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Wedding planning is filled with so many decisions, some more stressful than others. But, of course, the biggest choice you’re making is to spend your life with one another! Diane’s favorite part of the ceremony she and Mark crafted themselves was “You fell in love by chance, but you’re here today because you’re making a choice. You both are choosing each other.” Another wedding decision that fell in the easy-to-make category was their venue–Diane and Mark never looked at any other places, but knew The Bleckley Inn was they one for them. They personalized the beautiful space with DIY pieces created by Diane and her maid of honor, including that amazing ceremony backdrop–they handmade it to be over seven feet tall!

Thanks to Ryan & Alyssa for sharing Diane and Mark’s wedding with us!

I had tried on over 50 dresses and couldn’t find a dress that reflected my personality. I finally decided to try on dresses that were over my budget and came across a designer named Leanne Marshall. I tried on my dress and instantly fell in love. As I tried on more and more dresses, I found myself comparing every one to this dress. It was the perfect mix of romantic and fun, but best of all, IT HAD POCKETS!! It was unlike any dress I have ever seen. When people saw it, they all said the same thing: “That is such a Diane dress.” I felt like it was made for me.

Describe your wedding flowers. I love greenery and bouquets that look like you just walked through a garden and picked up flowers to bring home to your mother. My florist took my vision and ran with it. We used white spray roses, pale pink stock, seeded eucalyptus, silver dollar eucalyptus, dusty miller, hypericum berries, baby’s breath, wax flower, and spirea.

Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? We decided to write the majority of our ceremony script, and while we were doing research, we came across some sweet lines to incorporate into the script. A personal favorite was, “You fell in love by chance, but you’re here today because you’re making a choice. You both are choosing each other. You’ve chosen to be with someone who enhances you, who makes you think, makes you smile, and makes every day brighter”.

What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? Did they have any special significance to you? Five years ago, I was a bridesmaid in my best friend’s wedding, which took place at The Bleckley, and I fell in love with it! When we got engaged, we did not look at any other venue. This was our first and only choice.

Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! I borrowed a bracelet from a bridesmaid. Another bridesmaid brought a blue garter that she had been worn at her wedding (which I was a part of and caught the bouquet at). My something old was a pair of antique earrings given to me by Mark’s mother, which had been worn by his grandmother. The new item I wore was a wedding gift from Mark. He surprised me with a Clemson class ring, which I have always wanted.

My matron of honor is the most amazing baker and cake artist. She came up with a remarkable design based off of my love of Aztec and geometrical design. There were three separate cakes, and each tier differed in size, texture, and technique. My favorite feature was the way she hand-painted a beautiful watercolor design on wafer paper, which she then transferred to the bottom tier of one cake. The cake we cut in to was a vanilla cake with fresh strawberries and strawberry Swiss meringue buttercream, topped with a white chocolate drip. The other cakes were a mix of vanilla cake with chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream and chocolate cake with dark chocolate fudge buttercream.

