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Bridal Bliss: We're Obsessed With Jason And Elena's Charming Southern Wedding Style

A Love Built To Last

Haley Bilunas

By Lauren Porter · April 18, 2018

When the groom’s job sent him to Hong Kong for three months after he met the bride, he took a chance and invited her to come and visit. Little did they know, that trip would change their lives forever and become the start of their happily ever after. Take a look at their gorgeous wedding photos!

Bride: Elena Dominique Lobo, 32, Corporate Attorney
Groom: Jason Cordell Spears, 35, Attorney
The Big Day: October 21, 2017
Location: The Elms of Coosada, Montgomery, AL
Style/Theme: Classic and Comfortable


Venue: The Elms of Coosada   
Planner: Anita Kanellis (AK Brides)  
Photographer: Haley Bilunas 
Videographer: I Do Flix 
Hair & makeup: Candace Marshall   
Catering: Jennie Weller Catering 
Floral: Melissa Kendal 
Dress: Rebecca Schoneveld
Saxophonist: Coleman Woodson of the WSJ Jazz Trio

"I started at Kleinfelds, which was a lot of fun," Elena explained. "I bought two of my closest fashion-forward friends and my mom and we tried on a million dresses and got a feel for what style and silhouette I wanted. Then I went searching for designers who could customize their dresses. I have a lot of dark scars on my skin from an autoimmune disease I developed in law school, so in order to be comfortable on my wedding day, it was a requirement that my dress was long sleeved, not backless, with a low v-neck…and I didn’t want any tulle or layers because I knew it would get hot down in Alabama. Sounds simple, right? Well, you wouldn’t believe how hard it is to find that combo…within my budget! Rebecca Schoneveld had a lace topper that was backless with a high neck (not the style I wanted), but I loved the lace pattern, so I tried it on backward with one of her classic slip dresses and it was perfect! She was able to sew the topper, backward, onto the dress, and then I added a slit for some excitement, and to help with the Alabama heat!"

"My mother was my role model and sidekick in all things," said the bride of having her mother by her side on her big day. 

"The way Jason describes his friends and family, you’d think he rolled in the most interesting, elite and successful circles. He holds all of his people in the brightest light and really views them in this way too," said the bride to describe her groom. "Jason makes you want to know and be around his squad. At first, this confused me because he never mentioned the negative sides of anyone, always the positive, always their best qualities. I’ve learned a lot about friendship and loyalty from watching how he values and nurtures his relationships, and he applies the same approach to our relationship, which is so inspiring. Even during the off time when he disagrees with a friend, he will never talk down on or turn away from. I’m really moved by this and honored to now be a part of his crew of incredible people."

Haley Bilunas (www.photosbyheart.com

"At the end of the summer in 2016, almost exactly 2 years after the day we met, I closed a deal I had been working on nonstop for 3 weeks. As these deals go, I hadn’t seen Jason much during this time because I’d usually get home well after he was asleep and would leave before he woke up. To celebrate the deal closing, Jason suggested we do something different – maybe go to a museum or an art gallery in the Lower Eastside. I honestly just wanted to go home and sleep but agreed an art gallery could be relaxing. He scoped out a gallery that had a photography exhibit and we met there. The exhibit wasn’t really capturing my attention, which I’m sure was pretty obvious. The gallery owner told me that there was a different exhibit around the corner we should check out. I led the way around the corner and was met with a room lined with photographs … of me and Jason! It took me a few seconds to realize that the photos were of us, starting with the first photo we took together on a trip to Thailand just a few months after we met, and continuing in chronological order, ending with a larger frame covered in a sheet. Before I had a chance to really realize what was happening, Jason removed the canvas, revealing a photograph of a shoreline at sunset with “Elena will you marry me” written in the sand. By then it was clear what was happening, so I turned to Jason as he proposed. Every woman will say they blacked out at the moment their husband proposed, and that they can’t remember exactly what he said before “will you marry me”, but I try to put myself back in that moment every now then so I don’t ever fully forget. I do remember he put the ring on the wrong finger at first! The gallery owner brought us wine to toast and we both just couldn’t stop laughing and smiling. Soon after, I heard voices entering the gallery and what seemed like all of our closest friends ran into the room, including my best friend from college who had traveled to the city to be there for this moment. Jason had booked us a table at a club nearby where we celebrated for the rest of the night and into the morning."

