Access March 2021

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More Than A Magazine! ACCESSTHEBAY.COM March 2021















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from the EDITOR...


ove is in the air, and with nothing like a pandemic to make us realize how important those we love truly are, brides from all over the Bay area have been opting for smaller, more intimate weddings over large gatherings in an effort to avoid further “big day” delays. Fortunately, our area offers a plethora of “quainter than quaint” venue options catering to just such affairs. As you’ll notice in these pages, nothing was sacrificed going small. In fact, much was to be gained. While being interviewed for the engagement and wedding announcements for this issue, many of the couples gushed about how their fiancé or spouse is their best friend. It seems the pandemic offered a lot of what I like to refer to as the “Big P” — perspective. While I won’t be getting married any time soon (or ever), in keeping my circle small to stay safe and protect my loved ones, I was able to identify those I cherish most. A particular pandemic highlight was getting to talk to one of my closest friends, Dan, on the daily. Running the lives of several celebrities in NYC, he’s typically just too busy for long calls. But stopped in his tracks by the pandemic, he had all the time in the world for me. Over the phone (for hours at a time) he taught me how to make butter, cook the perfect steak, master Zoom, and more. It was heaven. Recently vaccinated, Dan even showed up for a surprise visit that I know I owe to the bond we reaffirmed over those calls. Both lovers of the single life, fashion, art, champagne, and foolish antics, he is the best friend a girl could have, and I wish everyone could have their own personal “Dan.” Thankfully, it seems our brides, too, have that all figured out. Whether your best friend is your significant other or simply a fantastic “Dan,” be sure to embrace and enjoy the love. Congratulations to all our brides!

op II Dan on set with Murphy D. Bish ing visit le whi Co. Skin er Bett The of




MARKET EDITOR Kristi Welford Hicks



ART DIRECTOR Mallory Godwin



COLUMNISTS Charlotte Kilborn Carey Tom Loper Dr. Kimberly Donnellan Aaron VanHauter


MARCH 2021 / Volume 71 Number 62


6 12 20

WEDDING & ENGAGEMENT ANNOUNCEMENTS See who has recently said, “Yes!” and “I do,” around the Bay Area.


Despite a global pandemic, these couples proved that love prevails, tying the knot amid friends and family in gorgeous ceremonies (even if they looked a little different than first imagined).


Celebrating 10 years of Bliss Bridal, powerhouse boss lady Katie Ward shares the story behind all those white dresses.











Local skin guru Murphy D. Bishop II, cofounder and CEO of The Better Skin Co., breaks down the timeline and skincare products every future bride needs in her arsenal.

Explore some of the breathtaking venues catering to smaller, COVID-friendly weddings right here in our own backyard, including The Fairhope Inn and Little Point Clear.

How Angela Francia is continuing her father’s legacy by taking over the family business at Francia’s Formal Affair, and how Soirée Signatures is combating the uncertainty surrounding wedding invitations during the pandemic by offering semi-custom invites that can be printed in as little as three days!

USA Health Mitchell Cancer Institute’s Cassandra Gurganus discusses the frontier of genetic testing and counseling and how it applies to us all.

Pink Table Talk, Mind Your Business, Beauty & the Bay, and Wellness That Works

C O V E R C RE D I T S Photos Ann Sinclair Photography


Manuscripts, photos and art material will be considered, but will be recieved only with the understanding that the magazine or its employees shall not be responsible for loss or damage, unless otherwise agreed to in writing. All contents @Hayley Hill Style Access, LLC. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or part without permission is prohibited. ACCESS mobile.baldwin is published 10 times per year. Subscription rate is $21.95 per year. All subscription inquiries should be mailed to P.O. Box 8586, Mobile, AL 36689-8586 or visit If the post office alerts us that your magazine is undeliverable, we have no further obligation unless we receive a corrected address within two years.

Mollie & Chad

Sherri& Jordan

Daughter of Jon & Stephanie Moss and Buzzy & Nicole Riis Son of Doug & Judy Hartley

Daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Lawyer J. Tillman, Jr. and Mr. and Mrs. Donald O. Bumpers Son of Mr. Joseph J. Kabalka and the late Mrs. Linda Gail Rowley and Mr. Mark Rowley



ollie Moss and Chad Hartley were engaged while vacationing at The Greenbrier, where on December 18, 2020, they took a carriage ride in the new fallen snow, stopping in front of the iconic Spring House where Chad dropped to his knee to propose. Overjoyed, Mollie said, “Yes,” and the pair enjoyed the rest of their getaway over-the-moon as the future Mr. and Mrs. Hartley. The couple intend to wed at Government Street Presbyterian Church, where Mollie has attended her entire life. Having known one other since kindergarten at St. Paul’s Episcopal School (and with the exception of a formal their sophomore year of high school), the pair didn’t date until Mollie’s debutante season at the SCS Ball where Chad served as her escort. The couple currently lives in Louisville, Ky., where Mollie works with Aerotek and Chad is a third year dental student.


mid-westerner from Michigan, Jordan Kabalka found his way to the South nearly eight years ago after being offered a job in Mobile, Ala. Feeling much like a fish out of water, the last thing he had in mind was planting long-term roots in a Southern city — that is, until he met the love of his life, Sherri Bumpers. On a humid September night during Mobile Fashion Week, Sherri attended a runway show being held at Jordan’s office. When the two were introduced there was an immediate connection. Jordan’s first thought was that Sherri was the most gorgeous girl he’d ever seen, and Sherri (having developed an immediate crush) was eager to know all about the interesting outsider. They became fast friends and talked all night, exchanging countless stories and making each other laugh. Seven months later (ironically after attending another local fashion show for the Ronald McDonald House), Sherri and Jordan made their relationship official. After dating for several years, Sherri shares that she still enjoys how Jordan makes her laugh, and Jordan loves how thoughtful she is. Sherri fondly recalls the day they got engaged at the Grand Hotel in Point Clear, Ala. Although there was no fashion show, there was a fashion dilemma. As the couple dressed for brunch and the pool, Sherri admits she didn’t approve of Jordan’s outfit and insisted he change, clueless to the fact that Jordan had already carefully hidden the ring in his pocket! As the couple spent the day relaxing poolside, Jordan waited for the perfect moment to pop the question. Sherri suggested they go play in the Bay, at which time Jordan realized his opportunity was at hand. After playfully wading chest-deep into the Bay, Sherri turned around, and to her surprise, found Jordan standing with the ring on his pinky, asking her to spend the rest of her life with him. Overwhelmed with joy, Sherri shares it felt like a movie as it was just the two of them, in the middle of Mobile Bay, promising forever! The happy couple will wed April 3, 2021 at the Bragg Mitchell Mansion.

Your story starts here




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Elizabeth& Adam

Brie& Jake

Daughter of John & Natalie Frey Son of Mike & Joan Carder

Daughter of Sally & Gary Reynolds and Son of Mary Ann Napper





lizabeth Ann Frey and Adam Michael Carder met just over eight months ago at the Alan Jackson Concert at Oak Hollow Farm in Fairhope the night of June 13, 2020, wherein an immediate connection sparked, and a beautiful relationship ensued. A mere seven months later on the evening of February 14, 2021, Adam informed Elizabeth they’d be dining at the Wash House in Point Clear to celebrate Valentine’s Day — but not before Elizabeth completed an extensive scavenger hunt he’d planned prior to their evening out. Assuming he’d be taking her back to where they’d initially met and all the other places they’d gone that warm summer night, Elizabeth happily obliged. Arriving at Oak Hollow Farm, Adam led Elizabeth through the field where Alan Jackson’s stage had been set, insisting they take a selfie at that exact spot. After their photo, the pair walked back to Adam’s truck where he instructed Elizabeth to don a blindfold he’d placed in a gift bag for her. Apprehensive, Elizabeth agreed, allowing herself to be led to the Oak Hollow Barn. It was there that Adam dropped to his knee, asking Elizabeth to remove the blindfold. With twinkle lights dangling above, rose petals sprinkled around their feet, and a playlist Adam had compiled highlighting the various songs the couple had enjoyed together playing in the background, Adam asked Elizabeth to share the rest of her life with him. In disbelief and crying tears of joy, Elizabeth exclaimed, “Of course I will marry you!” as a photographer and videographer Adam had hired prior to the proposal captured every moment. Tamara Wintzell of Tamara’s Downtown had set a table and flowers with a delicious full course dinner and champagne for the couple to celebrate and toast to their future nuptials, thus rounding out a perfect evening. Enthralled with the magic and thrill of it all, Elizabeth says she feels so blessed to call Adam her fiancé and looks forward to saying “I do” at Fairhope United Methodist Church in the fall of 2021. The reception will follow at The Venue in downtown Fairhope, catered by Tamara’s Downtown.

acob Napper (Jake) and Bridget Reynolds (Brie) had their first official date on Jake’s boat in the spring of 2015 — the same boat on which the pair had met several years prior through mutual friends. After hours of flirtatious conversation and fun in the sun, it was kismet. The couple were engaged in April of 2019 in Italy, falling so in love with the beauty and allure of the country that they vowed to return the following year to say, “I do.” Sadly, initial plans to wed at a small villa on Lake Como in April of 2020 were shattered when Italy was forced into lockdown amid the pandemic, and Brie’s dreams of an intimate, Italian wedding became uncertain. With the travel ban perpetually in place, their plans to delay the ceremony were continually foiled, ultimately resulting in the couple’s decision to have the wedding stateside. With the weight of wedding planning baring down on Brie’s shoulders, she decided to contact Brooke Guesnard and Jeanne Hunt with Events Detailed. With just three months remaining before the wedding (on top of juggling persistent COVID guidelines and bracing against the Gulf Coast’s active 2020 hurricane season), Events Detailed took on the majority of the wedding planning tasks and responsibilities, thus alleviating a massive amount of stress from the soonto-be newlyweds. Concerned pandemic regulations could change on a whim, the couple decided on a small ceremony reserved solely for immediate family, followed by a friend-filled reception. Incorporating outdoor lighting provided by Willow Bridge Lighting and a beautiful furniture setup from Port City Rentals, the event team transformed the couple’s Rivierre du Chien backyard into the perfect wedding venue. On the evening of October 3, 2020, Brie’s father escorted her arm-in-arm down the steps of the couple’s back deck, her gorgeous cathedral veil flowing behind her and carried by her two angelically dressed nieces (wings and all). They proceeded through the yard until reaching her groom beneath an old cypress tree by the dock. Through joyful and tear-filled eyes, the father of the bride gave his daughter’s hand to his new son-in-law and the two exchanged vows. Officially Mr. and Mrs., the newlyweds set off into the sunset on a quick boat ride to reminisce about that momentous day they first met and to celebrate the beautiful future that lay ahead. Upon returning to their home, they were greeted with a yard full of loved ones as the band leader of the evening’s musical entertainment, “Creativity,” introduced them for the first time as Mr. and Mrs. Napper. Guests ate, drank, and danced as the band rocked the night away until it was time for the send-off. The newlyweds kissed, hugged, and said their goodbyes as they made their way through a sparkler-lit tunnel and were whisked away into the night to live “Happily Ever Napper.” Event Design and Planning: Events Detailed Music: Creativity Photographer: Rae Leytham Cake: Pollman’s Florist: Zimlich the Florist (Dennis Harris) Rentals: Port City Rentals Lighting: Willow Bridge Lighting Catering: Georgia Rousso Catering Dress and Veil: I Do Bridal

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Megan& Larry

Mary & Grant ENGAGED FEBRUARY 17, 2021

ENGAGED SEPTEMBER 26, 2020 Daughter of Andrew & Karia Manas and Son of Larry & Jackie Goontz

Daughter of Malcolm & Myra Creager and Son of Steve & Nancy Pate



egan Manas shares that meeting Larry Goontz was like a scene from a movie. Employed at ACCESS after graduating from the University of South Alabama in 2018, Megan was on her way home when she found herself in a car accident with Larry on the Bayway in the middle of 5 o’clock traffic! Stuck on the bridge together for over an hour, they got to know each other. She an advertising account executive and he a structural liaison engineer for American Airlines, they talked about traveling and music festivals (among many other shared interests) as they waited for assistance. From there, a friendship blossomed, and while at an event Megan’s family was hosting at Serda Brewing Co., Larry asked her out on their first date.

