Ten years ago, 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 idea of creating meaningful celebrations.
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, Marissa, 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. 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 our 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.
For the whole story, grab a copy of my book, Make it Happen.
read my whole story
Born in Washington D.C., three days after Christmas. My middle name, Austin, is my mom's maiden name... and now Grace's middle name, too!
My mom is a French chef and dad is an eye doc. My favorite adventures with them were road trips around the South. Peach Park is at the top of my list. My brother and I would sit out on rocking chairs with our peach ice cream in the Southern sun, lovin’ life. My mom introduced us to French fare, but my favorite things remain the Southern staples she cooked too – hot boiled peanuts, collard greens, black-eyed peas and humble golden cornbread.
Singin' and Dancin'
I grew up a creative child, which is a subtle way of saying I danced and sang and painted and made a mess 24/7. I loved helping my mom cook for big dinner parties, playing dress up, climbing trees and laughing. My mom says that I would spend hours creating dinner parties for my dolls.. a definite foreshadowing of my desire to create magical celebrations for couples later in my life.
I sang and danced my way through grade school, middle and high school. I went to Carnegie Mellon University for music theatre and dance and studied design in the summers at Yale.
The most influential person in my life besides Jesus, was my Grandfather. Grampa Cecil was a farm boy turned preacher. He was a devoted husband to my Grama Bunny till he went to Heaven in 2002. Every day I want to live more like him. He loved God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength. He loved his garden and the simple things in life. He is why I love the smell of tomato leaves. Read "Lessons from Grampa Cecil’s Garden" in our latest issue here.
Moved to The Big Apple
Post college graduation, I packed up and headed to the big city!