A romance sparked in New York, a wedding planned from London, and a celebration in Florida, with a distinctly Filipino meets Southern flair.
Janice and Rhett’s Jacksonville wedding was a charming, beautiful, and personal day, with DIY touches, and contributions from their friends and family from near and far.
And it was captured by Stephanie W. Photography in her signature dreamy style.
A romantic first look, a ceremony under the shade of a tree, lawn games, cocktails, and an al fresco first dance; Janice and Rhett’s elegant backyard style wedding day was filled with unforgettable moments from start to finish.
We won’t tell you any more (we’ll let the beautiful Janet do that!) but scroll down to swoon over this special Southern wedding… it’s gorgeous enough to give you goosebumps.
Wedding Day Snapshot
Our Love Story
As a truly modern love story begins, my husband and I actually met virtually before meeting each other face to face.
With busy schedules and family in town during our first days of exchanging messages, Cupid’s arrow did not strike immediately. We were finally able to connect when midwest_2_nyc (Rhett) asked me, nycstar_22 “How about coffee, ice cream, or dinner?”
After agreeing to dinner, midwest_2_nyc, a true Casanova, turned to Yelp for “romantic restaurants in NoLIta.” (short for North of Little Italy, a neighborhood in NYC).
So excited for the first date, Rhett accidentally boarded the uptown 6 train when he was supposed to head downtown. Worried that I might think I was being stood up, he texted me as soon as he was above ground. Lucky for him, I had been delayed at work so the later time worked out. We eventually met for dinner at Emporio, and the rest of the story takes us to where we are today.
After hosting my sister Hazel and her husband James for New Year’s Eve, and then heading down the block to join a friend’s post-party, 2014 looked like it was going to start out like any other year in NYC.
However, Rhett had something up his sleeve, or rather his coat pocket, to officially ring in the New Year. The next day, New Year’s day, he nonchalantly asked me if I wanted to check out the shops downtown in SoHo and grab some lunch.
I immediately agreed and suggested one of our typical go-to restaurants. Rhett countered that it was a New Year and that we should try out new things.
Navigating our way to NoLIta, Rhett “happened” to notice that we were walking by the restaurant where we had our first date. Crossing the street, he suggested we have lunch there. Before I even knew what was happening he was down on one knee, recalling our first date over two and a half years ago.
Standing in the exact spot where he first waited to see me years before, he then asked me the most important question. Jumping up and down, I of course, answered yes!
We wanted to celebrate the warm and welcoming spirit of the South, in all aspects: spirit, food and style.
Guests embraced the charm of the South in their attire: gentlemen wore seersucker, bow ties and suspenders, while belles wore pearls, bright shades and pastels.
This was perfect for where we were married: outside under an ancient sprawling oak tree with Spanish moss lazily blowing in the intracoastal Florida breeze.
We were also excited to share my Filipino heritage, and invited all to attend our welcome dinner the night before the wedding.
All of my aunts and uncles cooked delicious Filipino cuisine and true to popular Filipino culture, we sang karaoke late into the night.
We continued to incorporate Filipino traditions the next day during the wedding ceremony. These traditions include ceremonies of the cord, veil and coin.
Also, the Filipino men wore Barong Tagalogs, traditional male formal wear made from pineapple leaf fibers.
The inspiration for the wedding was romance and trying to stay true to ourselves – fun, welcoming (we don’t take ourselves too seriously/are not too stuffy), and celebrating while being with the people we love.
I got engaged at the beginning of the year and had to move from NYC to London in February, so it was a bit of a rush to find the perfect dress.
I checked out a handful of bridal salons with friends and family, and finally found my dress while shopping with my sisters at The Sample Room NY.
The dress was an ivory silk organza a-line cut, with the bottom of the dress hand-sewn with beautiful flowery swirl detail, and the top and middle with beautiful ruching. I fell in love with the clean look, and it felt like a nod to the traditional Filipino formal wear, but in a modern sense.
I made it my own by adding a bit of Alencon lace, pill buttons down the back and some trim to make it sparkle a bit.
My two sister, both maids of honor (technically matrons, since they are both married) wore their own style of a long silk chiffon dress in a shade of blush, from J Crew. We added a belt echoing the colors and some sparkle from trim we found at MJ Trimmings.
We incorporated some key Filipino wedding traditions, where we asked our close friends and family to serve as sponsors for the different parts of the wedding.
Essentially, our friends would place symbolic items on us, or hand them to us during the ceremony.
These include: The chord – symbolizing the couple’s bond; that indeed they are no longer two but one in their new life as a couple.
The veil – a symbol of purity. It is placed over the shoulders of the couple to symbolize their union and being “clothed as one” in unity.
The coins – symbolizing the couple’s commitment to mutually contributing to their relationship, their children, and their community.
We also had a moment of acknowledgement for those who had passed away and were unable to join us for our special day, which we represented by placing three bouquets of white roses.
Our favorite moments were definitely the laughter and tears when we did our own personalized vows.
Chivalry was not dead when Rhett brought out a handkerchief during the vows for me and announced that his Dad always taught him to carry one.
We also rented lawn games (cornhole), which our guests really enjoyed (we did too!) and brought a playful spirit to the day.
Our first look, which we decided to do before the ceremony, allowed us to spend a few quiet moments with each other amidst the busy hustle of the day.
Since we got married in Florida but were living in New York and London, we had to find our photographer solely through the lens of the internet.
We both fell in love with Stephanie W’s work and really loved how she ‘captured the moment’ and did not make photos look staged. We were lucky enough to get a prior engagement session with her and fell in love with her work right away.
