Steel Magnolias met The Great Gatsby in this couple's romantic outdoor nuptials.
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Fate, it seems, played a leading role in just about everything related to attorney Preston Lesley and interior design teacher Shelby Kesler's love story, from their meeting to the wedding's creative vision. The couple both grew up in North Carolina—she in Salisbury and he in Mount Olive. In April 2013, when Shelby was a senior at Meredith College and Preston was a junior at North Carolina State, a bus ride to a beach music festival brought them together. During the pair's conversation on the bus, they realized that their grandparents actually enjoy breakfast together weekly and that Preston's extended family belongs to the same congregation as Shelby's in Salisbury. With such deeply-rooted connections, Shelby and Preston were shocked their paths hadn't crossed before their first official encounter.
Over their five-and-a-half-year-long relationship, Preston and Shelby made it a tradition to travel to Corolla, North Carolina, every June. In 2017, the pair made their trip to the Outer Banks a bit earlier, in May, to celebrate Preston's graduation from law school. On this particular vacation, they became engaged while sitting in the dunes watching the sunset.
The couple spent the next year-and-a-half organizing their dream wedding—which is when fate stepped in yet again. Shelby, named after Julia Roberts' character in the 1989 movie Steel Magnolias, cites her namesake's signature color (pink!) when asked to describe her wedding's inspiration. The romantic shade was indeed used in abundance throughout Shelby and Preston's September 8, 2018, garden party-themed affair, which was hosted at the Boxwood Estate near the bride's hometown.
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The Romance of Boxwood
Exuding southern charm, the Boxwood Estate provided the perfect backdrop for Shelby and Preston's September wedding. Just as Shelby was set on having a pink color scheme, she was also determined to plan a celebration reminiscent of both a 19th-century English countryside garden party and an opulent Jay Gatsby event. The sophisticated revelry of both party styles was easy to translate at the Boxwood Estate.
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Preston proposed to Shelby with a Tacori "Full Bloom" engagement ring set on a gold band. The pair had not gone shopping for rings prior to their engagement, but Preston knew that his future wife loved floral and vintage styles. While in Washingto, D.C., for a Taylor Swift concert, Shelby and Preston visited Cartier to find their wedding bands. Shelby's mirrors her engagement ring with a continuum of posies with center-face diamonds; Preston's is a classic gold ring.
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Echoing her signature color, Shelby's blush Hayley Paige wedding dress featured pearl buttons down the back, which she accentuated with pearl earrings and a pearl-encrusted head piece from BHLDN; she paired the gown with floral-accented kitten heels, also from BHLDN. In addition to her engagement ring, Shelby wore an heirloom emerald, diamond, and gold ring on her right hand. This bauble was created by melding her mother and late father's wedding rings together. (The bride's father passed away when she was two years old, and, though Shelby has a wonderful bond and relationship with her stepfather, Kevin, it was very important to her to wear this special ring on the day she was married.)
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Florals could be found in almost every detail of Shelby and Preston's big day. From the vintage-inspired flower engagement ring, to the groomsmen's ties, the celebration was the definition of a garden party—Shelby even had floral lace-trimmed robes created for her and her bridesmaids, which they wore on the morning of the wedding.
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When it came to choosing a color for her girls to wear, Shelby opted for white so "their flower-filled bouquets" would pop; she also felt that white would prettily complement her blush wedding dress. She decided on these classic, cap-sleeved numbers from Joanna August.
Shelby felt that her nontraditional style, which resulted in her foregoing a veil, wearing a blush ensemble, and asking her bridesmaids to wear white instead, was essential to creating a wedding that was original and her own.
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Shelby's flower girl, Sici, wore a miniature version of her Hayley Paige wedding dress. The little one's attire was a crowd pleaser—and was one of the bride's favorite parts of her wedding party's looks.
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The couple shared a few special moments together before the ceremony began, with a first look on an alcove lawn at the venue.
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Here Come The Lesleys
Shelby and Preston's ceremony took place under a flower-adorned pergola; the service was officiated by Shelby's hometown reverend, Reverend Gary Coble of St. Matthew Lutheran Church. The ceremony started at 5:30 p.m., at the beginning of sunset.
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Here Comes the Sun
After the couple's vows were said, their rings were exchanged, and their marriage was sealed with a kiss, the reverend announced the new Mr. and Mrs. Preston Lesley to the crowd. The moment after the kiss, as the couple exited to the Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun," they were met with roar of clapping and cheering—both Shelby and Preston recall this particular moment as a big-day highlight.
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Immediately after the ceremony, guests were invited to enjoy cocktails under market lights on the back lawn. Shelby's vision for the cocktail hour was inspired by a scene from the 2013 rendition of The Great Gatsby, when "Daisy met Gatsby in the room filled with orchids."
As the sun set, and the sounds from the estate's wildlife echoed in harmony with the soft music playing, the mood for the rest of the whimsical, romantic, and enchanting evening was set. To add another dimension of charm and fun, the couple stationed The Little Blue Photo Bus nearby, which was a huge hit with their attendees.
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While their guests were enjoying the first round of drinks, the newlyweds slipped away to snap a few portraits.
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Welcome to the Garden Party
An acrylic welcome sign greeted guests as they moved from the cocktail hour on the lawn into the tented reception space.
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Guests had to look no further than this floral seating chart to locate their seats.
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Shelby's unique big-day vision—an English garden party, meets The Great Gatsby, meets Steel Magnolias—culminated in the breathtaking table set ups, complete with a mix of tall and short centerpieces, candle accents, and ruffled table runners.
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Guests were seated at round tables within the tent, around a central dance floor; a long table for the bride, groom, and their wedding party was positioned at the top of the dancing space.
Using the same palette and types of flowers as the bride's and bridesmaids' bouquets, Meristem Floral incorporated garden roses, dahlias, hellebores, ranunculus, delphiniums, larkspurs, snapdragons, clematis, spray roses, cosmos, and other flowers into the romantic centerpieces (the head table included three raised arrangements that were especially striking). Small bud vases filled in the tabletops' negative space to "make it look like they were growing and free." Like the outdoor cocktail hour space, the tent was also draped in market lights.
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The couple's vintage floral plates also reinforced their floral theme. Over the course of her engagement, Shelby and her mother collected the antique dishware, which featured designs in pink, blue, and gold.
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L Is for Lesley
Preston and Shelby took their first dance as husband and wife to Nat King Cole's "L-O-V-E."
Another poignant moment followed: Shelby first danced with her stepfather—and then her grandfather, to honor her dad—to "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."
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Just as Shelby and Preston inaugurated their wedding with invitations that strongly incorporated their garden party theme, each guest left the celebration with a small terra-cotta pot with pink flowers and a sign that said "Let Love Grow."
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Photography, Jake + Heather Photography
Event planning, Faye Conlin of Coordinating Dreams
Venue, Boxwood Estate
Catering, Buttercup Café
Flowers, Meristem Floral
Videography, Reel Weddings
Officiant, Reverend Gary Coble
Stationery, Rifle Paper Co. via Paper Source
Cake, Dewey's Bakery
Music, Elegant Ensembles (ceremony), Midwest Dueling Pianos (reception)
Rentals and lighting, Party Reflections
Hair, Kadie Juliant
Makeup, Greyson Harvey
Transportation, F&M Trolley
Photo Booth, The Little Blue Photo Bus
Live Painting, Wed on Canvas
Bride's gown, Hayley Paige
Bride's accessories, BHLDN (shoes and headpiece)
Bridesmaid Dresses, Joanna August
Menswear, Calvin Klein