Mackenzie and Ben both graduated from UVA with two overlapping years, but they never met until after they were both out of school. Mackenzie said, “We each got class rings while we were in college and happened to choose all of the same options, so our wedding bands aren’t the only set of matching rings! We also discovered that we had been on the same small regional flight almost exactly a year before we met!”
So it’s no surprise that these two are so perfectly paired! I knew from our initial zoom “meeting” that they were a well matched couple. And they wanted ice cream sandwiches at their reception, so I knew WE were the right fit too! It’s no secret that my favorite treat is an ice cream sandwich from the Surfin’ Spoon. And Mackenzie and Ben’s Nightengale ice cream sandwiches were amazing! Beginning the 2022 wedding season with Mackenzie and Ben was the perfect way to start…for so many reasons.
It began as the perfect weather wedding day after a few straight days of rain in the area. Everything was in the beginning bloom of Spring and the Inn at Willow Grove was becoming greener by the minute, it seemed. Mackenzie and Ben’s wedding day palette quite literally matched the venue and landscaping perfectly. The peachy pink blooms and the garden greens of the bridesmaid dresses complemented the grounds beautifully.
MacKenzie even had her vintage dancing shoes to wear. And they would prove to be just as practical as they are lovely on the dance floor.
Ben wore the most stylish and unique tie from Brackish, adding to their garden theme with hints of brids; feathers.
Mackenzie was stunning during her bridal portraits and her sophisticated and sleek Demetrios bridal gown was the perfect choice!
It was also so sweet to see the closeness between Mackenzie and her bridesmaids, including maid of honor, Savannah, her sister. As Mackenzie noted, “My sister lives in England, and because of COVID she hadn’t been back to the States since 2019. I told Ben that I didn’t want to get engaged without him meeting my sister, but as the pandemic stretched on, we turned to virtual hangouts instead. She was finally able to come visit and meet Ben in October 2021 and is being the best big sister/Maid of Honor and helping plan and coordinate wedding details from across the pond!”
All of her bridesmaids were so welcoming, fun and lovely in their garden green dresses from Dessy Group and Azazie.
Mackenzie shared a very special first look with her father and posed for portraits with her incredibly delightful immediate family.
Ben also prepared for the day with his groomsmen and parents nearby.
His guys were all so dapper in seersucker, Brackish ties and those boutonnieres from Lacy’s Florals!
When it was time for the ceremony, Ben was more than ready to see his beautiful bride for the first time that day!
They said “I do” in a Christian ceremony officiated by Ben’s father.
It was a gorgeous ceremony complete with a unity candle tradition and the singing of hymns.
Mackenzie and Ben
They committed their lives to each other before God and their family and friends and sealed it with a kiss. And another…
Then it was time for a few “Just Married” portraits while family gathered for the group family formals.
After family formals, the wedding party gathered for portraits as well. And what a wonderful group it was!
Then it was time for those romantic couples’ portraits! Mackenzie and Ben began in the garden adjacent to the inn with the waterfall behind them.
They even practiced for their first dance!
We also wandered over to the inn, where they went up to the first floor balcony to pose for some portraits.
Since I did not have an engagement sessions with Mackenzie and Ben, you may be wondering about their love story. As we wander the grounds of The Inn at Willow Grove, let me share Ben’s words with you first…
“Mackenzie and I met online during the early days of the pandemic. The world was still largely shut down and there weren’t many other options out there to meet people at that time. This also led us to being able to focus on getting to know each other more as social activities were also largely shut down. Nights out on the town turned into late night conversations. When we couldn’t see each other due to quarantines, we would go on bike rides so that we could be close but still safe.”
“It was at this time that I began grad school and I moved closer to Mackenzie and we spent nights doing little things to make life sweet like eating Wegmans tarts on the Rotunda steps, surprising Mackenzie with flowers in her apartment, being surprised by Mackenzie bringing tacos to my room. Amidst this she would stay up late helping me prepare for exams and we began to envision life together in the future. We talked about what our lives would look like, what we wanted in a spouse, and how each other fitted into that vision. It didn’t take long for me to realize that we would make a great team.”
“I knew that I needed to wait though as I hadn’t even met any of Mackenzie’s family when I first thought about marriage. I did know though that by the time summer came around, I would be in a good spot to propose. There is this old tree near where we would go on vacation that summer which is incredibly picturesque. I’ve had an affinity for trees and wood my whole life and I thought this spot with its history and grandeur would be wonderful. “
“I arranged for a photographer to be there and we started with breakfast. The whole time we both knew what was happening and we even knew the other knew, but we wouldn’t say it out loud. Breakfast was slow and the nerves finally kicked in. By the time we paid the bill, I was practically running to the car. We got to the Angel Oak and I managed to bring together some words about our love that made enough sense before I popped the question. She said yes! And then she saw the photographer capturing those special moments. For the week following, we couldn’t let go of each other and have been planning a wedding ever since!”
