Jillian and Steve's love story began on OKCupid, leading to the most perfect first date in NYC - that almost didn't happen. Living in Connecticut at the time, Steve was scheduled to meet Jillian at Grand Central Terminal, but a northeastern blizzard had shut down the MetroNorth trains for the past few days. Be it luck, fate, or a higher power, the trains resumed normal travel on the day of their date and they met up for dinner, enjoying good food, great conversation, and both recognizing an immediate connection. Following dinner was a brisk walk through a park complete with a romantic snow-covered landscape. They finished off the evening warming up over hot toddies before sharing an unforgettable first kiss...
Read all about Jillian & Steve's love story, romantic proposal, and experiences in their elegant mountain park wedding in Birmingham.
Bride & Groom: Jillian & Steve
Occupations: Habitat Program Coordinator & Soil Scientist
Wedding date: April 28, 2018
Wedding location: Birmingham, AL
Tell us how you met and all about your first date. We initially met online (OKCupid) in winter 2015/2016. For our first date we met up in New York—I was living in CT and Jill was living in NY. There had just been a big blizzard in the northeast and it was hard to get into the city because the MetroNorth trains had all been shut down for a couple of days. They thankfully started running again the same day we had planned our date for and despite the fact that everything was still covered in snow, we met up anyway. We met at Grand Central Terminal - Jill was so nervous that she hugged me twice! We hopped on the subway down to the Lower East Side for dinner—chicken & waffles, one of Jill’s favorites. Then we tried walking around—through Washington Square Park—but it was so cold that Jill’s toes froze! So we ducked into Josie Woods bar and had some hot toddies. The evening finished with a short walk back to Washington Square Park, where we shared our first kiss, before I got on the train back up to CT.
Tell us all about the proposal. Jill was totally surprised – we hadn’t really been talking about getting married yet. I told Jill that I wanted to have a date night in New York, so we got on a Friday afternoon train and headed down to the city. First, we walked around the American Museum of Natural History, which is one of Jill’s favorite places in the city. Then we walked through the park, to get to the train. Just like our first date, there was a bunch of snow on the ground. We were walking along the quiet side trails in the park having one of our weekly “check-ins” - where we discuss how we’re feeling about things in our relationship - and I guided Jill off into a private area and proposed! Afterwards, I admitted we weren’t going to the train at Columbus Circle, but to a dinner reservation at Marea—Jill’s favorite restaurant in the city. Before the dinner, Jill had us go immediately to CVS to buy polish remover, as her polish was chipped and she knew people would want to see pictures of her ring! After an amazing dinner, we met up with Jill’s friends, Heather and Vinnie, who live in the city and my sister Kate who came down from CT for celebratory drinks.
What was the wedding shopping experience like for you? Jill: "I wore my dream wedding dress - it was so dreamy! I had gone to three shops before going to Heidi Elnora Atelier and my dad recommended her shop since she’s a Birmingham designer and my family is from Birmingham - we like to keep it local! Heidi and her team were absolutely fabulous at listening to what I wanted and making it a reality; they really went above and beyond. I actually didn’t know exactly what I wanted going in, I just knew that I didn’t want my dress to be bright white and Heidi designed the perfect dress for me. It was an ivory and champagne confection of lace and satin and my train and veil were so long and dramatic!"
Steve: "I got a blue suit from Suit Supply, which I loved. I realized I never had a suit that fit before I got that one! When I was in high school my parents told me I was a 40L, then after college I thought a 38R fit me better, but now I realize that I need a 36R (with a little alteration done to make the sleeves longer)! Suit Supply in SoHo, and Jill, really helped me out with that. I wore a champagne tie from TieBar on Madison Ave in NYC, which matched Jill’s dress really well. I’m usually an earthy fall colors kind of guy so I wasn’t immediately drawn to the champagne tie, but I ended up really loving it and seeing how well it fit with Jill’s dress."
