We usually encounter couples that are brought together by a common acquaintance, workplace, or even, common schools, so our featured couple today, who was brought together by a common cause, is a bit rare to our books and we’re very glad to chance upon them both. Nicole and Derek shares a common advocacy towards the misunderstood pit bulls. It was their love for this amazing breed that gave them the opportunity to meet and one day become husband and wife. I believe reasons like this [shared principles] is one of the best foundations for love. But moving on to their beautiful DIY wedding, it was such a well planned and decorated event. And if you want to know more about it, our bride gave us the complete account on her wedding projects. And speaking of, in behalf of all the future DIY brides, we thank you Nicole! And truly, it was a perfect day that was brought upon in the beginning by a beautiful cause. Congratulations Nicole & Derek!
What is your story as a couple, how did you meet & fall in love?
If I had to describe our love story in three words it would be “expected the unexpected.” We ended up crossing paths in life by complete chance. Our experiences in life are about as different as one might imagine and our values reflect our New England (Nicole) and Deep South (Derek) upbringings. I (Nicole) moved to Mississippi in 2007 for graduate school. Not long after, I ended up adopting Babygirl, a loving, loyal, goofy dog who happened to be born a pitbull. Almost immediately, I become acutely aware of unique problems pitbulls face, including breed specific discrimination, heightened abuse/neglect, and low adoption rates. Because of my love for Babygirl, I decided that I must do something to help other pitbulls. I was a graduate student, so I couldn’t contribute much financially, but I could volunteer and foster through a local animal shelter. At the same time, Derek was also developing a strong interest in advocating for pitbulls. He had been working for the police department as an animal control officer for a few years and the problems pitbulls faced in Mississippi was evident – the vast majority of the dogs that ended up in the shelter were pitbulls, and they rarely made it to adoption. It wasn’t surprising then that Derek began training and fostering pitbulls to prepare them for adoption.
It only took me one day at the animal shelter to meet Derek. I asked someone at the front desk about fostering a pitbull. They laughed and asked me if I was sure, assuring me that they were all viscous and not suitable for adoption. I angrily nodded and they called into the back room for Derek. The next week when I showed up at the
shelter, there Derek was with Ladybug – my first foster. That afternoon I left the shelter with the first of many pitbull fosters that have since graced and given further meaning and purpose to my life. Every Sunday after that, Derek and I would spend afternoons at the shelter chatting about pitbulls. Fast forward a month or two; a close
friend suggests that I consider a romantic relationship with Derek. After that conversation it was like a light bulb went off and all I could think about was Derek. I ended up asking him out for drinks a few weeks later. We talked that night for hours. And the next morning. And every day after that. Through our love for pitbulls (and the many other things we soon learned that we shared in common), we fell madly in love. I cannot imagine a more perfect
partner to share my life with.
What makes the two of you a perfect match?
More so than our love for pitbulls, I believe that our complementary personalities make us the perfect match. I am a Type A personality, whereas Derek is the epitome of a Type B personality. I am convinced that because of this we have grown exponentially both as individuals and as a couple. Derek forces me to focus on non-work-related values, which has significantly improved my quality of life. On the other hand, I have motivated Derek to pursue goals that may have at one point felt outside his reach.
How did he (or you) propose?
We moved to the Northeast when I finished my degree. It was summer and we lived only blocks from the ocean. We got in a routine of grabbing a glass of wine and strolling along on the beach each evening to unwind from work. The night he proposed was pretty typical (which was exactly what I wanted). We grabbed dinner at an oceanfront restaurant and then went for a walk along the beach boardwalk. There was an older gentleman playing music along the beach. We stopped when we reached him and Derek asked me to dance. Otis Redding “I’ve been loving you too long” was playing. Next thing I know, Derek is holding an engagement ring and is asking me to marry him. It was very romantic!
How long was the planning process? Did you think it was enough time?
We had a little over a year to plan our wedding. We quickly secured a venue, photographer, and furniture rental company. Because everything else was DIY, we did not focus on wedding planning until a few months before the wedding, at which time I started developing excel sheets of everything we would need and started shopping. Once we had a final guest count (6 weeks before the wedding), I spent all of my free time planning, purchasing décor, and making DIY projects. I’m not sure anyone ever feels like they have enough time to plan their wedding, but I am very organized and work well under stress, so this approach worked well for us.
What was the best advice you received when you were planning your wedding?
I actually received the best advice from my makeup artist the day of the wedding. She told me to make it a point to look in my husband’s eyes several times throughout the day so that I remember the small moments. The day was such a whirlwind for us; I am glad that I will forever have these small moments.
What tips & tricks (can we use “hacks”?) can you share future brides that you yourself have learned during and after your wedding?
