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The two words that kept coming to my mind as I was admiring Samantha and Ben’s Virginia mountain wedding were striking and simple. They didn’t fill their wedding to the brim with details–they just chose a beautiful, meaningful location (Ben’s grandparents’ property, where Ben’s parents had been married years before!) and focused on creating moments for their wedding rather than things. Don’t get me wrong, there was no shortage of DIY in this day, from the flowers to the tent decor, but the most special elements of Samantha and Ben’s wedding were their emotional letter exchange, sweet ceremony, and joyful dance party celebration!

We’re so grateful to our Blue Ribbon Vendor, Perry Vaile, for sharing this lovely day with us!

It is an old family tradition for the father to place a sixpence in the left heel of the bride’s shoe the night before the wedding for good luck, so my sixpence was my something old!

Tell us about finding your wedding dress. I found my dress eight days after we got engaged…yes, embarrassingly fast. My birthday fell on a Monday (my day off), so my mother took the day off with me and we decided that we should go “play” at David’s Bridal. We were definitely not intending to purchase anything that day. Long story short, the woman helping us found out that I was an “artsy, dancer chick,” so after trying on a few of my picks, she said, “I have something a little more unique that only one other bride has purchased, wanna try it on?” My answer was, “Duh! Put me in anything!” She pulled a White by Vera Wang tulle ball gown in a two-toned ivory and beige coloring. After trying on a few more dresses and coming back to the “artsy” choice, I took multiple laps around the store, eventually finding myself saying “I think this might be my dress.” I never thought I’d be one to cry over a wedding dress, but the look on my mother’s face and the simple thought that this dress represented the fact I had finally found Ben is what did it. As my mother was hunting down tissues and our consultant was going to retrieve her “found the dress” bell, the song playing on the overhead speakers caught my ears–it was the song that Ben and I had planned for our first dance on the big day. I am not one who believes in coincidence, so I took it as a sign, and made my purchase!

What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? We both agree that our most memorable moment was our exchange of letters. Prior to the ceremony, we separately wrote letters for each other. Just before the ceremony, Ben was led to a bench in front of a beautiful tree in the backyard and was instructed to keep his eyes closed. I then joined him on the bench back-to-back, and without actually seeing each other, we were able to hold hands and share an intimate moment as we read each other’s letters.

Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding and why you chose them. We are both fortunate enough to have musically talented younger siblings, who prepared and performed several duets with their guitar and mandolin while people were being seated for the ceremony. We walked down the aisle to an acoustic version of the song “A Thousand Years” and back up the aisle to “You’re My Best Friend” by Queen.

We were married on Ben’s grandmother’s property nestled in the mountains of Virginia. The location is stunning–a cozy brick house on top of a hill, surrounded by beautiful mountaintops. I’ve also always wanted to be married outside in front of a big tree, and it just so happens that there are two gorgeous maple trees sitting side by side in the front of the property. Last but not least, it is also where Ben’s parents had their wedding. :)

What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? We were married outside in a small, Southern, mountain town in Virginia, and we were surrounded by all of our friends and family. We both come from very large families, and everybody came together to help us set up our DIY wedding–from friends putting flowers together for the bouquets to aunts and uncles draping fabric throughout the tent, it was a grand production that everyone wanted to be a part of. Our meal was made in a homemade Southern style, and included pecan-crusted chicken, mashed sweet potatoes with brown sugar, and peach sweet tea.

