When Eugene insisted Shonta open her copy of the Winston-Salem Journal early one January morning, she had no idea what she was about to read. Sitting at the kitchen table, Shonta did a double take when she flipped to page A3 and spotted the quarter-page ad with a familiar picture. After reading Eugene’s written request to start a lifetime of laughs, smiles and love together, Shonta turned to find him on one knee holding up a ring.
According to the front-page story that ran in the paper the next day, Shonta did not hesitate. “She said, ‘Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!’”
Eugene had called the Journal less than 24 hours beforehand, frantically trying to reach the correct department to submit his proposal before the deadline. His goal was to make the January 27 paper, as Shonta explains: “The date of the 27th is very special to both of us… [It’s] his mother’s birthdate as well as my parents’ and my sister’s wedding anniversary.”
The couple originally met at Shonta’s parents’ house back in 1994. Eugene was a student at UNC Charlotte at the time and had traveled to Winston-Salem over Thanksgiving to visit his former roommate, who also happened to be Shonta’s cousin. They eventually fell out of touch until reconnecting in 2013, and Eugene proposed two years later.
“His idea and story brought the young lady [at the paper] that finally answered to tears. And thus the proposal made the paper the next day,” says Shonta. “The rest is history … literally.”
Once their engagement hit the newsstands, the couple had less than five months to plan their June wedding. They decided to tie the knot at Shonta’s hometown church, First Baptist Church on Highland Avenue, before heading to Embassy Suites in downtown Winston-Salem for the reception.
“We both wanted something very classy with a party atmosphere and celebratory feel. This was my second wedding, and neither of us wanted it to be really formal,” Shonta says. “The wedding was to be symbolic of our relationship and future lives together.”
The bride wore an ivory satin wedding gown with intricate crystal beading, which she had fallen in love with after her daughter spotted it at the bridal boutique. Shonta finished her look with an elegant birdcage veil and Nina steel luster pumps with crystal ankle straps.
“Initially I set a budget and had the exact style in mind that I wanted. I tried on several dresses in the price range and style I selected until my daughter found something that she wanted me to try,” she explains. “And of course that dress ended up being THE dress and all budgets and previous plans went out the window!”
The couple’s daughters played an important part of their day by serving as members of the wedding party. Shonta’s daughter, Syan, was the maid of honor while Eugene’s daughter, Kailyn, escorted him to the altar. The girls stood nearby as their parents exchanged traditional vows.
“Blending the two families was very important to us, especially with our three girls. Everything we did was with the thought of how our families would be joined together with the celebration.”
Shonta and Eugene joined their 350 guests in the Embassy Suites’ grand pavilion ballroom for a plated dinner reception. The couple had taken time perfecting the seating chart to ensure that both sides of their families would mix and mingle.
“We were adamant about blending the families and not having our guests ‘pick sides,’” Shonta says. “It was important to us that we place all of our loved ones intentionally to spark conversations with one another, not only about us as the bride and groom, but about one another.”
During their first dance to Stevie Wonder’s classic “You and I,” a sound malfunction forced the couple to sing the words in each other’s ears as their family and friends helped finish the song. The unplanned moment made the dance “even more special” for the couple.
Later on in the evening, the couple cut into their single-layer wedding cake topped with fresh white flowers and surrounded by dozens of mini pearl-white cupcakes. Following the sugar boost from the sweet dessert, everyone jumped on the dance floor to continue the revelry into the night.
“It truly was a great celebration of families joining together … just as we planned!”
- The Couple: Shonta Lee-Young & Eugene L. Sellers
- Number of Guests: 350
- Venue: First Baptist Church, Highland Avenue, and Embassy Suites
- Colors: Silver with yellow, ballet pink and powder blue
- Theme: Clean. Elegant. Simple.
- First Dance Song: "You and I" by Stevie Wonder
- Special Touch: Framed copy of their front-page proposal story in the Winston-Salem Journal.
- Advice for Brides: "Don't sweat the small stuff by micromanaging! Trust your bridal party, family and wedding director to handle the plans you have made or you will miss all the wonderful things the day will offer you."
Photography: In His Image Photography | Wedding Director: Faye Redd | Venue: Embassy Suites | Florals: Hawks Florist | Hair And Make-Up: Monica Howie, Monica Jackson-Buxton, and Cherron Williams | Dress: Dawn's Bridal | Bridesmaid Dresses: David's Bridal | Catering: Embassy Suites | Cake: Denise Hill-Little | Music: Derensky Cooper, pianist, and Barry Leach, D.J. | Tuxedos: Men's Wearhouse | Transportation: First Class Limousine | Printing: Signs by Tomorrow