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Romance at River Dunes

Coastal Wedding Weekend at River Dunes in Oriental, North Carolina

Jessica and Joshua describe the way they met as “serendipitous,” because their love story started the same way their parents had both found one another: as neighbors. The pair grew up in the Raleigh area, but Joshua went to Sanderson High School and graduated from East Carolina University while Jessica attended Enloe High School and graduated from the College of Charleston. In 2017, they found themselves living in the same neighborhood in downtown Raleigh, and what started as a neighborly friendship blossomed into a romance. Three years later, Joshua surprised Jessica with an unexpected proposal at Ocracoke Island, the beach town he grew up visiting with his family. Jessica and Joshua got married on Oct. 2, 2021 and hosted all of their wedding festivities at River Dunes in Oriental, NC.

A Proposal in the Sand

In September of 2020, the couple gathered some close friends and rented a small cottage on Ocracoke Island to celebrate Jessica’s birthday weekend. It was their first outing since the onset of the pandemic, which made the trip even sweeter. One day at sunset, Joshua drove Jessica out to the end of the island and, after a long walk on the beach, got down on one knee. She said yes, and when they got back to the cottage she was surprised with a romantic dinner with champagne and cake that had been sent over by their families and set up by her best friend. “It was private, romantic and perfectly fitting for us,” Jessica says.

River Dunes – Wedding Venue in Coastal North Carolina

Because of the pandemic, Jessica and Joshua knew their wedding would be the first time in a while that a majority of their extended family and friends would be together. For that reason, they wanted to create an intimate, vacation-like experience with a focus on comfort and spending quality time with one another. River Dunes, with its charming coastal setting and luxurious amenities, made the perfect venue. Husband-and-wife professional photography duo Preston Smith and Heather Smith documented the celebrations.

Jessica and Joshua first heard about River Dunes, a waterfront community with 14 acres of scenic waterfront property on the Pamlico Sound, through Joshua’s aunt who lives in nearby New Bern, NC. In a leap of faith, they booked River Dunes sight unseen to snag one of the last weekends available in fall of the next year. It ended up being a fantastic choice. Their guests spent the weekend in River Dunes’ cozy cottages, which are complete with fireplaces, kitchens and other amenities. From the cottages, guests were able to walk to each of the wedding events, and during downtime they relaxed by the pool, took in the waterfront views and played yard games. “It felt like a fancy but laid-back summer camp for adults!” Jessica says. 

When it came down to it, “we didn’t fuss too much about color schemes or details. We let our expert vendors bring our vision to life,” Jessica explains. River Dunes’ on-site planner, Robin Cox, helped the mothers of the couple who planned the rehearsal dinner, ceremony and reception. The bride wore a satin, fitted white dress by Paloma Blanca from Thornbury Brides in New Bern. She also chose a pair of delicate pearl earrings from Bailey’s Fine Jewelry. The mothers of the couple each bought their dresses from Kannon’s Clothing, a family owned clothing store in Raleigh, NC. The groom’s custom tux with a special lining came from Liles Clothing Studio.

Inclusive Wedding Weekend at River Dunes

The couple blended their respective cultures for their outdoor ceremony at the chapel at River Dunes. Jessica and Joshua incorporated details of both of their families and cultural traditions. Jessica’s mother, DJ Mitsch, sang an Irish blessing as a nod to their side of the family, and the newlyweds broke glasses to honor Joshua’s Jewish heritage.

River Dunes was the couples’ one-stop shop for the entire wedding weekend. They hosted their welcome dinner, wedding rehearsal, ceremony and reception at River Dunes. The unique waterfront wedding venue also provided catering, managed the guest accommodations and on-site planning. “River Dunes made the entire experience for us and our guests seamless,” Jessica says. 

bride and groom River Dunes dock coastal wedding

Personal Wedding Day Details

The wedding was intimate and family-oriented. Joshua’s father, Reid Homes, was the best man. Jessica’s longest and closest friend from childhood served as her maid of honor. The flower girl was Jessica’s five-year-old goddaughter. The couple took care to incorporate their North Carolina roots into the food and theme.

“Allow yourself to make your special day your own,” Jessica advises engaged couples. “Throw out the rule book and keep only the traditions that matter and are personal to you as a couple. Soak up every moment of your special day – it will fly by!”

A Special Send-off Dress

Before the end of their reception at River Dunes, Jessica changed into her mother’s wedding dress from 34 years ago. “It fit like a glove,” said Jessica. “We only had to make one small repair and send it to the dry cleaners. Wearing it was very special.” As a wedding favor, the couple gave the guests custom mason jars and a bag of gourmet s’mores as a nod to the outdoorsy vibe of the weekend.

Jessica and Joshua live in Historic Mordecai in downtown Raleigh, where Jessica is cofounder and CEO of software training company Momentum and Joshua is a business development manager for a water, wastewater and renewable energy company.

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