Elizabeth Brightwell & Joseph Southall

Aug. 10, 2019 • Farmington Country Club, Charlottesville

It was May 2013 when Elizabeth Brightwell walked into a party with her friend and remarked casually, “That guy’s name is Joseph. We had a class together last year [at the University of Virginia]. I think he’s really cute, but he won’t talk to me.”

The class had been Studies in Modern and Contemporary Literature—Joseph Southall remembered it clearly because, by his account, he often “looked for Elizabeth’s journal entries to see what she had to say. I kept thinking to myself, maybe I could use this book or that quote to spark a conversation, but without uttering a word to her all semester, I graduated and moved to D.C.”

It was a year later when they both ended up at the same party and broke the silence. He texted a mutual friend for Elizabeth’s phone number. “I remember thinking I wouldn’t get the opportunity again and I needed to act,” Joseph says. “After sweating about how she might respond, I finally sent it—a fumbling mess of words that only resembled a date request if you squinted. Luckily for me, she accepted.”

The two spent the summer dating long distance between Charlottesville and D.C., and Joseph found a new best friend in Dave, the Amtrak conductor on the Northeast Regional train. “I also fell in love with Elizabeth,” he says.

Four years and more than three moves later (from D.C. to Richmond to Williamsburg), the couple found themselves in Versailles, the historically luxe home of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI located approximately 20 miles from Paris, France. Elizabeth was preparing to begin law school at William & Mary and recalls being thoroughly surprised by the proposal. 

“My heart jumped into my throat,” she says. “I enthusiastically accepted, and immediately interrogated Joseph, as any budding lawyer would do. Had he talked to my parents? Did my friends know? How long had he been planning this?”

“Incorporating the talents of family and friends is a lovely way to personalize your wedding. These special touches will set your wedding apart from everyone else’s.”

—Cinda Hoege, White Birch Events

The reception—held Aug. 10, 2020, at the Farmington Country Club in Charlottesville—was a daytime event inspired by a European brunch, and was a nod to the couple’s European engagement. The ceremony on grounds at UVA and reception were full of special, personalized touches, including: an original poem written and read by Joseph’s aunt, Nancy Parrish; a live painting to capture the wedding; and English boxwood favors, grown by the groom’s father and potted in ceramics designed by the bride’s cousin.

“We don’t come from families that have had traditionally fancy weddings like we were so lucky to have,” Elizabeth says, “but we held our families close throughout the day in a number of meaningful ways.”


Photographer: : Jen Fariello Photography, Charlottesville Planner: Cinda Hoege, White Birch Events, Charlottesville Floral Design: Southern Blooms, Madison Gown: Rizik’s, Washington, D.C. Hair: Erica Haskins, Topknot, Charlottesville Makeup: Linda Livernois, Rouge 9, Charlottesville Groom’s Attire: Franco’s Fine Clothier, Richmond Paper: Rock Paper Scissors, Charlottesville  Caterer: Farmington Country Club, Charlottesville Cake: Albemarle Baking Company, Charlottesville Music, Ceremony: Alice Layman, Charlottesville; Ali Stoner, NYC Music, Reception: Jeff Decker Band, Charlottesville Entertainment: Live wedding painter, Tatiana Yavorska-Antrobius, Charlottesville Favors: Boxwoods from English Boxwoods of Virginia, Lynchburg

This article originally appeared in the February 2021 issue.

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