Jun 12, 2018

A New Chapter

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I started Southern Weddings magazine late one night with a husband deployed to war and no formal training in journalism or publishing. I didn’t have experience, but I did have more passion than a hen has feathers. I wanted to inspire couples to tell their unique love stories, rich with family history and rooted in the culture of this place we call home—the South. The place where my grandparents had lived out their own love story decades before—a love story that changed me and my family.

I wanted to do something with my life, using the gifts I had been given to help people cultivate what matters. But, that was the extent of my grand vision. I didn’t know where this would lead, exactly. I just knew it needed to exist. I had a tiny seed… and I took a leap of faith and planted it. I thought this would grow into a small publication. Perhaps we’d print it ourselves and put it in neighborhood grocery stores and local churches.

God had a different plan.

Dear friends, I did not expect this would be my path—our path. I sit here writing to you from my home in North Carolina with three little ones, a husband I am so grateful for, and ten issues of Southern Weddings that have brought with them a lifetime of treasured memories.

If you have known us for any length of time—from a day to a decade—you know that our heartbeat is to help women uncover what matters most and intentionally live that out. We heartily embrace the truth that we can’t do it all and do it well, but we can choose to cultivate what matters right where we are.

Many times, cultivating what matters means making hard decisions.

Sometimes, it means letting go of good things to make room for even better things to come.

It is with bittersweet expectation that I share with you what we’ve been praying about and wrestling with for a long while: the time has come for us to turn the page on the Southern Weddings story. The tenth anniversary issue was the final issue for our team. The Southern Weddings site will soon transition to a robust archive, giving our readers and future brides access to the timeless content we’ve worked so hard to create over the last decade together.

This is a bittersweet change for us, and perhaps a surprise to many of you. Southern Weddings has continued to grow: we had our best year ever in 2017, celebrated our tenth anniversary, and yet—we found ourselves at a crossroads. You see, we are a unique company with two brands under one small roof: Southern Weddings and Cultivate What Matters.

As both Southern Weddings and Cultivate have grown over these last years, we have been stretched as a team. Both companies are making an impact on people’s lives and hold so much continued growth potential. But, like I have written about in both Make it Happen and Cultivate, you can only grow so much in one space. If you grow too much—even good things—they start to take nutrients away from each other. At the rate both brands have been growing, supporting two companies would be unsustainable in the long-term.

You might be thinking, “Why not just do it all? Why can’t you hire more people? Why can’t you adjust to the growth? How can you let go of something so good?“

Therein lies the entire mission and heartbeat of what we do. Living on purpose often means making hard decisions for the greater good. We are nine women, most of whom work here in my home office in Chapel Hill. We want to have a profound impact on this world while maintaining the quality of life that is so important to our team and families. That means being all-in wherever we are.

We believe we have completed the work we were given to do with Southern Weddings. We created something that was built to last. Many of our readers have saved their issues for their children and grandchildren. I have done the same. The heart of this magazine is ever-beating. It lives on because meaningful love stories can change the world long after the stories themselves have been lived. We believe our best work is before us and we’ve had to make this hard decision to be able to give our whole selves to it.

This was an incredibly prayer-covered decision. We have met with business leaders, gotten wise counsel, and taken many months to just listen. We listened and we waited for the plan to be revealed. Times of waiting for answers can be times of ripening. In the wait, and in countless conversations, our team grew closer as we wrestled with this decision together. How can we let this go? What would that look like? How can we best serve people? Is there another publisher who could take this over? When God finally gave me clarity on moving forward with closing this chapter for our team, what gave me great peace was that He gave the same clarity to the team, too.

Everyone’s willingness to embrace change has been extraordinary. (Dearest team, I love you.) We have felt sadness in this change, but more than that, we feel gratitude for this decade—and gratitude for the opportunities we have to continue to use our gifts to change the world and help you use yours, too.

As you can imagine, letting go of something I poured my heart and soul and prayers—and over a decade of my life—into isn’t easy. As I sit here about to hit publish on this note to you, there are tears running down my cheeks. I have been overcome with emotion many times over the last months. Southern Weddings changed my life, my family, and my marriage, and thousands of others have experienced the same impact as we’ve helped couples plan meaningful beginnings to married life. We have created something meaningful and beautiful that will, Lord willing, continue to change lives long after I’m gone. I continue to stand in awe that God wrote Southern Weddings into my story. After a decade, it still doesn’t feel real! He can use imperfect people, with imperfect stories, to change the world.

