Tying the Knot in the Mid-South
They met four years ago at a mall, but neither was shopping that day.
It was 2005, and several times a week Thor Harland walked from his nearby downtown office to grab a coffee from Starbucks in the Peabody Place Mall.
Corie Ventura was also at Peabody Place every morning, where her job as an on-air personality for Channel 3's Live at Nine morning show was shot.
They noticed each other immediately, and "a few side looks here, a few shy return looks there," and Thor finally got the nerve to say hello to the petite brunette. The two began talking, and finally, Thor recalls that he "built up the courage to ask her out to a football game."
The two were inseparable after that.
The couple dated for two-and-a-half years, and in late May of 2008, Thor took Corie to Sweden and Denmark to show her where his family grew up (Thor is the first American-born Harland; his father moved to America from Sweden when he was 18) and to meet relatives who still live there. For Corie, it was a chance to get a glimpse into the Harlands' past while exploring new places. For Thor, it was something even more special.
The two took a train from Stockholm to Copenhagen, and during the trip, Thor snuck off and took a photo of the engagement ring hidden in his camera bag. When they arrived, the two spent the day sightseeing and shopping, and of course, taking plenty of photos.
When the sun set, Thor led Corie to the roof of the Royal Danish Museum. With a view of the Baltic Sea and the city lights surrounding them, it was "absolutely the perfect place" for Thor to pop the question.
"I scrolled back a few photos prior to the ring, then asked Corie to take a look at what I'd shot that day," says Thor. "While she was doing that, I walked behind her, got down on one knee, and waited with the ring. When she clicked on the photo of the ring, she turned around and had the most beautiful smile on her face," recalls Thor. There was only one thing to say at that point:
"Would you do me the honor of being my wife?"
From the photos, it's clear that Corie said yes.
The two tied the knot in Corie's hometown of Tampa, Florida. "It was an easy decision," says Corie. "We both had always loved the idea of a beach wedding at sunset. Growing up, the beach was a big part of my life, and Thor and I had visited a few times while we were dating and always had a great time."
The wedding was small, "about 30 or so people, just close friends and family," says Corie. It was an intimate affair at sunset, with a reception following at a resort overlooking the Gulf.
The couple just bought their first home together, and are busy filling it with pieces of art, photographs, and furniture they both love.
Who says there's no such thing as happily ever after?
His and Hers
Who pays for what on the big day?
Typically, the bride's family pays for the majority of a wedding. You may choose to divvy things up your own way, especially if it's a second marriage. But it's helpful to know who traditionally pays for various expenses:
Couples who prefer a more modern approach to a traditional wedding may consider the "Rule of Thirds," where all costs are combined and divided three ways between the bride, groom, and bride's family. Other new options are becoming more acceptable, including contributing to a bride's online wedding fund to help with the expenses of the big day, or pitching in for flowers or the reception location in lieu of a formal gift.
The most important "rule" to remember is this: It's your day. You decide what's best for you.
More than any part of the wedding, the reception is the time for a couple's personality to shine.
"Let's face it. A year after your wedding, your guests probably won't remember exactly what your gown looked like, but they'll remember how much fun they had — or didn't — at your reception!" laughs Robert Hayes. The Memphis-based, Cordon Bleu chef's observation may sting a little for brides who've been told over and over "it's all about you on your wedding day," but he's got a point. Most wedding ceremonies are pretty standard: white dress, black tuxes, veil, church, exchanging of rings, you get the point. So it's the reception that truly shows the personality of the couple, and that's where a great caterer makes all the difference.
Once the question is popped, the date determined, and the location of the ceremony decided, it's time to think about the reception.
Of all the pieces of the wedding puzzle, this one just may have the most parts.
First, consider if you want to have the ceremony and the reception at the same location. Do you want a sit-down dinner or a casual buffet? Will there be a full bar or just wine and beer? Do you want a deejay to spin records or would you prefer a live band?
It can be a bit overwhelming, but relax. This is the fun part.
"The biggest stress for most couples is the budget," says Ann Barnes, owner of Just Catering. She should know. She's been in the business since 1981, and has served every living president, Henry Kissinger, Prince Edward, even the Archbishop of Canterbury. "It doesn't matter who you have served," insists Barnes. "The most important client you will have is the one you are working for that day. The reputation and the longevity of a caterer, especially word-of-mouth, should play a big role in who you choose."
Once the budget is decided (the catering is usually the most expensive part of a wedding) it's time for specifics. The easiest way to determine what will be served is to divide the money allotted by the number of guests attending.
"One of the most common myths about receptions is that sit-down dinners are more expensive," says Barnes. "In fact, it can be more economical [than a buffet] because you're dealing with exact numbers. If I know I'm serving 100 guests, I know exactly how much of everything to order. No guesswork. But if the couple opts for a buffet, well, you just never know. There's always going to be 'that guy' who eats three times what everyone else does," she laughs. "You can't patrol or control a buffet!"
And, adds Hayes, "not putting enough of the wedding budget toward the food is a huge mistake. Wedding planners and guides say to put a certain percent toward the reception. Double that. There's a reason those people are writing books and not catering events."
Both Hayes and Barnes agree that regardless of the budget, a great caterer can make even the most modest of events outstanding.
"If you don't have a large budget for the food, my best advice is to do two or three things very well. Over-the-top. Don't try to skimp on eight or 10 things, it just doesn't work."
Every caterer has his or her own unique style, but the personality of the couple should be reflected in every part of the wedding, especially the reception. "You have to consider every aspect," says Hayes, "especially who the guests are going to be. Is it an older crowd who'd prefer more seating, or a younger group that needs more space to mingle and dance? Once you determine that, then the food design can begin. I consider the reception food to be just as much a work of art as the gown or the flowers," explains Hayes. "You're not just serving food; you're setting a mood and creating an atmosphere."
So what are the latest and greatest ideas when it comes to creating a memorable reception? Trend or no trend, good food is the key.
"I'm a big fan of what I call 'active food stations,'" says Hayes. "I generally try to create a central noshing station, where little items like cheeses, olives, or bruschetta keep people circling back for nibbles. Then I create other spaces on the perimeter with things like sliders [mini-hamburgers] being grilled or pastas being custom-made. The crowd circulates, but they always return to that central station."
Both Hayes and Barnes agree that when it comes to what's expected for reception food, tastes are changing. "People are becoming more adventurous. It used to be everyone had to have beef. But we're now using a lot of venison or duck instead," Barnes says. "We're even doing a reception with a Southern theme, with shrimp and grits and gumbo."
Hayes likes to design food vertically. "I'll have towers of shrimp and tiers of champagne glasses filled with all sorts of goodies. And of course, the chocolate fountain, using only the finest Belgian chocolate, is something clients have come to expect," he says of his signature sweet.
"I'm a fan of anything that keeps people moving," agrees Barnes. "One of my new favorites is what I call a 'walkaround salad,' which is chicken salad or chopped salad in a Parmesan cup or a tomato that people can move around the reception with. And shot glasses with warm soups in winter or gazpacho in summer are an easy way to serve soup."
Though their styles may be different, both caterers agree on the goal: make the food look good, taste good, and, most of all, help the wedding party have a good time. "Fun is the key, period," says Hayes.