From there the relationship took flight, with Larry credited with having planned a true “fairytale proposal.” As self-described jetsetters, the couple travelled to Aruba in September 2020. Flying first class to the islands before most started traveling, they felt like they had the place almost entirely to themselves. After soaking up the Aruban sun, Larry rented a private boat for just the two of them, complete with champagne. Heading out to the famous California Lighthouse at sunset, the boat stopped, and Larry got down on one knee to propose to Megan with a custom ring. Afterward, the couple enjoyed a beachfront dinner where they were greeted by a band serenade and a round of applause from restaurant staffers and patrons. With both families anxiously waiting for their calls, Megan describes the proposal as magical. Now an office administrator at Landshark Promotions and feeling like the luckiest girl in the world to have this amazing person to spend the rest of her life with, Megan is in the midst of planning a large November wedding in the heart of downtown Mobile. Counting down the minutes until they say “I do” at the Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Megan and Larry can’t wait to enjoy a rehearsal dinner at Colonial Fort Condé and the wedding reception at The Ezell House with their beloved friends and family.

ith the perfect winter view nestled at a private greenhouse table on a balcony at Relish Breckenridge in Breckenridge, Colorado this February, Grant Pate proposed to the love of his life, Mary Creager, on a romantic getaway just after the couple ordered their drinks, as he simply couldn’t wait any longer. Elated, Mary said, “Yes,” and the couple turned their attentions to their future nuptials, planning to wed in Mobile in the spring or fall of 2022. Having met Mary’s freshman year of high school at Faith Academy, Mary jokes that Grant “thought he was ‘Mr. Cool,’” asking her one morning before class to attend one of his football games. From there, Grant courted Mary over a series of dates, eventually attending homecoming together. But after high school, the pair drifted apart — though they say they never lost touch. Rekindling their love in the fall of 2019, the pair have since been inseparable, with Mary comparing their love to that of Carrie and Mr. Big from “Sex and the City,” in that Grant has been and will always be her greatest love. The two agree God has a funny way of always working things out, and how timing is everything. With a relationship rooted in friendship, Mary says Grant is the first one she wants to share everything with (and that he says the same about her). Admitting she always thought it was odd when couples called each other “their person,” Mary says she’s finally come to understand just what that means.





6611 Wall Street • Mobile, AL 36695 | 251.607.0110 - local | 111 W. Church Street • Jackson, AL 36545 | 877.660.1103 - toll–free |

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If there’s one thing a pandemic can’t cancel, it’s love, and these beautiful couples can attest, having remained steadfast in navigating the uncertainty of COVID-19 to ultimately say, “I do.” Though their wedding days may have been postponed, downsized, or missing important friends and family, each couple was thankful to celebrate their love in any way they could, having made memories that are sure to last a lifetime. By CAROLINE EDMONDSON



March 7, 2020

llison and William Coley’s relationship started as a seemingly innocent crush in the hallways of middle school, eventually blossoming (after a few years and a little persistence) into an official relationship their junior year of high school. Nine years later, the couple finally tied the knot and laid the foundation for a beautiful life together. When asked how they knew the other was “the one” for them, they both agree that there was never a true defining moment, but a mutual realization that they couldn’t imagine doing life without the other. “Thank you, God, for bringing us together,” Allison beams. When it came to popping the question, Allison jokes that William tried his hardest to keep the moment a surprise, though she says she was a little suspicious after he insisted they drive over the Bay for the Blue Angels show that was ultimately cancelled due to Tropical Storm Barry. “William may not have surprised me with the proposal, but he did surprise me by having all of our closest friends and family at my parents’ house to celebrate afterward,” she recalls. “Needless to say, Barry did not rain on our parade!” When it came to planning their wedding, Allison said she loved how involved William was in sorting out all of the details. “I did not expect him to have such strong opinions about the venue, food, cake, music, etc.,” she admits. “I can be really indecisive, so it was helpful to have his input as a deciding factor at times.” The pair decided on Cotton Hall as their reception venue, elated over how truly magical everything turned

out. “My family and the bridal party got to see it before the ceremony,” Allison shares. “It was such a special moment getting to see the venue with my dad beforehand, as he got to see my reaction without all of the commotion that comes with the reception,” she recollects. Coming from a large Lebanese family, Allison insisted on serving some of her family’s favorite traditional Lebanese dishes, which various relatives helped prep beforehand. Naman’s Catering took over the day of, ensuring the premade dishes (along with many others) were fried and served at the reception. “Naman’s did such a great job with creating the menu,” Allison gushes. “Some of my favorites were the fried oysters, mini shrimp tacos, and the mac and cheese bar!” Their sumptuous cake was made by the ever-talented Betty Weber, featuring layers of different cake flavors (Allison couldn’t decide on just one) topped with an assortment of flowers cascading down. “I can’t wait for our one-year anniversary to bring out our wedding cake slices my mom has been saving in her freezer,” Allison says. Aesthetics and details aside, everyone knows that the most important aspect of a wedding is the people you share it with, and with a wedding party of 44, it’s safe to say Allison and William were bathed in love on their perfect day. “My bridal party included my four beautiful sisters, four amazing cousins, and 14 best friends,” Allison shares. “I am so blessed to have had my 22 best girls there with me.” To incorporate a family heirloom, Allison wore a gorgeous broach traditionally worn by members of her family on their wedding days. “My sisters and I have Ann Sinclair Photography

14 ACCESS Magazine / March 2021

all worn it differently,” Allison shares. “My oldest sister attached the broach to her pearl necklace, and my other sister and I attached it to our bracelets.” After the wedding, Allison and William jetted off to St. Lucia for a breathtaking honeymoon abroad. As for what they’re looking forward to most about married life? “It’s having that one person that God put in your life who is always going to be on your team and support you no matter what,” Allison says. CATERER: Naman’s PHOTOGRAPHER: Ann Sinclair Photography VIDEOGRAPHER: Colby Jackson Media LIGHTING: Willow Bridge BAND/DJ: Creativity WEDDING PLANNER: Events Detailed RENTALS: Port City Rentals GOWN: Ivory and White MEN’S SUITS: Francia’s Formal Affair MAKEUP: Alexandrea West HAIR: Alexandrea West FLOWERS: Belle Bouquet ACCOMMODATIONS: Hilton Garden Inn



June 13, 2020

aura Henriksen Douglas and Taylor Douglas have known each other for quite some time, having attended the same high school (though the pair were in different grades). Now nearly 10 years into their relationship, the couple agree that they each knew the other was “the one” for years. “We were serious in high school, but once we made it through college and post-college, he asked me to move back home and I knew what that meant,” Laura recalls. “We were constantly there for each other, and we’ve been best friends since. We each wanted to make sure the other followed their careers and did what was best for themselves, and it led us to where we are today.” Labor Day weekend of 2019 served as the perfect weekend for Taylor to pop the big question. Having been out of town for work the week of the proposal, Laura thankfully didn’t suspect such an eventful weekend ahead. “We went to his family’s Bay house for the weekend, and Taylor did everything he could to make everything seem normal leading up to it,” Laura recalls. “We went out on his family’s boat for a ride around Mobile Bay, and right under the Middle Bay Lighthouse he asked me!” Afterwards, the newly engaged couple headed back to their wharf to celebrate with friends and family. Since the Bay plays such an important role in the couple’s love story, Laura and Taylor’s reception was held at his family’s Bay house,

conveniently located right next to the church were the couple exchanged their vows. “Many of his family members have had their receptions there, and Taylor and I share so many memories by the Bay,” Laura says. “There was no question in our minds where our reception would be!” Add in ample outdoor space ideal for social distancing during a pandemic, and voila! Absolute perfection. Set against a gorgeous sunset made possible by the rain an hour before the ceremony, reception guests enjoyed a delicious spread of Southern classics from Rob Berglin Catering including some of Laura’s favorites: tenderloin, Conecuh sausage and shube sauce, chargrilled oysters, and Mini Mart dogs and truffle fries for some late-night fare. Their cake, made by Pollman’s Bake Shop, was a traditional white cake with buttercream icing. “Thank goodness it didn’t fall apart in the heat and moisture from the weather here,” Laura jokes. Some sentimental touches made the day even more memorable for Laura, as she wore her mother’s pearl bracelet and carried a locket gifted from Taylor attached to her bouquet with a picture of her late father enclosed inside. Laura and Taylor agree they were blessed to have so many of their loved ones in attendance to witness this moment 10 years in the making. “Being surrounded by our friends and family in the middle of a pandemic made the day so memorable,” Laura says. Keyhole Photo

16 ACCESS Magazine / March 2021

“We are so thankful for the memories we have with those who were there and those who were not able to come,” they share. After the wedding, the couple stayed a few nights at The Grand Hotel in Point Clear before heading off to The Pearl in Rosemary Beach since their actual honeymoon was postponed due to travel restrictions. When it comes to married life, the couple are excited to finally be in the same city and under the same roof after doing long distance for a year before their engagement and are looking forward to being able to travel together soon as husband and wife. CATERER: Rob Berglin Catering PHOTOGRAPHER: Keyhole Photo LIGHTING: Willowbridge BAND/DJ: Musical Fantasy WEDDING PLANNER: Blair Events RENTALS: Port City Rentals GOWN: Wedding Belles MEN’S SUITS: Francia’s MAKEUP: Courtney Matthews HAIR: Adelaide Styling FLOWERS: Zimlich’s



November 7, 2020

ou would be hard pressed to find two people more perfectly matched than Payton and Cam Wineman, who first met through mutual friends while studying at Auburn University. Now eight years in, Cam shares he knew Payton was “the one” very early into their relationship, but it was a particular moment walking into a Kroger grocery store in Auburn where he was hit with just how important she really was to him. “Payton had just taken a job in Baltimore and had moved a couple of weeks earlier,” Cam recalls. “I walked into Kroger and thought to myself, ‘I want to do everything with her for the rest of my life — even the little things like grocery shopping.’” For Payton, she says every day with Cam just kept getting better than the day before, and he quickly became the one she couldn’t live without. “He is my best friend,” she says. “We were just meant to be together, simple as that!” Catching Payton completely off guard, Cam proposed on a trip to St. Johns on December 11, 2019. “I looked like a hot mess in a bathing suit cover-up and with unbrushed hair, but I wouldn’t have planned it any other way,” she says. After the initial shock, Payton of course said, “Yes!” and the wedding planning commenced. Describing their theme as classic, chic, and simple with a black and white color scheme, Payton and Cam were wed at the Coastal Arts Center of Orange Beach — a beautiful art gallery along the water sporting local masterpieces and a dreamy view of the shoreline. “As soon as we stepped onto the grounds and met Katrina Anderson, their event coordinator (a.k.a. my

fairy godmother), I was positive we had found the perfect place for our wedding,” Payton says. “We feel so blessed to live on the Gulf Coast and we knew we wanted to show off its beauty and waterfront views when we exchanged vows.” Fortunately, COVID-19 didn’t drastically affect Payton and Cam’s big day — although they admit it was sometimes disheartening having to constantly adapt and navigate the ever-changing restrictions. “We had our hearts set on getting married November 7th, so regardless of where or how we got married or who was going to be in attendance, we knew we would say our vows on that day,” Payton says. The reason? November 7, 2020 was also Cam’s parents’ 39th wedding anniversary. Unfortunately, Cam’s father passed away just before the wedding, but to honor him the pair served his favorite tailgate drink as their signature cocktail: a rum and Coke with a splash of lemon. With a full “squad” standing by their side, the couple were married by their longtime friend, Tommy Foote, whose personal touches throughout the wedding script added a more intimate feel. On watching his bride approach him at the altar, Cam says, “At first, I was nervous seeing Payton start her walk down the aisle, but once her veil got caught on the brick pavers and jerked her head back slightly, we were both laughing, and I remembered, ‘That’s just my best friend,’ and everything felt right.” After the ceremony, guests were treated to a mixed grill selection and an assortment of local appetizers. Their cake included three tiers of chocolate, almond, and vanilla decorated with buttercream frosting, gold Haleigh Nichole Photo

