Q: Tell us about your wedding! What was the inspiration behind your day? Did you have a specific theme, style or color palette? Did you incorporate any cultural or religious traditions in any part of your day?
A: 2020 was a difficult year for everyone, especially those trying to plan their dream wedding in the midst of uncertainty. Despite the obstacles, we were still able to pull together a restricted dream wedding with the colors and themes of our dreams. We chose to combine modern and traditional styles to create a simple, timeless feel for our big day. We selected modern centerpieces and velvet table cloths, and kept it classic with some touches of pattern in the chinaware. The color palette was inspired by bringing our favorite colors together in one venue space. Nathan’s favorite color is green, and it was very important to him that we have a wedding in a venue surrounded by lots of greenery and grass. My favorite color is pink which showcased mostly throughout all of the florals. It was important to us that our day and our florals especially feature both of our favorite colors to symbolize us not only coming together as one, but also growing together forever. Our favorite color together and often the color we tend to select if picking something for the other person is always blue – which is the color that ultimately inspired the groomsmen suits and bridesmaid gowns. Blue is also the color scheme of our first international trip together to Greece, and the color reminds us of the simple love and joy we felt on that very first trip. It was something we wanted to highlight in our big day, and we made it happen.
Q: Let’s talk wedding decor. How did you decorate your space for the ceremony and the reception? Was any part of the decor DIY?
A: My favorite part of our wedding was all of the fun decor! Our circle archway under which we said our “i dos” was covered in gorgeous greenery and pops of the pink florals representing each of us (through our favorite colors), our never-ending love for each other, and ultimately our intention to grow together. The ceremony took place outside overlooking the gorgeous green Tennessee mountains and featured pops of pick sashes on the chairs beside the aisle. Again, our two colors coming together to symbolize us coming together as one. Our reception is where we brought the party inside to our bright reception space. The highlight of the reception decor for us was the light-up ‘The Umali’s” sign specially made by a family friend for our big day. The sign was mounted on a greenery wall on wheels made by my dad in the exact measurements for that space between the gorgeous glass roll-up doors. It was the perfect backdrop for our head table where we incorporated the pops of pink in the traditional chinaware and touches of modern glassware. The pink velvet table cloths were specially ordered for our wedding to incorporate the pink in our reception decor. The other DIY projects for our wedding came from our wedding decor specialists from Wild Ivy Events (close family friends) who hand painted and printed custom lettering on our two acrylic wedding signs. My dad custom made and spray painted gold stand that one of the signs hung on during the reception. They completely captured my Pinterest Wedding vision.
Q: What were the florals like in your wedding? Did you use flowers in any of your design elements like the bridal bouquets, centerpieces or ceremony backdrop? Did they play an important part in the overall style of your wedding?
A: The florals were primarily where my pop of pink was able to come into our dream wedding. I have talked a little bit about our florals already, but I will share some more details. We used real flowers for everything – the bouquets, boutonnieres, corsages, centerpieces, head table arrangements, table decor, and ceremony arch. It was really important to me that the flowers really pop and make a statement. I did not want any shades of orange, yellow or red in the flowers – only pink (and greenery too). I had a few inspiration pictures, but I did not have an exact vision in mind. I shared my thoughts with Chickamauga Florist and they handled the rest. They put together some gorgeous, unique bouquets that were unlike any others that I had seen before. They were the perfect florals for my dream wedding. Big, bold, and PINK (plus green)! While I was really particular about everyone matching, I decided a little variation with the boutonnieres was the way to go. The guys each had a little different of an arrangement on their lapel, and it ended up being just the variation our wedding needed. The guys looked great! I absolutely loved all of the arrangements that Chickamauga Florist did, and I highly recommend them to anyone in the Chattanooga area who is looking for the best florist at the best price. It was a great way for us to support a small, local business in the midst of a rough time period.
Q: Did you personalize the day in any way (food trucks, guest entertainment etc.)? What were some of your favorite parts of your wedding?
