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I served as matron of honor in my sister-in-law’s wedding this weekend, and seeing Brianna and Neal’s sweet day brings me right back to Saturday. There is nothing quite like the community and love at a Southern wedding, and it’s evident in these lovely photos by Virgil Bunao that Brianna and Neal experienced that same glorious love on their big day that I witnessed this weekend! While we were not quite as lucky in the weather department, Brianna and Neal were able to celebrate under the stars sans tent, and feel completely at home while watching the sunset over the Wando River at RiverOaks. Along with the bagpiper procession (be sure to read about that below!), I bet this was a wedding guests won’t ever forget!

Tell us about finding your wedding dress. I searched through countless blogs and Pinterest posts looking for inspiration for a dress and found the “Madame Butterfly” dress by Claire Pettibone. I instantly knew it was my dress, but after doing some research, I found out that the dress was discontinued. After an unsuccessful attempt to shop for a more practical dress option at one of the local bridal stores with my stepmother, I just couldn’t see myself in any other dress but the Claire Pettibone I loved. Luckily, I found a bridal shop in London that had a sample, and we purchased it. Everyone was so nervous, but I just knew it was the one!

Describe your wedding flowers. We used ivy, maidenhair fern, white and pink English roses from the RiverOaks rose garden, light pink astilbe, black and white anemones, and coral and white peonies. The stems of my bouquet were wrapped in ribbon fastened with pins that signified my father’s rank in the Marine Corps during the year I was born. Having my father explain this to me instantly brought me to tears–the pins served as a symbol of how close we have become as a family over the years while overcoming challenges military families face.

My favorite detail was the bagpiper and the memory that created. While staying downtown with my family, I saw a wedding procession walk through the streets of Charleston from the church to the reception, led by a bagpiper. Remembering how excited I had been about that as a child, my parents surprised me with a bagpiper. The RiverOaks team coordinated the bagpiper to lead our wedding guests down the path that led to the ceremony seating area while I watched from an upstairs window. I don’t think there was a dry eye in that bridal suite!

For the most part, our vows were traditional, but we added a hand fasting ceremony and a ring blessing. The rings were fastened around ribbon and rope, and passed to our family and friends at the ceremony so that each person could impart their well wishes on our marriage. I still look at my ring from time to time and think of all our loved ones who held our rings and gave us their blessings at the ceremony.

What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? Did they have any special significance to you? My dad is from Charleston, and we often visited the city to see extended family. When I was younger, we sometimes stayed in a condo on Church Street across from two churches. Almost every time we visited, we witnessed a wedding or two held at one of those churches, so I had always dreamed of having a wedding in Charleston. Wedding venues downtown are beautiful, but felt a little too formal for us. I wanted a more laid back, intimate feeling, like an outdoor oyster roast with close family and friends, and RiverOaks provided that feeling. The Spanish moss hanging from live oaks above us and a view of the sunset on the Wando River made us feel incredibly blessed and at home.

What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? Our food was hearty and Southern! Harvest Catering uses all local, seasonal ingredients and created an amazing, fresh menu for us, even though our choices were on the heavy side. We stuck with Charleston staples like shrimp and grits, fried green tomatoes, and pimento cheese fritters with pepper jelly. We also had oysters Rockefeller, a dish Neal and I can’t ever resist ordering at a restaurant when it’s on the menu!

After our initial (four hour!) meeting with Marianne and the ladies at RiverOaks, we felt at ease and trusted their process. They showed us some of Virgil Bunao’s work from a wedding he photographed at RiverOaks, and I fell in love with it. We were so happy and grateful that he was available for our wedding day. The RiverOaks crew handled every stressful situation with grace, and added in some very meaningful surprises to the event. Since we didn’t have an engagement photo session (looking back now, I wish we had), I was nervous about being in front of the camera! Virgil did a great job of removing any nervous energy by cracking jokes and making us laugh throughout the day.

