Carolina Bride

Going the Distance

Biltmore Estate wedding photographed by Woodward + Rick Photographers
Biltmore Estate wedding photographed by Woodward + Rick Photographers

Location, location, location. A concept driven home regarding real estate, jobs, vacation spots and, most importantly, love. An eminent traveler, S.C.-native Leah Onley journeyed across the map from Charlotte to Germany to New York City, where she was a medical device sales representative. During a business trip to Orlando, Fla., Leah, the self-proclaimed Southern girl, met Timothy Bartos, from Denver, Colo. The two were asked to speak at a meeting, and “Tim came into our presentation practice session, said something really funny and I cracked up,” says Leah. “I have a really loud laugh. He said he had to meet the girl behind it.”Throughout the week, Tim made excuses to drop by and chat with Leah. On the final night in Orlando during an awards ceremony, Tim approached Leah’s table and asked if her dance card was full. Leah thought, Is he hitting on me? “I was so embarrassed because my boss was at my table.” Tim charmed Leah into a dance and to give him her phone number, and the two were soon talking every day. “We shared work ideas and success stories,” says Leah. “Then we realized how similar our hobbies and families were and how much we really connected.” A long- distance relationship blossomed, and during a vacation in Ireland Leah realized Tim was the one. “Ten days of close quarters, traveling and sightseeing, and we couldn’t get enough of each other,” remembers Leah. “Tim told me he loved me more than anything or anyone in his entire life that trip.”On Sept. 14, 2007, after six short months of dating, Tim flew in on a 6 a.m. flight to surprise Leah with a day trip to the wine vineyards on Long Island. “Tim knows I’m a huge wine lover and September is harvest time,” says Leah. “All the leaves were changing on the island, and we drove past roadside stands selling pumpkins.” At a tasting inside an old converted barn, Tim led Leah outside to tour the vineyard and watch the sunset. “We were walking through the aisles of grapevines when Tim hugged me and told me that he loved me,” remembers Leah. “Then he pushed back from me, got down on one knee, and asked me to marry him!”Leah had always wanted an October wedding, making the first order of business the location. The bride knew the majority of the guests would be flying in from out of town. “We wanted a really nice country wedding, and as a bride I felt the Carolinas represented me,” says Leah. “Those are my roots, what shaped me, and I wanted to share the Southern culture.” Leah’s mom and godmother suggested Biltmore Estate and the couple flew to Asheville to view the grounds. “We were blown away at how gorgeous it was,” says Leah, who had not been there since she was a little girl. “No other place compared.” The date was set for Oct. 17, 2008, at Biltmore Estate and wedding plans continued with Leah in New York and Tim in Denver. Luckily, through the guidance of Biltmore’s recommended vendor list, the couple was able to plan the destination wedding surprisingly easy.One task, however, proved challenging for the bride: the dress. “I used to live with a girl whose mom owned Poffie Girls,” explains Leah. “I’d always said whenever I get married I’d buy my dress there, and give them my business.” To get an idea of the type of gown she wanted, Leah went to the well-known Kleinfeld Bridal in New York. “While I was there, the owner came out and gave me her personal business card,” exclaims Leah. “I was star struck, and I still wonder if I would’ve been on ‘Say Yes to the Dress!’” After a trip to both Kleinfeld Bridal and Poffie Girls, Leah could not make up her mind. She returned to Poffie Girls with Tim and ran inside while he waited in the car. “I picked a different dress under pressure,” remembers Leah. “When I got back to the car I burst into tears, afraid that I picked the wrong dress. I had to call and ask them not to place the order.” The final trip to Poffie Girls was a success. “We all fell all over ourselves,” exclaimed Leah. “I got chills when I put the dress on. No other dress felt like that.”Through the help of her godmother, Leah decided on deep purple, orange and gold for her colors. Leah found her cousin, the maid of honor, the perfect eggplant-colored dress at Nordstorm in Charlotte and bought her a gold necklace with a leaf charm to tie in with the fall theme. “October in South Carolina is the first time you feel a break in the heat and has always been my favorite time of year,” explains Leah. “My best childhood memories are of Halloween, carving pumpkins and making scarecrows.” The bride found a florist in Asheville from Biltmore’s vendor list, and they worked closely together to create the perfect autumn setting. The couple also chose Woodward + Rick Photographers through the help of Biltmore. “We thought their photos seemed very natural and artistic at the same time,” says Leah. “Plus, they were so nice and personable over the phone. They made me feel calm and at ease.”On the big day the air was cool and crisp at the Deerpark courtyard. The aisle was lined with pumpkins and candles to create the feeling of a pumpkin patch. The bride, clutched tight to her father’s arm, walked down the aisle to a hammered dulcimer and acoustic guitar as leaves fell from the trees above. After the ceremony, Mr. and Mrs. Bartos and their 75 guests enjoyed lump crab cake appetizers and spinach, goat cheese and walnut salad, followed by a main course of filet mignon topped with fresh prawns. Tables were decorated with lanterns, flowers blooming inside pumpkins and an acorn sprig adorning each napkin. For dessert, white cake with blackberry filling lent a flavor of the South. A four-piece band kept the dance floor swinging all night with music by Sinatra, Van Morrison and even Madonna.As the evening came to a close, a rather peculiar event wrapped up the festivities. “A little girl came up and asked me to come outside,” explains Leah. “My New York City friends — the mischievous ones they are — thought it would be funny to tell the kids to smash all the pumpkins!” As a kid, Leah’s mom read her “The Pumpkin Smasher,” one of her favorite stories, each Halloween. Still in her ivory lace Paloma Blanca wedding gown, Leah joined in the fun yelling, “It’s ‘The Pumpkin Smasher!’ ” The couple jetted off to Montreal, Canada, for a cozy five-day honeymoon. Currently residing in Denver, Tim, Leah and Brushka, the couple’s Yorkshire terrier, hope to return to the Carolinas soon. “Denver is a beautiful place,” says Leah, “but nothing compares to the tree-lined streets, colorful mountains and coastal waters of the Carolinas.”

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