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Y’all know that I cry just reading about weddings, so it should be no surprise that I have cried at every single wedding I’ve been in, plus all but one I’ve attended! However, ironically enough, neither BDK nor I cried during our own ceremony. There was such a feeling of peace and joy that we simply couldn’t stop laughing or smiling! A childhood friend of mine, also known for crying at weddings, told me afterwards that he didn’t cry at our wedding either, because we were smiling so much! I’m sure the small group of family and friends who were present at Leila and Sterling’s ceremony felt the same–I hope the photo of them laughing during their ceremony is on their favorites list! After the joyful, intimate ceremony, Leila and Sterling danced the night away at The Camp at Esseola Lodge alongside guests and the big, vibrant flowers. How amazing is that floral chandelier, y’all?

Thank you to our Blue Ribbon Vendor Anna Routh for sharing Leila and Sterling’s wedding day!

Tell us about finding your wedding dress. I was adamant about only spending one day looking for my dress, because the dress was not a huge priority for me. I knew exactly what I wanted (or, rather, what I didn’t want): something with lace and a natural waist, and nothing strapless or bright white. A friend flew in from New York for a weekend in early January, and she, along with my mom, came with me to two shops in Raleigh. At the second shop, Alexia’s, we found the perfect Lela Rose gown. I had heard a few horror stories about dress shopping, but my experience was the opposite–very low key, low stress, and really fun to do with one of my best friends and mom.

We had two readings. My cousin read “The Irish Blessing,” which has special significance to my family. It has been read at many weddings on my mom’s side of the family, including my parents’. My older brother passed away a few years ago and we read it at his memorial service as well. The message is one of hope, enjoying the “simple things in life,” and the promise of heaven–great reminders on our wedding day. For our second reading, Sterling’s best friend read a poem that Sterling wrote himself. He is an English teacher and a great writer. The poem, “These Patient Rings,” speaks to our family history and the fate that brought Sterling and me together.

What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? Did they have any special significance to you? I grew up going to my grandparents’ house in Linville–it’s a beautiful, tiny, casual, very unique mountain town in North Carolina. Sterling and I have enjoyed spending weekends there throughout our relationship. I knew when I started dating Sterling that I wanted to marry him and that I wanted it to be in Linville! We thought it would be a fun place for our family and friends to get to visit, and since it’s so small, all of our guests spent the full weekend together with us. Since we had a big reception, we wanted the ceremony to feel more intimate, so we chose to do it at Wee Kirk Presbyterian, an adorable little white wooden church. Sterling and I loved the simple and personal “vibe” of our ceremony. It was fun and comfortable, and everyone in the chapel was a close family member or friend who had been in our lives for a long time. The reception was at The Camp at Eseeola, an indoor/outdoor pavilion overlooking a beautiful lake and golf course. It really stuck with the rustic mountain theme.

What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? The most Southern thing about our wedding, in addition to the gorgeous location in the North Carolina mountains, was the FOOD. We felt strongly about serving filling, delicious, Southern food to our guests, and the Eseeola Lodge pulled through with an amazing menu. I don’t think anyone left hungry! At four separate stations, we served ham biscuits, mac and cheese, shrimp and grits, fried oysters, rolls with tenderloin, sliced tomatoes, and lots more.

My mom was the genius behind our beautiful flowers. The only thing I knew was that I did not want traditional, formal, pale/muted arrangements. I wanted lots of color that reflected the season and the mountain vibes–she made it happen beautifully! Our arrangements were big and vibrant, and the most amazing part was a huge “floral chandelier” hanging above the main bar right at the entrance to The Camp.