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. Our very closest friends/cousins, Carlee and Adam, helped to set us up. Carlee likes to think of this set-up as “paying it forward” since my mother was the matchmaker for her parents. Months before I met Ben, she informed me that there was a guy in Adam’s medical school class that I “just had to meet”–Ben and Adam were at Duke together and hung out in the same circle of friends. At a Duke medical school function, Carlee and I found ourselves chatting on the far end of the restaurant when I spotted this handsome guy across the way. I noticed that he was talking with another girl who looked very interested in him, when Carlee pointed and shouted “Ooooh! That’s him! That’s Ben, Sammy!” Lo and behold, who does she point to? The guy I’m already checking out. Eventually, we made our way back to a group of Adam’s friends. We were standing in a circle discussing some medical procedure that, of course, went in one of my ears and out the other, when Ben walked up to me, extending his hand, and asked confidently, “Can I introduce myself to you?” He proceeded to hold my hand for another minute (supposedly, unbeknownst to him) while he had a conversation with the guy next to him. I stood there stunned, staring at our intertwined hands, laughing to myself, thinking “This guy has moves.” To this day, when we recall the night we met, Ben states that he had no idea he had held my hand for so long!
Tell us all about the proposal! About a year before Ben’s proposal, he surprised me with the best birthday present ever: two tickets to go tandem skydiving! After we touched down, we realized that it was still super early in the day, so we asked the owner what there was to do “’round these parts.” He, like a true Southern gent, told us that there was a vineyard two minutes up the road! After an afternoon of touring the stunning, Italian-inspired Raffaldini Vineyards, tasting an array of wines and purchasing a bottle or two, we ended up on a bench that overlooked the grounds. It was there that Ben first told me he was falling in love with me; I, of course, reciprocated the feeling. A little less than a year later, we planned a trip to the mountains to get away and see my brother. On our way home, we ended up at Raffaldini Vineyards again. We spent the evening reminiscing and trying their newest wines, ending up back on the same bench where we first said “I love you.” That’s where Ben got down on one knee and asked if I would be his “teammate” for life.
When did y’all get married? May 17, 2014
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 160
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Really step back and appreciate all of the people who have gathered to support you and help you throughout your engagement and into your marriage. It is very easy to get stressed out over all the little details and get upset or be short with people close to you. You have to keep in mind when planning a do-it-yourself wedding that there are lots of hands and minds involved, and with that comes a lot of emotions. It is so much more enjoyable to be a relaxed bride, even when things aren’t going as initially planned. Also, something that a friend told me shortly after Ben and I got engaged was to make sure that the week before your wedding, and especially the day before the wedding, you should find some time to sneak off and share some time alone. This is harder than it seems, and we are so glad we did it!
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you most looking forward to about married life? Just a couple of weeks after getting married, we moved out of our home state and started our new jobs in a fresh new city. Ben graduated from medical school a week before our wedding, and he has started up as a resident in Internal Medicine at a great institution. I was fortunate enough to quickly start a job at a terrific Pilates studio and have begun dancing with a local non-profit modern dance company. We have also become the proud new parents of two adorable kittens!

Photographer: Perry Vaile Photography / Venue: Private residence / Florist: Whole Foods / Caterer and Wedding Cakes: Deb’s Catering / Rentals and Lighting: Cook’s Rental / Invitations: Michaels / Bride’s Gown: “Ombre Tulle Ball Gown VW351157” by White by Vera Wang / Bridal Salon: David’s Bridal / Hair Stylists: Debra Davis and Sandy Wilson / Makeup Artist: Merle Norman / Bride’s Shoes: Tahari / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: “Long Strapless Chiffon Dress F15555” in Champagne by David’s Bridal / Men’s Attire: Men’s Wearhouse

Perry Vaile is a delightful member of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

lisa Written with love by Lisa
8 Comments
  1. avatar Loverly reply

    The photo of the couple laughing at the altar is too cute! Great shot by Perry Vaile!

  2. avatar {EventsbyElaine} reply

    That dress is truly amazing. I love how it changes shades from beige to blush depending on the light. Of course, the photos of the couple under the tree are so sweet.

  3. avatar Emily reply

    I love this bride – she’s so expressive and full of joy!

  4. avatar Stacy {Woodsy Weddings} reply

    That two tone dress was definitely the right choice! The brooch on it is also the perfect detail. Beautiful wedding!

  5. avatar Laura Nelson reply

    Beautiful, Perry! Love her gown and how happy they are together!!!

