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Fairly often, I get a quick message from a friend asking for help on behalf of a recently engaged sister, cousin, or best friend. They’re looking for recommendations for venues, photographers, wedding planners, or florists, and I’m quick to point them towards our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory because it’s full of the best and brightest wedding talent the South has to offer! Every single member has been personally vetted by the Southern Weddings team, so I feel like I’m sharing my very own “word of mouth” referrals. We’ve added some new faces, and I’m thrilled to introduce you to them:

Name: A Fox Event
Category: Event Planning and Design
Where you call home: Charleston, South Carolina
Best piece of advice you can give to brides and grooms? Planners are here to make your dreams come true and will do everything in their power to make sure your day is absolutely perfect!

Name: 2 Sisters Events and Design
Category: Event Planning & Design
Where you call home: Lakeland, Florida
Favorite thing about weddings in the South? Manners and etiquette are still going strong in the South, which pleases me to no end!

Name: Bellelina Studio
Category: Beauty
Where you call home: Charleston, South Carolina
Things you’d write home to your Momma about: Makeup artist for Charleston Fashion Week, 2009-2012; published in Unveiled Magazine, Charleston Weddings Magazine, Lowcountry Weddings Magazine, Charleston magazine, and House Calls Magazine

Name: Bow Tie Collaborative
Category: Photography
Where you call home: Holly Springs, North Carolina
Favorite Southern city? Savannah! All the Spanish moss…gimme, gimme!

Name: Cheryl Sullivan Events
Category: Event Planning and Design
Where you call home: West Virginia
How I got into weddings: For as long as I can remember, I have always loved hosting celebrations for my loved ones, from Sunday dinners to showers to holiday reunions. I fell deeply in love with weddings and the strong family traditions they honored. After a few years of planning weddings, I knew I was hooked. I took a chance and started a business doing what I love. I’ve never looked back!

Name: Forage + Film
Category: Photography
Where you call home: Raleigh, North Carolina
Favorite part of a wedding day? We love portrait time. We crave intimate images that capture our couple’s love, so that one-on-one time with them in the midst of all the wedding fun is just perfection.

Name: Heidi Elnora Atelier
Category: Fashion
Where you call home: Birmingham, Alabama
How I got into weddings: L.O.V.E. It’s as simple and complicated as that. Being hit by a drunk driver in 2005 brought me back home to Alabama where I met and fell in love with my husband, Jeff. Moving back home motivated me to turn my dream of designing wedding gowns into my reality, and in 2006, Heidi Elnora was created.

Name: Heirloom Collective
Category: Photography
Where you call home: Raleigh, North Carolina
Best piece of advice you can give to brides and grooms? Try to be present on your wedding day. Take a few breaks throughout the day to look around and feel gratitude for the love that surrounds you.

Name: Simply Jessica Marie
Category: Invitations and Paper Goods
Where you call home: Knoxville, Tennessee
Things you’d write home to your Momma about: Honestly, the thing I will always be the most excited about is that our own wedding (featuring some of my favorite custom designs to date!) was featured on the Southern Weddings blog! It was absolutely something I wrote home to my Momma about, and something I will share with my kids and grandbabies one day. More so than any of the other blog and magazine features, I am simply most proud of the fact that I get to work with the absolute sweetest and most creatively-trusting brides and grooms imaginable!

Name: sMm Photography
Category: Photography
Where you call home: Charlotte, North Carolina
Favorite part of a wedding day? I love when I arrive to the bridal suite and I hear the bride’s mama explaining where the garter came from and who wore it before she did, and that her veil is a treasure from her grandmother’s wedding…details matter when they build the story of your wedding day. I also really love the quiet moment that the bride and her father share right before the doors of the church open.

Check out all of our favorite vendors in the Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory! If you would like to recommend someone (or nominate yourself!), send us an email!

kristin Written with love by Kristin
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Jessi and Braden’s home is adorable, absolutely — but what I love most about it is that it is also so abundantly welcoming and approachable! These two have mixed affordable finds (Walmart gallery frames!) with treasured pieces for a cozy and warm look throughout their Greenville, SC Tudor. I wasn’t surprised at all when Jessi revealed “hosting is our love language” in her interview, below — from their kind hearts to their comfy decor choices, these two are clearly in their element in their home, surrounded by loved ones. I’m taking notes, and I’m sure y’all will want to, as well!

Fun fact: Jessi and Braden were reader models in last year’s Fore the Love shoot, so I’ve had the pleasure of meeting them in person!

