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After working ten feet away from each other for six months, Lori remembers a moment when picking sour apples off the little tree behind her apartment as the first time she really “saw” Ryan. I love how this seemingly unremarkable moment of post-date fun will forever be imprinted in her mind. Not to overshadow such a wonderful memory, I’m sure Lori and Ryan’s wedding was full of moments they’ll remember forever, including their first look. Due to their very short time frame at their venue, Lori said “it was imperative that we focused on only the things that really mattered.” Focusing on what really matters? Yep, we’re all for that!

Big hugs to Mark Eric for sharing such a fun day with us (especially the second line)!

P.S. Looking for some memory-making dates for you and your beau? Check out our Spring Doins!

We had just arrived in Bluffton, South Carolina to visit Ryan’s dad and stepmom’s new home. He asked me to go check out the backyard with him, but he didn’t want to bring our dog, Squeaky, so that struck me as strange. He reasoned that the grass was high and there was no fence, so Squeaky was likely to run off in the woods. Made sense. When we had gotten about fifty yards from the house, Squeaky came bounding toward us with a neon green bow on his neck. When Ryan started untying the bow, I saw that my great-great grandmother’s ring (the one I had blatantly set on the dresser after we decided we wanted to pick out a diamond together) was tied to it. Ryan dropped down on one knee and asked me to marry him. His dad, stepmom, brother, and sister-in-law were inside taking photos and waiting for us with champagne. It was simple, sweet, and it involved our fur baby. It was our idea of perfection.

Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! Yes, a couple of each, actually! Old: On my right hand, I wore the ring that Ryan proposed to me with, which had been the wedding band of my great-great-great grandmother. New: My earrings, bracelet, and necklace were all new. Borrowed: My maid of honor borrowed a bracelet of mine at her wedding, so I asked to borrow something of hers. Around my bouquet, I entwined a necklace of hers with a locket that had been given to me by my childhood best friend, who passed away in high school. Blue: I wore royal blue shoes, as well as a label with my initials and the date in baby blue thread sewn into my dress. Also, right before I headed out, one of my bridesmaids grabbed my shoe and taped a penny in it. I had done the same for her a few years earlier, so she made sure to bring a penny to return the favor!

Did you decide to do a “first look”? Why or why not? Yes, we did, no hesitation and no regrets! We had a very short time frame at our venue, so to me, it was imperative that we focused on only the things that really mattered once the clock started ticking. Even if your time is a bit more flexible, why waste time standing around when you could be enjoying your guests and this fabulous event you spent so much time planning? Nothing could have been more intimate and special than experiencing that first look alone, when we could talk, laugh, hug, and just take our time enjoying the moment and appreciating each other.

We chose New Orleans because we wanted a place that was easy for my family and friends to get to, but that our friends in Michigan, New York, and Virginia would be excited to travel to as well–NOLA was an easy choice! Probably about 70 percent of our guests had never been to New Orleans, so I wanted to give them a true taste of the South. I looked at a dozen venues over the course of a weekend trip, and not only was Houmas House extraordinarily beautiful and set up perfectly to host weddings, they also allowed dogs–which was what really sold us, since we wanted to have Squeaky at our big day!

We had a violin and guitar duo, and for the family processional, they played “Ashokan Farewell” (because it’s beautiful and Ryan loved the Ken Burns Civil War documentary!). For the bridesmaids, they played “Falling Slowly” from the movie/musical Once, and then I walked down the aisle to “Sweet Thing” by Van Morrison, because we both love Van and it’s just such a hopeful song. For the recessional, they played “Louisiana Fairytale,” which, besides having a perfect name for the situation, is just such a dreamy song, like something you would hear in a beautiful, sunny daydream!

I have to note that “Falling Slowly” is one of my very favorite songs, thanks to BDK! We saw Once in theaters on one of our first dates!

Describe your wedding cake or dessert. I used a lot of crowns throughout the wedding decor, so a vintage crown made the perfect cake topper. The cake itself was four layers of almond cake with praline hazelnut filling (can Southerners ever get enough pralines?) and white icing with white, gold, and champagne-colored beads. We placed it on a 17th century baker’s table that the venue’s owner had purchased in France. As for the groom’s cake, my husband is a huge Washington Redskins fan, so Royal Cakery made an adorable three-tiered red velvet cake decorated like a football field in Redskin colors.

