Carolina Bride

Birds of a feather

When a snow day meant canceled classes at UNC Charlotte, Kristen Thornton and Doug Kiger both ended up at the same snow day celebration. Sparks flew and the two started dating. A year passed, and the couple knew they had found something special in each other. Since Kristen’s and Doug’s busy schedules rarely allowed them quality time together, the couple took full advantage of a similar day off by planning a picnic lunch. The sporadic decision to spend their day at Owl’s Eye Vineyard & Winery was one that Kristen had suggested just hours before they left for the jaunt.

As the two drove up the gravel driveway on the September Sunday afternoon, the gloomy weather added a romantic tone to the outing. Doug purchased two bottles of wine and two glasses. “It was like when you walk outside early in the morning after an entire night of snowfall,” says Kristen. “It’s silent but there is still something warm about the air.” The two began sipping on their wine, and Doug went back to the car to grab the lunch. He returned with an oval-shaped package as well. “It’s from my mom. She wanted us to open it together,” he told her.

As she tore apart the package, she found a Chinese nesting doll similar to one Doug’s parents own. She began to take apart the doll, which revealed another smaller version inside of another. On it went, until finally a black box with gold trim lay below.

Doug forgot the words he had planned but was able to get the words, “Will you marry me?” out, and she nodded through tears to say yes. Kristen and Doug got right to wedding planning, and almost a year after their engagement they celebrated their marriage at a local church. Kristen posed with her bridal as Julie Staley of In His Image Photography snapped away, capturing the excitement of the moments leading up to the ceremony.

“He was holding my hands at the altar, and his grip was so secure and confident,” remembers Kristen of the ceremony. As the two walked down the aisle, their friends and family clapped and high-fived the newlyweds on their way to the reception at The Duke Mansion.

While the couple’s ceremony was an open invitation, their reception was not. The couple knew each individual person at the celebration, and it was an intimate experience for all – exactly what the two wanted. Owls adorned the reception hall in honor of their engagement at Owl’s Eye Vineyard, and each table had a phrase that was relative to owls, such as “Owl Always Love You” and “The Wise Choice.” A poem was even written about the vineyard and placed on every table.

According to Kristen, The Duke Mansion servers made the two feel like royalty. A caricaturist provided unique entertainment for all ages, and a coffee bar located toward the back of the venue served as a low-key setting for those not quite ready to dance the night away to jams of Split Second Sound.Today, they report, married life is even better than expected. “It has been amazing. I don’t understand why people wait to get married,” says Kristen.

Featured vendors


Split Second Sound



In His Image Photography


Reception location

The Duke Mansion


Wedding night hotel

Renaissance Charlotte SouthPark Hotel


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