In October 2013 at the Riverfront Park in Columbia, SC, Ethan Walter and Paula Rawls literally “ran” into each other — and after a month of smiling and waving, they encountered each other at the gym where Ethan asked Paula to dinner and the rest is history. Who knew that cardio was good not only for your heart’s health, but also for your heart, too! Paula and Ethan originally had imagined their wedding outdoors — perhaps even on a mountaintop. However, after some logistical discussions they went with the next best plan, a romantic Southern wedding at the beautiful Ballantyne Hotel on October 14, 2016.
The wedding planning process for Paula and Ethan was no easy task, especially because they were living close to 700 miles away from each other for the duration of their planning! With Paula in Columbia, SC and Ethan in Miami, FL, they did long-distance for over a year — they even got engaged in the Miami Airport! When Paula arrived in the Miami Airport and headed to baggage claim she saw Ethan standing there with a sign that read, “Welcome to Miami Miss Rawls.” He flipped it to the other side and it read, “Will you be Mrs. Walter?” (Aww!) Paula and Ethan had never let the distance between them deter them in any way before, and that certainly would not change for their wedding planning process. Luckily, not only did the Ballantyne Hotel provide a day-of coordinator for the wedding, but Paula’s mother, an avid planner and organizer, was able to help every step of the way.
After establishing their theme of romance for their wedding, it seems that the rest of the planning happened rather organically. Paula knew that she wanted a dress with a vintage feel to it, so as soon as she discovered the dress that she fell in love with online, made by Essense of Australia, she called every store around until she found it at Evelyn’s Bridal. It was the first one she tried on and she knew it was “the one” right then and there. To continue with the romantic theme, Paula knew what she wanted when it came to the flowers and color scheme of the big day; straying away from more traditional fall colors like oranges and yellows, she opted for deeper, darker tones in her florals and chose red velvet roses and dark red dahlias. The red dahlias specifically acted as a pronounced focal point through her color scheme, from the color of the groom and groomsmen’s vests and ties to the color of her lipstick.
After living apart from each other for so long Paula felt a sigh of relief on their wedding day because they were finally putting an end to packing suitcases and visiting each other. When asked how she felt leading up to their ceremony, Paula says, “I set the intention to be aware throughout the day of [the wedding] as much as I could take in rather than rushing around, and I think this really helped me. I didn’t need any extra caffeine to get me through a long day of emotions, guests, and poses for the pictures — I was just giddy to celebrate this special day!” Ethan says, “I knew I wanted to marry Paula and it felt like it was a list of what to do next, ask the mom, find the ring, figure out the proposal — getting married was just one more step, and I knew I was ready for this and was really looking forward to celebrating this with all my friends and family.”
One of Paula’s favorite memories from the wedding was the look on her mother’s face when she turned around and saw Paula after zipping up her dress. With the hindrance of being in a long-distance engagement, Paula’s mother was there for tastings, meetings and planning galore. Paula and Ethan decided to do a first-look prior to the ceremony, partially because they wanted to take a private moment between the two of them, and partially because they wanted to feel a little more relaxed leading up to the ceremony itself — especially because they wrote their own vows and were about to recite them in front of 110 people! One very important person missing from their big day was Paula’s father, who passed away in December 2013. Paula chose to walk down the aisle herself towards Ethan because she wanted to feel the spirit of her father and God alongside her. Paula says, “The symbolism of Ethan walking towards me as I approached the alter symbolized that I would never have to walk alone again because we will be side by side through life as partners.”
For their cocktail hour, Paula and Ethan served guests Carolina crab cakes, chicken chorizo empanadas, Moroccan lamb koftas with minted yoghurt sauce and pulled pork BBQ sliders. Their reception was more on the casual side with no seating cards or sit-down dining — they did it station-style, serving up food like herbed chicken breast with butternut squash risotto, gorgonzola cheese, fried sage leaves and mascarpone; potato gnocchi with blackened chicken, mini sweet peppers, spinach and gorgonzola cream sauce; braised short ribs “osso bucco” style with cheddar grits and kalette, and roasted beet and goat cheese ravioli with shaved Brussels sprouts and vermouth cream sauce. If you thought that sounded delicious, they also had a four-tiered wedding cake, a sweets table with a variety of sweets including boxed macaroons for their guests to take home and late night snacks like fried macaroni and cheese bites and chicken and waffles.
After a night of dinner, dancing and using glow sticks to do the limbo and play jump-rope, Mr. and Mrs. Walter made their way through sparklers held by their loved ones and departed in a golf cart decorated with hand painted cans tied to strings and a “Just Married” sign decorated by Paula herself. Following their wedding Ethan and Paula traveled to Boone, NC where they stayed in a cabin for several days and admired the majesty of fall in the mountains. Because of job changes and moving, their official honeymoon in Austria is set for this summer. Some good advice for couples planning their weddings right now? Don’t let other people tell you what you like, take breaks as a couple from wedding planning and remember to enjoy each other! Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. Walter! Wishing you many years of running, outdoor adventures and of course, happiness.
Venue (Name + Location): The Ballantyne Hotel in Charlotte, NC
Photographer: Julie Staley: Old South Studios
Videographer: Brian Bunn Films
Bride’s Gown: Evelyn’s Bridal in Lugoff, SC by Essense of Australia
Bridesmaids Dresses: Evelyn’s Bridal in Lugoff, SC
Makeup: Cali Stott of Cali Stott Artistry
Groom’s & Groomsmen’s Formalwear: Men’s Wearhouse
Invitations, Programs & Menu Cards: All stationary went through The Ballantyne Hotel
Flowers: Lily Greenthumbs
Catering: The Ballantyne Hotel
Ceremony Music: String Trio Charlotte Strings for Events
Band: Sol Fusion
Cake: Cake Expressions by Lisa
Photobooth: Shutterbooth Charlotte
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