I married the most awesome man ever on April 12, 2014, and I thought it’d be good to have a write-up of everything, for both posterity’s sake and for anyone who’s curious about any details of my wedding. I’ll start from the day before the wedding.
We had our rehearsal at the venue, Club Continental, in Orange Park, Florida. Our officiant was Pastor Randy Hale of Christ’s Church in Fleming Island, Florida. We did not have a wedding coordinator, and I really just didn’t think about who ran the rehearsal, so it was a bit confusing at first. Thankfully, my lifelong friend Hannah kind of took over (as she has our whole lives, which is why my personality is not that of an oldest sibling, which I am) and helped direct everyone (she was married 6 years ago and has been in several weddings). She flew all the way from Hawaii to come to my wedding, and I am so happy she was able to be there!
After our rehearsal where we got most everything figured out (we each only had one attendant and we didn’t have any flower girls or a ring bearer), we headed to Cantina Laredo for our rehearsal dinner. We hosted it ourselves and had 23 people in total. We reserved their private room and had a set menu with soft drinks, water and tea, chips and guacamole, queso and salsa, three different entree options and two desserts included. We chose to pay for the food for everyone and if people wanted alcoholic drinks, they could pay for those individually. It turned out really well and everyone was happy with their food. I surprised Justin with a chocolate ganache cake from Publix since he mentions it every time we walk by the bakery. 🙂 Between the chocolate cake and the mango cake and flan included with our meal, there was plenty of dessert to go around. I’m not a fan of flan, but the mango cake was incredibly delicious and a nice light break from the heavy chocolate.
We went back to the hotel where all my family was staying, the Hampton Inn & Suites on Southside Blvd. in Jacksonville. I didn’t stay there, but from the time I spent there with family and what I heard from everyone, I would highly recommend it. They had just renovated it last fall and everything was very clean and nice. There was a great commons area for everyone to hang out in, but the best part was the patio with a large fire pit and fountain with tons of seating. Both sides of my family packed the patio and had a great time hanging out and socializing. I loved seeing everyone all together! I reserved rooms at the Club Continental for my maid of honor and me to stay in, as well as a room in the River Suites (same property, different building) for Justin and his best man to stay in the night before the wedding. I didn’t want us to have to worry about rushing to get to the venue on time and the rooms were so beautiful that I wanted to have my getting ready photographs taken there. (Photo taken from the Club Continental’s website.)
The boys finished up some things for the next day: Justin owns a photobooth so they made sure everything was ready to go for that, and then they just hung out and talked for a couple of hours. Justin doesn’t get to see his best man, Kyle, very often so they had a good time catching up. My maid of honor, Melissa, was my roommate for 3 years, from 2011 until the wedding, so we didn’t have to catch up on anything. We got in bed and talked for a bit, watched the movie White Chicks on TV and fell asleep around midnight. We woke up at 7 to this BEAUTIFUL sight! I took both of these pictures with my phone from my bedroom window: the second one shows the ceremony location before the chairs were set up. The weather that day couldn’t have been more perfect. I was so happy and calm. I think I was too calm, actually: Melissa kept asking me “Are you excited? Are you nervous?” Yes, I was super excited, but no, I wasn’t nervous at all. I was going to marry the love of my life in a few hours and nothing else really mattered. We went downstairs to where there was nice little breakfast set up for the guests. I was following a low-carb diet at the time, so I had the ham and egg casserole with some coffee. I knew I should eat something, but I wasn’t very hungry. Melissa and I sat at a table next to the window and had a few minutes of quiet time enjoying the sunshine and anticipating the day ahead. I hired Kendra Chaney to come do our makeup and she works with Bonnie (I never got her last name!), who I had come do our hair. They came at 8 and got right to work. Since there was just two of us getting our hair and makeup done and our bedroom had a whole separate sitting room area, it was super calm and relaxing. Melissa was awesome and had thought to bring orange juice and champagne, so I broke the whole low-carb thing (it was my wedding day!) and had a mimosa or two. After getting my hair and makeup done, I wanted to keep drinking but didn’t want to mess up my lipstick, so I ran downstairs to see if I could get a straw. While I was down there I ran into Justin, Kyle, and Kyle’s brother Christian setting up the photobooth. They looked a little harried, but it was good to see Justin, if just for a moment, that morning.
