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  • Viva is a full service boutique planning and design studio specializing in destination events. We absolutely LOVE what we do making our clients special day a day they will never forget, an event that is “buzz worthy”.

When Stefanie and Will contacted me they inquired for help in their overall event design for their special day with a Gatsby style theme.  They wanted a softer feel on the traditional black and white Gatsby so they settled on a soft blush, gold, copper and ivory.  They selected the lovely Bryant Courtyard for their wedding at the beautiful Carolina Inn for the 48 guests to enjoy not only the inside of the Inn, but outside under the stars for dinner.  We loved helping this non-traditional couple bring their vision to life.  Stefanie’s blush beaded dress was so stunning, if you can believe it she found it online!

Gatsby Viva L

They talk more about how they met, their favorite part of the wedding and the importance of hiring an event designer and the stress she had in trying to plan the big day alone.  We like to have our readers understand the importance and educate them in hiring a professional to not only design your wedding but also planning to take those extra steps of stress away.

The vendors all came together to bring the vision together from Stefanie’s hair and makeup team by Wink Hair and Makeup, to calligraphy by Mason Dixon, and the rentals from CE Rental and Party Reflections.  I loved creating the flowers to complete their look, especially their greenery chandeliers.


Where and how they met?

We met in graduate school at a mutual friend’s birthday dinner, but after that, we actually didn’t see each other again for about two years. Somehow despite working in the same small department, we didn’t cross paths or end up in the same social circle. Finally at the very end of graduate school, when Stefanie was about to move away for internship, Will attended a going-away celebration and we spent the whole night talking and laughing. The next weekend, we went on our first date. Within a month, Stefanie moved out of state, so our relationship was long-distance from the start! Luckily, we fit together so well and fell in love so fast that we were committed to making it work.

Gatsby Viva L

Initial thoughts/impressions when they met each other the first time?

Will was quite taken by Stefanie and tried to learn more about her after they met. Stefanie was clueless about this until years later!

Gatsby Viva L

Describe the proposal

Will proposed to Stefanie at his parents’ home on Thanksgiving. He called her into his childhood bedroom and asked her to sit down. When he got down on one knee, Stefanie immediately lost it! She was crying and saying, “No, you’re joking! Are you serious??” She was completely overcome. Will took that as a yes!

Gatsby Viva L

Describe the wedding planning process

Stressful! Stefanie did essentially all of the planning, having a clear “vision” for what she wanted! We wanted a really unique and meaningful wedding. No white wedding dress, no bouquet, no bridal party, no DJ dance party–just an intimate and personal ceremony followed by an elegant moonlit garden party with only our nearest and dearest family and friends. Achieving a dream wedding on a budget is challenging and overwhelming. Hiring a professional to design the event space was money well spent. Just having Stephanie to be the go-between to talk to the venue was a huge help. We are so glad that our engagement was relatively short (7 months) because it would have been so stressful to keep planning any longer!

Gatsby Wedding Viva L

Tented Wedding Viva L

Describe the wedding day

Our wedding day was wonderful. Because all of the guests were traveling from out of town, we had more of a wedding weekend. Everyone stayed at the Carolina Inn and loved it. By the time the wedding weekend arrived, the stress was gone, and we just had a wonderful time. We felt like we were able to stay extremely mindful of the whole experience and really appreciate what was happening, as we had hoped would be the case in having a small wedding (<50 guests). One thing we were really concerned about was what the weather was going to be like. Thunderstorms were forecasted for days before and after the wedding, including on our wedding day. We got lucky with the weather–it was a gorgeous day and extremely mild and non-humid for July in North Carolina! It only sprinkled for a few minutes, right when it was time to get seated under the tent for dinner. We’re actually happy it rained a little to make renting the tent worth the (non-refundable) expense!

Gatsby Viva L

Describe overall feeling at the end of the wedding day

At the end of the day, we were in a haze of bliss. We talked for hours the night of the wedding about everything that we loved. Stefanie couldn’t even sleep there was so much to process!