The couple: Jessi and Braden Nichols, both 25
Years married: Three
Where they live: Greenville, South Carolina
Tell us a little bit about yourselves. I attended the University of South Carolina my freshman year and transferred to our rival school, Clemson University, at the start of sophomore year. The Sadie Hawkins shag was coming up, and since I was new to Clemson, I didn’t know many people, so I asked a friend whom I should ask. She mentioned Braden. With a little hesitation and fear, I asked him that week at a bonfire, and I am so glad I did! Sadie Hawkins marks our first “date,” if you will, and the rest is history! We dated for the remainder of our time at Clemson and got engaged the winter of our senior year. We had an eight-month engagement, which was a super tough season for us, and got married on August 24, 2013. We lived in a cute little townhouse in Mauldin, SC for our first year of marriage, and in August 2014, we purchased our first home in the heart of downtown Greenville. I am now a full-time wedding photographer and Braden is an industrial engineer at Michelin!

Tell us your love story in one sentence. By the grace and faithfulness of Jesus, we have been blessed with this life that we are so undeserving to live.
What is your favorite part of being married? While dating in college, it was difficult to balance school, friendships, and relationships. Some days would pass when we wouldn’t have a chance to see one another at all. My favorite part of being married is knowing that we can have quality time every day–our time together still has to be intentional, but we no longer have to fight for it like we used to. Now I know we will have time together every day, even if it’s just a simple dinner at our kitchen nook or watching Netflix together before going to bed.

Tell us a little bit about where you live. We are proud owners of our home. When looking to buy our first home, we truly wanted to be able to see ourselves there for at least 5-10 years, and we hoped to plant roots in downtown. We have big dreams to create a master suite out of my office space and our guest bedroom. We also have dreams of building a garage with a studio apartment above it, allowing us to host guests and to provide a home away from home for our family and friends.
Tell us about the process of moving in together. Once we got married, Braden and I moved into a town home in a small city about 20 minutes outside of Greenville. We transitioned into living together gracefully; we knew that it would be an adjustment and a learning experience, so we offered grace and understanding to one another. We were blessed with furniture from family members, so our town home was mostly furnished with hand-me-downs. Luckily, we were also able to use many items from our actual wedding to decorate. Braden and I have similar style when it comes to home décor; we both enjoy a warm space that feels cozy and inviting. My best advice to blending two styles is to truly narrow in on what makes home feel like home for each of you, whether that’s a certain type of furniture, lamp lighting, lots of cozy blankets, etc.

Which room in your home is your favorite, and why? Our living room is my favorite room in our home. Many people have walked through our arched front door and have spent time in this cozy space. Hosting is one of our love languages, and this space has offered so many opportunities to love others in that way. Our living room gets so much beautiful light–morning light pours in and it gets softer as the day goes on. I fell in love with the lattice windows on the front of the house; they offer some history and so much charm, something that can’t be replicated.
What most makes your house feel like home? It’s a cliché, but honestly, who I do life with in this house is what makes it feel like home. Sharing this space with Braden is one of the sweetest gifts. Around every corner is a little piece of what makes us us. The warm paint colors and cozy blankets, the constant smell of candles burning, our dog Sampson napping on the living room rug… it is all so us.

Where do you splurge and where do you save when decorating? My best advice comes from someone else! She told me to take my time and be patient, to wait for that perfect piece that I love. Simple advice, but it really made me slow down and think about what I envisioned for every little nook and corner in our home. It is a process to make a room feel complete, so my best advise is to save on the smaller décor items. I love to cut flowers or greenery from our yard to decorate our mantel and dining room table; I also love Trader Joe’s bouquets and eucalyptus to fill vases. I have found that I splurge on the bigger items, like our dining room table or the piece under the living room television. These bigger items stick around longer–not only are you investing your money, but you’re also investing in multiple years of use!

What is your favorite memory from your wedding? If I had to choose, I would say the moment I got to see a blindfolded Braden right before our ceremony. We chose to read letters from one another, and planned to do this around a doorway so we didn’t see one another. When I walked out of the bridal suite, though, there he was, my handsome groom, standing right in front of me with a blindfold over his eyes. I couldn’t help but laugh because I was so surprised to see him standing there! Seeing him helped to ease my nervousness, without having to compromise him seeing me for the first time as I walked down the aisle.
How do you remember your wedding in your home? As a wedding photographer, I am a firm believer in printing your photos and having them as little reminders throughout your home. We have wedding photos hung in our hallway, so each day, I pass them right by them. We also have our wedding album and our annual yearbooks on our coffee table. I look at them more than I would like to admit, but they are such sweet reminders of my favorite memories. I also have dried flowers from my bouquet and my bridesmaids’ bouquet, which can be found in vases all over our home.