While we were getting our hair and makeup finished up, my mom had come with Hannah. Since I didn’t have a wedding coordinator, my mom, her friend and Hannah’s mom Sarah, and I think some of my aunts helped set up the tables for the reception. Club Continental provided white linens, and I bought blue table runners online which we criss-crossed on the round tables. I also made centerpieces with glass bowls, small rocks, fake flowers and fake succulents from Hobby Lobby. They weren’t anything special or fancy, but I liked them! I printed out table numbers on cardstock, used a big circular hole punch and green craft wire for table numbers. We coiled up the craft wire to make a little stand and stuck them down in the rocks in the centerpieces. Again, nothing fancy, but they got the job done and I thought they were cute.
We also had custom napkins printed from The Knot and the favors were buckeyes that I made in the weeks leading up the wedding. The intention was to print out small labels explaining that buckeyes are an Ohio thing and I wanted to bring a little of my home state into my Florida wedding, but that didn’t happen. It wasn’t until we were putting them in the bags that we realized they looked slightly inappropriate two to a bag, but I wasn’t up for making another batch two nights before the wedding, so we left it. I never cared too much about the small details, but I completely stopped caring in the week before the wedding. All I cared about was marrying my love!
While my amazing family and friends set up the reception tables downstairs, I finished getting ready upstairs. My mom and Melissa were there to help me get dressed since my dress had tiny buttons down the back and I needed someone to tie my sash.
By this time Kimberly, Kyle’s wife and half of Gator Bride Video had come up and was taking some video of the getting dressed process and asked me a few questions about how Justin and I met, our first date, that kind of stuff. Our photographers, Appleseed Photography, were also there and had gotten some nice shots of my accessories. I knew what I wanted my jewelry to look like but I had a hard time finding anything I liked in stores, so I went to Etsy. I ordered a necklace with matching earrings from JaniceMarie (who looks to be on vacation now). The earrings came on ear wires, but I wanted posts so I bought posts from Jo Ann and glued them on to the back of the flower rhinestone with the same glue I used for my shoes. It was super simple and I’ve worn my earrings since the wedding with no problems! I also wore a pearl necklace that I’ve owned for several years doubled around my wrist as a bracelet.
I didn’t end up with anything borrowed, but I did have my something old (my grandmother gave me a handkerchief that had belonged to her mother, my great-grandmother. She had saved one for each granddaughter for her wedding day!), my something new (…pretty much everything, but we’ll say my dress), and my something blue (I sewed blue beads onto the garter I made, and the ribbon around my bouquet was aqua blue). In place of my something borrowed, I like to think that I had something handmade: my mother-in-law made my veil by hand and it was perfect! I loved the pearl edging and it was just the right length and felt good on. I don’t have a picture of the veil by itself, but it obviously shows up in later photos!
I loved my dress! From the beginning, I knew I wanted a low back, straps, and relatively close-fitted. Melissa and I first went to David’s Bridal, where the closest contender was this dress, but it wasn’t great. The back wasn’t low enough and the straps just felt like a normal tank top, not a wedding dress. We then made an appointment at The Bridal Shop at the Avenues, where there was a much better selection of dresses. My favorite from there was the Allure 8800 but again, it didn’t blow me away. It wasn’t very heavy so you could see every contour of my body and I really did not want to have to wear any shapewear under my dress. I also wasn’t a big fan of the train, since the edge was just a rolled hem and seemed too light. Behold the not-very-flattering dress and wah-wahh train: I knew what style I was looking for, so I got online and started looking. I ALWAYS ask Justin for his opinion on things, even things he really doesn’t care about, so it was SO HARD for me not to show him wedding dresses. He knew the basics of what I wanted, so one night I was sending him tons of links to various dresses and asking his opinion. I found several I was interested in, including Sawyer by Maggie Sottero. I didn’t say anything about which dresses I preferred, just sent links without any comments. He’d respond with “too much crap going on”, “weird floofiness”, “too loose”, “I don’t like the flowery stuff”, etc. He responded to Sawyer with “Yeah, I like that one. That one’s good.” I’d already decided it was my favorite, but now I had to find somewhere to try it on. I used Maggie Sottero’s website to find places that carried their dresses and spent several hours one day calling all around to see if anyone had Sawyer in the store for me to try on. Finally, I found it at A Bridal Boutique for the Girls in Daytona Beach. I made an appointment but unfortunately Melissa had to work that day so I went by myself. The boutique is open by appointment only and the owner, Mandy, and her mom take only one appointment at a time. They lock the door once you’re there so all of their attention is focused on you. Since I was only there to try on one specific dress, it was very straightforward. I did try on another on just for fun to build the anticipation, but I really just wanted to put Sawyer on and see if I liked it on me as much as I did in the pictures of the model. I did! Once I had it on, I knew immediately that I wanted that dress, no deliberation needed. I tried to keep it on and delay the end of the appointment as long as possible, but there was really no reason to just stand around in the boutique with it on, so I reluctantly took it off after getting plenty of photos and video to show my mom. My mom came down for a visit over Labor Day weekend and we went to see the dress again, along with my mother-in-law. We ordered it on August 30th 2013 and it came in mid-December 2013, about a month earlier than expected. I had it tailored (taken in a fair amount and shortened just a bit) by Daniel Motorca at The Tailor Shop in Jacksonville.
Back to the wedding day! I was so thankful that I didn’t have to wear any shapewear or obnoxious underthings with my dress, and since the under layer was satin, it was incredibly comfortable. I didn’t want to take it off at the end of the day! At Justin’s request I did wear the garter that I’d sewed a few days before the wedding. Besides my underwear (the dress had bra cups sewn into the satin layer), the only other piece of clothing I needed was my shoes! I love shoes and knew from the very beginning that I wanted my wedding heels to be incredible. I bought a pair of white heels on sale at DSW, rhinestones from eBay, and glue and a gem setter from JoAnn Fabrics and spent far too many hours gluing rhinestones on my shoes. I put together a photo tutorial HERE. I had my shoes figured out before my dress!
In addition to my fake plant centerpieces, I made fake flower bouquets and boutonnieres. I’m not a huge fan of flowers and couldn’t rationalize paying lots of money for something that dies in a few days, so I got bunches of fake flowers from Hobby Lobby, floral tape, ribbon, and pearl-head boutonniere pins. My bouquet was made of off-white little flowers (no idea what kind), and Melissa’s was made out of the same kind of flower, but pale green and a little smaller. I used aqua ribbon with white polka dots to wrap my stems and white ribbon with aqua polka dots to wrap hers. I used white calla lilies and some kind of leaf to make the boutonnieres and just wrapped them in floral tape. Our brothers, both dads, my grandfather, Kyle, and Justin each had a boutonniere for a total of 9. I didn’t want to try my hand at corsages, so we ordered 7 from Publix: Justin’s sister, who did a short reading in the ceremony, both moms, and our grandmothers (all 4!) each had one.
There aren’t any pictures of just the bouquets, so here’s a badly cropped (by me) photo of Melissa holding both of them during the ceremony.
Justin and I knew from the beginning that we wanted to do a first look so we could get the majority of our pictures out of the way before the ceremony. We only had about 30 minutes after the ceremony before the reception started and we knew a lot of that time would be taken up by family photos. I was ready before I needed to be so I had some pictures of just me in the room, which I love.
Finally, I got to go see Justin! I pretty much ran to him and tapped him on the shoulder, eagerly waited for him to turn around and then threw out my arms so he could see my dress and so I could hug him.
We took some pictures in front of the Club Continental and in case I had any doubts about choosing that location (I didn’t), they were swept aside when I saw the amazing photos we got there! Too soon people started arriving so I had to go back upstairs to hide out. Thankfully there was a balcony so I stood up there and spied on people walking in. I was too excited to sit in my room and do nothing, so I entertained myself by watching people come in to the wedding and laughing to myself that they had no idea I was just a few feet above their heads being a creeper.
Meanwhile, guests were being seated and getting ready for the ceremony. Justin’s younger half-brothers walked his grandmother down the aisle, followed by his dad, and my little brother handed out programs like a boss. Jonathan has mild cerebral palsy and is the coolest 18 year old I know.
I love this photo of my brother getting ready to walk my mom down the aisle while my dad waits for me to come down.
I couldn’t wait to get everything started, but people kept telling me to wait. FINALLY, Hannah came up and said it was time to go! I walked down the stairs and ran into my DJ, Jonathan of Feedback Entertainment who I’d met in person in other circumstances but since we’d only discussed the wedding on the phone, he didn’t realize it was me until he saw me coming down the stairs. He was super excited to see me and gave me a huge hug, which was a really nice moment right before the ceremony started.
I loved how my veil felt over my shoulders! I saw my dad and showed him my dress, which he hadn’t seen in person before. I don’t really remember what either of us said while we were waiting to walk down the aisle, but I know he told me I was beautiful and asked if I was ready, to which I replied “Yes!” I was so eager to walk towards my future husband! But first, I had to hide out of sight from our guests.
It seemed like forever, but eventually Hannah and my brother’s girlfriend Margaret (who was a huge help before and during the wedding as well!) opened up the double doors and my dad and I walked down to the sound of my cousin playing Handel’s The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba on the violin.
My cousin Evan is an incredible violinist and I am so lucky to have had him play at my wedding!
It was so amazing to finally be standing up there holding hands with Justin and ready to say our vows. Pastor Hale said a few things about marriage that I don’t really remember, and Justin’s sister Heather came up to read Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, then Justin read his vows.