  6. avatar Dana reply

    this is beautiful! I love how they met!

  7. avatar Cecilia Iliesiu reply

    Such a wonderful love story! I wish you both all the best in the world. You don’t deserve any less.

  8. avatar Pasha Belman Photography reply

    the film photography is just wow.

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Oh my. How does one write the real wedding introduction for one’s own wedding?? There’s so much I could say, and yet, thankfully, the lovely images by Tanja Lippert say more than I ever could. Of course, that hasn’t stopped me from adding in a few notes here and there! Since y’all had such a hand in planning it, I very much hope you enjoy this extended look at my and John’s wedding. And if you haven’t yet seen it in print, do pick up a copy of V5 here!

What was the weather like on your big day? It was PERFECT. Bright blue sky, crisp but warm air, mid-70s… we couldn’t have handpicked a better day. I am so thankful it turned out as it did! The only thing I ever really knew I wanted for my someday future wedding was that I wanted it to take place in Connecticut (where both John and I grew up), and I wanted it to take place in September. It’s my absolute favorite month in New England, and the day God delivered was exactly the day I was picturing when I dreamed about a September wedding.

Y’all know I love paper, and I always knew I would have high standards for my one-day wedding invitation. Working with Magpie Paper Works and MM Ink to produce this beauty was a dream come true!

My sister in law drew the custom map below — isn’t it darling?

My wedding dress search spanned three states and five stores. I started the hunt in Charleston, where I fell in love with a Monique Lhuillier and a Vera Wang at Maddison Row. I then looked in Connecticut at The White Dress by the Shore, but didn’t even have a top contender at the end of that trip. My third stop (with just Mom this time) was at Nitsa’s in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The first dress I tried on was the “Brisa,” by Christos, and the best way I can describe it is that it just felt like me. I had never seen another bride wear it before, which I didn’t think was important to me, but apparently it was! (And since I work at a wedding magazine, stumping me with a “new” gown is pretty tough.) We visited two more stores after that to make sure, but it was Brisa in the end. The funniest part about wearing my dress was that people asked to touch it all day! I guess the skirt looked very soft :)

Our beautiful horsehair-edged veil was a custom creation by Chaviano Couture. I dreamed it up with John’s sister, who got married exactly two months before John and I did. It’s our hope that our sisters and maybe even children will one day wear it, too!

I struggled for a long time with what to inscribe on our Paloma’s Nest ring bearer bowl, and eventually decided on simply “grateful,” plus our wedding date.

I have a very distinct style when it comes to flowers, and happily, I found my match in Elisabeth from Blush Floral Design. I asked for a lush garden look with garden roses, ranunculus, sweet pea, lambs ear, and anemones in whites, creams, and the palest blushes. The stem of my bouquet (which I loved!) was wrapped in pleated pale blue ribbon I picked up on a special trip to New York City. We incorporated tiny apples and berries into the cocktail hour and reception centerpieces, as well.

You can read more about our decision to do a first look right here. It wasn’t the overwhelmingly emotional part of the day that it is for some people — more joyful — but we were glad we did it and it worked well with our timeline.

My bridesmaids wore long charcoal gray dresses by Dessy. Choosing bridesmaid attire was one of the, if not the, hardest decision I made while wedding planning, though they all looked beautiful in the end!

I adore that photo of our dads! So good.

Bride’s favorite detail of the wedding: I really loved the boutonniere and bell boards we set up at the church. Upon arrival, gentlemen were invited to pin on a velvet ribbon boutonniere, and ladies could take a little silver bell to ring at the end of our ceremony. I loved that these details made our guests feel special, and included in the celebration, right from the beginning!

In the days and months leading up to our wedding, I wondered often about how my emotions would manifest themselves on the big day. I tend to be pretty unpredictable with crying – I’ll tear up at commercials, but often won’t shed a drop in situations where it’s expected, you know? If anything, I expected to cry while reciting our vows, and during the father daughter dance. Turns out I was wrong on both accounts, though I did get extremely emotional at one point.

