Anna Williford + Graham Rich | Oct 28, 2017
Anna and Graham both attended Wake Forest University and, although they lived across the hall from each other during their sophomore year, they never crossed paths until their senior year. A mutual friend knew they would "click" and set them up; they hit it off right away! A few years later, Anna and Graham went to visit this parents in Spring Island, South Carolina a week before Thanksgiving. It wasn’t just any visit though because Graham had a surprise in store for Anna! They drove out to a beautiful area overlooking the sound and there, in front of a Civil War era tabby house, Graham got down on one knee and proposed! A few minutes later, Graham’s family drove up followed by Anna’s parents and siblings! Graham had arranged for all of Anna’s family to surprise her and join in the celebration, which continued for the rest of the vacation as the two families got to know each other better.
When it came to wedding planning, neither Anna nor Graham had any preconceived notions about their wedding. Instead, they focused on a traditional, yet beautiful wedding that celebrated their love with their closest friends and family. They chose a fall date and a corresponding color palette of wine, green and ivory with pops of gold and black as a nod to their beloved alma mater. Burgundy peonies were the main flower inspiration, providing a lush, romantic vibe to each arrangement that was accented with other ivory blooms and greenery. Two vertical series of three wreaths which hung from the ceremony doors, immediately setting the tone of the day as guests arrived at St. Gabriel’s Catholic Church. Two beautiful altar arrangements in large gold urns in the same color palette framed Anna and Graham as they exchanged their vows which a greenery garland across the first few pews designated family seating. Everything from the day was captured perfectly by Piper Warlick Photography.
At the reception, Flowers from the Cellar created dimension in the room by alternating 3 feet tall clear vases and shorter gold compotes, both filled with gorgeous florals, on the guest tables. Gold votives completed the romantic vibe. Twinkle lights hanging from the venue’s dramatic chandeliers completed the room and provided a magical, ethereal feel. The stair railing at the entrance to Myers Park Country Club was draped in greenery. But the most eye catching of all? The entrance to the club with was framed with greenery and pops of colorful blooms as guests entered the reception space. Magnolia leaves, another nod to the couple’s university, were also incorporated into the décor, from the fireplace mantle to the sugar flowers on their gorgeous five-tier cake.
The bride looked stunning in a timeless gown she selected from J. Majors. She knew she wanted something that looked great from both the front and back, and also had a touch of drama to match the long aisle she would be walking down to wed Graham. The Martina Liana A-Line gown with vintage-style lace was the first one she tried on. The bodice was fitted with cap sleeves and the illusion back was fitted with fabric-covered buttons from her shoulders to the long, traditional Cathedral train. The dress, unintentionally, matched her mother’s veil which made this already perfect dress even more perfect! The groom also looked spectacular in a black tux with a shawl lapel. Underneath, both Graham and his groomsmen donned suspenders that matched their college teams and cufflinks that were in the shapes of their home state.
It was important for the couple to incorporate their families as much as possible. The priest who married them was also the same priest who baptized Anna. During the ceremony, the two lit a unity candle to symbolize two families coming together and invited family members to read important passages that reflected the couple’s views on marriage and God’s love. In the foyer of the reception, they displayed photographs of their grandparents and parents on their wedding days as well.
One of their favorite and most anticipated moments of the day was the first look the two shared prior to the ceremony. “I am terrible at keeping secrets and Graham hates being left in the dark, so it was tough to keep my dress a secret from him for almost a year,” said the Charlotte native. “We also were just excited to be married – knowing that right after we recited our vows, we were partners for life.” A first look with dad also proved to be extremely memorable for Anna who wasn’t expecting him to be so emotional (cue the tears!).
After the two become husband and wife, the celebration truly began. The reception-style party, planned by Something Perfect, included delicious stations and lots of fun! Guests wore black and gold Mardi Gras beads, a representation of Graham’s Louisiana roots in Wake Forest colors. A black-and-gold Polaroid guest book was a big hit throughout the night. Our favorite detail on the table was the felt figurine of two otters wearing a bow tie and wedding veil.
“We love otters,” said the bride. “Not only [are they] very cute and smart animals but also a symbol of love as they mate for life, and families often hold hands while they sleep so as not to drift apart.”
The band did an excellent job keeping the dance floor full all night. Anna and Graham selected a song for each family – “Hey Ya” by Outkast for her side and “Calling Baton Rouge” for his – that got the party started. The night ended with a late night hot dog food truck, one of the few musts for the bride.
“Hot dogs are my favorite food and it was such a fun way to end the night,” said Anna. “I think the guests really enjoyed it.”
After the most incredible celebration, the newlywed shared her advice for future couples:
“Enjoy being engaged! The wedding planning process can be stressful, but take advantage of this small special window of time in your life when you are someone’s fiancé. If possible, go in and look at your reception space before the actual reception begins. It allows you to look at everything and appreciate all the details, because once it’s filled with people the night is a blur and you will not get a chance to look in depth at how everything came together. Also everyone says this, but the day really does fly by so enjoy every minute! It goes by so fast. And don’t sweat the small stuff—mishaps will occur the day of that are out of your control, but at the end of the day you get to marry your best friend.”
Congratulations, Anna and Graham!
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