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I couldn’t help but smile when I read Laura and John’s love story. After he offered to help her carry boxes up five flights of stairs (she refused!), they didn’t get to know each other until a year later, when he stopped her in the hallway in search of googly-eye stickers! This unconventional conversation-starter led to a beautiful relationship, a surprise proposal, and ultimately, a delightfully Southern wedding. Since Laura and John met in Oregon and he grew up in Indiana, this Alabama bride sure had her work cut out for her! The azaleas were in full bloom by the time they held their deeply meaningful ceremony in her parents’ backyard, followed by a reception full of Southern foods and treats. I can only imagine how many of their Northern guests fell in love with the South that night! Just like Laura and John’s adorable love story and beautiful wedding, it’s easy to love, don’t you think?

Many thanks to Kelly of Spindle Photography for sending Laura and John’s wedding our way!

John was the first guy I met when I moved to Portland, Oregon. He was the only person (besides a fireman) who offered to help my friend and me move boxes up five flights of stairs to my new apartment. I stubbornly turned down his offer to help. I later found out that he lived down the hall from me, but our schedules were pretty different and I barely ever saw him. A year later, fate and googly-eye stickers brought us together. One night, when I returned home from dinner with my friend, John approached us in the hall and asked if I had any googly-eye stickers that he could use for a model he was building for a science class. Oddly enough, I did. He invited my friend and I over to his place that night (where she quietly told me that she thought he might like me), and we’ve been side-by-side ever since.

Tell us about finding your wedding dress. Finding my wedding dress was such a special experience. My parents flew me back home to Alabama the summer before my wedding so that I could find my dress with my loved ones by my side. The first place I visited was The White Room because two of my older sisters had had their beautiful dresses perfectly altered by Carolyn Kelley, the owner. I searched around for something unique and picked out a variety of styles to try on. The first one I put on was perfect, and it was floor sample in perfect condition! I tried on about ten more dresses after that, but kept thinking about that first one. Also, my dad (who has impeccable taste) kept saying, “That’s pretty, but I’m not sure that it’s as special as that first one.” Finally, I put the first dress back on. We added a very simple veil and everyone in the room teared up—it was definitely THE dress. Then, on top of everything going so well that day, my amazing grandparents surprised me by purchasing my dream dress. It was just one of those incredibly lucky and lovely days.

Did you decide to do a “first look”? Why or why not? We did decide to do a first look. I really felt like it would be more special to see each other that day without a crowd of people watching (though my sisters and bridesmaids were stealthily watching from a distance). Plus, I knew that if I saw him for the first time while walking down the aisle, I would have been so overwhelmed by emotion that I probably would have cried through the entire ceremony (which I basically did anyway, but it would have been more intense). It was so comforting to see him, and so sweet to see him see me. I’m glad that we set aside time to do that and let that moment sink in.

What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? We had three readings. John’s mom read an excerpt from “The Bridge Across Forever” by Richard Bach. My step-mom read “A Marriage” by Mark Twain. Then, I had our officiant (who is also one of our best friends) read an excerpt from a letter my mom wrote me before she passed away about finding real love.

This picture might be my favorite out of all of them. They look like they just adore each other!

What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? It was really important to me that I married John in my hometown. He grew up in Portland, but most of his family is from Indiana, so I wanted to make sure that I showcased the charms of the South for all of our Oregon and Indiana guests. Fortunately, Mother Nature cooperated with us and our spring wedding showed off Alabama’s most gorgeous time—my parents’ backyard was filled with blooming azaleas! Of course, we made sure to highlight Southern food: candied pecans, sweet tea, mint juleps, shrimp and grits, crab salad and fried green tomatoes were some of the highlights.

