Wedding Crawl, Revisited

Last weekend, RoanokeWeddingNetwork.com held their annual Wedding Crawl. Each year five downtown venues, working with local wedding professionals, pull out all the stops to create mock weddings in each space, featuring ceremony and/or reception set-ups complete with food, flowers, photographers and photo booths, music, lighting, and models dressed as brides, grooms, and wedding party. It’s rare opportunity to see the spaces fully decked out and filled with people, as they would be during an actual celebration. And it always benefits a good cause: this year, the Roanoke Valley SPCA.

Hubby Steve and I decided to revisit the Crawl this year. We’d attended the 2015 Crawl as then-prospective bride and groom and had so much fun: dancing in the Corinthian Ballroom, tasting cake at the Taubman. I even caught the bouquet in a prize-giveaway toss at Center in the Square. Even though we already had most of our vendors sewn up by then, the Crawl gave us a chance to see examples of their fully realized visions, which made us look forward to their creations for our own wedding day all the more.

This time was not about looking forward, but looking back. At our first stop, Charter Hall, Steve and I picked up the most recent copy of bridebook, which features our wedding story. At the Taubman, our next venue, we lingered in the ethereal ceremony space (created by Lighting Ninja and Gloriosa) as an RSO harpist began to play. Steve smiled and took my hand: it was Pachelbel’s “Canon in D,” the music I’d walked in to at our ceremony.

At the Patrick Henry Hotel Ballroom, our photographer Noah Magnifico had some of our photos in his display, and we admired the lush elegance of the bouquets and centerpieces crafted by Mark Frye of Creative Occasions, who’d done such a beautiful job with our flowers.

We saved the Center in Square Rooftop, where we got married, for last. It was hopping. Creative Entertainment had fashioned a Vegas theme, complete with game tables, a bride who doubled as a mobile hors d’oeuvres table, showgirls, and Elvis. We picked up information on honeymoon travel–we still hope to take a romantic trip somewhere tropical–from Rose of the Winds Travels, and said hello to my stylist, the awesome Brandy Moorman of Bliss Studio. After tasting brunch menu samplings from Chanticleer Catering and delicious mini-cupcakes from For the Lsove of Sweets, we headed outside.

The view from the roof, as always, was breathtaking. It was sunny, if a little windy, with the clear, bright blue skies I’d hoped for on our big day. We attempted a selfie in the same spot on the upper deck where Noah had taken our wedding pictures, but we couldn’t stop squinting—maybe those dramatic rolling clouds had been a blessing in disguise? We walked down the staircase to the spot where we’d said our “I do’s.” We held hands and shared a happy kiss. Operation Newlywed Nostalgia was complete.

We missed the last featured venue, the White Room at Blue 5, where we’d been told a real wedding would take place as part of the crawl. Sadly, that meant we also missed the opportunity to taste delectations from our favorite baker, Evie’s Wildflour Wedding Cakes. Coconut cupcakes with dark chocolate ganache… mmmmm.

The Wedding Crawl felt different this year, minus the anticipation of our own nuptials and all the excitement (and anxiety!) that comes with waiting and wondering. But we were more than satisfied. It was a lovely day filled with beautiful sights and bountiful treats, and we’d already celebrated the real wedding that mattered most: ours.

My amazing vendors!

With two of our wonderful vendors, Noah Magnifico and Mark Frye, and our -bridebook- feature!

Nothing else, a lack of chocolate ganache notwithstanding, will ever compare.

Weddings for Equality: Vendor Showcase

I recently had the opportunity to model for the first Weddings for Equality Wedding Vendor Showcase, held at the new Hilton Garden Inn at South Peak in Roanoke. The event was organized by Sarah Pendleton of Pumpernickle Pickle Catering, and it was a great success, with over 25 vendors from Roanoke and the New River Valley, and over 30 pre-registered participants plus additional walk-in visitors.

My relationship to the event was a bit different as a model than as a bride shopping for vendors (we pretty much have that all sewn up, YAY!). Still, I was able to wander for a few minutes between being styled by the hair and makeup artists of Thomas Dunn Studios and getting dressed for the fashion show. I was excited to see several of our selected vendors there, including Mark Frye of Creative Occasions, whose flowers were exquisite as always; our wedding photographer Noah Magnifico, who captured a few great iPhone snapshots; and our planner Michelle Robb of The Wedding Planner magazine and The Perfect Fairytale. There were also informative displays by the Roanoke Diversity Center, Hollins University, Fashionista Roanoke, and numerous other wedding vendors, including bridebook, Les Cheveux Salon, Green Hill House, and more.

