Lauren and Charlie learned early on in their relationship that they had a lot in common. When they first met, their environmentally conscious lifestyles, which include avid biking, recycling and a vegetarian diet, drew them together, as did their love of dancing and traveling. Add a shared sense of humor and mutual respect for one another, and it quickly becomes apparent that Lauren and Charlie belong together.
As with any healthy relationship, the two also pursue interests outside of the relationship. Lauren, 26, is a Classified Account Executive for Style Weekly. She is also a mixed media artist who enjoys working in her studio at Art Works Gallery. A magna cum laude Bachelor of Fine Arts graduate from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Lauren lived briefly in New York City before traveling to Thailand in 2001 to apprentice with artists at the Dhamma Park, a Buddhist sculpture park. Now back in Richmond, she enjoys yoga, electronic music and spending time with her rescue dog, Petunia.
Like Lauren, Charlie, 29, is a recent college graduate with both History and Political Science degrees from Virginia Commonwealth University. A Houston, Texas native, Charlie plans to apply to graduate school so that he can one day become a professor. In the meantime, he remains very active within the community, having recently served as Event Coordinator for Engage!, a performance initiative that encouraged the public to vote in the 2004 presidential election. He also volunteers for the Living Wage Coalition, an organization committed to increasing wages for campus workers living in poverty, and serves on the Board of Directors and assists at the Fulton Hill Neighborhood Resource Center, which is a safe harbor for children and families who live in the area.
During his early twenties, Charlie worked as a chef. He also opened an Asian noodle restaurant in Richmond in 1999. Today he and Lauren both share a love of Asian and Hispanic food, which is yet another common denominator that brings them even closer. This is quite fitting, considering that it was food that actually brought the two together in the first place.
Sealed With a Kiss
It was the summer of 2002 and mutual friends, Julie and Todd Naumann, had invited both Lauren and Charlie to a cookout. "Charlie arrived with veggie burgers, which made me very happy," Lauren recalls. "I was immediately attracted to him." But, as fate would have it, Charlie was a bit distracted that evening. He was getting ready to leave Richmond in a few days to study in Guatemala for a month.
It wasn't too long after his return to Richmond that Charlie caught up with Lauren's group of friends again. "After a few times of running into him, I started getting butterflies in my stomach just thinking that he might show up," says Lauren with a laugh. Charlie must have felt something too, for one night after an evening at Nacho's Mama, the two finally kissed.
A Storybook Proposal
Like many a happy bride, Lauren can recall Charlie's proposal to her in vivid detail. "It was Friday, February 13th and my sister, Lindsay, and I had gone shopping after work," says Lauren. Afterwards they had dinner with their family, during which time Charlie called repeatedly to see what time Lauren planned to return to her apartment. "I thought it was strange that he keptcalling, as he rarely does that," says Lauren, who understood the reason for his persistency the moment she walked through the apartment building's door.
"There was a trail of red and white candles leading up the stairway and into the open door of my second floor apartment," says Lauren with amazement. "The entire apartment was aglow with candles! On my coffee table, Charlie had arranged the candles into the shape of a heart, in the middle of which was a jewelry box. He got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. Charlie had originally planned to propose to me on Valentine's Day, but after he had to wait two months for the ring to arrive, he just couldn't wait any longer!" Lauren said yes and overcome with joy, the two hugged each other until they remembered they had friends waiting to go to a party with them. "They were a little irritated with us when we arrived," says Lauren, "But when I held up my hand and they saw the ring, everyone was in shock. We all yelled, hugged and then everyone was silent; they just kept staring at us."
A Change in Plans
Soon plans for Lauren and Charlie's wedding were well underway. Slated for April of 2005, the couple planned to get married in a local church and host their reception at a nearby country club. Plans were moving along without a hitch until Lauren and Charlie decided to go out of town one weekend. "We went camping as we occasionally do, just to get away from it all," says Lauren. "During the trip it became quite clear to us that what we really wanted was a fall wedding, because it's our favorite time of year, and one that was more reflective of us."
After considering getting married during New York's Halloween Day parade, the couple decided to say their nuptials a little closer to home. "It came down to a matter of logistics," says Lauren. "We had to decide what was more important: having the wedding exactly the way we wanted it or compromising a little so the important people in our lives would be able to celebrate it with us. Ultimately, it's about being with those people, so it wasn't a hard choice to make."
That decision made, Lauren and Charlie went on to plan their wedding and, with November just a few short months away, they had to do it at warp speed. Thanks to the Internet and a wealth of wedding web sites, the couple found the new timeframe to be manageable. "It was great to be able to visit sites to scout out locations and look at menus," says Lauren of the time the Internet saved and the information it provided. "I can't imagine having had to plan my wedding without it."
In addition to using the Internet for research, Lauren and Charlie also created a personalized wedding web site that was free-of-charge, compliments of www.weddingchannel.com. Fun and informative, this site was a great way for Lauren and Charlie to communicate with their guests on everything from dates and directions to registries and RSVPs.
