Photography by Mackensey Alexander.
Make yourself an iced tea and settle in for the sweet Southern wedding we are sharing with you today. Groom John is a chef, and he and his bride Sarah’s love for food is one I can definitely get behind. They even served a fun ‘his ‘n’ hers’ wedding menu, with the bride including her dad’s fave dish – how sweet is that! And there’s plenty more to get excited about with this wedding, including Sarah’s romantic off the shoulder lace gown and cathedral veil, and how could you not love those beautiful lavender bridesmaid gowns?!
Did you include any traditions in your wedding? My something old and something blue was a piece of my mother’s wedding dress (which was blue) that I had sewn into the back of my dress. I surprised her with that detail on the wedding day, which was really special.
What advice do you have for other couples in the midst of planning a wedding? Don’t take the planning process too seriously. You don’t ever want the planning or wedding to feel bigger than the marriage or the love between you two. That is why, if you have the budget, I recommend hiring a planner. Let that person execute your vision so that you can enjoy being in love and engaged. This way, you can really appreciate all the family and friends who are showing up to witness this blessed event.
Why did you choose this location for your ceremony? It was important to both of us to be married in a church. John has strong ties to the Episcopal Church and the clergy there, so Christ Church was the perfect fit for us. We feel fortunate that this church also happens to be the most beautiful church in Savannah!
What was your ceremony music? We had a string ensemble that accompanied the church organist. It was important to John to have the tradition of the organ and it was important to me that the music feel soft, intimate and romantic, so the combination turned out beautifully.
Prelude: Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, Bach / Processional: Canon in D, Pachelbel / Offertory: Panis Angelicus, Franck / Postlude: Hornpipe (from Water Music), Handel.
Your ceremony in three words. Classic, subtle, devotional. It was religious and traditional, though slightly unconventional for a religious service in the sense that all the music was instrumental rather than including congregational singing.
How did you go about planning your ceremony? Did you include any traditions? We had lots of help from the clergy and staff of Christ Church, and followed The Book of Common Prayer. It was important to us that all of our parents (not just my dad) stand beside us during the presentation of the bride, as they all have such an impact on our love and marriage. It was also very important that we share in communion with all our family and friends.
Who officiated your ceremony? How did you choose him/her?
The Reverends Michael and Helen White. Michael is the Rector of Christ Church, but more so we chose them because John has known them since he was a kid, and knew that they are both loving and supportive role models, not only in their own relationship, but also in their ministry.
What were your vows like?
Our vows followed The Book of Common Prayer.
Can you share your wedding ceremony script and or wedding vows with us? Revered White opened and then we gave the declaration of consent to each other, and the congregation gave their declaration of consent to uphold us in our marriage. Then we prayed and the Song of Solomon was read by Sarah’s cousin Lori and The Gospel of John was read by Reverend Helen White. Then Reverend White gave a short Homily (sermon). Then we said our vows, and gave each other the rings. The Revered led a series of prayers and blessed our marriage, during which we kneeled while the congregation stood. We then said The Peace, with the Reverend leading: “The Peace of the Lord be always with you” and the congregation responding “And also with you.” That is when we kissed and were wed! We finished with communion; we were offered communion first, then our wedding party, then our parents and close relatives, then the rest of the congregation. John and I sat to the side of the alter and were able to greet all of the guests as they came up, which was very special to us.
What was your favorite thing about your wedding ceremony? My time alone with my dad right before walking down the aisle was very special, but sharing in communion with our loved ones was probably John and my collective favorite part.
Is there anything else that you’d like to share about your wedding ceremony? A funny story: even though we rehearsed, I was so nervous during the ceremony that I forgot that before communion we were actually wed and therefore it’s time to kiss—it happens in what feels like the middle of the ceremony if you aren’t used to an Episcopal service! So I wouldn’t kiss John at first because I thought it was too soon ☺
What inspired you when you were planning your wedding? My vision was to have a more formal religious ceremony and a fun outdoor reception, that had an ethereal and romantic vibe. I liked the look of asymmetry and greenery when it came to our bouquets and reception décor. I generally prefer classic and timeless over trendy…but to be honest I just did my best to describe what I pictured to my planner Alysse Sweeney of Design Studio South. Along with Kim August of August Floral & Event Design, she brought it all to life in the most beautiful way. Then Mackensey Alexander captured the beauty in a way no other photographer can (Kim and Mackensey were of course Alysse’s recommendations!) I was really lucky to have such amazing people involved in the planning and implementation process.
As a tribute to John’s work as a chef, and in line with the natural and ethereal vibe we wanted, Kim used a lot of herbs. You can see how amazing our table assignments were, with each table being a pot of herbs and greenery. All the boutonnieres were herbs as well.
Why did you choose this location for your reception? I really wanted the reception to be outside, and to feel ethereal. The gardens at the Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum are absolutely beautiful—everything was luscious and green. There was a lot of space for people to break off and explore, and to be able to get away from the main area. But a major reason we chose it was because it is downtown—so an easy walk or trolley ride for us and all of our guests from the church, and then back again to their hotels or homes. Another plus was during the cocktail hour people got to explore the actual museum, which was awesome.