Early in the planning process, make a list of what is essential to make your wedding day memorable. Your family, friends, and vendors may try and get you to deviate from this list – remain steadfast if it is essential, and be willing to negotiate if it’s not worth your energy. For example, Derek and I knew we wanted to have our dogs involved in the wedding, but some of them are quite energetic, especially around new people, so we had several
people urge us to leave the dogs at our house. In the end, we decided to have one dog in the wedding and the other two dogs came out for the reception. I am so glad that we decided to bring them because the wedding would not have been the same without them! Conversely, I initially did not want a wedding cake, but my mother was adamant that we had one. It did not take much for her to convince us to get a cake because this was not an important detail for us.
What were some challenges you faced while planning your wedding & what did you do to address them?
A week before the wedding, our original cake vendor let us know that we would not be able to pick up the cake on the day we had planned. I freaked out for a few minutes and then called other cake vendors to see if anyone would be able to make us a cake. It was surprisingly easy to find someone able to make a cake with a weeks’ notice during the height of wedding season in the Cape. A second challenge was with the wedding party and readers. A groomsman let us know a few weeks before the wedding that he would be unable to attend. Again, the problem was easily resolved – my sister’s partner, who is like a brother to me, offered to step in as a groomsman. A similar thing happened with one of our original ceremony readers – the reader let us know with little time that they would not be attending and we quickly were able to find a replacement. The funny thing is that the new reader actually got lost on the way to the ceremony, so we ended up dropping the reading altogether mid-ceremony.
What inspired your wedding décor? Why did you choose the things that you did?
Cape Cod was our inspiration: blue hydrangeas, sand, shells, distressed wood, and burlap.
What was the wedding budget?
When we first began planning, we were hoping to spend $5,000 (I know, we were very disillusioned). We bumped the budget up to $8,000 after reserving the venue and photographer, and ended up spending approximately $12,000.
Where did you save the most money?
Everywhere! I spent tons of time looking for deals and the entire wedding was DIY!
What was the biggest expense?
The venue was the biggest expense. We knew we wanted to get married on a Cape Cod beach, so we opted to rent a house with a large lot and private beach to save money. Because the entire wedding was DIY, we chose to rent the house for five days so that we would have ample time before and after the wedding to put up/take down the décor. Even thought this was our largest expense, I consider our venue a great deal since it housed both of our immediate families, served as both a wedding venue and mini-vacation retreat, and, because it was the offseason, only cost us $3000.
How many guests were invited in your wedding and what was the final guest count?
We invited 54 people. The final count was 43.
How did you narrow down your list?
We originally planned on having a much smaller wedding, but, after some thought, decided that we would invite our closest family members and friends. With that criteria, it was actually quite easy to develop a final guest list.
What songs did you use during the ceremony?
Processional: Vitamin String Quartet “Just Like Heaven”
Entrance of the Bride: Vitamin String Quartet “All I Want Is You”
Recessional: Bright Eyes “First Day of My Life”
Entrance: TI “Bring Em Out”
First Dance: Otis Redding “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”
Bouquet Toss: Beyoncé “Single Ladies”
Garter Toss: Dream ft. Chris Brown “Let me See that Booty”
Where did you go on your honeymoon?
We honeymooned in the Dominican Republic. It was absolutely perfect – we desperately needed a relaxing getaway after the chaos of planning a wedding!
What are you most excited about for the future?
We are most excited about all the small things we will experience together on the journey that is life.
Do you have advice for couples still in the planning process?
Expect to become overwhelmed at times and do not beat yourself up for it. Remind yourself that the most meaningful things in life are emotionally taxing because they are meaningful. Wedding planning requires an enormous amount of time, but don’t forget to make time for your relationship and other valued activities that keep you sane. Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask for help – that is what friends are for!
What inspired the wedding day outfits?
We wanted our attire to reflect the overall theme: Cape Cod beach wedding. The bride wore an ivory chiffon gown with asymmetrical draping and a lavender sash. The flowergirl wore an ivory organza gown with 3D petal detail and a lavender sash. The bridesmaids wore lapis long chiffon dresses. The groomsmen wore tan pants and vests, white shirts, and lapis ties (the groom wore an ivory tie and the ring bearer a lavender tie). The wedding party was barefoot during the ceremony, with the women wearing barefoot sandals.
What was your favorite part of the day?
Looking back, it was all the small moments that people don’t really talk about — the laughter, kisses, glances.
Was there any Do it Yourself (DIY) projects? If so, can you describe them in detail?
- Individual Table Assignment Tags: This was my favorite project! We fell in love because of our love for dogs, so I only thought it fitting that we have a dog-related project. It actually was several projects connected. First, I got an old piece of wood and painted it dark brown. Then, I collected pictures of all of the foster dogs we’ve had since we began dating (we could only fit 50, but there were actually more). I cut those pictures out and glued them to the wood. Then, in white paint, I wrote “Table Assignments” at the top and “Dedicated to Our Pit Fosters” at the bottom. I added some burlap and ivory ribbon along the bottom for decoration. Once I had a final guest count, I contacted a wholesale dog tag company and ordered individual bone-shaped tags for each guest (the tags included guest names and table numbers). I purchased rings to hold the tags and added purple beads to them. Then, I used thumbtacks to secure each “dog tag” right below the neck of the dog’s pictures on the wooden board.