18 ACCESS Magazine / March 2021

flakes, and white orchids, but it was the groom’s cake that really got the guests talking — a chocolate flavored cake equipped with a bottle of Fireball! One of the couple’s favorite memories from their big day was when, after the ceremony, they slipped away upstairs to enjoy an intimate dinner for just the two of them — no friends, no photographers, just a moment to soak in the first minutes together as husband and wife. Given the current travel restrictions, Payton and Cam have decided to postpone their honeymoon until their first anniversary and can’t wait the continue building their lives together as Mr. and Mrs. Wineman. CATERER: Alabama Coastal Catering PHOTOGRAPHER: Haleigh Nichole Photo VIDEOGRAPHER: Riggs Symonds – Symonds Media LIGHTING: SOHO Events and Rentals BAND/DJ: Pablo and McCoy – Party People Entertainment WEDDING PLANNER: Michelle Dickerson - A Perfect Plan Wedding Consulting, LLC RENTALS: SOHO Event and Rentals GOWN: The Bridal Loft in Pensacola, FL MEN’S SUITS: The Black Tux MAKEUP: Hair and Makeup by Chaney (Chaney Wedgeworth-Smith) HAIR: Hair and Makeup by Chaney (Chaney Wedgeworth-Smith) FLOWERS: Jubilee Flowers ACCOMMODATIONS: The Lodge at Gulf State Park



January 2, 2021

ewlyweds Zoey and Drew Fuqua have the power of social media to thank for reconnecting them after seven years, having first met in the 8th grade before going their separate ways. After high school, Zoey attended Mississippi State University and eventually became a special education teacher while Drew joined the United States Marine Corps. It was around Zoey’s sophomore year of college that Drew added her as a friend on Facebook, sneakily finding her on Snapchat shortly thereafter. It was via a private message that Drew took his chance. “I did not know how to respond to Drew, so I left him hanging for a few months,” Zoey laughs. “It wasn’t until months later that I sent Drew a Snapchat.” Zoey says Drew spent hours plotting with his best friend how to respond. “After his response, I replied with a joke and he knew he wanted to give it a shot.” At the time, Zoey had a year left of college and Drew was stationed in Jacksonville, N.C. Though the timing was seemingly off, both Zoey and Drew had two weeks off for Christmas and were each traveling down to Fairhope to visit with their families. “We made plans to meet up and spent those two weeks hanging out and talking,” Zoey recalls. “It felt like I had not lost all of those years with Drew and he quickly became my favorite person to do anything with.” Enamored with his carefree, goofy personality, Zoey says she was apprehensive about falling for someone who lived so far away (and who would soon be deploying for six months). “I knew that the distance and military lifestyle he lived would be hard, but I also knew he would be worth it,” Zoey shares. Thankfully, Drew felt the same way. “Drew asked

me that night to be his girlfriend,” Zoey beams, “and we survived his first deployment and a long-distance relationship.” With an original plan of proposing in March of 2020, the onset of COVID cases in the U.S. changed Drew’s plans, as the military quickly placed all servicemembers on ROM (Restriction of Movement). As such, he was unable to board his flight from Jacksonville to Fairhope to follow through with the proposal. After not being allowed to see each other from February to April 2020, Zoey finally got the chance to travel to Jacksonville to see Drew. With short notice, Drew raced to come up with a plan to pop the question during Zoey’s visit. Under the guise of taking professional pictures for a fun memory, Zoey and Drew drove just before sunset to Croatan National Forest in North Carolina on May 1, 2020. “I thought we were just going to take pictures, but to my surprise, Drew was going to propose,” Zoey recalls. “The photographer started by asked us to do a few poses. She then told Drew to whisper something sweet in my ear. I looked at Drew and said, ‘You better make it good.’ I had no idea what was coming, but he definitely made it good when he looked at me and whispered in my ear, ‘Oh, I will! Will you marry me?’” When she looked over, Drew was down on one knee with the ring in his hand. “I was so surprised and happy,” Zoey gushes, admitting the tears were instantaneous. “Drew teared up a little, too (even though he would never actually admit that to anyone else),” Zoey jokes. “We were both so happy and giddy that night. It wasn’t the grand original plan that Drew had, but it was absolutely perfect, and I was so surprised.” Photos by Pierce Visuals

20 ACCESS Magazine / March 2021

Unfortunately, the pandemic did more than postpone the proposal. COVID-19 also prevented many of the couple’s friends and family from attending their wedding. Ever positive, Zoey and Drew say they remained optimistic thanks to the continued support of their loved ones. “We knew we would make the most out of our wedding, even if it could only be the two of us and our immediate families,” Zoey says. Thankfully, their venue, the Collective Manor, allowed for an outdoor ceremony to help the couple share their day with those who were most special and important to them. “Ms. Sally Miller, the venue owner, was amazing,” Zoey shares. “She always responded quickly to my phone calls and messages. She was also flexible and allowed us to visit the venue two or three times with our wedding planner before the wedding,” Zoey says, adding that though they came looking just for a venue, they left with so much more. “We basically walked out with all of the contacts we needed to complete our wedding day,” Zoey shares. “This was a huge help, and it made the wedding planning process much easier.” More than pleased with their ceremony, the couple says Collective Manor was the perfect venue. “It allowed for an outdoor, natural setting with all of the trees and open space,” Zoey gushes. “It also had a natural, rustic feel with all the elegant touches incorporated as well. It was the perfect mix.” In memory of their late grandparents, the couple had three special memorial chairs placed at their ceremony in their honor. Describing what it was like witnessing his bride walk down the aisle, Drew says, “I was really nervous before Zoey walked out. I had no idea what she was going to look like. I knew she was going to look beautiful, but she looked even more beautiful than I imagined. It was one of the happiest moments of my life, and I couldn’t stop smiling.” Dressed in his Marine Corps dress blues instead of a suit, Zoey says this was very special to her because of how proud she is of Drew’s service to our country. “I look forward to looking back on our wedding pictures and always remembering the sacrifices he has made for our freedom,” she says fondly. Going for a rustic theme, the couple incorporated real, unfinished natural wood touches throughout their ceremony and reception (such as the cedar slice their four-tiered chocolate and almond semi-naked iced cake was propped on and the wood slices used for their centerpieces). Guests enjoyed a buffet-style dinner featuring chicken Opelousas, shrimp alfredo, grilled chicken, twice baked potato casserole, fried okra, and a tossed salad. Due to their work schedules and the ongoing pandemic, the couple has yet to embark on their honeymoon, hoping instead to take a week traveling for a late honeymoon once Drew finishes his contract with the military in two years. As for what they’re looking forward to most about married life? “We are looking forward to being together and spending time with our dog, Allie,” Zoey shares. “We love not being so far apart, as we both live together in Jacksonville, N.C., now. We are also looking forward to settling down in our hometown of Fairhope, Ala., when his contract ends in a few years,” she adds. “We can’t wait to move home and be closer to our families again!” CATERER: Café Acadiana PHOTOGRAPHER: Pierce Visuals BAND/DJ: Ted Smelser WEDDING PLANNER: Mandy White RENTALS: Gulf Coast Events GOWN: Camille’s in Wilmington, N.C. MEN’S SUITS: Nordstrom MAKEUP: Jodie Willis & Emily Hall HAIR: Erin Burgess FLOWERS: Rose Bud BARTENDER: Bottles Up Mobile PHOTOS: Pierce Visuals



August 22, 2020

aving been close friends throughout high school and the first few years of college, Stephanie Setterstrom Payne and Daniel Justin Payne realized their sophomore year of college that they were truly meant to be together — despite being at different schools at the time. “I knew pretty early on Dan was the one for me,” Stephanie reminisces. “Since we were friends growing up in high school, we knew we would always be together. We officially started dating our sophomore year in college — long distance — which was hard, but we knew it was worth it because we wanted to be with each other,” Stephanie says. After five years of dating, Daniel decided to make it official, completely catching Stephanie off guard. “I happened to be dressed up because I thought we were going to an event that night,” Stephanie recalls. “We went to Mass downtown at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, and as we were walking through Cathedral Square after Mass, Daniel gets down on one knee, pulls a beautiful ring out of his coat pocket, and tells me how much he loves me and asks me if I will marry him,” Stephanie gushes. “I was totally shocked and surprised by it! Of course, I teared up and said, ‘YES!’ He then told me our parents were waiting for us to have a celebratory toast nearby at T.P. Crockmiers. Little did I know, our families and closest friends were waiting there to surprise us with a party.” Though their original wedding date was set for May 9, 2020, the couple decided it was in everyone’s best interest to reschedule to a later date. “We picked our new date, August 22, 2020, and all of our vendors were so amazing with rescheduling our wedding and accommodating us,”

Stephanie shares. Sadly, just a month before their new date, the couple’s original reception venue had to cancel, forced to shut down due to the pandemic. Luckily, The Ezell House downtown had the same date available, and the staff was happy to help plan a whole new setup. “It was the most perfect and beautiful night we could have ever imagined,” Stephanie shares. Describing their theme as “traditional and romantic,” Stephanie and Daniel each had 11 members in their respective wedding parties made up of family and close friends. In her wedding bouquet, Stephanie pinned two heart-shaped pendants with pictures of her grandparents who had passed away. “It was hard for me not to have any of them there, so having pictures in my bouquet definitely felt like they were there walking me down the aisle.” Asked to describe the moment he first saw Stephanie walking down the aisle, Daniel says, “I was really nervous waiting at the altar for Stephanie. As the music started to play and her dad was about to walk her down the aisle, the doors got stuck and it took a few seconds for the church leaders to open them. After a couple of extra hands, they finally got the doors open and I was so overwhelmed seeing her walk down the aisle and how beautiful she looked! I think my heart skipped a beat or two!” After the ceremony, the couple led a Second Line procession from the Cathedral to The Ezell House featuring The Excelsior Band — a brass band that has marched the streets of downtown Mobile for more than 100 years. For the reception, guests enjoyed a carving station with beef tenderloin, a mashed potato bar, and individual skewers of gourmet appetizers. In addition, Stephanie honored her Lebanese heritage with a table including M.Y Photography

22 ACCESS Magazine / March 2021

all of her family’s favorites that she grew up cooking with her mom and grandmother. “One of my favorite parts of the whole wedding menu was the late-night grilled cheese sandwich bar and the frozen bushwhackers,” Stephanie says. “Dan and I knew when we had to change our date to a summer wedding that we had to have something to cool us off, and bushwhackers were the perfect choice.” The couple’s wedding cake was a beautiful threetiered masterpiece adorned with greenery from LUSH. There were also delicious handmade cake pops and monogrammed cookies. “Our cake cutting was so special and sentimental because we used my parent’s silver knife from their wedding 35 years ago,” Stephanie shares. “On one side, it was engraved with their initials and wedding date, and on the other side, it was engraved with our wedding initials and wedding date.” After the wedding, Stephanie and Daniel traveled to Rosemary Beach for a “mini-moon” and plan to travel to Jamaica for their oneyear anniversary. “I can’t wait to spend forever with my best friend,” Stephanie beams. CATERER: Naman’s Catering PHOTOGRAPHER: M.Y. Photography VIDEOGRAPHER: Fenaxion Productions BAND: Emerald Empire RENTALS: Port City Rentals GOWN: Bliss Bridal MEN’S TUXEDOS: Men’s Warehouse MAKEUP: Courtney Matthews HAIR: Jessica Price FLOWERS: LUSH TRANSPORTATION: Old Shell Trolley ACCOMMODATIONS: The Hilton Garden Inn & The Battle House Renaissance Mobile



December 5, 2020

igh school sweethearts Mary Margaret Bledsoe and Joseph Lee Leavitt V (Lee) first met while attending McGillToolen Catholic High School despite being one year apart. Thankfully, through mutual friends and one fateful night at Bayfest in 2011, the pair crossed paths and the rest, they say, is history. When asked how she knew Lee was “the one,” Mary Margaret says it was because of the way that he not only treated her, but her family and friends as well. “He is always going out of his way to do things for others and to show kindness,” Mary Margaret says. “I appreciated that Lee did sweet, small gestures for me, but it meant even more that he also treated my family, friends, and even strangers with the same generosity and respect. Watching Lee build close relationships with my family and friends and his consideration for others was how I knew that he would eventually become my family forever.” Setting the foundation for building their family, Lee proposed to Mary Margaret on a quarantine weekend escape to Orange Beach. Planning to meet up with their families (whom they hadn’t seen since the start of the pandemic), Lee sneakily asked Mary Margaret to get dressed for a sunset cruise on his family’s boat. “While waiting on the pier for our families to arrive, Lee started to tell me how much he loved me and shared his hopes for our future, and then he dropped down to one knee (over the water), and proposed,” Mary Margaret gushes. “I was completely surprised by his timing! Both of our families joined us afterward for a celebration on the water.” Describing her wedding dress shopping experience as emotional, Mary Margaret was joined by her mom, sisters, grandmother, and aunt for the

occasion. Mary Margaret knew she wanted a timeless dress, but still wanted something her guests wouldn’t expect from her. After visiting two stores and returning to one the next day, a sweet consultant and Mary Margaret’s mother pulled a strapless, satin dress with a flare on the bottom. “We clasped a pleated overskirt around my waist, added a lace belt, and I was sold,” Mary Margaret exclaims. “We popped champagne to celebrate my custom gown. It was so unique with a full skirt that could be removed for dancing at the reception but had a traditional feel with the lace belt and graceful neckline. I felt even more chic on my wedding day when I added a cathedral-length mantilla veil. I loved every single detail!” The couple was married at St. Joseph Chapel on Springhill College’s campus, where Lee attended school and Mary Margaret’s grandparents were also married. Mary Margaret wore various jewelry pieces from her family’s collection to add sentimental touches to her look, including diamond earrings from her cousin with pearl jackets from her aunt and grandmother and her grandmother’s pearl necklace pinned as a choker with her great grandmother’s diamond and pearl brooch. “My mom gave me her diamond and pearl strand bracelet, and my other grandmother gave me a ring to complete my look,” Mary Margaret shares. “I also had my other great grandmother’s hand-embroidered handkerchief around my bouquet as my ‘something blue.’ Each piece gave me confidence walking down the aisle knowing that I was wearing a little piece of all the people that I loved,” she beams. When asked what it was like seeing his bride walk down the aisle, Lee says, “It’s extremely tough to put that feeling into words. To look down the aisle of the church and see the Jennie Tewell Photography

24 ACCESS Magazine / March 2021

rest of your life walking toward you is a feeling that will stick with you for the rest of your life. The walk down the aisle itself takes all of 30 seconds, but it is 30 of the best seconds of your life. So, the two words I would describe how I felt seeing Mary Margaret walk down the aisle are simple: ‘life-changing.’” Their reception was held at The Ezell House, chosen by the couple for its indoor and outdoor space and elegant feel. Mary Margaret jokes that the food was a very important aspect to their wedding, as she comes from a large Lebanese family (think traditional dishes like grape leaves, meat pies, and kibbeh, all made by Mary Margaret’s grandmother, aunts, and cousins). “They spent months cooking and preparing everything, and I got to help be a part of the process, too,” Mary Margaret shares. “We also had some Southern classics like gumbo, mini crab cakes, macaroni and cheese, and chicken fingers. The yummiest food was from our frying station: fried shrimp, fish, and oysters to make your own po’boys,” she adds. “At the end of the night, we served hot beignets and milk punch. It was a hit with everyone!” With a serious self-proclaimed sweet tooth, Mary Margaret had big dreams for her wedding cake and turned to Flour Girls to make it happen. “They made the most incredible five-tier cake and baked each layer as a different flavor,” Mary Margaret says. “We had classic almond; coconut cake with coconut filling; white cake with raspberry filling and pineapple filling; and strawberry. Their amazing buttercream icing was the perfect complement,” she says. “We chose to put the cake outside so everyone could try each flavor and admire the lovely flowers and greenery decorating it. The cake cutting photos are my favorite because of the huge smiles on both of our faces. We were so ready to dig in!” Afterward, the newlyweds honeymooned at the Ritz Carlton in St. Thomas. The couple says they are most looking forward to sharing a home. “We spent some time during our relationship in different cities, so it feels great to finally spend every day together under one roof,” Mary Margaret admits. “Even the simple, daily activities like cooking dinner and working on house projects are enjoyable together! We are also excited to start a family and can’t wait to raise our children in Mobile.” CATERER: Naman’s Catering PHOTOGRAPHER: Jennie Tewell BAND/DJ: Fuego Show Band RENTALS: Port City Rentals GOWN: Town and Country Bridal (New Orleans) MEN’S SUITS: Men’s Wearhouse MAKEUP: Jessica Price HAIR: Jessica Price FLOWERS: Belle Bouquet Florist TRANSPORTATION: Old Shell Trolley ACCOMMODATIONS: The Battle House and The Hilton Garden Inn



BY Caroline Edmondson // PHOTOS Stevye Photography, MAKEUP Courtney Matthews Makeup Artistry, // HAIR Jason Chambers, Headdress Salon, 251.689.7427 26 ACCESS Magazine / March 2021

Armed with a vision and passion for all things bridal, Katie Ward of Bliss Bridal is celebrating her 10th year in the business. Shot in the heart of downtown Fairhope at The Venue (a favorite spot among area brides), the state-of-the-art New Orleans-inspired 8,000+ square feet of indoor/outdoor space served as the perfect location to kick off Katie’s special anniversary.


ow does one woman with a dream to work as a writer for Vogue and an unexpected passion for bridal couture become the owner of a breathtaking bridal shop in downtown Fairhope, adored by local and visiting brides alike? With some hard work, dedication, and a sprinkle of glamour, of course! Now celebrating a decade in business, Bliss Bridal Owner Katie Ward is living the dream she didn’t know she had as a “wedding dress fairy godmother” to brides from near and far. But where did the magic begin? It all started after a backpacking trip around Europe where Katie, then 18, fell in love with everything couture fashion. “I never dreamed of owning my own bridal shop,” Katie admits. “I always wanted to be a writer, and after studying journalism and fashion merchandising in college, I started my professional career as a newspaper reporter. In the spring I was assigned to produce the wedding insert and adored everything about the industry. When I realized our community had so few bridal shops, I knew I wanted to open my own.” And at 25 Katie did just that, opening her first location on Church Street in the heart of Fairhope in 2011. Originally structured for individual styling, Katie would meet with three brides a day with no fellow stylists, aiming to help 10 brides a month find their dream gowns. “I also found there was such a divide in the types of bridal shops,” Katie shares. “Either a bride could shop in a beautiful boutique with a great experience but spend a fortune on a gown, or the gowns in another shop were affordable but the experience wasn’t as nice,” Katie says. “I didn’t accept that it simply had to be one or the other, as brides deserved more. I wanted to offer brides the memory of a lifetime, but a gown that wouldn’t break the bank (every gown at Bliss Bridal ranges from $1,000 to $3,000). Mothers come to me all the time in the shops and thank me for allowing them the ability to give their daughter a dream experience, and that means the world to me.” But Katie will admit, opening a business is not for the faint of heart, as she’s definitely had her fair share of setbacks. “Every day, even now, there is something to fix — something that needs adjusting or perfecting,” she says. “Curve balls can happen in the blink of an eye and it’s up to you as the owner to be ready to solve anything.” But Katie says entrepreneurs like herself live for taking the next step, pushing to the next level, and making what they’ve created even better. “I wouldn’t change it for the world,” she says. “The memories and experiences

that have come from Bliss are ones I’d never trade for anything, and the relationships I’ve built are some that I’ll keep forever.” And taking that next step, Katie continued to grow her business, opening two more locations in addition to her home base in Fairhope: one on Magazine Street in New Orleans, and another in her college town of Hattiesburg, Miss. “For 10 years Bliss has grown on this idea, and now we see thousands of brides in all three of my locations every day having the experience of a lifetime and finding their dream gowns,” Katie proudly shares. To put Katie’s success in even better perspective, when Bliss Bridal first opened, she was helping about 75 brides a year find their gowns. Compare that to the thousands her three locations assist now, and it’s safe to say business has boomed. Having once carried a mere 30 gowns to style, Bliss Bridal now boasts a stock of more than 1,000 gorgeous gowns, and what was once a one-woman show is now a well-oiled machine comprised of 15 consultants whom Katie says she couldn’t function without. “They are the reason Bliss is so great,” she beams. In addition, Bliss has expanded to offer bridesmaid dresses, tuxedoes, accessories, and even in-house alterations, making it your one-stop shop for all things wedding! With 10 years in the industry, Katie has naturally accomplished a lot, but one of her proudest moments was this past year when all three of her locations earned The Knot’s “Best Of” award for the first time. In addition, every store was chosen to become Diamond Partners for Justin Alexander, making up three of only 50 retailers selected. Katie has an amazing support system to thank for her success over the past decade, but when asked what she would like to say to her staff, Katie can hardly hold back the tears. “These girls have become my family,” she shares. “There are no words to explain just how important they all are to me. Some of my most cherished moments are those I’ve spent working alongside my teams or having a ladies’ night out with them after hours. I’m so honored that they would choose to work and play with me and help execute my vision every day. I am the luckiest girl to have this sisterhood of women, gorgeous both inside and out.” And of course, each Bliss bride holds a special place in Katie’s heart for their continued support and belief in her mission. “I’ve had 10 years of building a girl squad of brides, and I love any time they come up to me to reminisce,” Katie says. “I would tell them all, ‘Thank you.’ Thank you for believing in me and in Bliss 28 ACCESS Magazine / March 2021

“I’ve had 10 years of building a girl squad of brides, and I love any time they come up to me to reminisce.” - Katie Ward


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Bridal. Thank you for empowering me, my team, and all the ladies who have walked in my stores to be the women we are. I couldn’t be who I am without every one of my brides and their families, and I never forget that.” Always thinking about the future, Katie says she would love to open more locations moving forward. “Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll have 100 stores,” she says, only half-joking. But looking to the more immediate future, Katie will spend this year rebranding Bliss Bridal, starting with a new logo, website, and fresh social media posts. “I love to have the ladies on my teams exercise their talents, and all of the rebranding has been completely supported within

my team,” Katie shares. “I have an amazing stylist in New Orleans who created the logo and a brilliant stylist who moonlights as our social media manager as well. My teams are full of very impressive women, and I’m so fortunate to have all of their skills to utilize.” It’s hard not to be impressed with the powerhouse that is Katie Ward, but upon meeting her you’ll fall in love with her charm, her laugh, and her genuine care for everyone she meets. It’s no surprise Bliss Bridal has seen the success it has the past 10 years when you have such an amazing team (and fearless leader) behind each white dress.

