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Sara and Lee’s Georgia wedding is pure and simple Southern goodness that will have me swooning for quite a few days! While I love bright colors just as much as the next girl, there is something so refreshing and romantic about their muted palette and classically styled reception under the twinkle light-draped tent at The Taylor Grady House. Let’s not even get started on Sara’s dreamy Hayley Paige ballgown–that tulle skirt! All the heart eyes, y’all! Of course, the beauty of their wedding day cannot overshadow the sweet nods to their family they incorporated throughout their day, like the pecan brittle favors in honor of Lee’s late father.

Big SW hugs to our darling Blue Ribbon Vendor Anna K Photography for sharing Sara and Lee’s pretty day with us!

We met at work, when we happened to sit next to each other at a farewell happy hour for a coworker. We mostly talked about Georgia football. A week later, Lee sent a follow-up email reminding me of the deadline to apply for UGA season tickets, and it happened to be Valentine’s Day. I thought I was having a pretty bad Valentine’s Day so far, as I had gotten into a car accident earlier that morning. But then Lee told me that he had just returned home from a business trip and discovered that his house had been broken into and, unbeknownst to him, the thieves stole the spare key to his car and came back to steal it the night Lee returned home! After an epic email exchange that transpired over the following weeks, we went on our first date: test driving cars. Most of the salesmen during our test drives that day probably thought we had been together forever since we were “shopping” for cars together, so there was a really fun dynamic to the date. After the last dealership closed, Lee asked me to dinner and drinks at one of the most romantic restaurants in town, Canoe. Before the date was over, Lee proposed something crazy: a vacation. He told me that if I could clear three days the following week, he’d plan the rest. Next thing we knew, we were off to St. Lucia for a whirlwind of a five-day third date. It was a complete leap of faith and something neither of us had ever done before. The rest is history!

Tell us about finding your wedding dress. Oh, trying on dresses was so much fun! I tried on a variety of different styles, but kept daydreaming of the big, traditional, princess-style wedding gowns. The trick was to find one that would fit in with our tented outdoor reception in Athens, Georgia. I finally felt like a bride when I tried on a gorgeous Hayley Paige creation: a full-skirted gown with generous ruffles made of sculptural tulle with horsehair trim and a crossover sweetheart neckline with a natural-waisted silk radzimir bodice. My dad and I initially joked that the ruffles looked a little like tissues, so we affectionately dubbed the dress the “Napkin Dress!” I tried on a few more styles, but the night after I tried on the Napkin Dress, I stayed up until 4:00 a.m. staring at pictures of it. I knew it was the one!

A string quartet played at our ceremony. The soft sounds of the strings complimented our traditional choices, including Handel’s “Water Music-Air” for the seating of the mothers, Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” for the processional, Pachelbel’s “Canon in D” for the bride’s processional, and Handel’s “Water Music-Hornpipe” for the recessional. Lee fell in love with “Canon in D” early in the engagement, so using that for my processional was very special. I’ll never forget hearing the quartet playing the first few notes as I waited outside of the Chapel doors with my dad before walking down the aisle!

What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? After the ceremony, Lee and I snuck to the side of the Chapel to enjoy a few moments alone and soak in the fact that we had just become Mr. and Mrs.! It was so nice to slow down and catch up after being apart for the whole day. I also got to show Lee the engraving inside his wedding band, which I secretly had done in the weeks leading up to the wedding. I engraved his ring with our wedding date and the phrase, “Forever Your Bunny,” which is our pet name for each other. Seeing his face after showing the engraving to him is a moment I will never forget!

What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? Lee’s father passed away, so we wanted to honor him and make him a part of the day by hand-making his famous pecan brittle recipe with Georgia pecans for our wedding favors. Lee helped his dad make the pecan brittle when he was a little boy, and he continues to make it for family and friends at Christmas. We packaged the pecan brittle, labeled them “Dad’s Pecan Brittle,” and set them on a table with a photograph of Lee’s dad.

One of the biggest money-savers was the fact that the Taylor Grady House let us bring in our own alcohol! We were able to set up a full bar and had a separate bourbon bar comprised of bourbons from Lee’s prized collection. Not only did the freedom to bring our own alcohol bring down the cost, but it allowed us to incorporate Lee’s passion for bourbon and share some of his favorites with our friends and family!

