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To Have and to HOLDEN: An Elopement with Grow Ensemble's Cory and Annie

To Have and to HOLDEN is our series where we interview real couples about their romance, weddings, and whatever else comes up along the way. Enjoy!

Cory and Annie founded Grow Ensemble, which provides information on sustainability and better-for-the-world practices. We're big fans of their work - keep an eye out for HOLDEN in an upcoming podcast interview! For their own wedding, Cory purchased The Domed and reviewed his HOLDEN experience on the Grow Ensemble website. We wanted to learn more about their wedding day, so we sat down with Cory to hear all about his and Annie's romance.

How did you two meet and start dating?

We met in Austin, Texas. I had just moved to the city 6 or so months prior and was really in the spirit of meeting new people.

I hit it off with a new friend who made mention of his wonderful partner he was dating at the time. I insisted he bring her along to a dinner or night out the next time we got together.

It just so happened that the sister of this friend’s partner was Annie! When we finally all got together for dinner, Annie came along too, and she and I were both pleasantly surprised to meet each other there. It was obvious that we each felt a spark from the moment we met. I came to learn later that after that night, Annie’s sister asked her if she had just fallen in love.

My brother’s partner (now my sister-in-law) who also was at that first dinner insisted I ask Annie out. I waited and Annie beat me to the punch with a DM on Instagram.

We scheduled a first date at a dive bar in Austin to have a couple drinks and play ping pong. I crushed her! Kidding...she beat me, but the matches were quite competitive, I must say.

The rest is history! We soon started spending almost every night together and officially moved in together within the first year of dating. We knew we were going to be together forever from the get-go.

Grow Ensemble Cory Annie Wedding HOLDEN Interview

How did you get engaged?

Annie’s birthday is on New Year’s Day. Crazy, I know! For her birthday I suggested that we visit Big Bend National Park out in West Texas. It’s beautiful!

We drove our van from Austin to Big Bend and spent a couple nights there. On night two, after a 14-mile hike, I nervously pulled a ring out of a sleeping bag and asked her to marry me. We each cried.

You started your own company together - could you talk a bit about what you do?

We co-founded Grow Ensemble, a media and education company focused on raising awareness and inspiring meaningful action around the world’s most important problems and problem-solvers!

We produce a podcast, write a blog, and recently launched a YouTube channel. We want to bring more people into the community of sustainability and likewise offer information and support for change-makers of all kinds, wherever they are in their impact journey.

Some of the work we do involves researching and reviewing better-for-the-world businesses and their products! A major reason we came to be in touch with the great folks here at HOLDEN.

You can read our review of our experience ring shopping with HOLDEN here. :)

What’s your favorite thing about working together?

I believe it’s our complementary strengths.

Annie is the most brilliant and supportive person I’ve ever met. I’ve never met anyone who is a clearer thinker or more encouraging and passionate about the things she believes strongly in. Luckily, she believes strongly in Grow Ensemble. ;)

My strength is planning and strategy, but I have a weakness of over planning and strategizing. Oftentimes I think that’s a result of a lack of confidence in taking immediate action.

Annie’s mind helps me to cut through what’s important and what’s not in the plans I conceive and likewise can positively encourage me to take the actions I know I can when I’m floundering.

There are many ways we complement each other - this just being one.

Grow Ensemble Cory Annie Wedding HOLDEN Interview

What’s a moment from your wedding day you’ll remember forever?

Ahhh, maybe all of it! It depends on who you ask. We had a COVID era wedding, so really it was closer to an elopement. It was just us and our photographer and her assistant (her husband).

It was incredibly special to just focus on being with each other. We got ready and dressed together, we had snacks and mimosas together before the ceremony, and for our “reception” and time after, we just got to hang out.

Many couples we’ve spoken to feel like their wedding flies by and they spend it just saying hello to distant family members. Nothing wrong with family, of course… It was just the environment of our small, simple ceremony that ensured the wedding was...well...about us!

What’s some advice you have for couples planning a wedding right now?

Wow, it’s easier said than done, but truly try and make your wedding what you would want. COVID cancelling our original wedding plans was a gift in disguise! Of course, Annie and I thought we’d still enjoy a larger, more “normal” wedding, but there was so much about it that we didn’t like (the cost, the time to plan, the potential lack of intimacy).

So instead we got to simplify our plans and focus on just the essentials. Sharing why we love each other, music we liked, good food (I grilled steaks), and wonderful photos (thanks, Rachel)! We realized that was exactly how we would’ve wanted our wedding to be anyway!

That’s not to say you should choose to plan a wedding that looks like ours in size and scope but rather to really make sure you feel good about what you’re planning. Not just the wedding day to come but how the whole process makes you feel.

Pay attention to and do what feels good. It’s a celebration after all, isn’t it?

Grow Ensemble Cory Annie Wedding HOLDEN Interview

What was important to you in choosing a ring? What made you choose HOLDEN?

Annie’s ring is a family heirloom, so she was covered. We still needed to decide what sort of ring seemed perfect for me.

Given that we are in the business of “better-for-the-world business,” we wanted to make sure that the ring we bought was coming from a company (and the people running it) who we felt we shared some important values with…

A commitment to caring for people and the planet!

After stumbling across HOLDEN, these shared values were explicit and clear. Of course it added to it that HOLDEN made choosing a ring accessible, low-pressure, and educational (karat vs carat, anyone?).

What does love mean to you?

Love is unconditional acceptance and experience of growth. It’s getting to be completely yourself with another. It’s sharing your life, your experiences, almost your consciousness with another person.

We love love!

Get to know their business: Grow Ensemble

Wedding photos courtesy of: Rachel Scott Photography

Want to read more? Check out some of our other couple interviews:

A DIY Wedding With Nate and Felix

A Waterfall Microwedding with Korene and Nathan

Tea Ceremonies with Jen and Jesse

Want to be featured in our next post? Shoot us an email at help@hiholden.com! Want to read more? Check out the rest of our blog.