Bliss Bridal 19 N. Church St. Suite B Fairhope, AL 251.990.3244

501 N. Main St. Suite 101 Hattiesburg, MS 601.336.9337

3624 Magazine St. New Orleans, LA 504.592.7507

30 ACCESS Magazine / March 2021 | 251-273-2388

The deep, collagen stimulating benefits of RF KeI N M i c r o n eTeHdEl i B nE g TpTlEuRs S th impressive superficial results of the CoolPeel treatment it’s the ultimate equation for A bride’s wedding day is arguably one of the most beautiful skin. important days of her life,


and each bride wants to look her best. Of course, hiring a fantastic makeup artist is important, but to achieve that bridal “glow,” adopting a skincare regimen prior to the big day is imperative, as healthy skin is the foundation for great makeup. Local skin guru, Murphy D. Bishop II, cofounder and CEO of The Better Skin Co., breaks down the timeline and skincare products every future bride needs in her arsenal.

ep, collagen g benefits of RF edling plus the superficial results Peel treatment mate equation for tiful skin. By Caroline Edmondson Photos Stevye Photography,


hile the Bay Area lays claim to its fair share of super successful people, Murphy D. Bishop II is a true standout and talent to treasure. Born and raised in Mobile, Murphy returned to the area not long ago from Los Angeles and already has a local cult following. Known for his style, outgoing personality, wit, and charm, he’s definitely someone you want at your dinner parties. Residing in a modernized American Four Square in the Oakleigh district, you can follow his silly antics full of dogs, beauty tips, and funny videos on social media. In short, he’s one to watch. As for his success, he and his business partner Natalya Rachkova founded The Better Skin Co. in 2015. This dynamic duo based their company on the idea of “Better Skin for All People.” The Better Skin Co. works to develop hero SKUs that are multipurpose and help simplify your routine, believing it’s what’s in your skincare products that counts; not how many products you use. Wanting to help all people no matter one’s gender, age, nationality, race, religion, or sexual orientation, customers can trust that

/ Reduce fine lines and wrinkles / Erase sun spots, sun damage / Improve skin tone and texture / Immediate & long-term improvement / Virtually no social downtime

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March. stim u l a tThe i n new g bspace e n e fisi thome s of RF Coast’s Mto i cthe r oGulf nee d l i n FIRST g p l and us the i m p r ONLY e s s i Cartessa v e s u pTetra, e r f iVirtue cial results o f t and h e SkinWave C o o l P etechnology el treatment i t ’ s t— h enabling e ultim ate equation for Dr. Donnellan to beautiful skin. address fine lines, wrinkles, sun spots and acne scarring with


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The Better Skin Co.’s products are made from clean, whole ingredients, as the company follows the Whole Foods Clean Label List, leaving out any ingredients they deem unacceptable. And this level of transparency is exactly what makes their products stand out from everything else on the market. “Traditional marketing tells you in order to achieve great skin, you need an army of skincare products,” Murphy says. “We tell you the truth: a good cleanser, an anti-aging cream or serum, and sunscreen is all you need for great skin.” For example, nature truly merges with science in their No. 1 seller, the Mirakle Cream. Not only is it a divine day cream, but it also serves as an all-in-one night cream, eye cream, skin brightener, and a makeup primer that has been clinically proven to fight aging, dryness, dark spots, and fine lines to boot. That’s a tall order! With this straightforward, simple approach, The Better Skin Co. has climbed to unimaginable heights. Carried everywhere from Ulta to Bloomingdale’s (and even LUSH Home Garden Event), Murphy has enjoyed — and endured — global success. So how did this hometown boy get his start? “With a degree in finance and marketing, I intended to go into advertising sales,” Murphy admits. “However, upon graduation, Parisian Department Store was hiring, and they had a legendary training program. Although I didn’t want to do retail, they were moving people to Nashville and paying more than my other job offers.” Seemingly a no-brainer, Murphy joined Parisian, moved to Nashville, and eventually became the cosmetics department manager. “From department manager, I became an assistant to an Estée Lauder account executive and worked my way up the ladder: executive, director, vice president, CEO, and now cofounder of my own business,” he shares. Manufactured in Los Angeles but with headquarters in Mobile since October 2019, The Better Skin Co. understands the importance of prepping one’s skin before the big day. “Healthy skin is the foundation for great makeup,” Murphy says. “If your skin is on point, your makeup will glide on effortlessly and will look even better.” But before you go and buy a plethora of drugstore skincare products (many of which claim false miracles), Murphy says his main advice is to not try a new product or routine within 30 days of your wedding. “You never know how your skin will react,” Murphy says. “If you have not been taking care of your skin, it will show in the pictures and videos. Makeup can hide bad skin, but it cannot erase it. If you try 34 ACCESS Magazine / March 2021

“Healthy skin is the foundation for great makeup.” - Murphy D. Bishop II

new products or have a facial the day before, the results can be disastrous if you have a reaction,” he warns. Therefore (if time permits), Murphy suggests trying new skincare routines a year out, especially if you are experiencing unwanted red, ruddy, or uneven skin tones. “For non-prescription skincare, it will take this long to see the results from the active ingredients,” he explains. “This will also allow your skin to cycle through any natural changes due to hormones, weather, or other taxing factors.”


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The Countdown O N E Y E A R O U T: Start with a series of facials — once monthly — to “reset” the skin. Think of it as a workout for the face, and during these facials use the products you’re planning to use throughout the year. “I suggest our Better Skin Mirakle Cream, an anti-aging moisturizer perfect for all ages that is clinically proven to reduce redness, dark spots, and fine lines,” Murphy suggests. “Then top it off with our Epik C Serum for further brightening and tightening. Do all of this in the morning and finish off with a sunscreen (this is very important). At night, use our Gel Kleanse, Better Skin Mirakle Cream, and Retinol Remedy.”

S I X MO N T H S O U T: A twice daily routine is optimal, starting with a cleanser in your morning shower. Follow up with Better Skin Mirakle Cream and Epik C Serum. “In the evening, cleanse with your Gel Kleanse, and then use my personal favorite skin tip: mix our Super H (Hyaluronic) Serum with our Better Skin Amaze Balm,” Murphy recommends. “It will make a paste that you can use like a mask to cover your face and neck. Go to sleep with this luxurious mask and wake up with refreshed skin!”

O N E M O N T H O U T: Continue this same routine with a special focus on your sunscreen. “Keep it on; we don’t want any last-minute sun damage before the big day,” Murphy warns. “I personally do not recommend getting a facial in the seven days leading up to the wedding and definitely do not recommend getting Botox or other fillers within a month of the ceremony. A botched procedure can be hard to cover with makeup, especially if swelling is involved.”

24 H O U R S O U T: Rest, relaxation, and hydration are key in the final 24 hours. “Tired, dehydrated, and stressed skin is hard to hide,” Murphy says. “Stick to your routine, take quick naps, and drink plenty of water.” 36 ACCESS Magazine / March 2021

Following this regimen (and staying consistent) will ensure you feel as beautiful as you possibly can on your wedding day, thus relieving unwanted stress and helping you enjoy the day as it should be. But don’t forget your groom! Remember, there will be two people in the pictures. “Your groom will likely not have the option to cover his flaws with makeup,” Murphy jokes. “Start him on a simple cleanse and moisturizer and protect his skin with sunscreen at least three to six months out. Keep it simple and his face will glow, too!”

The Better Skin Co.

An emergency is still an emergency

Don’t delay the important care you need Broken bones, signs of a heart attack or stroke, difficulty breathing or other life-threatening symptoms — don’t delay when you or a loved one needs emergency care. Ascension Providence ER care teams are here with you, and we’re making sure our hospital and sites of care are safe and ready for you when you need us. Ascension Providence ER is open 24/7, close to home, and because we’re more than emergency care, we’ll connect you to the follow-up care you need.

Find your Ascension Providence ER at © Ascension 2021. All rights reserved.

F RA N C I A ' S F O R M A L A F FA I R :

The LegacyContinues Francia’s Formal Affair has been a Port City staple for nearly half a century, but with the recent passing of its beloved owner, Jimmy Francia, the family-owned and operated business has shifted to the charge of his daughter, Angela Francia, in whose capable hands he has entrusted his legacy.


rancia’s Formal Affair is a name synonymous with style and sophistication in the men’s fashion realm, having served the Bay Area for the last 48 years. A beacon for the latest looks and trends, the business has grown to be one of the Port City’s hot spots for men’s suits, tuxedoes, and accessories for all of the area’s grandest occasions. But after the sudden and unexpected passing of the store’s late owner, Jimmy Francia, in June of 2020, his 26-year-old daughter, Angela Francia, has stepped up to the plate to continue her family’s legacy of formal extravagance and integrity that her grandfather, Don Francia, started nearly five decades ago. “My dad’s passing affected all of us pretty heavily,” Angela shares. “He went in for a knee replacement and contracted double pneumonia. He passed at just 57.” Rocked by the loss, her family “rallied the troops” and soldiered on in his stead. “He was the Francia family,” Angela says. “His presence was infectious. There was nothing to worry about as long as he was around.” And stepping into her father’s shoes has been a real eye-opener, Angela adds. “I never realized all that my dad did in a day,” she admits. “I always knew my dad was an extremely hardworking man, but he also took care of everyone. I don’t know where he found enough time in the day to do it all.” Now a mother herself, Angela is ever-more aware of just how significant her father’s daily sacrifices were. “I was pregnant with my first child when he passed,” she shares. “It’s been hard for me knowing he never had the chance to meet Julian.” Bolstered by her family’s resolve and overwhelming support, Angela is joined at the business by her mother, Linda Francia, and her uncle,

By Jessica Goolsby

Linda and Angela Francia














Dean Francia. “Right now, my mom is doing a little bit of everything, working in the office and doing backof-the-house work,” Angela shares. “Uncle Dean (my dad’s brother) also plays a big part in the day-to-day tasks with back-of-the-house alterations and taking measurements.” Having spent many a season working for the shop in her youth, Angela says it was only natural that she step into her father’s role after his passing. “I have always enjoyed fashion and formal wear and have worked in retail,” she says. “Once my dad passed, the huge question was ‘Who is going to take over the store?’ It just felt right — like this is where God wanted me.” Holding fast to her dad’s dedication to service, Angela says the shop continues to run like a well-oiled machine, still offering all of its triedand-true services and styles. “We’ve made some updates to back-of-thehouse methods and have revised certain methods of technology, but as far as our services go, everything’s still the same,” Angela shares. On top of the grief that comes with loss, the Francias had an additional hurdle to face: the pandemic. “At first it was rough,” Angela admits. “When everything first began to shut down in 2020, we were entering prom season and realizing there weren’t going to be any proms. Then, we turned around and wedding parties started calling to cancel their weddings.” It wasn’t looking too good for the formal wear industry, and the loss of the Mardi Gras season this year only added to the strain. “Thankfully, the wedding season has been going strong since everything has opened and restrictions have let up,” Angela says. “We’ve made many adjustments and are following CDC guidelines. Masks are required in the store, and we are extremely meticulous about disinfecting dressing rooms and cleaning and disinfecting the store.” All told, Angela says the most enjoyable aspect of running the business has been the ability to work directly with family and bring her little one to work with her. “It’s been challenging having the feeling like I need to know everything now instead of taking the time to realize it takes time,” Angela admits, “but it took my dad 30+ years to get to where he was and build the relationships he did.” Regardless, Angela knows her father would be proud. “He would be so excited,” she says. “I remember my first day coming in from maternity leave and my mom looking at me and saying, ‘Your dad would be so happy that you’re working here,’ and he would.”

40 ACCESS Magazine / March 2021

New trends in wedding menswear!

Francia’s Formal Affair 3831 Airport Blvd. Mobile, AL 251.342.7119

Enjoy Fairhope, Alabama’s premier event venue where rustic retreat meets Southern hospitality.


8470 US-98, Fairhope, AL 251.623.9534

Southern weddings are widely known for their extravagance and grand fanfare. But with the onset of the pandemic, many brides and grooms are left scrambling to downsize while still working to achieve that certain charm and wow-factor for their wedding days. The perfect location for an intimate, gorgeous wedding, The Fairhope Inn and Restaurant stands at the ready to help it all come to life — COVID compliant and all.