Did you incorporate any culture into your wedding? We did! We jumped the broom and we we were also married in front of a Fulani wedding blanket from
northern Mali. Steve lived in a Fulani community for two years during Peace Corps in Senegal, so it was really nice to be able to incorporate a symbol of that time in our wedding ceremony. We also had an appetizer made from fonio, a grain grown in West Africa and little known in the US - Steve ate fonio all the time in Peace Corps, so it was another nice reminder of that time - and a specialty drink made with
bissap, a Senegalese hibiscus tea. The recipe we used is for fonio croquettes, by NYC chef Pierre Thiam, who started a company called Yolele Foods that imports fonio.
Wedding party gifts: Jill: "I gave my bridesmaids and matrons of honor some beautiful Sara Gabriel earrings that they wore for the ceremony, some stress relief hand lotion, and a candle from Bath & Body works."
Steve: "I wanted to give them stuff they’d use again - so I bought them the ties, shirts, and socks they wore for the wedding."
Gifts for each other: Jill: "I gave Steve sterling silver Tiffany cufflinks that each said “For” and “Ever.” I chose those because I want him to think back to our wedding day whenever he wears them to special events and also because that’s how long I’ll love him."
"Steve: "I gave Jill a butterfly necklace that I found at a jewelry shop in New Orleans. It stuck out to me because the colors on the butterfly are our two favorite colors - hers purple, mine teal - and the butterfly symbolizes successful metamorphosis to adulthood, which really stood out to me when thinking about what that wedding meant to us."
Ceremony entrance song: Jill: "I entered in to a instrumental trumpet/piano version of 'My Funny Valentine' played by the awesome Stephen McCullough Band."
Steve: "The bridal party and I walked in to a trumpet/piano version of Turn Your Lights Down Low. It’s originally a Bob Marley tune, but we had the version done by the trumpet player Etienne Charles."
First dance song: "You Send Me" by Aretha Franklin.
What is your best memory from your wedding? Jill: "Showing up and seeing all of our loved ones that made the time and travelled from near and far to be there with us and seeing Steve waiting at the end of the aisle. It was such a special moment and there was just so much love there to take in... I couldn’t soak it all in fast enough!"
Steve: "The feeling of seeing Jill and her dad start to walk down the aisle. For a couple of days leading up to the wedding I was feeling super nervous about having to read my self-prepared vows in front of 300 people. I really don’t like being the center of attention in general so I was feeling pretty anxious. But then when I was up in front of everyone - palms sweating, mind racing - and I saw Jill start to come down the aisle I just started to feel at ease, like I had the support I needed. Once she got up to the altar with me I was totally calm and really able to focus in on and enjoy everything! That was the best part of the day for me, and the most memorable."
What is the best wedding advice you can give to engaged couples? Jill: "If you can afford it, hire a wedding planner or a day-of-coordinator - it really helps to be able to hand things off to someone that knows your vision so you can truly enjoy your special day!"
Steve: "Definitely get a wedding planner. We worked with Emore Campbell Events and she was absolutely fantastic from day 1 to several weeks after the wedding, to make sure everything got finalized as it should. Other than that, it’s hard to recognize that you’re not going to have the time / resources / energy to make every aspect of the wedding totally perfect - try to identify early on the stuff that matters to you the most, make that as personal and perfect as you can, and spend less time on the other stuff."
Wedding Planner - Emore Campbell Events
Florist - Dana Hodgson of Dorothy McDaniel
Wedding Dress Designer - Heidiel Nora Atelier
Makeup - Lauren Vining Hairstylist and Makeup Artistry
Ceremony Location - Red Mountain Park
Venue - The Club Birmingham
Photography - Laura Barnes Photography
Cake - Olexa's
Event Designer - Emore Campbell Events / Dana Hodgson of Dorothy McDaniel
Groom's Attire - SuitSupply
Chairs - Sweet Seats Birmingham
Ceremony Luxury Port-A-Potty - HHH Sanitation Inc.
Ceremony Band - Stephen McCullough Band
DJ - Party Starter Entertainment 205
Photobooth - Let's Booth It
Fireworks - Pyro Shows
Cocktail Hour Band - Cleve Eaton Band
Golf Carts - Diamond Golf Cars
Videographer - Karden Dickerson