Are there any DIY details you’d like to tell us about? I didn’t really do many things on my own, as during our engagement I was getting my master’s, graduating, getting a new job, and moving house! I was lucky enough to have an amazing team around me doing all the planning and implementing for me. Our florist Kim actually used a lot of pieces from her own home and garden for the reception, which I absolutely loved as it brought that personal touch.
What was the best advice you received as a bride? To get a wedding planner and accept their help! I wish I had listened to that advice sooner. I really didn’t have the time to do any DIY things or do much of the logistical stuff on my own, but I can be a little bit of a control freak so I found that hard. I wish I would have trusted Alysse more in the first 6 months of the process rather than worrying so much.
If you had it to do over again, is there anything you would do differently? I go back and forth, haha. Sometimes I think I would do something smaller and simpler to save money and stress. Then other times I decide that it was so perfect that I wouldn’t change a thing. Like I said, know the type of personality you are and bride you will be and do what you have to do to stress less and enjoy more! If you possibly can, then I would make the guest list as small as you can get away with (but I understand this is easier said than done – we had nearly 200 guests!). Trust your planner and let them do more. And try to tell yourself over and over that this is probably one of the few times that you get the day and event you want, so go with your gut and don’t let other people (besides your planner!) make you second guess yourself.
What was your wedding menu? We served a ‘his ‘n’ hers’ menu. His: Smoked whole Savannah River Farms pig and pork butts / Korean bibimbap fried rice / Grilled Mexican style street corn / Tortilla station // Hers: Marinated grilled seasonal vegetables / Chicken marsala with wild mushrooms / Truffle risotto bar.
John was very adamant that the food be delicious, unique and executed well—which it was, thanks to Chef Nick Mueller. You can probably tell right off the bat that John’s menu was more adventurous than mine! The risotto was my favorite. And I love chicken marsala, but I really included it because it is pretty much my dad’s favorite food, so that was for him (and he couldn’t have been happier!)
Do you have any budget tips for other brides? I do! Having gone through wedding planning, I feel like one really good way to save money is by having desserts rather than a big tiered cake, which runs between $1000 and $2000. Good food is really important at a wedding, but question if your menu seems to include too much food, or whether you can lessen the amount of options to save money. Because most costs are per head at a wedding, either try and limit your guests or if you are set on a large wedding then lowering the per head cost as much as possible is your best bet. Serving just beer and wine rather than an open bar will save you a lot as well (though having said that, an open bar is something we felt strongly about as your wedding is likely the best party you will ever throw.) If getting married in a church isn’t important to you, then having the ceremony and the reception at the same place will save you money. It was really important to us to have transportation for all of our guests (we used trolleys, which were really fun and went along with the vibe or our weekend perfectly), but having people stay on site if it is an all-inclusive place or be able to walk or use Uber will save you a lot of money.
Having a planner was crucial to me and something I feel was worth every penny. But if you are a DIY person who enjoys and has the time for planning and sorting through individual vendors, you will save on a planner’s fees, and also will save a lot on Etsy or other vendors charging you for the cost of their labor for decorations etc. And think of connections you may have – a close family friend did the calligraphy for the invitations. It was wonderful to have her involved in the day, while also being abig cost saver!
My final budget advice is to come up with your budget at the very beginning, together with your fiancé, as well as your parents or whoever will be chipping in. Whatever this budget range is, my advice is stick to it, no matter how appealing all the add ons are. Wedding costs can get out of control if you don’t keep it reigned in and you could regret the cost. You don’t want to put a damper on the memory of the day if spent money you didn’t truly have it to spend.
What type of cake or dessert did you serve? I don’t like eating a lot of icing and I really don’t like fondant, so we had a three tiered naked cake. The cake was white almond. The top layer filling was buttercream, the middle layer was blueberry lemon with buttercream on the edge (for the look), and the filling of the bottom (the biggest layer) was raspberry with buttercream on the edge.
What was your first dance song? Father/daughter or mother/son dance?
Our first dance was to I Found You by Alabama Shakes. The father/daughter dance was to My Girl by The Temptations, and mother/son to Forever Young by Bob Dylan.
Overall, how would you describe your reception? Since it was important to us that we have a religious ceremony in the church, we wanted to really let loose at our reception! Thanks to the wonderful team we had, the setting was ethereal and romantic. It was exactly the party we imagined—amazing food, a Motown band playing all night (people danced before, during and after dinner and by the end of the night the dance floor was full and the seats were empty.) I love looking back at all the sweaty, happy people on the dance floor (because hey, an outside reception is Savannah is bound to be a little sultry.)
How fabulous are these next shots of Sarah’s bouquet toss? The expressions on the faces of the bride and her waiting friends are just priceless!
What was your favorite moment or part of the reception? At the end of the night the band (Azz Izz) brought John and I up on stage and we helped them sing I’ll Be There by The Jackson Five to all of our family and friends. It was so special and fun; John and I will hold that memory dear forever. At the end of the song, the drummer gave me his drumsticks, whcih I still have!
Please tell us about any other special details or moments from your reception. Another funny story: for the send off, everyone was given an individual paper cone of dried lavender to throw at us. So of course more than one person (no names, you know who you are!) just threw the whole cone at John, haha!