice, and our bar included McWilliams wine, Samuel Adams Octoberfest, and Angry Orchard, which all contributed to our vision for an elegant, fall, Southern wedding. Being a Tennessee Volunteer fan and alumnus of the college, we had both the original version of “Rocky Top” by the Osborne Brothers played, immediately followed with a recording of The Pride of the Southland band playing the football team’s version. The deck, which provided the dance floor, was shaking because of the excitement the guests had during this joyous, classic Tennessee moment. When the sun went down, in case guests were not staying warm with our open bar services or the dance floor, we provided couches around fire pits for them to sit and relax at, snuggling up with their dates or families under handmade quilts from generations of my family.

    How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. Austin and I met in one of the most unique ways. Austin was browsing Instagram and decided to search for photos under the hashtag #Dexter, because the series finale was set to air that week. The first photo that popped up was a photo of a young, bubbly, wide-eyed girl named Holly (that’s me!) who was super stoked about the series finale. He liked my photo…and maybe one or two more. I liked a photo of him. He followed me. I followed him. After a month or two of casual liking of photos and commenting, I decided to make sure he was a real person! No one wants to be “catfished,” so I added Austin on Facebook. He approved my friend request and our messaging continued. After a week or two of messaging and texting, Austin wanted to call me. I, however, did not want my illusion of the perfect man to be broken, so every time he called, I made up excuses of having too much homework, being at work, or being on the phone with someone else. The reality: I was at home by myself watching Netflix. :) Finally, on Christmas Eve, I answered a phone call from him. We ended up talking for hours that night and I have not gone a day since without talking to him. In January, when I had a date function to attend, I asked Austin, sure he wouldn’t drive ten hours to go to with me. To my surprise, he decided to drive up and meet me in person for the first time! We dated long distance for about four months before I moved down to Florida for a summer to get to know his family a little more. After the summer ended, Austin moved up to Tennessee to be closer to my family and me as I finished up college. The summer after college, I was accepted for an internship position in Orlando, Florida. This was my last move to Florida as a single lady.
    Tell us all about the proposal! Before I moved to Florida for my summer internship, I took a week off work to go visit Austin and figure out where I would live for the summer. That Friday, Austin surprised me with tickets to see the Pentatonix (my favorite music band!) in Atlanta the next day! We drove eight hours to Atlanta early that morning. That night, he told me he wanted to go out to a nice dinner. We had a great time, and when we were going back to the car, he said, “I need you to put this bandana on to cover your eyes, or I need your promise to not look.” I chose the bandana, now knowing something was up. Austin drove me around the long way to my house, led me out of the car, and said, “Open your eyes.” He had filled the barn in my backyard with hanging lights, salt lamps, and pictures of us. I immediately started crying as he led me to a seat with an iPad and some speakers and told me to watch a video. It was a 20-minute video of all of my friends and family telling me how excited they were I was getting married!! At the end of the movie, it said, “Turn Around,” and there was Austin, on his knee. He told me he didn’t know what the future held, but that he wanted it to be with me. He said, “Will you marry me?” and I jumped into his arms and said “Heck yes!” He then pointed out that he had a photographer who had been taking pictures of the entire thing, along with a video recorder recording everything! When we walked back into my house to tell my family, all I heard was “SURPRISE!” Austin had gotten all of my family and close friends to come to the house to participate in an engagement party.
    When did y’all get married? October 17, 2015
    How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? Approximately 200
    Our favorite detail of the wedding was: We enjoyed our special dances for each other. My father-daughter dance was filled with special memories my dad and I shared–the medley included, “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble,” “Come On, Feel the Noise,” “Night at the Roxbury,” “Eye of the Tiger,” “Gullah Gullah Island,” and “My Girl.” It ended with a sweet song for my dad and I to dance to normally, “Edelweiss.” Austin surprised me later in the evening with a “boy band dance tribute to my musical preferences through the ages.” This included “It’s Gonna Be Me” by NSYNC for the boy band phase, then “Beautiful Soul” by Jesse McCartney for the boy phase, a Blink 182 song for the punk rock/dating age phase, “Can’t Touch This” for the daddy patrol phase, “Single Ladies” for my college/single life phase, “O Babbino Caro” for my opera singer phase, and finally, the “Disney Dudez” version of “Let it Go” for the “let it go and date Austin” phase. Austin was accompanied by four of his groomsman for a synchronized dance.
    How did you plan for your marriage while planning your wedding? We met with both a marriage counselor and our pastor at least every other week. We have always heard that marriage is tough, and we know we are both different, so we faced the challenges head on. It has been so great to step into this beautiful relationship with the tools to create a lasting marriage!
    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? We’re looking forward to just spending the next phase of life together. I’ll continue to grow my music teaching business and Austin is planning on going to graduate school. Most importantly, no matter what happens in life, we’ll have each other for support.

    Photographer: Aislinn Bailey | Videographer: Viola Cinematics | Planner: Amanda Graves of Southern Bliss | Ceremony Venue: Second Presbyterian Church of Knoxville | Reception Venue: Swann Plantation | Florist: Sassafras | Cake Baker: Cheryl McMillian Cake Design | Caterer: Luxe | Rentals: Campbell Rentals and Tents | DJ: Premier Party Machine | Paper Products: The Happy Envelope | Bride’s Gown and Accessories: David’s Bridal | Hair and Makeup: Porsha Kimble Adams | Menswear: Men’s Wearhouse

    marissa Written with love by Marissa
    3 Comments
    1. avatar Aislinn Bailey reply

      We are always so thrilled to see our work published, but having it on Southern Weddings is a dream come true. Thank you!

    2. avatar Faith reply

      Such a sweet story!! Congrats to the newlyweds!

    3. avatar Amanda Graves reply

      Thank you so much for featuring/publishing Holly and Austins wedding!! We are beyond thrilled!

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