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. Sterling and I have known each other since we were little. Our dads went to high school together, and all four of our parents were friends in college at UNC. His mom is actually my godmother! Sterling and I lost touch as adults–though we always kept up with each other through his mom–but reconnected at a wedding about a year before we started dating. He was living in Baltimore and I was living in San Francisco at the time. When we both moved back to North Carolina a few months later, Sterling asked if I wanted to go to a concert with him, and that turned into our first date. We fell in love very quickly and were engaged nine months later.
Tell us all about the proposal! Sterling proposed to me in Freedom Park in Charlotte on a beautiful Saturday in December. I was totally surprised, since the day had been a completely regular day for us. We went to the park to walk my dog, Riggins, and he got down on one knee beside the lake and proposed with my grandmother’s engagement ring. It was the biggest surprise of my life. After I said yes, we looked across the lake and all four of our parents were hiding in the woods. We had the most fun celebration with our families for the rest of the weekend. Sterling planned a proposal that was exactly what I would have asked for – casual, thoughtful, and involved our families.
When did y’all get married? September 12, 2015
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 255
Describe your wedding cake or dessert. Sterling and I decided not to have a traditional wedding cake. We did not want to pause the party to cut the cake and did not have strong feelings about a particular style or flavor, so we thought, “Why force it?” Instead, the Eseeola Lodge created a really fun dessert table with all sorts of options: cake pops, fruit, brownies, and more. Throughout the planning process, we wanted to make decisions that made sense to us, not just do things because “that’s the way it’s done.” The wedding cake was just one example of us following our hearts and breaking the mold if something didn’t fit with our personalities.
How did you plan for your marriage while planning your wedding? Sterling and I loved the marriage counseling we did with our minister, Christopher. He became a really important part of the engagement period and helped us think beyond the wedding towards the important part, the marriage. We learned a lot about each other and ourselves, and the sessions we did with Christopher made us even more confident in this huge step we were about to take.
What was one way you saved money or cut costs at your wedding? Sterling and I decided early on what was important to us: a lively band, delicious Southern food and an open bar, transportation for all of our guests, and having the venue in Linville. Beyond that, our response to most decisions was, “Which is cheaper?” Sometimes, our moms had other opinions, but for the most part, we invested in the things we cared about and cut costs elsewhere. We also decided not to have a bridal party, which ended up being one of the best decisions we made. It allowed us to cut costs and save some headache around logistics (pictures, timelines, hair and makeup, dresses, gifts). But, most importantly, our amazing friends still made us feel so supported and loved throughout the whole process, and isn’t that the main reason for a bridal party? Whether or not to have a bridal party is a really personal decision, but one that proved right for Sterling and me over and over again.
What is the one detail or vendor that you were so happy to have as a part of your wedding? OUR BAND. Perfect 10 was everything we hoped for, and our dance floor did not clear out once throughout the night. We were so sad when the party had to end because the momentum was still soaring late into the night. The band was easy to work with and really listened to what we wanted. They interacted with the crowd the perfect amount. When we think back on our reception, we both have an amazing mental picture of a dance floor packed with guests.
What’s next for you as a couple? What memories are you looking forward to making together? Being newly married is a hopeful and joyful time in life. Sterling and I have a lot to be grateful for in this moment, and also a lot to look forward to in our future–travel, kids, more rescue dogs, careers, and the simple, special moments of marriage. We are very lucky!

Photographer: Anna Routh Photography | Second Shooter: Robyn Van Dyke | Videographer: Story Spark Films | Planner: Events by Elizabeth Ashley | Ceremony Venue: Wee Kirk Presbyterian | Reception Venue: The Camp at Eseeola Lodge | Florist: Callista Designs | Dessert Baker, Caterer, and Rentals: Eseeola Lodge | Band: Perfect 10 | Paper Products: Snow In July Designs and Taylor’s of Raleigh | Bride’s Gown: “The Forest” by Lela Rose | Bride’s Earrings: Gabrielle Jewelry

Anna Routh and Robyn Van Dyke are delightful members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

marissa Written with love by Marissa
2 Comments
  1. avatar Michelle Edgemont reply

    Her mama made all of the flowers herself!??! Wow! What a wonderful gift to her daughter! I particularly love the chandelier…you know me, the more color the better. :)

  2. avatar Laura reply

    These florals are some of the most beautiful wedding florals I’ve seen. I especially love how the front of the church was decorated.

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Robin certainly didn’t expect to meet her future husband while on a girls day out with friends, but sure enough, that’s the day Jon came into her life…and a few short months later, she was on a plane across the pond to spend four months in England, so the two could date in the same city! They were engaged in London, and set out to plan their wedding in Robin’s hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina. While such long distance planning required a little bit of creativity and a lot of faith, with the help of our talented Blue Ribbon Vendor Rebecca Rose Events, Robin and Jon’s wedding became the perfect way to introduce their international guests to the South, as well as a deeply meaningful time for them to become husband and wife!

Thank you so much to our Blue Ribbon Vendor Callie Davis of Nancy Ray Photography for sharing this lovely day with us!