What was your favorite design detail?

Our favorite design detail was the table arrangement. We really wanted to have one big U-shaped table as opposed to several small tables, with lush greenery all along it. The place settings were beautiful including the art deco charger plates, rose gold silverware, rose gold calligraphy place cards, and sprigs of rosemary and thyme.

Gatsby Viva L

Wedding Cake Viva L


Venue & Catering:  The Carolina Inn

Event & Floral Design:  Viva L’Event

Photography:  Brian Mullins Photography

Cake:  Sugar Euphoria

Hair/Makeup:  Wink Hair & Makeup

Linens, Chairs, Place Setting Rentals:  CE Rental

Tent and Lighting Rental:  Party Reflections

Calligraphy Signs and Escort Cards: Danielle-Mason Dixon Designs

Stationary:  Minted

Officiant: Kayelily Middleton

Wedding Dress:  Feriani


I don’t usually post personal topics on my business page, but I think I am going to start mixing some in now and then! I think it’s important to not only know my business, but to know a little more about me (Stephanie) too. I wanted to write about Apraxia.. do you know what this means? Have you ever heard of this before? I never did until about 6 1/2 years ago.

Walk for Apraxia

My niece Isabella and me at last year’s walk in Chicago.

Many haven’t, and that is why I want to talk about it here today.  In Wikipedia terms…  “Apraxia of speech (AOS) is a neurologic speech disorder that reflects an impaired capacity to plan or program sensorimotor commands necessary for directing movements that result in phonetically and prosodically normal speech.[7] It occurs in both children (childhood apraxia of speech) and adults (acquired apraxia of speech) who have (prior to the onset of apraxia) acquired some level of speaking ability. AOS affects an individual’s volitional speech and[8] is typically the result of a stroke, tumor, or other known neurological illness or injury. Apraxia may be accompanied by a language disorder called aphasia.  There are several types of Apraxia and AOS is just one of them.”


I’m one lucky Auntie Bee!

Quoted from Casana website…”While most children almost miraculously learn to speak without effort, children with apraxia struggle mightily to accurately produce sounds, syllables and words. While their understanding of language is usually much better than their ability to express it, children with apraxia have difficulty planning and programming the movements which underlie speech. At the heart of it, speech is more than knowing what you want to say. Rapid and finely graded movements of speech structures (the lips, tongue, palate and jaw, etc.) occur which allow us to clearly articulate our ideas. But for children with apraxia, ideas are often stuck inside, unspoken or not understood, because of apraxia. Childhood Apraxia of Speech is considered rare among speech disorders in children and particularly challenging to overcome.” 


Why does this specifically hit home for me?  My beautiful niece Isabella had been diagnosed with Apraxia at a very young age, under 2 years of age.  My sister (in medicine herself as a podiatric surgeon) and brother-in-law saw some signs very early on (luckily) that they were persistent with doctors on finding out what was going on in.  They knew something was not right in her development.  Many are misdiagnosed as having Autism since it is on a similar spectrum.  Over many years of battling insurance companies on being able to get the proper speech classes and therapy, thank goodness Isabella has come a long way in her journey.  She is now in first grade and one of my favorite things is just sitting, snuggling and listening to her talk.


She has been able to come a long way through the help of her parents, family and teachers.  So glad there is an organization (Walk for Children with Apraxia of Speech) that is out there to help and support to give children a voice and help others understand.  The 8th Annual walk is coming up in Chicago on October 1st.  If you can’t attend, you can also help in supporting Team Fellino!

If you don’t know, I am also an avid UFC fan (previously training in Muay Thai) and one UFC fighter we all know very well, Ronda Rousey, also was diagnosed with Apraxia of Speech at a young age.  She talked about how it made her feel as a child in her book My Fight/Your Fight.

My hope is to help in continuing the education of what Apraxia is (as years ago I never knew myself) and maybe you know someone who is in this journey.  There is help out there, check out the Casana website for more information.


