How did you meet?
It all started a little under a decade ago. Dr. Paul Evans met a pastor named Florent Varak. Paul and Florent formed a friendship strong enough that Paul decided to bring a few pastors over to Lyon, France to visit Florent and learn more about their church.
During their trip, our dear Paul met a sassy girl called Emilie, right in the cobbled streets of the Old City of Lyon (Vieux Lyon). They shared a meal and some great stories, and a connection was formed.
Fast forward a few years: Emilie is looking for an internship, and Paul gives her an opportunity of a lifetime: “Live with us for the summer! You’ll have a home, food and a car to get to work with.”
As she landed in Tampa, Florida, she didn’t know she’d be meeting this funny, weird boy who she’d end up marrying. It only took a week for Emilie to tell Betsy she’d marry Cole someday: call it feminine intuition.
As she watched Cole study, be kind and loving and sweet to everyone he came across, her love for him grew – it was just a matter of getting the timing right. After years of living either in a house together or living 4,737 miles away from each other, we finally put bad timing aside and jumped in.
What is your proposal story?
This may be a surprise (not!) but our proposal was a little unconventional. First of all, Emilie and Cole’s mom bought her engagement ring together, and sent Cole a photo of it from the car – med school makes life weird, especially when the boy is far away!
Before we got engaged, Cole and I looked at our upcoming year and realized there was basically only one week where we’d be together and able to get engaged before our wedding in March. So, as we headed to France to see my family, ring in Cole’s bag, I knew we’d be getting engaged at some point. We went to the mountains and skied with my parents for a few days, snuggled at the chalet and my mom finally got to meet Cole face to face! It was so lovely. A few days later, we headed to my grandparents lovely golden-stone home surrounded by vineyards. Eating way too much cheese for our American bellies was just the beginning of the many hilarious evenings spent together, including getting over $8000 worth of stuff stolen from our hotel room in Paris. Oh my!
The night before Christmas we all slept at my grandparents house, and enjoyed some great food around the tree – waking up to our usual “Petit Papa Noel” song humming from the old Phonograph in the living room – coming down the stairs youngest to oldest in our pajamas to be greeted by gifts and cinnamon buns.
As I sat with cole opening our gifts, I saw my cute dad being intently focused with his phone trying to film us. Something was clearly happening. Cole gave me a gift, wrapped in layers of holo packaging. I opened it to reveal a stone carved to look like a mushroom. What the heck?!! He asked me if I knew what it was? no, of course not. He said okay let me help you (btw, this part of the story still makes no sense to me, which makes it all the cuter). He went to the giant bookshelf under the stairs and grabbed a little red box, and got down on one knee.
My mom then came out of the kitchen and realized what was happening so she said “Melissa, come!’ (my sister) but Melissa was busy doing dishes, and not really getting the urgency of the moment! It was really funny and quite wonderfully filled with family interactions – poor Cole was on one knee in the middle of this, my 4-year-old nephew Noah playing next to us with toy cars. That has to be my favorite part!
Read This: 10 Tips for Backyard Weddings
Tell us about your wedding vision.
We really didn’t have much time to plan our wedding, it came down to about 3 months. I planned it alone seeing as Cole was in his 2nd year of med school. My vision: simple and inexpensive.
One afternoon, I went to my friend Tiffany’s house and we were talking about my wedding and she mentioned hosting a friend’s little wedding there years ago, and nonchalantly asked if I’d like to do that. What?! Mind you, if you look at the photos you’ll see how BEAUTIFUL THIS HOUSE IS!!! It was absolutely dreamy and free – we can’t thank them enough.
For the girls, I wanted dresses that they could wear again – so I went with white/cream maxi dresses. For me, the light pink tinted dress was love at first sight. Cole was the mastermind behind the guys and he did such a great job with bringing it all together. He is an artist after all!
Tell us about your attire choices.
I was initially going to buy a crappy dress from eBay, but when Cole’s dad heard me reading about the reviews of girls feeling itchy and burning sensations from their dresses he was NOT about it! It was very sweet. He told me to get a dressI’dd LOVE and to spend enough money that it would be perfect and comfortable. I couldn’t be more pleased with it: the bottom of the dress has 5 layers of difference lace and tulle, with incredible detail. It fit me perfectly and the hourglass figure was definitely what Cole had in mind.
What was most important to you two while planning? Was there anything you chose to splurge on or skip?
We knew we’d spend money on the photographer, and we did. We skipped the cake because we don’t like cake enough to spend money on it. I just spent lots of money on food, so everyone would go home with a full belly.
What were your favorite parts of the day?
My favorite part was looking out at everyone while listening to my dad speak to our friends and family about Christ’s love for us. It was a beautiful moment of unity and really incredibly touching. I loved seeing all the lights in the trees and kept thinking: this is everything I dreamed of. Marrying the boy, my family, my friends. Just so lovely.
Cole loved having so many friends and family together all at the same time!
Tell us about your wedding flowers.
I wanted lots of flowers but knew that would be expensive. So I asked my friend to get flowers from Publix and do her thing – and she did! She took care of the tables, the girls’ bouquets, and some extra fun stuff. Another friend did the boy’s boutonnieres and the arch – which by the way was built by my best friend’s stepdad for free. We had incredible friends and helpers.
Please describe any handmade, DIY or personal items.
We bought so many lights from eBay and strung them everywhere, those ended up being our decorations. We also got a friend to build our arch for free and that was such a pretty detail. All of our containers for flowers were my best friend’s from her wedding to Cole’s brother a few years before!
Did you include any family heirlooms or special traditions?
Not really actually, but thankfully my French grandparents were able to be there and that was so sweet!
Do you have any advice for couples planning their weddings now?
I’d say to choose 1 or 2 things that are important to spend money on, and then do everything else for less. Don’t do things just because it’s normal – people will ask you “did you get this? did you do this?”… if you don’t want to do THAT, don’t do it! It’s your wedding, and your money and your memories. Who cares about cake if you don’t like cake?
Keep in mind we saved up all the financial gifts we got over the months from family and friends and ended up paying $0 on our own!!!
Also, totally use Zola – you can transform all the gifts people buy you into credit to buy whatever you want, whenever you want on the website!
DO get a great photographer, that is the best way to remember the day!