Tell us all about the proposal! John was determined to surprise me, which was a difficult undertaking since we designed my engagement ring together. Actually, I had been anticipating a proposal for almost three years when the time finally came. He had a few elaborate plans that involved us being outdoors, but each fell through due to many strings of rainy days. After a handful of failed attempts at creating an ideal situation, he came up with a low-key plan. He told me one weekend morning that he had to go down to Eugene for business (which isn’t unusual). I kissed him goodbye and went about my day fixing up things at the house. Many hours later, as I was taking a nap, John came through the door with a nervous look on his face. At first I was startled because I didn’t expect him and was half asleep. Then, he got down on one knee, took out the ring (a beautiful combination of two family heirlooms) and told me why he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. I was stunned! I quickly realized that I was so stunned that I did not hear his proposal, and I asked him to propose to me again, which he did. Obviously, I said yes. We spent the rest of the day together doing things we love doing and being totally excited.
When did y’all get married? April 13, 2013
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? About 75
Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? Yes, we did. My favorite part about our vows was that we wrote them separately, but they ended up being very similar. My favorite line from both had to do with our desire to help each other fulfill our dreams.
Describe your wedding flowers. My wedding flowers were gorgeous! I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted, but I found a vendor I could really trust (thank you Mandy and the HotHouse team) and left most of the decisions up to her. I told her what colors I wanted, and that I wanted ranunculus and poppies—the rest was up to her and her team. I didn’t ask for roses, but I’m so glad they included them since John and I live in The City of Roses.
Describe your wedding cake or dessert. Much of my wedding was focused on highlighting things that I love about the South. I knew that I wanted several regular cakes instead of one large one, so we chose a couple of uniquely Southern cakes (strawberry and coconut) and a beautiful chocolate cake (because you have to have chocolate). I also included two cheesecakes because John isn’t really into regular cake.
Our favorite detail of the wedding was: My favorite detail is that we had an intimate ceremony in my parents’ backyard. When I asked John what his favorite detail was, he said, “My bride.”
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? Distance! Planning a wedding from nearly 3,000 miles away comes with many challenges. Luckily, I have lots of awesome family members and friends in Alabama that stepped up to the plate and really made the wedding possible.
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? I was happy about pretty much everything involved in our wedding, but our photographer, Kelly Cummings, was exactly what we needed throughout the day. She made sure the whole day flowed the way it should, and ended up being the person I turned to for just about everything. Also, she has given me the most beautiful photos that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Our wedding really would not have been the same without her.
What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? The most memorable moment was probably the fire. Right as we were leaving, one of the sparklers set the guest book tablecloth ablaze. We were already in the car, but watching that happen and seeing all the guests scramble to save the guest book (which was heroically saved—thank goodness) was an interesting and memorable end to an eventful day.
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Don’t try to live up to anybody’s expectations—make the day about you and your husband. At the end of the day, you aren’t going to have a perfect wedding or meet everyone’s expectations of what it should have been. Though, if you let go and make decisions that feel right, y’all will have a happy day to look back on. For some more practical advice: get that guest list hammered out as soon as possible! Putting together that list with all the correct details was one of my biggest hurdles. Also, don’t fret over little details. As long as you have vendors you trust and respect, all the details will come together in a beautiful way.
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you most looking forward to about married life? We are looking forward to so many things. Mostly, we are looking forward to future travels, but we are also very excited to start looking for a house to call our own. The thing we look forward to most about being married is growing together and starting a little family.

Photographer: Kelly Cummings of Spindle Photography | Ceremony Venue: Bride’s parents’ backyard | Reception Venue: The Avondale Villa | Florist: Mandy Majerik of Hot House Design Studio | Wedding Cakes: Edgar’s Bakery | Caterer: Yellow Bicycle Catering | Bride’s Gown: Christos Eloisa | Paper Products: Paper Source | Hair Stylist: Mark Hyde at SalonU | Bride’s Shoes: Badgley Mischka | Bridesmaids’ Dresses: J.Crew Louisa in Dusty Shale | Groom’s Attire: J.Crew | Groomsmen Attire: J.Crew shirts and Forever 21 ties

Spindle Photography is a delightful member of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

lisa Written with love by Lisa
  1. avatar Nicole reply

    That puppy! And how funny that Laura asked John to propose a second time — I’ve read so many proposal stories where the bride doesn’t remember a word the groom said, so I’m glad she asked for a repeat :)

  2. avatar Morgan Trinker reply

    SO gorgeous! Kelly captured this one perfectly. Love Laura and John’s style, and love their story even more! :)

  3. avatar Dana reply

    the picture with the bridesmaids all petting the puppy is such a great shot! what an interesting venue too!

  4. avatar Katie reply

    I think Laura’s wedding was gorgeous. So ram tic and well done! I would love to know where her earrings came from! I’m in love with them!