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. We met at a small-town newspaper, the Battle Creek Enquirer, in southwestern Michigan. Ryan was fresh out of grad school, and I was looking a six-month stint to hold me over before beginning grad school in Wales. We actually applied for the same job, which I didn’t realize until a few months later–I got the job and they just liked him so much that they hired him too! I figured this had to be the reason he never spoke to me, ever. We owe our first real conversation to a Taco Bell craving. I stood up in the newsroom one day and declared that I was going to run for the border. He offered to join me. What I thought would be a painfully awkward lunch turned into the first spark of friendship that continued for several months after each of our respective relationships at the time dissipated. Our first date was a tennis game, where Ryan mercilessly schooled me and I had no fun whatsoever, but later in the evening, he agreed to go with me to pick sour apples off the little tree behind my apartment. I can still see him, Cubs hat on backwards, jumping up to try to pick the biggest apple on the tree for me. A seeming unremarkable moment, but I remember feeling a little flutter. I had worked 10 feet from him for six months at that point, but I’ll always remember that as the first time I really saw him.
When did y’all get married? November 9, 2013
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 150
Tell us about finding your wedding dress. When I initially tried on my dress, I liked it, but thought it was too big. I literally said, “I think it will scare my fiancé,” so I didn’t even write down the designer’s name. Thankfully, the sales assistant took a picture. When I later scrolled through photos of the day’s hunt, I kept coming back to that one. Turns out, it was perfect for the venue and the festive atmosphere I wanted at the wedding–not to mention, I saved $1,500 by buying the floor model! I wouldn’t have bought it had I not taken a picture, so I would advise any bride to do whatever it takes to get snapshots of the dresses you try on. Mirrors and fancy store lighting can be so deceiving, but when the wedding is over, all you have left is your pictures, and to me, it was critical to know how the dress photographed. If your sales associate insists that no photos be taken, then I promise, you’ll find just as good options elsewhere.
Describe your wedding flowers. I wanted something that played into my “sophisticated swamp” theme that complimented the venue and used the natural flora of Southern Louisiana. My florist, Erik of Bee’s Wedding Designs and Florals, was amazing and created such a stunning, poetic look. There was lots curly willow intertwined with greenery–ferns, moss, jasmine vine, eucalyptus, succulents, scabiosa pods–for the rustic element, counterbalanced with metallic accents. The flowers themselves were a mix of white hydrangeas, white anemones, roses, brunia berries, and dusty miller.
What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? I’m not sure if it gets more Southern than having a wedding at an old sugar plantation, but I tried to incorporate as many tastes of the South and local traditions as possible. We had a second line, complete with a brass band, hankies, and Mardi Gras masks, that paraded through the French Quarter. The moment guests stepped off the bus, they were offered mint juleps as welcome drinks. Much of the food we served was Southern and Cajun, such as fried jumbo gulf shrimp, crawfish bisque, and shrimp étouffée. Before the cake cutting, we did a traditional New Orleans cake pull with all the ladies in my wedding party. Speaking of wedding party, I had both bridesmaids and a house party, which I’ve never seen anywhere above the Mason-Dixon!
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? Definitely distance and the limited setup window. I went to New Orleans a few times before the wedding to pick the venue and do food tastings, but other than that, I had to rely heavily on the advice of my coordinator and the internet to pick vendors. Also, the venue only gave us a two-hour window to set up, and everything had to come down immediately after. It took a lot of logistical skill to pull it off, which is why it’s so important to hire people you trust!
What was one way you saved money or cut costs at your wedding? The first was buying the floor model of my dress. It needed hardly any alterations and I saved $1,500! I also saved about $600 by doing my own programs. I used a custom stamp I had made, bought some nice paper and card stock, and made them on my computer. I actually liked them much more than just about everything else I saw!
What is the one detail or vendor that you were so happy to have as a part of your wedding? Without hesitation, our planner, Elyse Skansi of Tying the Knot Wedding Coordination. From designing the reception to following up with vendors, from sticking up for me when I needed it to providing Ryan and I with Colgate wisps to brush our teeth after our meal, she thought of everything, including things I never would have dreamed to plan for. Most importantly, she was a voice of calm and reason, support and levity for me. She had thoughtful advice for every question I raised, and no concern of mine was ever too small. This would have been a completely different wedding and experience in every way possible without her, and I can’t sing her praises enough!
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Pick one thing a day to focus on, move on when you’re done, and don’t look back. Carefully choose your vendors, communicate well, and then let them do their thing. Hire a coordinator that is excited about their job and who you can be honest with. This person needs to be your advocate and ally, and the right person will listen to you and see that your dream is seen through. Take care of the small things NOW–whether it be writing notes to your bridesmaids or picking out a lipstick color, taking care of the small things sooner keeps them from piling up later. Put your money towards the things that matter most to you and skip the rest. And finally, have a receiving line! I spent so much time running around trying to make sure I got face time with everyone that I hardly spent any time on the dance floor. Shake everyone’s hand once early on, and then you’re free to enjoy the rest of the evening as you please!
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you most looking forward to about married life? Hopefully adopting another dog and moving to an apartment with direct sunlight. But that aside, I think it’s looking at everything in a “we” context. Even though we had been together for six years, we still kept separate bank accounts and didn’t talk too much about future planning. We’ve always been a good team, but now it’s like a whole new frontier, and it’s exciting and comforting to know that we chose such great partners to explore it with.