A: Okay okay, so the groom has a Star Wars obsession, and I wanted to somehow incorporate that into our special day. I decided to surprise him with a special grooms cake modeled after Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon ship with a cute sign on the back saying “just married.” The bakery even added some cute little cans off the back of it just like a get-away car. His face when he saw the cake was priceless! He absolutely LOVED it. I even special-ordered some cake forks – one saying ‘I love you’ and the other saying ‘I know.’ (Star Wars fans will get it). We featured a Krispy Kreme donuts table which has been a reoccurring trend for lots of weddings in recent years, but our donuts were especially important to us because Krispy Kreme donuts was where we had one of our very first dates. Donuts are the groom’s all-time favorite dessert, so naturally Krispy Kreme was the place he wanted to take me. I have never not thought about him when seeing a donut since that night, and now Krispy Kreme is one of our favorite date-night stops (only when the hot light is on of course).For our main wedding cake we used the customized champagne glasses and serving utensils that the groom’s parents used on their wedding day. They were married in 1990, which is one of the reasons were were pushing so hard to get married in 2020 – to be married 30 years after the groom’s parents. We are excited that we not only got to borrow some of their special wedding memories, but that we also get to forever share the big milestone years with them. We hope that our marriage can be modeled after theirs and incorporating some of their wedding details in our special day was a great way for us to symbolize that.My personal favorite wedding detail was our very special flower girl, Ivey Layne. She is my favorite little firework, and she was the perfect joy to have on our wedding day. Ivey has Down Syndrome which just makes her extra special with her extra chromosome. She is the little sister of our close family friends, and she has been the star flower girl for many weddings thus far. Her little dress had the same trim details as mine, and she LOVED being near me throughout the whole day. We were princesses together with our crowns, and nothing made me feel more like a princess on my special day than the way Ivey looked at me. Those moments of her at this age are moments I will cherish forever. We also incorporated our gorgeous light-up Umali sign that was specially made by a close family friend (I talked about it in a previous answer, but it was so fantastic that it’s worth mentioning again).As far as guest entertainment, we did not do anything big, but we wanted to do something special. I LOVE to dance, and I am obsessed with fun, unrealistic 80’s movies and dance shows like Dancing with the Stars. It has been a dream of mine to have a choreographed First Dance, and the groom (even though he is not a dancer at all) agreed to learn a special dance with me. During the weeks leading up to our wedding, we thought that learning a dance with everything closed down might be impossible… But we ended up finding a local dance studio who was offering private dance lessons. She helped teach and choreograph a one-of-a-kind dance just for us. We of course wore masks and honored social distancing during lessons, but my dream became a reality. We ended up dancing to True by Tilian, and our close family and friends were incredibly impressed. I gleamed with joy throughout the whole dance still in awe that my sweet husband spent so much time learning to dance just for me. It was definitely a dream-come-true.Another special thing we did on our wedding day was send off magical floating lanterns into the night sky before our send-off. My Disney dream of being like Rapunzel and Flynn Rider in Tangled was a reality. Wedding guests stepped outside and spread out along the back grass of our venue space and we lit the paper lanterns and watched them sail through the sky. Our venue approved the lantern send-off ahead of time and the lanterns are completely biodegradable and safe for the environment. We even had a fireman present to observe and be sure guests handled the lanterns and fire with care. All went according to plan. I felt like a real-life Disney Princess as I watched our lantern bounce through the night sky.
Q: Let’s talk fashion. How did you both choose your wedding day look? Describe the looks in detail.
A: The bridal party really popped with the groomsmen wearing the accent color of light blue and the bridesmaids rocking the navy. With an untraditional groom who refused to wear the classic grey or navy, he wanted him and his guys to stand out – so they did! We got asked for weeks where they got their fun suits (Express for those curious)! The groom also wanted to feel like himself and wear loafers with no-show socks. While I (the bride) was originally against the idea, I wanted our day and his attire to feel just as much his own to him as my special gown was to me. So we purchased all of the groomsmen’s shoes to match and had my grandmother specially add a temporary hem to each of their suit pants to match the loafer look the groom was going for. The groom wore shoes that matched his belt that were slightly different than the ones we bought for the rest of the groomsmen. We got his shoes and belt from Cole Haan. As far as their ties and pocket squares, I special ordered them from an Etsy shop called BowsNTies based in San Francisco, CA. I wanted a simple, sleek tie to match the bridesmaids gowns exactly! This shop specialized in matching the colors of the Davids Bridal gowns, and they turned out to be the exact material and color match I was hoping for! Now… the bridesmaid look was a CHALLENGE! I wanted all of the girls to match exactly, but with all of their varying body types (and opinions) it was hard to find the perfect fit. Luckily, David’s Bridal has just released a new line of gowns at the beginning of 2020 that ended up fitting my vision perfectly! The sleek material, rich color, cleavage coverage, the added sexy slit, and even the added pockets really had all of us falling in love! I never thought David’s Bridal would be where I found the bridesmaids’ perfect dress, but sometimes the right answer is right in front of you. Speaking of difficulty finding the perfect gown, my journey to finding the perfect dress was certainly not an easy one; however, my gown is definitely ONE OF A KIND! I had a very special vision in mind of a fitted gown with a dramatic removable train. Eve of Milady had a dress that was very close to my vision, but me seamstress re-did the entire top portion of the gown – adding straps and lace to make the dress my complete vision. I purchased the gown from Lori’s Bridal in Atlanta, GA and all of my “Say Yes to the Dress” dreams came true. I purchased my gown in January 2020 before the pandemic, so I got to experience the complete Covid-free gown search that I always hoped for. My shoes incorporated the light pink and gorgeous beading that I wanted to match the wedding decor and the details on my gown. They were Badgley Mischka. Then my gorgeous tiara was another one of my favorite details. It featured the scalloped edge look that matched some of the trim pieces of my dress, and it was absolutely perfect. It was from Formally Yours – a bridal shop in Atlanta, GA. The attire of the entire bridal party turned out to be exactly what I was hoping for and more!