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I first discovered fine art wedding photography almost four years ago, when a friend of mine left a Facebook comment on someone’s wedding pictures. Being the wedding picture-stalker I tend to be, I checked out the wedding album and was floored by how gorgeous and cinematic the photography was. Their photographer? None other than Tim Willoughby of Tim Will, who photographed today’s real wedding! Since Tim could be credited with the start of my love for amazing wedding photography, I’m especially honored to be sharing Rachel and Daniel’s beautiful Chattanooga wedding today. Their wedding is overflowing with Southern elegance, and you won’t want to miss their adorable proposal story—I definitely got tears in my eyes when I read it!

Tell us all about the proposal! Daniel and I have an affinity for bluegrass music. I just listen to it, but he plays the mandolin and guitar, and suffers from a banjo addiction. The song that we have always considered “ours” is “Ocean of Diamonds” by Jimmy Martin. One Sunday night last June, I returned to Charleston from out of town. Daniel had cooked dinner since I had been traveling all day. He told me he heard a great new band that I just had to hear. I was exhausted and stuffing my face when he started playing it. It took about five seconds for me to realize that it was him singing and playing guitar, mandolin and banjo. He had recorded it for me on Garage Band. Still not convinced he was proposing, we started dancing in the kitchen, and with our chests together I could feel his heart racing… that’s when I knew what was up! He got down on one knee and I was crying so hard, I can barely remember what he said. I said yes, and he gave me his grandmother’s diamond filigree ring.

The flowers were romantic and ethereal. The pale soft roses and peonies contrasted so well with the sharp blue thistle and dark blue anemone centers. My florist also wrapped some gold wire around my bouquet and the boys’ boutonnieres. It added a fairytale whimsy to the pastels!

Cami, my bridesmaid and best friend, sang “Be Thou My Vision,” a Gaelic hymn, right before I walked down the aisle. It is so hauntingly beautiful and her voice is so angelic, I don’t think there was a dry eye in the building. It meant so much to have her sing at my wedding. She has been in my life since the beginning!

What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? We had a few. My favorite was Song of Solomon 8:6-7. It speaks of an unquenchable love. That’s exactly how I feel about my groom.

Tim Willoughby is a photographer I found in Charleston. His ability to capture timeless, breathtaking images sold me immediately. Having him in Chattanooga for the weekend made me so calm. I didn’t have to worry if he was getting all of the right images because I knew he was. He was able to see all of the things I couldn’t. Over time, memories fade, and it gave me peace of mind knowing I would have his photos to look at forever.

Seriously, y’all, I could look at pictures of Rachel’s dreamy Vera Wang gown all day. If it looks familiar to you, it might be because our very own Emily tried it on during one of her dress shopping trips almost two years ago, at the same salon where Rachel bought her dress!

One of the most Southern things about our wedding was my dad’s bluegrass band playing for our cocktail hour. They also played our first dance, which happened to be “Ocean of Diamonds,” the song Daniel proposed to me with! I think the juxtaposition of the bluegrass band in a modern art museum was such a funky twist on what “Southern” can be. Who says Southern has to be at a plantation or in a barn?

Describe your wedding cake or dessert. My cake had a subtle floral pattern inset into the buttercream icing. The roses and blue thistle floral accents really stood out against the simple design. Daniel’s cake was a real work of art. I mentioned his banjo addiction right? Well his cake was a chocolate, to scale model of a Gibson banjo. It was insanely realistic…and delicious.

You know how much we love a gentleman in seersucker! This adorable duo is actually Daniel’s grandmother and her twin brother. Aren’t they the cutest?

What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? Gosh, how can I pick one moment? I guess the most memorable would be the dance floor, because I spent the majority of the night there. The dance floor was packed from start to finish. Everyone was dancing like maniacs! I am a super awkward dancer, but being with old and new friends, my family and Daniel’s family all together was kind of mind blowing. I kept looking over and seeing two people from two completely separate parts of my life breaking it down together like fools. It was a once in a lifetime thing.