Photographer: Mark Eric / Planner: Tying the Knot Wedding Coordination / Venue and Catering: Houmas House Plantation and Gardens / Florist: Bee’s Wedding and Event Floral Design / Wedding Cake: Royal Cakery / Lighting: Luminous Events / Ceremony Musicians: Courtyard Kings / Band: Rockin Dopsie Jr & the Zydeco Twisters / Second Line Band: Smitty Dee’s / Ring Book: Secret Safe Books / Bride’s Gown: “Alcantara 119” by Rosa Clara / Invitations: Lucky Luxe / Bride’s Earrings and Bracelet: BHLDN / Bride’s Necklace: Tiffany & Co. /Bride’s Veil: Sposabella Lace / Hair and Makeup: Kiss and Makeup Beauty Services / Bride’s Shoes: Badgley Mischka / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: J.Crew / Groom’s Attire: Sebastien Grey Clothiers / Groomsmen Attire: The Black Tux / Favors: Pralines By Jean

marissa Written with love by Marissa
4 Comments
  1. avatar Hillary Greene reply

    Hi! Does anyone know where the flower girl’s dress is from? It’s so adorable!

  2. avatar Kristy reply

    I loved reading this article, even though I’ve been married for 22 years! If we could get married again I would model our wedding after this one. From the location at Houmas House plantation to the ” classy swamp” florals I loved it all!
    Congratulations!

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  4. avatar Lori & Ryan Tied the Knot | Tying the Knot BlogTying the Knot Blog reply

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Jill and Donald have one of the most darling meet-cutes I’ve ever heard. Their love story started in middle school when Donald boldly dared Jill to kiss him–and she did! Many years later, these junior high sweethearts said “I do” in a pretty white chapel, and then celebrated in a reception that was chock-full of Southern traditions, from a second line to a cake pull to a bleedin’ armadillo groom’s cake. We’re smitten with every detail that our Blue Ribbon Vendor, Sapphire Events, pulled together!

Thank you so much to 509 Photo for sharing this lovely wedding with us!

We met at the end of summer at a school event when Donald was going into 7th grade and I was going into 8th. Everyone called him Scooter, so I had recalled hearing about him in conversations. We crossed paths on the stairwell, surrounded by friends, when he stopped and said, “Hey, I’m Scooter.” I remember confidently stating, “I know who you are,” even though I didn’t really. He talked to me and the rest of the 8th grade cheerleaders for awhile, and when I started to walk away, he yelled, “I dare you to kiss me!” I whipped back around and sassily said, “You dared the wrong girl!” I leaned in, thinking he would be so shocked or scared or embarrassed, he would run off, but he didn’t! Our lips locked, and it began a long-standing crush, many years of dating, three dogs, a house, and a move to NYC. We were married in front of some of the same friends that saw our very first kiss!

Tell us about finding your wedding dress. I knew I wanted to capture both the sweet and sassy sides of me, and no one dress was going to do that! I tried on fitted dresses, ball gowns, and A-lines, and loved them all. After talking to my dear friend, Katerina, she said she would make me something! She sent me a sketch of the most beautiful drawing, and I immediately fell in love with the illustration, the concept, and the entire look. She made me a removable overlay of lace appliqués, so I still got my sassy mermaid look for post-ceremony!

What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 and “Union” by Robert Fulghulm
Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding and why you chose them. “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” by Bach (processional), “Canon in D” by Pachelbel (bridal processional), and “Hornpipe” from Water Music by Handel (recessional).

What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? The second line!! We laughed and danced and kissed and really took in the moment. Best 0.6 miles I’ve ever walked.

