Whitney + Sam’s wedding is gorgeous, and classically Southern! Every detail makes me proud to be a Southerner, and I am all ready to take a trip to Nola! Especially since I’ve always wanted to be a part of a traditional Second Line!
But what makes this wedding special is truly the people. While reading their interview I laughed, teared up and decided I needed to become friends with Whitney! Her incredible insight about what’s important in not only a wedding, but a marriage touched my heart deeply. While sitting with some friends at 5 o’clock in the morning after celebrating they big day she thought: “this is the point. This time together, celebrating with and honoring the people who love you for the happiness they’ve brought into your lives — this is why you have a wedding reception.” Holy cow, y’all! I’m pretty sure that is the epitome of the Sweet Tea Society.
Big hugs to Mr. Graham Terhune for capturing the joy and love this wedding exuded! And very happy belated birthday wishes!
I actually found my dress online almost four years before our wedding. I was helping a recently engaged friend look for a dress and came across one that was everything I was looking for. I bookmarked it and filed it away for future reference. When we got engaged three years later, I knew that the dress would probably not be available, but I wanted to use it as a reference point to find something similar. When I asked the bridal consultant if they had anything similar, she told me they still had the original dress and on major sale since it was three years old. I was ecstatic!
Did you decide to do a “first look”? We did not do a first look, because one of the things I was most looking forward to during our ceremony was the look on Sam’s face as I came down the (very long) aisle. However, I did see Sam before the wedding. I love a man in a bowtie, so I slowly started convincing Sam to wear bowties after we started dating. He has, to this day, never learned how to tie one himself. It’s our tradition for me to tie them for him. After we were both dressed, we blindfolded Sam and led him over to the cottage where I was getting ready, and I tied his wedding day bowtie for him.
We had our programs printed on handkerchiefs so our guests would have the traditional white handkerchief to wave in the air as they danced in our Second Line!
What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? As my bridesmaids and groomsladies were lining up to walk down the aisle, my flower girl Elizabeth and I lined up behind them. Just as I started to get nervous, Elizabeth turned to me and started telling me a story about a “really cool lizard” she had found that morning. It was the perfect distraction—it made me laugh so I didn’t lose it. Then, after the wedding party processional finished, right before Elizabeth walked down the aisle in front of me, she turned over her shoulder and said to me, “I bet he’s going to tell you that you look beautiful.” Then, I lost it.
Our favorite feature was the benediction, which my Maid of Honor found for us. It reads: “Go out into the world in peace. Have courage, hold onto that which is good, return no one evil for evil, strengthen the fainthearted, support the weak, help those who are suffering, honor all peoples and things, love and serve your living God.
Our recessional was a surprise entrance by our cocktail hour brass band. They led us and our guests in a Second Line parade from the ceremony to the cocktail hour behind the plantation house! Our first dance at the reception was “You Send Me” by Sam Cooke.
I have three guy friends who are such an incredible part of my life, and Sam has three girl friends that he feels the same way about. We knew from the beginning that we wanted those people to be standing on our sides rather than respecting the usual gender lines, so I had six bridesmaids and three “bridesmen”, and Sam had six groomsmen and three “groomsladies.
My mom raised me as a single parent from the time I was eight, so I decided I wanted the traditional father/daughter dance to be with her instead. As a surprise, I had the band learn “The Letter” by The Boxtops, the band that played at her high school prom. She was SO excited when she realized what they were playing while we were dancing!
How did the two of you meet? Tell us your story. Sam and I both went to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and one of Sam’s best friend’s from high school ended up being a good friend and sorority sister of mine. One night at a party our senior year, Sam blurted out to me that we had actually been in the same freshman orientation group the summer before our freshman year — I had no idea! I thought it was pretty charming that he remembered briefly encountering me so long ago. We dating the fall after graduation. A year and a half later, Sam left North Carolina for the first time and moved to New Orleans with me so that I could attend grad school. That was when I knew he was the one.
Describe the proposal. Total perfection. Sam told me that we were going to a have drinks at this old fancy restaurant in the French Quarter called Tujague’s, which is just a few buildings down from Jackson Square, my favorite spot in the city. As we approached Tujague’s, Sam said we were actually early and suggested we take a stroll around Jackson Square before heading in. He led me over to a bench and started saying all these wonderful things to me about how much he loved me and how he wanted to spend his life with me. Sam is always so sweet and kind that I didn’t realize anything was out of the ordinary yet. Then, he got down on one knee and pulled out a ring, and I lost my mind. You know the Kristen Bell sloth video? That’s pretty much how I reacted. Despite my hysterics, he did pop the question and I did say yes. Then, Sam told me we actually were going to Tujague’s for a celebration dinner. I was thrilled to have such a perfect place to celebrate. The maitre d’ showed us to a small private dining room, where my mother, his mother, my best friend Logan, and my favorite Aunt and Uncle were there to surprise me and celebrate with us. It was everything I could have wanted.
In what month did you get married? June
How many guests attended your wedding? 260
Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? We did write our own vows. Sam grew up very active in his family’s church in Charlotte, and I didn’t grow up going to church at all, so we wanted to have a ceremony that would fit both of our backgrounds and our families. We started with a traditional protestant ceremony and changed most of the wording to fit our taste. We really wanted to focus on the ideals that we’re both committed to: loyalty, gratitude, and service to others.
Tell us about your wedding officiant. We were so, so lucky to have the amazing father of one of my bridesmaids officiate our wedding. He was so warm, supportive, and excited! It gave our wedding such a personal touch that he was able to speak about knowing both of us and my mother for many years.
What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? We used Song of Solomon Chapter 8, verses 6 and 7 and The Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.
Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding. We were so lucky to have our friends David and Cambey Mikush perform for our guests before the ceremony and for David to perform our ceremony music. His beautiful voice and acoustic guitar were perfect for our setting, and we chose nontraditional music that had great significance to us. For the seating of our mothers, David played “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles. Our wedding party processed to “Warm Love” by Van Morrison (my favorite musician) and I walked down the aisle to “Into the Mystic” (also by Van Morrison, and my favorite song).
Describe your wedding flowers: Our bridesmaids’ and groomsladies’ bouquets, as well as the reception centerpieces, were a mix of white tulips, purple and blue irises, and purple and blue hydrangea. My bouquet was white and blush peonies, and I asked our florist to use peonies that hadn’t yet opened all the way to create a more delicate, elegant look. We also had a giant magnolia blossom wreath on the front door of the plantation, right behind where our officiant was standing.
Describe your rings. My engagement ring was my grandmother’s. I was extremely close to my grandparents, so to know that I have the honor of wearing this beautiful symbol of love that my grandfather picked out for his bride makes me feel close to them even though they’re gone. Plus, wearing an engagement ring that symbolized a long and happy marriage is a constant inspiration to me. I didn’t change a thing about the ring’s design because I loved it just as it was — it was even the right size. Sam’s ring is his father’s wedding band. His father passed away when Sam was in college. To be able to have such meaningful memories attached to our rings makes them all the more special.
Describe your wedding cake or dessert: We had a traditional wedding cake with Bavarian cream filling and buttercream icing. We wanted it to be simple and delicious, and it was! My mother and I made our cake toppers. We took two hand-blown glass pelican Christmas ornaments, removed the hooks, and decorated them to look like a bride and groom. We saved the hooks so Sam and I can use them as Christmas ornaments on our tree. Sam’s groom’s cake was his absolute favorite flavor, Funfetti, with chocolate buttercream icing. We used the same cake topper that was used for Sam’s parents’ wedding cake.
What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? Pretty much everything. We served Planter’s Punch cocktails to guests as they arrived at the plantation to make sure they were cool and comfortable. Our venue, Houmas House Plantation and Gardens, is right on the Mississippi River in the heart of Louisiana. Between the plantation house, the live oaks filled with Spanish moss, and the plantation bell that rang to announce the start of the ceremony and my walk down the aisle, it’s pretty much as picturesque as it can be. The food was amazing, and featured (among other things) gumbo, seafood pasta, crab cakes, shrimp wrapped in bacon and deep-fried, and a grits bar. For our favors, in addition to custom koozies with a New Orleans street tile design, we had personalized Hubig’s pies. They’re deep fried fruit pies that are made in New Orleans and they’re such a strong memory from my childhood. In our invitation suite, we included a CD of all of our favorite New Orleans songs, which was a big hit with our guests. I had a monogrammed handkerchief wrapped around my bouquet, and my bridesman, Logan got me two Blue Dog pins to pin to the handkerchief (Blue Dog is a famous painting subject by my favorite artist, Louisianan George Rodrigue). We also had a traditional New Orleans Second Line parade to lead our guests from the ceremony to the cocktail hour, complete with a full brass band that entertained them during cocktails with New Orleans brass favorites.
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? Since our friends and family are scattered across the world, we wanted to have time to talk and catch up with every single guest even though we had a big wedding. It truly is a once in a lifetime experience to have all of the people you love in your life together in one place. We rearranged our schedules, reprioritized, and got very little sleep, but we managed to spend solid time with almost all of our guests at some point over the weekend. We took people to our favorite local bar for dinner and drinks Thursday night, had a champagne toast reception for all of our guests after our rehearsal dinner Friday night, and we went out with our guests after the reception to continue the dance party and eat late night food until 5 o’clock in the morning. We were sitting at brunch with a group of our friends Sunday morning and I remember just looking around the table and thinking, “this is the point. This time together, celebrating with and honoring the people who love you for the happiness they’ve brought into your lives — this is why you have a wedding reception.”
What is the one thing you are most happy you splurged on? Music. Sam found our INCREDIBLE reception band, and they were one of the wedding details people could not stop talking about. They were such a pleasure to work with. They listened to every single one of our nitpicky requests for songs to play and songs not to play, and they were so unbelievably talented. People didn’t leave the dance floor all night and refused to go after the last song. My favorite quote of the night came from my good friend’s sister, who pulled me aside and said, “I mean this as a compliment, and I hope you take it that way, but I have never seen anything like your wedding reception dance floor outside of a Las Vegas nightclub.” I not only took it as a compliment, but knew that we had achieved our vision: a sincere, joyful ceremony; meaningful and personal details that truly reflected us as a couple throughout the day; and a ridiculous, sweaty dance party to cap off the celebration.
Best money spent on your wedding: Our wedding coordinator! Since we were engaged for so long (21 months) we did all of the planning ourselves, but wanted someone to be there on our wedding day to make sure things ran smoothly and to pack up everything after the end of the reception so none of our family members had to do it. Valerie was pretty much entirely responsible for our wedding being perfect down to the last detail.
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Be true to yourself and what you want, and stop second guessing your own opinions. Remember that your wedding guests love you — they’re coming to celebrate, not to critique your taste in floral arrangements. Anything you do to make them feel comfortable and welcome will be so appreciated, and they’ll notice the details that you put love and effort into because they’re a reflection of you, not because they’re fancy or expensive. I hope for every bride to have as much fun planning (and attending!) their wedding as I did. It should an absolute joy and a true labor of love, and if it’s not making you happy, you’re doing it wrong.
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you looking forward to in the future? I got an offer for my dream job while we were on our honeymoon! I started work as soon as we got back, so for now, Sam and I are really just looking forward to some quiet evenings home along with our dog, recovering from this epic party.
Graham Terhune is a fabulous member of the Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory.