Taylor Fraley and Ashleigh Whalen met through a mutual friend in college. After they went to dinner on their first date, they planned to meet up with friends at a bar in downtown Matthews, North Carolina, but those plans suddenly fell through. “We ended up as two strangers in the parking lot, not really knowing what to say,” Ashleigh says. In that slightly awkward moment, Taylor, a music lover, shared a song he had been listening to with Ashleigh, and then they went their separate ways. As Ashleigh was driving home, her phone lit up with a text from Taylor – a sure sign that he was too clingy, she thought. Instead, she opened the text to find a rant from Taylor over the tragedy of having left his to-go box at the restaurant. She laughed and laughed, and she and Taylor have been together laughing ever since.
On one summer night a couple of years later, Ashleigh and Taylor again had plans to meet up with some friends in downtown Matthews. But instead of driving to the planned location, Taylor parked by the bar where they wound up on their first date. They were already late, it was raining, and Ashleigh was frustrated by the change in plans, but Taylor calmed her down and played the song he had first played for her in the same parking lot two years before. Taylor suggested they walk along the main street that runs through the town and went to the trunk to retrieve an umbrella — and a ring. “Before I knew it, Taylor was on one knee in the pouring rain on the sidewalk asking me to spend forever with him,” Ashleigh says. “Of course, I laughed and everything made sense.”
Ashleigh imagined a classic and perfectly Southern wedding day, and in about a year of careful planning she was able to achieve just that. A neutral color palette complemented by greens and soft pink was appealing to Ashleigh’s traditional side, and a few rustic touches throughout would add personality. And as there’s nothing more beautiful than a North Carolina spring, the bride had her heart set on an outdoor ceremony. Finding a venue that fit the bill was a challenge, and only after several suggestions from her mother did Ashleigh find the perfect spot: TPC Piper Glen in Charlotte. “It had a place for an outdoor ceremony, a terrace for cocktail hour and a big ballroom for dinner and dancing,” Ashleigh says. “That, combined with the eagle that often flies on the property and a big lake on the golf course surrounding the ceremony location, I was sold.”
Ashleigh’s fairytale tulle ball gown with elegant cap sleeves and a beaded lace bodice set the tone for the day. She carried a lush, romantic bouquet of white peonies, lisianthus and ranunculus framed by the soft gray-greens of dusty miller and silver dollar eucalyptus, all of it tied up with a white satin ribbon. The bridesmaids’ white ranunculus bouquets captured that same elegant aesthetic, and they wore pale pink floor-length dresses in silhouettes of their choosing, the perfect complement to the guys’ classic black tuxes and bowties, each with a white bloom pinned to his lapel.
Ashleigh awoke the morning of April 21, 2018, to a handwritten note from her groom. She opened another letter while she was eating breakfast and read his third letter as she was getting ready for the ceremony. When she was just moments away from walking down the aisle toward her groom, one of her bridesmaids delivered the final letter. With her heart full with love and anticipation, she grabbed her bouquet and headed toward the lawn at TPC Piper Glen, where more than 150 of her beloved friends and family and, most importantly, her groom were all waiting for her.
The bride walked down the aisle lined with signs featuring the words of 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (“Love is patient, love is kind … ”) as “Make It to Me” by Sam Smith played. At the end of the aisle, Ashleigh met Taylor under an elegant arbor draped in white and greenery. They held hands and exchanged vows, sealed their covenant with a kiss and headed back up the aisle to “Sweet Caroline” — a nod to their beloved Carolina Panthers.
After stealing away for some photos during cocktail hour, the new Mr. and Mrs. shared their first dance as husband and wife to “To the Moon and Back” by Luke Bryan and then enjoyed a delicious dinner with their guests while a few of their nearest and dearest made toasts to their marriage. Ashleigh says that she managed to stay composed for most of the day, but as she left the dance floor following the father-daughter dance, the emotions of the day caught up to her. “I was overwhelmed by the number of people who were there to show support and love, by the fact that my dad was giving me away to Taylor and by the fact that his mother was allowing me to step in as the woman in his life,” Ashleigh says. She started to cry, and her mom quickly swooped in and comforted her with hugs and kind words.
Ashleigh wiped away her happy tears, and she and Taylor returned to a wonderful evening of dancing and celebrating their marriage with those they hold dear. And at the end of the night they ran through an arch of sparklers toward their new life together as husband and wife.
Cheers to Ashleigh and Taylor, and we wish them a lifetime of happiness! Thank you for sharing your special day with us!
- Photography: Connection Photography
- Wedding planner: LeAnn Rice
- Wedding dress: David’s Bridal
- Bridesmaids’ dresses: David’s Bridal
- Groom’s and groomsmen’s attire: Jos. A. Bank
- Cake: LeAnn Rice
- Flowers: LeAnn Rice
- Venue: TPC Piper Glen
- Catering: TPC Piper Glen
- DJ: ATG Entertainment
- Hair/makeup: Madison McIlwaine
- Videography: CDS Visuals – Cameron Stewart
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