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. In May 2014, Jon came to Georgia to visit a friend. Left on his own one day, walking around the small town, he meandered into a coffee shop. I was sitting among a group of friends when Jon approached us because he recognized a woman at my table. It turns out they had met two years earlier, albeit for five minutes, in a cafe halfway around the world in Kigali, Kenya. He started chatting with our table and found he had many mutual friends with our group. I hadn’t even looked up from my laptop at this point–truthfully, I couldn’t have been less interested in his British accent. When my friend invited him to go kayaking with us the next day, I was actually a little peeved that he would be interrupting our girls day out! The next day, it rained, so instead of kayaking, we went back to the coffee shop, where Jon and I chatted for almost two hours, and my friend wandered off, leaving us to ourselves. When we finally made it kayaking, my friend bailed, so Jon and I spent four hours out on a still lake, just the two of us, floating and chatting. We bumped into each other a few more times that week, and when he left Georgia, we kept in touch, chatting almost daily. Within a couple of weeks, I knew he was the one for me. Two months later, I flew to the U.K. to visit him for a week. After a few days, he asked me to extend my stay for four weeks. Within the month, we planned to spend Christmas together, and I planned to move to England in January for four months so that we could date in the same city.

Rebecca Rose Events designed our flowers to complement and enhance the overall aesthetic of our wedding day. Right from the start of the planning process, we decided on a wedding that would emphasize a family gathering in an intimate setting, and we selected a color palette of calming blue and olive tones with pops of burgundy and gold. These colors are all inspired by heirloom treasures. Our designer, Becca, created bouquets, centerpieces, and other elements that captured the essence of romance found in nature, with organic texture and plenty of movement. I love peonies, but since those are pretty hard to come by in the month of September, she used beautiful, lush garden roses instead to create a similar look. I also loved the olive branches, thistle, and other interesting textures used in the designs.

Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? We decided to write our own vows. There were two lines in my vows to Jon that I especially love and try to meditate on continuously: “I vow to create peace in our home by trusting God and trusting you as the leader of our family. I vow, regardless of circumstance, every decision I make will be to demonstrate my love and obedience first to the Father, and also to you.”
What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? During the ceremony, we washed each other’s feet. Jesus did this with his disciples as a symbol of his devotion to humble himself as a leader and serve his followers. It was the only part of the ceremony when I cried. It was also memorable that Jon couldn’t quite figure out the straps on my shoes, so instead of putting them back on, we finished the ceremony with bare feet.

Since I lived in England during four months of our engagement, I had to do all my venue searching online. We knew we wanted to get married in my home state of North Carolina and that it would need to be close to an international airport. My mom lives in Charlotte and I grew up in Raleigh, so I scoured the Internet for venues in both cities. As a wedding photographer myself, I had seen enough weddings to know my priorities. In my mind, the perfect backdrop would be a classic, Southern home with lots of white and antique fixtures. When I found the Merrimon-Wynne, I thought it was too good to be true! I immediately sent one of my Raleigh-native bridesmaids to inspect the place and confirm that it was indeed as amazing as it looked on the website. Having our wedding in Raleigh meant that all our friends and Jon’s family could experience the Southern culture I was rooted in growing up. Fifty of our guests came in from out-of-state and of the twelve in our bridal party, only two people were from the South! Raleigh was the perfect city to show off our pride in BBQ and hospitality. The Merrimon-Wynne was the most stunning, accommodating, and centrally-located venue we could have asked for.

What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? The vintage setting of the Merrimon-Wynne made for the most Southern atmosphere. Food is the best language of culture, and so we opted for a rehearsal dinner that showcased good North Carolina BBQ, and a wedding caterer who knew how to honor Southern cuisine with his menu. We served braised shrimp and lots of local veggies. We made it a weekend affair–one of my aunts even hosted a traditional Southern “morning after” brunch for the wedding party and family.

How did you plan for your marriage while planning your wedding? I knew planning a wedding would overwhelm and overtake our engagement if it was left up to me. The best decision I made for our wedding was to hire Rebecca Rose Events to plan and design the day. They took away so much of the stress. Jon and I had so much more time to focus on planning and preparing for the most important thing: our marriage.

