A new chapter

13 June 2018

Yesterday, we made a very big announcement at Southern Weddings: that the tenth-anniversary issue will be the last for our team. Among many other things, I’m thankful that the site will remain active as an archive, and also that the Joyful Wedding Planner (which I co-wrote!) is still available in limited quantities. You can read much more on the Southern Weddings blog as well as Lara’s blog, and I’d encourage you to do so!

Here, though, I wanted to take a little bit of a different take, and share a bit more about what this change means to me.

For a very long time – long before I worked at Southern Weddings – I have been a person defined by weddings. I wrote about weddings here on Em for Marvelous from the beginning. I interned for a wedding magazine in college. I began subscribing to Martha Stewart Weddings in seventh grade. When I was five, one of my favorite hobbies was sneaking into our church’s balcony with my Mom to watch wedding ceremonies unfold.

I’ve had a hand — sometimes very heavy, sometimes just the lightest touch — in pretty much every friend and family member in my life who has gotten married in the last fifteen years, and each time it has been a joy! I have always thought there are few things more magical than a wedding day, and nothing in the last ten years has convinced me otherwise.

So to say serving as the Creative Director of Southern Weddings for the last nine years was a dream job is a little bit of an understatement. It has been one of the greatest joys of my life, and truly the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. I feel incredibly, incredibly lucky that this actually happened to me. It just as easily could have not.

But it did. In addition to my day-to-day responsibilities in the office — choosing weddings to feature, writing about weddings, developing products for brides, and producing photoshoots (all dreamy-enough things on their own!) — my work had two incredible additional perks.

First, I got to travel extensively around the South, seeing amazing places through an incredibly intimate and unusual lens. For someone who loves to travel and loves getting a glimpse into “local life,” this was heaven! Not only have I worked in almost every Southeastern state, including Texas, West Virginia, Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and all the usual suspects, but I have seen them in a way that I never would have been able to otherwise.

I spent the day on a family-owned polo farm in South Carolina. I twirled across the lawn of Biltmore House at 6am, before the gates opened to the public. I rose off the ground in a hot air balloon in an Asheville dawn. I got as grimy as I’ve ever been in my life at an abandoned flour mill. I’ve worked a full day from the roof of one of the tallest buildings in Raleigh, imagining what it might be like to live a city existence. I’ve led a prize-winning cow through a cornfield and into a shot. I’ve been dressed to the nines for a gala at The Breakers where stilt walkers handed down glasses of champagne. I’ve traveled to Grand Cayman twice to speak about my company. I had my pick of vibrant, floral backdrops at the iconic Greenbrier in West Virginia. I even got to theme an entire shoot around one of my favorite TV shows of all time, for goodness sake!

The second was that I got to work with and learn from the most incredible, big-hearted vendors you could ever imagine. That includes pretty much every “big name” wedding photographer in the Southeast (as well as many talented folks based elsewhere!). It also includes some of my best friends, as well as strangers who became dear friends along the way. It includes TV celebrities and my own younger sister :)

In addition to forming relationships, I have learned SO MUCH from every person I’ve ever spent the day shooting alongside. They are a big part of what has kept my job fresh. I would have been happy doing my exact same job for another ten years.

Given all this, I suppose it’s understandable that one of the first questions family members had for me when they heard the news was whether I’d look for another position in the wedding industry. My answer was simple: I never considered it. There are so many reasons for this, but here are three.

First, I think it would be nearly impossible to find another wedding team that includes such amazing people, that is salaried, and that shares my heart for weddings — namely, that wedding days are magical, and also that they are only the beginning to an even more magical lifetime together.

The second is a bit harder to admit. While it’s absolutely true that I would have happily done my job for another ten years, after nine, I’m excited about applying my skills in a different way and also trying something entirely new. Going forward, I will serve as both the Creative Director and Chief of Staff for Cultivate What Matters, the sister brand to Southern Weddings. As the Creative Director, my position will look similar to what it did as the Creative Director of SW: I’ll concept and produce brand photoshoots and add to the visual aesthetics of campaigns.

Chief of Staff is a fancy way of saying I work with our CEO on projects that benefit our growing team (like implementing a new 401k provider – y’all know I was excited about that!) as well as helping to shape larger business decisions. Some of this I have been doing informally for years, but a lot of it is new and challenging, and that’s exciting even as it’s sometimes hard and overwhelming.

Finally, as much as I will always love weddings, I find the work we do at Cultivate extremely meaningful. As I wrote here, my job allows me to share the gifts God has entrusted to me, work alongside amazing people in an incredible environment, and to see the fruit of my work every day. I couldn’t ask for much more.