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. It all started in the summer of 2007. Mark and I were both students at Clemson University and applied for a bartending position at a bar/restaurant that was opening up in downtown. We worked side by side for two years and casually hung out with the same crowd. One day, a coworker jokingly sent a flirtatious text to me from Mark’s phone, which sparked an exchange of messages and funny conversations. Over the course of a few weeks, we started seeing each other in a different light. We began dating in early 2009 and became inseparable. We maintained a long distance relationship while I finished my last semester in Clemson. After graduation, I had a big decision to make: move back home to Charleston, or head up North to Virginia with no job and no friends and take a chance on this relationship. It was the best decision I ever made. After six years of dating, two years of living together and raising a stubborn but adorable little French bulldog, Mark popped the question!
Tell us about the proposal! On a random Sunday afternoon, I had been out photographing a maternity shoot. When I arrived home, I gathered my equipment and walked towards the door leading into the kitchen. As soon as I grabbed the handle, something caught my eye–there was a note stuck to the door. It read: “10 Reasons I Love You. Please take your time and read each one before proceeding. I love you! -Mark.” I opened the kitchen door to find a bunch of rose petals creating a path for me to follow. As I made my way into the kitchen, I found the next note: “You are naturally beautiful. You look gorgeous with or without makeup. I love you!” As I continued to follow the path, the notes just kept getting better, and I started to realize that this was not just a sweet gesture–it was much more. The last note was at the opening to the living room. I turned the corner and the world around me melted away. There was Mark down on one knee. He started speaking, and I started crying. I dropped my camera equipment, and the words he had gone over and over in his head didn’t even sound like English to me. All I heard was “Will you marry me?” I fell to the floor and into Mark’s arms. I was so surprised and in shock. What went from an ordinary day of photography turned in to the most memorable day of my life. We popped a bottle of champagne and celebrated at an amazing dinner on the water.
When did y’all get married? April 23, 2016
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 160
Did you decide to do a first look? Why or why not? No, we did not do a first look. We wanted to wait until that perfect moment when our eyes met for the first time as I walked down the aisle. It was magical. He did not take his eyes off of me.
Our favorite detail of the wedding was: The triangle backdrop. My matron of honor and I came up with a design that would be the focal point of our ceremony backdrop. We measured, cut, nailed, painted, and screwed each triangle so that the whole thing would stand over seven feet tall. It was the largest puzzle I have ever done!
What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? Our food. We had shrimp and grits, pulled pork, BBQ pulled chicken, cornbread, and smoked gouda macaroni and cheese.
If you are comfortable responding, what range did your wedding budget fall into? $25,000-$50,000
What was one way you saved money or cut costs at your wedding? We saved money in many different ways. I am a graphic designer and DIY junkie, so between my creative MOH and me, we designed, created, and implemented every detail, from the invitations, to the koozies, to the table runners, to the triangle paper garland. We may have saved money, but we didn’t save time.
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Don’t procrastinate. Stay organized.
What’s next for you as a couple? What memories are you looking forward to making together? Starting a family.

Photographer: Ryan & Alyssa Photography | Planner: Kellie Conner of Jubliee Wedding and Events | Venue: The Bleckley Inn | Florist: Kimberly Cabe | Cake Baker: Jennifer Grove | Caterer: Sullivans Metropolitan Grill | Rentals: Event Rentals Anderson | Band: Six Stylez | Bride’s Gown: Leanne Marshall | Bride’s Shoes: Steve Madden | Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Donna Morgan and Adrianna Papell | Menswear: Jos A. Bank | Cake Topper: Touch Of Clay by Dawn Stubitsch

marissa Written with love by Marissa

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Although their dating relationship may have had its ups and downs, I can guarantee that Kristen and Ryan’s gorgeous wedding day had to be one of their biggest ups! Their caterer, Design Cuisine, and planner, our Blue Ribbon Vendors Events in the City, combined their talents to create an incredible al fresco dinner vibe with a Southern twist. I’m sure guests were equally as taken by the gorgeous view at George Washington’s River Farm as they were by the sweet vows K + R spoke. The peek into their vows they shared makes my eyes tear right up: “I take you, to be no other than yourself. Loving what I know of you, trusting what I do not yet know, with respect to your integrity, honesty, and faith in your abiding love for me through all of our years, and in all that life may bring us.” Am I right?

We’re so glad Abby Jiu was on hand to capture this lovely day!

It was important to us that our flowers were locally sourced and in season, so we chose our florist accordingly. The floral designers used roses, peonies, ranunculus, and eucalyptus in a neutral palette consisting of white, ivory, peach, champagne, light pink, and green. The flowers and arrangements were stunning and one of my favorite details from the day!

