We look at hundreds of weddings a month at Southern Weddings, but no matter how many we see and share, there are some couples, stories, and celebrations that stick out in our memories, even years later. In the case of Emily and Josh’s Tennessee wedding, it’s all three. No one in the SW office will soon forget the story of their meant-to-be wedding venue–a true testament to Southern hospitality and friends who are more like family. We’ll always remember the prayerful ceremony that united Emily and Josh as husband and wife, and the latte bar at their cocktail hour that nodded to the beginning of their love story. And most of all, we’ll remember the sweet joy and pure love that radiated from them in their first moments as newlyweds. What a beautiful reminder of what a wedding is really about!
Tell us about finding your wedding dress. What was your favorite thing about it? Finding my wedding dress was overwhelming, but definitely so much fun. The first day I went to try on dresses, I went to a little shop in downtown Atlanta called The Sentimentalist. It was so darling! My mom and sister came with me and there were definitely some tears shed. Though I didn’t end up getting my dress there, it was the best time I had trying on dresses. I went to quite a few other shops and even ended up choosing a dress at one of them, feeling like I was running out of time! But all the while, I had my eye on a delicate dress from Rue de Seine and couldn’t get it out of my head. I emailed them, expecting them to not be able to make or get me the dress in time (they’re based in New Zealand), but they were so accommodating! I’m so happy I went with my gut and took the risk of ordering online, because my dress was perfect! It did take some alterations to get it just right, but the lady who helped me was the kindest woman and truly made it perfect.
Describe your bridesmaids’ dresses. How did you choose them? All the girls have amazing style, so I felt confident letting them pick their own dresses, with some hints and suggestions of what I liked, of course. I gave them the guidelines of cream and soft pink, and gave them the okay when they found something they liked. I wanted their personalities to show through what they wore, and I wanted them to feel beautiful! In doing that, they added a bohemian edge to the wedding that I loved—it really reflected who we are!
Tell us all the basics of your wedding! We got engaged in April 2013 while I was abroad and it was absolutely beautiful. I was still in school till December, so we decided to wait until the next spring to get married, to remind us of the season we got engaged in and to give me enough time to plan the wedding! It just so happened to work out that the last Saturday in April was the 26th, and since our dating anniversary is the 26th of March, April 26 seemed to be the perfect date for us. Additionally, it was Josh’s parents’ 39th wedding anniversary, which made this date extra special!
Tell us about the ceremony. The ceremony was very important to us, because at the heart of the whole thing, it’s that small moment in time when you promise yourselves to each other that matters the most. We wanted that moment to be special and to honor Christ. We asked Josh’s cousin, Matt Smallbone, to officiate our wedding, as we respect him as a man of God, the head of a wonderful family, and as a pastor. He made the ceremony very special by telling our story and sharing some funny memories of Josh as a kid, but he also led an inspiring message about the journey of marriage. We included a hymn for worship, and then we included a ceremonial foot washing and a tree planting. Both of these were very meaningful; for the tree planting, we both poured soil from each of our parents’ gardens into the plant, and the foot washing was a time for us to humble ourselves before each other. I started bawling during the foot-washing ceremony! One of my English professors would read “The Prayer of St. Francis” before every class; it became one of the most important prayers in my life. We had the prayer read over us by one of Josh’s brothers during the ceremony as a reminder of what the hope of our heart should be as a married unit. We read the prayer together now, and it is such an encouragement.
What was Southern about your wedding? Between the folk music, the food, the scenery, and the prayer, there was no escaping how Southern our wedding was. Even though Josh is Australian at heart, he is just as much Southern at heart. And me? I’m full-blown Southern. Our wedding centered around food, God, and family! Good cooking and good hosting is the Southern way to show love and celebration, and it was so important to us that we provided this to our guests.
We joke about our wedding location being heavenly and magical, but in truth, it really was! One day, before we were even engaged, when Josh and I were going for a drive in Franklin, we came across a hilltop that had a structure peeking through the trees. We indulged our curiosity, and having no idea whose property it was, we trespassed up on the hill. After experiencing the breathtaking scene, I looked at Josh and said, “Let’s get married here!” By the time the wedding planning finally came around years later, we had completely forgotten about this finding. It wasn’t until we were at our wits’ end looking for a location in our price range that someone asked us if we had looked at Josh’s doctor’s property that he had built for his daughter’s wedding. It turned out to be the same structure we had seen peeking through the trees that day! Josh’s doctor was kind enough to say that he doesn’t lease out the property, but only lets family use it, and he considers us family! Being married in Franklin was very important to us because it is not only where we met and fell in love, it’s where both of our families are, and it truly is where we feel at home. It was so fitting to be outside, breathing in the fresh green air with a view of the rolling hills of Tennessee. Cows and fields and farms surrounded us, and it felt completely like us and completely like home.
Did you have a cocktail hour? If so, what was it like? We did, but we did it a bit differently with Mexican Cokes, a latte bar, and some yummy basil lemonade. We spent a lot of time arranging the hour before dinner; we wanted this time to be fun for the guests while we left the site for our photos. We had lawn games, a photo booth, henna tattoos, and even Australian lollies (candy) for all of Josh’s Aussie relatives! We heard back from everyone that they had such a fun time during this part of the wedding.
What was the design inspiration for your reception? We went with a natural look for the reception. We just added a little greenery to the farm tables, some candles on tree stumps around the fireplace, and some flowers here and there, and it was beautiful! My dad chopped tree branches into tiny slices for me to write everyone’s names on for their escort cards, which added a nice touch.
