Leah and Josh came to see me last February and hired me as their wedding officiant. I was thrilled. The prestigious Preston-Woodall House in Benson is a wonderful place for weddings. It is a lovely historic house built around 1910 that the owners (Joel and Dale) have turned into a bed and breakfast and host elegant weddings there. In the past 8 years that I have been doing weddings there, I have seen some incredible changes to the property. What was once a concrete patio was transformed into the gorgeous 2800 square foot Cora Lily Grand Ballroom a few years ago. The simple backyard and small gazebo has been transformed into a beautiful garden courtyard with the Queen Ann Pavilion where we do outdoor weddings (in warmer weather!). Two of the great advantages of having a wedding here is that you can have the ceremony and reception in one location and the option of having your wedding outdoors or indoors. The owners have also purchased 3 of the small houses surrounding the block and renovated them into the nicest guest cottages that can accommodate the wedding guests. It is only a 42 mile drive from my home in N. Raleigh and not too far off I-40 and I-95.
When I arrived for the wedding today, November 22, 2008, the lighted arbor and the tables with the Memorial Candles and the Unity Candle were all in place in the ballroom with a lovely backdrop of blue sky and trees. Alice, Josh's aunt, our honorary wedding director, was all set for the ceremony. The wedding cake by Ashley's Cakes was beautiful. The flowers which the couple did themselves were lovely and right in keeping with their wedding colors of burgundy, black and white. The table napkins even had little notes tucked inside them that thanked their guests for being with them and that a donation had been made in their name to the SPCA. How generous and thoughtful! I knew that Leah and Josh were dog lovers because they had chosen the very funny poem that has been so popular in weddings this year called "Love is Like Owning a Dog" by Taylor Mali for their wedding ceremony!
The wedding programs That they made themselves were awesome and among the best I have ever seen; and believe me, I have seen tons of them. I collect the extras to give to new couples who are planning their wedding. Leah and Josh's programs are ones I will really treasure and show as a shining example of superb wedding programs. Seems like they thought of every detail.
At the appointed time their friend, Stephen Smith, began the processional music as the grandparents and parents processed in. Josh's father escorted his parents in (Josh's grandparents) and lit the candle representing Josh. Then Joe, the brother of the bride, escorted in Leah's mother and she lit the candle representing Leah and was seated. Joe returned to the line-up to process in next with the groom and groomsmen and me. Then the music changed for the lovely bridesmaids and the maid of honor to enter. The music changed again and I invited the guests to stand to honor and welcome the bride. Leah's father escorted her down the aisle and placed her hand in Josh's and everyone was seated. We began with a warm welcome and a prayer. I told the guests that the Memorial Candles were lit in honor of those loved ones who could not be with us physically but we knew were with us in spirit, especially Josh's mother. Then it was time for Gillian, a good friend of the bride, to present that funny poem about love being like owning a dog. Gillian did a fantastic job presenting this reading and we all had a good laugh or two. I followed that with words on love and marriage, the vows and the ring exchange.
As the couple lit the Unity Candle, Mathias, husband of one of our bridesmaids, sang a beautiful song accompanied on the guitar by our "DJ" Stephen who actually is a musician and writes songs himself. The song was not an easy one to sing without an orchestra ("When You Say You Love Me," by Josh Groban) but Mathias has a wonderful voice and it was beautiful! I then made the pronouncement of marriage and invited Leah and Josh to celebrate with their first kiss as husband and wife. We closed with a blessing and I introduced them to their guests as everyone applauded and they made their way down the aisle.
After the wedding party and their parents and grandparents departed, the guests were invited to enjoy delicious refreshments by the dedicated chef at Preston-Woodall House. While the guests were enjoying themselves the staff re-staged the ballroom for the reception and the wedding party reconvened for photos by Mike Phongsa of MP Photography. My "roadie," Marty, was back with me this weekend after taking a week's vacation to be with her twin sister. She took all the photos you see here. It was good to have her back!
Leah and Josh, you are a great couple and I wish you a very happy marriage and may all your dreams come true!