"Elena is a unicorn," said the groom when beginning to describe his bride. "Aside from her struggles with providing directions while riding shotgun, she’s perfect for me in every way. She’s intimidatingly intelligent. She’s rational and able to talk out disagreements in a calm and methodical way. She understands herself. She understands me (no easy task). She’s graceful and creative, poetic, kind and…beautiful. It sounds cheesy but she’s the person I daydreamed about when I was a young kid dreaming of finding true love."

"Within a few months of knowing him, I could tell Jason was a risk-taker, and always in pursuit of living life to the fullest extent possible (he rarely does anything that won’t bring him or someone close to him joy). Well, they say you get to know a person best if you travel with them. Our first trip to Thailand helped me get to know him very well, and I was energized and inspired by his fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, take-risks-and-think-about-it-on-the-way approach. I’m very risk-averse, pretty conservative and I like to plan. Jason takes (usually calculated) risks, relies a lot on faith and loves a good impulse decision. His true zest for life is contagious and has led him to always lift up and empower those around him. I love how he challenges me to stretch in this way, and he always keeps me on my toes, ready for an adventure."

"My father passed away when I was 7 so my two brothers walked me down the aisle. I wouldn’t have wanted anyone else to give me away. They were both teenagers when I was born, and in their own ways have always been my rocks, my confidants, my role models, and have also filled the father-figure void my dad left. They both also spoke at the wedding."

“Jason was caught fighting tears during the ceremony! He’s emotional though, so I wasn’t surprised. It made me feel more comfortable actually,” said the bride while the groom shared, “This is bad to share, but I didn’t make much eye contact with her at the altar. I was so nervous and emotional, I stared at the officiant most of the time. When I did make eye contact, I immediately started tearing up so I’d look away again. Not my best moment!”

We know that these are happy tears from Jason on he and Elena's big day! 

"Being at the altar with Jason, that was a very crazy, emotional, incredible moment," recalled the bride. "A million thoughts rushed through my mind, mostly that I would never feel anything like this again. It was similar to the moment we got engaged—adrenaline, excitement, intense feelings of love."

"We jumped the broom that Jason’s Aunt Nayo made for us," said Elena. "We plan to display the broom in our home to remind us of how lucky we are to have found each other, to be able to be together the way we are."

Sealing their ceremony with a kiss, Jason and Elena were officially one!

Haley Bilunas (www.photosbyheart.com

"Being a groom was indescribable. I felt a strong sense of honor. If you can’t tell, I’m crazy about my wife and think she’s a “special” person. Her family and friends share this sentiment. A recurring thought of mine was that these people are entrusting this beautiful soul to me.

"Shortly after Elena and I met and started getting to know each other, I was transferred to my firm’s Hong Kong office, potentially ending things before they started. I asked Elena if she would visit me in Hong Kong and she surprisingly said yes. I picked her up from the airport and we kind of looked at each other like 'we don’t really know each other – this is weird.; We proceeded to spend nearly two weeks traveling around Asia and having a blast. I thought I might be falling in love with her before but I was convinced when she left Hong Kong. My heart sank and I was left with this overwhelming emptiness. I knew I never wanted to be separated from her again."

Flowers weren’t a big focus for Elena on her wedding day. Instead, she left it all up to her planner to pull of a beautiful bouquet and that she did. The bride carried an arrangement of garden roses with cascading seeded eucalyptus and greenery. 

"I can’t single out one thing that I love most about her," said Jason. "My wife is perfect for me. She gives me room to be myself but encourages me to grow and gives me confidence. She makes me laugh and is open to exploring the world’s mysteries with me. I couldn’t ask for anything else."

"Her wit made me realize that I’d never be the smartest person in the room," said Jason on why he chose to make Elena his wife. "She was careful where I can be very impulsive. She was intent on getting to know me on a spiritual level and on continually checking in with herself in the process. And, her kindness reminded me of my mother. I realized these things early on and hoped that she would be my wife. I only needed to get the blessing of her mother and brothers to make it a reality."

