The very first time we met Jen and Mike I just had a feeling we would end up being friends and that they were planning something really special and unique for their wedding. Both came true. And since I’ve gotten to know Jen more and more I’ve figured out that we have a lot of similarities. We both have a vision and a ton of things we want to do!! LOL But more than me (and I wish I could be more like her in this way) not only can Jen get stuff done, I’m pretty sure she’s a perfectionist in every detail of her life. For their personal wedding Jen & Mike transformed their house and yard into a dream spot for their celebration. It was absolutely unbelievable. Jen is better at explaining everything that was done and so you’ll hear more from her in a minute. Get ready cause y’all are going to be totally inspired!
Jen had such success with her own wedding (and fun doing it) that she decided to start taking on clients for her own wedding & styling business called Jen Laraia Design, which also has an awesome rentals component… but it’s not your ordinary rentals. She has really great stuff – modern things, vintage things, antique chandeliers, big awesome tables made from an old fence, and the collection keeps growing and growing. The best weddings tell a story about who the couple is and what they love (quote from her website ;)) and if that’s what you want for your wedding, contact Jen. She’s already working with some of our clients and comes with our highest recommendation!
Here’s a little bit from Jen about her wedding and some of our favorite shots!:
I’m a Tennessee girl, but lived in Tampa, FL for six years and that’s where I met Mike. We recently moved back to Tennessee, so we decided that our wedding should be a reflection of the new life that we have created together in Knoxville. Our personal style is a blend of old and new, so we envisioned using vintage antiques combined with modern touches. And of course we would wrap it all in Southern charm. After looking at many outdoor venues in our area, nothing really fit within our budget or seemed to be uniquely us. That’s when we began to consider our own backyard. I mean, what could be more personal than hosting the wedding at our “Home Sweet Home”? Fortunately, our neighbors across the street have 20 acres of land with an amazing view of the Smoky Mountains. We decided this would be the perfect backdrop for our ceremony and our backyard would play perfect host to the reception. Our Simple Southern backyard wedding was born!
Because we didn’t have to pay to reserve or decorate a venue, we spent the year prior to our big day putting our time and money into many home improvements. Mike and I love to get our hands dirty and the wedding was our opportunity to go DIY crazy! With the help of our family, we added landscaping, built a new backyard fence, planted grass seed, and remodeled the interior. These are all gifts that we have continued to enjoy long after the wedding.
With my Dad’s guidance, we tackled many other projects including recycling the wood from our old fence to build our dining tables and the signs that we placed around the neighborhood. My favorite project was the “chandelier” we made out of our programs. Our programs were vintage tags attached to sandalwood fans. We simply placed the fans in a 3 tier galvanized stand and let the tags hang off the side to create that layered look. We were married under a gazebo that came from my parents’ house and my Mom helped with many projects like collecting milk glass pieces, which we used for the centerpieces. She also made all of the napkin rings out of Diamond Roll that we bought from Save-on-Crafts. Luckily, we were able to incorporate many of my grandmother’s antiques, including her pie safe for a family picture display and a beautiful buffet for our gift table. We also used her antique bottles as vases, a vintage cooler to hold flip flops, and an antique tea cart to display our favors, which were custom tote bags that we filled with Coke and peanuts, my grandfather’s favorite snack. My Aunt Linda made our cake, which was my grandmother’s famous coconut cake recipe and the texture of the shaved coconut mimicked my dress.
So back to me for a minute. This is getting ready.. duh :)
I love this one!
Her bridesmaids wore their own white dresses and black shoes, each one different. It was great.
Loved the amazing florals done by : Flourish Floral Design Studio
Looking back this might have been foreshadowing.
Just before the ceremony I was in the backyard photographing details, everything was bright, sunny and picture-perfect. I went inside to see what the girls were doing, took some candid shots for a few minutes and THEN…then I looked out the front door. EEK!! Black sky!! It came out of nowhere! It was
10 5 minutes before the ceremony! Some of the bridesmaids and I saw it before Jen and our hearts just sank, that backyard was *perfect* and we just knew they were going to be crushed, so much hard work had gone into everything. So, timidly we all sort of just went as planned… out the door and across the street to the field where they were going to get married.
Ah! This is sort of a tense moment! And just adds to the memories. The wind is picking up…
…and this is what Jen’s seeing. The storm was coming straight for us over the hill and we could see lighting in the distance!
But somehow Jen and Mike were able to stay in the moment. This is her and her dad before she walked down the aisle and how perfect is that!
Mike too :). That’s his dad.
They said their vows and got married before anyone ever felt a drop!
Shortly after the ceremony it stormed pretty bad but luckily all of their guests had an amazing place to hang out inside Jen and Mike’s house (did I mention Jen is an interior designer!?!). Everyone had a great time and hardly noticed a thing! We did their family pictures in front of the fireplace and decided to do the shots of the two of them (they didn’t see each other before the ceremony) on a *perfect* day a couple weeks later. Here are some of those pictures.
Jen’s makeup was done by Bangs and Blush this day
When the rain ended everyone had eaten and it was time to go outside and party! More cute details from their reception I shot earlier in the day! I could literally go on and on and on with these.
In addition to our friends and family, we were also lucky to work with the most amazing vendors! A storm rolled in five minutes before our ceremony, but our team and friends took charge, adapted, and made the very best of the situation. Dan and Natalie Watson at Watson-Studios captured the spirit of the day through beautiful photographic moments that might have otherwise been overlooked. They are creative geniuses and we couldn’t be happier with our pictures! (Gosh thank you Jen!! :)!!) Leah, at Flourish Floral Design Studio used a combination of fresh and paper flowers. (my newest obsession!) Because Mike is an avid reader, Leah created boutonnieres out of old books and feathers. For the cake, she also created an oversized flower from paper and tulle with an antique brooch in the center. It was gorgeous! And feathers were repeated throughout the fresh flower bouquets, flower girl wands and centerpieces. Bettina at Luxe Catering was a rock star and she designed a menu that included mason jars, antique china and our favorite southern foods with a modern twist. Like roasted corn on the cob skewers with lavender butter, BBQ pork sliders with pecan slaw, mini cornbread muffins with caramelized onions and goat cheese, baby chicken pot pies, and macaroni and cheese tartlets. Yum! We also featured beers from a local Knoxville brewery. And thanks to Nathan at Milestones Pictures, we can go back and experience those moments whenever we want.
But our most special family contribution had to come from my brother, who not only performed one of his original songs for our first dance, but also wrote a special song as a gift from me to my Dad titled, “He reminds me of you.” To hear my brother sing, and fight back tears, as we danced…it’s a moment I will never forget.
In the end, our wedding was a beautiful labor of love made possible by countless friends, neighbors, and family. Despite the impromptu storm, it was a comfortable day filled with personal details, fun, and lots of love…which is exactly what we wanted.
From the rooftop! So fun.
I just want to note that it does rain sometimes at weddings but most of the time it’s no big thing and doesn’t really effect the events of the day. This is one example of a wedding where the weather did change things up a little… but as you already know, you just have to roll with it and enjoy your still beautiful, most special wedding day :) (and remember that we’re still going to do our absolute best to take the best possible photos – and we love Jen’s!)
Congrats Jen & Mike!! We love y’all and know we’ll be seeing a lot more of you! xoxo