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. Neal and I met through mutual friends when I was in nursing school. My friend was dating one of his good friends, and they acted as matchmakers for us. After a few get-togethers with those mutual friends, Neal and I started dating.
Tell us all about the proposal! We went to visit some of my family in Charleston for a weekend in May. After a seven-hour drive from Virginia, I wanted to get dinner downtown with my brother and the rest of the family as soon as we arrived. Neal suggested we start heading toward the restaurant, so I texted everyone to invite them out, but everyone declined. Everyone knew Neal’s plan except me, and I remember being upset that no one wanted to join us! Neal and I had such a great time having dinner at a fun place off East Bay Street that I forgot about being upset. We walked across the street to Waterfront Park and stopped in front of the pineapple fountain. I was telling Neal about how I used to wade in the water when I was a little girl, and then I turned around to see him on one knee! It was great to be able to celebrate with family that weekend!
When did y’all get married? April 26, 2014
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 90
Did you decide to do a “first look”? Why or why not? We decided to do a first look to help calm our nerves that day. I didn’t want to be an emotional, crying mess the moment I saw him. The moment we first saw each other at the ceremony was just as meaningful as I had imagined, minus tears and mascara running down my face!
Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! My something old/borrowed was Marianne Caldwell’s beautiful veil that she wore on her own wedding day. My something blue was the sapphires (Neal’s birthstone) in my engagement ring. My something new was my gold Jack Rogers wedges.
What was one way you saved money or cut costs at your wedding? The RiverOaks crew did a great job shifting certain costs around to get the most bang for our buck. The arrangements on the tables saved on floral costs by having more ivy and greenery than flowers. They were absolutely stunning, and one of my favorite parts of the decor. Thanks to prayers from the RiverOaks staff and family, we were blessed with beautiful weather. That led to us saving money on having to rent a tent! We hired a DJ instead of our original wish to have a band play our reception music–we thought a band would encourage our guests to dance and have a good time, but our DJ had the same effect. Everyone had a great time dancing!
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you most looking forward to about married life? We moved into our new house, and we’re working on making it a home with our dog, Hobie. Having my best friend by my side for whatever happens in our future is a great feeling!

Photographer: Virgil Bunao / Planning, Venue, and Lighting: RiverOaks Charleston / Florist: Deborah Gibson Design / Cake Baker: Charleston Cakes Etc. / Catering: Harvest Catering / Rentals: Polished!, EventWorks, Sperry Tents / Ceremony Musician: Lee Barbour of Charleston Virtuosi / Bagpiper: Cathleen Nixon / DJ: Crescendo Entertainment / Paper Products: The Business Press / Calligraphy and Invitation Design: Lydia Robins Hendrix / Bride’s Gown: “Madame Butterfly” by Claire Pettibone / Hair Stylist and Makeup Artist: Kelli Hoff of Elysium Salon / Bride’s Shoes: Jack Rogers / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: J. Crew / Bridesmaid Jewelry: Kate Spade / Menswear: Jos. A. Bank / Bar Service: Squeeze On Site / Custom Monogram: Allison R. Banks Designs

RiverOaks is a delightful member of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

marissa Written with love by Marissa
7 Comments
  1. avatar Lisa reply

    Such a beautiful wedding! Leave it to sweet Marianne to lend a bride her veil for something borrowed :)

  2. avatar Emily reply

    What a gorgeous beaded gown, Brianna! It looks like you had the most beautiful day!

  3. avatar wilkes barre limo reply

    very elegantly done! love the black and white checkerboard!

  4. avatar Stacy {Woodsy Weddings} reply

    The location is beautiful, I love that cute, cozy building! And, glad she stuck it out for the right dress, it is stunning on her!

  5. avatar Sandra | Simply Peachy reply

    This is absolutely beautiful. Such an elegant soiree and am loving those blooms. Anemones are by far my fave!

  6. avatar Marianne reply

    Marissa, thank you for the heartfelt compilation in words of Brianna and Neal’s day. Brianna, thank your sweet appreciation of our team Lauren Heuber , Deborah Gibson, Jennigray Hewitt, Sara Hicks and Simone Gebsattel. To all the other kind comments, thank you, as well .

  7. avatar Jehnel Oboza reply

    Great work again, Virgil! Brianna and Neal are a beautiful couple to just look at! All of the vendors did such an exceptional job.

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I can’t help but have a soft spot for today’s wedding–I fell head over heels in love with the venue, King Family Vineyards, during the venue search for my own wedding, and it is so much fun seeing the way Leah and Will made the space their own! These UVA alumni planned their big day from Texas, so their families and a wonderful team of vendors pitched in to help bring this sweet day to life. The pastel stripe theme that ran through so many of the details, from the bridesmaid dresses to the wedding cake, was such a fresh, summer-y twist on this traditionally rustic venue!

Thank you kindly to Jon Schaaf for sharing Leah and Will’s wedding with us!

