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Destination I Do
Friday, November 20, 2015

A Sweet Savannah Wedding

Words by Courtney Kellar
Photos courtesy of Donna Von Bruening Photographers

Ally and Mark are professional wedding photographers in Bermuda who work with destination wedding couples all the time. When it came to their own nuptials, they wanted the same destination wedding experience. “Because we’re immersed in the local industry [here in Bermuda], we wanted to create the same experience our couples have when they come here, so a destination wedding was always the plan for us,” says Ally. “We wanted that level of separation, to put our trust in local vendors and go into our wedding day with that same unfamiliarity that non-wedding professionals have!”

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As for the “where,” these two lovebirds had made their decision long before actually getting engaged. “Savannah was the obvious choice for us!” says the bride. “I received my BFA at the Savannah College of Art and Design and worked as an intern for Donna, our photographer, while at school there. I took Mark to Savannah for vacation in September 2013, it was my first time back since graduating, and he proposed during our trip! I very much consider Savannah to be my home-away-from-home, so the fact that Mark loved it as much as me, made it a no-brainer to plan our wedding there. It also lent itself very well to the combining of Bermudian traditions with Southern hospitality.” 

The next thing Ally and Mark had to do was let their loved ones know where the nuptials would take place. “We were very fortunate in that the majority of our family and friends understood our desire to experience our wedding from the ‘other side’ and most were excited for the opportunity to see Savannah!” says Ally. “Because destination weddings do incur more travel and expenses for guests, we sent our save-the-dates over a year ahead of our date so that everyone had more than enough time to make arrangements if they chose to attend. Any negativity was snuffed-out by the sheer fact that so many of our favorite people chose to come and celebrate with us!” 

The planning process suited the couple perfectly, since they wanted to be more hands-off. “[Our experience was] seamless,” says the bride. “We were so lucky to work with some of the top professionals in Savannah. We flew up twice during the 18 months leading up to the wedding to meet with vendors and visit the venue – which we had booked site unseen!”

When asked what tools they used to help plan their wedding away, the couple didn’t hesitate. “Honestly, our top resources were Donna, our photographer, and Meredith, our planner. As photographers, we know that the photographer is the one vendor who gets to experience the whole day – all the venues and all the vendors – so we very much trusted Donna’s recommendations. She told us about Old Fort Jackson and Meredith recommended our florist and the Andaz Savannah for our hotel block.”

Come W-Day, the couple was joined by 40 of their loved ones and never doubted their decision to opt for a destination wedding. “Had our wedding been at home there is no way we could have managed it with less than 125 guests,” explains the bride. “In addition to wanting a more intimate affair, we also were able to do more for our 40 guests – like have a welcome reception and provide transportation

“Our wedding day was so perfect we can’t imagine it any differently! Destination weddings are special because you generally have a few days with your guests. We were lucky that most of our friends and family flew to Savannah for the week, so we had all that time to share the city with them! [Also,] getting married on a Thursday is a Bermudian tradition and something we wanted to do, which was super easy with a destination wedding because everyone was already on vacation – it didn’t further interrupt a workweek. For us, it also helped keep our costs down. Everyone may have gone to Savannah for our wedding, but the party aside, we all had an amazing vacation together!”

When asked what advice she had for other destination wedding brides, Ally was adamant about building a strong, local team for your event. “Hire wedding vendors that you trust! We met with a few vendors in each category and hired those who best got our vision versus those who were less expensive. Especially with destination weddings, be sure to hire a team who gets what you’re trying to accomplish and who will all work well together to pull it off. We anticipated that some part of our day might not be completely as we envisioned, but honestly, it was even better – there is nothing we would change!”

Vendors: Photographer: Donna Von Bruening Photographers, Wedding Planner: Meredith Stroud with From this Day Forward Weddings & Events, Ceremony/Reception Site: Old Fort Jackson in Savannah, Georgia, Videographer: Nathan Willis Wedding Films, Florist: Garden on the Square, Dessert: Leopold’s Ice Cream Trolley, Hair & Makeup: JW Salon, Gown Designer: Monique Lhuillier, Bride’s Shoes: Jimmy Choo, Groom’s Clothing Designer: English Sports Shop (Bermuda shorts) and Alexanders of London (blazer), Bridesmaids/Groomsmens’ Clothing Designer: Alfred Sung/English Sports Shop, Transportation: Oglethorpe Trolley Tours, DJ: All About You Entertainment, Catering: Creative Catering, Welcome Reception: Churchill’s Rooftop Bar

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