Some brides claim they were not expecting their significant other to pop the question, but in the case of CNN Entertainment Correspondent Brooke Anderson, she’s telling the truth. “I had no idea he was preparing to propose, so I put my nose in a book for a while and fell asleep.” Her nap did not deter Jim Walker, however, who waited patiently until she woke to carry out his plan: to propose during a walk along the beach in St. Maarten. Being a southern gentleman, Jim asked Brooke’s father for permission to marry before the couple headed on its vacation. (Interestingly enough, Jim kept his plans a secret from most of his own family, who had joined the couple on the trip.)

With the busy schedule that Brooke and Jim keep in Los Angeles, no one would have blamed the couple for planning a wedding closer to home. But for Brooke and Jim, Georgia is home, and holding their wedding anywhere else—outside the warm embrace of their closely-knit family—was unthinkable. With the help of an experienced circle of professionals and recently married friends, the bride and groom worked side by side to plan a very personal wedding brimming with southern comfort.

In addition to celebrating their commitment to one another, Brooke and Jim wanted to commemorate what the city of Savannah meant to them. “It is a beautiful city, rich with history and a perfect place for all of our family and friends to enjoy themselves and experience southern hospitality at its finest,” recalls Brooke. They chose to hold their religious, family-centered ceremony in Savannah’s oldest Methodist church, located in a historic downtown square. Wedding photos were taken in nearby Forsyth Park, which was decked out in its springtime best—a perfect location for the nature-loving couple. Such was the motivation behind holding the wedding reception in the Westin Hotel’s stately ballroom, because it provided access to the outdoors by opening onto the Savannah River.

Choosing the date, however, required some influence of the Hollywood kind. As an entertainment reporter, Brooke’s schedule is determined by the countless awards shows she covers (mainly the Emmys, Golden Globes and, of course, the Oscars). Since awards season begins in the fall and extends through March, May seemed the ideal time of year for Brooke to walk her very own red carpet. On May 21, the bride saw her groom for the first time that day (their constant text messaging beforehand didn’t count) as she entered the church, and for Jim, it remains his favorite moment from the wedding. “Seeing Brooke walk down the aisle, I thought of the many memories we’ve made during our seven years together and how much we’ve learned and grown together. It was the happiest, most content feeling of my life.”

For their reception, Brooke and Jim flexed their foodie muscles by infusing their menu with down-home flair. Honey-glazed ham with red onion and peach chutney served with southern cream biscuits, shrimp accompanied by three kinds of grits (garlic, white and cheese) and crab cakes that were pan-fried tableside were a hit with seasoned southerners and newcomers alike. In addition to the four-tiered wedding cake, which included a layer of time-honored red velvet cake, guests were treated to a chocolate-on-chocolate groom’s cake, a tradition that originated where else? The South.

Fortunately, guests were given some help to burn off this comfort food by the band that kept even Brooke’s 81-year-old grandmother on the dance floor for four straight hours. Their wedding truly was a salute to all the things that Brooke and Jim hold dear to their hearts and hope to maintain in their lives as they build a future together. This included their decision to make a donation in honor of their wedding guests to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America in lieu of giving traditional favors. “We have both been extremely involved with this organization over the years. We believe supporting charities like this is vital,” asserts Brooke. Her dedication to charitable causes was even recognized by former President Bush when, in 2002, he presented her with a Daily Point of Light Award for Volunteerism.

But Brooke and Jim made certain to reward themselves by planning a relaxing, beautiful honeymoon to the Hawaiian islands of Maui and Kauai, both perfect spots to reflect on their wedding together while strolling—and napping—on the beach.