Before getting engaged, I had never thought of what my wedding dress would look like, but I knew if a dress drew emotion, it would be the right one. My mom, sister, and I visited a few bridal salons and found some great dresses, but we always left with the desire to see a few more. One day, my mom and I were in a local bridal shop, and instead of looking for dresses within our price range, we decided that I would just try on anything I liked, just for fun. I guess one would say that was a big mistake because I tried on a full lace Rivini dress that stunned both of us. As soon as I walked out of the dressing room, my mom started crying, and after spinning in the dress for a few minutes, I did not want to take it off. My mom and I both knew this was the dress. My grandfather had passed away a few years earlier and left some money to my mom, and since the dress was outside of our price range, my mom graciously told me she wanted to use the money from Grandpa toward the dress. Knowing that my grandpa would be a part of my special day in this unique way was the icing on the cake.

Did you decide to do a “first look”? Why or why not? We decided to do a first look, and we are so happy we did. With all of the planning we put into the big day, and having guests who traveled from near and far, we wanted to maximize the time we were able to spend with everyone. One thing we had not taken into account was how nervous we would both be to see each other before the ceremony! The first look allowed us to get rid of those jitters and be fully present during our vows. After the first look, we enjoyed being tucked away with our bridal party to watch our guests arrive and share a few laughs, and having the extra time during the cocktail hour to chat and take photos with our guests was wonderful.

One of the most meaningful details of our wedding was the cross that was placed behind our officiant at the ceremony. Our best friends (a bridesmaid and groomsman in our wedding) built the cross by hand for their wedding, one year before ours. We loved that we were able to not only incorporate this symbol of our faith into our ceremony, but we also loved all of the love that was poured into making it. One of our groomsmen helped with transporting the cross, and our florist and planner spruced it up with local flowers. We loved how it came together!

What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? Our planner and caterer created an incredible al fresco dinner vibe with a Southern twist. Our guests were greeted at the ceremony location with lemonade and cucumber water followed by vodka thyme lemonade and blood orange mojitos to kick off the reception. Passed hors d’oeuvres included pulled pork waffles, crab cakes with white salsa, baby short rib sliders, and sea bass ceviche followed by a three-course meal, featuring an heirloom tomato mosaic, icebox fried chicken, and cheddar and stilton buttermilk drop biscuits. Along with serving wedding cake, we offered our guest a variety of homemade popsicles and late night snacks. The decor also complemented the Southern vibe, as we rented wooden farm tables, antique china, and various vintage centerpiece vases.

What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? Did they have any special significance to you? Once we decided to hold our wedding closer to home, we wanted to find a location and venue that encompassed a few of our favorite things. We love the outdoors and the water, and feel very fortunate to have grown up in a place with so much history. Overlooking the Potomac River, with gorgeous grounds owned and maintained by the American Horticultural Society, River Farm became the perfect spot for our ceremony and reception. Our guests stayed in nearby Old Town Alexandria and then were transported to one of George Washington’s farm houses, just down the street from Mount Vernon.

What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? Our most memorable moments from our wedding day would be standing in front of our family and friends as we said our vows, followed by the incredible speeches at our reception. Our best man coordinated a song with the groomsmen that will be talked about for years to come! Our DJ brought down the house, and we closed out the night by serving late night snacks of pizza rolls made using a recipe from a pizza shop in our college town.

