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If I’m not even halfway through a bride’s interview and have already snapped lines of it to the gals in the office with the caption “preach!” it’s safe to say I’m going to love the wedding based purely on the bride’s outlook. But, there is so much more to adore than Caroline’s sweet personality! Caroline and Austin were married on her parents’ 60-acre farm in Alabama surrounded by 450 guests, including a few cows. The couple wanted their guests to feel “true Southern values and hospitality,” so everything about their wedding was filled with sweet sentimental details and personal family touches. In addition to celebrating their marriage at Caroline’s parent’s modern farmhouse, their cakes were made by Austin’s great-aunt and her sister-in-law Abby did all the calligraphy and paper goods. (You might recognize Abby and her lettering from her own wedding to Alex that was featured in Volume 7 and from our Southern Newlywed column. We’re big fans of The Bowlins — and now the Kidds, too — around here!)

Hugs to Lexie Bush for sharing Caroline and Austin’s wedding with us!

What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? Did they have any special significance to you? Our wedding planning process started very differently than most when I posed the idea of getting married on my parents’ 60-acre cattle farm. My sentimental heart wanted to feel deeply connected to our wedding venue and I knew I wanted to be outdoors. I loved the idea of getting married at my family home, surrounded by the people we love most, within the sweetness of the long acres of land. Sounds easy, right? My brother proposed to his wife underneath a patch of trees in our pasture, and I envisioned our ceremony being in the exact same spot. This task started early in the winter with my up for anything-National Guard-pull up your boot straps Daddy working from daylight to dark, attempting to turn a former dairy barn into his daughter’s Southern/trendy/boho dream reception venue. Living in two different cities, my parents and I communicated via Pinterest and Instagram, constantly sending each other pictures and whimsical ideas that my mother vowed would come to life. The love and dedication my parents put into this wedding is nothing short of the most humbling emotion my heart has ever felt.

Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! Well, every good Southern woman does, right? I will start with borrowed. I have been blessed to live 24 years with two wonderful grandmothers who love me so well. My Bibi insisted that I wear her opal ring that I have admired for years and have struggled to take off since. My something blue was my garter that came handmade by Ms. Bernice, a family friend. It was detailed with a blue ribbon and lace from her wedding dress. The kindest touch, and of course, so sentimental. My something old came from my wedding ring. The two diamonds on the sides are my Mimi’s. Her diamonds are such a special touch to something I will wear everyday. My something new was my BHLDN earrings. I knew I wanted something with a little bling but not too much sass. Ordering online made me a little nervous, but I couldn’t have found a more perfect pair!

When shopping began for my wedding dress, I honestly had no idea what I was looking for. I knew I wanted to feel comfortable and select a gown that I would love for years to come. My taste is simplistic with an artistic spin, and I would live in Free People and Anthropologie at all times if my teacher salary allowed it. I decided to make an appointment at Ivory and White after having jogged past their storefront for years. The minute we walked in, we were greeted by their more than friendly staff and bridal stylists. Sloan chose each dress for me after I described my personal style. I immediately loved my Sarah Seven gown, with its simple lace and romantic detailing. Molly made my gown custom to my taste by taking extra fabric from the bustle and adding a small belt around my waist. I am madly in love with my dress and felt like it matched the entire day perfectly. I highly recommend Ivory and White to every searching bride!

Describe your wedding flowers. Okay, now you’ve got me talking. Never in my wildest, beyond wildest dreams did I believe I would love my flowers the way that I did. I cried when we first met eyes! My florist, Benny Campbell, and I communicated by email multiple times a month, as I would send him countless pictures of bouquets I had fallen in love with in magazines. I wanted full but not too full, pink but not too pink, and eucalyptus but not too much eucalyptus. Every time I would describe this fictional picture to Benny, he would say, “Say no more, I got it.” I am so confident in my florist’s work and how seamless our interactions were. The bouquets perfectly matched the Show Me Your Mumu bridesmaid dresses and tied together my entire vision.