What different decisions, if any, would you make for your registry if you knew then what you knew now? Honestly, I wish we had registered for more “fun” items, which sounds so silly. We thought practically, aiming to register for anything and everything we could possibly need to live comfortably. We had everything covered for the kitchen and bathroom, but did not add many items for our bedroom or living room. We didn’t focus on décor items or items that make a cozy home, such as blankets, frames, trays, etc., and I really wish we would have!
Who cooks dinner? I’m a meal prepper (pretty sure I just made up a word!), so I cook dinner for us most nights!
What is your go-to weeknight meal? Weekend meal? We are both CrossFit athletes who love a good workout, and it has inspired healthy eating in our household. Most nights, you can find a dinner of fish, roasted vegetables, and sweet potatoes in our kitchen. Recently, we have loved zoodle (zucchini noodle) dishes, such as healthy chicken Parmesan or basil pesto shrimp over zoodles. On the weekends, we love a good burger, brick oven pizza, or a full plate of sushi!

What’s your favorite place to find recipes? For a while, we loved making recipes from the Against All Grain cookbook. I still visit this book on occasion, but I have recently been loving getting simple ideas from The Traders Table on Instagram. Each post includes all the ingredients you need from Trader Joe’s, plus instructions on how to prepare the meal! So easy and takes out any guesswork–plus, Trader Joe’s is my favorite grocery store!
How does your family handle finances? Do you use a set budget? With Braden being an engineer, he loves a good spreadsheet! When we first got married, we attempted to budget by using spreadsheets and Mint, both of which worked well. We were advised to live on just Braden’s salary, which we do mostly, and to use the income from my business as a means of savings. With different seasons of life, this looks different. For instance, this year, we have traveled a lot, so my business income has covered most of those expenses. We check with one another before making big investments, keep tabs on how much we are eating out, and try to be mindful of how much we are spending, but do not keep a written budget.

What has been the most surprising thing about marriage? Honestly, I was most surprised by how much marriage reveals my sin and selfishness. As a firm believer in Jesus, I knew that I was sinful and selfish, but those things were amplified through marriage, which is super humbling. Every day, we have to extend grace and love to one another, and through this, we have grown in our faith exponentially.
What’s your best tip for balancing your relationship and other life priorities? We have learned to balance everything by communicating our expectations. Our families live in different parts of the state, so we have to be intentional and talk through how we are going to split time with each family over the holidays. With the flexibility of my schedule, I try to work similar hours to Braden’s. That way, we finish up around the same time in the afternoons. We also prioritize at least one date night a week if possible to ensure that we are having quality time, and giving ourselves the opportunity to be intentional with one another.

Do you have a favorite date night idea to share? We enjoy a simple Greenville date night each week. We love to take a short drive downtown to Tako Sushi, a super laid back sushi-meets-Mexican restaurant. We always sit at the bar and order 2-4 rolls (I’m craving a Greenville roll as I write this), and then we make our way to Marble Slab a few blocks down for some ice cream! Super simple, but it’s always fun.
What is one small way you love or serve your spouse? Recently, small acts of service have been my way of loving and serving Braden. My work schedule has been a little slower this season, which has given me more time at home, so I try and serve him through doing household tasks like laundry, dishes, grocery shopping, and meal prepping.

Do you have children? We currently do not have children, but it is definitely a dream to have them in the future! Since getting married, we have agreed that we would love to have 4-5 years of doing life just the two of us. We want to build a solid foundation for our family, and we truly believe that is built through our marriage. We are so excited to be parents one day, but currently, we have a two-year-old golden retriever who is just fine with being an only child for the time being!

This year, our family is most excited about… all of our travels. We have been blessed with a year full of jet-setting around the world. In March, Braden traveled to France for work, then in May, we traveled to Antigua to shoot my first destination wedding. A few months later, we traveled to Italy with some of our best friends, and then I went on a girls trip to the Dominican Republic. Wow, what a whirlwind! Our next trip will be to Jamaica in October to shoot another destination wedding and we are so excited!

You can follow along with Jessi at her website, blog, and Instagram, as well as the hashtag for their home, #thenicholscottage! Thank you so much for sharing your hearts and home with us, Jessi and Braden!

