Ten years ago today, I made the decision to leave the path everyone thought I would take. Not knowing what I was going to do to pay off my college debt or pay my bills, I left theatre and became a personal trainer in New York. I wanted to help people transform themselves from the inside out. Fast forward to two years later when my family’s home was ravaged by hurricane Ivan, my brother lost the ability to walk in a snowboarding accident and I, fresh off of a failed relationship, had left NY and moved in with my very disappointed and depressed parents. Our family was crushed. Then, one Sunday afternoon, a tall dark handsome Navy gent walked up to me in the gym and introduced himself. Ari was the first person to make me feel loved, not despite my flaws, but WITH them. He helped heal my family’s heart. Shortly after we started dating, my brother began to walk. A true miracle. My mom – a french chef – got back in the kitchen and my dad started to smile again. I started to believe in true love. Little did I know that I would fall in love with Ari and we would be married just five months later. (In Vegas but that’s another story!) I started a little event planning company and fell in love with the world of weddings.

On our one year wedding anniversary, Ari was deployed to Iraq. I was so afraid for him and needed something to keep my mind occupied. So, one night I found myself dreaming of pretty things – anything to keep my mind off bomb threats. I started mocking up a wedding magazine cover on my little 13 inch PC and the rest, as they say, is history. I do not have a degree in publishing or journalism. We aren’t owned by some big corporate publisher. We’re small, y’all.

But what we do have is more passion than a hen has feathers and we have YOU, Southern Weddings was born and snowballed because of the belief of so many of YOU. You cheered me on from day one – working from my tiny apartment at the time with just me and my cat. Back then, Ari used to write all the articles for print. He reluctantly knows more about weddings than 99% of the men in the world. Emily was a blog stalker, Nicole was a Chemistry major and I was working 24/7 to try to inspire brides to dream big.

But Southern Weddings could only grow to the height of a seedling with just me at the center of it. A shift started to happen when Emily joined us, then Nicole and Marissa, most recently Kristin and so many more who have made the heartbeat of what we do stronger. I prayed for so long to be surrounded by women of integrity who would help me be my best and that prayer was blown out of the water by the women I get to spend my days with.

But, perhaps the most significant change in our company happened when my own heart was transformed. Everything changed with grace. Not the pretty almost one-year-old who is asleep as I type this, but the meaning behind her name. God’s amazing grace. Marriage is WORK. The very best and most rewarding work. It involves giving up oneself for another, listening with all you are and most of all forgiving a thousand times a day. Forgiving and very important – accepting forgiveness yourself. The work of marriage requires honesty and passion and that will never ever fail you. Love never fails. In the last two years, I’ve experienced more challenge and at the same time more REAL JOY than any other time in my life and it has affected everything we do as a company.

That is love. Not the fairy tale honeymoon, but waking up every day and making the CHOICE to love and forgive and give your all for someone else. Ari, I love you. Thank you for loving me like you do. You help me believe every day that ANYTHING is possible if I keep choosing God. So many of you have helped lead my heart to this place and I hope you see it reflected on every page of this magazine.

Because, to us, it’s not a book of paper with pretty pictures printed on it. It’s the story of what matters most. It’s a call to action, whether you are married or not, young or old, to love deeply and hug tighter and celebrate family. We believe in love.

I believe in the impossible because what started as the heartbeat of one, grew to the heartbeat of millions all over the world who want to celebrate the culture of this magical place we call home – the South – and that sweet ingredient that makes it tick – LOVE.

And this is my plea to all of you. We have a calling. A responsibility and the sheer JOY of helping couples focus on what matters. Love never fails!

ORDER YOUR COPY of the new Southern Weddings here.

Show Comments (33)
  1. @Lora_Elaine

    Love your story Lara! Grateful for your work in our industry! RT “@laracasey: Love never fails. My story: http://t.co/p8UMZCRE”

  2. Jenni Bailey

    I love you. This is wonderful.

  3. Francesca

    Lara, Your story gives me chills just like it did the first time I heard it 31 days ago in a little hotel conference room in Chicago, IL. Thank you for your honesty then, & now, as Southern Weddings V5 launches you into the best season of everything life has to offer. To the next 5 years (and the 50 after that!)–better, stronger, bolder, brighter, more grace, more hope, more joy than you even know what to do with. I love your heart–thank you for sharing it with all of us on those pretty pages of V5. Love you, miss you & can’t wait to share a sweet tea or two on that front porch of yours. The best is yet to come!

  4. Damaris Mia {Le Magnifique}

    Oh Lara.. this had me in tears! Thank you for sharing your story with us. You’re an incredible woman and even though we don’t know each other, I could give you a big ole’ hug to show you how much I appreciate all you say and do. xo.

  5. Emily steffen

    Lara, it can’t be said enough how much of an inspiration you are to so many women; moms, business owners, wedding industry professionals and beyond! The way that you can take a dream and turn it Into a reality is amazing in itself but the way that you can make it about HIM and so much bigger than yourself! Your joy and the way you speak truth inspires me daily! Thank you!!!!!!!

  6. Brit Tucker Stewart

    I love this and I love you. As I read the ‘Sweet Tea Society’ everything resonated. It was like someone took what has been in my head after all these years of wedding planning and made it come to life. THANK YOU for being a beautiful light. xo

  7. Megan Floyd

    HOORAY!!! I love this, I love you!

