Here’s how: Since it’s the very last day of February, that also means it’s the last day to jump on board with our February #SouthernDoin Challenge. Our Emily is one of the best gals you’ll find around these parts and she’s got a heart of gold when it comes to giving back. We love this gal’s passion for kindness, love and community. We’d love for y’all to honor this lovely lady’s birthday with something sweet. Nope, not with a cupcake or some red velvet cake, but with a random act of kindness or a surprise sweet gesture for someone you love. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #SouthernDoin and wish this pretty girl the best birthday yet!
Happy Birthday, Emily! Lots of love and hugs, Marissa, Lara, Nicole + Kristin
We’ve met so many new friends and had a wonderful time visiting with many of the remarkable vendors that have made our latest issue such a success. It has been a very inspiring week! I was happier as a pup with two tails to be invited to speak here and happy as a pup with three tails to share about how we do things ’round here at Southern Weddings.
Y’all know we do things a little differently. We’re small… and mighty… and Southern. We do all the layout, shipping, shoot creation, cleaning up after our messes and everything ourselves. We’re a tiny team with more passion than a hen has feathers. But, I didn’t talk about just us in my speech… I talked about YOU.
You are why we are here. You cheer us on and write us encouraging notes and share our magazine with dear friends and we sincerely wouldn’t be where we are without our very loyal readers. So, I wanted to just say a quick thank you. I wish I could jump through my screen to hug each of you, too. Thank you for believing in us and being our cheerleaders. Thank you, most of all though, for LOVING.
It’s because you love your fiancé’s and husbands and families and this magical place we call home so much that we are inspired every day to do what we do and we have so much goodness ahead! We love y’all! You sweeten our tea!
Hi, belles! Y’all were so sweet on my sign-off post that I just couldn’t leave you hanging any longer! Yes, a little less than two weeks ago, John and I successfully said “I do” in front of our closest family and friends. And it was awesome!!!
The weather was perfect (literally perfect — couldn’t have handpicked a better day), my bustle did exactly what it was supposed to, the dance floor was packed all evening, and I even cried (but not too much). John and I held hands throughout the ceremony, and, if the candid photos taken by our guests are any indication, we couldn’t wipe the perma-smiles off our faces all evening. Best of all, I remember everything.
Of course, I can’t wait to share everything with y’all, but since our wedding will be appearing in the pages of V5, you’ll have to wait just a bit longer! (But not too much longer — V5 is scheduled to hit newsstands on November 6! WHOO!!)
In the meantime, a little tip: Last weekend, I sat down and wrote down everything I could remember about our wedding day: what time I got up, how I felt driving over to our first look location, what I ate at the reception… every little detail. Because even though I remember everything now, I know that won’t be the case in ten years, or even one year or two months. The writing is not at all polished (I might go back and clean things up at some point, but that’s not the point). What is? If at any point in the future I want to recall something that’s slipped my mind, I’ll have something to rely on other than my faulty memory. If that’s something that’s important to you, I’d recommend you do the same as soon as you can post-nuptials! I might never care to look back and see what I ate for breakfast on the morning of my wedding, but if I do, at least I’ll be able to find out :)
For now, we’re just enjoying admiring our sparkly wedding rings, calling each other husband and wife, and settling back into our new-old life, together. Oh yes, and eagerly (but patiently) awaiting our photos and video. In the meantime, here’s one from our rehearsal dinner!
With Emily off on her mini-moon (Congrats Mr. and Mrs. THOMAS!), what better time to give you a little mental vacation at your desk to start the week? Y’all know we’re in the thick of making a [gorgeous, stunning, amazing, phenomenal] fifth anniversary issue happen, right? And y’all know we work hard around these parts, right? I couldn’t have asked for better timing with my recent visit to The Umstead Hotel and Spa right here in our neck of the woods in Cary, NC! Oh, what a delightful overnight visit we enjoyed and such fabulous Southern hospitality!
The Umstead Hotel and Spa was conceived and built with the muses of Art and Nature. These inspirations paired with impeccable, sincere service make for an exquisite hideaway that will comfort and rejuvenate. Everything – from the naturally landscaped grounds to the central Chihuly glass sculpture, the locally sourced cuisine to the botanically infused Umstead Spa products – is designed to stir the senses and inspire. And inspire it did!
From the sweet peach tea that greeted us in the lobby to the friendly staff to the warm natural elegance of the décor, it was right up my alley. And they know how to treat every guest like family, y’all! When we walked into our gorgeous lake-view suite, we were overwhelmed with the size of the room (so perfect for the wedding party to get ready or just for a couple to relax in) and then I squealed when I saw what was waiting on the desk…
A box of hand-crafted artisan chocolates and a lavender eye pillow with a luxurious bath soak. They gift this to all of their brides as well. What a treat! But, the best part for me was the adorable little stuffed bird that accompanied the luxurious treats with a note to Grace. Oh my stars, how thoughtful! Naturally, it is now one of her favorite toys.
They had even set up an adorable crib for Grace in the room with the best view in house! This, plus many other touches during our stay, were sure signs of a property that truly embodies what it means to be gracious and giving. Being surrounded by those two qualities on your big day is truly priceless.
We had our sweet nanny Susan babysit Grace in the room (Susan said Grace’s smile was a mile wide when she saw the giant bath she’d be playing in that night) while we enjoyed a phenomenal six-course meal at The Umstead’s signature restaurant, Heron’s.
As a Florida girl who grew up on the water, the heron has long been one of my favorite birds. Tall and graceful, we’d sit out as a family and watch them careful wade in the water in search of the best fish to eat.
