Guess who I met at the CIAA?
There was alway lots to see and do when Charlotte hosted the annual CIAA Basketball Tournament. Remember the games, the day parties and reconnecting with old friends?
Some people met new friends who became soulmates.
Bride: Lauren McDonald, 31, media teacher, native of Washington, D.C.
Groom: Fabian McDonald, 36, desktop support analyst, native of Brooklyn, N.Y.
Current Residence: Mt. Holly, N.C.
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Wedding Date: October 23, 2021
Venue/Location: Alexander Homestead, Charlotte
How They Met
(Lauren) Fabian and I met in 2012 in Charlotte. I was finishing my senior year of college at Hampton University, and I came down to visit during the CIAA. It was my first time ever being in Charlotte or attending the CIAA. A friend and I came down together and connected with another friend who had moved to Charlotte. We all went out to enjoy the CIAA activities. Fabian and I met at a party at what would later become Fitzgerald’s.
(Lauren) When our first date occurred depends on who you ask. I would say our first date occurred a short time later. He came to Hampton during homecoming festivities to visit his cousin who was a student there. We got together and went to the movies but didn’t really communicate again until after I graduated.
He would say our first date happened in Winston Salem, while I was helping to move my sister out of school at Winston Salem State University. We reconnected via social media, and he knew I was coming down. He suggested we get together. He had to meet my mom first, because she had questions about who I knew in North Carolina. We went to a Mexican restaurant. We had good food and laughed a lot. He was the perfect gentleman, and we kind of hit it off. We maintained a long-distance relationship for the next three years while I was working on my master’s degree.
This is “The One”
(Lauren) I knew there was something special about him when we met, because he made me laugh. It was not a cute laugh but a gut-wrenching laugh. I am someone who really values authentic connections, laughter and fun. That happened between us, right off the bat. Then he continued to show that, even when we were being long distant. We just worked really hard and put in the effort. He was there for me. So, I would say it was really the way that he made me laugh.
(Lauren) I had an inkling something was about to happen. We had plans to visit Charleston for our seven-year anniversary, and he was a little more anxious in the months leading up to it. I had the whole scenario planned in my head. I swore he was going to propose on our anniversary weekend, on the beach. He took me in a completely different direction.
There was no glitter or glamour. We were at home and had a couple of friends over for a crab boil. We had cooked some really good food and were sitting around eating crabs. I don’t know how, but we got on the subject of last names. He just said, “Well, do you want my last name?” I was like, “Yeah, we’ve already talked about this. What do you mean? Yes, I want your last name.” He said, “No, I’m serious. Do you want my last name? Will you marry me?” He didn’t do any grand gesture like getting down on his knees. That’s not him. He just pulled out the ring. We all started screaming. That was totally unexpected.
(Lauren) Wedding planning in the middle of the pandemic was stressful, but not as much as I thought it would be. Probably because we were at a time when vaccines were flowing, and many placed that had closed had reopened. So, there was some sense of normalcy returning. But there were still restrictions and mask requirements.
After we decided to have the wedding in Charlotte, my mother suggested that we check out Alexander Homestead as a possible venue. It was the location were “Married at First Sight, Charlotte” was filmed. It was perfect.
I didn’t want to do a super, over-the-top wedding because the venue itself was so simplistic and pretty, and I’m a woman who loves greenery. It was all inclusive, and they gave us a day-of coordinator and wine package. When Fabian found out there was a brunch option and we could be done by 3 p.m., he said, “Sign me up.”
Lauren) We had about 85 guests. The wedding was outdoors beneath a beautiful gazebo, and the reception was inside. The barn doors of the reception hall were opened onto the gardens. We had the last perfect day of October before the weather changed. It was the perfect day from sun up to sundown.
Our wedding was filled with traditional ceremonies. We had a handmade banner from my parents’ wedding, which we framed and placed in the garden. It said “love, faith and hope.” My parents read a libation statement at the beginning of the ceremony in honor of our ancestors and our lineage on both sides. We read a poem call “Union of Two” while lighting the unity candles. We also jumped the broom and served black fruit cake in addition to our own cake in recognition of Fabian’s Jamaican roots. Even our vows were traditional. It was really beautiful, filled with love, black excellence and lots of emotions. I will never forget the feeling of love that was in the room and how genuinely happy everybody was for us as we entered this next chapter.
(Lauren) We are in the midst of planning our honeymoon for late spring or early summer.
Advice to Others
(Lauren) The advice that I would give couples planning a wedding is to make the day yours. There are traditions and things that your parents, aunties and cousins want to see, but if they are not elements of your personality and your love, then don’t do it. Also, remember that over-the-top, glitz-and-glamour weddings are great and make fun Instagram moments, but it’s what happens after the ceremony that matters. Finally, simple weddings can be full of love and memories and can bring people together as well as larger weddings.
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Photographer: Aly Barnett Photography
Venue: Alexander Homestead
Photo Booth: Pose Booth by J. Lorraine Graphics
Wedding Attire: New York Bride and Groom Charlotte
Hair Stylist: Sherrie Carpenter @naturally.sonya