Mimia will no question go down in history as one of my favorite Southern Brides of the Month ever. I adore her thoughts on what makes a wedding Southern, I love how complimentary she is about her beau and his wedding planning skillz, and I love their engagement story. Given the epic travails Mimia + Joel went through with their venues (yes, multiple venues), her sunny outlook is even more amazing, and her advice and reflections, even more valuable. Friends, please enjoy this interview!
Howdy! What’s your name?
What’s your fiancé’s name?
How did the two of you meet? Tell us your story.
That’s a tricky question because the first time we met, I don’t exactly remember (whah-whah). I was an undergrad at Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia, and Joel had just moved to Savannah to start his master’s degree in Furniture Design. I was super involved in college, and of course had volunteered as an orientation assistant. We had to arrive around 7am, and a morning person I am not; I was even more disgruntled about the fact that I was assigned to the grad student table. Little did I know that would be where I met Joel for the first time. Joel remembers me charming him with my stories of growing up near his alma mater of Appalachian State, but it’s all a little hazy to me.
Lucky for me, Joel got a job at the restaurant across the street from the building where all my major classes were. At the time, SCAD was a small school, and Savannah is a small city, and we just kept running in to one another.
Finally, that winter, of course I had volunteered to work at the school’s annual gala and Joel’s restaurant was catering the event. I thought I would waltz over and offer to sneak him a drink during his shift. That drink turned into eight amazing years, 6 apartments, 4 cities, and one incredible partnership.
Have I said how much I love Mimia + Joel’s engagement photos? So much!
Now tell us alllll about the proposal.
Whoa – talk about a surprise. We had been dating for seven years, and this girl has always she was never getting married. I told Joel that I didn’t need a ring on my finger to show the world how we felt about each other — they should see it in my eyes and my heart. We had never looked at rings, never even talked about getting engaged, but we always talked about “when we’re old people” and “when we get a house” and I might have even let the phrase “when we have kids” slip out of my lips.
My family had planned a big trip to Hawaii, but I had no idea what was awaiting me when we got there. We spent the week kayaking, snorkeling, and surfing with my family, but on Friday, Joel was adamant that my mom, dad, and sister do a tour on their own. We started out that morning driving the perimeter of the big island to a location that I wasn’t allowed to know. We drove literally to the end of the road. What awaited us was the most beautiful cliff looking out onto a black sand beach growing out of a rain forest. I thought, oh how scenic, we can take some amazing Instagrams and keep on trucking.
But before I could get out of the car, Joel asked if I was ready to put on my hiking shoes. I should probably clarify that I don’t own sneakers, so I tied on my fierce saddle oxfords and prepared for a trek. I had no idea that a steep climb (more like a repel) down the side of a mountain was in my future. After about 30 minutes of intense hiking, we reached the beach. It was literally us, the beach, and the sky. I was fooling around with Joel’s camera, and could tell he was doing something in the sand off in the distance. Of course I had to see what he was up to, and to my surprise, spelled out in the sand, accompanying the most incredible ring I had ever seen, were the words “Wife Up?”
The first words out of my mouth were “Is this real life?” I honestly was in shock, and what I remember most vividly about that moment is trembling in each other’s arms for what felt like an eternity, and if I could live in that moment for the rest of my life, I would be completely satisfied.
I am by no stretch of the imagination athletic, but I have never hiked faster, or with more excitement in my life, as I did up and off the beach that day. We couldn’t wait to tell our families!
Let’s see the ring!
The months leading up to the Hawaii trip got crazy, and I was working 10 and 12 hour days, getting home late every night, and spending weekends in the office. I had no idea that Joel was using all of his extra “man time” to plan the most incredible surprise. He put his 3-d drawing skills to work, and crafted the most perfect, modern piece of jewelry I have ever laid these brown eyes on. All those nights when I was working late, he sat at our computer, drafting the design and rendering the entire ring so the metalworker could see every dimension and facet. With the help of a jeweler friend of ours, he was able to purchase the diamond here in New York and then design the setting around it. He had it delivered to his office the day before we left for Hawaii so I couldn’t find it – talk about cutting it close!
When’s the big day?
September 28, 2013
Where might you two be tying the knot?
Asheville, North Carolina
How did you pick your ceremony and reception venues? What do you love most about each space?
What a loaded question.
When we first decided on Asheville as the perfect halfway point between our families in Bristol, Tennessee and Greensboro, NC, we knew we wanted a beautiful industrial space that would really set off the natural beauty of the Appalachian Mountains. After only viewing the Lift Studios, an old Nabisco Factory converted into gallery space for local artist Daniel McClendon, we knew it was perfect — we just needed to find a ceremony space to match.