Tell us about finding your wedding dress. Our families met for the first time at Will’s family’s beach house on Oak Island in North Carolina shortly after our engagement. One morning, the ladies decided we should make the short drive to Wilmington for some preliminary wedding dress shopping. I had absolutely no expectations of finding my dress that day, but the first dress I tried on took my breath away, and I knew it was the one. The cherry on top was that the floor model was on sale for $500!

Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding and why you chose them. We used pretty traditional music during the ceremony. We actually hired a local high school string quartet to play. They were great, and we saved a lot of money!
Did you decide to do a “first look”? Why or why not? We decided not to do a first look. Will really wanted to do it so that we could take pictures around Charlottesville, but I was adamant about not seeing each other before the ceremony. The look on Will’s face made it so worth the wait! He definitely got a little misty-eyed, which was priceless.

On our wedding day, it rained most of the morning. Around noon, the weather cleared up and we made the call to keep the ceremony outside. While we were saying our vows, a warm, light rain started. The temperature was perfect and the Virginia mountains looked beautiful in the mist. After spending so much time worrying about the weather, it was really an awesome moment.

What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? Our biggest challenge was planning the wedding from Austin, Texas. Thankfully, our families and vendors were incredibly helpful and made the process as painless as possible. We only made one weekend trip to Charlottesville, and the rest of our planning was done over the phone. Heather Boe, our day-of coordinator, was a huge help on the wedding weekend.

Describe your wedding cake or dessert. We had a three-tiered cake with mint stripes. Each tier was a different flavor. We also had our cake designer make a chocolate cake for my grandfather to celebrate his birthday, which was the same day as our wedding!

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. We met at a bar called the Biltmore in Charlottesville, Virginia. I had recently graduated from the University of Virginia and was about to start working as a nurse at the medical center. Will had just returned to Charlottesville for his second year of business school at UVA. He was out with friends on his first night back in town and noticed me and some friends at the bar. He worked his way over to us and eventually asked for my number. We went on our first date a few days later. The rest is history!
Tell us all about the proposal! In April 2012, we took a trip to Cozumel, which we had been planning for quite some time. Although I thought Mexico would be a perfect place to get engaged, Will and my best friend did a great job convincing me that it wouldn’t happen until the summer. At the suggestion of his brother, Will waited a few nights after we got there, in order to throw me off. On the third night that we were in Cozumel, Will told me that he wanted to watch the sunset from a terrace over the ocean. Unfortunately, it turned out to be too cloudy to see the sunset (which I quickly pointed out). Unfazed by the weather, Will announced that he wanted to take a picture. He sent me over to the edge of the terrace while he pretended to set the camera timer (he actually turned it on video mode). I was looking out over the ocean, and when I turned around, he was down on one knee. It was perfect!
When did y’all get married? July 27, 2013
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 150
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? I would say one of the biggest cost-savers was buying our own liquor. We were lucky that our venue and caterer allowed us to do this. After the wedding, we were able to return the unopened bottles, minimizing waste.
What is the one detail or vendor that you were so happy to have as a part of your wedding? I can’t say enough good things about our photographer, Jon Schaaf. Throughout the weekend, he made everyone feel incredibly comfortable. Countless family members and friends commented on how personable and funny he was. Our photos are absolutely beautiful–they exceeded all of our expectations. Taking wedding photos can definitely be awkward at times, so having a photographer who puts you at ease is really important!
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you most looking forward to about married life? It has been a big year for us! I finished grad school, we both have new jobs, and we’re building a house. Our move-in date is scheduled for our one-year anniversary and we are beyond excited!

Photographer: Jon Schaaf / Videographer: Doug Stanford / Day-Of Coordinator: Heather Boe / Venue: King Family Vineyards / Florist: Sugar Magnolias / Wedding Cake: Albemarle Baking Company / Caterer: The Local / Rentals and Lighting: MS Events / Band: Hipshack / Paper Products: Minted / Hair and Makeup: Moxie Hair Lounge / Bride’s Shoes: Lilly Pulitzer / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: “Sassy Stripes” by LulaKate / Men’s Attire: Jos. A. Bank

lisa Written with love by Lisa
3 Comments
  1. avatar Dana reply

    those bridesmaid dresses look phenomenal with the ceremony venue!

  2. avatar Mikkel reply

    I absolutely love all the details and the soft colors! The striped cornhole with matching wedding cake is amazing. And the horse shoes where the dress was hung up…love it! Congratulations!

  3. avatar Six Dreamy Virginia Vineyard Weddings « Virginia's Travel Blog reply

    […] leah + will (king family vineyards,  crozet) | by john schaaf […]

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