Gosh you guys, I can’t believe it’s already been two months since miss Caroline came into my life. All the cliche, cheesy things people say about having a baby have held true for me. And certainly some of the challenges, too. Needless to say, Ryan and I are just in love with this little person who has flipped our whole world upside down. This weekend we’re flying to San Diego for a short visit with my big sister and her boys – our first trip as a family of three! I consider a drive to the drugstore sort of exciting these days, so wish us luck on the short flight…
The story of Eric and Courtney’s marriage involves a Disneyland proposal, two wedding days, and living in three different countries. And it also involves a whole lot of lessons about learning to trust each other as a married couple, especially when you’re far from family and friends.
The two met once in college, but as Courtney says, it “didn’t take.” They met again later, but it took them a few years to realize they had been introduced before! Once they were together the second time, it did take and the couple quickly became inseparable.
When it came time for Eric to pop the question, he chose a trip the two were taking to Disneyland. “I had to carry the ring in my pocket for the whole day. I was paranoid the whole time while we were walking around and going on the rides. Luckily I did not lose the ring.” Very lucky indeed!
Eric and Courtney got married at the Malibu Courthouse, and then had a reception back home in Georgia, so they actually celebrate two wedding dates. After tying the knot, Eric and Courtney decided to move to Dubai for work, and learned a few lessons about their relationship in the process. Says Courtney, “The choice to become expats was a pretty formative day. I think it was important that we were both in agreement about the decision 100%. I don’t think it would’ve worked as well without both of us committing to the adventure. We’ve lived in 3 countries so far and I’m sure we have a few more to go. Picking up and moving to a new country, you have to really trust the person you’re with.”
With such big decisions and moves, Eric and Courtney have found that trust to be the key to their success. “We trust each other implicitly. I have rented an apartment, made an offer on a townhouse, and bought a car – none of which Eric had ever seen. On the flip side, I moved Dubai having never been there. I trusted his judgement that we could do it.”
Eric explains another key to their relationship is trusting the other’s strengths: “We have learned how to move through obstacles by letting the one who is best suited to deal with things deal with it. Whether its cooking, cleaning, banking, cars, cats, etc – we know where each other’s strengths are. We work quite well together, completing tasks by dividing and conquering. I’m pretty sure we would win the Amazing Race if we were ever cast on the show!”
In their time together, the two have learned to rely on each other for company, as well as the importance of taking time as individuals. “I think through our world travels and moving for work, we have learned how to appreciate each other’s company,” says Eric. “There have been times where we were the only people we hung out with for weeks at a time when we first moved to Dubai. We didn’t kill each other – but there were times where we came close.” And in order to keep sane, the two make sure to spend time apart. Courtney explains, “While we do a lot of things together, we still occasionally travel apart. Both of us have active work lives and spend time with friends separately.”
Between their trust in each other, and their ability to recognize when they might need time apart, I’d say Courtney and Eric are already succeeding at their very own Amazing Race!
SNAPSHOT SUBMISSIONS Do you know a married couple whose relationship you admire? Or maybe you’re married and want to share your words of wisdom! We’re now accepting submissions from couples who have been married for ten years or longer. Email Emily at firstname.lastname@example.org with your first names, how long you’ve been married, and a few sentences about why you’d like to be interviewed for our Snapshot of a Marriage series.
Gorgeous rings don’t have to cost a pretty penny! Between boutique designers, Etsy sellers, and vintage and estate curators there are plenty of unique engagement rings within budget. We’ve rounded up a few of our favorites in varying styles, all under $2,500!
How about this beautiful Appalachian wedding from Dixie Pixel?! Says the bride, “I’ve always wanted to get married in the church I grew up in, which is just about ten minutes outside of the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Tim knew this, so before he proposed he drove all the way from where we live in St. Louis to my hometown, to ask my parents’ permission. While there, he snapped a few photos of the church and used them in his proposal. So, it was a no-brainer that we’d get married at that church, in the Smoky Mountains, and everything else followed that decision.”
The groom describes one of his favorite parts of the day: “When Kathleen and I had a few moments to ourselves for photos before the wedding ceremony, there were a few moments in which I was standing out of the shot spectating. Seeing Kathleen on a hillside covered in wildflowers, in her bridal gown, with the Smoky Mountain horizon, was a scene that I will never forget. She was having the time of her life and looked absolutely stunning. She makes a wonderful Maria von Trapp.”
