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Christina and Matt met in the city of Ouagadougou in West Africa while volunteering for the Peace Corp–talk about an adventurous courtship! For their October wedding, they were inspired by their mutual love of the color green, and they wanted an aesthetic that was built around nature and inspired by leaves, trees, wood, and flowers. The talented Tara Guérard took the already gorgeous Lowndes Groves Plantation, and boy, did she up its game! She even brought the beauty of the great outdoors right inside their stunning tent. I would be remiss not to mention that Christina and Matt’s officiant included a few words of wisdom from that “great Southern philosopher,” Forrest Gump, in their ceremony. I know the whole congregation must have been tickled to hear that!

Thank you so much to Liz Banfield for sharing this stunner with us in V7!

How did the two of you meet? Tell us your story. Matt and I met in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso in West Africa, as Peace Corps Volunteers. I lived in Burkina and Matt lived in the neighboring country of Togo. The day we met–January 2, 2009–we had both been traveling with friends. My friends and I had plans to take a bus to Togo the next day. Matt gave me advice about where to go and what to do, and I invited him and his friends to join us for dinner, drinks, and dancing. Many hours later, in the early morning outside of a night club, Matt and his friends announced that they had decided to cut their vacation short and would join us on the bus to Togo. Matt escorted us all the way to his city, Lomé, and took care of us all week. While my friends spent an overnight in Ghana, I stayed behind and spent 48 hours with Matt. That was our unofficial first date. Eight months later, I moved to Togo and became a third-year volunteer in the town next to his. Until years later, he had no idea that I had done it for him. The day I arrived, we spent hours together in a group enjoying the festivities. At the end of the night, I went to my hotel room and closed the door, fretting about whether I had made the right decision, and if he was still interested in me. A few minutes later, there was a knock at my door. I opened the door and it was Matt. He took my arm, said “Christina,” and then kissed me. He finished his sentence before disappearing into the night: “See you tomorrow.”

I loved the way my dress maintained its dramatic shape whether I was walking, spinning, or standing still! It looked great from every angle and was unmistakably a wedding dress.

Who was one of the most special guests at your wedding? Rose Kpomblekou, of Peace Corps Togo, traveled all the way from West Africa to attend the wedding!

Who was your officiant? The pastor who married us is a close friend of Matt and a true Southern gentleman. He had tears in his eyes (and streaming down his kind face!) throughout the ceremony, and we were married with words of wisdom from that great Southern philosopher, Forrest Gump. He made everyone laugh while sharing his gifts as a spiritual and loving man.

Tell us a bit about the wedding ceremony. We had a string quartet playing songs we loved from Lord of the Rings, Braveheart, and some of Matt’s favorite video games. The ceremony was outside under a huppah of green leaves and a beautiful tree. Guests were facing a river and sitting on a mixture of chairs and pew-like benches. My dad and I emerged dramatically from the stunning Lowndes Grove mansion and had a nice long walk across the lawn to the center aisle–plenty of time for one last father-daughter chat before the I do’s!

No matter where we held the wedding, our families would have to travel. My family comes from in and around the New York Tri-State area, whereas Matt’s family lives in South Carolina and Florida. Elegant and cozy Charleston, South Carolina was the perfect location–not only because it is one of Matt’s favorite places in the world, but it was also a place that my family came to know and love through Matt’s eyes.

What was the design inspiration for your wedding? Why was this design special to you as a couple? I gathered fantastical images from Lord of the Rings and magical-looking forests. We both love the color green and wanted an aesthetic that was built around nature themes: leaves, trees, wood, flowers, etc.

What were some of the highlights of the reception? We LOVE to dance and the band was phenomenal. I danced to every song at our wedding except three: I missed two because of impromptu pictures and one because I was out of breath from jumping around with my brother. The speeches couldn’t have been more touching, funny, and apropos. The food was delicious and the service was flawless. Our sweetheart table experience turned into a surprise romantic dinner for two in the middle of our wedding!