Our favorite detail of the wedding was: Our head table was a dream come true. At 32 feet long, it seated all of our bridal party and their dates. My favorite floral detail was the lush garland that ran down the entire length of the table and had tall, white candles tucked in throughout. The head table also had beautiful place cards with Sarah Ingram’s romantic and organic calligraphy and copper wax seals with a custom logo that Sarah created for us! Sarah’s calligraphy also appeared on the menus set out at each place setting. The head table was everything I had ever dreamed of and more!

Anyone in Athens knows Cecila Villaveces’ Cakes! Our three-tier wedding cake was a vanilla cake with strawberry filling, but the real treat was the Tres Leches cake (vanilla cake soaked with special milks and fresh strawberries) that had to be served from a sheet cake, since it’s too spongy to hold up in tiers!

What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Be intentional about the vendors you choose to surround yourself with on your wedding day. In most cases, they’ll be with you for more of the day than you’ll be with your future husband! The best vendors will immediately click with you, will know your aesthetic better than you do, and will get things done even when you didn’t think it was possible. And, no matter how stressed you get, know that it’ll all melt away by the time your rehearsal dinner starts. At that point, all of your friends and family will be there ready to celebrate you, and you’ll feel such love and support and joy the second those festivities start!

Tell us all about the proposal! We went to Washington, D.C. for the weekend to attend a party hosted by my brother and sister-in-law. The day after the party, we planned to tour some of the museums and monuments. We were moving slowly after the party, and I remember that Lee didn’t say anything when I took a little longer getting ready and curling my hair for the day. We set out to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and stared at all of the breathtaking gems in the The Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals, including the Hope Diamond. Lee joked that I shouldn’t get any ideas from walking through the exhibit! When the museums closed, we walked through the National Mall. After walking nearly nine miles all day (me in my 4-inch booties!), we reached the Jefferson Memorial, Lee’s favorite. We walked around the Memorial, and then Lee brought me down to the tidal basin. He held both of my hands, dropped to his knee, and proposed! Mid-proposal, a middle school sports team swarmed the Jefferson Memorial and began cheering for us and taking pictures. After we soaked it all in for a few moments, Lee pulled me back to the spot where he proposed, told me to look behind me at the Jefferson Memorial, to look ahead at the Washington Monument, and to look right at the White House. He told me to remember the exact spot, because in twenty years, when we return with our family, we’ll be able to visit the exact spot where he proposed and would be able to do so for the rest of our lives.
When did y’all get married? September 12, 2015
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 135
What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? Did they have any special significance to you? Lee and I are both Double Dawgs, having attended the University of Georgia for both undergrad and law school. We wanted to share Athens, Georgia with our family and friends, so when we found out the Chapel on North Campus was available, we jumped at the opportunity. We are season ticket holders and return to Athens every fall for football games. We love that we’ll be able to walk by the place where we got married year after year when we return to the Classic City. We chose the Taylor Grady House for our reception.
Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? We said traditional vows. There is something so sacred, beautiful, and romantic about speaking the same words as generations of couples who have made this commitment before us.
What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? We included the Prayer of St. Francis to honor my dad’s Catholic faith.
How did you plan for your marriage while planning your wedding? We met with our officiant, Reverend Jonathan Spencer, throughout our engagement for marriage prep sessions. We loved making time to be intentional about our relationship and our marriage. We always walked away from our meetings feeling more connected and grounded to the things that truly mattered!
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? The hardest thing for me to do was to know when to stop searching for inspiration. There are so many beautiful magazines, blogs, Instagram accounts, and Pinterest boards that are wonderful during the initial planning stages and can be a real help when interviewing potential vendors to communicate your vision and aesthetic. At some point, though, I began feeling overwhelmed with all of the options and let my magazines stack up…which just made me feel more stressed about not being able to check off reading the magazines from my to do list! I relied so heavily on the support of my planner, Marilisa Schachinger of Chancey Charm. She helped move me along throughout the whole planning process when I’d get bogged down by certain details. Marilisa was SUCH a blessing and helped me trust my gut and make decisions!
What is the one detail or vendor that you were so happy to have as a part of your wedding? I had an incredible team of vendors that truly became my friends throughout the engagement. I was very intentional about selecting folks who not only had the aesthetic I was looking for, but–more importantly–were good people who were enthusiastic about what they do and were excited to be a part of our wedding day. The very first decision I made was to hire my photographer, Anna Shackleford of Anna K. Photography. I found her through Southern Weddings and, as soon as I read on her Blue Ribbon Vendor profile that she “specialized in happy brides,” I knew I had to meet her. She invited me to her beautiful home for our first meeting, and even surprised me with a Christmas gift of the most recent Southern Weddings magazine and a Starbucks gift card to get a tasty treat while I perused the magazine for inspiration! Anna truly set the bar for everyone else I worked with–she was so patient, kind, supportive, and genuinely excited for us. Anna constantly surprised us with little (and some not-so-little) gifts throughout our engagement and beyond. Having Anna with me throughout our wedding day felt like having an old friend there, who happened to create beautiful images, keep things on schedule, and could corral an entire, crazy family!
What’s next for you as a couple? What memories are you looking forward to making together? We’re settling into our new home in Atlanta, Georgia! We are looking forward to having friends and family over for dinner parties, special celebrations and holidays. We’re also thrilled to spend time together without the stress of wedding planning. I can’t tell you how many nights we’ve been sitting on the couch and just look over at the other and say that we can’t believe how lucky we are to have found each other and that we’re actually married!

