Italian Villa Wedding in NC – Ashley & Ryan

It was such a beautiful day at Raffaldini Vineyards for Ashley & Ryan’s wedding on May 13th!  Even though the wind was blowing fairly fiercely at different times of the day, everyone had a great time and the sun was shining down on the couple.

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What I love about Ashley & Ryan is their fun, loving attitude – weddings are stressful but they were always laughing and joking.  I loved too that they wanted to change the usual location of the ceremony – they reversed it and moved it to the center of the grand staircase on the side of the villa so that the wedding party, instead of the guests, were able to view the vines throughout the ceremony – the guests had a nice view too – watching the wedding party process down the gorgeous outdoor staircase.  I also loved the wine ceremony which represents their union in a symbolic way combining the white and red wines.

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Cocktail hour took place in front of the villa and dinner was held upstairs with a grand view of the surrounding mountains.  After dinner, first dances, toasts and open dancing were on the piazza until 11:00 p.m. even though the temperature had dropped significantly.   I have to say the Maid of Honor absolutely gave one of the best toasts I’ve ever heard!  She definitely nailed it.

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The piazza tables showcased wooden lanterns while shepherd’s hooks and hanging lanterns circled the dancing at the edge of the patio near the vines.  Cake cutting was also a highlight as Ashley & Ryan were not afraid to show a little love in the exchange.

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The guest book was very unique and not actually a book at all, instead an old frame interspersed with twine where guests could write a special message and attach to the twine with a mini clothespin.  The wind didn’t deter guests though and apparently some were secret 🙂  Talk about cool shoes….check!

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My favorite moment though was when Ashley and her Dad started walking to the ceremony where they could see the guests in anticipation of her entrance.  Her dress had several layers and all the separate panels were blowing in the wind – it was absolutely stunning and she was glowing.  Her dress was perfect for her and the weather, it was incredible.   She later told me that when she was walking up, it was exactly as she had hoped. Awww….so sweet!

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All of the vendors were wonderful and definitely on their game.  It’s always a pleasure to work with the catering team at Holly Tate Catering – I seriously eat items that I usually never eat.  I was also delighted to work with Lotus Creative Studios for the first time – Candace was really fun and did a great job capturing their moments!

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 Wedding Vendors:

Venue – Raffaldini Vineyards

Catering/Cake – Holly Tate Catering

Day of Coordination – Weddings by the Vine

Officiant – Phran Gacher, Perfect Wedding Ceremonies

Photographer –  Lotus Creative Studios

Rentals – Hauser Rental Services

Florist – Desi’s Florals

Shuttle – NC Grape Escape

Makeup artist – Katie Veazey Skincare

Hair stylist – Laura Bray Hair & Makeup

Invitations – The Write Image

Stevie & Garrett’s Wedding ~ Caffé Luna









Happy Anniversary to Stevie and Garrett who were married one year ago today at Caffé Luna in Raleigh, North Carolina.  I loved coordinating their wedding at Caffé Luna because it has been one of my favorite restaurants since they opened and it was very different than my vineyard weddings.  Due to inclement weather, the ceremony was held inside, but that didn’t matter as their minister officiated in front of 70 of their closest friends and family.



My favorite elements included the bridal bouquet by North Raleigh Florist which combined hydrangeas, peonies, roses, green succulents and dusty miller, the coconut cake from Hayes Barton Café was amazing, the incredible spread provided by Caffé Luna made me feel like I was back in Italy, and the string quartet from Arioso Strings played flawlessly for both the ceremony and reception.

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It was a beautiful afternoon wedding despite the consistent sprinkle outside. I hope you enjoy today:)



Wedding Vendors:

Venue/catering – Caffé Luna

Planning/Coordination – Weddings by the Vine

Photographer – Lydia Crouse Photography

Florist – North Raleigh Florist

Cake – Hayes Barton Café

Musician – Arioso Strings

Are you thinking “do I really need a planner?”

Just engaged and wondering if you really need a planner?  Every bride has different needs and budget ranges so it really comes down to three things:  (1)  know your time constraints – work or school schedule / how much time do you really have before the wedding to plan and then determine if you can handle the entire to do list; (2)  know which pre-wedding items you would enjoy handling and then make a list of those items you really aren’t interested in; and (3) figure out how much of the budget you can allocate towards wedding planning assistance – the last thing you want to do is add financial stress on top of planning stress.  Which comes to the MAIN reason brides hire planners – to alleviate the stress of planning their wedding through full service, partial service or day of coordination services.

A “day of” wedding planner is the most budget friendly and cost-effective.  They are there for you through the entire wedding weekend from the rehearsal through the reception celebration.

Below are a few other reasons why you should consider hiring a “day of” planner at least for your wedding day.