I know we have had a few weeks where we haven’t posted our #takinitbacktuesday blog posts but we are back in action!  We had the pleasure of being asked to style and design for Slice Pie Company (link to site) for their beautiful and delicious pies!

Slice Pie-Viva L

“A friend is like a pie: you can never have to many and they make you happy when you’re sad.” -unknown

I had the hard job of not only styling the pies but I had to try every one, yes I had to!  I could only give a full A+ if I tried them right.  It’s a hard job but someone has to do it.

Slice Pie-Viva L

Owner, Kristen (known as The Pie Lady) is one spunky fun boss lady and we LOVE it!!  Kristen says, “The dream began with my father. He dreamt of Slice many years before I was even a thought. Our recipes have been passed down from generation to generation with innovative tweaking by my father, who believed so much in our recipes that he entered our Apple Pie and WON First Place at the North Carolina State Fair, with our unmatched signature crust! Fast forward a few years and add me to the mix– someone who dreamed of turning our shared passion of baking into a lifestyle, and something that we can continue to pass down to our family.”  I always love hearing the story behind the dream.

Slice Pie-Viva L

Their pies are not only available for purchase locally (through their site or at local eateries) they are also available to ship to your favorite loved ones.  You can purchase 1 or 100++ for events and create your own pie bar.  Slice Pie also offers mini pies, pocket pies, pie jars and slice bites too.  Yep, I tried all these too….YUMMY!  I think I gained about 10 pounds from this shoot and I was ok with doing some extra work outs for these tasty treats.

Slice Pie-Viva L

If you haven’t had the chance to try Slice Pies like Nike says “JUST DO IT!” you won’t be disappointed. Can’t wait to see how their newly updated site turns out!

Photos by:  Vanessa and Thaniel Photography

Takin inside:  Ida Lou Weddings vintage trailer

Taken outside on property at:  Parlour Chapel 

Slice Pie-Viva L



Anna and Joel’s wedding was unique, beautiful, and fun in all aspects, taken place at The Leslie-Alford Mims House in Holly Springs. Joel’s family traveled all the way from the country of Brunei to be a part of this celebration in Anna’s home state of North Carolina! Even Anna’s Maid of Honor was able to take a break from working in China to stand next to her best friend on this big day! There were some amazing stories to be heard and laughs shared among guests who were old friends and new, which was exactly what the couple wanted in their wedding day. What started off as a day likely to be filled with thunderstorms, the rain held off until the reception, which made for the perfect outdoor ceremony and a great view for a tented wedding. Joel and Anna found the design of their wedding to be an important factor, and being a design-based company, we always love working with a couple who recognizes the little details within the big picture. Their crafted bar, unique Paisley + Jade cocktail tables, and exquisite floral arrangements from Eclectic Sage made a stunning impact on the already beautiful Mims House. Some of our favorite details of the night were the bride and groom rooms, which featured the hobbies of the couple including photography, traveling, and pictures from their childhood. This made the house even more homey and special. To top off the perfect night, their favors consisted of Joel’s favorite sweet treats from Brunei. How cool is that?!

We were lucky enough to catch up with both Anna and Joel. Get to know them and learn about their wedding below, while checking out the photos taken by the talented, San Diego-based photographer, Brett Butterstein. Maybe you will get some ideas for your own day 🙂

Where and how did you meet?

Joel: We met while playing pick up frisbee at Rosalind Franklin University, the graduate school that we both went to in Chicago. Anna is from North Carolina and as soon as she saw I was wearing a Wake Forest shirt she was quite curious. At least that’s how I remember the situation…

Initial thoughts/impressions when meeting each other for the first time: 

Joel: I remember thinking this girl can throw a frisbee properly, which was something I found cool. Other than that I honestly did not think much else, and not in a bad way. I was just starting my second year of medical school and so the thought of being in a relationship was not at the forefront of my mind.

Anna: I remember thinking that he was a good Frisbee player and that he was attractive.

Tell us about the proposal!  

