The first time Rudy and LaTonya appeared on Qcity Bride was to announce their engagement. A lot has happened since then, including relocation, job change, and their wedding. They are sharing all the details.
Bride: Latonya Elsberry-Jefferson, 31, Occupational Therapist -Veterans Affairs, a native of Hope Hull, Alabama
Groom: Rudy Jefferson, 33, Professional Photographer/Sales Representative, a native of St, Stephens South Carolina
Current Residence: Charlotte, North Carolina
Wedding Date: October 1, 2022
Venue: Embassy Suites by Hilton – Charlotte, North Carolina
How They Met
(Rudy) Before I met Tonya, I had reached a point where I was ready to start the next phase of my life, finding my future wife. But after a previous relationship did not go as I had expected, I almost gave up on love. I told myself that I was going to stop looking for a wife. Then I met Tonya, and that changed everything.
Tonya and I met in September 2020. I had told my cousin, Beth, about my decision to give up on love. She told me that she knew someone that was my “type.” She seemed to think very highly of this woman and insisted that she had a great spirit about herself. Beth encouraged me to meet her just one time. I was unsure how well Beth knew Tonya, but I trusted Beth’s judgment and knew she would not steer me in the wrong direction. I went on Instagram and found Tonya’s page. To my surprise, I thought she was beautiful. I decided to be bold and send her a message.
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I sent Tonya a nice message, but she ignored it. Instead, she messaged me on my business page, saying she needed some headshots. I decided to play her game and treat her like a client, knowing good and well that I wanted to get to know her. We started this joke “business first.” Eventually, we exchanged numbers and have not stopped talking since.
(Latonya) After initially ignoring Rudy’s message, I started to complete my own investigation, first by talking with a mutual friend. I had to find out everything I could about this handsome guy and why he would randomly message me. I found out he was a photographer, and I needed headshots. I would never have guessed that my initial “business inquiry” would make us inseparable.
Their First Date
(Latonya) Our first date was at Firebirds-Northlake. It was nothing fancy. We were still getting a feel for one another. We had dinner reservations for 7:00 p.m. Our initial conversation was about asking hard questions, like: “What are your short and long-term goals? What motivates you? Are you family-oriented? And “Do you prefer grits with sugar or salt?”
The conversation seemed very authentic and genuine. The next thing we knew, it was after 10 p.m., and we did not want the night to end. Looking back, we realize that dinner was the start of how we became great communicators over time. We have been able to ask each other tough questions from the very beginning. It helped us really get to know one another.
This is “The One”
(Rudy) I knew after a couple of times hanging out and having deep conversations that Tonya was truly the one. I had decided that she would be my wife even before asking her to be my girlfriend. I could completely be myself around her. She created a safe environment for me to be vulnerable. Our conversations just seem to flow so naturally and easily. We both felt as though we had known each other our entire lives. I just knew I could not let her go.
(Latonya) Within the first few months of dating Rudy, I knew I wanted to be with him for the rest of my life. While he is very handsome and charming, it was the way he made me feel secure and protected. I was able to be vulnerable with him early in our relationship without fear of judgment. He is also a man of God. What really sealed the deal was when he suggested we begin to pray together daily. I knew then he was the one God created just for me. Since then, we have not missed a day of prayer together, acknowledging God first in everything that we do. From the way he loves God first, then me, there is nothing that we cannot accomplish together.
(Rudy) Our proposal was a complete surprise to LaTonya, even though she had planned the party. In March 2021, two of my friends told LaTonya that I had never had a surprise birthday party. It had always been my intention to have them convince her to coordinate a surprise party. Everyone knew of the plans except LaTonya. Even her best friends kept the secret.
She got busy planning and coordinating a surprise birthday party for me. Little did she know the surprise would be for her, and it would be a wonderful surprise. My surprise birthday party turned out to be our proposal/engagement party.
(LaTonya) The wedding planning went better than I expected. Rudy and I did most of our own planning, so we did not have an official wedding planner. Our first task was to book the venue and solidify the wedding date. Embassy Suites provided us with a wedding coordinator who helped with the booking and securing any other services we needed from the venue.
We were in planning mode until about sixty days before the wedding when we hired a wedding coordinator. That really helped as we got closer to our wedding date; by the time the coordinator took over, we already had everything in place. We just had to ensure she knew our vision and what we wanted for our wedding day. She did a great job making sure our vision came to life.
We also hired a décor coordinator. We met with her one or two times at the beginning of the planning process, and she ran with it. She made sure our décor was perfect for our wedding day.