And let’s hear form Mackenzie…”I wasn’t surprised on the day Ben proposed to me. I went along with pretending not to suspect anything, but I had been pretty sure that when we were together under the majestic branches of the centuries-old Angel Oak, he would ask me to marry him. The surprise had come months earlier, when I truly realized that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him.”
“It seemed crazy to me that something so pure and good and enduring could grow from an unassuming dating app connection in the midst of a global pandemic. It seemed crazy that all of those cliché sayings about finding your person all of a sudden made sense. And yet, loving Ben and committing to a life together felt anything but crazy. It felt right.”
“Our early relationship was somewhat accelerated by the lack of activities available to us during COVID, as most of our dates were simply spending time together and getting to know each other (with some cycling around the countryside thrown in for good measure!) We talked through most of the big important topics pretty early on, and we knew we had something special when discovering and addressing any differences seemed to only strengthen our relationship further.”
“Against a backdrop of late night Wegmans runs for their unbeatable fruit tart, spontaneous dancing in the living room, making each other laugh until we couldn’t breathe, and spending time with both families, we were becoming more and more a part of each others’ lives. By the time Ben was interviewing for his new post grad school career, I knew that it was something that would affect my life as well.”
“As he finished his degree, I wrapped my head around the wonderful but somewhat scary realization that I was ready. Ready to move towns and switch jobs, ready to consider someone else in my decisions, ready to miss someone so much that I’d fly across the country to surprise him for his birthday. In short, ready to say yes.”
“In the span of three months, we got engaged, bought a house, moved, and both got new jobs. It’s been a busy and exciting time, and being in new surroundings has helped us learn so much more about each other. I continue to feel so grateful that Ben and I found each other and chose each other, and I know that ahead of us is a wonderful life of growing ever closer and more in love.”
Soon it was time to begin the reception. The reception space was ready and cozy with the fireplace ablaze. Guests found their way to their tables and then gathered in the tented ruins next door for Mackenzie and Ben’s grand entrance.
And then it was time for the grand entrance! After their parents and wedding party was introduced by Nate of I’m the DJ, it was time for Ben and Mackenzie to start the evening off dancing.
Their first dance was spectacular!
Everyone then sat down for the blessing and a delicious dinner provided by The Inn at Willow Grove.
One of my favorite parts of any wedding day would have to be the toasts. Both father’s toasted to Ben and Mackenzie as well as the Best Man and Maid of Honor. Getting to know more about each of my couples during this time makes my job extra delightful. And it was no exception with Ben and Mackenzie!
We also managed to steal away before more dancing for some romantic golden hour portraits.
The hill at the top of the venue is always my favorite spot. It’s different every season!
The clouds and the sun against the line of the Blue Ridge mountains and the early blossoms of Spring made for some romantic evening portraits.
The parent dances were also on the agenda and were tear jerkers for sure!
The rest of the evening was no less than festive and filled with dancing, smiles and so much joy!
What a complete and absolute joy it has been to serve you, Mackenzie and Ben, as well as your precious families, whom I might add could not have been more hospitable! Every moment and detail of your day was perfect. Congratulations Mackenzie and Ben! And thank you to these incredible wedding professionals who helped to make their day so very special! Keep scrolling for more highlights from their Big Day…
Venue: Inn at Willow Grove | Photography: Lieb Photographic | Floral Design: Lacy’s Florist | Catering: Inn at Willow Grove | DJ: I’m the DJ | Hair and Make Up: K and K Bridal Collective | Desserts: Cameo Cakery | Ice Cream sandwiches: Nightengale Ice Cream | Event Rentals: Blue Ridge Event Production | Wedding Gown: Demetrios | Bridal Boutique: That’s My Dress | Rings: Finks | Menswear: Ralph Lauren | Groom’s shoes: Florsheim | Custom ties and bridesmaid earrings: Brackish | Bridesmaid Dresses: Dessy and Azazie | Stationery: Merry Maker Fine Paper | Wedding Favors: M&M’s chocolate
Be sure to check out the Charlottesville Wedding Venues page and the Virginia Winery Weddings page to see more wedding venues in the greater Charlottesville area. And if you want to see some stunning bridal portraits at some of these places, be sure to check out the Bridal Portraits page as well!