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Love Conquers All

UNC Charlotte Shooting Survivor Says ‘I Do’ at Walnut Hill 

Tragedy struck while Drew Pescaro was in class at UNC Charlotte on April 30, 2019. He spent 27 days in the hospital recovering after being injured during the shooting that took place at the university. Seven months later, with the event still fresh in their minds, childhood sweethearts Drew and Erin got engaged. They tied the knot on June 26, 2021 at Walnut Hill in Raleigh, North Carolina, shortly after Drew graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communications. Local wedding vendors donated their services to the couple and came together to help them celebrate their love story in a beautiful way.

Wedding Vendors Gather to Help UNC Charlotte Shooting Survivor

Tiffany Franchi from Weddings by Tiffany first learned of the couple’s story on the news and offered her services to Erin and Drew to help them plan and execute their wedding. When Tiffany shared Erin and Drew’s background in a Facebook group with local wedding and event vendors, dozens of others offered to donate their services to gift the couple a magical wedding day.

“The way the local wedding community rallied around Drew and I and offered to share their talents with us makes me smile every time I think about it,” Erin says.

Keep scrolling to read more about Erin and Drew’s incredible love story and beautiful wedding at Walnut Hill.

An Emotional Bailey’s Fine Jewelry Engagement

Erin and Drew first met in middle school. “Drew and I actually met back in April 2011 in sixth grade,” Erin explains. They went to their eighth grade dance as “just friends” and have been inseparable ever since. In addition to sharing their hometown of Apex, NC, Erin and Drew went to school together at Middle Creek High School and eventually went on to attend UNC Charlotte together, too.

Drew’s parents, Ed Pescaro and Denise Pescaro, have a tradition of gifting each of their children and Erin an ornament each year as a Christmas present, which represents each child’s interests or an important event that took place at some point during the year. When Erin unwrapped hers in December 2019, it read ‘first Christmas engaged.’ When she looked up, Drew dropped down on one knee and presented her with an engagement ring from Bailey’s Fine Jewelry. Erin immediately began crying tears of joy. Luckily, Drew’s dad caught the whole thing on video!

“It was amazing for Drew’s whole family to be there for the proposal and be part of the celebration,” Erin says. “It was actually a complete surprise, which is very impressive because Drew is the worst at keeping a secret!”

Walnut Hill – Wedding Venue in Raleigh, NC

After learning about Erin and Drew’s history, Walnut Hill owner Amanda Peoples knew that she wanted to take part in helping the couple experience an amazing wedding day. Amanda decided to offer Walnut Hill, a wedding venue located on land that’s been in her family for several generations, to Erin and Drew free of cost.

Walnut Hill’s picturesque wedding and event space in Raleigh is set on 15 acres and offers two houses for each respective wedding party to get ready in, plus manicured gardens and extensive outdoor spaces. “Walnut Hill was an absolute dream venue,” Erin says.

Erin explains that tying the knot at Walnut Hill was extra-special, and not just because of Amanda’s generosity. “When we booked our date, Walnut Hill was still a fairly new venue but we had no doubt that it was the place for us and we knew we wanted to work with Amanda. She was there for us through every step of the way and we got to see firsthand how much she truly cares for each of her couples.”

Wedding Day Details

Drew and Erin decided on a simplistic theme and wedding colors of light blue and gold. “We decided to keep things simple so our wedding day could really be about Drew and I’s story,” Erin says. The bridesmaid’s cornflower blue dresses from Kennedy Blue popped against the pale yellow of Walnut Hill’s Estate House and the pavilion’s light stone pavers.

Erin chose an understated, fitted dress with an embellished belt from Uniquely U Bridal. “In the 2020 Heart of NC Weddings issue, I spotted a gorgeous satin dress that was simple, but so elegant. I always imagined my wedding dress to be dramatic with lots of beading, but after seeing the dress in the magazine, I fell in love with a simple and classic style,” Erin explains. “The dress I ended up choosing was nearly identical!”

Outdoor Ceremony Setting at Walnut Hill

Kevin Holland, a wedding officiant based in Raleigh, NC, also offered his services for the day free of charge for the couple. For Erin and Drew, saying their vows was a deeply meaningful moment. They tied the knot during an outdoor ceremony on Walnut Hill’s lawn under massive, swaying trees. Walnut Hill is home to a stunning Osage Orange tree that is more than 300 years old. Couples have loved sharing their vows at this special spot under shady branches since Walnut Hill began hosting weddings.

After knowing each other for the better part of their lives, Erin says that they each felt really emotional while reading the personalized vows they wrote for each other. “I knew I would get emotional reading mine, but I wasn’t sure how Drew would react when it was his turn. As Drew read his vows to me, he teared up and it was just such a sweet reminder of what the day was all about – expressing our forever love and commitment to one another.”

Indoor Reception at Walnut Hill’s Pavilion Barn

The couple held their reception inside Walnut Hill’s barn which features sliding barn doors to give the option for a unique indoor/outdoor option. The barn, which can seat 200 guests, was repainted white after this wedding took place (click here to see the new style!) Inside the pavilion, Erin and Drew’s guests enjoyed a meal from Southern Harvest and cocktails and beer from Brewmasters Mobile.

“We used Brewmasters Mobile for alcohol and they were a hit! Molly and Morkos, the owners, were so attentive to all our questions and their suggestions for our drink package were spot on – the guests ran the kegs dry!”

Abby Laine’s Baking provided cupcakes and a two-tiered white cake. Abby also crafted gluten-free options for guests with dietary restrictions. Guests and the newlyweds danced the night away as DJ Caleb from Dow Oak Events provided entertainment.

It’s no doubt that this wedding of a UNC Charlotte shooting survivor is among the most special and unique events that have taken place at Walnut Hill. Erin says that the vendors who came together to help her and Drew tie the knot made the day incredible. In addition to the planner, officiant and venue, services were generously gifted by Ali White Media, Heidi Bee Photography and hair and makeup artist Heather Hall. “To say that these vendors are the reason our wedding day was unforgettable is simply an understatement,” Erin says.

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