Photographer: Anna K Photography | Videographer: Rusticus Films | Planner: Chancey Charm | Ceremony Venue: University of Georgia Chapel | Reception Venue: Taylor Grady House | Florist: Martha McIntosh Creative Consulting | Wedding Cake Baker: Cecilia Villaveces Cakes | Caterer: home.made | Rentals and Lighting: Goodwin Events | Band: The Answer Band | Custom Map: Natalie Kilgore | Paper Products: Sarah Ingram | Bride’s Gown: “Londyn” by Hayley Paige | Bridal Salon: The White Magnolia | Bride’s Veil: Sara Gabriel | Hair Stylist: Tame | Makeup Artist: Becca Whitwinghill | Bride’s Shoes: Valentino | Bridesmaids’ Dresses: “Annabelle” in Lilac by Jenny Yoo | Groom’s Attire: Hugo Boss Red Label | Groomsmen Attire: Jos. A. Bank | Ribbon: Silk and Willow | Ceremony Music: Cobalt Strings

Anna K is a delightful member of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

marissa Written with love by Marissa
6 Comments
  1. avatar Marilisa Schachinger reply

    Aw thanks for sharing SW! It was such a pleasure to work with Sara on her wedding and we so appreciate you featuring it here! Now if we could all get our hands on some pralines to snack on while reading the feature ;)

  2. avatar Emily reply

    What a gorgeous gown!!

  3. avatar Sarah Chancey reply

    Thank you so very much for featuring this stunning wedding. Marilisa did such a great job working with these clients, and we are just thrilled to have been included. Anna killed it with these iamges!

  4. avatar Sara Clayton reply

    YAY!!!! Thank you so much for the feature!!! It’s so fun to relive our special day when reading this. We wouldn’t have these stunning images if it weren’t for Southern Weddings, which is how I found Anna Shackleford. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!!!

  5. avatar Audrey Eshman reply

    It was such a gorgeous wedding, and Sara was stunning! So glad that her special day is being shared!

  6. avatar L & S – CHANGEME reply

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The South is absolutely full of the most dreamy outdoor venues–from ranches, to farms, to mountains, to vineyards, and so on and so forth. There are so many lovely options, I occasionally forget how many amazing indoor venues there are too, and the Hunter Museum in Chattanooga just might be one of my favorites. Betsy and Mike chose the Hunter Museum for their beautiful reception, which followed their ceremony at another incredibly special location: the historic woodland chapel near Betsy’s childhood home. Accented by plenty of natural greenery and calligraphy details that Betsy created herself, their celebration was full of nods to their personalities and favorite things!

Thank you so much to our dear friends and Blue Ribbon Vendors, Bamber Photography, for sharing this beautiful celebration with us!

My something old was my necklace–it has been passed down from my maternal grandfather’s side of the family through several generations. My something new was my wedding band. When my matron of honor, Brita, got married, she wore my sorority pin as her something borrowed. As I was getting dressed the morning of the wedding, she took out her own pin for me to wear–I was so touched she remembered that little detail–and we pinned it near my heart on the inside of the dress. I also borrowed my gorgeous mama’s pearl and diamond earrings and her tennis bracelet. My something blue was my little blue shoes!