For our videographer, we used the same company that had filmed Janice’s best friend Charlotte’s wedding.
We really enjoyed working with Bruce and his side-kick and can’t wait for the final production of the video to come out – the trailer looks awesome!
After hearing from numerous friends that their one regret was not hiring a videographer, we decided that we should hire one. This was a fairly sizable part of the budget that we did not plan for, but decided to splurge on.
We were able to save big on flowers, as we assembled them ourselves. If you have some manpower to help you, this is a great way to save money.
We also bought our own alcohol and transported it to and from the event. The bartenders were great to agree to this and only charged an hourly rate to serve what we brought in. This also allowed us to buy special Filipino beer and specialty spirits that we knew our family loved.
We saved big and got lucky with the wedding dress, which we found through a sample sale. The sample was fairly close to my true size, and I felt amazing in the designer gown.
We also saved on Rhett’s tuxedo by ordering online through GILT. We didn’t require the groomsmen to buy or rent tuxedos/suits. Instead, we agreed upon a color that they both had in their closet and bought them matching bow ties to wear.
We also saved money by sending out electronic save the dates through paperless post, and on our wedding invitations that we assembled/created ourselves. It was really easy and fun!
We went over budget a little bit (who doesn’t!) and spent around $25k USD.
I always loved peonies and knew I wanted them in my bouquet and wedding. Since my sister had a destination wedding last year where I had practice making the bouquets and buttonholes, I thought I would do the same for my wedding, so I could have the flowers I wanted at a fraction of the price.
We ordered the flowers online, and with the help of my family and close friends, we were able to make all the centerpieces and the flower arrangements for the wedding.
My bouquet had mostly blush peonies (my favorite) and a few deep pink garden roses, while my bridesmaids had pink hydrangeas, also with the deep pink garden roses.
All the flowers were in various shades of pink, and were complementary to the already beautiful backdrop of the Florida outdoors.
The centerpieces were a combination of pink hydrangeas, pink and white roses, some peonies and baby’s breath. I wanted to have a rustic feel, and set them in steel buckets.
For lighting, we had small mason jars with candles inside.
The Decor & Details
We decorated the venue with minimal rustic and romantic DIY flower arrangements, and didn’t want to take too much away from the natural beauty.
We also rented a large wooden cross to stand at the foot of the large oak tree under which we got married. We draped a burlap cloth over the cross, which was re-purposed from my sister’s wedding in which it was used as a tablecloth.
We gave away glass mason jar mugs, which doubled as nametags and table assignments. The handwritten nametags and table assignments were decorated with leftover paper from our DIY invitation envelopes. Instead of table numbers, each table was named a different location, which had a special meaning for us.
We also gave away homemade pecan tarts as well as the recipe, which we wrapped in brown paper, stamped with a custom-made logo, and tied with bakers string. This stamp was also featured on the photo booth picture print out.
Each guest received a welcome bag that included my own hand drawn welcome guide of our favorite “to-dos”/local places in Jacksonville, as well as local treats.
We also had a lot of fun putting together our wedding invitations – we printed and assembled them ourselves, gluing the cardstock, tying with ribbon. We kept the style classic and elegant, but added a fun patterned print to the envelope.
To keep the southern and vintage feel, we served dessert on vintage Victorian style china collected by several guests in the months leading up to the wedding. The plates were from near and far: Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida and even England (where I found a few on Brick Lane, in my neighborhood).
The guests that helped us collect these plates enjoyed hunting for them in thrift stores and vintage shops as much as I did!
In lieu of a guest album, I painted a replica of the tree under which we got married for our guests to sign and stamp their green thumb prints as leaves.
We had a signature cocktail called “Jhetts get married!” (a combination of both of our names), which was a pink-colored concoction of Champagne, vodka, and a splash of grenadine.
The meal was served family-style and in keeping with the Southern theme, featured among it, fried mac and cheese balls, bacon biscuits, collared greens, cornbread encrusted tilapia, fried chicken, and bbq beef brisket.
Instead of a wedding cake, we chose to have five different desserts (including bread pudding, pies, and Grand Marnier cake) from a favorite restaurant, famous for their desserts.
Our DJ also doubled as our singer during the ceremony and the dinner and did an amazing job!
Processional: Cannon in D
Recessional: The Wedding March
First dance: John Legend – “Each Day Gets Better” to which we performed a choreographed ballroom dance
Father/daughter dance: Kenny Loggins, “Through the Years”
Mother/son: Cole Porter, “Begin the Beguine”
Advice For Other Couples
Pinterest was really useful for being able to keep track of ideas. Friends were able to share on there also.
We were really happy with Appy Couple, an app that provides guests with all the information they need for the wedding weekend. Guests were able to download this on their phones, and had easy access to information like directions to the welcome dinner, accommodation information, and weather forecast for the weekend.
We recommend trying to take as many pictures before the wedding, in order to save time and allow you to spend more of it talking to guests and enjoying the day.
Regardless of your budget, it’s important to think of what’s most important to each of you- your “must haves” and then not worry too much about trying to get the rest absolutely perfect (yes, easier said than done).
It is possible to have the wedding of your dreams in your budget, you just have to outline early on what is truly important and stick to it.
So gorgeous – I love when a DIY wedding is really chic and elegant, it just shows you, doing it yourself doesn’t mean you have to opt for something rustic or vintage. I adore their very modern love story too!
Thanks so much to the wonderful Stephanie W Photography, and of course Rhett and Janice for sharing their beautiful Southern wedding with us.