  1. A planner will assist with any last-minute items, questions or advice on your wedding day.
  2. A wedding planner will take care of each vendor as well.  They will put together a timeline listing each vendors’ arrival, where they will set up and any other questions that they have on the wedding day and also distribute payments.
  3. A planner will be there to help get everyone in the right place at the right time for the wedding and reception announcements.
  4. A planner will handle any wedding day emergencies that may come up.
  5. A planner will be at your side most of the day letting you know what is next and where to be so that there is a nice flow to your day.
  6. A planner also sets up all of the bride’s items – favors, thank you notes, cake serving set, photos, table numbers, place cards, etc.
  7. There are so many other reasons but can’t list them all like bustling the dress, handling food and beverage issues, making room for guests that didn’t RSVP, incorporating a rain plan at the last-minute, etc.
  8. Also, just a reminder that there is a difference between a venue coordinator and a wedding coordinator – they have different responsibilities and both are essential to a successful day.

To whatever extent you can afford a planner, it will be very BENEFICIAL, and I’m sure you’ll be very happy with your decision then you can focus on getting married and enjoying the entire day!

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Keep warm and marry on!


vineyard-61    Cloer Family Vineyards

Many people are excited for the cooler temperatures and embrace the fact that it can also be a beautiful time for a vineyard wedding.  A number of North Carolina vineyards have indoor space as well as outdoor space.  As a bride, you’ll just want to make sure your guests are happy and warm during your wedding and reception by providing some of the following:

1. Blankets/Scarfs/Shawls/Earmuffs/Fun Hats – you don’t have to buy new, you can gather some blankets, scarfs, etc. from your family members and friends prior to the wedding and have them in crates or baskets for guests to grab as they please.  If you have a little extra in the budget, then another option would be to purchase some cool warm accessories custom made for your wedding day.  These items could be personalized and also go home with the guests as a wedding favor.

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espresso_vivace2.  Apple Cider/Hot Chocolate/Coffee ~ having a warm drink station is a great option as well.  There is a great mobile coffee truck that will come to your wedding which you could secure for your day.  It would definitely add a little something unique and fun for all of the guests to enjoy.  Be creative and have your “signature cocktail” be an “adult version” of one of the coffees!

3. Covered Tent – if the vineyard you’re interested in doesn’t have indoor space, think about renting a tent.  It can easily be enclosed on all sides and you can also have heaters inside to keep the temperature at a comfortable level.  Think about the winter wonderland you could create with a blank slate – super fun!

winter wedding tent







4. Fire pits are another great ideal and add a fun focal point.  A few of the vineyards already have them in place.  Add some market lights and some warm drinks from above and you’ll have a cozy crowd around the fire pit – a good way for your guests to get to know each other.

JOLO Winery & Vineyards

5. Don’t forget about yourself – it’s very important that you’re comfortable as well.  You could throw on a cardigan or have a shawl draped over your shoulder to provide some warmth.  One of my brides, who was married last December, wore the white wrap below.  Not only was it stunning, it also complemented her dress very well.

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Photo by Ryan Midgett Photography

Say “I Do” in the Perfect Pair of Vineyard Wedding Shoes

Finding the perfect shoes for your vineyard wedding can seem next to impossible as there are so many options.  For some brides, finding the perfect pair can be just as important as finding the perfect dress, you may spend hours, even days to find the perfect pair to say “I Do” in.

You’ll want to find shoes that go with your dress and of course you want them to be comfortable and appropriate for your vineyard wedding.  There are a variety of options but the two most popular styles are wedges and flats.

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For a number of brides, wedges are the way to go!  They tend to offer enough support, are usually very comfortable and are definitely fashionable.  Even thought it’s not a traditional heel, they will still give you the feeling of being dressed up and are a fun option. Wedges come in a wide variety of styles and colors, so it really just depends on what type you think would look best.

Ellyna Pump by Nina



Flat shoes will work equally as well and can also be very stylish. They are very supportive and a great option for the practical bride who wants comfort throughout all the festivities.  Flats will allow you to walk around the vineyard all day and dance the night way without your feet feeling tired (just make sure to break them in a little around the house).


Photo by Daniel Cardwell

Who says you have to stick with only one pair, maybe a pair of wedges for the ceremony and photos and then change into a pair of flats for the reception.  Use your shoes to show off your personality throughout your entire wedding.

Let’s talk color now as shoes are not just traditional colors (ivory/white) anymore.  With a lot of vineyard brides, it’s all about personal expression so the traditional colors are definitely not on their radar  – think about going with a vineyard inspired burgundy or incorporate your “something borrowed / something blue” on your feet – borrow a pair of your friend’s shoes or pick out a pretty blue – you know your friend would be very honored and if you went with the blue, you’re taking care of that tradition all in one item.

Shoes, Blue Wedge Wedding Shoes: Appealing Wedge Wedding Shoes

Blue Wedge Wedding Shoes by Lindabasta

Remember – whatever shoes you choose, they should reflect your personal style, period!  Don’t buy a pair of shoes that you don’t absolutely LOVE.  It’s your wedding day and you should be extremely happy and comfortable in your dress and in your perfect pair of “I Do” shoes.

_DSC8141Photo by Yacouba Tanou

Happy searching!

Terry & Michael’s Pond Wedding

I had the privilege of handling the day of coordination for Terry and Michael’s pond wedding on September 19th in Garner, North Carolina.  The ceremony was held in their beautiful backyard which is adjacent to a large pond.  Having their wedding and reception at their home meant a lot to them and made for a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere for their guests.