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. Ryan and I met in college through mutual friends, and we instantly became great friends. After college, we acknowledged our feelings for each other and began dating. After dating for a year, I broke up with Ryan out of the blue, as I was not ready to start thinking about taking our relationship to the next level. Two years later, Ryan and I reconnected and things felt just like they always had, but this time, we both had a little more life experience under our belts. We maintained our close friendship for another few years, with the premise that if we did decide to date again, it would be forever and not just to explore the world of dating. Ryan had always told me that he knew he would marry me from the moment we met, and through all of our ups and downs, he stood by his word. The peace that Ryan gave me through our friendship and relationship is what ultimately led me to seeing and acknowledging that I would be the luckiest girl in the world to spend the rest of my life with my best friend. Once I realized this, I barely had to say anything to Ryan because he just knew that my heart was ready, and we were both on the same page and excited for a future together!
Tell us all about the proposal! Our birthdays are just a few days apart, so we decided to plan a fun trip to the Northern California coast to celebrate. A few days into our trip, while we were in Sonoma, I mentioned that I wanted to see the coast, so we made our way to a public park that overlooked the Pacific Ocean. When we arrived, I jumped out of the car to snap a few photos, while Ryan drove ahead to turn the car around. He circled back to pick me up and told me we had to keep driving a little bit farther, as it looked like the views ahead were even better. As we parked the car, he started to get out to take some pictures, but I told him I was going to stay in the car because it was little too cold for me outside. Through minor bribery, he convinced me to get out of the car for a few photos. We walked to the cliff edge and just stood there taking it all in. Ryan stepped away to take a few more pictures, and as I turned around to join him, he was down on one knee. I was speechless as he asked me to marry him with the most gorgeous ring, in a box monogrammed with my new initials. Before we left this special spot, with no one else around, we placed the camera on the roof of the car and took a few pictures of us in this magical and memorable spot. We didn’t have cell phone reception for the next hour as we began our drive from Sonoma to Monterey, so we couldn’t call our family right away. It was a special time to talk, laugh, and smile together and really soak up the moment.
When did y’all get married? June 7, 2014
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 135
Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? My uncle is a devout Christian, and we felt his leadership and importance to us would be the perfect fit for the officiant role. The three of us worked together to customize the traditional ceremony where applicable and appropriate, and we were thrilled with how it came together. Our favorite phrase of the ceremony was in our vows, which said, “I take you, to be no other than yourself. Loving what I know of you, trusting what I do not yet know, with respect to your integrity, honesty, and faith in your abiding love for me through all of our years, and in all that life may bring us.”
Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding and why you chose them. I chose to walk down the aisle with my dad to “Canon in D.” On a family trip once, my dad and I were walking over the Charles Bridge in Prague when we heard “Canon in D” playing softly in the background. As we looked around, there was a bride and groom all dressed up being photographed. At the sight, both my dad and I got tears in our eyes, so walking down the aisle to the same song felt symbolic and memorable. Our first dance was to “At Last” by Beyonce. We love that it is a classic song with a modern twist.
If you are comfortable responding, what range did your wedding budget fall into? $75,000-$100,000
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Our best advice would be to stay true to who you are as a couple and your vision for your special day. It is really important to determine your guest count and budget up front and to accept that it may not be possible to have it all, but everything will still turn out beautifully! Try your best to not get caught up in what everyone else is doing, and enjoy all of the perks of planning. And most importantly, plan for a massage and a long nap in the days after the wedding!
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you most looking forward to about married life? We love calling each other “husband” and “wife!” We just built and moved into a new home, so we are diving headfirst into design and house projects. We look forward to traveling and enjoying time together, just the two of us, before we begin to expand our family. We are also trying to think of clever ways to relive our magical wedding day over and over again.

Photographer: Abby Jiu / Planner: Laura Ritchie of Events in the City / Venue: George Washington’s River Farm / Florist: Sweet Root Village / Cake Baker, Catering, and Rentals: Design Cuisine / DJ: DJ Lauren Bobby / Paper Products: Fig 2 Designs / Bride’s Gown: Rivini / Bride’s Accessories: Nordstrom / Hair Stylist: Laura Gibson of Urban Style Lab / Makeup Artist: Erin Findley / Bride’s Shoes: BHLDN / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Bill Levkoff / Menswear: Alfani / String Quartet: Sage String Quartet / Transportation: Keller Transportation / Dress Alterations: Tangs Alterations / Hotel: Hotel Monaco Alexandria

Events in the City and Sweet Root Village are delightful members of the Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

marissa Written with love by Marissa
  1. avatar Feature: River Farm Wedding on Southern Weddings reply

    […] So many gorgeous elements and you can view more on our blog here. So grateful for the feature on Southern Weddings with other talents like Events in the City and Abby Jiu! Enjoy the beautiful photos and get […]

  2. avatar Ashleigh reply

    Yay, Highlanders! Such a gorgeous wedding!