My cousin, David Johnson, is a songwriter and musician, so we asked if he would perform one of his songs at the wedding. He came back to us a week later with a brand new song entitled “Face to Face,” which instantly became our song. The lyrics were as special to us as the songwriter, so we asked Dave and his son to perform it for our first dance. They were awesome and Matt and I had a blast dancing to this perfect song.

Describe the proposal: Matt and I were looking to buy a house, and finally, we found the one. We put a bid on it, and then found ourselves in a bidding war with another buyer, which we eventually lost. I was so disappointed, but nothing could be done about it. Matt left on a last-minute work trip and continued to be very busy for a while. Turns out, his “last-minute work trip” was really a train ride to visit my parents in New Jersey to ask for permission to marry their daughter, and to ask my mother to take him ring shopping. On the night he planned to propose, we had scheduled dinner with friends. My mom had been in town, but left on the morning of the dinner to take care of “taxes” in New York. On the way to the restaurant, Matt took a detour onto the street with the house. “Why would you take this street? It’s depressing!” I told him. I didn’t want to see the house that we had lost. He slowed down next to the house and pulled into the driveway. I asked him what he thought he was doing. “We’re trespassing,” I told him, “and we are late for dinner.” He replied, “I lied to you. We’re home. We got the house.” Inside, the living room was covered in red rose petals and 200 candles. A throw rug near the garden window was piled high with long stem red roses perched over a card. I knelt down to open and read the card, which said, “I love you so, so much. Turn around.” He was kneeling with the ring and proposed. The real estate lady was hiding in the bushes with the paperwork for the house. We signed on the dotted line and left to celebrate over dinner with our friends!
When did y’all get married? October 26, 2013
Three adjectives that describe the day are: Elegant, comfortable, euphoric.
How many guests attended your wedding? 180
Did you try anything new or nontraditional? I only have one sibling, so instead of choosing a maid of honor, I choose my brother to be my “man of honor,” and he truly filled the role to the fullest! My girlfriends all love him and were delighted to follow his lead–even through planning the bachelorette party! He gave a once-in-a-lifetime speech at dinner, and if I were ever unsure, I know how very much he loves me.
What was the funniest moment? What was the scariest? The funniest moment was when the pastor explained how when Matt and I met and some of his first words to me were “You smell good.” This was a huge compliment while serving in the Peace Corps!
Tell us about your grand exit. We drove off in a gorgeous, vintage getaway convertible while the guests cheered us into the night with sparklers.
What was Southern about your wedding? We incorporated Southern cuisine, hospitality, and sensibilities.
Did you take a honeymoon? If so, where? We went as far away as possible to New Zealand, a magical land of fjords, mountains, glacial lakes, diverse flora, and hobbits.
What advice would you give to someone currently planning his or her wedding? Prioritize taking care of your guests and don’t assume responsibility for any details on the day-of. A bride’s job is to be the joyous chief of the party!!

Photographer: Liz Banfield / Videographer: Artistic Eye Productions / Planner, Designer, and Florist: Tara Guérard Soirée / Venue, Caterer, and Bar Service : Lowndes Grove Plantation / Cake : Wedding Cakes by Jim Smeal / Ceremony and Cocktail Hour Music: Charleston Heartstrings Quartet for Debut, Inc. / Bride’s Gown: “Laetitia” by Anna Maier / Bridal Salon: Hitched Salon / Bride’s Shoes: “Isabel” by Jimmy Choo / Bride’s Earrings: “Elsa Peretti Pearls by the Yard Drop Earrings” from Tiffany and Co. / Bride’s Veil and Hair Accessory: Hitched Salon / Bridesmaid Dresses: #839 in Fern by Aria / Wedding Day Dresser: Cacky’s Bride+Aid / Hair Stylist: Kristy Cuthbert / Makeup Artist: Kori Mahoney / Getaway Car: Matt Buero / Men’s Attire: Grady Ervin & Co / Ice Sculpture: Ice Age Ice Sculptures / Paper Goods: The Lettered Olive / Rentals: Snyder Event Rentals / Linens: Immediate Tablecloth / Band: Big Swing and the Ballroom Blasters / Transportation: Absolutely Charleston and Marquee Limo / Lighting: Production Design Associates and Tara Guérard Soirée / Ceremony Director: Lori Lethco

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

    OH I LOVE THIS. this is probably my favorite wedding published in a while. i love their adventurous and individualistic relationship and also their love of LOTR and natural beauty. perfect!!

