(Photo by Todd Sumlin)

I saw Mike’s car turning onto Kings Street as I blew past in my little red Nissan. I hoped he hadn’t caught a glimpse of me — I wanted to see his face when he had a real “first look.” I jumped out of my car at Mama Ricotta’s, an iconic and well-loved Italian restaurant in Charlotte. The best photographer in the universe (Charlotte Observer photojournalist and a great family friend Todd Sumlin) met me with a big hug and an even bigger camera. I told him Mike was just about to pull in and then, sure enough, his black car pulled into the parking lot. I hid (and did considerable hair-floofing, dress smoothing, and smile-adjusting) until Mike got out of the car, whereupon he turned and there it was — the moment I’d imagined a million times: our first sight of each other, complete with him (absolutely killing it in his blue suit) walking quickly over to me with a broad smile, saying, “Julie, you look beautiful.”

The first look (Photo by Todd Sumlin)

Our wedding was picture perfect for me, from proposal to the last goodnight. One of my favorite details was the beautiful custom invitation that illustrator Lana Frankel created. I have to brag on Lana for a bit, because this girl worked tirelessly to make sure these were perfect: she included our special fountain, hand addressed our envelopes, and even lined them with metallic art deco inspired paper (to match my vintage ring)! She went above and beyond — and that’s what I love about working with a small, passion-driven business like hers. We were so tickled with the invitations and they’re now one of our most special wedding mementos.

Another perfect detail was our ceremony. I wanted to retain a few wedding traditions that were meaningful to us and ditch the many that weren’t. Mike and I opted for a small exchange of vows at the restaurant itself followed by a big feast — the food was a very important detail for me, of course! No aisle, no long ceremony, no separate dancing reception. I love those things at others’ weddings, but for us, it really fit to do a big family dinner instead. That’s more who we are.

Mama Ricotta’s seated us in the back of the restaurant with a heavy red/gold metallic curtain drawn behind us. My mom worked magic with $20 worth of hot pink baby roses I’d picked up at Trader Joe’s the day before, making it look like we’d actually planned some dΓ©cor. After fretting for a week or so about who would officiate our ceremony (we wanted someone special to us who knew a bit about us personally), Mike and I convinced my dad to get ordained and do the job! It was the most wonderful twist I could’ve imagined: I’ll never forget that my dad not only “gave me away,” but actually led us through our vows on my wedding day.

After our vows — which we giggled and sniffled our way through — the servers brought us tray after tray overflowing with amazing food (some of which is pictured in our wedding album, below). Here’s the menu we enjoyed surrounded by our close family:

My lovely new in-laws (who have really felt like family for years) jokingly asked whether we’d also paid for the servers to roll us all out with handtrucks after the meal. Despite having just eaten a huge amount of food, Mike and I happily cut the cake: a huge sheet cake from Sam’s Club with fluffy whipped icing. Perhaps that doesn’t sound too fancy, but to me, there’s nothing more decadent than a ton of fluffy icing that I didn’t mix up myself! I had a hard decision to make, though, as I tried to determine which piece had the maximum amount of icing.

Mike helps me decide which piece of cake I want. Pretty sure this is important practice for being my husband. (Photo by Todd Sumlin)

At the end of the night, the marriage license was signed and hugs and kisses given all around. Mike and I found ourselves buckled into his car, husband and wife. I read him the cards we’d received from our family as he drove us through the streets of Charlotte. Three days later, we still turn to each other every now and then and laugh, realizing again how surreal it is that we’re married. I don’t know how long it’ll take for that to wear off, but I’m in no hurry. It has been a truly lovely union so far.

I thought I’d share a few photos from our wedding album with you. Thank you so much, again, to our wonderful photographer and friend, Todd Sumlin, for taking these photos. If you’re in Charlotte and need a photographer, I can’t recommend him enough! (You can click the “full screen” button to make the slideshow larger.)

layers_of_eli's weddingphotosubset album on Photobucket

Just like that, on August 4, 2013, all my dreams came true. Thank you all for your love, congratulations, and support!

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Disclosure: Lana and Todd both generously gifted portions or the entirety of their services to me for my wedding; however, I value my readers such that all opinions expressed on Willow Bird are always my own. I share these lovely folks and their businesses with you because they are absolute gems and I know you’ll appreciate the quality of their work as much as I do.

43 Comments on Our Wedding Day

  1. Ally
    August 7, 2013 at 9:41 pm (10 years ago)

    What a beautiful wedding!!! I love when couples go back to the roots of what a wedding should be- love, family & friends, memories… not bridezilla tantrums, $15,000 dresses and drama. Julie, I wish you & Mike a lifetime of happiness. πŸ™‚ -Ally

    PS Super cute dress!

