What you are about to see is some of the truest love I’ve ever witnessed. Love so true, he couldn’t wait to lift her veil before going in for that kiss. A wedding taking place at a beloved family lake home is bound to be so full of sentiment, but this one from East West is overflowing with it. And the sweet, sweet love. Just to warn you, you may want a tissue before you press play!

Rory and I met working as cabin counselors at a summer camp in North Carolina. We maintained a long-distance relationship throughout college – I at the College of William & Mary and he at North Carolina State University – but parted ways after graduation. Two and a half years later we reconnected at my older sister’s wedding where I had to explain over and over that we were “just friends”. Finally after two more years of “will they/won’t they” we began dating again in April of 2011 and by November, Rory had proposed to me with the most beautiful ruby ring.

Once we started discussing the type of atmosphere we wanted at our wedding, one of the first locations we came up with was Collins Pond, the family farm where my mother grew up. A two and a half hour drive from my own childhood home, I can remember driving up there on weekends to visit my Nannie as well as spending most Christmases and summers there until her passing. When Rory proposed, I knew that I wanted to get married in a place that was sentimental and Collins Pond just made the most sense to us. The farm is also located just down the road from the church where my parents were married, so we knew that our wedding would be a reunion for family and friends who literally had not seen each other since my parents’ own ceremony 34 years prior. A final major factor in our decision was although we both knew how much work would have to go into getting the property ready, the fact that it was family property also gave us the freedom to do whatever we needed to achieve our vision.

Family, history, and community played a constant role throughout the planning beforehand and on the big day. Many things we incorporated into the wedding were either family pieces, donated by friends, or borrowed from the church where my parents were married. My bridesmaid, Karen, loaned me a full set of china she found at an estate sale and my Aunt Kathy loaned us all of her china as well. Those pieces along with multiple heirloom sets from my Nannie provided the mismatched china used at the reception. We also discovered a number of old mason jars in the cellar under the house; those jars along with ones borrowed from my aunts, Kathy and Ellen, served as drinking glasses for all the guests, with the remainder being incorporated in the reception centerpieces, along with tin cans and antique glass bottles. We even planned to use two old wooden pews we found on the farm, previously used for baptisms held at Collins Pond years ago, as family seating for the ceremony; unfortunately we discovered one of them had begun to rot, but the church graciously offered us two of their old pews to use instead.

Rory’s only request regarding our ceremony was that it be short and sweet. We were married in front of the pond in a twenty minute ceremony by Kevin James, the preacher from the same church where my parents were married. The wedding programs included a history of Collins Pond, written by my Uncle Bernard, tracing it back to long before it was owned by our family, and behind us at the altar was our version of a “family tree” – pictures from both of our families, including the wedding portraits of my Russo-German immigrant great-grandparents, clothes-pinned to lines of twine behind us. It truly made it feel like those family members who couldn’t physically be there with us on our special day were still with us nonetheless.

At the reception, we literally had little old ladies from the Ladysmith Volunteer Rescue Squad Auxiliary serving everyone good ol’ down home Southern food, including pick-your-own sauce North Carolina barbeque, Bojangles’ chicken fillets, Virginia ham biscuits, and pintos and chow chow while a local band, the Bellevue Rhythmaires played bluegrass tunes. We also had a homemade dessert table, consisting of family recipes, including my Nannie’s chocolate chip cake à la Aunt Kathy, my grandma’s carrot-pineapple cake with cream cheese frosting à la my sister Vera, and Aunt Joan’s fresh apple cake. After supper, my cousin, Tom, deejayed the night away until we ran out of gas (seriously, the backup generator literally ran out of gas).

Our closest family and friends really played such an integral role throughout the wedding process: from my older sister, Vera, picking out the dress that after a several alterations and multiple dress fittings would become my wedding gown to Rory’s best man, Justin, driving five hours one way to help hang all the lights in the trees weeks beforehand; my momma and younger sister Sarah running around, gathering extra flowers the morning of the wedding while my other bridesmaids and friend, Lindsay, cut the fabric squares for our wedding guestbook quilt. When the day finally arrived, it was such a whirlwind (thank goodness for East West and JJ Horton!) but unquestionably the happiest day of my life, not only because it was the day I married the man I’ve loved for the last eight years, but because it is proof of all of the amazing people Rory and I have in our lives and how incredibly lucky we both are.

Photography: JJ Horton Photography / Cinematography: East West / Flowers: Honey Bee’s Florist / Event Planning & Design: DIY / Venue: Family Lake, Ideal Virginia / Shoes: TOMS / Baker: Williams Bakery / Band: Bellevue Rhythemaires / Hair & Make-up: Brook Stone

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