When I originally contacted Emily back in February, we had contracted with a farm in Fairview, North Carolina to build a ceremony space from the stone remains of a burnt-out house. Joel and I meticulously drafted plans and spoke with the owner at length about the small changes that would be needed to complete the project, and he assured us that it would done by July, well in advance of our September wedding. July 4th weekend, Joel and I made the trip down from NYC to Asheville to check out the space one last time and walk through final plans with our coordinator.
That was when things started to fall apart. The space wasn’t ready, and we were told it wouldn’t be even close to ready by September. It was definitely frustrating, but we were determined to work it out. After all, it was just the ceremony venue, and most of our plans centered around the reception space, so we could slot in a different location, no problem.
We spent the rest of the weekend with our awesome planner, Kiersa Holy, scouring Asheville for another available venue. Unfortunately, we didn’t find anything we were in love with, especially considering the strict constraints we had. Joel and I are lucky enough to be graced with two sets of maternal grandparents who can celebrate with us on our special day, but they do come with a list of requirements: close parking, level ground, bathrooms, no steps… the list could go on and on. Finally, after calling what I am almost positive was every single venue in Western North Carolina, Kiersa was able to secure the beautiful North Carolina Arboretum for our 6:30 ceremony.
I remember sitting at work, having just signed the contract for the Arboretum, when Joel called and said, “You’re not going to believe this.” (Those weren’t his exact words, but the ones he used can’t be repeated outside of prisons and pool halls.) The owners of the Lift had called that morning to inform her that they would no longer be honoring their contract because the original occupancy number they had quoted us was not valid with the city, and we could either cut our guest list in half or find a different space. Devastation doesn’t even describe the weeks that followed. Invites were designed, ready to go to press; rental contracts were signed and deposits sent in; friends and family had booked flights from all over the country; fiasco is about the closest I can come to a description of that time. With only 8 weeks before the big day, Joel and I had planned and unplanned a wedding in a matter of days.
Once we realized the thousands upon thousands of dollars it was going to cost to “undo” all of the planning, we consulted Susan Olive, Joel’s cousin and an incredible and well-respected lawyer in Durham. I have to give a major shout-out to her, because instead of just giving us advice, she was on the phone with the city of Asheville, the fire inspector, the building inspector, the owners of the property — probably the mayor for all we know — resolving the whole situation.
Now, here we are, four weeks before the hitchin’, with our ceremony scheduled for 6:30 pm at the Johnston Pool at the North Carolina Arboretum and a 7:30 shindig at the Lift Studios in the River Arts District of Asheville. And if I had to pick what I like most about the venues, it’s that we have them, and so far, they haven’t backed out on their contracts :)
Tell us a little bit about the wedding you’re planning: style, theme, feel, colors?
Joel is a furniture designer and I am an art director, so to say we’re picky about design would be the understatement of the century. To save our sanity, instead of trying to identify a theme or color scheme, we have purposefully chosen every detail with the emotion that it will invoke. How will it make our guests feel, what will they remember, and what will they reflect on? (Even long after the event is over.)
The most prominent color we have used is mint, with touches of grey and of course Tennessee orange, but our florals will mainly be succulents with pops of seasonal shades. If I had to nail it down in a few words, I would classify it as a Sassy Southern Soireé.
Pretty close to Mimia + Joel’s palette, via Brooklyn Bride
Who or what has been most helpful and/or inspiring in the wedding planning process?
Our grandparents have been the number one inspiration as we have planned the entire thing. Both sets of them have been married almost 60 years, and experiencing the love, respect and total adoration they have for one another is all we could ever hope to achieve with our marriage. After all, we’re planning for our marriage and not simply a wedding.
How have you involved your “community” (friends, family, etc.) in the wedding planning process?
Much to my mom’s chagrin, Joel and I have taken on most of the planning, designing, and “chaos” ourselves. We wanted our family and friends to be able to show up on the big day and just enjoy it without worrying about having to make or bring or set up or even lift a finger.
Has your vision for your wedding changed or evolved over the course of your engagement? If so, how?
Because I was never one of those girls that dreamed of my wedding day, I would say that Joel and I developed a vision for the wedding together. That was such a huge blessing, because it was never what I dreamed of or what he wanted, it was always what we wanted to experience together on our wedding day.
See more of Mimia + Joel’s amazing save the dates here!
What part of wedding planning, if any, has made you the most anxious?
After having two venues cancel on us, I can safely say that nothing can really ruffle my feathers at this point. Anything that “goes wrong” really isn’t so bad in the grand scheme of life.