  2. Emily Lalli
    August 7, 2013 at 9:44 pm (10 years ago)

    Congratulations!!! August 4th is our wedding date also! How exciting!

  3. Lauren M
    August 7, 2013 at 9:57 pm (10 years ago)

    My husband and I have been married almost a year, and we still giggle in disbelief that we’re married. It’s a wonderful feeling that we cherish as well. Enjoy every second of it. Congratulations!

  4. marie
    August 7, 2013 at 10:04 pm (10 years ago)

    Congratulations you two!
    You all look so relaxed and happy, great to see that!

    And I love your dress! Still bridal but not pompous πŸ™‚

  5. Belinda @themoonblushbaker
    August 7, 2013 at 10:05 pm (10 years ago)

    This bough tears to my eyes. My sister own a cater business for weddings and they know all the horror storys that come with big weddings. I never want that to happen to me, so this is so comforting to find out that other feel the same way too. Thank you sharing your lovely day.

    August 7, 2013 at 10:09 pm (10 years ago)


  7. Dianna
    August 7, 2013 at 10:54 pm (10 years ago)

    My heart is so filled with happiness for you that it’s overflowing out of my tear ducts! πŸ˜‰ I’m so glad your day turned out just as you dreamed it would. Wishing you and your new husband a lifetime of happy giggles! xo

  8. Robyn
    August 7, 2013 at 11:11 pm (10 years ago)

    Congratulations! It sounds and looks like a lovely, very special occasion!

  9. Dena
    August 7, 2013 at 11:24 pm (10 years ago)

    Oh, Julie! How wonderful! I am so incredibly happy for you. Wishing you & Mike a lifetime of happiness, health, and overwhelming joy. You deserve all of this & more! xoxo

  10. Amy | Club Narwhal
    August 8, 2013 at 1:03 am (10 years ago)

    Julie, so many congratulations! You look so lovely and glowy. What a wonderful and perfect way to celebrate your love. I adore the intimate gathering you chose and am absolutely moved by the sweetness of all the details. Wishing you the loveliest first week of married life!

  11. Beb
    August 8, 2013 at 1:24 am (10 years ago)

    hi julie,
    Im one of your follower from Philippines. Thanks for sharing your wedding albums.. I may that it was a simply but amazing great wedding. Congratulations and best wishes.

    God bless.


  12. Kathy
    August 8, 2013 at 1:54 am (10 years ago)

    What a sweet wedding!! All the best and your dress is just adorbs…

  13. Gio of The Hungry Giant
    August 8, 2013 at 2:06 am (10 years ago)

    Congratulations Julie! And thank you for the kind words you left on the post about my friend. Reading this and perusing the photos reminded me that there will always be some good in the world.

  14. Fran@fransfavs.com
    August 8, 2013 at 2:16 am (10 years ago)

    Best wish to you and your handsome groom for a long, happy, and healthy life together!

  15. Miss @ Miss in the Kitchen
    August 8, 2013 at 2:17 am (10 years ago)

    Congratulations, you look so beautiful and that dress is perfect! Happy, happy, happy for you!

  16. Mary
    August 8, 2013 at 2:20 am (10 years ago)

    Hi Julie,

    I’m a reader from Australia and have been following your blog for some time. I thought it most fitting that my first comment would be to wish you a big congratulations on your wedding!! It looks like you both had a really lovely day. Wish you both much happiness in the future.

    PS Adore your blog and the way you write. It’s so nice to get an insight into someone elses life on the other side of the world who has a fellow love for cooking πŸ™‚

  17. Jennifer- The Adventuresome Kitchen
    August 8, 2013 at 2:20 am (10 years ago)

    So happy for both of you!! I ‘m all weepy! Thrilled your wedding was a unique reflection of you both! Wishing you many happy years together!

  18. Phyllis
    August 8, 2013 at 2:26 am (10 years ago)

    This is lovely. Many, many happy years together.

  19. Debbie
    August 8, 2013 at 2:31 am (10 years ago)

    Congratulations Julie- wishing you and Mike a lifetime of happiness! After 35 years of marriage, I still turn around with surprise and joy that I am married to the same wonderful guy- I wish this for you!!

  20. Tieghan
    August 8, 2013 at 3:30 am (10 years ago)

    Your dress, these photos and you are all stunning! Congrats!

  21. Eli
    August 8, 2013 at 9:26 am (10 years ago)

    Congratulations!!! I love your dress and the invitations (ok, everything looks lovely!). I totally agree that weddings should be about what and who you love and what makes you happy. You look surrounded by both love and happiness. I wish you all the best in the world.

  22. Andrea
    August 8, 2013 at 9:45 am (10 years ago)

    Congratulations Julie!! What a beautiful wedding, and I love how you created your own style too!