Tell us about finding your wedding dress. Oh, boy. Well, my mom, sister and sweet bridesmaids took time out of their very busy lives to come all the way up to Chicago in the dead of winter to help me look for my dress (if that is not love, I don’t know what is!). Luckily, Chicago has an incredible selection of bridal shops, so we were able to schedule a lot of appointments in just a day and a half. Unfortunately for me, I loved Every. Single. Thing. that I tried on. I ended up finally choosing a dress, loving it, and then promptly freaking out and deciding I wasn’t sure. Long story short, I made best friends with the ladies at that bridal shop, bless them, because I was there about every week for months until I made my real final choice. I brought them many baked goods, tried on probably every dress they had, and ended up with the perfect dress for me. They were amazingly patient and lovely, and I’m so happy I gave myself the time to be totally certain. It’s a pretty big decision!

The florist we worked with was a genius. She listened to me prattle on in about seventeen different directions, and got it perfectly right. I wanted mostly greens, natural herbs, and very few flowers. I asked for a few specific additions: lamb’s ear, Queen Anne’s lace, thistle, eucalyptus, peonies, and rosemary, and left the rest up to her. The result of our collaboration was really extraordinary. The flowers were perfectly understated at the Little Brown Church, and looked stunning atop the estate tables and rounds at the Hunter Museum. I was so happy with how all of them turned out!

The ceremony was held at the Little Brown Church. It is very small woodland chapel within walking distance of my parents’ home, where I grew up, and it’s a big part of the neighborhood’s history. It is a stunning setting, and is only open during the summer. The old trees stretch over the roof providing lovely shade, and flowers bloom all around it. I drove past it every single day of my childhood, and couldn’t think of a more special place to say our vows. We both thought it was really exciting that we would always be able to see it whenever we visited my family home.

Did you decide to do a first look? Why or why not? We opted not to do a first look. We both felt pretty strongly about this tradition, and wanted to save seeing each other that day until I was walking down the aisle during the ceremony. We are both really happy we did, because it made seeing each other that moment at the chapel really special.

How did you plan for your marriage while planning your wedding? We did a really great job of remembering the reason for all of the planning: our marriage. It kept us grounded and put the decisions we needed to make into perspective. We trusted each other, compromised, and when one of us cared more than the other about something, that person got to make the final call.

For the reception, we chose the Hunter Museum of American Art. Chattanooga was such a major focal point of our wedding that we felt like it was the perfect venue to showcase that beautiful city. It combines both old and new in a really special way, and has the most incredible views of the water and bridges.

What was one way you saved money or cut costs at your wedding? I do calligraphy and hand lettering, so I did the save the dates, invitation suite, envelope calligraphy, escort and place cards, table numbers, and custom wedding crest myself. I worked with a stamp maker in Chicago to make the crest into a stamp, and was able to use it on so many of the details! All of those things can really add up, so we saved some money and I was able to create something that was special and unique to us.

Our favorite detail of the wedding was: Our wedding crest. I created it by hand with a dip pen and calligraphy ink. It incorporated our initials, a sketch of the chapel where we got married, and flowers from places we have lived. We ended up using it on everything: the invitation suite, photo booth photos, cocktails napkins, escort cards, etc.

My husband and I sampled about 16 different cakes with my parents, and all of us chose the same combination: white chocolate cake, real buttercream frosting, and raspberry filling. It was so delicious. Mike got to run wild with his groom’s cake, and went for a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and dark chocolate ganache, covered with berries. Our non-Southern friends were totally perplexed by the groom’s cake tradition–I think several of the married guests in attendance were pretty miffed they never had the opportunity to have a groom’s cake of their own! (I don’t think a single one of them minded having two cake selections, though.)

What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? A few things! A lot of our wedding revolved around Chattanooga and what makes that city unique. Our venues were both on the mountain and by the water. We included Moon Pies and Coca-Cola in the guest bags, along with a list of our favorite Chattanooga spots. We served Krystal burgers and chicken sandwiches (with root beer floats!) as our surprise late-night snack. Our “Tennessee” menu included some very Southern staples: deviled eggs, chicken and waffles, and copper pennies. A lot of what makes the South so special is the hospitality and genuine love and care for others. It was very important to us that we did everything we could to ensure everyone felt welcomed and taken care of.

