Hi, y’all! I’m Lara. I’m Grace’s mom, a grateful wife, a friend, a daughter and a believer in the “impossible.” I am the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Southern Weddings — a magazine that I created from the ground up with no formal training, just a ton of passion and a big idea. I am passionate about faith, being silly with my little family, pushing my limits, and helping people get unstuck. I founded the Making Things Happen movement and recently released my first book, Make It Happen: Surrender Your Fear, Take the Leap, Live On Purpose, to help women live on purpose and make what matters happen. I love the women I work alongside each day, hot boiled peanuts, vegetable gardening, the smell of white lilies, exploring local farms, and living in Chapel Hill, NC! *I’m currently on maternity leave until 2016.*
Lara Casey was born in Washington, D.C. but spent most of her youth on the shores of Pensacola Beach, Florida. Lara graduated with honors from Carnegie Mellon University and studied art and design at Yale University. Lara has worked as a personal trainer in Manhattan and served as a contributor to Shape magazine. Lara is a believer in the “impossible,” helping women to live on purpose through the many hats she wears in her parent company, Lara Casey Media. She is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Southern Weddings magazine, where they encourage couples to plan a meaningful beginning to married life. Lara is also the founder of the Making Things Happen movement, a nationally-acclaimed workshop that has been sold out for the last seven years and has toured over 40 cities. Mrs. Casey frequently speaks on goal-setting, faith, mission-centered business, and how to make what matters happen. Her first book, Make it Happen: Surrender Your Fear, Take the Leap, Live on Purpose, recently released nationwide through Thomas Nelson publishers. Lara loves to garden, explore local farms, and she wishes her neighborhood would let her have chickens. She lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with her husband, Ari, and their bubbly daughter, Grace. They are expecting their second child in July 2015 and adopting shortly after.
How do you know when a risk is worth taking? When it is fueled by love. When the possible outcome of taking that risk could mean a better future for everyone involved, no matter how hard the road to get there, it’s worth making the leap. When it’s not about you, but about loving someone else, the risk is worth taking. When you aren’t relying on someone else’s positive reaction for it to be worth it. When it pushes you to let go and surrender to what you know is right, it’s worth taking. It’s time to leap.
When the risk itself is taken in love, with clarity and giving as its source. The inside of my wedding band reads, “I can do all things through Christ.” When God is at the center of my decisions – and I trust in that – I can risk and never worry about falling. Your wings span farther than you can see. When you realize that you are capable of so much more than where you are right now, risk is essential. Risk is the stuff real life is made of.
Reflecting on my journey from ballet class to moving to New York, quitting acting to be a personal trainer, tragedy after tragedy, the pain of severely disappointing my parents with my choices, learning the hard way that they love me no matter what, seemingly-randomly falling in love with wedding planning, starting my own tiny business with zero know-how, falling in love with Ari, moving across the country with him and getting married in Vegas after dating for only five months, Ari leaving for Iraq, deciding I needed a project to keep my mind occupied while he was at war, starting a blog before the days of Twitter and before most people knew what a blog was, the blog almost-overnight turning into a tiny little magazine that I first made on Microsoft Publisher, that turning into a real magazine, getting a circulation deal because I put my passion out there and asked for it, teaching myself InDesign because I couldn’t afford a designer, trademark smackdown, losing it all and getting back up again, moving to North Carolina… and I could go on an on and on. My path wasn't perfect, but it’s exactly the way things were supposed to be. God wanted me to walk, to fall hard, to learn to trust only Him. If you really want something, you let go, let God and you make it happen. You do not wait or sit or dwell or let fear paralyze you. You start walking. Walking starts by first standing up. Stand up and put one foot in front of the other right now. If I can go from leotards to Lhuillier… you fill in the blank. I am not more extraordinary than you. You were given gifts that were meant to be used for His glory. How do you start a business/rebuild a powerful thriving business? How do you get out of “overwhelmed” and start really living? You walk – sometimes through mud, jagged rocks, thick weeds, thorns and on thin ice. But, you will get to the other side because you are walking through it. You get stronger. But, if you do not walk, you will not get to the other side. Step strongly. No mistakes, only lessons. Plant those feet on the ground. You have this. And if you need a kick in the pants, I’m happy to oblige. Many people guided me. Whether through a session, one of my workshops or simply reading the blog, it would be my honor to do that for you.
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 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, 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.
But, back to how I began…
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!
I believe in marriage.
Working actively to live the “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” part is a daily choice. Ari and I haven’t had the typical marriage path. We met at the gym, fell in love and 5 months later, eloped to Vegas. As crazy as it feels to type that and say that still, we look back and see God working SO clearly. After many years of feeling like room mates – our marriage teetering on failure – it took both of us committing to the work of marriage to turn things around. And turn around they did! When I say that God made miracles happen in our lives, I mean it in the truest sense of those words. Miracles, people. The work of marriage is the best work I’ve ever done and work I want to do for as long as I live. No matter where you are or what you are feeling, I want you to know that Love is worth it. True love is possible with God. It’s not about changing someone else. It starts with you. I choose Love. Love never fails.
