LaReeca Rucker has been a journalist for more than 20 years, and her work has appeared in newspapers across the nation. She spent a decade as a features writer and multimedia journalist with The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi, where she was also a USA TODAY contributor. She is a freelance journalist and support journalism instructor in the University of Mississippi's Meek School of Journalism and New Media in Oxford, Mississippi.

Mississippians plan for storybook weddings

LaReeca Rucker
The Clarion-Ledger

Pearl natives Skye Johnson and Michael Gray grew up together.

"I was one year older than Michael in school," Johnson said. "He always flirted with me in school, but I never gave it much thought, and it seemed like, for the majority of our school career, we were both always in serious relationships, or as serious as you can get in high school." After they graduated, they saw each other every now and then, until one day when everything changed.

"I remember this day like it was yesterday," she said. "I needed his number for something, and I texted one of my friends and simply asked: 'Hey, do you have Michael Gray's number? She immediately wrote back: 'Finally. He has only been wanting to date you for the past 10 years.' And the rest is history." Johnson, who points out that her name will soon be "Gray, Skye," will marry her fiance June 14 in The South Warehouse in downtown Jackson.

Gray, 25, graduated from Mississippi College with a bachelor's degree in business administration and works at a mortgage company. Johnson, 26, will graduate in May from Mississippi University for Women with a bachelor's degree in nursing. She already has an associate's degree and works as a registered nurse at Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children.

Gray proposed in Washington, D.C.

"Michael is known for his love for politics, and this past summer, we planned a trip to Washington D.C. — his idea, of course," Johnson said.

"Everyone kept telling me this would be the perfect time for him to propose, and I would just let it go in one ear and out the other."

A love poem

On their last night of sightseeing, they went to a bistro on DuPont Circle.

"As the waiter took our plates, Michael pulled out this piece of paper and started reading the sweetest poem about our past six years together," Johnson said. "Of course, I leaned over to see what he was doing, looked at the last line and saw 'wife,' and immediately started crying. At the end, Michael got down on one knee and asked if I would do him the honor of becoming his wife. Of course, the answer was yes."

Wedding plans

Johnson will have 10 bridesmaids in her wedding, and Gray will have 11 groomsmen.

"I think the wedding will be timeless, romantic, unique, with a splash of vintage flare, and hopefully a night that we, along with all of our guests, will never forget."

Their theme color is mint. "I've heard that is a big color this year, and I never thought I would want green in my wedding, but it is absolutely stunning," Johnson said.

They also plan to honor their grandparents during the ceremony.

"Michael and I probably will not have any grandparents there due to illness, travel, or they have passed away," Johnson said. "Therefore, we are taking 8-by-10 pictures of each grandparent in frames and placing them where they would have sat."

Since they're big Mississippi State fans and dog lovers, they also plan to have a table full of dog treats with "doggie bags" for guests.

Train station nuptials

Terry native Shelby McCullough, 21, met her fiance, Corley Thaxton, 23, of Gallman, six years ago at a friend's party. Three weeks later, Corley called Shelby for a date. Years later, the University of Southern Mississippi accounting major proposed to her on her front porch.

"He had come to pick me up to go to a movie, 'Water for Elephants,' and while I was about to come outside, he started acting really strange," said McCullough, a registered nurse who works at St. Dominic Hospital in Jackson.

"As I stepped outside, he was down on one knee and asked me to marry him.

"After that, we went to the movies and ate at Arby's. It's not a fairytale proposal, but I could never imagine it happening any other way. Anybody can tell you that is 100 percent Corley Thaxton."

The two will marry May 25 in the Jackson train station.

"I can honestly say that it will be my dream wedding," said McCullough.

"Everyone knows that Corley loved trains as a kid, so when I found out that we could have our wedding there, I had to go look at the space. We were so excited that it was big enough to where we could have the ceremony in one room and the reception in the other."

McCullough calls her wedding "vintage traditional." She's using Fresh Cut Catering and wedding planner Wendy Putt to help bring the vision to life.

"The wedding is centered around my wedding dress, which is traditional and completely timeless," she said, "and that is how I envisioned our wedding — lace and pearls with hundreds of tiny details."

The couple will share an anniversary and a birthday. Both were born on Aug. 16.

