Real wedding: Destination wedding for air traffic controllers

Jamie and Pete Ashford are both air traffic controllers, but it took a number of years for their romance to lift off.

They met as students at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, where Pete said Jamie made an impression.

“The ratio of guys to girl was 12 to one, so when you walk into a room full of all guys, she really stood out.”

Pete, 31, remembers her as the pretty girl at school, and recalls going to her house, studying and meeting the dog she still has a decade later. Jamie, however, has no recollection of this. “He says that we studied together, but I don’t recall that.”

Fast forward to 2008, when Jamie was living in Asheville, N.C., and Pete was in Atlanta.

The two found themselves at an Atlanta Braves game with a mutual friend, and this time Pete was the forgetful one. “I remembered her, I just couldn’t remember her name!”

After that night they began spending more time together, and soon they realized that this was the kind of romance they would never forget.

They dated long distance for two years, with Pete driving the 300 miles to Asheville every weekend, and sometimes they’d meet midweek in Greenville, S. C., just to spend a few hours together.

Labor Day weekend of 2012 rolled around, and Jamie and Pete were about to leave on a trip to Hawaii. But before they said aloha, Pete had a surprise in store for their pre-trip rendezvous in Greenville.

“He proposed in a park by a bench where we’d always drink coffee,” Jamie, 29, recalled. “I kept interrupting his proposal. I’d throw the ball for the dog. He’d get all sappy and I’d interrupt. So when he did it, I was thrown off! And right before he did it, the thought crossed my mind that this would be such a nice place for him to propose.” And he did.

They took time to enjoy their engagement and then took up the arduous task of planning a wedding.

Their families and friends were geographically scattered, so they decided to have a destination wedding in Charleston, S.C., a city they both loved and had gone to for their first anniversary. They agreed that the Lowndes Grove Plantation was the perfect place to begin their life together.

Pete and Jamie were married on Nov. 8, 2013, in a ceremony performed by the bride’s uncle. It was a non-traditional ceremony with readings from "The Velveteen Rabbit" and a riff on the traditional vows.

“I thought I’d be nervous wreck, but it was just kind of surreal,” Jamie said. “I was ready to do it.”

All was going smoothly until it came time to tie the symbolic fisherman’s knot. “We completely botched it!” Jamie said. “We practiced it. We thought we had it, but that’s when I got nervous.”

Her uncle joked that it’s the easiest knot to tie, and they all took it in stride.

Jamie's father didn't have a chance to respond when asked "Who gives this woman away?" by the officiator. The ring bearer immediately answered, "Me, me, me, me!"

The wedding party and guests got a good laugh, and it wasn’t until later that they found out “me” was his word for milk, which he wanted at that moment.

The couple was showered in programs shaped like paper airplanes — a nod to their careers in aviation — as they exited the ceremony and guests moved to a cocktail hour with the sounds of a violin floating through the air.

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Afterward, a joyful reception followed, with music courtesy of the Charleston Groove Factory, an ‘80s/reggae band.

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They had different food stations inside the venue, which included shrimp and grits, glazed short ribs and pasta. They felt it equally represented their Southern and Northern roots.

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When it was time for Pete to retrieve Jamie’s garter, that’s when things got ... icy.

“I had a Smirnoff Ice on my garter,” Jamie said. She was planning on “icing” Pete, a practice by which someone hides a Smirnoff Ice bottle and the person who finds it must drink the whole thing right then and there. “ He had to chug it in front of everyone.” She later found out he had also been iced by his groomsmen just moments before walking down the aisle.

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The mothers of the bride and the groom created beautiful and delicious favors for the guests. His mom is known for her apple butter, and her mom for her blackberry preserves, so they each made enough for 100 portions and gave them out to attendees. A sweet end to a very sweet day.

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Pete, for one, is glad the stress of wedding planning is behind them and content being with Jamie at home in Pompano Beach, Fla.

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“We’re extremely happy now. I couldn’t ask for a better wife,” he said.

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All photos provided by Stay Forever Photography. Want to submit a real wedding? Send us your story and photos here. You can see more from the TODAY Real Weddings series here.

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