We had no plans of doing a first look when we started wedding planning because of the timeless idea of not seeing each other before the ceremony. Because we had such a large wedding party though, we were advised to have a first look between the two of us for time and sunlight. Austin gave me a necklace with the coordinates of the cross we would be married under during our first look, and my photographers were able to capture moments of true joy and anticipation. Some of the most genuine images from the entire day came from the 15 minutes we shared together. Now, after the wedding has long passed, I highly recommend a first look to all planning couples. You will get beautiful moments shared on camera without the rush of an anticipated reception.

Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? We did not write our own vows and we were married by my uncle, who is a Southern Baptist pastor. He means the world to me, and also baptized me as a child, so having him as the minister for our ceremony was very meaningful. My favorite part of our ceremony was walking down the aisle to hear my uncle say, “The groom would like to share a few words.” For the next few minutes, the congregation, as well as myself, listened in awe of a man who humbly realized the meaning of marriage, and felt bold enough to share his convictions. As we exchanged our vows I could not have been prouder to call that same man my husband.

Everything about our wedding was sentimental. There was not one detail that was not thought of by our families and mulled over for weeks at a time. The morning of my wedding, I looked out of the window to see my mom, dad, and countless other family members and friends working on our front yard. It truly took me back to books I have read about the Deep South back in the day. Every person that worked for the “venue” was a family member or friend who dedicated their time to make this wedding special. For the last couple of weeks of planning, I moved back in with my parents, and it could not have been a better decision. My family adopted all of our venders and our wedding planner into the Bowlin family for this sweet season.

Describe your wedding cake or dessert. If I could attend a carnival every day of my life, I would. In the short amount of time we have been married, my husband has been fascinated to learn that I consider a bag of M&Ms and a Diet Coke to be a full meal. Our first few months of wedding planning, we had a full dessert menu and had planned to skip the “real food” for the night. After much discussion, the men in my life demanded some kind of sustenance be served for the evening…vibe killers. My cake was a traditional bride’s cake with a twist. Detailing the sides and edges with flowers and a whipped icing technique made it match our eclectic vision for the barn. By request, Austin had a German chocolate cake and coffee cake balls at his groom’s corner. His favorite part was having TNKR labs from Chattanooga there making pourover coffee by request. Austin is a coffee nut to the core, so this was his prized detail to the reception. We also had Frios popsicles that were more of my touch. Who doesn’t love a popsicle on a hot summer night?

What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? Bless–what wasn’t? I would describe my wedding to others and some would say “Caroline, I had no idea you were so country?” I would stop them and say, “No, no, this isn’t country, this is Southern. There is a very clear difference.” When meeting with my wedding planner, that was my biggest criteria–I wanted people to feel true Southern values and hospitality, minus the “Hoedown Throwdown.” My parents’ home is a modern farmhouse that was built to model the 2012 Southern Living Dream House. My mother is one to attack any antique store at a moment’s notice, and can smell out oil paintings from a mile away, so her home is filled with her findings from over the years. I loved that while getting ready, I was in my own room and my friends were right in the middle of my family’s community. Our home is a true cattle farm, so you never know when you’ll hear a “moooooo” coming up behind you. Some of my favorite pictures are the ones with the cows behind us. Y’all should come on down to Bowlin Farm one afternoon!