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The ceremony was intimate and full of love. Michael and his two daughters arrived in the family canoe which Michael recently refinished. Terry’s brother, Walt, performed Marry Me by Train, as she was escorted half-way by her son, Scott and then the remainder of the way by her other son, Chris.

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Terry and Michael are very family focused and that was apparent in the ceremony.  Not only did they write their own vows, incorporate family members into every aspect but also celebrated with a sand ceremony that added a little flair to their ceremony.

After the ceremony, all the wedding guests gathered at the edge of the pond with stones that contained their handwritten messages and words of advice for Terry and Michael.  Then at the same time, they all tossed them into the pond like a large wishing well.

throwing stones stones


The reception took place in a large tent next to the ceremony site.  The reception began with announcements of the wedding party, the first dance which was choreographed for the couple, followed by a barbeque buffet dinner.  They had a self serve bar where guests were offered  red or white sangria and beer.  Lots of bottled water was consumed as well with the temperature being close to 90 degrees that day.

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After dinner, coffee and cupcakes were served and then came dancing and later, karaoke creating unforgettable memories.  As a parting favor, customized cake pops were set out at the end of the night to enjoy then or as a take away.  They came with cute little thank you tags.

cupcakes cake pops

The décor was primarily rustic and incorporated different elements of the couple.  The ceremony had vases of lavender on each row of chairs and they were married under a beautiful arbor handmade by Michael.  The entrance area lead guests through a line of wild flowers with a distressed door as the “official” entrance.  Additional décor consisted of chalkboards, lots of signs & sayings, rustic book case with little family keepsakes, and they wrapped a tree with photos of everyone in attendance that made for interesting conversations. The reception tables were draped in ivory linens topped with burlap overlays, farmer’s market mixed bouquets and candles.  Many of the décor items were handmade by Terry.

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Terry and Michael’s wedding was not only beautiful but truly touched my heart. I am very thankful to have had the opportunity to worked with this couple. The wedding was full of love and allowed family and friends to share special memories as well as creating many new ones.

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Photography by Cardwell Photography

Wedding Vendors:

Rentals – DeeJay’s Event Rentals   / Catering – McCalls Bar-B-Q & Seafood/ DJ – Gregg Bunn / Cupcakes – GoodyBox Cupcakes / Cake Pops – Raleigh Cake Pops


Part Two of our Interview with Lauren Jeffcoat, Owner of A Sip of the South

This is a continuation of last week’s interview blog – hope you enjoy!


Based on customer feedback, which tour is the best?

That’s a tough question, too, because so many of our tours are so different! I think for people visiting the area for the first time, our annual Sip Trips are great because it’s the perfect combination of education, fun, food, and meeting new friends. For those that are more independent, I would say that our Vineyards of Swan Creek Wine Tour Package is probably our most popular.

What is the longest tour you offer – number of days?

We offer custom wine tours, so we really can accommodate any length of stay. But most of our Sip Trips are Friday – Sunday, and you have the option of doing just part of the tour or the whole weekend. We try to make it work for everyone.

When did you branch out to breweries?

When we expanded to become A Sip of the South, we decided to include breweries and distilleries.  We had a few Sip Trips where we included beer tastings and it really went over well, especially with the men on the trip. So it seemed like a natural expansion.

If you could tell people one thing about your business, what would it be?

That there is a lot of planning that goes into put together a Sip Trip, LOL! But my research and development weekends are some of my favorite parts of the job. I love scouting out new regions and mapping where we are going to visit, and then putting all the details together to make it a great experience.

Tell me about the Vine Card?

The Vine Card is a lifetime membership program. Once you join, you will continue to get discounts at the vineyards and businesses that partner with us. We are constantly working to add new businesses to the card and just recently branched out and added some Virginia Wineries to the card. The card is just $25, and that is not an annual renewal, that is a one-time purchase.


Do you personally visit all of the wineries before they are added to a tour?

I do. I always want to make sure that the winery has the right feel for our tours, and also make sure it can accommodate our group size.  I also taste all of the wines that we use on our tours. I like to try and include a little something for everyone on our tours, which means sampling some sweet wines, dry bold wines, light wines, etc.

Do you have any requirements for a vineyard to be included in a tour?

I don’t have a list of requirements. A lot of times I just visit as if I were a customer and not a tour planner. When I like somewhere I visit, I plan a tour around it. Sometimes the meals are cooked right at the vineyard, but if that’s not an option, we will bring in a caterer or food truck.

Now, a question I’m asked all the time – “do you have a favorite vineyard in NC?”  

Ha, that’s a loaded question. There are so many great ones to choose from and new ones popping up all the time! I love the views at Raffladini Vineyards, I love the wines at McRitchie Winery & Ciderworks, I love the pizza at Elkin Creek Vineyard and Winery, I love the gardens at Parker-Binns Vineyard, I love the mini horses at Sweet Home Carolina Vineyard & Winery, I love the llamas at Divine Llama Vineyards, I love the atmosphere at Medaloni Cellars. I know I am leaving out a bunch of my favorites, and there is no way I could pick just one!

Please check out Lauren’s company on the social media sites below and think about booking your next vineyard trip with A Sip of the South!


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