It was New Year's Eve. Stefanie Smith and Jim Ellner were having dinner with mutual friends at La Tavola, their favorite restaurant. "Our friend was trying to set Jim up with my best friend," says Stefanie. But Jim fell hard for Stefanie instead.
Stefanie Smith, a director of marketing
James D. Ellner, an anesthesiologist
Ceremony and reception at the Biltmore Ballrooms in Atlanta.
Though he didn't know her last name, he remembered the name of the company she worked for and called the switchboard hoping that there was only one Stefanie in the 400 or so employees. He managed to get through and begged her for a dinner date. "Jim was persistent and wouldn't take 'no' for an answer," she recalls. "'C'mon,' he said. 'What do you have to lose? It's a free dinner!'" Even though Jim's persistence paid off and he got his dinner date, followed by many other dates, his patience became maxed out. After one weekend spent trying to find the right moment to propose, Jim ended up doing the deed on an early Monday morning. "I was asleep and he came to my bedside to whisper to me," remembers Stefanie. "I popped up out of bed and for a brief moment thought he was about to break up with me with all of the stuff that was coming out of his mouth. To my surprise, bedhead and all, Jim said he could not wait another moment and popped the question in what was the most unromantic scene imaginable!"
Two years after they met at La Tavola, Stefanie and Jim married at The Biltmore Ballrooms in Atlanta. To enhance the warmth and intimacy of the winter wedding date, they chose berry reds and chocolate browns for their wedding colors. Invitations were embossed in gold and tied with red ribbon; and Stefanie chose red dresses by Melissa Sweet for her bridesmaids, each of whom wore the style of her choice. To welcome guests to the event in true Southern style, Stefanie and Jim left gift baskets of fruits and chocolates for out-of-town guests in their hotel rooms.
A CANDLELIT CEREMONY
The Jewish ceremony took place in the Imperial Ballroom. As the sun went down, the room glowed in candlelight. Dressed in a Richard Glasgow gown, Stefanie processed down an aisle lined with rocks and candles toward a huppah that was dramatically adorned with flowering quince branches and candelabra filled with gardenias. Guests received programs inspired by a restaurant menu: gold cards decorated with a simple orchid. "I loved the cover," says Stefanie of the restaurant menu. "I saved it for years thinking at some point in my life I would use it." Inside, the program explained the Jewish ceremony in great detail for the many family and friends unfamiliar with the customs and traditions. A close friend of the couple, a doctor, delivered a reading drawing analogies between prescriptive medicine and a long, happy, and healthy marriage. "The speech brought enough levity to the moment," says Stefanie. "You couldn't help but smile." After Stefanie and Jim exchanged personally written vows, guests trickled into the Georgian Ballroom for a formal dinner celebration.
A ROMANTIC RECEPTION
Custom-made tablecloths in chocolate-color velvet made the big space look warm and inviting. The florist created a sense of intimacy in the magnificent space by draping white silk fabric from archways and doorways. Gold chargers were set under white china; a single cymbidium orchard rested in the center of each plate. Additionally, there were flowers everywhere. Table arrangements included red and white blooms including roses, orchids, and lilies. "My vision for the reception was a nontraditional look," says Stefanie. "I wanted an intimate dinner setting. Something with a residential feel. I was very lucky to find Robert Long, my florist. He was so instrumental in bringing very special elements together that delivered this vision." One other last-minute touch tied the whole look together: Stefanie, who feared the table numbers would detract from the overall elegance, challenged the caterer to come up with the perfect edible solution. The answer? Dark chocolate table numbers were molded and framed in sugar.
ALL NIGHT LONG
While a jazz ensemble played, guests dined on marinated tangerine beef tenderloin with roasted shitake mushrooms and burgundy shallot sauce, followed by a five-flavored cheesecake topped with gardenias and red roses. After dinner, a 7-piece band took the stage for the remainder of the evening. Though the wedding itself was very formal, Stefanie and Jim opted for a less traditional ending to their reception: the couple chose to hang around after the last dance, leave with family and friends in tow, and head to the Four Seasons bar to cap off the celebration.
photography © Zoomworks
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See More: Real Weddings: Winter , Real Weddings: Cultural Celebrations