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Wedding Crawl 2015

When Steve told one of our friends we were spending Sunday afternoon at a Wedding Crawl, she replied that it sounded like what you did to get to the ceremony after you had a little too much fun at the rehearsal dinner the night before. There was plenty of fun at this year’s Crawl, and the temptations were many (red velvet cake pops!), but the biggest danger of overindulgence was in great wedding ideas.

This was the third year for the now annual Wedding Crawl, a festive event put on by teams of local wedding professionals in the Roanoke Wedding Network. Each team collaborates to create a mock wedding and reception at one of five prime downtown wedding locations. The venues featured were the Corinthian Ballroom, the Patrick Henry Hotel, Charter Hall in the Market Building, the Taubman Museum of Art, and (our personal favorite) the Center in the Square Rooftop. Each “wedding” showcased a ceremony and reception set-up complete with decorations, flowers, a planner, a caterer, a photographer, a photo booth, a DJ, a bakery and cake, and a bride, along with other vendors such as officiants, hair and makeup salons, lighting designers, and videographers. I was really impressed at the commitment and creativity of all of the teams, who clearly put in a lot of time and energy to make the event a success.

Photo credit William Mahone Photography

Photo, William Mahone Photography

After signing in at the Roanoke City Market, where I was given a “bride-to-be” sash and pinned a “fiancé” boutonniere on Steve, we were directed to start at the Corinthian Ballroom, an elegant space with great natural light. It was there we sampled the aforementioned cake pops, courtesy of Delish! Sweets and Treats, and goofed around in SwellBooth‘s vintage-look photo booth. Upstairs we indulged in Chanticleer Catering‘s yummy victuals, and I convinced Steve to do the Wobble, which William Mahone Photography captured on camera. (I’m behind the bride.)

Have I ever mentioned just what an incredibly good sport Steve is? Continue reading

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Valentine Kisses

How did it happen that their lips came together? How does it happen that birds sing, that snow melts, that the rose unfolds, that the dawn whitens behind the stark shapes of trees on the quivering summit of the hill? A kiss, and all was said.

~Victor Hugo


We were so thrilled with our engagement photos by Noah Magnifico that we’re featuring some of our favorites on our Save the Date cards. We plan to address them over Valentine’s Day weekend accompanied by a bottle of champagne, chocolate truffles, and a few more kisses.

My joy is tempered by thoughts of the loss of three promising young lives in North Carolina, the senseless waste of their generous hearts. The world needs less pain and hate and more love and compassion. And love. Love, love, love, love, love!

Wishing everyone (and I do mean everyone!) a Happy Valentine’s Day!

Don’t forget: write your own happily-ever-after and submit it to the Traditional-Fairy-Tale-Takedown Challenge by Friday!

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A Whole Lot of Wonderful (with a Little Bit of Ick)

Happy New Year! It’s still kind of hard to believe that 2015 is our year: the year we’ll tie the knot. Wow. And…wow!

I don’t know if it’s true that one’s New Year’s Eve experience is a harbinger of the year to come, but our conclusion of 2014 was a microcosm of the mixed bag that is marriage (and life): a whole lot of wonderful with a modicum of miserable thrown in to keep us humble. The wonderful: we concluded an amazing trip to England, where we spent Christmas and New Year’s visiting Oxford (Steve’s youngest, Dusty, is studying there), London, and Stratford-upon-Avon. It was an incredible week: attending midnight Eucharist at St. Mary’s church in Oxford, drinking cider at a tavern older than the United States, touching an English yew in the botanical gardens planted in 1645. After days spent viewing London from the top of the Eye, watching the ravens at the Tower, and seeing a moving performance of Love’s Labour’s Lost at the RSC, we toasted the New Year with chocolate stout and warm mulled cider at the Angel and Greyhound pub. It’s hard to express the sense of wonder, gratitude, and even disbelief that comes with sharing such moments—Am I really here? Is this really my life? How did I get so lucky?

