Sunny + Chris had quite the untraditional wedding weekend. When days of downpour surrounded their plans, they embraced it. You’ll see from these photos from Leah Bullard that they made for a few beautiful photos, but the rain also brought out the chemistry that S + C share. Quite appropriate for two botanists who wanted to keep things simple and all about family. Though the bride’s side and the groom’s side had never met before the nuptial weekend, a reception the day before the ceremony brought together the family and acted as the perfect start to Sunny + Chris’s marital union.
How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story.
We’re both botanists. As you might imagine, there’s not a lot of us, so we’re a pretty tight-knit group. I first met Chris when I started studying botany in 2008. My adviser at the time had dragged me along on a trip to study some privately owned woods in Nashville. He had also invited Chris out. We were intrigued by each other even then, but always kept it to ourselves because we were in relationships at the time. Throughout the years, we would run into each other at meetings and seminars and correspond about various work-related things, but never hung out. It wasn’t until last year that we REALLY got together. I had been a student on a field school in Madagascar. In May, I had spent a month and a half camping in the highland rainforests of Madagascar to study lemur feeding ecology (they eat a lot of plants.) I was so overwhelmed by the experience that upon my return home, I was dying to spend some time in a familiar place. I knew Chris had a map to an unmarked area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so I emailed him to inquire about sending me a copy. I was surprised when he offered to just take me personally instead! Since we were both botanists, I didn’t want to read into it too much, so I tried not to let on how nervous I was to meet up with him. The first night we hung out, it didn’t take us very long to find out that we were finally single. In fact, it turned out that we had been interested in each other for years. He immediately booked the rest of our weekend at Dancing Bear Lodge. We spent the rest of the weekend exploring the mountains and hiking together. Our last trip that weekend was to Cades Cove, and on our way out I remember distinctly looking over at him while he was driving and I was just struck with happiness and the overwhelming feeling that I would be with him the rest of my life. A little later, I found out he was also thinking the same thing then. We married less than a year later!
Our whole wedding was extremely non-traditional. Since it was a semi-destination wedding, we wanted our friends and family to be able to get back home in time to get ready for their real lives. Therefore, we had the reception on Saturday night and got married at noon on Sunday. My dad had been hassling us about schedules so much that weekend that by Sunday, I was just over it and wiped out! My dad was about to have a heart attack when he walked into our cabin and saw me in my pajamas and my hair in a towel! Instead of stressing out, I think we woke up and I got ready in 30 minutes while Chris made breakfast. We drove to the church together in his pickup in the pouring rain. My parents were early and already there, and we walked in together under an umbrella.
Did you have something borrowed, something blue, and something new? Borrowed: Our umbrella! My mom happened to bring a clear umbrella because of the storm. We ended up using it as a major prop in our photos. Blue: My shoes and earrings were blue and set the theme for the rest of the wedding. Chris and my father coordinated blue punches of color in their ties, and my flowers were tied together with blue ribbons. The wedding favors that my mom created were sunflower seeds and chocolate in brown envelopes tied together with blue ribbons. Something new: Our outfits! Of course, my dress was new, and Chris’ suit was all new.
My dress was by Maggy London from the Nordstrom Wedding Suite. At the time, I was in classes and it was midterms. I was flustered and feeling the crunch to find a dress, but between studying and work I hadn’t had time to go try dresses on. Browsing the websites of local boutiques wasn’t helping and I was increasingly frustrated and sad with the whole process. Chris simply Google searched “Simple Wedding Dresses” and after about a 30 second browse on Nordstrom’s website he asked, “How about this one?” It was a simple Maggy London dress that came just above the knee and had a halter neckline. It was gorgeous and I immediately knew it was the right one. My mom ordered it the next day. Unbeknownst to me, they only had one in my size left and somehow it got LOST IN THE MAIL! It was during midterms, so my mom didn’t tell me for fear of stressing me out. It was found and when it finally got to the house, my mom called to let me know. I called Chris and his response was “Oh, so they found it?” To which I replied, “What do you mean THEY FOUND IT?!” The cat was out of the bag, but at that point, it was just funny.
Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? We’re horrible with sentiment, so we left the writing up to the Reverend. Early on, Reverend Cahelo interviewed us and asked for some direction. About a week after, she sent us some options to pick and choose from, kind of like a “mix and match.” She did a wonderful job!
What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony?
We kept the ceremony extremely short and sweet. Rev. Cahelo said a few words at the beginning, but they were entirely her own. We asked mostly that our friends and family be honored during the introduction, since they are such an important part to our lives.