Says the bride, Kathleen, “I grew up going to the church where we were married. It sits about 50 yards from the banks of the Little River, and my five siblings and I would make a beeline right to the river after Sunday school, strip off our shoes and tights, and jump in to wade, skip rocks, and generally ruin our church clothes. It’s a strong and happy memory for me of time spent with my favorite people on this planet, so I liked the idea of extending that to our wedding day and to Tim and his brothers. After our ceremony ended and we walked out, we, along with all of our brothers and sisters kicked off our shoes, rolled up pants, hiked up skirts, and walked right in. It was silly, but also a reminder of how our our families have joined during the wedding and our marriage.”
A table of desserts included three cakes: vanilla with fresh raspberry filling, vanilla with lemon curd, and chocolate with chocolate filling.
There were two signature cocktails: Classic Manhattan Rittenhouse Rye for the groom (Sweet Vermouth, Orange bitters, cherry) and a Rosemary-Lemon French 75 for the bride (G-Vine gin, St. Germain, lemon-rosemary simple syrup made by the bride, splash of champagne).
SEE THE FULL GALLERY FOR MORE PHOTOS FROM THIS SMOKY MOUNTAIN WEDDING
What inspired you when you were planning your wedding? When you’re surrounded by such natural beauty, there’s no way to compete and no reason to do so! It became clear early on that we didn’t want to choose wedding details that would feel unnatural in a small country church, a cantilever barn, or the Smoky Mountains in general. This played out in various ways: we didn’t have a defined wedding palette, I didn’t choose bridesmaids dresses beyond a color (off-white), we incorporated herbs and greenery from my dad’s garden, and our guests were served family-style dinner. Even the bridal processional was a theme from the Appalachian Spring orchestral suite by Aaron Copland – untraditional, but just right for our location. The one exception I made to this whole approach was working in bits of metallic gold here and there, as a small foil to the rustic setting.
What was your favorite moment or part of the day? Besides the obvious (getting married), there are a few moments that really stood out… During the party part of the reception, there were so many people dancing and singing at the top of their lungs that the entire barn floor was literally shaking. I remember stopping in the middle of one of the songs and looking out and over the crowd, and realizing that almost every single person we love and who loves us were celebrating wholeheartedly, and it felt overwhelmingly special to me. The day was first and foremost about marrying Tim, but second in importance to that was sharing our happiness with our friends and family, and this single moment really highlighted that.
What was the best advice you received as a bride? During my wedding planning stress and freak out moments, my friends, sisters, and mom would remind me that at the end of the day, Tim and I would be married. It’s almost impossible to remember this when you are in the midst of wedding planning craziness, but it is 100% true. I can’t say that wedding and reception details don’t matter at all, but don’t let those details detract from the fact that it’s a marriage first and foremost, and a wedding after that.
What advice do you have for other brides? Go easy on yourself. Getting married is probably something you’ve never done before, and who does anything perfectly the first time? Engagement parties, showers, bachelorettes, and your wedding day itself brings with it a lot of new and unexpected experiences and emotions. It’s easy to tell yourself you should be feeling, doing, or saying certain things, but try to avoid that. Experience everything as it comes, and allow yourself to feel loved and special!
Do you have any budget tips for other brides? If you want to save money, don’t procrastinate with your planning. Saving money usually means more work, what with DIY-ing, price-comparing, finding and using coupons, or searching for second-hand items. If you’re completing projects last minute, you’re much less likely to choose the cost-cutting route. With the help of family and friends, everything was made or sourced by us, but a big reason we were able to do that is because we were doing things like buying guest bags, searching for vintage decanters, and wrapping favors months before the wedding.
Is there anything else that helps tell the story of the day? My mom has a natural soap company, and within a month or two of dating I gave some soap to Tim. He loved it, and immediately asked me how he could get a lifetime supply. Well, I guess the answer to that was marrying in to our family! Naturally, our favor to our guests was a small bar of that same soap, with a little label explaining that story. Burlap welcome bags also Rainwater Farm products: a mountain hiking survival kit with Rainwater Farm bug spray and Rainwater Farm sunscreen lip balm, as well as a granola bar and reusable water bottle; plus a front-porch-sittin kit, with a deck of cards, mix CD made by the groom, and Tennessee-made Moon Pies.