  2. avatar Laura reply

    That proposal story brought tears to my eyes, so sweet!

  3. avatar Ally reply

    I completely agree with her advice – take care of your guests! Any time you invite people to celebrate (even if they are celebrating you!), it’s always gracious to keep them comfortable and happy!

  4. avatar kate h. reply

    this is incredible.

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McCall and Jay’s mutual friends played cupid perfectly! After meeting on a blind date, it took very little time for these two to know that they were not interested in dating anyone else. Their solid foundation helped navigate both their relationship and their wedding planning. McCall’s advice for future couple’s is right on point–she said, “Remembering that your love for each other and your marriage is the most important thing can help keep things in perspective when they start to get overwhelming.” Amen, friend! And, I must add, the reception barn at Mint Springs Farm is slowly sneaking up on my list of favorite venues!

SW hugs to Declare Photography for sharing this joyful day with us!

Jay proposed on November 8, 2013, just a few weeks before our first dating anniversary. It was a Friday night, and I had to work until about 7:00 P.M. When I got home from work, music was playing, Jay had a glass of wine and some snacks ready, and he said he was about to cook dinner. All of these things were not too unusual, so I was not suspicious at all. We sat on the back porch and built a fire in the fire pit. While watching the fire, Jay kept the music on and we sat close to keep warm. We were talking quietly about how much fun we had been having together when suddenly, Jay got out of his seat, got down on one knee, and proposed! I don’t remember exactly what he said–I was completely caught off guard! I saw the ring and was speechless, until Jay said, “Would you mind giving me an answer, I’m kneeling a little too close to the fire.” Needless to say, I said “Yes!” and we went inside. Unbeknownst to me, Jay had already figured out the perfect size for the ring, visited my father to get his blessing, and arranged for my parents to come to Nashville from Birmingham to celebrate with us.

Tell us about finding your wedding dress. I started out with a specific idea of the type of dress I wanted, and found one or two dresses that fit that vision. After trying several places in Nashville, I tried one more–Modern Trousseau in downtown Nashville. My mother and maid of honor were with me when I tried on the dress I ended up choosing, and it was nothing like the idea I had started with! It helped to have two people I trusted to help me figure out what looked best on me, but it was not too many opinions. My dress was all about small details–it was full ivory Alençon lace with a V-neck, satin lining, and small godets on the sides and in the back.

Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding and why you chose them. I had a string quartet play for the ceremony, so I chose more traditional, classical pieces of music. For the seating of the mothers, I chose “Ave Maria” by Bach/Gounod. I am from a Catholic background, so I though it fitting. Jay loves Pachelbel’s “Canon in D,” so I chose that for the wedding party processional. I have always loved “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” so I walked down the aisle to it. For our recessional, I chose “Arrival of the Queen of Sheba” by Handel. The name is daunting, but the piece is so joyful, I just loved it.

My wedding flowers were mostly in shades of cool greens, whites, ivories, and pale blush pinks. I used succulents and jasmine vines for greenery in many places. We used heirloom roses, traditional roses, café au lait dahlias, and even some large surprise orchids in my own bouquet.

What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? I wanted to make sure that the reception was informal, so rather than a sit-down dinner, we provided food stations and bar stations for guests to mingle and eat at as they chose. These types of receptions are very Southern, in my opinion. I also hired a band to play old South Carolina beach music for the wedding–songs I’ve grown up listening to and have always associated with the South.