  3. avatar Manglik Girls reply

    Lots and lots of love and wishes on your wedding; God made both of you for one another.

  4. avatar Happy Weekend // Around The Web | Coastal Bride reply

    […] wedding featuring a rose bar? Yes […]

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We loved Erin + Michael’s lakeside wedding from V5 as soon as we saw it. But we had no idea until we saw the full disc of images from Melissa Schollaert, how much work and how many details went into creating their big day. For two designers who own their own company called hi note, the wedding was a way for them to showcase their lives together as well as their talents and passions.

Aside from the many details, I’m in love with the venue E + M chose for their big day: Erin’s family’s lakeside home. “We both have fond memories of weekends spent on the water and wanted to share that experience with all of our friends and family,” said the groom. “The home was designed and built by Erin’s parents so that they have a panoramic view of the sunset. We knew it would be the perfect setting for our ceremony. All of the guests sat on hay bales covered with heirloom quilts and blankets overlooking the water. One of Erin’s close family friends, Tricia, played ceremony music that the three of us chose together. It was a very personal and intimate ceremony, but relaxed at the same time.”

Groom’s favorite detail of the wedding: The laser-cut wood veneer invitations were definitely my favorite part of the whole experience. Erin and I put a ton of time into making each guest feel like they were getting a personalized, custom invite that reflected on the experience to come.

Finding my wedding dress was the first and quickest decision I made while planning the wedding. I knew I wanted something very organic and natural to suit the overall aesthetic of our day but I also wanted to feel elegant and beautiful. I tried on dresses at several salons but ultimately found the perfect designer, Claire la Faye, on Etsy. My mom and I sketched out some ideas and sent them to Claire. She created a custom gown for me by combining two of her existing dress designs and then added the strap and train detail that my mother and I came up with. It turned out even more beautiful than I ever dreamed, and it was really comfortable too!

Both my bouquet and my maid of honor’s bouquets were created by my mom and made up of brooches that my closest friends and family members contributed, as well as some thrift store finds. My creative mother, who is also a talented jewelry designer, made the boutonnieres out of old fishing lures, bird feathers, ribbon and burlap twine.

What was the most memorable or touching moment about your wedding day? (From the groom) Since our wedding was late in the evening, our photographer scheduled our portraits before the ceremony. Melissa arranged it so we could have a “first-look” moment with one another in the field where she shot our engagement photos. It was extremely special for the two of us to be able to see each other for the first time on our wedding day, privately, and really embrace the moment.

Of course Erin + Michael’s dear pup Otis had to be involved in the festivities! We like that he cleaned up with a snappy bow tie for the event.

How delicious (and convenient) is this refreshments station? Like Michael, I love that the laser-cut wooden signage gives every detail a personalized touch.

The venue was our initial inspiration for the wedding. As an interior designer and now stationery designer for weddings and events, I always try to honor the natural aesthetic of a venue. When we decided to have the wedding at my parent’s home, we knew it needed to be casual, fun and relaxed — just like lake life. We also wanted to reflect on the fact that it was the place I grew up and now a place we visit as adults, which is why we chose to make the decor at every table different, serve family recipes and have our favorite childhood candy as a midnight snack to evoke that feeling of “home.” (From the groom) The other inspiration was just ‘us’: our story, who we are and where we are from. Every single detail, from colors, graphics, decor and food, was a reflection of who we are as individuals and as a couple.

The family tree display in front of the ceremony area was a lovely (and a tad punny) idea.