  23. Lynne
    August 8, 2013 at 12:38 pm (10 years ago)

    Congratulations! A beautiful day for a beautiful couple!

  24. Connie
    August 8, 2013 at 12:41 pm (10 years ago)

    Congratulations! I’m so happy for you! It was so refreshing to read about how you “did things your way” instead of following boring traditions “just because that’s the way it’s done.” So proud of you for that! May God bless you and Mike as you begin your new lives together.
    P.S. Love everything about your blog! You’re a great writer!

  25. Sarah @ Miss Candiquik
    August 8, 2013 at 1:14 pm (10 years ago)

    Wow, congratulations! I love how you two executed your wedding! Sometimes it seems there is so much pressure and stress involved with a wedding – and that’s not how it should be! Congratulations again and again! πŸ™‚

  26. Kate
    August 8, 2013 at 1:59 pm (10 years ago)

    Oh my gosh- if one of my family members was officiating the wedding… how did you not cry through the whole thing??? That’s so awesome!

  27. Dmarie
    August 8, 2013 at 2:23 pm (10 years ago)

    Aww…BEST wishes to the lovely couple! Thanks for sharing your wonderful day. You looked gorgeous!

  28. Lauren at Keep It Sweet
    August 8, 2013 at 3:10 pm (10 years ago)

    Congrats again, Julie! You look so gorgeous and you both are just beaming in all of the photos! Oh, and that menu sounds kind of perfect:-)

  29. Ariel
    August 8, 2013 at 3:13 pm (10 years ago)

    Congrats again! Your story and pictures are beautiful. So happy for you both as you begin this adventure!

  30. Jenny @ BAKE
    August 8, 2013 at 4:15 pm (10 years ago)

    Congratulations! you look so beautiful! I hope you both have a lifetime of happiness!

  31. Susan
    August 8, 2013 at 4:45 pm (10 years ago)

    oh…………i read your blog ‘religiously’ but haven’t commented until now! what a wonderful post!!!!!! made me cry a little, congratulations! you both look stunning. thank you.

  32. Lisa Roszler
    August 9, 2013 at 12:43 am (10 years ago)

    Oh, wow, oh, wow, oh, wow! I just caught up on my email tonight (well, not totally) and found out you got married! Yay! I will be sure to tell Anthony when he gets here tomorrow night. πŸ™‚ We invited his family down for vacation at the beach (and managed to keep it a surprise from the boys until last week- hee hee!) I was just thinking about you the other day when I made zucchini bread. Wouldn’t you know… I took it to Sunday school on August 4! πŸ™‚

    May you have many happy days!

  33. Amanda @ Once Upon a Recipe
    August 9, 2013 at 9:39 pm (10 years ago)

    Congratulations Julie and Mike! What a lovely day. Wishing you both much love and happiness. xo

  34. Becky
    August 10, 2013 at 12:04 am (10 years ago)

    Oh Julie! You’re photos are BEAUTIFUL, you made a gorgeous bride! Mama Ricotta’s is one of my favorite italian restaurants in Charlotte (always in competition with Rudy’s Italian near Touchstone); we celebrate our big events there too! CONGRATULATIONS! I wish y’all a lifetime of joy and laughter πŸ˜€

  35. Angela @ The Dancer Bakes
    August 10, 2013 at 10:50 pm (10 years ago)

    Congratulations!! You made a truly beautiful and glowing bride, and I can tell that your day was all you had hoped for πŸ™‚ Best wishes to you two on a long and joyful life together!

  36. DessertForTwo
    August 11, 2013 at 11:26 pm (10 years ago)

    Oh, Julie! You are such a beautiful bride! Thank you for sharing your day with us!

    I’m in love with your short dress! I wish I had gone short. Also, Mike’s suit!? So Southern gentleman. I love love love it!

    Best of wishes, you gorgeous newlyweds πŸ™‚


  37. Jenni
    August 18, 2013 at 1:04 am (10 years ago)

    Congratulations! Your wedding sounds perfect – I love small, intimate affairs! πŸ™‚ You guys look beautiful and happy, and I wish you many years of happiness ahead of you!

  38. Nancy @ gottagetbaked
    August 19, 2013 at 1:06 am (10 years ago)

    Congratulations!!! What a perfect, intimate wedding. You and your husband looked fabulous and most importantly, you both looked happy. It sounds like you had an incredible time, surrounded by your family and stuffed with amazing food (the food photos are making me drool). Enjoy this wonderful time as newlyweds!

  39. Gaby@AventurasVerdes
    October 22, 2013 at 12:16 pm (10 years ago)

    You look so beautiful and so happy!! Congratulations!

  40. ItalianGirlCooks
    January 26, 2015 at 10:11 pm (9 years ago)

    Amazing, and absolutely lovely…congratulations!


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