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. Austin and I met in middle school. I am a year and 10 months older than him and noticed his good looks before it was reality TV to be a “Cougar.” Austin has always been adorable, athletic, and smart, even as a 13-year-old. I, on the other hand, rocked braces, glasses, and awkwardness like it was my occupation until maybe…last year. Austin and I continued to go to school together through high school and later to the same college in Birmingham, Alabama. Because we are deeply Southern, even though we barely knew each other, we always exchanged kind “how are yous” when we passed each other on campus. In the spring of my senior year, I was reminded that I had one more sorority formal before I crossed the stage at graduation. One evening, a friend recommended I ask that cute guy from high school. After many typed and re-typed text messages, I finally found the courage to press send, and sighed with relief when he replied, “Absolutely…but don’t wear heels. I’m a shorty.” That evening was the start of a beautiful friendship between us. The following summer, we exchanged books, laughter, and letters while we both traveled to different countries. Austin became my dearest friend, and later my boyfriend, and we were engaged on November 8, 2015.
Tell us all about the proposal! During college, I interned at Big Oak Ranch for Girls, which is a children’s home for girls in Springville, Alabama. It is a beautiful property with so much character, any soul searcher could find a wonderful purpose. My summer there was invaluable in shaping my character and humbling my heart. The week of my engagement, I received a message from their childcare director asking if I would say a few words at their volunteers banquet the following Sunday. I happily agreed and was so excited to show Austin the beautiful property and the heart behind it. That Sunday, we met and traveled to the ranch together. We drove up on the most perfect scene–gorgeous flowers and candles covered the outdoor chapel overlooking the lake. I remember thinking that this would be the most breathtaking banquet. Austin quickly told me that no one else would be coming and that it would be just us. He proposed in the most thoughtful way imaginable. After I said yes, he showed me countless letters from my family and friends, much like the many letters he had written while pursuing me. I have never felt more loved!
When did y’all get married? June 4, 2016
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? About 450
How did you plan for your marriage while planning your wedding? I am pretty sure the day we got engaged, my Amazon Prime account was pumped. “The Meaning of Marriage” by Timothy Keller was beneficial to both of us. We shared the same copy, so it was exciting to see which sentences Austin underlined each time I went to read. We also went through the book with our home group from our church. It was three couples–one that had been married for 10 years, one for less than a year, and then us. I grew so much just listening to others talk about their struggles and strengths in marriage. One of our favorite authors, Donald Miller, created “Meaningful Relationships” for engaged couples not living in the same city. It is a series of videos and questions aimed at understanding your partner’s story. It brings up topics you wouldn’t typically discuss in counseling, and we both found it awesome in helping us understand each other better. We would talk for hours after watching the videos!
What was one way you saved money or cut costs at your wedding? The Bowlins are rather social people, so it was amazing to see how others wanted to donate their time and resources. Our wedding cakes were made by Austin’s great-aunt and they were the That was such a wonderful gift to us; the sweetest for sure. My sister-in-law, Abby Bowlin (a former Southern Weddings bride!), did all my calligraphy and invitations, including the most perfect watercolor map, all while expecting her first child. Abby is the truest creative I know and was so gracious to offer her services in exchange for the promise of free babysitting nights. My parents made it clear early on that we wanted to have a nice wedding while still being good stewards of the money we were spending. Many things we would could have hired out for, we just did ourselves. I was hiding paint on my hands during the bridesmaid luncheon!
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Value your friendship. At the end of this journey, you two are going to drive away and the wedding will be over. All of the pictures will never be able to capture the story that is happening between the two of you. Communicate openly, and share fears and excitement. Dedicate yourselves to prayer over your marriage, and hold each other to the standard of grace, not perfection. Let the little things like forks slide, and if the napkins don’t have a monogram, ain’t nobody goin’ care (or that’s what I’m telling myself).
What’s next for you as a couple? What memories are you looking forward to making together? Austin has learned in the first month of marriage some simple life lessons. You must never actually dry your hands on a monogrammed towel, cuteness over functionality, and you must never speak ill of Elle Woods or Rory Gilmore. The boy just didn’t know?! We are having fun trying to establish a routine and YouTubing how to use our kitchen supplies. I am a school counselor finishing up my master’s degree, and Austin works as a youth pastor and plans to start seminary in the next year or two. We are so excited about what life has in store for us, we sometimes squeal about it (okay, right, that’s me).