- Champagne Flutes (Wedding Gifts + “Dog Tag” holder): This is part two of the dog-related project. We decided to purchase personalized champagne flutes for hanging the dog tags (i.e., table assignments). We absolutely loved how the flutes came out! We also bought gift bags and tissue wrap for the guests to wrap their flutes at the end of the night.
- Table assignments: This is part three of the dog-related project. We had a total of six tables. We cut out large numbers (1-6) and hung string from them. We then took pictures of our dogs with the numbers hanging from
their necks. We included these pictures in our centerpieces.
- Signs: We made tons of wooden signs for the ceremony. We went to Home Depot and bought wood. We stained the wood after having it cut into smaller pieces, and used white paint for the writing. My favorite signs were “Happily Ever After Starts Here” and the “Directions Sign.” We also created signs for each of the tables/activities (e.g., bubbles, glasses, DIY bar, KanJam, Beirut).
- Sunglasses: We contacted a wholesale company and purchased purple sunglasses for each guest. We then created tags for the glasses (“Don’t Get Blinded By Our Love”), which we tied to the glasses using burlap rope.
- Bubbles: I found wedding bubbles for a really good price at a local dollar store. I bought ivory ribbon and small shells and glued them to the bubble containers.
- Wedding Programs: This was one of the more difficult projects, but we couldn’t have been any happier with how they turned out! We spent several hours perfecting the layout, font style and size, and images. “Tears of Joy, Tears of Laughter, Tears of Happily Ever After” was typed on an inside page. Below that, we glued small envelopes and then placed heart-decorated tissues inside the envelopes.
- Guestbook: Another one of my favorite projects! We went to a craft store and bought different shaped wooden hearts. We then drilled holes in the top of each heart and stained them dark brown. We strung all of the wooden hearts on a metal rope. Guest signed the hearts using a thin white marker. It is something that we will treasure forever!
- Love Sign: One of my very creative bridesmaids made the “LOVE” sign for us. She purchased 3D cardboard letters online, painted them black, and then added lights. This sign resulted in some absolutely amazing pictures!
- Centerpieces: We borrowed tall vases from family members and partially filled them with sand and pebbles. Then we added LED ivory braches (lighting for the evening) and the table assignment signs (i.e., pictures of the dogs). We also had smaller centerpieces. A close friend gave me small round vases from her wedding and we filled those with shells.
Lobster Bucket: We bought tin pails and decorated them with burlap and ivory ribbons. We filled the pails with lobster bibs, crackers, forks, wetnaps, and butter. We printed tags with instructions for guests and tied these
tags to the pail using a burlap rope.
- Lights: Another bridesmaid purchased LED globe lights and hung them from a tree near the reception. This also resulted in some AMAZING pictures!Bouquets and Boutonnieres: We ordered flowers from a local grocery store and picked them up the day before the wedding. We didn’t really know what we were going to create – we just winged it. I really like how they turned out and we saved a ton of money. FYI for future brides, our hydrangea boutonnieres died after 12 hours –thankfully two bridesmaids were able to sneak away from the salon the day of the wedding and create six new boutonnieres.
- Ceremony Arch: One of the bridesmaids had something that resembled an arch in her garden. She drove it to the event on the roof of her car. We decorated it the day of the wedding using 50 carnations purchased from the grocery store and vines from local woods.
- Ceremony Aisle: We purchased mason jars and decorated them using burlap and ivory ribbons and ivory starfish. We hung those from steel rods and added Baby’s Breath. I purchased freeze-dried ivory rose petals online (tip: the freeze-dried petals look 100% fresh). These were used to line the aisles and to create a dance floor for the ceremony.
- Flowergirl Basket: We purchased a rope basket without a handle. We used ivory ribbon to create the handle (there was metal inside the ribbon that made it both sturdy and flexible). We then glued one starfish on both sides of the basket.
- Games: We set up Beirut and KanJam. We also had a table with a bunch of props I found at a party store (e.g.,hats, glasses, small instruments) and a large frame I bought at the Salvation Army for $3. Finally, we had outside games for the kids (e.g., football, Frisbee).
What were the highlights from the ceremony & reception?
Our ceremony was very intimate and personalized. We had a close friend officiate the ceremony. The ceremony we developed perfectly captured our relationship and our love for each other: One of the readings was very dog-oriented
(“Falling in Love is Like Owning a Dog”), a sand ceremony was integrated to celebrate Derek’s children, and we developed our own vows.
Photographer: Derek Halkett Photography