Louisiana has a special place in my heart. I lived there as a baby, it’s where my mother was raised, and my grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins all live there. My great-grandmother lived in Metarie and I spent lots of time with her and family there on holidays and during summers growing up. When Donald and I were deciding where we wanted to get married, we both agreed that New Orleans was perfect, since we wanted our wedding to be the best celebration ever. The church was simply beautiful and rich in history, and was not too far from where we wanted to have the reception. The reception venue was magical, and it overlooked two very special features: the Jax Brewery sign, which is our lab’s name, and the Mississippi River. Scooter’s daddy passed away when Scooter was 12, and he was from Mississippi. When we first visited the venue and saw the view of the river, I got chills thinking about how perfect of a tribute it was to a special person who is no longer with us.

We loved our wedding cake! It had a black and white fondant design, topped with sugar magnolias. The cake had alternating tiers of chocolate and White Russian cake with delicious buttercream filling. The groom’s cake was red velvet with gray icing in the shape of an armadillo. It was even delicious the next morning when we hacked into it for one last bite!

What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? We had magnolias on the pews down the aisle and on the wedding cake. When I had asked Donald if he wanted a groom’s cake, he said no at first, but then quickly changed his mind, adding, “Get me a bleeding armadillo groom’s cake…for shock and awe!” So I did! Some of our New York guests unfamiliar with Steel Magnolias actually thought it was a New York City rat!! My four sweet flower girls carried arrangements filled with cotton, a nod to my grandmother, whose daddy owned and operated a cotton farm that is still in our family. We wanted the reception to feel like Mardi Gras! There were boas, beads, and booze flowing throughout the night. We even had a caricature artist to add a Jackson Square art feel.

Tell us all about the proposal! For weeks, I had been tanning, primping, and getting “pageant-ready” for this proposal. I knew it was coming, and the anticipation was killing me!! I even slept in makeup on occasion and NEVER went out without a full head of Big Texas hair. After several dinners out, weekly tans, and precise attention to grooming details, in true Scooter form, he asked me at our apartment, during our favorite time of day (morning coffee time), when I had no makeup on AND wet hair! Unknowingly, he was recording as I danced around and squealed…not at all how I imagined my reaction to the proposal. The video footage is remarkable, hilarious, sweet, and so me!
When did y’all get married? June 1, 2013
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 150
Our favorite detail of the wedding was: The wedding favors. We stuffed clear bags with Spanish moss, mini Tabascos, chocolate alligators made my by wonderful mother, and a recipe of my grandaddy’s mini pralines; it was personal touches of New Orleans charm and love from my Louisiana family that made the favors so special to me.
Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! Yes, I was covered in sentimentality! My mother let me wear her sapphire and diamond ring on my right hand for the night. My paternal grandmother sent a blue brooch that I pinned on the inside of my wedding skirt, which was an extra special gift since the trip was too far for her to take. My dear friend Katerina let me borrow diamond drop earrings. My maternal grandmother loaned me a lace handkerchief that was my great-great-grandmother’s.
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? Long-distance planning. We flew to New Orleans for a weekend and chose our wedding cake, food for the reception, band, wedding planner, and florist within 48 hours. We just had to trust it would all turn out like we imagined, and it was perfect!
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? Our 509 photo team was incredible. They captured the images of me and my husband and our friends and family perfectly. Every time I go back to the pictures or our wedding album, I feel as if I am reliving the day!
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Research! I spent many hours watching wedding video clips for ideas, and I was big into reading blogs and reviews.
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you most looking forward to about married life? Continuing on with our adventure, traveling, and at some point, having some babies.

Photographer: Caleb Chancey of 509 Photo / Videographer: 509 Photo / Planner: Valerie Gernhauser of Sapphire Events / Ceremony Venue: St. Marks United Methodist Church /Reception Venue: Galvez Restaurant / Florist: Eric Fredricks of Bee’s Wedding and Event Designs / Cake Baker: Flour Power / Rentals: Perrier Party Rentals / Band: Chicken on the Bone Band / Bride’s Gown: Romona Keveza with custom overlay by Katerina Kaplanis at Pronovias / Paper Products: Wedding Paper Divas / Bride’s Shoes and Veil: Pronovias NYC / Hair Stylist and Makeup Artist: Kiss and Make Up / Maid of Honor Dress: Monique Lhuillier / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Jim Hjelm / Groom’s Attire: Sebastien Grey Clothiers NYC / Groomsmen Attire: Men’s Wearhouse / Brass Band: Storyville Stompers / Programs, Reception Menus, Table Numbers, and Place Cards: Michelle Sasser / Rolls Royce Rental and Shuttles: Capital City Trolleys

Sapphire Events is a delightful member of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

lisa Written with love by Lisa
4 Comments
  1. avatar Emily reply

    Jill’s gown is perfection – and I love how happy these two look throughout their wedding day!

