Kerri Johnson and Ryan Alexander have known each other since kindergarten. The couple attended the same schools throughout their lives, but it wasn’t until they finished high school that they started dating. “We went to senior prom together as friends and started dating after graduation,” says Kerri.
After twelve years together, a shopping trip in Charlotte turned into the beginnings of a proposal for this Charleston couple. Since they were already at the mall, Kerri took the opportunity to show Ryan a pair of diamond earrings she wanted. While they were waiting for assistance with the earrings, she also pointed out an engagement ring she liked. As the couple prepared to head back to Charleston, Ryan said he’d forgotten his laptop and that he had to pick it up. Instead of joining him, Kerri decided to spend extra time with his sister while he ran his errands.
When Ryan’s trip took longer than expected, Kerri booked a hotel room for the night and made plans for dinner. Just as she finished getting ready, she walked out of the hotel bathroom to see Ryan on one knee. Having bought the ring while she was making returns at the mall, he had taken his time away from Kerri to show her parents the ring. Through her tears and her surprise, she said yes, and they celebrated with a romantic dinner in Charlotte.
Since the couple lives in Charleston, and most of their guests would have to travel anyway, they chose to host their wedding in Charleston, too. When it came to planning the details, Kerri wanted to be completely untraditional. “I work in the catering and banquet department for a hotel,” she says. “So for my wedding, I didn’t care about the linens, and I didn’t want to do a production with the food. I wanted to do something completely different.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Charlotte Observer
Kerri made sure to keep her promise of being completely different, starting with the entertainment. There were three things she knew she wanted: a live band, a full open bar and a casino. Although Kerri’s decision to hire a live band may have been a traditional choice, the fact that the band’s singer, Elise Testone, is a contestant on “American Idol” makes for a unique story. “Now all my guests keep asking, ‘Is that the singer from your wedding?’” Kerri says.
With the live band secured, the couple started working on their casino theme. “We had craps, roulette, Texas Hold 'em and blackjack, complete with dealers and poker chips,” she says. “We also decorated the food stations with enlarged suit cutouts and had pewter coasters that were the sides of dice.” To fuel the casino-inspired atmosphere, Kerri and Ryan offered their guests a signature drink bar. “Ryan and I are both whiskey and bourbon drinkers,” Kerri says. “So instead of one signature drink, we wanted our guests to have the chance to savor and appreciate the upscale whiskies and bourbons.” Another one of the couple’s shared enjoyments is smoking cigars, so they also incorporated a cigar bar into their wedding. To top off the night’s entertainment, the bride and groom sent their guests home with casino koozies as favors.
Kerri’s work experience with cake-cutting led her to choose Krispy Kreme donuts in place of a traditional wedding cake. “I didn’t want anyone to have to cut a cake at my wedding,” she says. “We had 30 dozen donuts, and at the end of the night we only had 2 dozen left.”
After hearing such high reviews of Chuck Eaton Photographers and having met Chuck in person, the couple knew he was the right photographer for their wedding. “I wanted all candid photos and no posed shots,” Kerri says. “He was really great to work with, and everyone says the pictures looked really good.”
For their honeymoon, Kerri and Ryan escaped to Zihuatanejo, Mexico, for 11 days of rest and relaxation. “We did all of our activities in the morning, cooked dinner together, watched movies and played cards every night,” she says. “We just wanted some time to relax and recoup, and we’re already trying to go back!”
PhotographyChuck Eaton Photographers704-844-2993, www.chuckeaton.net
Continue reading real wedding stories! Up next: ’Light up the Night'