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. Jay and I met on a blind date. Two mutual friends who knew each of us separately played cupid and set us up. After one phone conversation, Jay and I went out to dinner on November 20, 2012. On our second date a few weeks later, Jay asked to see me for three different future dates (he had tickets to go see a few concerts and shows in Nashville)! From that point on, neither of us was interested in dating anyone else.
When did y’all get married? August 16, 2014
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? About 160
Did you decide to do a “first look”? Why or why not? We decided to have a “first look” in order to have a small amount of private time together before the ceremony and reception. I also wanted to have as many pictures taken prior to the ceremony so we would not be gone for too long after the ceremony before joining the reception. It was nice to have a little quiet time with just the two of us to talk before the wedding.
Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! For something old, I wore my great-grandmother’s lavalier (a necklace). It was given to her by my great-grandfather at their wedding and is over 100 years old. All of my aunts and girl cousins have also worn it for their weddings. My something new was a pair of pearl stud earrings that Jay gave me for our wedding. For something borrowed, I wore a pearl ring belonging to my mother on my right hand. My something blue was a freshwater pearl and lapis bead bracelet that my aunt Frances gave to me for my confirmation when I was younger.
What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? Our first kiss as husband and wife. I had lots of butterflies!
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? The most important thing to remember is that something will not go as planned, but the end of the day, you will still be married. Remembering that your love for each other and your marriage is the most important thing can help keep things in perspective when they start to get overwhelming.

Photographer: Declare Photography / Videographer: Cardboard Films / Planner: Angela Wilkes / Venue and Florist: Mint Springs Farm / Cake Baker: Signature Cakes by Vicki / Caterer: Chef Penelope / Band: Pat Patrick Band / Paper Products: Designs in Paper / Bride’s Gown and Veil: “Lauren” by Modern Trousseau / Hair and Makeup: Katie Russo Beauty / Bride’s Shoes: Badgley Mischka / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: “Arabelle” in Dusty Shale by J. Crew / Menswear: Jos. A. Bank

marissa Written with love by Marissa
3 Comments
  1. avatar mccall + jay reply

    […] McCall and Jay are personal friends from Nashville who like my husband and I, were set up by mutual friends!  Getting to know a new couple & making new friends is one of my favorite aspects of being a wedding photographer but there is always something extra special about getting to photograph a wedding of someone you knew before the wedding process started.  My husband and I actually went on our third date with McCall and Jay to an amazing bluegrass concert in a cave!  Their wedding was full of Southern charm, beautiful details, and a deep love.  The wedding was at Mint Springs Farm, which is quickly sneaking up on my list of favorite venues!  See more of this beautiful wedding on Southern Weddings blog! […]

  2. avatar Sandy Byrne reply

    Beautiful lots of happiness

  3. avatar David Strauss reply

    Beautiful soft natural light to these pics, great job!

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Y’all, we could not have been more thankful to celebrate with so many of you (or toasted y’all from afar!) last night at the V7 Launch Party! While we may still be picking glitter out of our hair, Liza and David’s sweet wedding is the perfect cure for the post-party blues!

In true Southern fashion, Liza and David’s first date involved college sports superstitions and warm weather! But, not everything is traditional with these two–they chose to tie the knot at Camp Pinnacle, where many members of Liza’s family spent their summers growing up. Even though they were in a nontraditional venue, they chose to recite traditional vows, and even omitted the ring exchange per pre-WWII tradition, creating a sweet moment you can’t miss in their interview below.

Big thanks to Olivia Griffin for sharing this lovely day!

Tell us about finding your wedding dress. My mom, my sister, and David’s sister all came to Charleston to go dress shopping with me. We headed to a store called Fabulous Frocks, which sells new, once-worn, and sample designer bridal gowns. We were running late for the appointment and didn’t have time for lunch, so we recruited David to get some food for us. Instead of going to the front door, David walked right up to the side window where I was trying on the dress that ended up being “the one.” Whoops! The people at the shop were amazing–they were incredibly helpful and patient. It was such a pleasant experience!

We got married at Camp Pinnacle in Hendersonville, North Carolina. My dad, mom, sister, grandmother, and I all went to the camp growing up. David and I really wanted a wedding where all our friends could meet, hang out, and play together for the whole weekend. Most of our friends stayed in the cabins and got to enjoy all the canoeing, hiking, volleyball, and paintball the camp has to offer.