Our favorite detail of the wedding was getting our friends and family together. When we first were planning the wedding, we thought travel would be too difficult for some of our friends and family, but closer to the very end we were surprised to find out that many could attend! Before that, because I’m in school in Chattanooga and Chris lives in Nashville, our friends and family had never met. It could have been awkward and horrible, but they all got along splendidly and had a great time talking to each other! Since we had the dinner before our wedding, everyone had a chance to get to know each other on a meaningful level. On the day of our wedding there was no segregation of the “bride’s side’ or “groom’s side.” I think it was a perfect start to bringing our lives together as husband and wife.
What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding?
Most obviously, we’re both Southern. I’m a Tennessee native and he was born in Kentucky and lives in Tennessee. We got married at Cades Cove in the Primitive Baptist Church. It plays a very important role in Southern History as an early settlement for pilgrims looking for prime agricultural land. Lastly, the wedding was simple. The South is torn between a beautiful dichotomy of being over-the-top, but also keeping it to the point. We kept it to the point and we kept it relaxed. The rain was over the top!
What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day?
There’s so many, but what stands out as the overall zeitgeist of our wedding is possibly the rain. It was a downpour and had been raining for two days. It was no matter though — it made everything just that much more fun and beautiful. One of the last photos we took was outside while the storm was at its worst. Chris and I are standing on a log and we’re face-to-face and smiling at each other and I have my hands over his head and he has his arms around my waist. We’re soaked, we’re surrounded by flooding rain, but we’re totally in love and we don’t even notice. Every time I see that picture it evokes a deep sense of happiness and love, and that chemistry between us is the reason we’re together in the first place.
Tell us all about the proposal!
It was the most genuine event! I was on break from classes and we decided to spend a few days taking a road trip to St. Louis, MO to visit the botanical garden (a mecca for botanists.) Chris had found this beautiful restored apartment to rent for the weekend in a historical house. I don’t recall exactly which night it was, but we had been spending the day at the gardens and were just lying around that night reading and watching TV. He suddenly became very emotional and asked me to be his wife. It was lovely! He hadn’t planned on it, so we didn’t have a ring. Just our words. We couldn’t have been happier.
When did y’all get married?
Sunday, April 28th, 2013.
How many friends, family, and loved ones attended your wedding?
Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding and why you chose them.
We went sans-music for the wedding ceremony itself. However, at our wedding dinner the night before, we let our friends and family be the DJ’s by using Spotify hooked up to a nice sound system. We’re all music geeks, so we had a blast coming up with playlists! There was everything from Radiohead, Smashing Pumpkins, Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel. It was so much fun!
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? I’m still finishing up school in Chattanooga and Chris works in Nashville. Neither of us could really focus a lot of attention to actually planning a wedding, and furthermore, when we did have the time, it often wasn’t at the SAME time. Communication was difficult during the process and we were lucky that my parents really took over and helped us out. My mom was great at thinking of things we needed (wedding favors that she created herself!) and my dad was great at managing the events.
What range did your wedding budget fall into?
Less than $10,000
What is the one detail or vendor that you were so happy to have as a part of your wedding?
Leah, our photographer. We looked at many photographers and they were all in about the same price range, but her quality was incredible. She isn’t a wedding photographer; she’s an artist. Chris and I are scientists (awkward scientists). We don’t spend time in front of a camera, but we definitely appreciate good photography. She worked with us and made us feel comfortable, but more than that, she took the photos to the next level. She captured not only us, but everything that made that day so amazing. She’s stealthy, too! There are moments she captured that I wouldn’t even remember, and we didn’t even know she was there!
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding?
Parsimony! Keep it simple. It was beautiful and fun and we didn’t drown in the details of it. It allowed us to focus on what mattered — ourselves and our friends and family. Before you plan, sit down and make a list of your priorities surrounding the wedding itself and the reason you’re there together in the first place. We love good food and drink and we wanted lasting memories, so we prioritized spending on catering and our photographer. Then, bringing our friends together was a priority, so the next big thing to deal with was finding great cabin rentals. Dogwood Cabins was perfect and we would recommend them again! Everything else consisted of small details, but what matters is the big picture.
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you looking forward to in the future?
I’m finishing up school. Now that we’re married, it just makes it that much more emotionally taxing to be separate from each other. I’m on track to graduate in December, at which point we look forward to enjoying the simple things that are often taken for granted. Sipping our morning coffee together, being there when he gets home, cooking dinner together. Even if we’re silent, our presence in each other’s lives is key and it’s extraordinarily difficult for us to be separated right now. We could have waited, but we don’t regret it. We belong to each other forever and we couldn’t wait any longer.