We were in North Carolina for two of our friends wedding that Joel was a groomsmen in. The wedding was on a Sunday afternoon and afterwards he wanted to see another friend in town that wasn’t at the wedding. Assuming this is what we were doing, and also believing that he wouldn’t propose on someone else’s wedding weekend, because I explicitly told him not to multiple times, I didn’t think anything of it or that maybe this friend lived out in the middle of no where. When we pulled up to this field however, I got quite suspicious. And after I saw the ring box, which he didn’t intend for me to, I knew what was coming. I will say I did briefly say how I told him there was one thing that couldn’t happen that weekend, and did make sure he had asked our newly married friends if it was okay he did this. He assured me they were fine with it, and I decided I was going to let it go and not ruin the proposal. While he isn’t the best with words all the time, he is incredibly thoughtful which was proven by the beautiful and thought out proposal and the surprise engagement party he threw together at the place we were staying. For which he invited a lot of my friends from home to and all of our friends from the wedding. He proposed that weekend because he wanted to propose in North Carolina as its my home, and that was the only time we were going to be there for a while.

The proposal itself was funny and beautiful. First, it was beautiful because the storm earlier that day caused this gorgeous mist to hoover above the grass. Second as Joel was a wedding photographer in a previous life, he knew how to make a great setting and had his photographer friend, who photographed the proposal, set out tiki torches before we got out there, and made sure we got there during the golden hour before sunset. Lastly it was beautiful because we slow danced to the song I picked as a teenager as my first dance song. It was funny because when he asked me he didn’t have this speech planned out about how much he loved me or how great we were together, nope he said “Well I guess I should ask you now.”

Describe the wedding planning process.

Anna: Planning definitely has its ups and downs. Its always fun to dream about what the wedding day is going to be like and its great when you can find and incorporate those things you’ve been dreaming about. We definitely had to grapple with the budget at times and by the wedding week we were way past over it with planning, but overall we loved our vendors, their amazing work, and we loved the day.

Joel: Anna and I were both in Chicago so planning it from afar was quite difficult at times. We had to fly back to North Carolina on quick weekend trips, which was tough when I was in medical rotations and Anna was working in the Emergency Room. There were plenty of times we felt overwhelmed, but everything turned out great!

Let’s get to the wedding day! 

I started checking the weather as soon as it was available on the 10 day forecast. While at first it looked great, soon enough the clouds and rain started rolling in to the weatherman’s predictions. Even two days before it looked okay, but then the night before it called for rain the whole day. However on our wedding day, we watched the chance of rain get smaller and smaller for ceremony time and watched the sun get brighter and brighter outside. We had to do some quick adjustments as we planned to have the ceremony inside, but after all of that we were able to get married outside like we always dreamed!

The reception was just as great! While it did rain for all of ten minutes before we walked out, it cooled the place off and added to the fun of the reception. The food was amazing, the place looked wonderful, and the dancing and music was the best. My dress has a ring of mud at the bottom, but it was so worth it for all the fun that we and our guests had.

What was your overall feeling at the end of the wedding day?

Anna: It flew by way too fast, but will forever be one of my favorite days and weddings. We had such a good time and felt so loved by all of our friends and family who had made the trip for our wedding and partied with us.

Joel: I was happy to have our friends and family be there to celebrate with us. I was relieved the planning process was over, but glad that it all came together so well. Everything flew by so quickly!

What was your favorite design detail?

Joel: I loved the stand up cocktail tables from Paisley and Jade, as well as the farm tables from Themeworks. I think those two elements really were key to our vision for the wedding day. The custom designed bar was great too!

Anna: The farm tables and the flowers were my favorite part. They were both different from the normal wedding design and flowers, and were so gorgeous and eclectic.

Share a story from the night!

Anna: Joel asked me before we fed each other cake if it could smear some one my face. Thinking it wouldn’t be a lot I was happy to let him, I even offered him the cake with more icing. What happened next was not little by any means. Joel mauled me with a piece of cake, to the point that I moved away, he followed me and continued smearing it on my face. Oh and it was chocolate cake with fudge icing. I had cake up my nose and in my ear. Fortunately only a little got on the inside of my dress. I made sure to get him back though and smeared it all over his face when he kissed me afterwards.