Recognize these lovely bridesmaid dresses? Nicole wore this Amsale print in our V6 team photos, and we loved it so much, we put it on our cover this year!

What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? There were two moments from the wedding that stand out to me. Keeping with traditions of pre-WWII, David didn’t want to wear a ring, so we omitted the ring exchange from the ceremony. After the guests had left the ceremony, David’s brother and best man, William, pulled the two of us and our two families aside for a small, impromptu ring ceremony. The second moment was during the reception, when my grandmother asked me, “What do you think people would say if I were to get up and dance?” I pulled her onto the dance floor and we had a blast; it was so fun to watch her living it up!!

Taste was most important to us as far as the cake was concerned, and although Brick Street Café in Greenville, South Carolina does not do traditional wedding cakes, they have the best cakes we have ever tasted. Their sweet potato cake with cream cheese icing is to die for! We opted for several cakes instead of one large traditional cake, and went with the sweet potato, red velvet, and patty cake with German chocolate, raspberry drizzle, and almond cream cheese icing.

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. From David: After three years of working for Liza’s father’s law firm, I had not been fired, but quickly realized my days were numbered. As chance would have it, I saw a beautiful girl at the law firm summer party. When I realized that this beautiful girl was a partner’s daughter, I set out to secure my job. It only took a little bit of convincing to get Liza to say yes to a date. While I tried to take her out to a nice dinner, she insisted on staying in so she could watch the USC National Championship baseball game. Liza wore her lucky sweatshirt, despite the warm weather–she had to take it off at every commercial break, thanks to her notoriously hot nature. The Gamecocks won the National Championship that year, which must have been a good sign. The rest is history.
Tell us all about the proposal! We got engaged on Friday, August 16, 2013 at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. Despite David’s best efforts to keep the proposal a secret, I found the engagement ring when David not-so-sneakily stuffed it in the couch. Not wanting to ruin the surprise, I pretended to see nothing. After a long first semester in physical therapy school, I needed a break, and David suggested Asheville. He planned to propose at the Biltmore Estate; however, he forgot to see if it was actually open, and it was not. Luckily, the back half of the property and the winery were open. After a wine tasting and a nice stroll, David found a perfect spot next to a stream to pop the question. The real surprise, however, occurred when we went back to the Grove Park Inn where we were staying, and found both of our families waiting in rocking chairs on the deck! I was so caught up in the moment that I almost walked right past my own family! When I finally realized they were there, I was totally shocked. Festivities ensued, and both families spent the whole weekend celebrating and rafting.
When did y’all get married? May 17, 2014
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? About 300
Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? Even though we were in a nontraditional venue, we still wanted to say traditional vows.
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Once the wedding day has arrived, have fun and don’t worry about the details or the things that may go wrong. Although I thought our wedding was perfect because everyone had a great time, there were some details that were left out or forgotten. In the end, I don’t think anyone noticed or cared. Most importantly, if your mom offers to help, let her!
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you most looking forward to about married life? We are living in Charleston, South Carolina. I am finishing up physical therapy school at MUSC while David is enjoying being his own boss at his solo law practice. It’s so great to be in a new city that is as beautiful as Charleston to start our life together. We really look forward to all the activities and adventures that we will experience together.

Photographer: Olivia Griffin / Planner, Florals, Rentals, and Lighting: Cricket Newman / Venue: Camp Pinnacle / Cake Baker: Brick Street Cafe / Catering: Classic Catering / Band: Celebrity Allstars / Bride’s Gown: “Amelie” by Monique Lhuillier / Bridal Salon: Fabulous Frocks / Bride’s Earrings: Caroline Shook / Hair and Makeup Artist: Bliss / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: “Amore” in Shell Silk Chiffon by Amsale / Groom’s Attire: J. Crew / Groomsmen Attire: Calvin Klein / Ties: High Cotton Ties / Officiating Minister: Amos Disasa / Ceremony Music: Split Rail / Rehearsal Dinner Band: West End String Band

marissa Written with love by Marissa
3 Comments

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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