Throughout the morning of our wedding, I felt quite calm, and quietly excited. I didn’t feel nervous, and I didn’t feel particularly emotional. Our first look was joyful, not tearful. Since we had already seen each other, bridesmaids, groomsmen, and our families all gathered together in the basement of the church to await the start of the ceremony. Soon it was time for us to line up, and when I was standing next to my Dad in the narthex I felt the first flip in my stomach. I got another one when the string trio began to play the first song of the processional. After the last bridesmaid had begun her walk down the aisle, the doors to the sanctuary closed, and my Dad and I moved into position. I had specifically asked that the doors not be opened until about fifteen seconds into my song, so that we would hit the top of the aisle at the right point in the music. My emotions started to build, and I couldn’t help smiling, while we waited behind the closed doors. When the doors finally opened, I could hear an audible intake of breath from our guests. (That sounds horribly vain, but it’s true!) I think it was in part because I was wearing a blusher veil, which is so unexpected these days but so me, and my Dad looked stunningly handsome in his dress whites (military uniform). I had my eyes locked on John’s the entire time we walked down the aisle, but when we reached our guests, I had to start taking deep breaths in and out to try and control the impending flood. Once we got a little closer, I could hear the entire row of bridesmaids and entire row of groomsmen sniffling, and that finally opened the flood gates for me. We all had tears rolling down our faces throughout the beginning of our ceremony, so much so that our pastor had to remind everyone to take deep breaths before he began.

Who was one of the most special guests at your wedding? Besides my grandmothers, and John’s relatives who came from as far away as Taipei and Shanghai, our most special guest was our pastor, Carl. He’s the pastor of our church in North Carolina, and has had such a huge impact on our lives and our life together since we met him two years ago. We were so excited and grateful when he agreed to fly north to lead our ceremony. We were equally as devastated when we found out two months before our wedding that he had been diagnosed with cancer. He had surgery about a month before, and happily, was recovered in time to still make the trip. His presence was one of the most special parts of our entire day – our wedding would have felt entirely different (at least to John and me) had he not been a part of it.
Were there any family traditions you included in the ceremony? We chose to serve communion to our guests, since we found deep meaning in having our first act as a newly married couple be one of service. We used a silver cup from the church where my grandmother was baptized to hold the wine. We weren’t sure how our guests would react, but many told us communion was their favorite part of the day.
Did you write your own vows? We wrote our own vows and recited traditional vows, as we felt they both brought something meaningful to the ceremony. Our personal vows took the form of promises to each other. My favorite line from John’s vows was “I promise to always be available to and grateful for your love.” His favorite part from mine was the last line: “And if at the end, all I have done is loved you with all of my heart, I promise that for me, that will be enough.”

At some points during the budgeting process, I second-guessed our decision to hire a string trio, but I am SO glad we did. They played so beautifully, and really set the tone for the ceremony. They were accompanied by my childhood piano teacher, and having her there injected one more layer of meaning into the day. The moms walked down the aisle to “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” one of my very favorite hymns, and one that just says WEDDING to me (in the best way possible). My bridesmaids entered to “In Christ Alone,” which I had never heard mentioned as a processional, but which we received many compliments on. I loved it. My processional was to “A Thousand Years.” I debated long and hard over what song to use, and worried that I might regret choosing something so contemporary (especially something that first appeared in the Twilight movies – yikes!). But in the end, it was most important to me to have something that pulled at my emotional chords and made me feel something, and “A Thousand Years” most certainly did. If you’ve only heard the radio version, you’ve got to check out Vitamin String Quartet’s rendition! Our congregational hymn was “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” (love!), and our recessional was “Ode to Joy,” the same one my parents and my older sister and her husband used at their weddings.