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. What really happened is Mike was an unsuccessful travel bookstore owner in England, and I was a famous actress. We came in and out of each other’s lives for a while, despite our very different professions and lives, until I realized that I was just a girl standing in front of a boy asking him to love her. Honestly, Mike and I met when Mike was training to be a fighter pilot with his best pal, Goose. There was a LOT of beach volleyball. No, no, no. Mike and I met when my family was vacationing in the Catskills. Mike was a bad boy dance instructor who won me over with his moves. I brought a watermelon to a party. We had the time of our lives. Nobody puts me in a corner. Okay, the real story is that Mike and I met online and went on a date. I almost chickened out because I was tired after a long work week and really wanted to go home, sit on my couch with the dog, watch Netflix and eat a pizza. I figured that I’d have one glass of wine and then call it a night. Instead, we hit it off, laughed the entire time, and ended up closing down the restaurant. Mike called me five seconds after he put me in a cab that night to ask me on a second date. We’ve been together ever since.
Tell us all about the proposal! Mike had just completed the Ironman triathlon in Louisville, Kentucky and my parents had driven up from Chattanooga to watch the race with me. Mike told my parents that weekend that he planned to propose as soon as we got back to Chicago. They didn’t give me a single hint of what was about to happen! When we returned home from our long road trip back, Mike casually suggested we go get a bite to eat somewhere in the neighborhood. We walked to a restaurant nearby, had a quick dinner, and then walked back to our apartment through a park on the Chicago River. We decided to sit on a bench for a minute to watch the birds and the city lights, when all of a sudden, I looked down and Mike was on one knee with a ring, asking me to marry him. (He said a bunch of other really great, romantic stuff, but I was in shock and have no recollection of any of it.) I said yes, emphatically. About 30 seconds later, the shock wore off and I ugly cried with happiness for probably a good ten minutes.
When did y’all get married? 
July 18, 2015
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 125
Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? We said traditional vows, but also wanted to write our own. Mike is very open with his emotions, while I’m more introverted and less of a “sharer.” Looking back, I’m so glad we did. We will have those unique words as only ours forever. One of my favorite parts of Mike’s vows was “I love you for so many reasons. I love you because you are delicate and beautiful, yet so strong and independent. I love you because you make me laugh and appreciate of all life’s little moments that can so easily pass us by. I love you because you challenge me to be a better man than I was yesterday.” From mine, “You are my best friend, my teammate, my partner in all things, my confidant, and my favorite person. I admire your kindness, your loyalty, your heart for other people, and your quiet perseverance to be the best human, partner, and friend you can be. You are the strongest person I know.”
What is the one detail or vendor that you were so happy to have as a part of your wedding? Our photographers were truly extraordinary–we can’t imagine the day without them. They made everyone so comfortable and captured the day perfectly. (I want to be best friends with them. Is that weird?) Truly, all of our vendors were so great–we really lucked out!
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Don’t let that beautiful, time-sucking siren, Pinterest, convince you of anything you don’t actually want or need. Every single person you know will likely have an opinion of what you should do or not do. Take good care of your guests, be true to yourselves as people, never forget the real reason you are all there (to get married!), and you’ll be fine.

Photographer: Bamber Photography / Videographer: Beckett Media Productions / Planner: Soirees of Chattanooga / Ceremony Venue: The Little Brown Church / Reception Venue: The Hunter Museum of American Art / Florist: 
Humphreys Flowers / Cake Baker: Cakemakers, Etc. / Caterer: Events With Taste / Dinner Band: 251 Main Street / Reception Band: The Answer Band / Ceremony Music: Donald & Mindy Grohman / Paper Products, Custom Wedding Crest, and Monogram: Betsy Letters / Bridal Salon: Dimitras Bridal / Hair Stylist: Beck Molina / Makeup Artist: 
Make Up by Angela R / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Joanna August / Groom’s Attire: 
Black Lapel / Late Night Snacks: Krystal / Photo Booth: Photo Magic

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

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

    her dress is so unique! very pretty!

  2. avatar Stephanie Williamson reply

    Love this dress!!! Who is the designer?!

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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