Wedding planning is an interesting phenomenon. There are hundreds of websites, magazines, Instagram accounts, Pinterest boards, and books dedicated to planning one single day of your life. However, it’s one of the most important days that you will ever experience, so I somewhat understand the obsession. But for me, I didn’t mess with 90% of that nonsense because I was too busy with a newborn and a full-time career to worry about. The two platforms I DID rely on the most for inspiration for our wedding was Instagram and Pinterest. That way, when I was sitting on a flight waiting to take off to some other racetrack, or had any downtime at all — I could just peruse my phone for inspiration. Once you decide on a ‘theme’ for your wedding, it becomes simpler. The theme I was going for was rustic, yet classy. Our wedding was in December (thank you, NASCAR season) so the venue options were limited in some ways due to weather. The Ritz-Carlton in Charlotte has a venue option that still gives you a feel of being outdoors, without actually suffering in the December cold — the ‘Urban Garden.’ It ultimately was the perfect spot for what we were trying to accomplish. First, I would be remiss if I did not thank Kyana Gerard from the Ritz-Carlton Charlotte, and my mom for all their tireless assistance when it came to planning our day.
Below are some of the significant details from our wedding day that I hope will help some of you future brides (hopefully no future bridezillas) in your overwhelming planning process.
The Venue & Decor
The Ritz-Carlton Charlotte’s ‘Urban Garden’ was easily the best fit for our wedding. We had a little over 100 people that attended, which fit well in this space. We used the garden for both the ceremony and reception, the space was flipped during our cocktail hour. The staff at the Ritz could not have been better specifically Kyana (previously mentioned), who we dealt with all throughout our entire planning process which was about 11 months. There were many great things about the Ritz, but at the top of the list is how inclusive the wedding packages were. The appetizers, drinks, dinner, cake(s!), champagne toast, hotel accommodations (room block), tables, chairs, plates, linens, and venue are all included and range in various price points and packages. Naturally, we had to have an open bar for beer, wine, and liquor and Blake and I pre-selected all the appetizers, and plated meal menu. We went with a set menu versus a buffet option to simplify things. Transforming the space into what I had envisioned was set forth by Party Reflections in Charlotte through drapery, low chandelier lighting, market lighting through the trees, and lounge furniture. Come ceremony time, the space looked incredible.
For our florists, we went with Lily Greenthumbs who met with us in Charlotte to go over our vision for flowers. I am not an overly extravagant kind of person, so I wanted to keep the floral arrangements simple and classy. Gaudy weddings are not my thing. Our florists perfectly put my vision into motion with my bouquet and the bridesmaid’s bouquets as well. Kadence, my daughter, got her own flower crown of course. Additionally, they set up the candle and lantern lighting that adorned the stairs leading to the ceremony. Their work was exceptional.
“Yes to the Dress”
I can’t leave out the gown, one of the most important elements to any wedding ceremony and perhaps the most fun item to deliberate on. However, I only tried on four dresses total and settled on this one very quickly. I knew what I was looking for when it came to my wedding dress and this one checked all the boxes from the lace detailing to the nearly eight foot train and matching veil. This Pronovias piece that came all the way from Spain is the most beautiful dress I have ever worn. For the reception I wore an embellished belt to switch it up from the ceremony. The women at The Lily Rose (Cornelius) were so helpful in making sure I found the right dress for me. As far as the bridesmaids go, they selected their dresses through Azazie and chose their own syle and fit. I chose the fabric, length, and color for their dresses. The necklaces they are all wearing was my gift to them before the wedding, Kendra Scott pendants in Cobalt Blue. The boys all wore Men’s Wearhouse tuxedos.
It wouldn’t be a wedding for Blake and I without a few racing details. After all, it’s the sport that brought us together. We went with a Mr. & Mrs. checkered flag cake topper and a green flag ‘send-off’ at the end of the night. And if you’re not familiar with racing, the waving of the green flag signifies the start of the ‘race’ or in this case…the start of our lives. This was Blake’s idea, and it was one of my favorite parts of the night. I think incorporating subtle details that are close to the couple’s heart or story makes a difference.
Program, Signs, Invite
I ran across Simply Modern Design Co. on etsy.com and used them to put together our ceremony programs. I chose the layout and filled out all the appropriate information, customizing it to our event. The final product turned out exactly as I had envisioned. Simply Modern Design Co. made it very easy for us by sending proofs before the bulk order was sent via mail. They have an option to print the programs yourself as well, if you prefer. For bar signs, I selected printable signs from vendors on Etsy who had quotes that I was looking for. After purchase, I printed the signs on hard stock paper and put them in 8×10 frames. The Art of Marriage sign I found at Altar’d State who has an array of wedding-themed products that are perfect for brides-to-be. Our original wedding invitation featured what I like to call ‘Jack Daniel’s’-esque block lettering detail and was a Vera Wang combination that I found at Paper Source in South Charlotte.
For our photographers we utilized the same group that did our engagement photo session: Old South Studios. I will let their work throughout this article speak for themselves with the beautiful images they captured. For hair and makeup I relied on my hair stylist of six years: Lauren Bernstein and one of our FOX Sports makeup artists: Kelly Coulter.
The Party & Entertainment
As far as entertainment goes, during our ceremony and cocktail hour we had Charlotte Strings for Events play everything from Coldplay to classical Bach pieces. Their website lists all the arrangements they can do and it’s an impressive repetoire. During dinner and the reception Split Second Sound took over, and you may recognize their work as the DJ company on-site during Charlotte Panther’s games at Bank of America Stadium. It was an incredible wedding, a day I wish I could relive all over again. But the most important thing about any wedding ceremony is the two individuals who are committing to one other for the rest of their lives — and I just happened to find the best match possible. It took me 28 years to find him, but damn am I lucky! Happily Ever Harris.