How did the two of you meet? Tell us your story. We grew up in the same small town in Connecticut, and went to different elementary schools, but had many of the same friends. Despite this, we did not meet each other until middle school, when all the elementary schools pooled into one school. I had a crush on John, but sadly, it was not reciprocated. Fast forward to high school, where we were still in interlocking groups of friends, but more acquaintances than anything else. I still thought John was cute, of course, but he was dating someone else. Fast forward again to senior year. We had a class together with a mutual good friend, and so began to hang out more. Unbeknownst to me, John had developed a crush on me, but didn’t really know what to do about it. He even resorted to loudly talking about how much he liked me while sitting a few seats away from my younger sister in the cafeteria (hoping she would overhear and report back), but to no avail. Finally, in January of their senior year, John (with the encouragement of our friend Jeremy) mustered up the courage to say something. He called me up out of the blue and blurted out “So… I think I like you.” To which I responded with nervous giggles, obviously. A first date was eventually arranged (ice skating), and we have been together ever since.
Three adjectives that describe the day are: joyful, thoughtful, and precious
How many guests attended your wedding? About 120
What was the design inspiration for your wedding? I have been studying wedding magazines for about thirteen years now, and working at one for three. So I’ve seen a lot of weddings, and a ton of creative and unique ideas. Though I love almost all of them, I knew the vast majority weren’t right for John and me. Our wedding style was classic, while never taking itself too seriously. We wanted everything to fit seamlessly into our beautiful seaside location, and in the end, I think it did.
What were your wedding colors? This is a tough question! People always looked at me like I had two heads when I tried to explain. Let’s go with powder blue, black and white, blush pink, dove gray, and environmental green. There might have been some peach in there, too.
What was the biggest challenge you faced when planning your wedding? Isn’t it always the budget? I almost feel guilty giving that answer, though, because we were extremely lucky to have a larger amount to work with than most, and were so grateful for everything we were able to afford. But when you know what’s out there, it’s hard to stop yourself from wanting more!
What range did your budget fall into? $25,000-$50,000
How did you spend the morning or afternoon before your big day? Though we had to wake up earlier than I would have chosen (6:15) to start the hair and makeup process, the morning was perfect – slow and relaxed, and spent with just my sisters, John’s sisters, and our moms. We had reserved a large suite at a cozy local inn, and we had the windows and door open all day, letting in the crisp early fall air. I also made a custom playlist to set the right mood, a tip I’d highly recommend!
Did you have any special readings? We spent much time choosing our readings, and we were so happy with them in the end! We chose one from the Bible, Colossians 3:12-17, and had a good friend with whom we went to high school and college read it. (She also has her Masters of Divinity, so she was extra qualified!) Our second reading was an excerpt from “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis, which begins “Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing.” Our dear friend from college read that one. Our final reading was the one we had the most difficulty choosing. After going through a box of old notes we had written to each other over the years, we finally settled on an excerpt from “The Petite Prince” that I had included with a letter to John years before. For those who are familiar with the book, we choose the conversation between the fox and the prince about what it means to be tamed. Our ninth grade English teacher and my mentor of eleven years read it, which was only fitting, as she was the one who had introduced me to it years before.
Who participated in your ceremony? Growing up I had three best friends (all of whom I’m still quite close with), and one of them did us the honor of singing “Set Me As a Seal” and “Come Thou Font of Every Blessing” during communion. It was so beautiful!

Inkspot Crow Films and Sperry Tents are delightful members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

emily Written with love by Emily
30 Comments
  1. avatar Madelynne Moulton reply

    I’ve never been more excited about someone else’s wedding than I was about Emily’s. Really, just perfection. I love the color palette because it’s so unique and inventive. I can’t even say enough things about that amazing dress. And Tanja? Man, she’s so talented. Just an incredibly beautiful wedding all around.

  2. avatar Lara reply

    Oh my. I know I’ve already seen these images, but they are as breathtaking as the first time I saw them! You and John radiate with love!