Tell us all about the proposal! For our first Christmas together, one of Jon’s gifts to me was an envelope that read, “Do not open until you get to England.” Mid-January, I would be traveling over to the U.K. to live near him. I’m not very patient with surprises, so I was desperate to know what was in the envelope. I waited the three weeks to open the envelope, and as soon as he picked me up from the airport, I ripped it open. Inside was ANOTHER envelope that read, “Don’t make plans for January 24.” This envelope also read, “Do not open until instructed.” I kept that date clear and waited patiently until I was allowed to open the envelope. A couple days before the date, he let me see what was inside: two tickets to see Les Miserables on West End–my favorite musical! That Saturday, we put on our fancy clothes and drove to London to see the show. It was, of course, incredible. After the show, he took me on a walk along the River Thames. It was getting close to midnight, and Westminster Bridge was still filled with tourists, but once we reached the London Eye, there was no one in sight. As we walked, talking and laughing, I heard the faint music of a busker standing nearby. Before I had a chance to look at the guy playing his guitar (who turned out to be Jon’s best mate), Jon turned me to look out at the river. By the time I recognized that he was playing our song, Jon was down on one knee. I was so frantic, repeating, “Is this happening? I can’t believe this is happening!” Neither Jon nor I quite remember what he actually said, but I said yes a thousand times! We danced and danced by the water under the stars. It was a full minute before I actually looked down at the ring. When I did, I couldn’t believe it. The ring he placed on my finger was the ring I’ve always imagined wearing–my grandpa gave it to my grandmother 68 years ago when he proposed. Later, I found out that my mom snuck the ring to Jon through my suitcase over Christmas!
When did y’all get married? September 13, 2015
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 90
Tell us about finding your wedding dress. I found my dress two months after Jon proposed, while I was still living in England. I knew I wanted to go dress shopping with only one or two other people because I’m easily swayed by others’ opinions. Jon’s dear friend, Jane, who had by then become my dear friend and bridesmaid, went with me. After just one shop, I knew what I liked: sheath, lace, and a Queen Anne neckline. I looked online and narrowed down my choices to five gowns I knew I wanted to try on. I found a shop that carried all the gowns, and the first one I tried on ended up being the one! It was a surprisingly simple and relaxing process, and we got a day trip to the beautiful Windsor, England out of it.
Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding and why you chose them. We chose songs of worship to play throughout our wedding. I walked down the aisle to “Steady Heart” by Steffany Gretzinger, and the wedding party recessed to “Future/Past” by John Mark McMillan. Songs of worship to God are the most important and joyous songs we could include in the celebration of our wedding. We spent such a long time deciding which songs we wanted! The most significant part of the ceremony music was having some of my dear friends perform the songs live and lead us all in worship during the ceremony. For worship, we chose the songs “Never Run Dry” by Housefires, “Your Glory” by All Sons and Daughters, and the classic hymns, “Nothing but the Blood” and “In Christ Alone.” For our first dance, also played live, we chose a song by Brooke Fraser called “Sailboats.” Jon had this song on several mixes in his car when we traveled around England during the first month of our relationship. Every time it plays, I think of him driving while I sit peacefully looking at the beautiful mountains of England’s Lake District.
Our favorite detail of the wedding was: We had our favorite scriptures written in calligraphy on banners and hung them as decorations throughout the house. We wanted decorations that we would use again after the day. They have become lovely keepsakes. I even used one as a table runner for our Thanksgiving dinner!
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Some of the decisions Jon and I argued over seem so silly now. Compromise with each other and don’t stress over the details. You won’t remember them after the day is over! What you will remember is how you loved one another through the engagement process. Take time to focus on what you want your marriage to look like. Spend more time having conversations about your future life than your wedding day plans.
What’s next for you as a couple? What memories are you looking forward to making together? In mid-July, we will be welcoming our first little one! We are both very excited to be parents and make more memories here in the U.K. while we have time close to Jon’s family.

Photographer: Callie Davis of Nancy Ray Photography | Videographer: Story Spark Films | Planner and Florist: Rebecca Rose Events | Venue: The Merrimon-Wynne House | Cake Baker: Cakes by Chloe | Caterer: Beau Catering | Rentals and Lighting: Party Reflections | Bands: Glenn and Erin Deuel and The Derringers | DJ: Bunn DJ Company | Paper Products: Rebecca Rose Creative | Bride’s Gown: “Aveline” by WTOO | Bride’s Hair Accessories/Veil/Jewelry: BHLDN and Crowning Glory Designs | Hair Stylist: Estee Salon | Bride’s Shoes: Nina | Bridesmaids’ Dresses: “Annabelle” by Jenny Yoo | Groom’s Attire: Jos A. Bank | Envelope Calligraphy: Calligraphy by Carole | Scripture Banners: Sarah Cason Designs

lisa Written with love by Lisa
3 Comments
  1. avatar Robin and Jon Merrimon-Wynne Film Wedding | Nancy Ray Photography reply

    […] thanks to Southern Weddings for featuring this wedding on their blog today! Click here to see the full […]

  2. avatar The Merrimon Wynne House- Downtown Raleigh reply

    We absolutely loved having this wonderful couple at our venue– Best wishes to Robin and Jon!

  3. avatar 2016 Online Features Part 1 | Nancy Ray Photography reply

    […] and Jon’s Merrimon-Wynne Wedding Featured on Southern Weddings Photographer: Callie […]

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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