Southern Weddings has changed all of us… and the best is yet to come.

Seeing Southern Weddings on the shelf this past December. After ten years, the thrill of newsstand sightings never faded!

The Cultivate brand has grown exponentially in the last few years, and we have been equipped and tasked with shepherding it well. With this change, we believe we will not only be able to continue to do the work of strengthening meaningful relationships, but we will be able to do it even more effectively, reaching not just brides, but women of varied life stages and seasons.

Our goal is to change a culture, helping women to cultivate what matters right where they are: helping women live purposeful lives. Helping all of us to embrace the power of progress, not perfection. Helping women embrace change and find confidence in their unique paths.

Perhaps you have been considering a change of your own. We hope our story will encourage you to know that…

It’s okay to let go of one dream to make room for something else.
It’s okay to not be able to “do it all.”
It’s okay to embrace change. Change is hard, but it can be life-giving for you and countless others.
You can do hard things. Good things come from hard things, and saying no to one thing means you are saying yes to something else.
You can write a new story. You can grow something that lasts longer than you. It all starts with a tiny seed.
And… endings can be new beginnings.

We believe our team has done the work we were given to do with Southern Weddings, and that is much in thanks to YOU for your passionate, generous, and enthusiastic support.

A favorite memory: laughing in the cornfield with some of the biggest hearts in the South.

The last decade of Southern Weddings has been filled with memories and stories and meaningful relationships grown. From the honor of getting to tell your love stories to magical launch parties at the Carolina Inn, countless emails from readers telling us our work changed their marriages, sending thousands of magazine orders out of my garage, my kids being a part of this amazing adventure, having a partnership with Southern Living, getting to create with incredibly gifted and generous artists, countless hours doing the layout for the magazine myself in the early years, happy dancing over weddings, enjoying the magic of the South together, and celebrating engagements and marriages and babies on our team along the way, what brings us joy in this new chapter is knowing those things have not been lost.

Dear friends—readers, brides, vendors, moms, sisters, friends, and many more—thank you. Thank you for believing in this dream that started with the hope of bringing beauty into a broken world while my husband was deployed to Iraq. I never imagined what the ten years that followed would hold, and I want you to know that your support—no matter how seemingly small or large—has changed the world.

Photo credits from top to bottom: Jose Villa, Ryan Ray, KT Merry, Landon Jacob.


  1. Kirsti Cook on June 12, 2018 at 11:23 am

    I have been sitting for quite some time watching the curser blink not knowing what towards to type here. I am terribly saddened by the news, but also have a heart filled with encouragement and love for all of the SW and CWM team on this new season in life. I fell in love with SW many years ago, which led me to follow a career in wedding planning and have worked with other bridal magazines to gain the experience to hopefully become a team member of SW. Years later, my role has switched as I have been a bride for the last year, using many of the SW Shop products to cultivate our marriage in planing our wedding last month. It has been a dream of mine to have my wedding preserved in such a timeless way, but now will treasure the back issues that I have proudly displayed. Thank you for creating such wonderful products that I cherished myself, and have given as gifts to friends in the engaged season of their life. Thank you for many years of inspiration, encouragement, teaching us to plan smart, be authentic, to cultivate your marriage and not just a wedding. All of the things. Thank you for leading myself and so many others on this journey for the last ten years. I cannot wait to see the work unfold that God has laid on your hearts with this change! ….. Also, can you share when this change will happen and the last post on SW blog will be?

    • Lara on June 12, 2018 at 11:28 am

      Your encouragement means so much, Kristi! Today’s post was the final post on the blog for now, but we will be posting some favorite images on social media throughout the next weeks. We are so grateful for your support and love! It means the world to our team!

  2. Lisa Manning on June 12, 2018 at 11:40 am

    Wow…I think I lived this story once. 😉 It is incredibly scary to take the first step but you will be so thrilled to see how God honors your obedience. I am proud of you. You are an
    Inspiration! Will keep you in prayer and look forward to continuing to support you in Cultivating What Matters!