I could write a book about our meal, but to avoid making you all salivate on your keyboards, here are just a few highlights: heirloom tomatoes with parmesan ice cream (!!) and bacon (!!!)… OK, need I say more? The food was divine!
One of my favorite things about Heron’s is that they have a resident culinary farmer who cultivates and gathers produce from local farms for the chefs to use. I would love to meet her and follow her for a day. What a lovely job to have!
I now see why so many friends have enjoyed anniversaries and life celebrations here. There were at least three couples in the dining area with us that were there for anniversaries. The food is amazing, the service perfection and the atmosphere is ultra-romantic with warm golden lighting and old jazz standards cooing softly as people dine.
I could also see why people travel in to have weddings here. It’s truly a hidden gem. We were 15 minutes from my house and I felt like we were across an ocean at a secluded retreat. Ari and I will definitely be back next year to celebrate 7 years of marriage.
After an indulgent and delightful meal talking about our marriage and the blessings of the past year with Grace, we settled in to sleep in the plush bed. A+ for comfort, y’all! I felt like we were at home.
The next morning, after some fun time playing around with Gracie in her “fort” – i.e. the covers – we went to the gym (another A+ from the former personal trainer gym rat here!).
Post-gym, I had the pleasure of enjoying a massage at the spa. Let me rephrase that… the spaaaaaaaahhhhhh. Oh, it was so good! Ari and Grace headed off to the gorgeous pool for some daddy/daughter swim time while I drifted off into a state of spaaaahhh bliss.
I’ve had the pleasure of touring and enjoying a lot of spas over the years through the hospitality industry. (Yes, major job perk.) The Umstead is my new happy place. With natural stone and beautiful furnishings, streaming natural light in the gigantic showers and steam room area and dozens of treatment rooms, the spa is something out of a dream and quite huge. I had no idea something like this existed in the South, much less 15 minutes from my house. I sipped on hibiscus tea, munched on spa snacks and took some much-needed deep breaths. It was lovely. As a bride, I’d be on cloud nine to spend my pre-wedding hours here. In fact, I saw a bridal party getting a tour of the spa while I was there and they were positively giddy! Most definitely a recipe for zero wedding day stress!
After the spa, I reunited with the cutest 9-month-old on the planet in her little cute bathing suit and her handsome daddy and took a quick tour of the property. Besides the 12 acres of gorgeous wooded land and natural surroundings, including a beautiful ceremony lawn that overlooks the lake, the property boasts some of the most beautiful ballrooms I’ve ever seen! I’m such a fan of outdoor ceremonies, but I have to say I’d have a hard time choosing at The Umstead.
The ballrooms are beautifully decorated (even the carpet, y’all!) and the golden fabric-paneled walls had me swooning. The hallways are decked with local artwork and the ceilings are taller than oaks. Any combination of outdoor beauty and ballroom elegance would make for an unforgettable beginning to married life.
Well, belles, here we are! Two days away from my wedding. John and I are both in Connecticut with our parents, and the weather looks beautiful for this weekend (praise the Lord!). Our siblings are set to arrive tomorrow, and the rest of our guests will follow on Friday. I am ready — we are ready. The projects are done, the vows are written, the welcome bags are ready to be delivered, our amazing vendors all have their instructions, and the tent is going up soon. Would you like to take a walk through the past year of planning with me, for old time’s sake?
On June 25, 2011, on a little beach on the Crystal Coast of North Carolina, John and I were engaged! A fun staff meeting followed when I whipped my newly-bedazzled hand out from under the table midway through updates :)
Next, I reported on my first two dress shopping experiences: in South Carolina and Connecticut. Hint: I didn’t buy any of the dresses I tried on in either of these trips, but my wedding gown DOES make an appearance in that post! :)
We talked tents (SO excited to see those Sperry flags waving!). Y’all don’t even KNOW how thrilled I am to see the weather forecast for this weekend!! (Okay, maybe those of you also planning outdoor weddings do!) We also talked about different music options, and I introduced you to our band.
Last but certainly not least, I loved sharing my thoughts on our ceremony (in two posts – here + here). Of all the things I am excited about for our wedding day, saying our vows has got to be at the top!
After today, I will be signing off SW duties for the remainder of the week and our minimoon next week (more about that soon!). You’ll see a (non-wedding-related) post from me on Friday, but rest assured it was written earlier this week! :)
Before I sign off as a Miss, however, there are a few thank yous I need to hand out.
First, to the darling vendors I get to work with every day: Y’all, I can’t tell you how many photographers, planners, florists, stationers, and cake bakers have taken time of out their busy days to offer a tip, to answer one of my questions, to volunteer their expertise, or to just be excited with me! It’s amazing how many people even remember I’m getting married, let alone take the time to offer a sweet note of encouragement. I love y’all!
Second, to you lovely readers: It has been one of the greatest joys of my engagement to plan alongside y’all, to see your excitement over our choices, to get your feedback on decisions we were weighing, and to learn alongside you. Sharing this experience has made it that much sweeter!
Finally, to my beyond-fabulous Southern Weddings ladies: You guys are the best. Seriously. For being overjoyed and excited from the first news of my ring, and through the end, oh-so-understanding. For letting me work from New England for three weeks this summer (which made long-distance wedding planning much easier!). For throwing me the fanciest bridal shower known to (wo)man. I can’t thank you enough! Lara, Marissa, Nicole, Kristin, Whitney, Sierra, and interns Melissa, Caitlin, Anna, Emily Alice, and Alexia (because all of them worked at SW at some point during my engagement!), I will be carrying your best wishes with me on my wedding day! Love y’all!!
Y’all know I’ll be back after the big day to recap and share! In the meantime, feel free to offer your best last-minute pieces of wedding day advice in the comments!!