"On one of our first dates I learned Jason had lost his father at a young age like I did. We talked about our dads and I shared a lot with him that night that I’d never talked about with anyone before. I was sure that if my dad met Jason they would instantly hit it off. Jason embodies some of the best qualities I remember about my dad, and I found a certain peace in knowing that he would approve of our union. My gut told me he was the one, and feeling strongly that I’d have my dad’s blessing sealed it for me. I even incorporated this into our vows, saying that I knew our dads (nicknamed “Dicky” and “Buddy”) were somewhere having a beer together, watching this all go down. I know they would have really hit it off too."

"My bridesmaids were my best friends -- my high school crew, most of whom I’ve known since lower school and are basically family, and my college crew who I lived with for all four years and have been with me through it all."

The groomsmen were an assortment of Jason’s closest friends. Many were his frat brothers (he’s a Que). 

This is one fun bridal bunch!

We can feel the love radiating from this photo and our hearts are melting!

"Despite my nagging and craziness, Jason forgot that he had to have his tux altered—not just like a little tuck here and there, he had to have the sleeves lengthened and the pants tailored. He realized this the day before the wedding as we were checking in to the hotel. Jason spent the day rushing around trying to find a tailor who could do it in less than 24 hours. I don't know how he did it, but he did it. He had me stressed as ever on the wedding day, but he showed up on time, with a beautiful tux. I don’t know why I ever doubted him. He always pulls through!"

"Pretty soon after we met and had been on a few dates, Jason’s law firm sent him to Hong Kong for 3 months. It was good because it forced us to slow down a bit and really get to know each other over the phone and email, but the 12 hour time difference made it tough. We decided to plan a trip for New Year’s Eve to break up the time he would be away. It seemed crazy to go across the world with a guy I’d only known a few months, but my gut told me to stick with this one. We had an incredible trip visiting Hong Kong, Taiwan and spending New Years in Thailand, and when it came time to part at the airport, I was a mess. At the risk of really embarrassing him, we both shed a few tears in the security line. I felt moved by something bigger than myself, something more than I had ever felt before. I told myself there wouldn’t be another goodbye like this with Jason. I used to hate it when people would say “when you know you know” because I never believed in fate like that. But I spent the better part of that 16-hour flight trying to figure out how to tell my mother I was going to marry this man."

"Jason truly appeared out of nowhere. I think this is kind of how it happens in New York City, which, as anyone who has lived there knows, can be incredibly lonely despite being overcrowded and teeming with people trying to make a connection," said Elena. "Being single in NYC is something you either embrace and have fun with, or it could be the end of you. I vowed to embrace and have fun with it, and was at peace with the possibility of never finding perfection, of having unconventional relationship timing, and of “focusing on myself”, as we New Yorker women are constantly striving to do. I think you have to have this attitude in NYC, otherwise, every date, every swipe, every guy you meet through a friend, carries so much pressure, and disappointment weighs even heavier. I do feel truly blessed to have met Jason in this environment. Sometimes I have to pinch myself because it doesn't even seem real."

For their 167 guests, the couple kept their wedding decor simple, classic, and natural to make sure everyone had the best time ever. 

"I don’t think true love can be sought out. It appears in innumerable ways and our love story was no different. I met Elena at a networking event and almost opted to skip it and work a few more hours," said Jason. "I was head over heels after our first conversation but I still didn’t think she was into me, which is why I messaged her on LinkedIn instead of asking for her number. Needless to say, this isn’t how I dreamt things would happen but looking back our quirky meeting and love story fits us perfectly as unexpected as it was."

"We had our first dance to 'Make Me Whole' by Amel Larrieux. This has been our song since the beginning," shared Elena. "We’ve always felt like we were pieces of each other that had been missing, and when we were together, we felt like the tone and the words of this song described perfectly how we felt about each other. The line 'I find myself thanking your mother for giving birth to a saint, my spirit flies when I say your name' rings so true to me."

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