A little reminder: we’d love to hear from you! Our hope is to feature REAL couples in the South – not just folks who write blogs (though we love them, too!), but also your inspiring friend, super talented cousin, or neighbor with the cutest house – the kind of person everyone would love to “e-meet.” If that sounds like you or someone you know, take a peek at our Southern Newlywed submission page and shoot us an email!

emily Written with love by Emily
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It’s safe to say that when it comes to hospitality, Southerners have a knack for taking things up a notch! One of my very favorite memories from Bridal Market last year was when Alabama-based designer Heidi Elnora invited Kristin and I to see her new collection. Instead of seating us at a runway show, she had us over at the AirBNB she and her team were staying in for the week, offered us PB&J sandwiches and M&Ms, and let us spend as much time as we wanted admiring each and every gown. After days of running around the city in our highest heels, it was such a breath of fresh air to experience such gracious Southern hospitality! This is one of SO many reasons we were thrilled to learn about Heidi’s latest and greatest project: the heidi elnora Atelier, located right in the heart of Birmingham. She poured her heart into turning this downtown warehouse into the ultimate destination for brides, and I’m completely confident that any gal would feel comfortable and confident while dress shopping at the gorgeous space she created!

Tell us about the beginnings of the heidi elnora Atelier—why did you want to open the atelier, and how did you get started?
Heidi:
Ever since I started heidi elnora 10 years ago, I have dreamed of owning my own building. It was one of the many items on my bucket list. Last summer, after my reality show aired on TLC, I decided to start looking for a permanent place to set up shop. Lo and behold, there she was, an empty brick box that was built in 1891 on the most perfect cobblestone street, Morris Avenue, in downtown Birmingham, Alabama. I immediately contacted my husband and my real estate agent, and within a few days, we were under contract!

Tell us about the renovation process! How did you find the space and transform it to fit your vision?
Heidi:
I basically bought an 8,000 sq. ft. empty box (no plumbing, electrical or HVAC), but to me, it was the perfect canvas to begin creating my atelier. I basically became a general contractor for seven months, making sure that every wall, plug, paint color, and detail was perfection. I would literally be at the building every morning to discuss the daily plans with my builder, and every night, I was on Pinterest and Houzz, pulling ideas and additional details together. The majority of the goods used in the building were sourced locally from wood mills, iron workers, local artisans, and even a rock quarry from Alabama for a specific local marble for the mini bar in the bridal suites. (Yep, we have a mini bar in the bridal suites–you never know when you need to celebrate with rosé!)

Just for fun, here are a few before pictures!

Tell us about what y’all offer to brides and gals.
Heidi:
We offer everything, from our 70+ wedding gowns from our three collections (heidi elnora, Build-a-Bride, and Hello Darling), to creating a couture gown from scratch (brides fly in from all over the country for this), to buying your bridal lingerie (For Love and Lemons), wedding shoes (Harriet Wilde and Badgley Mischka), veils, accessories, garters, rehearsal dinner dresses, and bridesmaid and hostess gifts. The heidi elnora Atelier can dress you from head to toe and everywhere in between!

What sets the heidi elnora Atelier experience apart from other bridal salons?
Heidi:
What sets the heidi elnora Atelier apart from other bridal salons is that I took the BEST pieces and practices from all the stores that I sell to or have visited and incorporated them into the atelier, creating the ULTIMATE bridal experience. I call the atelier the “Barbie dream bridal boutique” because it is just that–it’s EVERYTHING!

What is your single best tip for a bride about to start shopping for her wedding gown?
Heidi:
Stay true to who you are. Do not allow friends, family, or a bridal stylist to persuade you into wearing something that doesn’t make your heart smile. You have to LOVE your dress…almost as much as you love your fiancé :)

Do you have a favorite memory of the heidi elnora Atelier?
Heidi:
It’s probably people’s expressions when they see it for the first time. It’s truly lovely–all 8,000 sq. ft. of it.

What is your current favorite wedding dress in the store? If you were to get married tomorrow, what dress would you wear?
Heidi:
I would probably have to go with one of the dresses from my Hello Darling line. They are more relaxed in terms of fitm and very lightweight. They are light-hearted and full of whimsy, and that is where I am now being a mother of two little boys.

What is your favorite memory from your own wedding day?
Heidi:
Seeing my sweet fiancé/now-husband, Jeff, at the end of the aisle, and knowing that I was getting to spend the rest of my life with him.

What is the single greatest lesson you’ve learned in business?
Heidi:
That God has got this. All of my worrying does nothing to move things faster, or make things happen more efficiently.

Name three items every gal should have in her closet.
Heidi:
A great pair of comfy black jeans with the knees cut out, a chandelier, and an organized shoe closet with lots of year-round boots.

Thank you so much, Heidi! Be sure to follow along with her and her gorgeous atelier here:

Website | Atelier website | Facebook | Twitter | Heidi’s Instagram | heidi elnora Atelier Instagram

This post is brought to you by heidi elnora Atelier–thanks for your support of the brands that make Southern Weddings possible!

lisa Written with love by Lisa
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Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

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