Thanks for allowing me to reminisce and offer some additional insight into this huge change in my life, friends. It is a joy, as always, to share with you. And never forget: whether we’re virtual or “real life” friends, I’ll always be available to offer wedding planning advice, ooh and ahh over your gown, or walk you through whether or not you need a videographer. Some things never change :)

Southern Weddings

Thank you, too, for indulging all of these beautiful photos I’ve worked on over the years! Here are the very deserving credits:

Lace bride photo by Davy Whitener with bouquet by August Floral Design / Texas truck photo by Kristen Kilpatrick with styling by Without Wax, Katy

Baby June photo by Katelyn James

Nancy photo by Olivia Suriano

Team photo by Landon Jacob

Stationery photo by Jake + Heather with styling by Rhiannon Bosse / ceremony photo by Whitney Neal Studios with styling by Jaclyn Journey

Greenbrier photo by Whitney Neal Studios with styling by Jaclyn Journey

Cake and dress photos by Ali Harper with styling by Blue-Eyed Yonder

Erin and Ben photo by Davy Whitener

Rice toss photo by Sawyer Baird / lemonade stand photo by Davy Whitener with styling by Lovegood Weddings

Table photo by Ali Harper with styling by Blue-Eyed Yonder / couple photo by Ryan Ray

Kristin photo by Jake + Heather

Kiddo photo by Nancy Ray

Canning photo by Nancy Ray

Biltmore photo by Henry Photography / apron photo by Davy Whitener

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June 13, 2018 6:58 am

Firstly, I’m sending a big virtual hug your way. When I heard the news, I cried big tears and mourned the loss of my dream job, which truly was a job meant for you, one that you stewarded so incredibly well, leaving room for encouragement and inspiration, not envy. It has been such a gift to my life to follow your story and get a glimpse into the wonder of SW since I first discovered y’all in late 2013. I’m so thankful you shared your heart on this change here, as I admittedly popped over to EFM yesterday wondering what your thoughts on this were.

SW is such a legacy, and I thank you for the time-honored value of gracious manners (for sending Lara that notebook and note in the first place!), for bringing to life stories that are rooted in meaning and tradition, and for giving hope to this wishful New Englander that the South can truly become home even if you are born north of the Mason-Dixon (a dream of mine we may actually be pressing into in the near future!). There aren’t enough ‘thank you’s Emily, but in true SW fashion: Thank you kindly for everything. You’re sweet as a peach! :)

Kelly Strawberry
June 13, 2018 10:24 am

Congratulations on all you accomplished with Southern Weddings! What a legacy you left behind for the wedding industry. Excited for you on your new journey with Cultivate. It seems like the perfect transition and another dream opportunity!

June 13, 2018 10:54 am

I bet this change brings lots of emotions for you and your team! I remember stumbling upon V3 when I was wedding planning. It was the one wedding magazine I couldn’t bring myself to cut inspiration photos out of (those pre-Pinterest days) – it was just too lovely! So much to be proud of. :)

June 13, 2018 10:56 am

I’m so grateful to Southern Weddings for a very long list of reasons but one of them includes meeting YOU! It’s been an honor and joy to work alongside you on three very special and beautiful productions over the years, friend. What an amazing legacy to have been a part of!

June 13, 2018 11:52 am

Thanks for sharing your take on this big change in your work. You did such important work and did it so well, and I know you will continue to do that with Cultivate!

June 13, 2018 12:17 pm

What a beautiful tribute! I wish you all the best in your new role, and I’m excited to see how the Lord uses you and your team at CWM!

June 13, 2018 12:47 pm

The one reoccurring thought I had while reading your thoughts is how incredible it will be to one day carefully page through Southern Wedding volumes with a perhaps newly-engaged June. To see her Mom’s creativity, gifts, and heart on each page is enough to be sure that all the diligent time and effort you’ve spent cultivating your role has been more than worth it.

Celebrating this new role and chapter alongside you!

June 13, 2018 2:04 pm

Thank you for sharing this, Emily, and congratulations on the next big chapter! One of the first thoughts I had when I read the news yesterday was about wondering what this would mean for each of you wonderful SW gals. I was delighted to read about your new roles in the FAQs and even more delighted now after reading this post. As you all made so evident in every word I’ve read about this decision, it was prayer-filled and mission-focused — and that’s all we can hope for! As my wedding feels further and further behind me (celebrating 3 years in August), I, too am excited to see what Cultivate What Matters can take on with all of your undivided attention. Oh, the places you’ll go!

June 14, 2018 2:56 am

Oh Em, this post (as well as all the other SW farewell posts) has left me in tears. What a heartfelt tribute to a dream job, an amazing team and unforgettable experiences and memories. So proud of you for the way you have answered some very difficult questions – so excited for you and what lies ahead at Cultivate x

June 14, 2018 8:01 am

There are so many words I could write here, but none are quite enough, and I think you know them all. Love you so much. Thank you for everything you’ve poured into this legacy. xoxoxoxo

June 15, 2018 6:35 am

Emily, I found myself choked up at this post. I’ve been reading your blog and the southern weddings blog since I learned what a blog was. I’ve always loved your work and your voice, and just wanted to say thank you for all that you have done. What a joy it has been to be a reader all these years. Best of luck to you with the new role!