By Caroline Edmondson / Photos Blake McCollum Photography

iving by the motto: “If you’re popping the bubbly, count us in,” The Fairhope Inn and Restaurant has been making wedding dreams come true since they first opened their doors in 1998. With a variety of event spaces that all take on a different look and feel depending on the time of day, the Inn has a naturally relaxed and romantic feel, making it the perfect spot for any wedding. A weekend celebration can rotate between dining room day/night settings and rehearsal dinners in the Polo Bar to wedding receptions on the covered porch or in the courtyard (with a tent or without). The courtyard’s recent renovation includes a fountain and gazebo, both of which are features area brides love. An old historic home, the Inn’s spaces feel natural — because they are. Having the rooms on site is an added bonus for family accommodations for the weekend, and the private Carriage House that opens directly to the courtyard makes for the perfect space to prep and primp before the walk down the aisle. The gorgeous property aside, downtown Fairhope lies just steps away, with the Bay a short distance’s walk, and Point Clear a few miles past Fairhope Pier (great for cyclists and “Sunday drivers”). For those looking to gather

42 ACCESS Magazine / March 2021

friends and family out of town for a destination wedding in a charmingly Southern city, it’s hard to top Fairhope, Alabama. And with the rise of the pandemic and worldwide closures, the wedding industry has taken a massive hit. Large gatherings like wedding receptions have been indefinitely postponed, forcing many couples to opt for smaller, more intimate venues — something The Fairhope Inn knows well. “COVID shut down all weddings and receptions last spring,” says Jeffrey Mog, general manager of The Fairhope Inn. “Events today are smaller, and couples are searching Bed & Breakfasts in smaller cities for destination weddings. Many brides may be on their second or even third date… flexibility has been key.” This flexibility served as one recent bride’s saving grace as she searched for a new venue amid ever-changing restrictions. “When my husband and I started planning our wedding in early 2020, we were going to have it on my family’s farm in North Mississippi,” recalls newlywed Savannah Perkins. “However, in the summer, when the restrictions on the number of people allowed in gatherings tightened, we knew that it would no longer be possible to have the farm wedding or even include all of our family members.”


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44 ACCESS Magazine / March 2021

Neurological Care for You and Your Family

Neil Billeaud, M.D. Board-Certified in Neurology and Sleep Medicine

Tiffany Long, M.D.

Hayden Long, M.D.

Board-Certified in Neurology

Board-Certified in Neurology

Alabama Medical Group is excited to announce that its neurology team is expanding services to better serve the healthcare needs of our community. With more than 47 years of combined experience and two convenient clinic locations, Drs. Neil Billeaud, Tiffany Long and Hayden Long work in tandem bringing a higher level of expertise across a widerange of neurological conditions, including: sleep disorders, headaches (Botox injections for chronic migraines), movement disorders, epilepsy (Ages 13+), neuromuscular disorders and Multiple Sclerosis. Call 251-414-5900 or visit to schedule an appointment today.

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101 Memorial Hospital Drive, Building 3 Mobile, Alabama 36608 6701 Airport Blvd., Suite B-127 Mobile, AL 36608 251.414.5900

As she and her husband both live in the Mobile area, the couple started looking at local venues since local restrictions weren’t so tight. “One weekend in July, we came across The Fairhope Inn,” Savannah shares. “After checking the schedule, they had one weekend open, and it just so happened to be the date that we had chosen back in March. We were so relieved and felt as if it was meant to be. Jeffrey and all others who worked at the Inn during the months of planning and the wedding weekend itself were all beyond helpful and kind.” As a smaller venue with a community of vendors, the staff at The Fairhope Inn can help connect the dots and communicate with everyone involved, from florists and rentals to musicians and more! “We coordinate our staff, food, and beverages, while the bride and groom bring in the flowers, cake, and music,” Jeffrey explains. In describing the details from their wedding, Savannah shares, “The courtyard with its beautiful gazebo and tranquil fountain were the absolute perfect setting for our ceremony and reception. The band was able to set up a stage under the tent which turned the courtyard into an awesome dance floor. The florist (Katherine of Jubilee Flowers, also in Fairhope) had an already beautiful canvas to add to, and she even decorated the porch swing that had captured my heart on that first day,” Savannah says. “To say that we had a dream wedding at this venue doesn’t even do it justice. I may be biased, but it was the most beautiful wedding, and that’s thanks in (big) part to The Fairhope Inn for hosting it.” Touting its sophisticated Southern charm and spectacular service, The Fairhope Inn is the perfect location for anything from dinner or brunch to a weekend getaway or the celebration of a lifetime. “There’s a reason Fairhope is constantly dubbed one of the most desirable towns in the South,” Jeffrey says. “We believe our weddings live up to that billing as well. Our catering menu has a world of options, all from the same culinary team that has made the Inn the grand dame of Fairhope dining for more than 20 years. The Beckner House is on the National Register of Historic Places and celebrated 120 years of history with a fresh renovation last year,” he adds. Add in its extensive cleaning and safety protocols, and The Fairhope Inn is ready to welcome you with open *socially distanced* arms and help you make memories that will last a lifetime. The Fairhope Inn & Restaurant 63 South Church St. Fairhope, AL 251.928.6226 46 ACCESS Magazine / March 2021

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the lodge Despite our current climate, Trey Littlepage decided to take a leap of faith and open THE LODGE at Gumbo South — Fairhope’s newest wedding and event venue. Charming, rustic, and serene, this gorgeous new space is ready to welcome guests from near and far.


riginally from Butler, Ala., Trey Littlepage knows a thing or two about the beauty of Alabama and all it has to offer. Having attended Auburn University where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Forestry Operations and Business Administration, owning and operating a wedding and event venue was never on his original radar. “This was a fun side project that developed into something far greater than I had originally intended,” Trey admits. “But I knew there was a great need for more event venues in the Fairhope area.” The fact that Trey would be opening a new venue in the midst of a pandemic where many people weren’t gathering in large groups naturally raised a few eyebrows, but he persisted. “We heard from so many different groups in the area that everyone was trying to get back to visiting with family and friends, celebrating special and important moments, and just get back to enjoying beautiful events that we are all so used to experiencing in the South,” Trey explains. And at the end of the crazy year that was 2020, Trey did just that, turning an expansive piece of land 48 ACCESS Magazine / March 2021

By Caroline Edmondson


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just south of downtown Fairhope into a breathtaking event space: THE LODGE at Gumbo South. Pulling up to the lodge, one can’t help but feel like they’ve entered their own secluded section of the world. Serene, warm, and inviting, the building is a gorgeous wood-crafted oasis like no other. Situated on a beautiful pond, the venue has an expansive porch for you and your guests to mingle, as well as eight gorgeous bedrooms for lodging that make it extremely convenient for the families of the bride and groom or any additional guests in attendance. With such an extensive indoor and outdoor space, the possibilities of making the venue your own are endless. “Outside, there is plenty of space to rent a tent and set up in the large field beside THE LODGE,” Trey details. “With the current pandemic in mind, there is a large outdoor porch area as well to enjoy live music, cocktails, and general socializing. The opportunities are endless.” With a focus on events and weddings, THE LODGE boasts a full-size kitchen perfect for any caterer to come in and readily access. And of course, with two separate wings, the bride and groom (and their respective parties) have ample room to prepare for the big day without any worry of seeing each other before the ceremony! Naturally, planning is key, which is why Trey suggests couples book the 50 ACCESS Magazine / March 2021

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space as early as possible. “We want to make your day everything you’ve dreamed it could be, so booking as far out as possible is best,” he says. With last-minute cancellations and changes of venue becoming all too common with the pandemic, Trey says he can work with a last-minute notice of just four hours if the space is available that day. Talk about a saving grace! So whether you’re in need of a last-minute venue change or simply seeking the perfect space for the rustic-yet-elegant wedding of your dreams, look no further than THE LODGE at Gumbo South. In a place where provincial charm meets Southern hospitality, come experience this oasis for yourself. THE LODGE at Gumbo South 8480 US Highway 98 Fairhope, AL 251.623.9534 52 ACCESS Magazine / March 2021

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Wedded BLISS

Smaller, intimate weddings are on the rise as the world continues to navigate the pandemic and ever-changing regulations regarding large gatherings. But if there is one thing Fairhope and Point Clear know well, it’s the word “quaint,” and Little Point Clear Suites & Space is no exception, thus making it the perfect place to say, “I do.”


estled off Scenic Highway 98 in Point Clear lies a breathtaking white wood paneled inn situated amongst luscious green pines and swaying palm trees (not to mention the bright blue VW bus usually parked outside) welcoming guests to their little oasis. Featuring unique and thoughtfully designed guest suites and an event space all under one roof, Little Point Clear is the epitome of where coastal design meets old-family Bay home charm. Carefully curated with love and talent by owner/operator Tricia Niemeyer, Little Point Clear was born of a vision to create a beautiful space where people could effortlessly gather. From a design perspective, she describes the space as "where Ralph Lauren meets Greece." Elegantly designed throughout the main room, suites, and outdoor areas, each space is completely customizable, which allows for an effortless transformation to fit every need, be it for a corporate event, rehearsal dinner, wedding reception, or shower, or something as simple as a family gathering or couple's vacation. “It’s a very flexible space that allows for brides to create intimate gatherings from 40 to 200 guests," Tricia shares. "It’s very open concept, meaning all our indoor spaces open up to the outdoors, thus creating an environment that flows and is all inclusive, yet simultaneously allows for social distancing." Having reopened post-COVID restrictions last June, Little Point Clear has had a wedding every weekend, all while boasting no elevator buttons to push, no corridors to crowd in, and no closed-in rooms. "It seems a lot of time is spent moving from place to place and finding parking when a wedding is held in multiple venues, but here, brides can rehearse, get ready, get married, entertain, and enjoy themselves stress-free," Tricia shares.

54 ACCESS Magazine / March 2021

By Hayley Hill

Call For Your Next Eye Exam! FAIRHOPE 7 South Church Street, Suite D Fairhope, AL 36532 251. 929.0015 BIRMINGHAM 2814 18th Street South Homewood, AL 35209 205. 703.8596

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OFFICES IN MOBILE AND FAIRHOPE OFFICES IN MOBILE AND FAIRHOPE 5905 Airport Boulevard, Suite H, Mobile 8335 Gayfer Road Extension, Fairhope 5905 Airport Boulevard, Suite H, Mobile251-928-9008 8335 Gayfer Road Extension, Fairhope 251-301-0869 251-928-9008


In addition to the fresh air, Tricia and her team truly cater to their clients, customizing each stay and event. “For each bride we have many design meetings, vendor assistance, and customized floor plans," she shares. "Additionally, we offer sunset Bay cruises, kayaks, paddle boards, bikes, and transportation to Fairhope’s wonderful restaurants and shops." Walking distance from The Grand Hotel, guests can easily enjoy spa treatments, the pools, golf, and more as well. "We’re also just 15 miles from the beach, so clients can day trip to the action yet enjoy this private retreat from the touristy chaos,” Tricia shares. An added bonus? Pets are welcome, too. As for the event space, the expansive main room can fit an impressive number of tables for your reception and offers a wooden floor perfect for dancing. Beyond the multiple sets of French doors, guests can enjoy a stunning courtyard view of the night sky complete with a fireplace for those looking to cozy up and kick back. Thankfully, a retractable awning is there if the heat becomes a little too unbearable or if a sudden Southern rain shower should arise (though we like to think rain on your wedding day is good luck). The courtyard was also designed specifically with tenting in mind, with an added lot available for extra tents to accommodate any overflow, catering needs, or additional dance floors! Perhaps some of the best features of Little Point Clear are the four fabulous guest suites — each one perfect for the wedding party to get ready on the big day or for tired wedding guests to retire after a long day (and night). The Middle Bay Studio & Loft is perfect for a small family, as it boasts two queen beds and a separate sleeping loft. The South Point Suite or the Petite Suite is ideal for the newlywed couple to spend their first night as husband and wife, while the polo bunk serves as a comfortable space for the bride and her party to prepare for the trek down the aisle. All told, if you’re looking for a little slice of Southern paradise to host your intimate wedding, look no further than Little Point Clear. With its luxurious accomodations and serene setting, it's no wonder this quaint space commands the attention of Bay Area brides.