    PS. You can NEVER sell our name. 😊

    • Lara on June 12, 2018 at 12:04 pm

      My friend, you are the bee’s knees! I love you so much and how God brought us together! Thank you for your continued love and support!

  3. Lori J Lorig on June 12, 2018 at 11:53 am

    Looking forward to the next chapter of your life! Thanks for sharing it with all of us. You are an inspiration as you move into your own “Best Yes.” Blessings to you and your team.

    • Lara on June 12, 2018 at 12:04 pm

      Thank you, Lori! Your support means so much to our team!

  4. Shannon Stedman on June 12, 2018 at 2:56 pm

    Lara, I’m so grateful for your ministry! I just found you at the end of 2017. Powersheets has been helping me a lot. I always look forward to your posts because they are full of encouragement and wisdom!!

  5. Renee Swope on June 12, 2018 at 3:30 pm

    Lara!! You and the Souther Weddings team have been SO faithful and prayerful. YOU have been a beautiful picture of working unto the LORD, with huge hearts of love and hands of excellence. HE will honor and multiply all those seeds – 10 years worth!! Love you SO much and I’m so excited for the future of your family and Cultivate What Matters. Praying for you friend, asking Jesus to give you even more peace, joy, creativity, freedom, and expectant hope for what HE has for all of you in the days ahead!

    • Lara on June 12, 2018 at 3:30 pm

      I love you SO much, Renee! Thank you for all of your love and prayers! You are a gift to me and all of us!

  6. Yana on June 12, 2018 at 5:43 pm

    Oh! This is SO sad and SO inspiring at the same time!!!! So beautifully said! I was so excited that I just shot Alabama (destination for me) me which I was planning to submit to SW! But the disappointment of not being able to submit it is not even close to the feeling that the magazine will be gone 😢. But the newly created space is so exciting! And your words are so encouraging to me as well. Change is inevitable and with Godly decision-making it is very good ❤️

  7. Megan on June 13, 2018 at 8:18 am

    It has been such a joy to have SW through my (almost finished!) season of engagement. I am getting married next weekend, and y’all were the only source I truly trusted throughout the planning process. So grateful for all you have been to me and so many others!

  8. Brittany on June 13, 2018 at 8:52 am

    This is so weird! I literally woke up yesterday morning randomly with the thought, “I wonder if Southern Weddings will continue or if they will decide to focus on Cultivate since it seems like its their passion”, and then I saw this announcement. Congratulations on making a hard decision that seems like it has been a long time coming and where you hearts truly are in this season. I’m glad that the team will be sticking around and I look forward to continue to watch you all grow!

  9. Diane Taylor on June 13, 2018 at 10:04 am

    Lara and team – what a heartfelt post! I bought my first copy of Southern Weddings 3 years ago – mind you, I got married back in 1981 (the first time) and 2003 (second and forever time). so I had no business buying a magazine about weddings!!! However, I have two wonderful nieces and one nephew who got married over those 3 years and I gave them copies of the magazine. They all LOVED it so much – and they each had beautiful weddings filled with inspiration from SW!!!! I just loved the photos and stories, it gave me hope and made me believe in love and fall even more in love with my husband.

    It is never easy to make a decision like this – but it seems like it was a decision reached thru lots of prayer and hard choices. I wish you all so much love from my little office in Baltimore MD – thank you for all your hard work and images of love and life. God Bless!!!!

    Diane Taylor

  10. Ruth Simons on June 13, 2018 at 10:29 am

    What an encouragement and example, Lara. Thank you for this beautiful testimony of cultivating what matters. Congrats to you and your team for a job well done and new adventures ahead. ❤️

  11. Becky Morquecho on June 14, 2018 at 5:38 pm

    Lara! Thank you for continuing to follow where God leads you, even when it’s a tough decision and bittersweet. It encourages the rest of us to do the same. Congrats on all that lies ahead! Praying for you and the team during this exciting time!! xo

  12. Mary Kay on June 21, 2018 at 1:09 pm

    Hi Lara! Your words about embracing change, writing a new story, and letting go came at the best time for me, as I am contemplating some big changes in my own life. Thank you for sharing! Southern Weddings is such a beautiful company, but it sounds like it is time for you to focus on other projects. Congratulations and best of luck to you!

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