We decided to write our own vows in addition to repeating the traditional ones. He teared up and had to pause a few times while reading from the paper he’d typed up, which made me tear up a little too. Thankfully I’d put my great-grandmother’s handkerchief inside my bouquet so I turned to Melissa and got the handkerchief out, dabbed my eyes, put back the hanky and got my vows out, which I’d also put inside my bouquet. No purse, no pockets, no problem!
When it was my turn to read my vows, I was so happy that I wasn’t even threatened by tears. Thank goodness, because I was seriously worried before the wedding about crying through the whole ceremony. (I was a bridesmaid in Hannah’s wedding and cried pretty much the whole time. I was a mess!) I love the following pictures because you can see Justin’s mom, who hand-made my veil, and the beautiful Spanish moss-covered oak tree that shaded many of the guests.
I got through my vows without any problems, then we repeated the traditional vows and exchanged rings. I was so focused on Justin that I completely forgot about Melissa and Kyle standing up there too. I love this shot of my parents holding hands during the ceremony. They were married on October 6, 1984 and have been through tons. Their marriage is a wonderful example to my siblings and me.
Once we’d said our vows and exchanged rings, we kissed!
I wanted us announced as Mr. and Mrs. Justin and Katie Brush, but our pastor (like many others) accidentally said Bush instead before quickly correcting himself. Oh well, we were still married! We’d planned beforehand to have Justin pick me up to carry me back down the aisle. We made sure during our first look that my train wasn’t too long and he wouldn’t trip over it, and there were no problems. He swept me up and walked back down the aisle and through the doors, but not before apparently deploying spirit fingers he was so happy to have married me.
I had to show off those shoes I spent so many hours on!
We had Melissa and Kyle sign the marriage license and then waited a few minutes for people to clear out so we could go back and take pictures with our families. Here’s just a picture with our parents, and one of my immediate family so you’re not bored by tons of family photos!
After the family photos were taken, Justin and I took a few more and we got our photos with Kyle and Melissa.
I had a good group of girl friends from pole at the wedding, so we took some great pictures as well!
Once we were done with the photos, we headed into the reception area and sat down. We decided on a head table, not a sweetheart table, mostly because we each only had one attendant and they both had significant others, and 6 was a nice number to have at one rectangular table. I think it worked out well! My dad said the blessing for the food and we got to eating. I’m quite sure that in the following picture, Justin is saying something about me taking all of a particular food, probably cheese, leaving none for anyone else.
The food wasn’t even one of our priorities: of course we didn’t want to have bad food, but I wasn’t too concerned with having a super fabulous menu either. Thankfully the food was absolutely delicious and from what we’ve heard, everyone really enjoyed it. We had a buffet so everyone could find something they liked. The best part was later that night at the hotel, we opened the trunk to get our bags out and found a tray of food that the staff had packed up and Hannah and/or Melissa had ensured made it to our car. It was a great surprise, enabling us to just hang out in our hotel room and eat delicious leftovers. While we were eating, Melissa and Kyle gave their speeches, which were absolutely fantastic. Melissa was one of only a few people who saw our relationship develop from the very beginning, and she had some sweet words to say. Kyle’s speech not only talked about how amazing of a man Justin is, but thanked me for my positive influence in Justin’s life, bringing almost everyone to tears, including Justin!
After we had eaten (everyone says that it’s hard to eat on your wedding day, but I was stuffed! The wonderful staff at the Club Continental saved us two of each of our butlered hors d’ouevres that were out during the cocktail half hour while we were getting our pictures taken, but I was so full from the buffet that I didn’t even try the plate they left for us on our table.), we walked around to the tables. Unfortunately, there were several tables we didn’t get to before we were summoned to the dance floor to cut the cake and for our first dance.
We got our cake from Publix, and instead of having a large traditional cake, we went with cupcakes, in both chocolate and vanilla, with white buttercream frosting. I love cupcakes, and it was cheaper to do them instead of a cake, both in cost per serving and not having to have someone on staff cut the cake. Publix supplied the cake stand (we paid a deposit which was refunded when we brought it back) and normally supply their own cupcake wrappers, but since they were black and white, I found my own silvery white ones and brought them in for them to use. The bakery even saved the wrappers they didn’t use and put them in a box for me to keep, which was super nice! We did have a top tier cake for us to cut, which we got in red velvet, though with white buttercream frosting instead of the traditional cream cheese since that would’ve been off-white.