Little Point Clear 18263 Scenic Highway 98 Fairhope, AL 251.929.8568

56 ACCESS Magazine / March 2021

STYLES FOR WOMEN WHO MOVE Featured Brands: Beyond Yoga, Nux, DYI, Beach Riot, Free People Movement, & more! Catch us at our next local event by following us on social media. @shopstudiostyle

FORMAL AFFAIR 3831 Airport Blvd, Mobile, AL 251.342.7119



Your RSVP I S R EQ U E S T E D …

Ravaged by pandemic guidelines and overwhelming uncertainty, weddings in 2020 and 2021 have forced grooms and brides-to-be to adapt and overcome some of the most frustrating situations. With unpredictability surrounding number allowances for guests, venue closures, and government mandates across the country, it’s hard to know when to pull the trigger on finalizing and mailing out invitations these days. Thankfully, Soirée Signatures is equipped to help engaged couples navigate the muddled waters churned by COVID-19.


hough 2020 has come and gone, we’ve rounded the bend into 2021 to find, well, more of the same. CDC guidelines, government mandates, and even local recommendations seem to change almost daily, and with engagements and weddings held in limbo, where is a bride-to-be to turn? With all of the uncertainty, it’s hard enough to find a venue and secure a date (that hopefully won’t have to change), let alone know when it’s safe to solidify your invitations. Enter Soirée Signatures. “This uncertainty puts some of our brides in a weird rush-job situation when they do decide to move forward on their engraved or letter-pressed invitations, which take at minimum 10 to 15 days to complete,” says Lindsey Stiegler, founder of Soirée Signatures. “In order to combat this potentially stressful situation, we have identified some of our most popular designs and created a semi-custom option that can be printed in-house with our digital flat printing in as little as three business days. While the printing process is not what our customers are used to for their wedding invitations, we have sourced some of our favorite papers that become the focus of the invitation rather than the raised, embossed, or letter-pressed ink.” Soirée Signatures can also create custom-printed envelope liners (printed in-house) that give invitations more interest and pull in color on a more traditional, classic-style invitation. “These suites can be easily ordered on our website, which is great for those couples who are stretched for time and may not have the ability to come in for a full consultation,” Lindsey shares. The same goes for their stationery and gift tags. “If you realize you’re out of stationery but need to get a note out quickly, we can produce great looking stationery 58 ACCESS Magazine / March 2021

By Jessica Goolsby


Blake McCollum Photography

in-house, sometimes the same day,” Lindsey says, adding that her staff is still able to assist in etiquette coaching and wording via phone, email, or Zoom calls. But with many weddings rescheduled or put on hold until things open up more, Lindsey says many brides-tobe are more cautious when it comes to nailing down a date and putting it on paper. “The best advice we can give is to plan for the size wedding you know you can have right now, and don’t delay sending out your invitations,” she warns. “The post office has become extremely unpredictable since the pandemic, and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. We recommend sending invitations out eight to 10 weeks ahead now versus the standard six to eight weeks because we’ve had some of our clients’ mailings taking up to two weeks to get to their guests.” Amidst the ever-changing “norms,” Soirée recently underwent its own transition on a much grander scale, opening a second location in Fairhope on July 1, 2020. “Our flagship store is still located in Mobile, as this is where we do most of our production and printing, but while one would think opening a store during a pandemic would be stressful, it was actually a good thing for us,” Lindsey shares. “We had planned to open a store in Fairhope for the past couple of years, but never could find the time to do it… even just dedicating to finding a space. Because it was so slow, we were able to focus solely on our growth, and we found the perfect location right in downtown Fairhope! We have found that the people in Fairhope are excited that we are now located downtown and we’re looking forward to introducing ourselves to more people in the area.” As always, Lindsey says the most important aspect of wedding planning is to ensure you’re enjoying the process as much as possible (while simultaneously trying not to stress over the things you can’t control). “We all love our big Southern weddings with hundreds of guests in attendance, but more and more of our clients have been forced to have smaller gatherings, leading them to realize that not having so many people at your wedding can make it a better, more intimate experience for you and your guests.” Soirée Signatures 24 North Florida St. Mobile, AL 8 1/2 South Bancroft St. Fairhope, AL 251.209.3265 60 ACCESS Magazine / March 2021

Bay Area Physicians for Women, the largest women’s health clinic in the area, with physicians for all your gyn and obstetrical needs.


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Most would agree that one of the keys to a beautiful wedding is an abundance of glorious fresh flowers. More than centerpieces, today’s brides are using flowers as art and living sculptures to celebrate their big days. With no surface that can’t be adorned, heavenly scented blooms more than justify the cost, adding up to the most memorable spaces and breathtaking photos. Here, Susan George of LUSH Home Garden Event shares a peek of the bold blooms created for her daughter’s upcoming nuptials and inspiration for what’s possible. All that’s left to do is dream big! Photos Toni and Jessica, owners of Goodie and Smith Weddings,

A coordinating arch and bridal bouquet full of Fuji mums, roses, hanging Amaranthus, stargazer lilies, belles of Ireland, and Italian Ruscus anchored by matching planters perfectly showcase Susan’s ability to transform something simple into a statement.

Carley Morgan (Susan’s daughter) married Oscar Rodriguez on March 6, 2021 after this fun photo shoot with her mom.

LUSH Home Garden Event 1910 Government St. Mobile, AL 251.473.6121


Making Local Women Celebrities In Their Own Lives!

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Visit Soirée on both sides of the Bay! Midtown Mobile Downtown Fairhope 251-209-3265

YO U R G E N E T I C S ,

Your Story

The healthcare landscape seems to change faster than the speed of light, making it increasingly difficult to keep up. But we owe it to ourselves and our loved ones to do so — especially when USA Health Mitchell Cancer Institute has cutting edge programs and treatments to make it that much easier. Cassandra Gurganus fills us in on the frontier of genetic counseling and testing and explains how it can help us all. By Hayley Hill Photos Stevye Photography,


64 ACCESS Magazine / March 2021

hile DNA testing sites are popping up all over the internet promising to disclose everything from your food allergies to your royal family heritage, the science of genetics is simultaneously playing a major role in the cancer treatment arena. Who can forget Angelina Jolie’s 2013 preventive mastectomy because she carried the BRCA1 gene mutation that put her at risk for developing breast cancer? With steady research and growth, the field of genetics is now saving even more lives (and breasts) and is here to stay. Ready to rival any big city cancer clinic, USA Health Mitchell Cancer Institute (MCI) brought in Cassandra Gurganus in 2019, who serves as the region’s only Board-Certified Genetic Counselor. Her specialty? She provides genetic testing and counseling to cancer patients who have personal or family histories of cancer or who have known hereditary cancer syndromes. “Patients come to me through various channels,” Cassandra shares. “Some are already in cancer treatment and are looking to see whether there was a genetic component to their cancer and whether that component puts them at greater risk for other cancers. Others may simply have a family history of cancer and want to be proactive in prevention.” Regardless of how patients reach her office, she begins with a review of their personal and family history and a test. “The test is a simple blood draw,” she shares. “Once we have the results, our focus turns toward treatment and prevention.” But Cassandra assures that seeing an increased risk for certain cancers in your genetics isn't a death sentence; it's an opportunity to take action. “We look at various genes and the risk levels for different cancers and then

coordinate a management plan,” she explains. “Often, management plans are specific recommendations for the patient's preventative care. For example, if a patient has a higher risk of breast cancer due to the presence of a specific gene, we'll recommend they get a breast MRI as well as their annual mammogram. If they have a higher risk of colon cancer, we'll recommend more frequent colonoscopies,” she shares. And there you have it. Genetic testing provides priceless information that may allow you and family members more control in your future health. Interestingly, Cassandra adds, “While all cancer involves genetic mutations, not all of those mutations are inherited. The National Cancer Institute estimates that inherited genetic mutations play a role in about five to 10 percent of all cancers. Patient health histories raise red flags when one or more first- or second-degree family members have cancer diagnosed before the age of 50, the same type of cancer, two or more different cancers, a rare cancer, or a mutation in a gene known to cause an increased risk for cancer. A mutation in the BRCA1 gene, for instance, significantly increases a woman’s lifetime risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers,” she says. Although DNA testing through sites such as 23andMe are popular, Cassandra warns that such services do not provide comprehensive results on inherited cancer syndromes. “There are certain limitations to direct-to-consumer testing,” she says. “It’s important to talk to a genetic counselor to discuss the level of testing and the limitations to that type of testing.” While seemingly complicated, it’s really not. Based on your history, genetic testing might reveal that now really is the time to stop procrastinating and drop those bad habits. Or maybe tests reveal that your daughter needs to be made aware of family traits and increase the frequency of her mammograms. Regardless, knowledge truly is power, and garnering this information early can help determine the future of our medical care. For this sweet home Alabama woman (a native of Jasper, Ala.), this specialty is personal. “I was exposed to cancer at an early age, as my grandfather and great-grandfather were both coal miners and smokers, and they both developed lung cancer,” Cassandra shares. “I originally told myself when I was younger that I was going to become a doctor and researcher and find the cure for cancer, but along the way, I found genetic counseling and knew I'd found my fit,” she says. It all started while at the University

of Alabama at Birmingham where she shadowed genetic counselors at the UAB Department of Genetics. “Genetic counselors work as members of a health care team, providing information and support to families who have members with birth defects or genetic disorders and to families who may be at risk for a variety of inherited conditions, such as breast cancer,” Cassandra explains. From there she earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a master’s degree in genetic counseling. “I liked the way I could spend time with my patients and see the impact it had on them, especially where cancer is concerned,” she says. So what’s the most common advice she gives to patients? “I tell almost every patient I see that diet and exercise are the absolute best foundation to support their preventative care plan, and if the patient is a tobacco user, I always recommend a cessation plan,” she shares. “We can test early and often for cancers, but it's always best to do everything in our power to remove increased risk where possible.” Not a one-size-fits-all science, she recalls a gratifying moment. “One story in particular involved an individual who went through tumor testing with MCI,” she shares. “We ended up finding a mutation which had implications for not only our patient, but also their family. After this discovery, we were able to get their family members tested for the mutation, which gave them the knowledge they needed for their future cancer screenings and best practices for health,” Cassandra says. Well-aware of the gravity of the topic, Cassandra lists compassion and empathy as important characteristics to have in the field. “It’s so important to be friendly and warm day-to-day, as new patients arrive uncertain of what’s to come,” she explains, adding how grateful she is for her certification through the American Board of Genetic Counselors. “It’s such an important recognition for me because I know patients can really trust me to handle their results with compassion and professional care,” she says. “During graduate school, I was actually able to volunteer at a rape crisis center. The experience was understandably very emotional, but it expanded my capacity for empathy. I take much of what I learned there into my work every day.” So, what brought her to Mobile? “I was able to complete a rotation at MCI during grad school, and I loved my experience here,” she says. “Some of my family lives in Foley as well, and when a job opened up at MCI, I knew the stars were aligning. My husband and I live in Daphne,

Gulf State Park and walking our dogs, Minnie and Pandora, by the Bay when we get free time,” she shares. While the very word “genetic” seems to imply far-off future sci-fi stuff in the minds of many, this technology is here and easily accessible with MCI’s expert technologies. As women, we often plan incredible vacations, holidays, and more for our families. Why not take the time to maximize our healthiest lives, too?