What were some unique aspects of your wedding?

Joel: During our wedding rehearsal we had a traditional tea ceremony where Anna and I served tea to my parents as an introduction to the family. We thought it would be important to celebrate both of our cultures, and this was one of the ways we did that.

Any last comments about the wedding?

One of our goals in planning our reception, was to have a party that we could love our friends through. We hired some amazing vendors that helped to make that possible, and since our wedding have heard from multiple people how much fun they had and how our wedding was one of their favorites. Hearing this just makes us excited and thankful that we achieved our goal and our friends felt so loved.





Congratulations Anna + Joel!


Venue: Leslie-Alford Mims House

Catering: Belle’s Catering

Photography: Brett Butterstein

Videography: Blueberry Creative

Flowers: Eclectic Sage

Furniture Rentals: Paisley and Jade,  Themeworks

DJ: DJ Mike

Hair + Makeup: Wink Hair and Makeup, Kristi

Officiant: Luke McFadden

Cakes: Katy’s Cakery

Lighting: Vivid Lighting




Many of you have met Lauren through the past year and half with Viva and let me tell you this one is a keeper!  I am so EXCITED to officially announce Lauren as one of my Event Coordinators with Team HIVE.  She has worked so hard through the ranks within the team and she deserves every minute of her new role.  This is also the announcement of some new updates within our website in our team page as well as some additional updates throughout, including some adding wedding images and style shoots.  Take a look at how Lauren’s experience with Viva so far has been for her….



Written by Lauren:

Where do I begin?! I have been with Viva since April of 2015 and so much has happened since! As a Business Marketing major, I did not take the traditional path to the events industry, but my involvement with event planning in college sparked my interest in going an alternative route with my business knowledge. When I met Stephanie, our connection lead to her offering me an internship position with Viva!


My internship experience with Viva: 

I am one of the few interns in this world who didn’t have to file paperwork or make sure their boss’ double-shot, light, no-whip latte was correct each day. Lucky for me, my time with Viva has been an amazing experience since Day 1. Stephanie has not only been the most incredible leader and teacher, but has become one of my closest friends. My internship has been a complete hands on experience, and my inexperienced, new-aged opinions were actually listened to and appreciated. I had the chance to learn from different coordinators, calm the bride down before walking down the aisle, and I have mastered the various ways of folding a napkin, something I never knew I would need to know. I have gained confidence in speaking, became a self-starter, and have formed friendships with vendors that I can’t imagine my life without. My favorite part of being an intern? I was able to travel to new places, be apart of so many unique weddings, and experience the satisfaction from the couple having the night they dreamed of. My least favorite part of being an intern? I learned about so many different types of cheeses, formed a true love for donuts (buy Stephanie and me donuts and we will be fast friends) and became such a foodie that I needed to purchase a gym membership.. kidding (sort of).


What am I up to now?

I am so excited to announce that I have been an official team member of Viva L’Event since the end of August 2015 (waiting for my one year celebration party patiently)! I transitioned from an Intern to an Event Assistant after a few months, and I am now officially an Event Coordinator! I am so ready to be a lead part in delivering amazing events alongside other vendors. I truly believe an event with vendors that work well together and learn from each other results in a fabulous outcome! Not only am I excited to continue to make vendor relations, but I look forward to traveling to new places, near and far, as traveling is one of my most treasured passions and I will take any excuse to travel!

Final thoughts?

I could have not wished for a better internship and team to learn from. Viva has become my family, and I can’t wait to see what my future with the company holds. I have always been the type of person who loves gift-giving, and I get to do that each day as an Event Coordinator with Viva L’Event, providing clients with the most exceptional experience.

Please help me congratulate Lauren on her new role…donuts are always a good idea!

Special thank you to Cara of f8 Photo Studios for our images, Merrimon-Wynne House for allowing us to use their beautiful space and Kristi of Wink Hair and Makeup for making us feel gorgeous!