Fancy Picnic Wedding in the Inner Banks | Elizabeth + Matt

Grad school at William and Mary brought Matt and Elizabeth together, as did a shared love of trivia, craft beer, and, we’d hazard, making merry. In every picture, you can just see how much fun these two have together!

Their playful vibe found its way into every corner of their wedding day—from the sea serpent logo (emblazoned everywhere, including etched into the glasses destined to hold specially brewed beer) to their picnic-style dinner with trivia questions. Did we mention Matt and Elizabeth dug up the bourbon and rode Elizabeth’s cousin’s boat to the reception (held at her parents’ house on the family’s riverfront property) and were welcomed to the party by their guests throwing petals?

Elizabeth’s mom is a florist and almost exclusively grows all the flowers she uses for weddings at her farm in Hertford, NC. So, all those florals you see? They were grown and arranged with some serious love. Because of her mom’s wedding biz connections, the professionals who helped Elizabeth out with her day weren’t just vendors, they were friends!

Originally, Elizabeth had purchased another gown, but three weeks before her wedding, it hadn’t yet arrived in the country. Her mom recalled that Milk & Honey Bride had dresses for all sizes and might have a sample, and then proceeded to get an appointment STAT. During that felicitous hour, Elizabeth fell for Astrid & Mercedes Joy (to which she added a lace belt), and we were able to turn her order around lightning fast!

Wondering why there was an MG with a cowbell, how Elizabeth’s rollercoaster dress story evolved, and how Pocahontas songs were involved in their proposal? Elizabeth shares the story on it all (and offers really excellent planning advice) below:


How did your sweetie propose?


“Matt proposed the Sunday before Thanksgiving 2017. I am still finishing my degree in Williamsburg and Matt lives in Colorado. We are both very close to our families (who live in NC and VA) and try to be home for as many holidays as possible. So that year Matt decided to drive from Colorado to Virginia for the week of Thanksgiving. Matt arrived at my house Sunday afternoon, after a quick stop at his parents’ house across town to shower and show them the ring. After we ate lunch, he suggested we go to the new brewery in town. The brewery is next to Jamestown Beach, so as we pulled up, he suggested we go for a walk first. I am always up for a walk along the water, so why not? He had us end up on a pier out over the James River, and after he was able to get me to stop singing Pocahontas songs for a moment, he got down on one knee. I’m not sure he got my full name out before I said “Yes”! Once we got on dry land, I put on my new ring, and we went to the brewery for a celebratory beer!”

wedding dress: Astrid & Mercedes Joy via Milk and Honey Bride | photographer: Missy Loves Jerry Photography  | scroll down for full vendor list

How did you choose your gown?


“I cannot praise Milk & Honey Bride in Virginia Beach, VA enough! My wedding day was May 18thand on April 26ththe dress I ordered in January from another salon and designer was not in America yet. If you aren’t sitting in front of a calendar, this was 3 weeks before my wedding and I did not have a dress! I am not the bridal sample size, and at this point was trying not to freak out that I would have to wear the “big girl dress.” My mom is a wedding florist and had been to Milk & Honey a few years earlier. She remembered that they had dresses on the rack that weren’t just the tiny samples.  So, on Monday, April 29thmy mom was on the phone and every social media app trying to get us an appointment (they are closed on Mondays).  Fortunately, she was able to get in touch with Brooke, and we made an appointment for first thing the next morning!

My shopping experience at Milk & Honey was a wonderful whirlwind. Brooke and Diane were awesome! They started with getting an idea of my style by having me pull dresses. With every dress I pulled, they were immediately checking to see if we could get it in time. Lea-Ann Belter was one of the few designers with a fast-enough turnaround for my situation. Soon it was time to start trying on dresses. Though they were all beautiful, it was difficult as I was comparing them to the original dress I had ordered. But then I tried on the Joy dress! I had envisioned a classic dress with some sort of fun/sexy element and really wanted a tea-length dress. The Joy checked all those boxes! The high-low hem gave it the shorter length while still feeling formal and allowed me to wear my mom’s veil. And after we added the lace belt at the waist, it was way better than that original dress!”


