Being able to capture Melanie and Jake's wedding day was an honor and a privilege. I've known Melanie for over a decade, so I knew that every part of this wedding would be well planned out and special. When it comes to princess fairytale weddings, Mel is the Merida of princesses. Melanie knows what she wants and she takes the lead in making sure it happens! If you haven't read their engagement blog yet, check it out here.
To recap, Melanie and Jake actually met 875 miles from Orlando, in a totally different country: Belize. Melanie says, "Our meeting is the closest thing to love at first sight that we’ve ever heard of since we were drawn to each other the minute we saw each other in the lobby of the hotel." They spent the rest of the trip hanging out and getting to know each other. Once they returned home they kept in contact with each other thanks to facetime and they traveled back and forth between FL and NC as much as they could. Eventually Jake planned to move to Florida since his job was more flexible, but the pandemic moved up that timeline, and Jake moved right before Florida went into lockdown.
Melanie says, "We both wonder if perhaps the reason we could never have predicted a love like ours is that circumstances such as these current ones are unprecedented. Many couples would be hard put to quarantine together for months, but it has genuinely brought us closer together. Neither of us feels that we would have weathered this crazy storm as well as we have and are continuing to do so without the other. Having the other to support us on days when our energy is low and to pick us up and bring joy to each other is incredible."
For their engagement, Jake booked a suite at the Hard Rock Hotel in Daytona. Jake told Melanie to dress in her best... Viking garb, that is! Melanie writes, "He said that since we could not go to Rennaissance faires or Megacon, he still wanted us to be able to cosplay and have fun. So we did! We set up a Viking feast, to enjoy in our fancy room, and dressed in our best garb, and had a lovely dinner. When the sun began to set, he suggested that we go out on the balcony and enjoy it." After a few moments of enjoying the evening air and just being so thankful to be together and in such a lovely place, Jake knelt and asked for Melanie’s hand in marriage... thus fulfilling a prophecy our Belize group had predicted since the beginning! And of course, Melanie said yes!
Melanie continues, "From the pool deck below us erupted cheers and applause, as unbeknownst to either of us, people had noticed what was happening. The cheering went on for a solid minute or two, and afterward, we went inside and Jake suggested we toast to the occasion. Turns out, he had ordered a custom bottle of Johnny Walker Blue Label (that we had always wanted to try!), with the words ‘To my darling Melanie, I love you. Will you marry me?’ With that, we toasted to our engagement and our future together."
Choosing the perfect venue was important to them, they wanted something in between their respective family's location. They traveled to Georgia and simply Googled "Wedding venues" and started searching. They found Gin Creek in Hartsfield and fell in love. Melanie texted me photos and videos from their tour there, and I knew it was going to be the most magical weekend, because not only was their wedding and reception on-site, but they also had the entire wedding party and family staying at cabins right next to the wedding site! Right down the street on the property there was another small building and outdoor deck that held the rehearsal dinner space. Rehearsal dinner was cooked by Melanie's awesome step-father and included duck, which I had never tried before. Gin Creek is a family-owned and operated property that began back in 1988. We met the owner, Doug, as well as other members of the family while we were there, and the entire family is just the sweetest. They really wanted to make sure all of Melanie and Jake's guests had the best weekend. When asked what their number one tip is for couples planning their wedding, Melanie and Jake said, "If you can have the venue to yourself for at least the whole day of the wedding, DO IT. It’s worth the stress-freeness of the day." Having an entire section of Gin Creek made everything easier from decorating, rehearsal, dinner, family breakfast, getting ready, ceremony, and reception.
Planning a wedding during the pandemic did have some rough patches, including the couple having to move their original wedding date, but at the same time made it easier for Melanie to take a sabbatical from work to stay at home and focus on all the arrangements and DIY elements. Melanie found her dream dress at Minerva’s Bridal, but made a few alterations to really bring together that Celtic/Viking look. Melanie took out the tan lining of the dress and inserted gold fabric. She added some gold chains across the back as an accent piece. Then she designed and created the watteau cape and attached it to the dress. Melanie's bridal tiara was another DIY project that started off as an $8 tiara from Shein, gold leaves, flowers, and a necklace from Michaels. Using wire wrapping, UV cured resin, and "mild ingenuity" Melanie created her one-of-a-kind tiara. Her foot jewelry started off as shoes from Goodwill, repurposed into "barefoot sandals".