Besides that, paying for the whole thing ourselves has been the most stressful part. Going a year and a half with minimal dinners out, no vacation and not even buying Christmas presents for one another will definitely be so worth it when we get to experience this incredible day with our friends and families.
How has the budgeting been? What’s your best budgeting tip?
I am the last person on the planet that should be asked this question. I can justify just about any expense with “we’re only doing this once.” Needless to say, we made a budget and have exceeded it probably three times over.
This is probably the opposite of what most financial advisers will tell you, but as soon as Joel and I got engaged, we both got credit cards with great mileage rewards. We started using that for wedding expenses and for everyday purchases (of course paying it off every month). Now, a year and half later, we will be using our miles to pay for all of our accommodations on our honeymoon. By no means do I want anyone to go out and get into credit card debt, but if you use them responsibly, you can make them work in your favor.
Of course, their invites were equally as beautiful and intricate (with buttons!). See more photos here.
Tell us about the one that got away. Is there one dream thing or vendor you wish you could have fit into your budget?
Nope – not a thing. If it was just me and Joel doing this in a Dollar Store parking lot, I would be elated. There is nothing in the world I need more than just my guy.
Have you picked your dress yet? How’d that go? What will you be wearing on the big day?
Yes – my mom, sister and Joel’s mom flew to New York for a weekend to help me pick it out because I am so indecisive. After a whirlwind trip to at least 8 different salons, I finally found one that I think I won’t hate when I look back at the photos in 50 years. They are the only ones who have seen it – not even my nanny – so I don’t want to give away too many details before the big day. But I can tell you it’s a Vera Wang and she’s a beauty.
What do you love most about Southern weddings?
I have always thought that “Southern” is a state of mind. What makes a wedding Southern isn’t a barn, or wearing your grandmother’s pearls, or having everything down to your panties monogrammed. While all of those things are definitely a mark of a marriage below the Mason-Dixon, what I love most about a Southern wedding is the feeling of being surrounded by a huge group of people who love and support you and the new family you are building together. There is just something about a gaggle of Southerners in their Sunday best, joining together to stuff themselves with fried foods and sweet tea, that will always feel special to me.
Bouquet inspiration from Green Wedding Shoes (photo by Jill Thomas) and Ruffled (photo by Jonathan Ong)
Do you have a favorite Etsy or independent store you’d love to tell us about?
We have ordered from too many Etsy stores to count, but beyond that, Spoonflower.com has been a godsend for printing custom fabric, gift wrap… you name it, they will print it for you. And they are in North Carolina, which is always a big plus in my book.
What has been the best part of wedding planning? The worst part?
Wait – there’s a best part? Kidding (only slightly). For us it has been the reinforcement that family will be there for anything. The way Joel’s cousin Susan jumped in and resolved our venue issue, or how my mom hand-punched and sewed 100 individual confetti packets — those are the moments that remind you of just how lucky you are to have these incredible people in your life that you get to bring together and celebrate with, if only for one day.
Tell us about planning with your fiancé. Has it gone smoothly? Is he more involved, or hands-off?
One word – fantastic. Joel should really just go into the wedding planning business. People don’t believe me when I say that some things will even be a surprise to me on our wedding day, because Joel has planned so much on his own. Each week, we make a list of things that need to get done, and then divide and conquer. Some weeks, Joel ends up taking over some of the tasks on my list and finishes them himself. I don’t know how I got so lucky but I try to tell him every day how thankful I am not just for his help with the wedding but that I get to spend every day beside him. I know – super sappy, but super true.
More decor inspiration!
What are you most looking forward to on your wedding day?
Besides actually seeing everything come together, and without giving away too much, all I have to say is, “Hot Now.”
Any plans for a honeymoon? Where do you want to go and what will you do?
Huge shout-out to Louisa Gehring, our travel agent, who planned the most amazing honeymoon to Thailand. She gave us a bunch of options in our budget and helped us maximize our honeymoon dollars while still organizing an incredible 5-star experience in an exotic place. We’re spending the first half of the trip in Phuket in our own private pool villa with some kayaking and snorkeling built in, and then we will hop back up to Bangkok for a little shopping, history, and rooftop dining.
What are you most looking forward to about marriage?
As crazy as it sounds, being able to call each other husband and wife. I know that sounds so small, but after dating for 8 years, boyfriend and girlfriend didn’t quite fit the sentiment of our relationship.
I am so glad you joined us today, Mimia. Fingers crossed no more venues cancel on you!! Readers, if you’d like to apply to be a Southern Bride of the Month, check out this post for all the details! If you’ve already emailed me, you’re still in the running for future months!