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. Daniel and I met at a football game during our junior year of high school in 2005. We dated all through the rest of high school. When college came, I was going to the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, and he was headed to join the crew team at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. We thought it was over from the horror stories people told us about long-distance relationships. Over those four LONG years of dating 650 miles away, we realized that no matter how hard a long-distance relationship was, it wouldn’t even be close to the pain that would come from not being in each others’ lives. Luckily we survived, and I was able to move to Charleston, SC after graduation to be with him when he started medical school.
When did y’all get married? May 25, 2013
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 325, give or take.
Tell us about finding your wedding dress. My mom, two sisters and future mother-in-law came to Charleston one August weekend for a day of dress shopping. We started in the morning at Maddison Row in downtown Charleston. My dress was the third one I tried on, and I just knew. I tried on a few others, but kept going back to the Vera Wang Emmeline. I told them when I first walked in that I loved tulle, and this dress has TONS of tulle. I ended up buying it that morning and canceling my other dress appointments that day. My mom was disappointed that the shopping ended so quickly!
Did you decide to do a “first look”? Why or why not? We did not do a first look. Since I was a little girl, I have been looking forward to having my church doors swing open and my groom seeing me with the rest of my guests.
Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? No way! I can’t write to save my life. Daniel and I wrote each other letters before the wedding. My words are best kept on a private piece of paper.
Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! Something borrowed was a hair barrette my mother had gotten as a gift from her parents when they vacationed in Mexico. My something blue was a blue stone bracelet of my mother’s. New was a delicate lace handkerchief wrapped around my bouquet that a family friend wove on her loom! For my something old, I had my late grandmother’s costume turtle brooch peeking out of my bouquet.
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? The biggest challenge for me was narrowing down my ideas. Between reading wedding magazines and being on Pinterest all day, it is so hard to decide which direction you want to go! There are so many amazing ideas out there. Eventually I had to just close my eyes and imagine my ideal wedding. Things started to fall into place.
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Enjoy it. Your engagement is a time to savor. It only lasts a short while! Don’t stress the little things. It’s easy to get wrapped up in planning a “dream wedding” and to forget that you are marrying the man of your dreams.
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you most looking forward to about married life? Daniel and I are settling into our new house in Charleston. He is continuing medical school, and I have an awesome interior design job. We just got a sweet new doggy, and we’re enjoying everyday life as a happy little family.

lisa Written with love by Lisa
  1. avatar Laura reply

    Love these beautiful pictures! Chattanooga holds a special place in my heart so I loved that they incorporated some of the city’s best known landmarks into the photos.

  2. avatar Emily reply

    I ADORE her gown! Tulle perfection!!

  3. avatar Wedding 101 Greenville reply

    Everything about this wedding is stunning! Beautiful photography, insanely gorgeous gown, and the texture of the flowers = to die for!!! Love this one!

  4. avatar Kat reply

    Every time I see that gown I die just a little!!!! LOVE it!

  5. avatar Kristin reply

    Transportation via bright yellow school bus AND a dress that is something straight from a fairytale? Yes, please!! Love!!

  6. avatar Lauren reply

    The pictures are gorgeous and those cookies? Amazing!

  7. avatar Occasions In Print reply

    What a beautiful dress and bride! I love the groom’s cake! Just pinned it on our Western Wedding Board.

  8. avatar Christina reply

    Love, love, love this wedding!! Does anyone know who she used for the koozies? Random, I know. But every Southern wedding needs koozies! ;)

    • avatar Rachel reply

      Christina and Jay:
      Hi from the Bride! I used Totally Koozies. My friend Emily illustrated that logo and uploaded the image in their custom section

  9. avatar Carey reply

    As a wedding guest and mother of one of the bridesmaids, I can say that this was the most beautiful and meaningful weddings I have ever attended. I have known Rachel since she was a child and Daniel since they began dating. This wedding was a celebration of two beautiful people that love each other and two special families that bring together many people who love them and who were honored to celebrate, with abandon, this special day with them. It was not only a celebration of the couple, but of their amazing love of family and our love for them and their families! We love you, Rachel & Daniel!

  10. avatar Jay reply

    Lovely wedding!! Where are the zoozies from!?

  11. avatar Friday Fresh Squeeze | Floridian Weddings reply

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  12. avatar Taylor reply

    LOVE this! Where are the personalized drink stirrers from? I am obsessed with those!

  13. avatar Emily reply

    That dress!!!! And all of these pictures are AMAZING. I love the one of them on the dance floor with their heads together, totally perfect.

  14. avatar Sapphire Events Blog » Wedding Inspiration Board: Oh My Darling, Dixie | Sapphire Events New Orleans Wedding Planner reply

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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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