Tell us about your wedding cake or sweets. Our wedding cake was not only gorgeous, but also absolutely delicious! Lucy made two cakes for us: a massive chocolate cake and a medium-sized vanilla cake. She nailed the “naked cake” look and decorated it with beautiful flowers. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a delicious cake in my life, but maybe I’m biased? We were nice to each other and didn’t smash the cake in each other’s faces, although I did manage to smear some icing on him!
We danced to a mashup of “Can’t Help Falling in Love with You” by Elvis and “All of Me” by John Legend. Josh’s many siblings are all extremely musically talented, and they actually played and sang live as a group with just a guitar. It was lovely. We had practiced and gone to dance lessons, yet we were kind of a disaster! But in that moment, we didn’t even think about the lessons; we just slow-danced naturally while thinking about each other and the day. It was beautiful to be dancing underneath the pavilion’s chandeliers and string lighting.
How did the two of you meet? Tell us your story. Looking back, we were so young! It didn’t feel like it then though. I was fifteen and Josh was seventeen. I was working at a little coffee shop just a few blocks away from my house. Josh came in one day and ordered a smoothie, so we struck up conversation and realized we had many mutual friends. After that, we saw each other everywhere! He started coming into the shop pretty often. Since I was fifteen, I didn’t have a license and couldn’t drive to and from work, so Josh would come in right before close and nonchalantly offer to drive me home. This friendship carried on for about a year before we actually decided to become boyfriend and girlfriend, the first time for both of us to call anyone that. Josh was gracious and patient when I moved three hours away for three years, and even when I moved to France, where he followed me and asked me to be his wife!
Tell us about the proposal! I have always had a little bit of an obsession with all things French, so when the opportunity arose to study painting abroad for a semester in the south of France, I started booking my ticket. Little did I know, Josh was booking his ticket too. He traveled to France and surprised me near the end of my two months there by sending a taxi to come pick me up and take me to a hilltop in Pujols, about fifteen minutes from where I was! I was dropped off by a rose petal trail and a sign that said “Follow this trail for an adventure.” I followed it to where Josh was on his knee with a ring in hand. He asked me to marry him (in French!), and I said yes. We cried and enjoyed a perfect picnic that Josh had set up, complete with wine, chocolate-covered strawberries, and French cheese.
Three adjectives that describe the day are: Heavenly, intimate, joyful.
How many guests attended your wedding? 155
What was the design inspiration for your wedding? Why was this design special to you as a couple? The scenery of the venue was our greatest design inspiration. Everything from the wedding invitations to the farm dinner tables to my bouquet were chosen and designed to reflect the true, genuine, timeless beauty of nature. We love to spend our time together doing things like hiking up to lookouts, going for scenic drives, or stargazing at the beach. We search for and find the truest form of beauty in the nature all around us, so we wanted our wedding to reflect that beauty!
Were there any family traditions you included in the reception? Josh’s family has a tradition that at every family dinner, they have apple cider and long speeches, which of course had to happen at our wedding as well!
Did you try anything new or nontraditional? From Josh: I have four brothers and since I didn’t want to pick a favorite, I made them all my best men. What was unique was that they all got up during the best men speech and each shared a word.
Tell us about a way or ways you saved money or cut costs while planning. My dad built our arch and the doors we walked through. He also helped gather wood for all kinds of things in the wedding, including tree stumps, which helped save a ton of money! We also had friends and family cover all the music. The main way we saved money was by making things ourselves, like the favors, and by assigning jobs and asking for help from family and friends. People want to help with weddings in any way they can, you just have to ask them!
What advice would you give to someone currently planning his or her wedding? The wedding industry is amazing, but it can also be a little jaded! Don’t let any wedding vendors take the joy out of the planning process. It’s not realistic that everyone can plan their wedding a year in advance or buy their dress six months before the wedding, and that is what some people seem to expect. If someone makes you feel bad for that, don’t let them bring you down. It is hard work to put together a great wedding, but it’s also such a joy; don’t get bogged down in the details!
What’s next for you as a couple? From Josh: We are living in east Nashville, right near downtown. We plan to stay in Nashville as we settle into our new life and home, near both of our families and our nieces and nephews. We are both working to pay the bills and saving up for the future, whatever it may hold! We learned during the wedding planning process that we make a great team. Em is a great dreamer, creator, and visionary, and I am a great logistics, make-it-happen person. We long to work together and find something we can do where we can partner together each day. We’re not sure yet if that’s starting a company together or moving out of the country to be missionaries!
Photographer: Amanda K Photography / Videographer: Anchor Heart Films / Designer, Rentals, and Reception Decor: Megan Proby of 12th Table / Venue: Private residence / Florist: Lauren Atkinson / Caterer and Wedding Cake: Lucy’s Kitchen / Bride’s Gown: “Eve” by Rue De Seine / Bride’s Shoes: Klub Nico / Bride’s Jewelry: Consider the Wldflwrs and Anthropologie / Bride’s Veil: Custom by Muna Couture / Bride’s Hair Accessory: Lauren Atkinson / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: “Empire Mesh Lace Dress” by Free People, “Embroidered Fable Dress” by Free People, and “Eagan Beige Silk Embroidered Maxi” by Joie / Hair Stylist: Jordan Byers / Makeup Artist: Jordan Byers and Rachel Shepherd / Groom’s Fashion: Zara / Groomsmen’s Fashion: Top Man / Paper Goods: Chelsea Petaja of Oh My Deer / Lettering: Jessie Early / Transportation: A Better Bus / Lighting: Matt Brady / Sound: Ralph Rivera