Leigh Ann and Ben had one of those weddings that reaffirms why you do what you do. The two of them wed in a romantic urban elopement at 718 Venue, surrounded by 22 of their closest family and friends. I am so touched, honored, and overjoyed that they entrusted their wedding day to the Happy to Be Team.
These two were faced with a challenging decision two weeks into December. Leigh Ann’s father didn’t have a lot of time left – he was passing away from terminal brain cancer. These two wanted to get married before he passed. Then, they came to Happy to Be Events for help in planning their elopement. We, in one of our proudest moments, assisted them in everything. From the dress to the venue to the cake – we successfully planned their wedding within a deadline of six days.
Straight off the bat, this was a tricky job. A wedding that we provide our Full Planning Package for involves 80 hours of work. This includes everything from vendor communication to selecting colors and approving designs. We needed to simplify, without cutting down on quality. Leigh Ann and Ben came wanting a traditional wedding. After discussion, we came to the conclusion that it would take fewer logistics to book a venue for just the ceremony, a champagne toast, and cake cutting. Then, we would relocate to a restaurant for a formal dinner. We decided to do this because the restaurant would already have any rentals, a full functioning kitchen, and all the necessities on site. If we selected the correct one, a prix fixe menu that would be easy to solidify. 718 Venue, for the elopement ceremony, cake, and toast, was a perfect choice. Castiglia’s, in Downtown Fredericksburg, had a wine room that was a perfect space for the reception dinner. It came complete with the prix fixe menu we needed!
Next, we needed a wedding that looked beautiful. For this, we turned to Emily Webb, of Vagabond Creative Design Co. Emily and I had a wedding the day before at 718 Venue – Elizabeth and Mike (see their wedding video here!). These two booked us for full planning as well. The fact that they had their wedding the day before is the only reason we were able to do this wedding. The rentals – tables, chairs, plates, candlesticks, cake plate, you name it – were repurposed with Elizabeth and Mike’s permission. With them, we created a unique wedding day for Leigh Ann and Ben. Most of the vendors were carried over as well. The hair/makeup team, the florist, and the baker from Elizabeth and Mike’s Wedding stepped up to the challenge. All a mere 5 days before the wedding!
Without these things taken off our plate, we would not have been able to do this on such short notice. We are so incredibly proud at the Happy to Be Office, but we are also so, so lucky. Our team would not have been able to do it had we not had so many things already completed for us. I know we definitely wouldn’t have been able to do it had we not been blessed with so many vendors who were able to say yes to take on Leigh Ann and Ben’s wedding.
One thing that we love about our couples is the amount of love that they share for each other. From the looks that show so much love – to the words in their vows and in their letters to each other. It was so incredibly clear how much Ben and Leigh Ann cared for each other. Their strength and their trust in each other was so evident that day. Ben and Leigh Ann had one of the most touching wedding days I have ever been to. The love, peace, and care for family, friends, and each other was evident in every single guest present there at the day.
The Thursday before the wedding day, Leigh Ann reached out to me. We had gotten very close over the course of a week, and she informed me that we would need to change the timeline. Unfortunately, her father’s condition was getting worse and would be unable to travel to the ceremony and reception. Instead, we planned to have Leigh Ann get ready at the venue, and do a first look with Ben. Then they would make their way over to her dad’s house for a quick ceremony at 12:20 pm. After the ceremony, they would make the 15-minute drive back to the venue. This would be just in time for their official ceremony at 2 pm.
At 9:56 am on the morning of the wedding, I received a phone call that made my stomach drop to the floor. I was in the middle of a final meeting with another couple. Leigh Ann called me to say that her father would most likely not make it until noon. Our new plan was to push up the in-home ceremony as soon as possible. I rerouted the makeup artist, Hannah, to the house. Then, I hopped in my car with my husband, who I had asked to assist me that day. We made our way over to the house.
A few hours before the wedding ceremony at the venue, Leigh Ann’s father Scott passed away peacefully. He was surrounded by family and loved ones.
Leigh Ann and Ben made the decision to carry out her father’s wish. They chose to have the ceremony at the venue and the rest of the day continue as planned. Leigh Ann relocated to the venue, where we did hair and makeup, and got her in her dress. At 2:10 pm, she walked down the aisle to say her vows in front of family and friends.
My first words to Leigh Ann on her phone call to me were that no matter what happened, no matter her decisions, we -the vendor team, her family, her friends – were there to support and love her, Ben, and their family as they experienced a great deal of tragedy and joy in a period of a few hours. As a wedding coordinator, you are there for a couple on their wedding day to logistically lead the series of events. You are held to that, executing that to perfection: that is your job. We relied on this, our training, our compassion, our empathy, our system – what we do on a wedding day – giving Leigh Ann and Ben a wonderful, emotional, meaningful wedding day, through it all.
Halfway during the reception, which ran a bit long to ease up all of the emotions that were flowing that day, I was requested to change the songs playing to a more interesting playlist (I had put it on a jazz instrumental mix). Joking with the groomsmen asking for some the change, I suggested Star Wars. They were thrilled at the suggestion….and that’s how, for about 45 minutes, everyone listened to Star Wars while they drank champagne and ate cake.
It was impossible to not share and embrace the love that surrounded them on their wedding day. We all walked to Castiglia’s after champagne and cake, taking photos along the way. At the restaurant, their guests were greeted with appetizers and wine in their wine room basement. Castiglia’s served a wonderful dinner of NY strip, lemon chicken, roasted potatoes, and pasta. Everything was delightful, and the room was filled with laughter and friends catching up. Ben and Leigh Ann got a couple of gorgeous shots in their wine cellar, too, before the night was done!
To Ben and Leigh Ann, I can’t put into words how grateful I am that you trusted me, a stranger, to walk into another room and come back and say things like “okay, we have a cake, pay this invoice.” Your day was moving, emotional, full of love, kindness, support and strength, and I can’t tell you how much it means to me that you invited me in on this journey. It truly feels like we have known each other for centuries at this point, and I am so grateful to be able to call you both friends. Thank you for everything. From the absolute bottom of my heart, I am so happy that you asked Happy to Be to plan your wedding.
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Photography by Amanda Beside Eric, KSant Photography, Fowler Studios, Summertime Photography, Studio N Photography, Mermaid Lake Photography, Tessa Anne Photography, Kassandra Renee Photography, Samantha Parkes Photography, Kerry Renee Photography, and KJ Shepard Photography.