Q: How did you meet? Tell us about the proposal.
A: We first met in the girls dorm lobby at Southern Adventist University (SAU). While we had seen each other around, we didn’t know each other at all. The plan was to meet up in the lobby to ride with mutual friends to a networking dinner for summer internships. As the two friends who are always early, we both arrived before everyone else. We didn’t speak to each other and rather waited for the rest of the group. Along with two other friends, we rode to the networking dinner. While at dinner, other friends gave Nathan a hard time about still being single when he was supposed to graduate in 2 months. I defended him and shared how amazing I thought single life was and that being single is awesome. Thus, the first bonding moment we had was how much we both enjoyed being single and how the pressure of relationships was exhausting. At the end of the evening when we were both dropped back off at the dorm, everyone said their goodbyes, but Nathan and I began walking in the same direction… as we parked in the same area. The awkward moment turned into a 30 second conversation that neither can remember specifically, but each sat down in their vehicles after the conversation and felt a small spark realizing how easy it was to talk to the other. Fast forward a few group encounters later, to when Nathan finally asked me out on an official date, for which he picked me up at my house. He took me to Carrabba’s Italian Restaurant and we spent the evening laughing, talking, and smiling. I was determined that I wasn’t going to fall head over heels, and I was making a mental check-list throughout the meal. As we walked back to the car after dinner, Nathan rushed around to the passenger side door to open it for me as I got in. That was my final box to be checked for our evening out….. It was at that moment (on our first official date) that I knew I was in love….. yikes! Later, I invited myself to spend a week with Nathan’s family up in Michigan for New Years and Nathan had practically no choice but to agree. After only knowing each other for 2 months, I was traveling to meet the parents…. what?! I surprised myself with how quickly I fell for this guy, but for me to really know if I could see herself with him long-term, I knew I had to get to know his family. When you ask each of us separately when we knew we would marry the other, we both bring up that first trip I made to Michigan. We went to parks, ventured up north, froze our butts off, fellowshipped with his family, and the rest is practically history. Over the next two and half years, we saw 2 World Wonders, ventured to 3 continents, toured parts of 14 countries, visited 15 States, drove together though 18 States, and went on 6 road trips (not counting the numerous times we have driven between Michigan and Tennessee). We are excited to continue exploring the world God created in the many years to come – which now looks very different in a world with Covid… We have not traveled much since our short honeymoon trip, but we still look forward to future possibilities of national and world travel.O H Y E A H – and we got engaged! I will share that story really quick too! Nathan planned a very special weekend get-away that seemed to just be a quick trip up to visit his parents. Once the trip got closer he told me were were going to tag along on his parents’ trip up to Mackinac Island since they already had weekend plans to go. I agreed, but was not looking forward to it as much as I should have been. I had recently torn the ligaments in my left ankle and was hobbling around in a huge boot waiting for it to heal. If you know anything about Mackinac Island, you know that there are no cars on the island… it is only walking, biking, and horse-and-carriage riding… which is not ideal for a girl limping in a boot. Regardless, we we went up to Michigan hopeful for a relaxing weekend. Little did I know, on the day of our arrival Nathan was planning to PROPOSE! After a long carriage ride to the hidden gardens of the Grand Hotel, Nathan and I were dropped off in the wrong spot… we walked around for what seemed like an eternity while Nathan was determined to show me the gardens before our fancy dinner plans at the Grand Hotel. By the time we made it to the gardens, my ankle was throbbing, my patience dwindling, and my stomach growling… needless to say I was not in the greatest mood. But Nathan quickly guided me into the gorgeous gardens and told me stories about when he came there as a kid. We took photos of each other and enjoyed the peace and quiet in the gardens alone. As we walked across a little bridge Nathan grabbed my hands and got down on one knee… I immediately thought he was joking after I was in such a bad mood leading up to this moment… but he soon assured me that this time (after all of