Maryland couple couldn’t abandon their Carolina roots

Andrew and Alexzandria McCray are deeply rooted in the people and places of North and South Carolina. Maybe that is why they decided to treat their wedding like a homecoming.

Bride: Alexzandria McCray, 30, speech/language pathologist, native of Bennettsville, South Carolina

Groom: Andrew McCray, 30, urban planner, native of Paterson, New Jersey

Currently Resides: College Park, Maryland

Wedding Date: June 12, 2021

Venue/Location: 21 Main at North Beach, North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

How They Met

(Alexzandria) Andrew and I met during our freshman year at South Carolina State University.  A mutual friend invited us over for game night. Our conversation was brief, things like names and where we were from. It was a large group, so there weren’t a lot of one-on-one interactions. We crossed paths on campus a lot.  We had the same friend groups and were a part of the same campus organizations. 

(Andrew) We both were members of the Student Government Association as well as being a part of Greek life. So, there were a lot of interactions on campus that allowed us to engage with each other a lot. I guess we finally realized that we were always in the same space, and we started to ask more questions. We found that we had a whole lot in common, from our birthdays being a day apart to both of us being adopted. 

Their First Date

(Alexzandria) It was two years before we went on our first date. It happened on Andrew’s 21st birthday. He never celebrated his birthday, so I told him, “Your 21st birthday is a milestone. You have to celebrate.” I took him to Fatz Cafe in Orangeburg, South Carolina. After dinner, we both had our first legal drink and went for a walk around Edisto Gardens. From that day, we were glued together. 

Photo Credit: Dorn-Long Photography

This is “The One”

(Andrew) We had so much in common. There was always something special and some energy that we had between us. I don’t think we paid too much attention to it early on. We just thought that our interactions were a coincidence. But as we sat down and started to really engage, peel back the layers a little, and find out more about one another, there was a lot more synergy than we thought. I think that catapulted us into connecting on a deeper level. I knew I had met my soulmate, somebody who has my best interest at heart and is a true friend. Someone who was there for me. We came from humble beginnings, and at South Carolina State we didn’t have much. But we had each other, and we enjoyed that.

(Alexzandria) It wasn’t until we had gotten a little bit older and had started to withstand the tests of time and distance between us. We were dating long distance for about half of our relationship. As I got further into my 20s, I realized, if this guy could still be with me through distance and despite all my ways, he might be all right. He might be able to handle me forever. To me, Andrew is a godsend. He’s literally like my angel on earth. He’s always in the right place at the right time, with the right responses; knowing when to comfort and when to ask extra questions. He always shows up. He’s everything I could have imagined as a lifelong partner.

The Proposal

(Andrew) I proposed to Alexzandria in Havana, Cuba on October 6, 2018. We took a trip to Cuba to celebrate our 27th birthdays. Our trip included a surprise photoshoot. Before leaving home, I had hired a photographer to take birthday pictures of us as we explored Havana. I had also hired a band to play for us.

It all happened very naturally and never appeared staged. We were in the Malecón section of Havana. It is a plaza that runs for eight miles along the coast. The band was already playing when we arrived. As we were taking pictures, I moved back to allow Alexzandria to take some pictures by herself. Then I tapped her shoulder. When she turned around, she was surprised to see a ring in my hand and started to cry. I asked her if she would marry me. 

(Alexzandria) I didn’t have a clue that he was planning to propose. He was acting normally. I hadn’t noticed anything different about this trip. He planned everything we did in Cuba, which was normal. I was just excited to get out of the country and ready for some adventure. None of my friends or family members gave any sign that they knew something was going to happen in Cuba. So, I had no clue that this was going to be the start of our forever. 

Wedding Planning

(Alexandria) Planning the wedding was so much fun. Our wedding planner was from the Washington, DC area, and she was amazing. She helped throughout this journey, sticking it out with us for almost two years of planning, pandemic and everything. She was patient and kept us on track. From submitting paperwork to decorating, she made sure everything went smoothly. 

(Andrew) We started planning prior to the pandemic. When the pandemic happened, it delayed some things, but it also served as an opportunity for us to reevaluate others. We had planned for the wedding to be in June 2020, but of course, that changed as businesses closed because of Covid.

(Alexzandria) We decided to have our wedding in South Carolina. That is where I am from, and he had a lot of family there also. We wanted to try to make the wedding centrally located for the majority of our family and friends. 

(Andrew) Having the wedding in South Carolina also allowed us to be closer to our alma mater, family and many of our friends and significant places. I guess we kind of treated our wedding like a homecoming. It was like coming home to get married near the place where we first met.

Our engagement pictures were taken at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens and other areas around Charlotte, North Carolina. Charlotte is a special place for us. I asked Alexzandria to be my girlfriend at a Charlotte Panthers v Atlanta Falcons football game on December 9, 2012. Planning a wedding in South Carolina all the way from Maryland created some logistical problems that we had to overcome. Overall, from the food tasting to ring shopping, it was an exciting time.

The Wedding

(Alexzandria) We had a very traditional ceremony. It included the lighting of a memorial candle in honor of those family members who were no longer with us. We also braided a cord of three strands and jumped the broom. My favorite part of the ceremony was walking down the aisle and looking at him. I was just smiling. I thought that I was going to be a big bag of tears, but I was overjoyed to just walk down the aisle and get to this man who would be my husband.

(Andrew) One of my favorite parts of the ceremony was sharing our special handshake with Alexzandria after we said our vows. That’s been our thing for years. Another moment was during the reception.  Although we had a professional DJ, Alexzandria got on the turntables and started to DJ, and I was her hype man. It shocked a lot of people but was a lot of fun.

Photo Credit: Dorn-Long Photography

The Honeymoon

(Alexandria) We went to Cancun, Mexico for our honeymoon. We spent most of our time just hanging around together and relaxing. It was good to just relish in the moment and enjoy finally being husband and wife. We were also very tired from the wedding weekend.

Advice to Others

(Alexzandria) Do whatever makes you happy. Have your wedding as small and intimate or as large as you want. If you want to get married on a beach, in a plane on a skyscraper, do it. It’s all about you and your husband or your partner and how you want to begin your life together.

(Andrew) I think it’s important to be patient, not just patient with the process, be patient with each other. It’s also important to communicate what your vision, goals and expectations are. Some of that communication should be financial. Finally, try your best to enjoy the process.

Photo Credit: Dorn-Long Photography

Braiding of the cord of three strands is a tradition in many Christian weddings. The groom holds a ring that has three ropes attached. The bride braids the cords while the significance of the tradition is explained. It symbolizes the sacred union between God, husband and wife best stated in Ecclesiastes 4:12. “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

Others use the cord of three strands to represent the joining of the couple and their respective families.

Their Vendors

Photography: Dorn-Long Photography

Venue: 21 Main Events at North Beach 

Wedding Planner: Events by J Avery

Hair: Sierra Shear

Make-Up: Kristy Quattlebaum 

Bride’s Gown: New York Bride and Groom of Columbia

Groom’s Attire: @_old_town_tuxedos

Barber: Clipper Nik

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