Shannon and Pete’s intimate DIY wedding took place in their own backyard, with delightful pics by Morrissey Photo…
“When Pete and I first started talking about what we envisioned for our wedding day, we always knew we wanted it to be simple,” says Shannon. “At first, we saw ourselves getting married at City Hall and having a small reception with family to follow. We realized how important it was for our family (and dog, Betty White) to be there, so we decided to invite immediate family to our own backyard, for an intimate wedding with 13 guests. We had just moved into our house about a year prior to getting engaged, so we worked hard to fix up the yard to make it presentable for the big day.”
Love this: “I am just a little obsessed with details, so we embarked on a lot of DIY projects. Hand-dying fabric to create ombre strips that would hang from a tree was our first Pinterest fail, but we still ended up using them. “
Says the bride: “Since my family has a Native American background, we wanted to include a blanket ceremony. We asked our families to send us scraps of patterned yellow and grey fabric, which my best friend’s mom was kind enough to sew into a beautiful color wheel quilt. It’s something we can hold onto forever and it reminds us of our families uniting and all of that awesomely cheesy stuff.”
Sips included home brewed beer (complete with labels designed by the groom) and sangria.
Says the bride: “Our families joined forces the days leading up to the wedding to help us hang string lights, streamers, install a yellow and white striped tent, wash all of the mismatched vintage china we had been collecting, make hors d’oeuvres, and a lot more. We were really lucky to have their help, and it made everything even more meaningful.”
The wedding was full of DIY details that the bride and groom created together. “We made our own home brew together and Pete even designed the labels. We canned four different types of homemade jams for favors, with my illustrations on the labels. We made our own invitations. Since we only had 13 guests (17 if you count us and our amazing photographers), I decided to make place cards with drawings of each person. We spray painted plastic bunnies with gold paint and created place card holders, since we have two bunnies of our own and they hold a special place in our little family.”
Says Shannon, “We told everyone we wouldn’t really be dancing, but when our photographers kindly encouraged us to dance a bit under the tree at night with all of the lights, we were really glad they did. Now we have “a song” we can look back on and remember the night: “You Can Have It All” by Yo La Tengo. It was a magical moment for us, under the lights and streamers and just staring at the stars while spinning slowly together.”
Even the couple’s wedding film was DIY! “My brother was filming footage during the day (his first time using a DSLR for video), so I pieced together my favorite bits for a DIY wedding video. I’ve never edited video before, so it’s amateur, but we love it since it’s set to our song.”
What was your favorite moment or part of the day? I managed to forget my bridal bouquet in our house as I was about to walk down our makeshift aisle with my dad. I had to run back inside and search all over the house for them, running past a confused caterer and trying to not take forever. When I came back out, I was frazzled, but felt calm after looking at the end of the aisle and realizing what we were about to do.
What was the best advice you received as a bride? You can’t please everyone, so try not to worry about what everyone else thinks. Having a wedding so intimate might be confusing to friends and extended family who really want to be there, but at the end of the day you should really do what feels right to you as a couple. Having a talented photographer (or two!) is key when you’re having such a small wedding, so you can share the details with everyone and remind them that their support means a lot in your life. Sometimes you have to step back and ask yourself, “Am I a big wedding person?” and go from there.
What advice do you have for other brides? During the wedding planning process, you’ll end up finding out a lot about each other, and during ours, we discovered we really like exploring things together. Even if it means burning a batch of homemade whoopie pies in the early hours of your wedding day and waking your sleep-deprived family with the lovely sounds of a smoke detector.
Is there anything else that helps tell the story of the day? Everything about our wedding day was just what I imagined: it was completely laid back and really about creating a conversation between our two families. We wanted a long, relaxed dinner with some of our favorite foods (shrimp tacos were a must) and our caterer really made that memorable. It was my brother’s birthday, so the chef even brought out a banana crème brûlée with a candle in it after everyone was lighting sparklers around the fire pit.