Today we head to North Carolina, though you might not know it from the photos – as the bride says, “We really chose the Graylyn Estate for our wedding because we thought it looked and felt like Downton Abbey.” In addition to the gorgeous venue, we love the sweet peach flowers, romantic ceremony arch, and whimsical carnation garlands hung over the cake table – not to mention the bride’s infectious smile!
Photography by Nancy Ray.
The bride on their wedding venue: “Graylyn feels like walking into a story book or a fairy tale. We wanted all of our guests to feel welcome, which is why we had our ceremony, dinner and reception all in the same place. We wanted the whole night to feel like a dream.”
Did you include any traditions in your wedding? My mom had a garter made from some of the fabric from her wedding dress. She and my dad eloped when they were in law school, and she wore the nicest dress she had, which was a beautiful blue. Then, she borrowed a diamond heart pin that was my grandmother’s to pin to it. And because it was newly made, the garter itself was something new! All together: old, new, borrowed, and blue.
What was the best advice you received as a bride? Have a first look. I was nervous the whole morning, but when I saw Christian that afternoon before the ceremony, it all fell away. And we both realized how happy we were to be getting married. Have a first look! It changes everything!
“We were supposed to have the ceremony outside, but, it started pouring rain exactly at 4:30 when it was set to start. So, we did the indoor option in the Graylyn Atlantis room, which has an entire wall of windows. The most beautiful part… immediately after we said our vows, the rain suddenly stopped, and the sun came out. It was like a dream!”
Your ceremony in three words. Open, welcoming, intimate.
How did you go about planning your ceremony? We worked with a few different people, starting with our minister, Fr. Bob Randall. We chose a ceremony where we could write our own vows, called “letters of love and commitment,” and then also say the formal, traditional ones. Our wedding planners, Becca Atchison and Betsy Krug from Rebecca Rose Events helped us coordinate the rest!
Who officiated your ceremony? Fr. Bob was Christian’s first boss. Christian was the youth pastor at his church, Old Donation Episcopal, in Virginia Beach. Fr. Bob knew us the best, as he helped guide us both through long distance, and showed us what marriage is truly about.
Did you include any traditions in your ceremony? We lit a unity candle, first lit by our mothers as they processed down the aisle. Lighting it together at the end of our ceremony symbolized our two families becoming one.
What was your ceremony music? Bridal party processional: “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” by Elvis // Bride Processional: “Marry Me” by Train // Hymns: Ave Maria, Hope’s Anthem, Bethel Church // Recessional “The Best Thing” by Relient K
What were your ceremony readings? Corinthians 13: 1-13 // Psalm 128 // John 15: 9-12
What were your vows like? We wrote our own vows, in the form of “Letters of Love and Commitment” before saying our formal vows. I talked about how Christian changed my life, introducing me to a world of love, joy and happiness that I never thought was possible. Christian talked about our little family (with our dog, Cooper!) and how he loved the path our lives are on together. We both promised to love each other, and support each other no matter what. Both of us were laughing and crying by the end!
What was your favorite thing about your wedding ceremony? Absolutely the vows. It made our ceremony so intimate, and so real. It also gave a guests a closer peek into our relationship, and what matters to us.
What advice do you have for other couples in the midst of planning a wedding? Let the little stuff go. There will be so many decisions you have to make, and you won’t get your way on everything. Even on the day, something will go wrong, and you will notice, but you just have to let it go.
“How would I describe our reception? Spectacular! We had signature cocktails of white sangria (my favorite!) and Red Oak (Christian’s favorite!). We had a plated dinner, and the gorgeous Graylyn home made it feel like we were all having dinner together. Then, our band made the dancing SO FUN! Everyone, from my 14 year old cousin to my 89 year old grandfather were rocking out!”
What inspired you when you were planning your wedding? Our wedding planner told us, don’t make decisions based on what you think will make other people happy. Make decisions based on what will make you happy. We did that for everything from the tablecloths to the readings during our ceremony. And it paid off, because our wedding could not have been more “us.”
Do you have any budget tips for other brides? Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate! We saved thousands of dollars by asking vendors if they could remove things from their packages that we didn’t want. It saves you so much!
Special songs: First Dance: “Let me Down Easy” by Billy Currington // Father/Daughter: “Jeepers Creepers” by Louis Armstrong // Mother/Son: “Close Your Eyes” by James Taylor
What type of cake or dessert did you serve? We had two kinds of cake: red velvet with cream cheese frosting, and coconut cake with vanilla frosting.
What was your favorite moment or part of the reception? The toasts. The balcony created a perfect platform for our family members to toast us, and let everyone see and hear the beautiful stories they told. Carolyn the Maid of Honor, sang a song called “May You Always,” my favorite from when we were growing up. I cried through the whole thing! It was so special for her to share that with me, and our family and friends on our special day.
Please tell us about any other special details or moments from your reception. The photographers had left by this point, but toward the end of the night, our bridal party picked us up in chairs and danced us around the dance floor during “Shut Up and Dance With Me.” So fun! Also, after the reception was over, we ordered pizza to the basement of Graylyn for all of our friends. It was a great way for us to hang out with them at the end of the night and catch up.
Is there anything else that helps tell the story of your wedding. As Mary Poppins would say, it was practically perfect in every way.