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Amanda and Joe
Joe and I met the good old-fashioned way…at a bar. We’re not ashamed to admit it and our Officiant wasn’t ashamed to reference it in our Homily (lol) - it’s our story and we love it.
I think our relationship developed in a traditional way too (minus the moving in together before marriage part – sorry, Dad!). Joe courted me for several months before making it “official”, we survived a long-distance relationship by a lot of phone conversations (do people talk on the phone anymore??) and exhausting flights between Raleigh and Dallas; he took his time “popping the question” (at the top of Peak 7 in Breckenridge, CO!!!), and we took our time setting a date. Although we’re conventional in some ways, we’ve always done things on our own terms and in our own way. We try to ignore certain societal pressures while staying true to our traditional routes… and that is exactly how I envisioned our wedding – a blend of tradition and whimsy, and 100% authenticity.
Starting with tradition – a church ceremony was very important to us and our families however, we were raised of different denominations so it limited our options. Very lucky for us, we were eligible to be wed in my DREAM ceremony venue, the iconic (and non-denominational) Duke University Chapel - thanks to my bad-ass Grandfather, who taught at Duke University for 30+ years. Because of his tenure at Duke, I was eligible to contend for a ceremony date/time at such a special place - which is another crazy story in itself. If you’re not familiar, people camp out for DAYS, even WEEKS, to get a ceremony date at the Duke Chapel. How the heck were we supposed to do that from Dallas, Texas?? Well, we did (sort of), thanks to Joe’s identical twin brother, Sal. We owe him big time!!
Once we nailed down our date/time at the breath-taking Duke Chapel, our reception venue and vibe quickly came to fruition because we ended up with a June wedding date. Summertime was not my preference because I dreamed of an outdoor, tented reception, and if you know anything about North Carolina weather, June is not an ideal time for an outdoor wedding (HOT AND HUMID!). That said, I chose a traditional ballroom at the Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club. This venue also has a special place in my heart - my mother grew up in the neighborhood (my Grandfather still lives there) so we've spent a lot of time at the “WaDuke” over the years – Easter brunches, birthday dinners, etc., but despite my love for the place, I was up for a challenge - how do I make over this traditional ballroom to something more authentic to my vision?
I set out to transform the traditional space into something more whimsical and fun because we wanted a PARTY! We envisioned people mingling or on the dance floor at all times so we immediately eliminated the traditional sit-down dinner, assigned seating, and MOH/Best Man/etc. speeches (we did those all at the Rehearsal Dinner the night before). We chose a station-style dinner for a continuous flow around the ballroom and booked an amazing band that we knew would keep the party going all night (Sweet Soul Social Club). Additionally, we created a seating layout with a mix of high and low tables that perfectly framed the band and dance floor so even if you weren’t dancing, you were still a part of the fun!
As we got into more of what I call the social media-worthy details, it was important to me to do something special for Joe and his friends, which led us to the idea of an onsite Cigar Roller from Amendola Family Cigars - it was the perfect touch! There are so many great pics of the guys in their tuxedos, drinking bourbon, and smoking cigars – classic! Of course, I also wanted some details that the ladies couldn’t resist to post on social media, and that led us to the creation of the greenery/market light structure over the dance floor and the boxwood floral photo wall (thank you, TreBella!) – the perfect details to Instagram and Snapchat. We displayed framed signs of our hashtag and Snapchat filter, and included laser cut outs for photo props. We still enjoy looking back at everyone’s posts! Last but not least, and maybe the best surprise of the night, was an all white 1964 Rolls Royce from London (DREAMY!!) – a surprise getaway car from Joe’s brothers! It drove us around Durham with a bottle of champagne and then escorted us to our After Party – we definitely “ROLLED” up in style ;) I have to admit, I think even our After Party was social media worthy. We chose a Durham staple bar, Shooters II, most popular for college students, but it was the perfect change of scenery for our guests who wanted to keep the party going. The mechanical bull was a nice touch too – now those Snapchats were PRICELESS!
Aside from the social media-worthy details – we kept other aspects of our wedding traditional, but authentic as well:
• BridesMAN – my oldest and dearest friend happens to be a gay guy and I didn’t hesitate to make him a part of the Bridal Party. He stood on my side, not Joe’s, and wore a different color and style tux than the Groomsmen. It was important for me to honor him in a sincere way, rather than aligning him with the Groomsmen just because he was a guy
• Traditional invitations, but online RSVPs – we included RSVP cards with our invitations, but instead of returning them via mail, the guests were directed to our wedding website to RSVP online. This was super convenient because they could get all of the wedding week details up front and browse our registry for gift ideas – we used MINTED for our website and RSVPs
• Cash fund registry – we registered for some tangible gifts like, luggage and kitchenware, but asked mainly for money. Our registry welcome message explained that we preferred money over gifts and what we would put the money towards. We used ZOLA for our registry
• Groomsmen “Barber Shop Brunch” – we wanted the Groom’s Party to enjoy some pampering the day of as well so Joe rented out a barber shop in downtown Durham, Rock’s Bar & Hair Shop, the morning of the wedding. He and his Groomsmen enjoyed straight razor shaves, games of pool, and a catered brunch. It was the perfect way to keep them occupied the morning of while the Bridal Party was getting pampered with hair/makeup. We asked our photographers to capture the event and we’re so happy they did!
• Charity donation instead of party favors – rather than waste money on cheap wedding favors, we made a donation to an important charity of our choice (The Alzheimer’s Association, in honor of my grandmother). We framed sign at our guestbook table explaining our donation instead of favors.
• Coffee table book for guestbook – instead of the traditional wedding guest book, we chose a coffee table book of Durham and asked our guests to sign the pages with different color sharpies (gold, silver, black). We loved this idea because we actually look at and enjoy our guestbook often – it’s not tucked away for keepsake.
My best advice for brides is to BE AUTHENTIC, remember it’s your Groom’s day too, and enjoy every second of the process because it’s over in the blink of an eye. We have zero regrets from our magical day and I’d do it over a million times! I feel so much validation from seeing our photos because I know we were 100% ourselves and our wedding was truly reflective of us as individuals and also as a couple.