Wedding Trends

Local wedding planners have noticed several wedding trends emerge in the past few years. Here are some of them:

Creative lighting — Lynda Jungkind, publisher of Premier Bride of Mississippi, said lighting is a growing trend. String some lights from the ceiling, wrap them around trees outdoors and use them as spotlights. Jungkind said some brides use it to create a monogram or logo on a wall or dance floor.

Say cheese — Photo booths are a popular form of entertainment and pictures serve as wedding favors, she said.

No more matchy-matchy — Jungkind said bridal registries are seeing more of a mix and match of tabletops, with color or fine china with pottery.

Rustic rules — The rustic, repurposed or "shabby chic" trend is in. "What this means is brides will still choose to be outdoors or in a barn, but they want a chandelier with vintage china, crystal and silver. You may see faux furniture, a French country look, instead of the more contemporary lounge look that has been so popular and still is."

Bold colors — Purple has been a popular color for weddings. "We predict the colors in the future are going to be bold and electric," she said. "Brides are going to rely on more of their tastes than what is currently popular."

"Downton Abbey" influence — Lace gowns are still big because brides love romance, Jungkind said. "You are going to start seeing a Gatsby look with a more slinky form-fitting gown," she said. "And today's bride is going to have her own style as well. "Downton Abbey," the popular PBS show, is influencing the look and feel of weddings with a more elegant stately look. "This will be for the very formal brides."

Hair ornaments — Expect to see a "birdcage veil and hair ornaments," she said.

Ornate sashes — "This can take a plain gown and make it extraordinary," Jungkind said.

Who says you have to wear white? — "We have found most Mississippi brides like a pop of color but are not ready for a red or black gown," Jungkind said.

Candid photography — Brides still take pictures in traditional poses but like variety. "The fun candid shots are the most popular, particularly the detail shots from the cake to the flowers and everything in the wedding," said Jungkind.

Coffee table wedding books — Today's wedding album is a coffee table book that requires some graphic design skill. "Instead of a boring book of single pages of formal poses, like in my day, the book contains pages that may be a collage, or have several photos arranged in a contemporary design. They look like an art book."

Unique bridal portraits — "They are not all standing in the church at the altar," Jungkind said. "A bride may be in a rocking chair wearing a pair of cowboy boots under her gown."

Unique guest books — Guest books may have pages of photographs from an earlier engagement photo session.

Customization — Invitations and everything that goes with them, from "save the date" invitations to guest bags, are becoming more unique.

Tuxedos — "Tuxedos are now more suit-like, and many grooms are opting for a light or tan color for a more casual look, particularly with an outdoor wedding," Jungkind said.

Hair and makeup — Modern brides are embracing tradition more than ever with a nod to the '40s retro hairstyles, said David Creel of Beautiful With David salon in Ridgeland. "Fingerwaves, pincurls and glamorous updos have never been more prevalent. The face is equally as vintage with deep burgundy lips, cat-eyed liner and yesterday's rouge on the cheeks."

Vintage — Deborah Simmons, owner of Signature Occasions in Ridgeland, said: "Everything is trending towards Southern vintage right now. Brides are loving linen, lace, vintage china and anything with a history."

Pinterest and the Internet — "Brides used to find ideas through magazines and books, but everything is online and will continue to be that way," said Simmons. "They have websites where guests can find the wedding information and even RSVP online."

Groom input — "Grooms are much more vocal than the past," Simmons said, adding that many of them come to planning meetings.

Smaller wedding parties — "In the South, we are known for large wedding parties, but brides have decided to keep things smaller and more intimate," she said.

Groomsmen — "They are really wearing what is matching the style of the day, as well as their personality — from gray vests, bow ties or even Converse shoes."

How would you define a 2013 Mississippi bride?

Lynda Jungkind, publisher of Premier Bride of Mississippi, said: "They are older — 26 to 31 — so they know what they like and want. This is not their mother's wedding. They are truly Generation Y. They want it to be their wedding and not their friend's wedding, or their mother's wedding, or the coordinator's wedding. Most are educated and have their careers established, so they are relying more on professionals to have the wedding of their dreams. In my day, my mother planned my wedding, and I was told, 'When you have a daughter, you can have your wedding.'"


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