Tell us about your day!


“Our day was perfect! We both wanted to be married in a church, and my parents’ little Episcopal church in Hertford, NC was the perfect setting. I described the theme for the reception as a vaguely nautical, fancy picnic. The location of the reception was at my parents’ house on the riverfront property my grandfather had purchased the year my mom was born. I grew up swimming and sailing on that property with my extended family and had always hoped my wedding reception would be there. We wanted a formal-feeling ceremony, but really wanted everyone at the reception to have fun and celebrate!

One of the best things about our wedding was all the support we had from our family and friends. There are so many things that my parents did for our wedding that I can’t even begin to thank them enough. My mom, Sybil Skinner, is the owner, grower, and floral designer of Yeopim Flowers in Hertford, NC. At Yeopim Flowers, she grows most of the flowers that she arranges almost exclusively for making wedding dreams come true. We have been planning my wedding since I was a little kid, and I had always wanted to have blue hydrangeas and pink peonies. These flowers do not bloom at the same time in North Carolina, but somehow my mom made it happen (or it might have been the really warm spring we had). We also told her that we wanted a spiked strawberry lemonade for our signature cocktail, so she planted enough strawberries that every strawberry used for the wedding came from her farm—and we had strawberries in everything! I know I am biased, but she is amazing at what she does!

Since my mom is in the wedding business, we were able to take advantage of the friends she had made throughout the years in the industry. My mom calls Missy and Jerry (of Missy Loves Jerry Photography) her other children, and my brother and I get a little jealous. They did such an amazing job capturing the joy and love in our ceremony and reception. And holding their new baby, June, was a great stress relief. Our friend Elizabeth Jones is a calligrapher extraordinaire. She created our beautiful save the dates, invitations, and everything else handwritten for our wedding. One of the coolest things she did is draw our sea monster mascot. We wanted something that people would look at and think of our wedding. We had thrown around the idea of a monogram or a compass rose, but that did not feel unique to us. Then I saw one of the old maps on my parents’ wall with a sea monster at the edge, and asked if we could add one to our invitations. Though everyone looked at me like a crazy person at first, they got really into it! After some research into medieval maps, Elizabeth drew up a little sea monster with cat head. And soon that little sea monster was everywhere, in the water on the map in the invitation, embroidered on our bridal party gifts, etched into the souvenir pint glasses, and adorning signs to our reception. My mom even surprised us with it embroidered on the pillowcases in the hotel on our wedding night.

In addition to our wonderfully talented friends, our families were so helpful to making our day so great. They put in so much work to make everything perfect including throwing showers, planning the rehearsal dinner, installing the lighting, setting up all the tables, and so much more.

One of my favorite things about our day is how we got from the church to the reception. We left the church in my dad’s MG (okay, maybe we just took the photos and then got into an air-conditioned car). He has had this car as long as I can remember, and along with my uncle he spent the better part of last year getting it running and spruced up. It has been a tradition in my family, at least since my parents got married, to put a cow bell on the bride and groom’s car before they exit the reception. I think Matt and I get the prize for biggest cow bell! My aunt found it in a market in Germany with her kids and brought it back for us. After leaving the church, my cousin captained us on his boat to the reception. Our three flower girls, Matt and my little cousins, met us at the end of the dock in their dresses and baskets that my Aunt Beckie made. Once we made it on dry land, our guests showered us in flower petals. Growing up I would get jealous of the flower girls at weddings and one of my favorite jobs working in the flower shop with my mom getting the flower petals ready for the flower girls to throw.  So, for our wedding I wanted everyone to be a flower girl! It was the perfect way to start the party!

Matt and I fell in love brewing beer and playing bar trivia. We decided to honor this by having our friend, Dan Sherfey, brew us four beers for the reception, along with a keg from a craft brewery from the towns we each live in. And when people sat down for the meal, we had trivia questions waiting for them! Each table had to work as a team, giving people who may not have met a great icebreaker. They had to answer questions like: What Disney movie features the main character and Meeko jumping over a waterfall near Jamestown, Virginia? The trivia was a big hit and led to one of the funniest moments of the night!”


