Mary Lee traveled across the world to find love. The international studies major met her future husband, David Dobrowsky, during a semester abroad in South Africa. "Before I left, my mother said, 'You never know, you might meet someone while you're over there,'" Mary recalls. "I brushed it off and hopped on the plane, but she was right!"
Mary and David celebrated their love with 150 guests nearly two years later, on June 23, 2012, at a classically Southern bash that began in the bride's childhood church, then moved to her family's home. With her mother working as the couple's unofficial planner, Mary and David's wedding was packed with personal details, from signature cocktails to tables named for the couple's favorite destinations. "Our wedding wasn't about trying to make a fashion statement or set a specific theme," the bride says. "It was just about us, celebrating ourselves, now and forever."
"I got pretty desperate during my wedding dress search," the bride recalls. "Every dress I tried on just made me feel like the gown was wearing me. Nothing made me feel like a bride." But when a dress consultant suggested a mermaid-style Casablanca Bridal gown, something clicked. "I knew immediately it was right," she says. Mary paired her gown with a cathedral-length veil which, six months later, became her sister's "something borrowed."
To accentuate her gown's intricate embroidery and beading, Mary wore her grandmother's wedding band. "She passed away when I was a teenager, and wearing her ring gave me a sense of her presence at our wedding," Mary says. The bride also wore a sapphire bracelet, a gift from her mother-in-law. "That was also very special to me because it was a symbol of new family," she says. "I couldn't ask for better in-laws than David's family." She finished off her look with silver peep-toe shoes embellished with a ruffle.
Because her parents have always called her "Sweet Pea," the bride insisted on having the fragrant blooms in her bouquet, which also contained roses, hydrangeas, and lamb's ear.
David donned a classic tuxedo, and chose not to wear a boutonniere.
Browsing the Caché website, Mary fell in love with a knee-length charcoal sheath. She loved how the dress flattered her bridesmaids' different figures. "They all looked fabulous!"
The couple held a traditional Episcopalian ceremony at the bride's childhood church, whose aisles were decorated with candles, flowers, and ribbon for the occasion. "Packing all of our guests into a smaller church was great because it was so intimate," the bride says. "I could look into the congregation and see every face." After the recessional, David and Mary went back into the church to dismiss their guests row by row. "We wanted to make sure we had a chance to give every single person a hug," she explains.
Mary's mother's home is known as the Marrying House, and has been a wedding site for over a century.
"When my sister and I were little, my parents planted an allée of crabapple trees, in case one day we wanted to get married there," says Mary. "None of the venues we looked at felt as right as our home, and it was so special to spend that night at our home before moving to South Africa with David."
Inside a tent illuminated by opulent crystal chandeliers, banquet tables were dressed in crisp white linens and topped with towering candelabra arrangements of cream-and-blush roses. Low floral arrangements of pink roses and white hydrangeas, held in silver julep cups and clear glass vases, alternated with the taller centerpieces. Guests found their seat assignments on a chart at the entrance to the tent. Tables were named for the couple's favorite spots, such as Stellenbosch, South Africa, where Mary and David met and fell in love.
Mary and David served a four-tiered white wedding cake, adorned with pink roses and piping that matched her dress. Each layer was a new delight, featuring chocolate cake with raspberry filling, lemon cake with fresh strawberries and cream cheese filling, toasted almond cake with chocolate truffle ganache and raspberries, and carrot cake with cream cheese filling. In the dining room, guests could help themselves to a candy bar featuring the couple's favorite treats. Guests could wash it all down with a non-alcoholic Shirley Temple, renamed "Blushing Bride," or a classic mojito, which the couple dubbed "The First Kiss."
When it was time for their first dance as husband and wife, Mary and David swayed to "Whole Wide World" by the Proclaimers. "It was perfectly appropriate for us and our international love story," the bride says.
After the celebration, David and Mary headed back to South Africa so he could finish his Masters thesis. Reflecting on their wedding day, the bride says, "I felt so excited for our new beginning and journey together as a couple, but in addition to celebrating our marriage, I wanted to cherish every moment that I could with all of our friends and family. It's a special and exciting day for everyone, so make sure that your family and nearest and dearest feel special and included."
Ceremony Venue: The Church of the Good Shepherd || Reception Venue: Bride's family home || Wedding Planner: Robin Killian || Bride's Wedding Dress: Casablanca Bridal || Shoes: Lulu Townsend || Jewelry: Swarovski || Hair: Solutions || Makeup: Peneé || Bridesmaids' Dresses: Caché || Groom's Suit: The Men's Shop || Wedding Bands: Daneel Diamond Manufacturers || Florist: Plant Peddler Flower Shoppe, Inc. || Invitations & Paper Goods: Overhead Station || Music: Ceremony - Carolina Strings, Reception - Zack Dover || Catering: Best Impressions Caterers || Cake: Cake Lady Jill || Rentals: Party Reflections || Favors: The Candy Bar || Transportation: VIP Transportation Services || Accommodations: The Duke Mansion || Photography: Diana Deaver Weddings