Real-Life Weddings: Handmade with Love
A wedding photographer and her carpenter-sweetheart craft a homespun wedding of their own
When love gives you a not-so-subtle hint, it pays to take it seriously. Case in point: Shannon Cunningham and Jake Oleksak ran into each other for months as students at the College of Charleston until Shannon (“the shy one,” she says) finally asked for Jake’s number. Five years later, while hiking in Asheville, Jake proposed with his beloved grandmother’s engagement ring as the couple’s black lab-mix puppy looked on.
When it came to planning their wedding, it’s safe to say Shannon had a clear vision—little surprise since she’s a Charleston photographer who worked at TheKnot.com when the pair lived in New York City. “I knew from the start I wanted a handmade wedding that would reflect our style and personalities,” she says. “And,” she adds, “I really did not want to spend a lot.” With both edicts in mind, Shannon and Jake decided on the Cotton Dock at Boone Hall Plantation, and she started scouring wedding blogs for inspiration. They settled on “backyard party feel” and got down to business.
For his part, Jake built planters from found wood while Shannon’s mom, Carol, rooted succulents into the centerpieces. Over the following months, Shannon crafted all manner of décor, added a compilation of cake stands to the mix, and salvaged soda bottles to fill with a host of blooms.
When the day arrived, Shannon’s dad, Bruce, escorted her across the Dock’s side lawn as a friend sang, “I Found a Reason” by Cat Power. “I really loved the ceremony,” says Shannon of vows that were shared under 300-year-old oaks. “It was so, so special.” Afterward, the newlyweds retreated to the dock as guests waved them on with beribboned wands—homemade and hand-tied, of course.
Baker: Sugar Bakeshop
Bridal Gown: Nicole Miller purchased on OnceWed.com
Bridal Hair: Amy Arrington at Willow
Bridal Makeup: EQ Makeup
Bridesmaid’s Attire: J.Crew
Caterer: Home Team BBQ
Ceremony and Reception Location: Boone Hall Plantation and The Cotton Dock
Cross-Stitched Heart: Miniature Rhino on Etsy.com
Day-of Wedding Coordinator: Shara Ray from Pure Bliss Weddings
Florist: Bride’s bouquet, boutonnieres, and corsages, Out of Hand; remainder of florals were DIY using blooms from FiftyFlowers.com and Harris Teeter
Groom’s Attire: J.Crew
Groom’s Shoes: Converse by John Varvatos
Groomsmen’s Attire: Shirts, Old Navy; ties, American Apparel
Photographer: Corbin Gurkin Photography
Rentals: Ooh! Events
Stationery: Save the Dates, Cheer Up Cherup on Etsy.com; Invitations DIY through ACraftyBride.com