A Front-Line Nurse and Medical Student's Stunning Vineyard Wedding in Ohio

Planned by the bride.

Bride and groom

Photo by Dragonfly Photography

Unique Smith, a travel nurse, and Marcus Lowe, a medical resident, have a love story straight out of a modern-day, real-world romantic comedy. The couple met in 2017 at their local church’s medical ministry. "Marcus is a friendly guy so he made several attempts to talk to one of the most introvered people you'll ever meet—me," shares Unique. One day, a woman came to both of the pair asking them to pray for her and Unique was impressed with Marcus' compassion. "We left that conversation as nothing but friends," she says. "However, that moment honestly touched my life."

After a few months of being strictly platonic, Marcus expressed that he wanted to move past the friend zone—and they’ve been together ever since. In 2019, the couple got engaged in an equally cinematic fashion: a belated Valentine’s Day date at a steakhouse, complete with a band playing their song. 

Two years later, the couple swapped vows at a 150-person wedding in Canton, Ohio. Planning a wedding alone during a pandemic was no easy feat, especially as front-line workers. "The planning process was fun yet challenging, invigorated yet exhausting. I planned it as a Covid nurse in New York and Texas all while on night shift in the height of the pandemic," explains Unique. "I laugh looking back now, but during the process there was only one thing I could do. That was focus on the promise of a beautiful wedding I knew God had promised me."

With a picturesque backdrop and color palette inspired by Esperanza Spalding, these nuptials were packed with movie magic. Keep reading for an in-depth look at their special day, planned by the bride and photographed by Dragonfly Photography.

Sign

Photo by Dragonfly Photography

Unique and Marcus are bonafide oenophiles, so it was a dream to get married at Gervasi Vineyard. Since Marcus favors dry reds and Unique prefers sweeter blends, their passion for wine reminds them to “meet in the middle” when finding the perfect bottle. Fortunately, Gervasi Vineyard brought their shared passion to life.

“The same thing happened during our wedding venue selection: Marcus likes great outdoor scenery, I like nostalgic settings,” Unique explains. “Gervasi Vineyard was the ‘meeting in the middle’ for us in more ways than one.”

Invitations

Photo by Dragonfly Photography

Photo book

Photo by Dragonfly Photography

The couple’s wedding was filled with small personal touches that felt authentic to their love story. In fact, the bride even did the calligraphy on all of the place settings and invitations.

Bride getting ready

Photo by Dragonfly Photography

Bride writing

Photo by Dragonfly Photography

Originally, Unique wanted to rock a bold, red lip for her big day. However, makeup artist Tiana Stringer convinced the bride to consider a natural eye and lip color—and she’s so happy she agreed. “I wanted Marcus to see me as I came down the aisle,” Unique shares. 

Bride getting ready

Photo by Dragonfly Photography

Bride getting ready

Photo by Dragonfly Photography

The bride put a lot of thought into every last detail, making it a point to accessorize with super-small or Black woman-owned brands. “The significance for me was how intentional we were to buy Black and buy small,” she shares. Highlights include Aminah Abdul Jillil shoes, a headpiece from Pantora Bridal, and a veil from Cassandra Lynne.

Bridal portrait

Photo by Dragonfly Photography

As for the dress? The bride sported an asymmetrical dress by Andrea Pitter Campbell. “I didn't want to take it off,” she explains. “I kept smiling and dancing in it. I didn't have the typical ‘that's the one’ crying experience. Instead, I was flooded with joy. My smile told me that it was ‘the one.’”

After a quick spritz of Tiffany & Co.’s Love scent, Unique was out the door and ready to greet Marcus.

Groom getting ready

Photo by Dragonfly Photography

Groom getting ready

Photo by Dragonfly Photography

The groom looked dapper in a black tuxedo from The Black Tux underneath a detailed, white jacket from Gentleman’s Guru.

First look

Photo by Dragonfly Photography

First look

Photo by Dragonfly Photography

First look

Photo by Dragonfly Photography

Unique and Marcus snuck in first looks before kicking off the festivities. While Unique was on top of all the planning, Marcus definitely put intention into his wedding day look down to his watch. “Everything was so us down to the fact that we both had very detailed wedding outfits,” the bride shares. “My dress was very intricate and different, and so was Marcus' tux jacket. Funny story, Marcus brought three watches on our wedding day because he was so indecisive about which one to wear."

Ceremony setting

Photo by Dragonfly Photography

I hoped to display the beauty of Black people in black, surrounded by gold.

Welcome sign

Photo by Dragonfly Photography

The couple drew inspiration from “Black Gold” by Esperanza Spalding and stuck with a strict color palette of black, gold, and white. “Black people as a whole have always been so beautiful to me. When you look at gold as an element in relation to jewelry, it has shine and it's malleable, yet durable,” the bride shares. “This reminds me of my people: though we've been through (and continue to go through) a lot, we excel—and look beautiful while doing it. I hoped to display the beauty of Black people in black, surrounded by gold.”

Ring bearers

Photo by Dragonfly Photography

Marcus and Unique wanted their entire wedding party to feel special—without breaking the bank. So, they picked up flower crowns for the young girls in the processional and security suitcases for the ring bearer.

Veil

Photo by Dragonfly Photography

Processional

Photo by Dragonfly Photography

The bride glided down the aisle to Michael Todd’s “Future Forever” with her father in tow. 

Groom crying

Photo by Dragonfly Photography

Groom laughing

Photo by Dragonfly Photography

For Marcus, the wedding processional was exceptionally emotional. “[He] continuously cried during it,” the bride shares. “With each person that came down, he cried more and more.”