Cassandra Gurganus, MS, CGC Board-Certified Genetic Counselor USA Health Mitchell Cancer Institute

and I love driving over Mobile Bay every morning on the way to work. Since I started at MCI just before the pandemic, I haven't been able to explore the area as much as I would like, but my husband and I really love


MIND YOUR BUSINESS Tom Loper of Loper Law is as down-to-earth and straightforward as they come. Able to help with all business matters big and small and with a passion for the complicated issues from international and trade law to employment and labor law, he shares his expertise with area entrepreneurs in the making.


tarting and operating your own small business can be overwhelming to say the least. It can help to have someone in your corner regardless of your type of business, and an attorney — especially one with a unique understanding of starting and growing a business — can be a useful resource. Unfortunately, there are often countless considerations the typical business owner fails to recognize. For starters, it’s important for small businesses to begin with the correct business entity at formation. If you intend to keep it simple and self-employ, you can simply report your business earnings and expenses on a Schedule C. If you need liability protection or plan for moderate growth, an LLC may be right for you. For those who have investors or anticipate aggressive growth, forming a corporation may be required. The next steps for most businesses are buying a building or leasing space, developing internal policies and procedures, and entering into agreements with potential business partners or suppliers. Consulting with an attorney before taking these actions is wise. He or she might find you are paying too much in rent, are not receiving the benefits or services you need, or are not in compliance with applicable laws and regulations. Once up and running, businesses will undoubtedly face new concerns. Businesses need to determine whether to hire employees or utilize independent contractors, as making the wrong choice could end up costing you. With growth, businesses will need to consider franchising, business succession planning, and minimizing their tax liability — all areas in which an experienced attorney can help. Establishing a relationship with an attorney provides you with piece of mind as well. If a legal issue comes up, you already know who to turn to and that person is familiar with your business and individual needs. Finding a law firm that has the knowledge and experience and that fits you is crucial to your success and can save you money in the long run. Loper Law is a small business, so we have firsthand knowledge of the challenges and opportunities of being entrepreneurs in Mobile. In my 16th year as an attorney (and with an MBA from The George Washington University and an LLM in Taxation from Boston University), I am more than ready to help your business thrive. Loper Law LLC 452 Government St. Unit E Mobile, AL | 251.288.8308

Bay Business News Business news for Mobile and Baldwin counties

News from our weekly newsletter: HABITAT FOR HUMANITY’S “WOMEN BUILD” SCHEDULED: Habitat for Humanity of Southwest Alabama is hosting its annual “Women Build” beginning at 7:45 a.m. on February 6, when a new home build at 511 Maybrick Road East in Mobile will begin. Having run for more than 25 years, the event provides the opportunity for women to learn... UNITED WAY HIRES MANAGER: The United Way of Southwest Alabama, headquartered in Mobile, recently hired Mary Clare Hagood as its new manager of donor relations, Business Alabama reports. Hagood is responsible for community outreach and managing volunteers throughout Mobile County. She is a graduate of the University of South Alabama... DR. KIMBERLY DONNELLAN JOINS USA HEALTH: According to a recent announcement, Dr. Kimberly Donnellan will be moving her “Skin & Laser Specialists” practice to join USA Health on January 15. She will be located at the USA Mobile Diagnostic Center - University Commons on Old Shell Road. Donnellan’s clinic provides cosmetic...

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obile’s one and only female Board-Certified Facial Plastic Surgeon, Dr. Kimberly Donnellan, has moved! With her practice now stationed at USA Health, Dr. Donnellan says the opportunity was one she simply couldn’t pass up. “They gave me the opportunity to open a new Skin & Laser Center that includes the most technologically advanced lasers and microneedling devices in the entire Gulf Coast region,” Dr. Donnellan shares. “In addition to all the cosmetic and reconstructive surgeries that I perform, I can now also offer my patients many nonsurgical options that are not available anywhere else in Mobile.” Thrilled with her new location, Dr. Donnellan says she’s most excited to introduce two new technologies to the Bay Area: the Virtue RF microneedling system and the Tetra CO2 laser. Dr. Donnellan says that the CO2 laser has been the gold standard for treating fine lines and wrinkles for many decades, but the downtime can be both lengthy and very painful. The new Tetra CO2 laser is the most advanced CO2 laser available because it uses Cool Peel technology that achieves similar results to the older CO2 lasers but is virtually painless. “We expect a complete recovery in approximately 24 hours,” Dr. Donnellan shares. “The Tetra CO2 laser is safe for the lower eyelids and is the perfect choice for acne scars, wrinkles, and sunspots.” Dr. Donnellan says microneedling has become one of the most sought-after aesthetic treatment modalities over the past two years. She is excited to offer the Virtue RF microneedling multimodality system to her patients and is the first and only to offer this technology in the Bay Area. Where typical microneedling systems help regenerate collagen, the Virtue RF system combines radiofrequency ablation with microneedling to provide better results with less pain when compared to older microneedling technologies. As part of the grand opening at the new Midtown location, Dr. Donnellan will be offering introductory pricing and packages.

Almand J. Westbrook, Jr., M.D. 2651 Old Shell Road | Mobile, AL 36607 P (251) 243-7058 | F (251) 243-7059 Dr. Kimberly A. Westbrook, MD 101 Lottie Ln Unit 6, Fairhope, AL 36532 P (251) 990-1980 Kimberly Donnellan, MD USA Health Facial Plastic Surgery 2505 Old Shell Road, Mobile, AL | 251.341.4094 Facebook: Dr.Donnellan Instagram: Dr.DonnellanSkinAndLaserCenter



Think you know everything about CBD? Well think again, as it’s taking the beauty industry by storm. For Bay Area brides-to-be, this is good news, as wedding planning during normal times is stressful enough. Adding the unknown pandemic factors is enough to wreak havoc on even the sanest bride’s face and heart rate. Here, Simply CBD’s Aaron VanHauter shares his insight.


nowing soon-to-be brides are planning full speed ahead, it’s important to know natural options exist to help manage the stress, anxiety, wrinkles, and breakouts sure to ensue. Getting camera ready and putting your best face forward shouldn’t be left to chance.

Enter CBD. A popular long-time aide used for everything from inflammation to anxiety, CBD’s applications in the beauty realm are often overlooked. Let’s dive in. If you aren’t familiar, CBD is a natural compound derived from the cannabis plant — and no, it doesn’t get you high. It can be found in mega-beauty brands such as Khiels and Vintner’s Daughter (both sold at Bergdorf Goodman) and is being tapped for its restorative powers for all skin types (including acne-prone and sensitive skin). A trending haute beauty ingredient, CBD is proven to help reduce inflammation and support the skin’s natural healing process. The proof is in the research (and the results, of course). As a natural anti-inflammatory, the soothing properties of CBD oil can aid those who suffer from skin conditions ranging from acne to rosacea and redness. This miracle ingredient reduces breakouts and calms redness by decreasing excessive levels of pore-clogging oil produced by your skin — a major acne trigger. Knowing most brides fear a wedding day breakout, it’s important to know one of the most promising studies was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, Trusted Source, where researchers measured the effects of CBD compounds on human skin samples and oil-producing glands. They found that CBD inhibited oil production and had antiinflammatory effects on oil-producing glands. They concluded CBD was a “promising therapeutic agent” for acne treatment. If you’re looking for the Fountain of Youth, CBD oil also combats the visible signs of aging with its powerful antioxidant properties. Say goodbye to fine lines and wrinkles, reduce inflammation, rejuvenate a dull complexion, and even out your skin tone with this all-natural approach. Additionally, important to all those who want to don a gown rather than a kaftan, CBD oil also inhibits flare-ups in some itchy skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema, and helps soothe sensitive, easily irritated skin. In addition to a knowledgeable staff, we offer a wide range of products including everything from anti-aging creams and facial wash to soothing topicals (as well as beard oil for your groom). Of course, it wouldn’t be a wedding if it didn’t include stress and anxiety. Whether it’s your mother-in-law or the pandemic, a variety of CBD products can take the edge off. And again, you will not get high. There’s no need to endure a pounding heart, sweaty palms, and racing thoughts. Such unwelcome and debilitating symptoms are unnecessary, and CBD can help. What I love about CBD products is they’re not addictive and can be used as needed. All of our products are certified, organic, and carefully managed from field to shelf to ensure purity, quality, and efficiency. If you’re curious about using CBD as a tool to help manage your anxiety, education is critical. Understanding the pros and cons of the various ingestion methods can help determine which form best suits your needs. While it doesn’t take long, we at Simply CBD pride ourselves on ensuring our customers get the right products and the results they desire. Come see us!

SIMPLY CBD | 2005 US-98, Daphne, AL | 251.586.8890 | 3664-A, Airport Blvd., Mobile, AL | 251.345.4005 |


M Y M o v in g Ser v ic es Locally owned and operated private moving and delivery service in Mobile, AL. Specializing in the delivery of high-priced and valuable items while also servicing small residential and commercial moves. MY Moving Services | 251.421.4624

Having marched down the aisle twice, our ever-thought-provoking and wildly funny columnist, Charlotte Kilborn Carey, shares some interesting statistics and hard-earned considerations to avoid saying “I do” when maybe, you don’t.

RECOMMENDED PRENUPTIAL READING: The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman Getting the Love You Want by Harville Hendrix The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work by John Gottman Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg

uick! What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word “marriage?” For most of us, we almost instinctually think of weddings. And why not? The romantic setting, flowers, music, gowns on glowing brides, and handsome grooms make for the fairy tale we wish marriage to be. In popular culture, marriage is equated with happiness. An even stronger implication? Not getting married leads to a life of loneliness. “Marriage is still the most prestigious way to live your life,” says sociologist Andrew Cherlin. But only half of American adults are currently married (down from 72 percent in 1960) and Americans have one the highest divorce rates in the Western world. What are we doing wrong? When asked, most married adults say they did it for love, but they’re twice as likely to also say the desire to have children someday was a major factor. Other “true romantics” (enter sarcasm) get married for financial, legal, or religious reasons — not to mention acquiring that super-sexy health insurance. Meooowww! Some couples view marriage as a solution to their relationship problems, a way to get family and society off their backs, or to avoid loneliness. Facts show they couldn’t be more wrong, and a bad decision can have dire emotional and financial consequences. Marriage at its best (as described by Aristotle) boasts that “Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.” *Cue the Disney princess birds.* The truth is, it can be isolating. After the wedding, couples tend to spend less time with family and friends. They receive fewer invitations as well. Only when they have children do they emerge, as kids (by their nature and involvement in extracurriculars) require us to have other relationships. Conversely, singles tend to have more friends, are more involved in their communities, and provide more care for their other family members. Right now, 25 percent of Americans aren’t sure marriage is for them, and a whopping 14 percent don’t intend to marry at all. Playwright Anton Chekhov mused, “If you are afraid of loneliness, don’t marry.” So, who benefits from all this marital bliss? There must be a reason we crave the societal power it carries. No shocker here, but it’s men. Married men in the U.S. are among the nation’s top earners. Overall, they out-earn similarly skilled single men by 10 to 40 percent. Unfortunately, women’s push for equality hasn’t yet quite hit home, where chores and childcare unevenly fall to women (even employed ones). Husbands with stay-at-home wives benefit from their unpaid labor to the tune of about $40K annually. Interestingly, men have the reputation of being commitment-averse, but statistically, they profit the most. Unfortunately, women are still encouraged to “land” a husband while they’re young instead of focusing on their personal, professional, and financial well-being. Now, I’m not saying don’t do it — I’ve done it a couple of times myself. Just make sure you know what you’re both bringing to the table. It’s much harder in every way to divorce than it is to marry. Why not mull over these little devil’s advocate reads to think about your future? Just consider me your Joe Friday from Dragnet providing you with “Just the facts, ma’am.”


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