Written by Kailyn Warpole // Photography by Eric Boneske Photography
Love was more than just a game for college athletes Christi Laite and Tanner Milson. The two met the first week of their freshman year at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Both were attending on athletic scholarships--Christi for volleyball and Tanner for basketball. "We were best friends for two years, much to my frustration," says Christi, "but he finally asked me out our sophomore year of college and we've been together ever since."
Having met the love of her life at the beginning of her college career, it was only fitting that Tanner pop the question on Christi's graduation day. On May 10, 2014, after a little more than two years of dating, Tanner took Christi out to the north end of Wrightsville Beach. "He had one of our friends out there singing and playing guitar," says Christi, "and while watching our friend play, behind us walked up forty of our friends and family [members]. He had coordinated all of them to be out there." Tanner then proposed to the amazed Christi in front of everyone on the beach, and she happily accepted. Though they each had dear and distant hometowns, the two had no doubts about where they would be married. "We just knew we wanted to get married in Wilmington even though I'm from Maryland and he's from Texas," Christi says. "That was the city where we fell in love...and we love that city."
On Friday, June 26, 2015, the couple's big day arrived at the historic Brooklyn Arts Center. In front of 165 friends and family members, Tanner and Christi exchanged vows and became husband and wife. Their officiant was Dave Yearwood, a man who had served as the chaplain for the UNCW men's basketball team, and someone who was "like a second dad to my husband," says Christi. The wedding party consisted of eight bridesmaids and eight groomsmen. The bridesmaids wore pale, blush pink Allure dresses that were fitted at the top and loose and flowy at the bottom. The groomsmen wore JoS. A. Bank suits.
All eyes were on Christi, of course, who dazzled in her ivory, lace fit and flare dress by Justin Alexander. The bride also wore a cathedral veil, which perfectly complemented her elegant appearance. Monica Purdy (of Bangz Salon in Wilmington) did Christi's hair and makeup for the ceremony. The stylist went with a natural-looking, low bun with a twist in the side--a simple-but-radiant look that matched Christi?s style.
For the flowers, the bride says she wanted "a very organic look, with lots of greens. So there were some eucalyptus leaves, and then we did white and a few blush pink roses that matched the bridesmaids dresses." The couple reached out to Kristy Holt of Eco Chic Blossoms in Wilmington for their floral requests. "I just gave her what I wanted and she did an amazing job," Christi says. A special flower arrangement was needed for perhaps one of the most notable wedding decorations the BAC has seen to date. "We knew that the stage at the Brooklyn Arts Center is so large, and we wanted to fill that space up, so we had somebody build us a fifteen-foot cross and put it up there," says Christi. "And then the florist built this big centerpiece that hung from the cross. It was really beautiful."
After a cocktail hour celebration in the BAC courtyard, the newlyweds and their guests returned inside the church for the reception. The newlyweds were introduced as "Mr. and Mrs. Tanner Milson" to the tune of "Sugar" by Maroon 5. They shared their first dance to an acoustic version of "La Vie en Rose." Christi and her father also enjoyed a father-daughter dance to John Mayer?s "Daughters," and Tanner indulged in a mother-son dance with his mom to Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World."
Dinner was catered by Pine Valley Market, and the couple decided to do something unique and fun to tie in both sides of their family. "We wanted to do a Texas versus Maryland kind of food theme," Christi says. Two buffet tables were set up--one featuring southern cuisine, and the other, northern delicacies. For the "little bit of Texas," Christi says, "we did collard greens, bacon mac and cheese, and brisket with Carolina and Texas style barbeque sauce." The Maryland side featured crab cakes, grilled vegetables, and Old Bay roasted potatoes. The menu also included beers that were brewed in their home states: Shiner Bock and Natty Boh (National Bohemian), a Texas and a Maryland beer, respectively. After dinner, the newlyweds couldn't wait to cut their cake--a delectable, three-tier naked cake from Imaginary Cakes. The bottom layer consisted of dark chocolate cake with turtle fudge filling, the middle was an Italian creme cake with cream cheese filling, and the top was red velvet cake with cream cheese icing. "We're big sweets people," says Christi. "We couldn't pick just one flavor, so we got all three!"
Following the reception, the couple exited the Brooklyn Arts Center to loved ones shooting confetti cannons! Wedding planner Charyl Williams (Social Butterfly Events) mentioned this new trend to the couple, who were up for the unconventional sendoff. The two then departed in Christi's father's new BMW. In lieu of parting gifts, Christi and Tanner arranged a way for guests to help support the less fortunate. "We put little tokens on everybody's plate, and we had a table set up with little bowls," says Christi. "His dad has a scholarship foundation set up in his name, so you could either put your token in that bowl or [the bowl for] Wine to Water, which is another charity. For each token in either one, my parents donated a dollar to that charity."
Two days after their wedding, the newlyweds set off for their honeymoon in gorgeous Punta Cana. "We stayed at an all-inclusive resort and just relaxed and recuperated," Christi says of their time spent in the Dominican Republic paradise.
Currently, Christi and Tanner reside in Texas. "I'm teaching and coaching volleyball and Tanner is doing commercial real estate," says Christi. "We're just following whatever God calls on our life, enjoying the first few years of being married, and just kind of seeing where life leads us."