First kiss

Photo by Dragonfly Photography

Jumping the broom ceremony

Photo by Dragonfly Photography

Just married

Photo by Dragonfly Photography

During the ceremony, the couple exchanged deeply personal vows that tapped into their spiritual side. “Something that stuck with me about Marcus' vows was him breaking down the biblical numerology of our wedding date: 7/11,” the bride shares.

“He said, ‘The number seven is the number of completion. However, I got scared because eleven is the number of imperfections, disorganization, and chaos. But, I believe God was telling me and telling us to remember that there may be moments of chaos or trouble that will come our way but if we are anchored in Him. He has already completed everything in us that we need to stay by each other's side when the chaos comes.’” 

Bride and groom

Photo by Dragonfly Photography

After saying “I do,” the newlywed walked down the aisle to Piles-Rock. “This set the tone for everyone to dance and switch moods,” Unique shares.

Couple portrait

Photo by Dragonfly Photography

Couple portrait in the vineyard

Photo by Dragonfly Photography

Throughout the entire process, date your partner. As long as you both are there, you have everything and everyone you need.

Couple shot in the vineyard

Photo by Dragonfly Photography

The couple’s biggest piece of advice? Make your special day all about you and your significant other. “Throughout the entire process, date your partner,” the bride recommends. “As long as you both are there, you have everything and everyone you need.”

Wedding party

Photo by Dragonfly Photography

When it came to the couple’s bridal party, they wanted their inner circle to live their best lives on a budget. “So many bridesmaids suffer financially in silence just to make their bride's day special,” Unique shares. “I didn't want that to be my friends' experience.” Ultimately, the bride selected sleek, black dresses for the bridesmaids, which were $16 at Boohoo.

Reception decor

Photo by Dragonfly Photography

Table setting

Photo by Dragonfly Photography

Table number

Photo by Dragonfly Photography

After the ceremony, guests headed to the reception for a night of dinner, drinks, and dancing. The black-and-gold theme was put on full display, thanks to the black napkins and metallic flatware and chairs. Crisp white tablecloths made the already-striking color combination pop.

Menu card

Photo by Dragonfly Photography

Sparkling wine

Photo by Dragonfly Photography

Guests enjoyed a mouthwatering medley of appetizers, such as beef wellington, caesar salad, and crab cakes with basil aioli. For dinner, a smattering of beef sirloin, chicken milanese, and vegetables were served. Although the couple did not have a signature cocktail, they served wine from the Black women-owned winery McBride Sisters Collection.

Bride and groom

Photo by Dragonfly Photography

The venue is so magical. It was like being dropped in the middle of a fairytale.

Bride and groom

Photo by Dragonfly Photography

For the reception, Unique changed into a second dress from David's Bridal. Throughout the day, the newlyweds soaked in the vineyard’s charming atmosphere. “​​The venue is so magical,” the bride shares. “It was like being dropped in the middle of a fairytale.”

Speeches

Photo by Dragonfly Photography

One of the couple’s favorite parts of their special day was soaking up every moment—yes, even when things didn’t go according to plan. “There are so many times we just burst into laughter at our sweetheart table,” Unique says.

Speeches

Photo by Dragonfly Photography

Speeches

Photo by Dragonfly Photography

Speeches

Photo by Dragonfly Photography

Of course, the special day wasn’t complete without incorporating their inner circle. For starters, the reception was filled with speeches from nearest and dearest. And, once the dancing started, Marcus and his mother got their groove on to Boyz II Men’s “Mama.” Unique, on the other hand, planned a mother-daughter dance to 2Pac’s “Dear Mama.” “Since my father walked me down the aisle, I wanted to take a moment to honor my mother,” she explains. 

First dance

Photo by Dragonfly Photography

First dance

Photo by Dragonfly Photography

As for the couple? They shared a first dance to Sabrina Claudio’s “Frozen.”

Cake

Photo by Dragonfly Photography

Cake cutting

Photo by Dragonfly Photography

No cinematic wedding is complete without a decadent cake. The couple tapped Gourmet Girl Custom Cakes to create a three-tiered confection, layered with lemon honeybee, butter vanilla, and wedding-white almond.

Dancing

Photo by Dragonfly Photography

Bride and groom kissing

Photo by Dragonfly Photography

“Our ceremony was very orderly but our reception was epic,” Unique says. “As a nurse and medical student, we have to be professional all the time. However, when we have fun, we have fun!”

Wedding Team

Venue Gervasi Vineyard

Officiant Dr. Yolanda Butler; Dr. Willie Patton

Bridal Gown Designer Pantora Bridal

Bridal Salon Kleinfeld Bridal

Second Bridal Gown David’s Bridal

Flat Lay Styling Champagne & Grit

Robe Pantora Bridal

Veil Pantora Bridal; Cassandra Lynne

Shoes Aminah Abdul Jillil; Vans

Hair Dear SummMer

Makeup MUA Tiana Shanee

Perfume Tiffany and Co.

Bridesmaids' Attire Boohoo 

Bridesmaids' Makeup Makeup By Ahshia

Groom’s Attire Gentleman’s Guru

Groom’s Hair Keep It Faded

Groomsmen’s Attire The Black Tux

Flower Girls’ Attire Amazon

Ring Bearers’ Attire Amazon

Engagement Ring Kay Jewelers

Wedding Band Kay Jewelers; David Yurman

Floral Design Stem Floral Studio; Cleveland Flower Walls

Invitations Feel Good Wedding Invites

Other Paper Products Art of Affairs from Etsy; Dragonfly Photography; Stone and Co

Broom Elves Florals from Etsy

Music The King Lou Experience

Catering Gervasi Vineyard

Cake Gourmet Girl Custom Cakes

Rentals Touch of Elegance Wedding and Event Design

Accommodations Gervasi Vineyard

Photography Dragonfly Photography

Videography My Destiny Fulfilled

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