Yet the universe has a way of keeping your feet on the ground, and while there are far worse miseries, the last days of the trip offered an excellent chance to test loving and cherishing each other “in sickness and in health.” We think it started with Steve (though I’m still second-guessing the wisdom of drinking from the communal wine goblet on Christmas Eve). But in any case, his sniffles became my sinus congestion became son Tucker’s stuffed-up ears. Exhausted, it was all I could do to keep my head up off the table and breathe without a coughing fit during our New Year’s visit to the pub. Full disclosure: we didn’t make it until midnight. Continue reading

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A Mother’s Dream, in honor of the wedding that wasn’t

As a child and young woman, I attended a Presbyterian church in Georgia where my parents are still members. The current church was built in 1976, when I was six, and I recall the blend of curiosity and awe I felt upon seeing it for the first time: its massive stone walls, soaring wooden beams, the rich red upholstery in the sanctuary. The stained glass windows, an artist’s and writer’s dream, appeared at first glance to be abstract collages of color, but a closer look revealed images, stories, a narrative that traveled from pane to pane. And I was fascinated with the bride’s room, a small, quiet space adjacent to the ladies room off the narthex. Its lime green, high-pile carpet and counter-long mirror framed by marquee-style bulbs made it glamorous and exotic, and I liked to sit on the swirly brass vanity chair and imagine.

One of the most beautiful features of the new church (now 38 years old) was a central courtyard. It is best viewed from the narthex, adjacent to the sanctuary, as the wall between the narthex and the courtyard is made mostly of glass. My mother Margaret has always loved the courtyard, and for as long as I can remember, she has voiced her dream that I would get married there someday. We would stand in the narthex, side by side, imagining the scene together. Guests would enter from the narthex and take seats in white chairs lined up in the central grassy area, shaded by several trees. The groom and minister would enter from the door off the church library, to the left. The bride would enter from the choir room door on the far right, behind the guests, then walk the along the curved, pebbled walkway in front of them to meet her groom. Flowers would bloom all around, the sun light the ceremony. It would be intimate and beautiful.

For years that was the plan, that I would get married in the courtyard. We talked about it enough that I can still picture the walk clearly in my mind. But the years passed, and I remained single. I moved away, first to Ohio, later to Virginia, and I still remained single. The church was expanded and renovated, a fountain placed in the courtyard, and it began to look like I’d always be single. And the years flowed on: I was no longer a member of the church, the minister I’d grown up with retired. When my mother and I had stood at the window dreaming, it had never occurred to either of us that a wedding wasn’t a sure thing. Continue reading

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This is the Place!

We have a venue! Welcome to the Rooftop Garden at the Center in the Square.

A little backstory: Steve and I started dating in February of 2013, and one evening that May, we headed downtown, as we often did. It was a warm spring night, and after dinner at Table 50, we walked to Billy’s for a cocktail. You know how in every relationship there are those watershed moments, key conversations or experiences when everything seems to shift, either stall out or leap forward? Maybe the martinis were particularly strong, but as we sat at a high-top near the bar, our conversation turned, for the first time, to past relationships. We shared stories of dashed hopes and talked frankly about some of the painful and pivotal events that had led us to where we were. There were a few tears, tightly held hands, kisses of acceptance and promise. When we left Billy’s, my heart felt light and sure. I hadn’t yet told Steve I loved him, but the feeling had taken firm root.

On our way to dinner, we’d seen a number of dressed-up folks, women in evening gowns, men in tuxedos and sharp black suits. The party-goers were too mature for prom, so when we spotted a large white tent on the corner of the market, we’d figured there was a ball or fundraiser going on. By the time we left Billy’s to stroll around and enjoy the weather, the party was in full swing. The tent was lit up, and we  heard the unmistakable sound of my all-time favorite 80s-cover band, Superhold.

People were sitting at round tables scattered under the tent, and more were just outside it, dancing on the parking lot dance floor. Now that it was dark, we could see the atrium of the Center in the Square filled with the festively-dressed folks we’d passed earlier. The party was in celebration of the grand re-opening of the newly remodeled Center, which had been closed for several years for renovations. The spaces that housed Mill Mountain Theatre, the History Museum, the Harrison Museum of African-American Culture, and the Science Museum of Western Virginia had all been redesigned and upgraded; the atrium now featured several aquariums, and there was a new butterfly garden upstairs. Crowning it all was a two-story rooftop garden. Continue reading