Where did you go on your honeymoon?


“We spent an un-belize-able week on Ambergris Caye, Belize!”


What was your first dance song?


““Wonderful World” by Sam Cooke.”


What was the funniest moment of your day?


“Digging up the bourbon and the trivia tie-breaker dance-off. Both were hilarious in the moment, and the pictures capture them so perfectly! When I read about the tradition of burying the bourbon, Matt immediately said, “We’re doing that.” We dug it up with our bridal party and parents before heading to the church. It was so much fun having a few minutes to goof around with those closest to us.

During the reception trivia, there was a tie between three tables. In a spur-of-the-moment decision, we decided the winner would be chosen from a dance-off.  We didn’t realize the band was finishing up dinner, so it ended up being a mostly silent dance-off! However, they were all so good that we couldn’t decide, and the final decision was made by Rock, Paper, Scissors.”


What was your something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue?


“For my something old, my mom added some special memories to my bouquet including an embroidered handkerchief from my grandmother and a piece of my blanket from childhood. I also wore my grandmother’s pearls, and we carried our rings in a box that Matt’s grandfather had made some years earlier. My something new was Kate Spade perfume Matt gave me the morning of our wedding. Otherwise it would have been dress and belt. My something borrowed was my mother’s veil. And my something blue was that cute pair of navy shoes!”


Any advice for future brides/grooms?


“I have a lot of advice, but the best advice I have is to have a mother that loves throwing awesome parties! I understand not everyone has that, so make sure to lean on whatever support system you have. Matt and I are fortunate to have such wonderful families and friends who put so much effort in to helping us before and during the wedding. They made our day so special and we can’t thank them enough.

Start planning the exact wedding you want early then scale it back for your budget. We had most of our wedding planned months ahead of time. This allowed us to have our choice of vendors and gave us time to make changes if something fell through. Being confident in our plan and vendor choices reduced the number of things to stress about. It also allowed us not to stress too much when obstacles arose, like not having a dress a few weeks before the wedding.

Have some sort of activity for your guests to do while waiting for dinner. We knew the food would be served buffet style, and lots of people meant lots of tables waiting for their number to be called. The trivia questions gave people something to do while waiting to be called for dinner and worked as an icebreaker for those tables who didn’t know each other.

Make an excuse to take a few minutes to be alone with your new spouse. Matt left notes for his speech in the car, so while our guests ate dinner, we walked together to get it. It was the first time we had all day to be alone together, and those few minutes meant so much!

Don’t leave for your honeymoon the morning after your wedding, and if you can have a casual brunch the next day. I felt like I didn’t get to spend any meaningful time with most of our guests the day of the wedding. My aunt and uncle organized a brunch Sunday morning, and we loved being able to spend some more time with our friends who had traveled to celebrate with us!”

Elizabeth + Matt’s Inner Banks Wedding Vendors

wedding dress: Astrid & Mercedes Joy via Milk and Honey Bride | photographer: Missy Loves Jerry Photography  | florals: Yeopim Flowers | calligraphy: Elizabeth Porcher Jones | catering: Y’all Eat Yet  | cake: Anita Davenport | hair: Alex James, True Images Salon | makeup: Crystal Colson, Merle Norman | flower girl dresses: Beckie Clough (Aunt of the bride) | getting ready venue: Cotton Gin Inn | ceremony venue: Holy Trinity Episcopal Church | reception venue: Yeopim Flowers Farm |servers: Wendy Korbusieski & Team | band: Little Dickie and the Misfits | grand illumination: John and Jimmy Skinner (Father and Uncle of the bride) | embroidery: Albemarle Screen Printers | printing: Eden House | tumbler etching: Troy Holland | rentals: Chair and Equipment Rentals  |
Susan of the Inner Banks Inn for her help and support

Were you a Lea-Ann Belter bride? We’d love to see your pictures and share your story! Email [email protected].