I’m especially excited to share this week’s Southern Wedding of the Week, photographed by Leslee Mitchell, with you! (I’m actually in love!) As the bride would tell you herself, Mary Catherine + Les aren’t the average couple and this Alabama affair was anything but your average wedding! After all, it’s not every day a couple in their seventies ties the knot in front of their closest friends and family while standing hand-in-hand at the altar with two of their adorable grandchildren. What’s most unique about this wedding, of course, is that nearly everything, from the simple tin-can arrangements of handpicked garden roses and hydrangeas to the bride’s flowy eyelet skirt, was made by either the couple or their very talented friends. We love how the many personal touches and family heirlooms (Mary Catherine carried her bouquet in the same antique tussie used by every bride in her family!) gave this wedding a distinctly intimate and timeless feel. What DIY item does Mary Catherine + Les’ wedding inspire you to tackle?!
How did the two of you meet? Tell us your story: Les and I met through a blind date arranged by a mutual friend. We dated for more than nine years before I accepted Les’ proposal of marriage.
What was the design inspiration for your wedding: My gardens and favorite oak tree. My home is surrounded by beautiful gardens and we decided to have a seated dinner in the formal garden for family and friends. Everything just came together after we made that decision. The invitations set the tone by using an old-style printing technique called letterpress. They were cream color Crane card stock with a rich chocolate brown ink. I picked a nontraditional set-up with an old engraved oak tree design. I really love that tree!
Favorite design element of your big day: The huge old oak tree is central to the house and grounds. A can-do-anything family friend wired it for electricity and we hung 12 antique chandeliers of various sizes and styles from the branches that spread out over the circular drive. They were fabulous!
Tell us about finding your wedding dress: I wanted something different and unique-looking because, being in our seventies, we are not the typical wedding couple. I went up to my attic thinking about antique clothing and found a vintage cape I bought years ago from an antique mall in the Hamptons. It was a beautiful faded pink color and I had always loved the fabric. I thought the design of the fabric would lend itself to a cool skirt so I worked out a design and took it to a seamstress to implement. An artist friend brought over a scrap bag of ribbons and lace and I found the perfect ribbon in a beautiful moss green that perfectly complemented the pale pink color of the skirt. I added fabric roses from a jacket I wore to one of my daughters’ weddings twenty years ago. I remembered a pair of shoes from even longer ago that I thought would work well. They were a perfect fit and, amazingly, back in style. My granddaughter also wore a vintage dress I purchased at a flea market in France that fit beautifully after a few adjustments.
Describe your wedding flowers: I picked the wedding date when the gardens would be at their peak so we kept the arranged flowers very simple. I have many friends who are talented floral designers and gardeners so most of the flowers came from their own gardens. We ended up with a beautiful mix of garden roses and hydrangeas. Since the wedding was not in a church, we wanted a religious symbol for the ceremony. A friend created a free standing floral cross with the combination of garden roses, spray roses, hydrangeas, variegated ivy and smilax which served as the centerpiece on an old farm table layered with embroidered antique table linens and surrounded by sterling containers filled with smaller floral arrangements. The table stood in the timber arbor at the end of the formal garden and made for a truly striking backdrop and focal point for the ceremony.
Describe your wedding cake: The wedding cake was our favorite dessert from our favorite restaurant in Birmingham, Highlands Bar & Grill. It is a marvelously simple (but incredibly delicious!) Seven Layer Coconut Cake with Creme Anglaise. Truly: it’s to die for.
Our favorite detail of the wedding was: Since we had a small ceremony for our family, the dinner was really the main event. We are both very passionate about the art of food and the feel of the dinner was especially important to me. When the weather turned bad, we rented a large tent at the last minute that fit exactly over the center of the formal garden. Since I didn’t want groups of round tables that would separate the guests, we decided on a banquet-style set-up. I was really pleased with the look of the long, narrow tables arranged end to end. We covered the tables with painter’s drop cloths I purchased online. The drop cloths were absolutely perfect; they looked like rough linen! To create an intimate look and feel, I borrowed (rather than rented) just about everything for the dinner. The chairs ranged from modern to old church chairs. I borrowed different plates that all had a unique garden pattern. We kept the table decorations simple, choosing simple pillar candles in glass cylinders and spray roses clustered in sterling mint julep cups. The wine and champagne bottles were placed on the tables for the guests to help themselves. (Trust me: they loved that!)
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding: The weather. I was determined to have a garden location but the weather was just not going to cooperate. We worked around the weather and, in the end, it did cooperate for us. In the middle of dinner a weather check showed a perfectly round circle of clear weather with Birmingham in the center surrounded by rainstorms. How lucky were we?
Were there any special family traditions you included in your wedding: I used the same antique tussie mussie to hold my bouquet that all the brides in my family have used in their wedding ceremonies.
Funniest moment: My two young grandchildren, six and seven, decided this was such a momentous occasion that they stood with us through the entire ceremony, held our hands and each other’s at the pertinent parts, even through the exchanging of the vows. I’m not sure, but we legally may all be married.
Hardest decision you made in planning: Deciding to use a tent. We really wanted to have an open sky over the tables with light strung between the trees, but the tent ultimately gave the dinner a wonderfully intimate feel we just loved.
What advice would you give to someone planning their wedding? Keep it small with family and special friends, and always be mindful of what is important to you and don’t skimp in that area. Whatever that may be, do it spectacularly. For me, as an artist and photographer, the photography was very important. I knew I would want pictures that were more artistic than typical wedding pictures. I wanted to have pictures that captured all the little moments and special details of the day. It was worth the extra effort to find a photographer I knew would be able to do that for me.
Any DIY items: Just about everything with tons of help from our many very talented friends.