The most difficult part of planning was managing the guest list, but we found a way of minimizing that stress. From the beginning, we set our guest count at 250 people. As we got closer to the date, some people started to drop off. We also had people who heard about the wedding and reached out to us to say they would love to come to the wedding. We would explain that, at present, we were at capacity but would add them to the reserve list and notify them in advance if anyone dropped off. This made the process of managing the guest list easy. Of the 250 invited guests, only 8 seats were not filled at our wedding.
(LaTonya) I would not describe our wedding as traditional because we did not have it in a church. Even the layout of the ceremony was different. The stage was in the center, so when I walked in, I had to walk down then in a circle to get to the stage. That made it a very intimate setting. Our pastor did an amazing job of keeping everyone entertained while verbalizing the importance of the day to witness our union. He guided us spiritually through the process of getting married. It was a joyous occasion for me.
We wrote our own vows. I wrote mine one day at 3:00 a.m. I was restless and felt like God was directing me to write down what I wanted to say to my husband. The first line of my vows to Rudy was, “I prayed for you.” It was a line that echoed throughout my vows.
(Rudy) For me, the wedding was very emotional. I lost both my last grandmothers, one near the end of 2020 and the other in January. I chose to honor their memory by having their pictures custom sewn into the inside of my jacket. It was a reminder to me of their love for me.
Hurricane Ian was supposed to reach Charlotte the weekend of our wedding. It was like a tsunami the day before our wedding. I prayed that it would be clear and sunny on our wedding day, and that is literally what happened.
I cried all morning leading up to the wedding. Once I got to the venue, time just flew by. I remember bits and pieces of the wedding. Seeing our friends and family dressed in black was beautiful, and enjoying that moment with Tonya and me was beautiful.
My most memorable moment of the wedding was what everyone came to see, the bride coming through the door. I always tell her how beautiful she is, but seeing her on our wedding day was jaw-dropping. She had been telling me about her dress and how beautiful it was. It was even more beautiful than she described with her wearing it. Surprisingly, I did not cry.
(LaTonya)The most memorable moment for me was when the doors opened for the ceremony. My decor coordinator and bridesmaid told me to stop when the doors opened and take a moment to embrace what was happening, so I did. If I cannot remember anything else about that day, I remember that moment.
When the doors opened, I saw our friends and family first. It was also the moment that my nerves got the best of me. I had been so calm the whole morning. I was in a really good space, mentally. Then the doors opened for the ceremony. At first, there was the wow factor; then, nervousness hit me for a second. That is when I looked directly at Rudy, and my nervousness instantly disappeared. I don’t think I will ever forget that moment.
(Rudy) The whole message in my vows to Tonya was, “But God.” God had brought us together, and only God could have made our union work. Our wedding was everything I could have hoped for and dreamed of. I would do it all over again.
(LaTonya) I can sum up our honeymoon with one word, relaxing. We honeymooned at Nonsuch Bay, Antigua. It was phenomenal. Instead of having a wedding registry, we had a honeymoon fund. I appreciate everyone who donated to our honeymoon; it made our whole week. We got a chance to unwind, reflect on the wedding, and enjoy one another.
(Rudy) We toured the island and visited different beaches. It was beautiful. We went on a lobster cruise and got a chance to see the ocean and island from aboard a lobster boat. We were supposed to go snorkeling but wore the wrong clothes. The people were nice and welcoming, the food was good, and the weather was perfect. We disconnected from the world and focused on one another. It was a wonderful experience to share with Tonya.
Advice to Others
(LaToya) Have a solid team, including your wedding party, who are willing to provide a stress-free environment and support you throughout the process. Find vendors you can trust. You are counting on them to bring your vision to life.
Rudy and I set the expectations for everybody that was involved with our wedding from the very beginning. Everybody knew their roles. From the time we asked our wedding party to be a bridesmaid or groomsman to the wedding day, and even now, they are part of our village.
Photographer: Dorn-Long Photography
Venue: Embassy Suites Charlotte
Videographer: Masterkey Productions
Decor Coordinator: Your Signature Designs – Michelle Summers
Wedding Coordinator: CreateHer Prints & Event
Caterer: Divine Catering Charlotte
Cake Design: Sweet It Is
Officiant: Pastor Austin Smith
Bride’s Attire: Anjolique Bridal
Bridal Accessories: AI and Eva Bridal Jewelry
Groom’s Attire: Nyoni Couture
MUAs: Porsha Davis flyfanci, itsjessmakeup
Hair: Her Given Hair– Prinshell Williams Versatility Natural Hair Salon
DJ: Mr. Party Rocker
Band: @ejeter_music @rell_1995 @blf_guitar14
Singers: @cammwess @willie_qool /Charlotte Gunn
360 Photo Booth: @pose360clt
Custom Wedding Decor Table Signage: @classc87