Itia & Santoine say "I Do" in a beautiful southern affair.

Bride: Itia Ayana Brown, 23
Groom: Santoine Geraldo Lee, 24
Occupations: Brown, preparing for medical school; Lee, software engineer
Homebase: Georgia
Wedding Date: September 4, 2010
Wedding Location: Ceremony: Emmanuel Community Church;  Reception: Cherokee Run Country Club, both in Conyers, Georgia

A Teenage Love Their love story reads like a 1980s teen novel. Santoine was the basketball playing upperclassman and Itia was the cute cheerleader. “I thought she was pretty and smart,” Santoine shares. Although she was only 16, Itia recognized something different in Santoine. “We were just friends at first. He didn’t [immediately] try to date me; he was a real gentleman,” she explains. “He became my first real boyfriend,” says Itia.

Growing Pains Post-graduation, the pair headed off to different colleges in Alabama. The frat parties, step shows and final exams didn’t keep the duo apart. “We grew up together. It was challenging to go through those changes [as a couple], most of my friends were not in serious relationships,” reveals Itia. Even back then — despite their challenges — Itia seemed to be the ying to Santoine’s yang. “I was hardcore into school and always in my books. Santoine helped to balance me out,” she shares. But Itia quickly adds, “I made sure he got his work done.”

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All images (excluding honeymoon pic) by Darnel Williams.

The Happiest Place on Earth Although the couple seemed to have it all, they faced criticism for their relationship. “People were constantly telling us we were too young to be so serious,” recalls Itia. Those naysayers couldn’t keep Santoine from his baby. “Itia was patient and understanding…and put up with my stuff. I knew she was going to be my wife,” he says. He devised a plan to melt her heart. “Itia had never been to Disney World and my family goes every year,” Santoine explains. While on vacay with his family to the popular theme park, Santoine asked Itia to be his wife. “He was on one knee telling me how much I meant to him and I just started balling. Then we watched the fireworks together,” remembers Itia who adds she was shocked her shy sweetie proposed in front of so many people.

Time of Our Lives Before about 225 guests, Itia and Santoine became husband and wife over Labor Day weekend. Loved ones traveled from far and near to witness the joyous union and the couple enjoyed every minute of it. The bride did have a same day wedding coordinator but she, Santoine and her mom planned most of the day themselves with help from their bridal party. “My bridesmaids and I created our invitations and programs,” says Itia. Don’t assume this young couple lost sight of what the wedding was truly about. Santoine explains, “We share similar values. No matter what comes, we’re going to get through it together.”

Itia’s Money-Saving Tips for Future Brides

Flower Power While many brides blow their budgets on pricey floral arrangements, Itia opted for the faux variety. The new wife admits she was concerned about them appearing cheap. “I think using different varities and hues of flowers throughout prevented that,” she reflects.

Murphy’s Law Although Itia booked her hair and makeup appointments weeks in advance, she experienced what might be every bride’s worst nightmare: the hairstylist and makeup artist both flaked on her at the 11th hour. “I got my hair, makeup and eyebrows done in a barbershop! There was a woman in the back who did all three,” she says of the last minute save. The bride still looked gorgeous for all her pictures.

Lights On! “We used a lot of candles throughout our ceremony and reception to save money,” Itia says. This cost-cutting decor trick also adds a romantic ambiance to any space. It’s a win-win!

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