Who participated in your ceremony? One of our close friends officiated the ceremony, my maid of honor was my cousin Dana and the best man was Scott, Michael’s brother. We wanted our family to be a direct part of our ceremony, so we had our parents and grandparents seated next to us as part of the wedding party.
Did you write your own vows? Yes, we did write our own vows. Michael stole the show with his opener, “When I met you, your nickname was Bob and you lived in a trailer…” Yup, he really said it, and it’s totally true! I lived in a trailer in college and had a boy’s nickname. Even the guests who didn’t know the backstory still got a really good laugh. It even took me a moment to regain composure!

How did the two of you meet? Tell us your story. We met at Auburn University and were friends throughout college. We both got jobs in Atlanta and reconnected seven years after we met. The rest is history.
What is a date you will always remember? September 15, 2010 – the day we got engaged!
Describe the proposal: (From the groom) Our first big step as a couple came when we adopted a rescue dog together. Otis is such a huge part of both of our lives, and one of our favorite places to take him is a park near our house with a huge field for him to play. I thought this would be the perfect place to propose to Erin, but I also wanted be sure we could capture the moment. I asked our friend and wedding photographer Melissa to call Erin and ask if she wanted photos taken of Otis. Erin had wanted to have portraits taken for some time, so Melissa and I thought this was the perfect way to surprise her. We were taking some candid shots of us walking Otis, and I mentioned that he was really looking forward to our trip. Erin, not knowing what trip I was referring to, was obviously confused. I then explained that we were flying to Denver the next day to see one of our favorite bands play live, and that it would be the perfect way to celebrate our engagement. I then got down on one knee and proposed! Denver was a place we both wanted to visit, so were able to enjoy a long weekend celebrating our engagement. Erin was definitely caught off guard, but said yes, and it was all caught on camera.
Tell us about your beautiful engagement ring. The two things I knew I wanted in my engagement ring were a yellow diamond and a vintage aesthetic to the setting. We browsed at rings, but I must admit, I got a little overwhelmed with all the choices. Michael ended up finding the diamond in New York (where he is from) and the setting in Alabama (where I am from). He did a great job — it suits me to a T.
Three adjectives that describe the day are: Personal, nostalgic, graphic
How many guests attended your wedding? 100

nicoleyang Written with love by Nicole
  1. avatar Kate Collison reply

    I think this is gorgeous! Sweet and romantic, but “poppy” and fun. How beautiful! Congrats to the couple!

  2. avatar Melissa Schollaert reply

    Thanks so much SW for featuring this lovely wedding! Hope that your readers love it. I’m so happy that I was a part of Erin & Michael’s wedding and captured it for them. They are so talented and I just loved everything that they came up with. If you LOVE this wedding, you must checkout Hi Note, they are more than just stationery designers and really come up with some cool concepts.

  3. avatar Erin reply

    Thanks so much SW for featuring our wedding! It was such a labor of love and are so glad you think so as well!

  4. avatar Emily reply

    Gorgeous! I love the colors in this wedding, and I adore their literal family tree! :)

  5. avatar Dee Shore reply

    The day I get married, I’m going to be a big ole copy cat, because this… this is just my dream in photos.

  6. avatar David reply

    Great job capturing the Mike and Bob wedding experience. I had the pleasure of attending this grand event, the pictures are great but don’t do it justice. The attention to deatil was astounding, after some of Nila’s margaritas and more then a couple Coor’s Light I couldn’t help myself from telling everyone around us that we were, in fact, attending a wedding that you read about in a magazine, sure enough – here it is. Mike and Bob are increditably talented, passionate and dedicated to what they do. Again, great article – this couple will go far in both life and love. My only unbiased complaint is that hi note ( wasn’t around 8 years ago when I married my wife.

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  8. avatar Rachel reply

    I know this is a weird question but I am having an outdoor wedding at my family’s cabin. We have accommodated 60 people for Thanksgiving in the past. With around 75 guests and only 1 bathroom, any suggestions on what to do? Did you have this concern? Thanks!

  9. avatar Weekly Roundup | Simply Peachy Wedding Blog reply

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