After we cut the cake and fed each other a bite, we went straight into our first dance as husband and wife. I did get to eat a cupcake later in the reception though! We chose not to do our first dance right when we walked into the reception, mostly because I think it’s kind of weird to walk in, dance, then sit down and eat, then dance again. I wanted our first dance and our dances with our parents to open up the dance floor, so that’s how we did it. Justin and I swayed to “You and Me” by Lifehouse because over the months that just happened to be the song we would end up dancing to, just the two of us in my apartment or his house, whenever it came on.
My dad is super awesome and gave me one of the best gifts ever the fall before the wedding: dance lessons to put together a choreographed dance for our father/daughter dance! I was home for Thanksgiving when we had our first (and only, for me) lesson at an Arthur Murray dance studio. My dad, who would probably rather have spent his money for a myriad of other reasons, bought a package of lessons and went with my mom to learn the dance, then they taught it to me a few days before the wedding. We had a bit of a difficult time choosing music that worked, but finally ended up with the theme music from Anne of Green Gables, which was PERFECT. I’ve watched that movie a million times and own the entire series of books, all of which I’ve read at least three times. Just listening to the music brings me back to my childhood and a feeling of calmness and joy. We do have raw video of our dance, but we haven’t gotten around to editing it yet. I will definitely post it when it’s done!
After my dance with my dad, Justin danced with his mom.
After about two minutes of their song, the DJ faded it and into another song (no idea what it was, but a slow one) and asked all the couples to come out on the floor and dance. We hadn’t talked about it, but I’m so glad he did! We got some wonderful pictures during that song, and it was the only time the dance floor was full. This progression of photos is amazing: first, my maternal grandparents looking amazing and on color theme!
Then my awesome and wonderful parents. My dad had a stroke just 7 months before the wedding and I am so thankful he’s recovered almost 100%!
And finally my brother and his beautiful girlfriend. I’d just met her for the first time a few days before the wedding but she jumped in to help with everything and was so fun to have around. They met while working in the Middle East but her home country is Canada, so they’re still figuring out their futures. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for them!
The rest of the reception is mostly a blur, but I got some pictures with my lifelong friend Hannah. She left her husband and daughter in Hawaii to fly to Florida for my wedding and helped out so much. We hadn’t seen each other since her wedding in July 2008!
My new husband and I also managed to spend some time in the photobooth that Justin, Kyle, and Christian had set up that morning. I love these pictures! (Sorry for the horrible photo quality.) The top right photo is probably my favorite, though the bottom right one is a close second.
We also made it onto the dance floor at the very end until we were told it was time to go! This is such a fun group of photos with friends, cousins, brothers, and bridal party all getting down on the dance floor.
Everything went by SO fast, I wish it could have gone on for several more hours. We couldn’t have any confetti, rice, or anything that would require clean-up for our exit, and since it was a daytime wedding, sparklers wouldn’t work, so we went with the tried and true bubbles. I found aqua ones on The Knot and stuck them in a white basket I found at Jo Ann. We walked down a corridor of our friends and family blowing bubbles in the sun, and it was perfect.
Justin’s car was waiting for us (I think Kyle had pulled it up) and it had been tastefully decorated (by Hannah, Melissa, and Margaret? I’m pretty sure it was those three, or some combination of those amazing girls) with “Just Married” written on the back windshield and I think the word “Love” on the front windshield. I loved it and we left the “Just Married” on all week.
We headed to the hotel we’d reserved a room in for the night, but told no one which hotel we were staying in, just to make sure we weren’t bothered. I doubt anyone would have done anything, but it was nice to be totally sure. I do not suffer from being the center of attention, so I enjoyed walking into the hotel in my wedding dress and checking in with a bunch of people telling us congratulations, but Justin was very ready to get out of his suit. 🙂 Having a daytime wedding meant we had the whole evening to relax and unwind, and it was SO NICE. We took a nap, talked about how the day went, ate the tray of food saved from the buffet, and even went back to my apartment where we cut ourselves a huge chunk of leftover cake, put it in a tupperware container and took it back to the hotel to eat in bed! Melissa wasn’t home, so she didn’t even know we’d done it until we told her later. We didn’t see any point in saving the top tier for our first anniversary: it would take up freezer space, not taste great, and we can get a fresh one very easily next year since it’s from Publix. We enjoyed cake for two weeks after the wedding! I am so incredibly thankful for how well everything went on the day of the wedding. Nothing went wrong (at least as far as I’m aware!), other than some tiny things that don’t really matter. We had absolutely perfect weather and everyone enjoyed the venue, the food, and the time with each other. I have such wonderful memories from our wedding and wish we could do it all over again just to have all my friends and family together. Maybe for a future anniversary!