It was January 2006, and Anna Newman was back in the states. After completing her final collegiate semester abroad in Mexico and working with a humanitarian relief program in New Zealand, she returned to Charlotte for what was to be a brief hiatus before continuing her travels. “When I got home, I kind of felt all over the place because I just wasn’t sure what I wanted to do,” says Anna. In her spare time, she joined a break dancing team. Each week, the instructor’s husband would go out with his friend Josh so the girls could practice in the house.
Josh Hollingsworth, who at the time was teaching school with Anna’s friend-and-instructor, was also a sort of wandering soul. He had traveled the world as a professional soccer player and was also involved in humanitarian relief. Needing a date for an approaching winter ball, Josh said he would go if Anna would be his date.
“I was feeling a little bit adventurous, because I would never normally do something like that with a complete stranger,” Anna says. “We went, and it was fun, and I thought he was good-looking. But at the same time, I was on a very big guard.”
Having just gone through a difficult breakup, Anna wasn’t exactly interested in dating. “I probably thought he was too good-looking to be a good person!” she laughs. “It took a couple of months for me to give him a chance, mainly because I was probably afraid of him!”
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They began hanging out together with friends, went on a couple of dates and had a few miscommunications. Still wrestling with her fears of getting hurt, Anna told Josh 15 things he should know if he wanted to pursue her. “I don’t think he followed many of the rules, but I felt safer that I told him,” she explains.
Eventually, the rules didn’t matter. “Every relationship I had before had been so complicated and emotional that finally I just kind of let this one happen … and it ended up being a lot easier.”
The couple dated for the next two years, when Josh woke Anna on a Friday morning with “breakfast” in bed. It was chicken salad – Anna doesn’t eat breakfast. She knew something was going to happen because he had asked her to take the entire day off, but she tried her best to not be nervous, disappointed or to over-think. Josh had planned for them to go horseback riding, but when they awoke to rain, they decided to get massages instead.
After an afternoon of intense relaxation, they headed home to change into nicer clothes for dinner. Josh mentioned they first needed to stop by a friend’s house uptown, and when they walked into the empty apartment, the entire room was decorated with flowers. Nervously, Josh opened a box with a single Asscher cut diamond and asked Anna to be his wife.
Anna had mentioned previously that she didn’t particularly care for traditional solitaire diamond rings, and knowing her knack for design, Josh made an appointment for her to design her own ring. Anna’s left hand now sparkles with a unique expression of her artistic sensibilities – an heirloom antique design, accented with filigree.
“Like a movie”
As Anna began to plan her wedding, there was no doubt in her mind about where it would be. Over 20 years ago, a pastor purchased a house in what is now Ballantyne from a couple running a hospitality ministry in their home. The pastor was from Josh’s church; the homeowners were Anna’s grandparents. The very place where Anna had spent Sundays riding horses, swimming and playing flashlight tag would be where she and Josh would devote their lives to each other.
On Sept. 22, 2007, guests arrived to a relaxed opening reception surrounded by accents of Anna’s vintage and antique theme. Bridesmaids were dressed in browns, corals, creams and pinks, and groomsmen wore complimentary earth-toned suits. They mingled, sipped lemonade and snapped candid Polaroid photos.
In the backyard a fully catered, post-ceremony reception awaited in the style of a French market. A small chalkboard posted the food of the evening: a traditional French meal of coq au vin with roasted vegetables. Cupcakes in flavors of tres leches with plantains and Mexican chocolate with cinnamon provided additional international flair. “I wanted to pull in as much as I could from other countries without stressing myself out,” Anna says.
In the front yard, the ceremony began. “I really wanted to have something beautiful and special that kind of felt like a movie,” says Anna. “I kind of went a bit crazy with building a soundtrack for my day,” she jokes. “Because in my mind, everything that is beautiful in a movie is fit to the perfect music, and I wanted my life to feel like the movie ‘Amélie.’”
Anna started to walk down the aisle, and her nerves got the best of her. “I wanted it to feel like a grand entrance – it sounds kind of stupid now!” she exclaims. Her plan was to walk to the perfectly timed music (she had two extra bars added for this exact moment) toward her father and then to Josh, who she’d circle in honor of her father’s Jewish heritage. But she was so excited and nervous that she sped down the aisle and her train got caught around Josh’s feet.
“I remember thinking, Oh shoot! I want to do it over!” says Anna. “I had two bars of music left, and I didn’t wait for my own cue! ... Everyone laughed and thought it was really funny. I am awkward as it is sometimes, so it was perfect for my personality!”
The ceremony began, complete with both Christian and Jewish traditions. “My grandfather is a holocaust survivor, and I wanted to honor that heritage,” Anna explains. Her grandfather read a scripture in German, while another pastor did a blessing in Polish, a third read in Spanish and their officiant was an African of Indian descent. He and his wife, from Texas, led the ceremony together. “It was a made-up ceremony!” Anna jokes.
All joking aside, the moment Anna and Josh exchanged their self-written vows was an emotional one, indeed. “You’re just kind of in a surreal moment,” says Anna. “I don’t think anyone knows what to feel like … I think you’re just so emotional and exhausted and excited, but you’re doing something so serious that I really wanted to take it seriously, because marriage is a serious thing.”
In her vows, Anna promised Josh she’d always be adventurous, keeping with the couple’s love of travel. For their honeymoon, Anna’s adventurous spirit was put to the test when the house they had booked in Switzerland had to be rented out to another party at the last minute, and their three-week trip turned into an exhausting journey through Greece and Italy.
Today, the couple has settled in Charlotte where Anna owns her own lifestyle photography business and is a freelance designer-of-sorts. She aspires to start her own magazine someday. Josh is currently traveling with Ambassadors in Sport and the Charlotte Eagles, helping with humanitarian efforts and outreach programs with at-risk kids.