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Originally published in Inside Weddings

Michelle Berta and Louis Matthews had the same idea on their first day of law school at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville: They both went to the pool in their apartment complex with their books in hand, intending to study. Instead, the two neighbors (as it turned out, they lived just three doors apart) struck up a conversation and ended up spending the afternoon getting to know each other. Their first official date was supposed to be a short tapas dinner, but it ended up lasting four hours. “On our first date, I knew Michelle was the love of my life!” Louis beams.

Louis was set on receiving his future father-in-law’s blessing before proposing, so he traveled from Virginia to Michigan to ask for Michelle’s hand. After gaining permission, Louis took Michelle to a romantic dinner at their favorite restaurant and out for an evening of dancing, then finally to the historic Rotunda at the University of Virginia campus, where he popped the question.


Naturally, Charlottesville holds a special place in Louis and Michelle’s hearts, so they decided to hold their wedding ceremony at the city’s charming First Presbyterian Church. The church boasts the longest center aisle in Charlottesville, making for a dramatic bridal entrance, and the windows permitted just the right amount of light into the sanctuary on the couple’s big day. Hurricane candles also brought a romantic softness to the ceremony. Michelle walked down the aisle carrying a bouquet of white peonies, garden roses, and pale pink ranunculus, and paid tribute to the women in her family by wearing three heirlooms: She wore her mother’s wedding band on her right hand, and she sewed a piece of her grandmother’s veil and her great-aunt’s childhood violin award into her dress.

The ballroom at the historic and elegant Farmington Country Club, a venue whose golf course the couple had previously enjoyed, served as a picturesque reception site. Michelle chose a color scheme of champagne and pink with a touch of gold to match a theme she calls “Grace Kelly elegance,” and complemented the classical ballroom with silver candelabras, white and pink roses, and hydrangeas. One of Louis’ biggest contributions to the celebration was the drink selection, which included wines from four local vineyards and beer from a local brewery. And as a nod to Michelle’s home state of Michigan, guests left the reception with boxes of Sanders dark chocolate sea salt caramels, a classic Michigan favorite.

Michelle recalls the breathtaking moment when she first saw the outcome of a year of planning as one of her favorite memories of the day. “Seeing the ballroom for the first time with my mother was a moment I will never forget,” Michelle says. “The vision became reality and the dream was in front of me.”

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