By focusing on larger tasks, such as finding the perfect location, deciding what to wear and the menu, Lauren and Charlie discovered that the details often took care of themselves. They had the good fortune of finding invitations they liked at Paper on the Avenue, the first stationery store they visited. "Charlie's only criteria was that they be made from recycled paper," recalls Lauren. "We walked in the store and saw some that just jumped right out at us. With so many great choices available in the today's invitation process, it was a relief not to have to deal with them all." Bridesmaids Stephanie Walsh and Ashley Hicks added a personal touch to the invitations by hand-addressing all 70 of them.
Lauren also had similar good luck on her quest for a wedding dress. As someone who recycles, she liked the idea of a vintage gown and was thrilled when she found the perfect dress during an open house at Pleiades Vintage Bridal. "I couldn't believe it when I tried it on and it fit me right off the rack," says Lauren of her gorgeous cream-colored dress. "Its sequins had turned a gold hue due to time, making it just the right shade for our harvest color-scheme."
Fate also smiled on the couple in the form of caterer Ryan Traylor of Mosaic Café, who helped create a sumptuous spread that included fresh seafood, goat cheese, spanakopita, and stuffed portabella mushrooms. The menu also reflected the couple's wish that no beef be served. "We knew our friends and family would respect and understand this," says Lauren of their decision. "Besides, it wasn't like this was the only meal they would eat all day!"
In addition to his invaluable catering assistance, Ryan also put his all into helping with the decorations. "Ryan was so inspired by our wedding site that he approached us about decorating it," says Lauren in amazement. "He had some great ideas, such as hanging lanterns from the trees and filling baskets with pumpkins and gourds."
So did Clement Denicourt of Jean-Jacques Bakery, who made Lauren and Charlie's wedding cake. For Lauren, the crowning glory on this three-tier, white batter, amaretto and hazelnut concoction was an iridescent glass pumpkin topper created by craftsman Jack Pine. "I became obsessed with finding a pumpkin topper," she admits with a grin. "I was ecstatic when I finally found a signed set of three. We used one as a cake topper and now have all of them on display in our apartment."
Natural Beauty Abounds
Realizing that most local and traditional venues had already been booked months in advance, Lauren got creative and
looked up 'farms' in the Yellow Pages.
After a few calls, she had the good fortune to learn about Clover Forest Plantation (www.cloverforest.com), a stately 18th century James River plantation located in Goochland County . Less than an hour's drive from Richmond, it was the perfect site for both the wedding and reception. "Clover Forest Plantation has so much beauty and history surrounding it," says Lauren. "Charlie and I were happy to be able to bring our positive energy to the land's legacy."
The plantation's bucolic fall setting lent itself quite well to Lauren and Charlie's outdoor wedding ceremony. Mother Nature's warm golds and rich browns took center stage and complimented the wedding's wheat (a Polish symbol for wealth, prosperity and abundance), gourd and pumpkin decor. Due to the abundance of natural beauty at Clover Forest, floral decorations were simple, yet elegant, which was good news for Lauren, who found the selection process to be one of the more difficult tasks associated with planning a wedding.
Firm in her belief that items should be used more than once, Lauren balked at the seasonal prices she was quoted by a florist. Ever resourceful, she approached her future father-in-law, a botanist, for a recommendation and was pleasantly surprised when he suggested Ukrop's at Gayton Crossing. "Effie Bodie of Ukrop's was extremely helpful with our flowers," says Lauren with gratitude. "She was friendly, personable and helped educate us on what flowers would work and look good through out the day. Sometimes you just have to go with smaller or less traditional vendors for a more personal approach."
An Affair to Remember
With their wedding slated for early afternoon, Lauren and Charlie left themselves plenty of time to prepare for their big day. Lauren, who spent the morning relaxing with her bridesmaids, considers it one of the most memorable times of the day. "Being with my friends and taking the time to savor the moment with them really helped me relax and set the tone for the wedding," she says. "Your wedding goes by so fast. It was nice to be able to enjoy everyone's company and to savor the little moments of such a monumental event."
In addition to their friends, family played an important role at Lauren and Charlie's wedding. Kathleen Schmidt, Charlie's older sister and staunch supporter after the childhood loss of their father to cancer, had the honor of being his Best Person. In addition to having her sisters Lindsay Pollack and Madeliene Garrigue serve as Maid of Honor and Flower Girl respectively, Lauren's father walked her down the aisle while her mother and stepfather looked on. "As I began my new life with my husband, I realized that it was time to let go of some old issues," said Lauren. "I tried to look beyond the day so that I'd have no regrets about it later in life."
With their storybook wedding full of rich details and magical memories, regrets hardly seem possible for Lauren and Charlie. Indeed as they danced together at their reception, it was apparent to all resent that it was indeed a match made in heaven. Charlie held Lauren close to his side as she danced gracefully and comfortably in a pair of slippers provided by the hotel. "I thought my gown would be long enough to discreetly hide them," Lauren confides with a giggle. "The photos sure proved me wrong!"
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