  8. Rachel Moger

    Wow, Lara. Even though we’ve only spoken face to face for a few short minutes in Chicago, I can’t even describe the lasting impact you’ve had on my heart. You give me hope that if I keep praying for my husband, our love will grow in ways that I don’t even understand. I’ve always felt that I was a southern belle at heart, and can’t wait for the day I head to Chapel Hill, and hopefully accept an invitation to sit on your front porch. :) Congratulations on your success so far! It will only multiply if you keep pouring your heart into your work. Your readers feel that. We adore you.

  9. Yasmin Sarai

    You are amazing Lara! Always inspiring and bringing so much glory to God :) Love you!

  10. @CarrieMantha

    This just makes me smile. :) @laracasey: Love never fails. My story: http://t.co/q76jwDqp

  11. Erin Haines

    Love this. Thanks for always sharing your heart, good, bad and everything in between!

  12. Liz Rotz

    Oh Lara, every time I hear your story I start to tear up. Chicago was so amazing and I owe it to you. Seriously. I’m so happy for the place you are in right now. It’s like your glowing! Thank you and all my love, Liz

  13. @sheridans7

    A beautiful and inspiring post by @laracasey – a must read! http://t.co/BNURuPwr

  14. Monica Smith

    Priceless! Lara, your testimony gives hope for what seems impossible to reach. Thank you for sharing and being transparent. May God continue to bless you and all that He has given you. Praise Him!
    Monica

  15. Jaqueline Faria

    Lara you are such an inspiration. Thanks for sharing your story. Though we haven’t meet I love your blog(s) and am inspired by all you share with the world.

  16. Lindsey

    I am a photographer, and I feel the same way about my husband. His shoulders are defined from the scrim holding, and sometimes wet with my tears because owning your own business is HARD! : ) Thanks for sharing this personal post, you are very inspiring to me and my brand : )

  17. Emily

    I love you more than words. You are just plain remarkable. xoxo Em

  18. Lauren @ Every Last Detail

    YES YES YES. You are such an inspiration to me. I love you friend. :)

  19. Liz

    Was thinking of you last night, Lara – congratulations on the last ten years with even more to come!!!

  20. Charity

    The beauty and love in these simple words amaze me. If women my age could get a small glimpse of the journey you have taken, they would be either fully inspired or fully terrified of what it takes to get where you are! I’m inspired. I’m terrified. But most of all, I want to chase my dreams with the passion, tenacity and intensity you have followed yours with. Many many tight hugs and blessings on you, your family and SWMag!!

  21. Rhiannon

    I just adore you. I hope you know just how big of an impact you have on so many hearts and minds, including my own. Sending you the biggest, warmest hug today! Go sit with Grace and Ari and just soak in all of that love, Lara :) xoxo

  22. Kristen @ miss prissy paige

    WOW – what an amazing story you have to tell. Its amazing what love can you. I tell my husband, he saved me. Congrats on the 10 years, what an unbelievable achievement!

  23. (@laracasey) (@laracasey)

    Ten years ago, life was completely different. My story: http://t.co/MFxP3SDE

  24. Jeanette Verster

    This made me smile :) how inspiring!

  25. Kristine Aletha

    This is so right on, Lara. Everything you said about marriage and love and God’s grace. The biggest lesson I’ve learned about my marriage thus far is that it TAKES WORK. Lots of it. Sometimes you don’t feel like working on it, you’d rather it just be easy. You’d rather that selflessness and graciousness and loving heart come easy. But that’s where God’s grace comes in and it carries you through the lowest moments, out of your own despair, and into hope again. It’s so important to remind ourselves of these things, especially in the wedding industry. The wedding is just the beautiful beginning! Thank you for always inspiring me. xo

  26. Erika

    I love you and your willingness to share with us—whether colleagues, best friend, MTH folks or brides and grooms-to-be. Your light shines bright, you leak the Lord’s grace (thanks Bob Goff!) and I’m oh so thankful to know you, Lara.

  27. Tamara Menges

    @laracasey Oh my goodness!! Im in tears at how amazing you are and how God is truly to reason for all our greatest accomplishments! man oh man I love you!

  28. Happy Thanksgiving, Y’all! « Southern Weddings Magazine

    […] you for making this holiday time so special for us with all the excitement and kind words about V5! The story of Southern Weddings makes my heart so FULL. I am grateful for my family, dear friends, the SW ladies, a job that I love […]

  29. Stephanie Sterjovski

    Oh boy, this one did a number on me. I love how God changes things, makes them better than we had ever even imagined. There are some things I would like changed and this has inspired me more than ever to always keep praying & believing in the good of God. Thank you for sharing sweet Lara, you truly inspire so many of our hearts! I know God smiles at every sweet thing you do.

  30. Valerie Painter {Greyson Design}

    I love this Lara! Such a beautiful thing how God works through us and with us! He is doing amazing things with you :) I just adore you!

  31. Denise Lopatka

    LOVE this post Lara. Made me cry. Made me inspired. I love your heart and your story. Thank you for being YOU! xox

  32. Kelly

    This is amazing and so inspiring!! I’m so happy to have found your site!!