his fake proposals) he was actually asking me to be his WIFE! Whattttttt? My heart skipped a beat and butterflies swarmed my stomach. Suddenly all of the pain in my ankle went away and my eyes began to water. It was the easiest YES I have ever said! And as Nathan stood up, we looked over to my right and there was a photographer capturing every moment! I was in complete bliss. This dreadful evening became the best of my life, and it only got BETTER! As Nathan pulled me close for a hug, he whispered in my ear that both of my parents came to celebrate and spend the weekend with us! Not 10 seconds later, I look over and both sets of our parents rounded the corner of the garden almost as if on cue. My dad held my left shoe in a triumph over his head as if to say “I told you you would want this.” I smiled through my happy tears and hobbled over to hug my parents. I was sooooo thrilled to have them there to celebrate with us. Nathan helped me slip out of my boot in into the other dress shoe that I had refused to bring on the trip. Nathan had planned it perfectly and knew I would want to take some photos without the ugly boot, and thank goodness he snuck the shoe out of my closet and into his backpack for our parents to bring after he proposed. What a perfect Cinderella moment with my sweet husband-to-be putting on my other shoe and carrying me off into the sunset for our proposal photo shoot. Fairy Tales really do come true after all, huh??
Q: What was the most anticipated or special moment of your wedding day?
A: Ooo, this is tough, but I had two big moments. The first was of course our first look. We decided to write our private vows and share them during our first look, and that was such a great choice for us. We wanted them to be kept between the two of us and recorded so we could remember them forever. I was REALLY looking forward to it. It was amazing to see Nathan turn around and see me in my gown for the first time. The look of love and awe on his face is one I will remember and cherish forever. The other moment I was most anticipating was my walk down the aisle. I picked the perfect song for me – Dream by Priscilla Ahn (featured in the hit movie Bride Wars). It is a song that speaks to my heart and is all about… well, me. My mom gave me a hard time for picking a song about me and not about Nathan and I as a couple, but once she listened to the song it all made sense. My flower girl and I both walked down to the song and I felt like I was the star character in my own Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson movie. Being a bride is every little girl’s dream, and in that moment I was finally living mine. The song started and my flower girl began her march down the aisle. She twirled, threw flowers and smiled and waved at every person she knew. She captured the song’s lyrics perfectly. Then there was a small build-up to 1 minute and 38 seconds into the song where the song peaks into a repeating melody. At that moment the double doors opened and I made my entrance with my dad down the aisle. All the emotions I felt were exactly the ones I had always dreamed. I was just steps from marrying my best friend, and the moments that followed were a dream-come-true.
Q: Do you have any wedding planning or marriage advice that you’d like to share with other couples planning their day?
A: Our wedding planning experience was far different than any wedding I had helped plan in the past. With Covid restrictions and guest safety becoming a top-priority we definitely had to make some compromises. But if there is any advice that I would share, it would be to stay true to yourselves as a couple and do what makes you both happy. We were over budget, over-tired, and had to make spur of the moment decisions and changes to be sure our event was safe for all of our guests, but it was 150% worth it for us. We made our dream wedding a reality, and I would not change a thing. As far as general wedding-planning advice I would say to make a budget and try to stick with it the best you can. But if you have the means to go beyond your budget when the plan (and in our case the world) changes, then it is really nice to have that option. We dipped into our savings to make our wedding what we really wanted, and even though it was just for one day, I do not regret it. Each couple is different though and that may not be what is best for you. If you are planning a wedding then the two biggest things I would say are WORTH THE MONEY are – #1 a good photographer (Nelya is the best of the best) and #2 good food. I say this because the pictures are what you will have to look back on forever, and the food is how the guests at your wedding will remember your wedding. So if you have great photos to look back on the day and your guests have a great time, you will never go wrong! Happy wedding planning!