The people we surround ourselves with directly affect our genuine success and ability to give our all. I am so grateful for the women I have the honor of doing this work with and for my team that extends far beyond our office walls! 'You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.' I am so blessed by my five and many more!
God has proven time and time again that His plans are MUCH bigger than mine. I want to be still and know. To listen in every moment and ACT. I feel a fire burning inside me to make big things – NEW things – happen. I want to live every day to the full as an example of love and giving. I want to give my all to Grace. I want our family to flourish in love and laughter. I want to honor my ‘failures’ by accepting them as they come and learning from them. No mistakes, only lessons.
I want to live with less, keep a new budget based on the historical data we have from 2012, and be more frugal this year because my money is not mine. It's God's and I want to do more with our money for Him. I want to not only give away things I don't need, but give away things I love. Ari is really good at this. His favorite sweater was in our charity pile this weekend and, when I asked him about it, he said he said that it wasn't really giving unless you were giving something you didn't want to give away for the sake of someone else. I love that. I want to be more sacrificial in my giving.
To live with less
I want to continue to build a remarkable business that is a catalyst for real LOVE. I want my clients to have better LIVES and I want our brides to have strong MARRIAGES. I want to be a centered sounding board and prayerfully guide my clients this year to their fullest potential. My goal is to always come back to our CORE and to keep refining it.
To stay focused on my core
To know God more by learning about Him in the Bible and through prayer because knowing God means I will know what is right and good and He will direct my path. Everything good comes from that. God is my compass. I want to know everything I can possibly know about God so I can align my life with His will. I want to know God so I can change for the better for everyone in my life. I want to study the Bible and pray without ceasing. That means a lot of things, namely less time in my phone and on email and on extraneous projects and more focused time without distractions, reading. My goal in short: read and pray daily. Repeat.
To know God more
I want Ari and I to have a more thriving joyful marriage because that will help us be our best for each other and Grace and everyone in our lives. Because we are stronger as individuals when we are stronger as a couple. Last year was truly a year of transition and miracles and this year, I want to celebrate life more together. My goal is to plan something epic for our seven year anniversary on March 18th. I also want to plan something really special for Valentine's Day. I want to plan adventures every week, even if they are really tiny. I want to make Ari feel special and help him be his best. I want to open my heart and let him in more. I know I have a self-protecting wall up most of the time. I want to learn more about what God wants for our marriage and I want to DO those things. I want to help other couples do those things, too. I would love to write a devotional with Ari for couples or start a video blog series together. I also want to write often about marriage in the South on Southern Weddings. I want to lead by example, in our failures and triumphs.
To have a strong marriage
I want to become more physically strong so I can be full of energy to do God's work every day and give to others. I stopped weight training last year and that is the longest time I've been out of the gym. I want to be physically strong so I can live a long healthy active life and be able to teach Grace about God and how to live a good life through my actions. I want to fuel my body to do good things. I want to recognize when I am tempted to use food to control my emotions and choose God instead through prayer, reading, stepping outside to take a deep breath or just by being still and having a good cry if I need to.
To be physically strong
I want to show my family God's love through my actions so that they will know Him more and trust in Him. My family is going through a lot right now. They need a lot of love. My goal is to be sacrificial with my time and resources so I can support them and take care of them in their distress.
To be a light to my family
I want to be like Moses this year in the way he trusted and just DID what God said to do. He let God use him. I want to be open to change and trust that God always has the perfect plan. No matter what.
To be like Moses
I want to learn how to be a better mom. I currently don't read anything on parenting. I fly by the seat of my pants. I want to learn from others who do it well and become a mother full of wisdom so that Grace can be her best under our care. I want to raise her to be giving and pure and to have a heart of grateful JOY. I want to help Grace have more play friends and be a living example of the Bible for her in our actions. I want to be much more patient and less controlling and let go of my life so I can live in hers.
To be a giving mom
I want to foster my friendships is a purposeful, focused way because then I will build a stronger bond with my friends and we can do more good things for others together. I want to be more prayerful for my friends, even when they don't know it. I want to do surprise things for them to make them feel special and build their faith and capacity to love.
To foster strong friendships
I want to continue to paint and create products for small creative spaces that inspire people to live better lives. God is the ultimate creator and I believe He gave all of us creative talents that are meant to be USED. I want to use my creative gifts much more this year: design, painting and singing.
To create things that glorify God
I want to build other's up in faith and give lots of tools this year for people to make that happen. I want to study the Bible with others in my home and online. Going back to goal 1, I want to know the Bible so I can share it with others. Showing people the new life that I have been given and the indescribable JOY and freedom and love and genuine purpose I have found in this new life... well, that is something I want to share. Big time. If you were to find the most beautiful island in the world, you would want to invite all your friends. That's how I feel about being in a relationship with God. I want everyone to be able to feel this goodness. I want to equip people with basic tools to know God more.
To build other's up in faith
I choose God