    • avatar Emily reply

      Thank you!! I definitely felt like I was radiating with love that day, and it’s all Tanja’s magic that captured it on film! :)

  3. avatar Shelby reply

    Yay!! Absolutely beautiful photos! I’ve been waiting for this post since last September! Every detail is beautiful, Emily, I am so happy for you & John!

  4. avatar Lauren @ Every Last Detail reply

    Love love love all of your details Emily! Can’t wait to see Part 2!! :)

    • avatar Emily reply

      Thank you so much, Lauren!! That means a lot coming from someone who has seen as many details as you have!

  5. avatar Megan reply

    Emily, can I just say how much I love reading your posts, especially this one? You are such an amazing writer and so descriptive that I could imagine every little detail and moment! Your wedding was absolutely beautiful and I can’t wait for Part 2!

    • avatar Emily reply

      Megan, that is pretty much the nicest compliment anyone has ever given me. I’m so glad you are enjoying the posts!!

  6. avatar Lisa reply

    After seeing bits and pieces of your planning process, it was such a thrill to see your wedding in V5, Emily! And now it’s so exciting to hear more about the details and decisions that went into your gorgeous day, not to mention, see more of Tanja’s breathtaking pictures!

  7. avatar Taylor J reply

    Emily- I have so enjoyed your “Emily plans a wedding series” and to see the end result- I feel as if I’ve had the privilege of attending the wedding of a dear, old friend. What a stunning day. Best wishes to both of you, lovebirds!

  8. avatar Emily reply

    What a compliment, Taylor! I wish I COULD have invited y’all!!

  9. avatar Victoria C reply

    I have LOVED hearing about your planning process and now reading all about the day here, I know you two just had an amazing time. I feel like I was there with you and I am so happy for you! Thank you for all of the help you have provided to me as I’m planning my own wedding (coming up so soon – April 6)!

  10. avatar Graham reply

    AH-MAZ-ING! These are some of my favorite wedding pictures EVER! Emily and John’s wedding was the first thing I flipped to when we got our copy of V5! :)

  11. avatar Kelly reply

    The bells and bows, the INCREDIBLE pleated ribbon bouquet…. oh my heavens, lawdamercy. Just amazing!!!!!!

  12. avatar Mary reply

    I loved everything about this wedding. Emily, you were stunning!

    • avatar Emily reply

      Mary! Thank you so much – that is so kind of you to say!! There’s nothing like having your hair & makeup done by a master, and Tia certainly is one!

  13. avatar Sierra reply

    Em, you were simply breathtaking! Wishing so much happiness to you and John :)

  14. avatar Lisa's Southern Wedding: Our Venues – Southern Weddings Magazine reply

    […] first Southern Weddings gal who, since starting to work at SW, is having a wedding in the South! Emily was married in her home state of Connecticut and Katharine was married at her alma mater in […]

  15. avatar Happy Birthday, Emily! – Southern Weddings Magazine reply

    […] of our favorite photos of Emily + John by Tanja Lippert from their wedding day! See their wedding here and here. On the right: Emily showing off her cute-as-pie Smilephoto booth […]

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    […] of the most frequently asked questions from readers when planning my own wedding was about what I was doing for bridesmaid gifts. Everyone, it seems, is looking for a token […]

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    […] in the world under the most perfect blue sky you could imagine. You can take a peek at it all here and […]

  18. avatar Meghan reply

    Emily,
    I love all of the details of your day! I’m especially in LOVE with your boutonniere board. This is a really silly question – but did someone create the board for you? I’d love to do something similar (with ribbons tied similarly and presented similarly) for our escort cards, but I’m a HORRIBLE bow tier and I have no idea how you attached them to the board…haha. I know you posted this a long time ago, but just found it now that I’m in the throws of planning for our May 2nd wedding (which I hope to submit to y’all).

    Thanks a bunch!

  19. avatar Ali reply

    Hi! I just love your style and attention to detail. I see that your bridesmaid dresses are Dessy, After Six but what is the exact color called? I am in love with the color!

    Thank you!

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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