Having briefly met nine years prior at summer camp, Kelly Whitcomb and Thomas Derren McGiboney later developed a mutual flirtation that finally resulted in an actual date. “I honestly felt like I had been hit by a truck of emotion and knew I did not want to spend another day without him,” Kelly admits after their get-together.

A few years after, while residing in Spain, the pair casually enjoyed a rowboat excursion when Thomas – who goes by his middle name – surprised Kelly with a proposal using the diamond engagement ring of his late mother. “My father and I decided it would be the most fitting way to remember my mother and I knew Kelly would be honored to wear it,” Derren shares. Some of their friends had taken pictures of the special moment and as they approached the group, Kelly’s best friend popped out from behind a tree. “Derren had flown her halfway around the world from Georgia to Spain just to be there to see us get engaged! It was the most special day and I am so glad my friends were there to see it.” Kelly describes.

As the couple began discussing their big day, they were immediately faced with the challenge of settling on a guest list. “It was incredibly difficult because we had so many people we wanted to share the day with,” explains the bride. Kelly and Derren opted to enlist Suzanne Reinhard Events to help guide them through the process. “Definitely hire a planner,” urges Kelly. “Ours was amazing.” Ultimately, Derren was at the forefront of the planning and made many of the decisions for the celebration alongside Kelly’s mother. “She helped every step of the way!” reflects the bride of her mom.

“Everyone was gifted a festive Santa hat. It was my favorite part! Actually, I loved every second of our wedding day.”

A luxury lakeside hotel in a woodsy environment served as the perfect setting for the elegant red-and-white winter wedding. As 370 friends and family members took their seats within the ceremony space – bedecked with lush garlands and twinkling lights, sheer white draping, and collections of vanilla blooms throughout – bridesmaids dressed in elegant ebony gowns started the processional. Two darling flower girls wearing frothy ivory dresses and dainty floral crowns followed.

Kelly was a vision in a fitted sleeveless gown with a mock turtleneck and intricate lace detail paired with a stunning cathedral veil; she carried a bouquet of white roses, amaryllis blossoms, and dove feathers. “Nothing could have prepared me to see Kelly in a wedding dress and getting married to me. She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen,” Derren reminisces.

The couple wrote their own vows, which was important to both of them. Other personal familial touches were also incorporated: Kelly’s friend sang a rendition of “Ave Maria,” which had been the song of choice at the nuptials of both the bride’s parents and grandparents, while the dove used in the monogram/motif symbolized Derren’s late mother. “We felt it was important to honor her that day as well,” Kelly confides.

For the ballroom reception, collections of circular tables were cloaked in chic linens and artfully decorated with candles and floral creations ranging from understated arrangements of red roses to grander versions with cranberry-colored blossoms. The atmosphere was elegant, romantic, and warm. Snowflake lighting danced off the walls and a custom white dance floor contrasted nicely with the sparkling gold ornaments suspended from the twinkling garland affixed overhead.

Adding to guests’ enjoyment were the thoughtful details: Christmas carolers, sweet signage encouraging photographs, personalized cocktails garnished to perfection, and welcome boxes filled with some of the couple’s favorite goodies were only some of the highlights from the day. The pièce de résistance was the five-tiered red velvet wedding cake adorned with scarlet roses – the “table” structure was made from the base of a Christmas tree. “It was immaculate,” confirms Kelly.

The first part of the reception concluded at 11PM with a snow confetti send-off. For those who wished to extend the evening revelry, a popular DJ played hits until 1AM and late-night breakfast fare was served to keep loved ones energized. “Not only that, but everyone was gifted a festive Santa hat,” says the groom. “It was my favorite part! Actually, I loved every second of our wedding day.”