  2. avatar Amanda {Planning It All} reply

    Her gown is stunning – I really like the lace overlay!

  3. avatar Southern Weddings Weekly Round-Up – Southern Weddings Magazine reply

    […] only thing more romantic than Katie and Mark‘s wedding (above) was their sweet love story. Jill and Donald‘s wedding was chic and elegant, with the perfect amount of New Orleans flair. We […]

  4. avatar Victoria reply

    What a fun and beautiful wedding!

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Every corner of the South has a unique personality, and we like celebrating them all! On Fat Tuesday, New Orleans and its fabulously rich Mardi Gras history is an easy pick. From the colors to the symbols, every aspect of Mardi Gras has tradition and meaning, making it ripe with inspiration for a bold and vibrant wedding! If you need a brief run-down on Fat Tuesday fun, check out this post we published last year, then scroll down for the rest of the celebration!

The team, lead by Ashley from The Graceful Host, chose two dresses by Modern Trousseau from Hayden Olivia Bridal. Both were full volume and totally glam, just like Mardi Gras! They also included a cathedral-length veil, a classic choice for New Orleans brides, many who marry in grand cathedrals.

Separk Mansion, a newly renovated home, was the perfect backdrop. With Mardi Gras as their inspiration, the team chose to infuse the energy and fun of carnival season into the floral design while still keeping the overall look formal, like a Mardi Gras ball.

Classic New Orleans delicacies like mini muffulettas were served.

Love this ruffled cake linen, inspired by the bride’s gown! Sweets were in no short supply, from the tiered cake to beignet truffles. Of course, the team had to include the cake pull tradition, a New Orleans staple!

Love these fun photos Old South Studios captured of the second line!

From Ashley:

Being that I was born and raised in New Orleans, I jumped at the opportunity to design a real wedding inspiration with true New Orleans style! It was so important to me that no detail be left out. And, our bride and groom are actually a real married couple! They were so sweet, and had a blast “doing it all over again”! I wanted this wedding to be approachable and have elements that brides could take away and use within their own wedding. The entire day was so much fun, and it was so rewarding sharing my culture with Charlotte!

Photography: Julie Staley, Old South Studios | Event Design and Coordination: Ashley Culicchia Cash, The Graceful Host | Venue: Separk Mansion | Makeup Artist: Erin Ashley Makeup | Hair Stylist: Adrian Howe Esthetics & Beauty | Floral Design: Chelish Moore Flowers | Menu and Bar: Donald Shives, Best Impressions | Cake Baker: Got What It Cakes | Paper Goods: Elisabeth Rose | Rentals: Party Reflections | Wedding Gowns: “Tate” and “Teacup” from Modern Trousseau’s Fall 2014 collection, available at Hayden Olivia Bridal | Belts: Whitney Alyssa from Hayden Olivia Bridal | Jewelry: Haute Bride from Hayden Olivia Bridal | Groom’s Attire: Jos. A. Bank | Second Line Umbrellas: Gems Printing | Welcome Box: Paper Source

emily Written with love by Emily
9 Comments
  1. avatar Lisa reply

    Those mini muffalettas are too cute!

  2. avatar Mardi Gras Inspiration Photo Shoot | Hayden Olivia Bridal Boutique – Charlotte, NC reply

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  3. avatar Charlotte Wedding Photographer | Old South Studios | Charlotte Wedding Photography and Family Portraiture | Published Southern Weddings<br/>Mardis Gras Styled Shoot reply

    […] HERE to see our feature on the Southern Weddings blog.  And as they say in New Orleans…..Laissez les […]

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    […] so ecstatic to share our big, big, big news! Our Mardi Gras Wedding Inspiration shoot is featured on Southern Weddings – and on Mardi Gras Day, Fat Tuesday!  Oh, be still my […]

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    […] Take a peek at the fun we had at The Separk Mansion last February.  The ladies at Southern Weddings magazine wanted to “Laissez le bon temps roulez” too and were kind enough to feature us last Fat Tuesday HERE. […]

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