When it came down to florals, Melanie wasn't sure if a florist would be able to create the vision in her head, so she ordered some silk and real touch flowers and got to work on them all herself. She says that at first she was nervous about having "fake" flowers at her wedding, but when they arrived and she felt them for the first time, she was amazed at how soft and realistic the calla lilies were. When creating the bridesmaid's bouquets Melanie says, "Since our wedding was Celtic/Elven-themed, the groomsmen are the groom’s warriors, and the bridesmaids are my shieldmaidens. Since the groomsmen had swords, I wanted my bridesmaids to have weapons as well. So, for the bridesmaids’ daggers, I took a floral ring and used gold wire wrapping to add calla lilies and greenery to them."
The couple wore bracelets with the latitude and longitude of their first kiss in Belize on one side, and the date on the back.
The morning of the wedding, family and wedding party gathered for breakfast at the cabin. Then Melanie got ready in the 1836 Presley Log Cabin with her bridesmaids. Ali from Elements Style Bar put each lady's hair up in a respective Dane (Viking) braids. Jake and his warriors got ready in Dee's cabin. I went over to get some photos and Jake was writing his own vows. He later went out into the woods to practice saying them and said, "I got choked up and had trouble saying them to the trees, I don't know how I'm going to get through them without breaking down during the ceremony!" But he did, and he did an amazing job. Each of their personalized vows included the words inscribed in their rings, "Always & Forever".
Melanie and Jake chose to do a private first look across the little wooden bridge. I always encourage couples to have a first look, and I'm so glad Melanie and Jake took the time to see each other and snap a few photos before the ceremony. The bridal party walked down the aisle, with their swords and daggers, to Enya's "Wild Child". As Melanie came down the drive in a horse-drawn carriage, "Bag End" from the Lord of the Rings soundtrack played. Melanie walked down the green toward Jake, and was met by her mother who walked her the rest of the way down the aisle. As the two joined hands, Melanie's shieldmaiden, Kayla, ascended the stairs and opened a scroll, and began the celebration speech of Melanie and Jake's adventure. The two shared their handwritten vows, shed a few tears, and sealed their commitment to each other with a kiss. The two rang the bell and walked out to "Augie's Gret Municipal Band" from Star Wars.
Congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Cochrane - Yes, Jake took Melanie's last name! Jake says, "We kept this a surprise to most people until yesterday. While it is a fairly unique thing to have the man take the woman’s name when getting married, this was what both of us wanted. I wanted to honor her and her name, which she holds very dear to her, while still honoring my own and allowing us to share a last name. I’m proud to be Mr. Cochrane now, and I look forward to a beautiful, long life together as Mr. and Mrs."
After the ceremony, family and bridal party portraits, the couple were introduced into the reception. Melanie recalls how she wanted her decor to be unique. She bought reindeer moss, gold chargers, terrariums, glass filler, and white butterflies. Melanie made the lotus candle holders and the geode crystals from resin molds. She attached the moss to the chargers and the butterflies to the terrariums with hot glue. She carved a hole in the bottom of the crystals to insert a battery-powered light into the bottom of each to create that magical glow. Each table setting included a resin heart with a hand-lettered thank you note. Melanie researched a Tolkein inspired font and practiced writing it.
After toasts and dinner, Melanie and Jake cut their wedding cake with an Elven sword. Afterward, they shared a shot of the Johnny Walker that Jake had given to her on the day of their engagement. After cake everyone made their way outside to the dance floor where Jake and Melanie shared a choreographed first dance to "A Million Dreams" by P!nk off The Greatest Showman Reimagined soundtrack. When I asked if they took lessons, the two said they watched videos online and choreographed the entire dance themselves. Which makes sense, Melanie and her shieldmaiden/officiant Kayla met in Irish dance classes! Melanie and her mother then had their special dance to "Mom" by Meghan Trainor. After an evening filled with dancing the couple ended their night dancing to "I got a Feeling". The couple then had a sparkler exit followed by a fireworks display over the lake. To say it was a fairytale ending to a most magical day is an understatement. Melanie and Jake's wedding weekend is one to go down in the record books. I wish them the best, with many more adventures in their future!
Photographer: Koontz Photography
Venue: Gin Creek, Georgia
Dress Shop: Minerva's Bridal
Bride's Ring: Overnia Ceylon Sapphire from Diamondere
Groom's Ring: Glamira
Cake: Q-Ti Cakes
Caterer: Catering Capers
Wedding Planner: Bride