Photographer: Lexie Bush | Videographer: Channing Brodie | Planner: Shalon Steed | Venue: Private residence | Florist: Benny Campbell | Cake Baker: Jan Gilmer | Caterer: Local Joe’s Catering | Rentals: Top Notch | Band: Brother to Brother | Special Details: TKNL Labs | Paper Products: Abby Bowlin | Bridal Salon: Ivory and White | Bride’s Earrings: BHLDN | Hair Stylist: Brooke Ledbetter | Makeup Artist: Lauren Thomas Findley and Brittany Elkins | Bride’s Shoes: TOMS | Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Show Me Your Mumu | Menswear: Belk

marissa Written with love by Marissa
1 Comment
  1. avatar Lauren Paonessa reply

    i am getting married in July and I am looking for a similar style of bridesmaids dresses. Can you tell me what colors these are???

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I think it’s safe to say that the entire Southern Weddings office, led by yours truly, is smitten with Abby and Alex. We had the pleasure of featuring their beautiful wedding in our latest issue (you must pick up a copy to see it if you haven’t already!), and after getting to know them a bit, knew they’d be perfect for our Southern Newlywed column, too. Even with just eight months of marriage under their belt, they have lots of wisdom, as well as the coziest home, to share. Friends, please enjoy this holiday tour! P.S. You better believe that if their Chattanooga move goes through, we’ll be knocking on their new door in a few months to see their new digs!

Big hugs to our friends at A Bryan Photo for these sweet photos!

The couple: Abby Bowlin, 26, and Alex Bowlin, 25
Years married: 0 years, 8 months!
Where you live: Birmingham, AL
Tell us a little bit about yourselves. Alex and I are settling into married life, meaning we are still thrilled by Chinese takeout on the sofa, and we squeal when we get to buy things like house plants (okay, only I do the squealing). Alex is a true outdoorsman who would give anything to grow a beard, and I’m a wannabe foodie who recently launched a calligraphy business. We are bonded by our faith and intense love for our families, and we think marriage is just about the best thing ever.

Tell us your love story in one sentence. We pretty much agreed on our first date that we could get married, so he put a ring on it five months later.
What is your favorite part of being married? We love that time together gets to be our default mode. It hit us on our honeymoon that synchronizing schedules was a thing of the past. No more driving across town to hang out or meeting for a quick coffee date before work. Our coffee dates now happen on our own front porch, and it is quite glorious.
What has been the most surprising thing about marriage? I have been the most surprised by just how much fun boy roommates can be. I was scared to trade in my BFFs with their fully accessible closets for wet towels and drawers full of camo. As it turns out, Alex is tidier than I am, and he kills bugs like nobody’s business! Double whammy!

Tell us a little bit about where you live. We rent our little bungalow, and we’re already sad about moving out one day. Our church is in our neighborhood, along with a handful of close friends, so we’re pretty much set in the community department. Birmingham has really boomed in the last few years and has incredible restaurants and a thriving artistic community. We love our city for its culture and our neighborhood for its small-town feel.

How do you remember your wedding in your home? Thankfully, our photographer is also my employer (hey Bryan!), so we have an incredible collection of fine art prints from our wedding. Most are in frames, some are in a fine art box, and we also have a stack of Polaroids from that day sitting in our living room. I love to see friends and family go straight to that stack when they visit; we all get to relive the day together!
What most makes your house feel like home? Our wall of Found Frames is like a permanent scrapbook. It tells the story of our families, our travels, and our road to marriage.

What’s your best tip for balancing your relationship and other life priorities? We’re definitely still trying to find that balance. Our greatest tip is to over communicate and be really honest about needs/expectations of time spent. We have found that if we secure a couple of nights each week to be at home, just the two of us, then we both feel rested and connected. When we feel connected, we also feel free to work on personal projects or hang with family and friends.

What is your approach to decorating your home for the holidays? Since we are just beginning our collection of Christmas decor, simplicity is our theme this Christmas. I am a huge fan of greenery, so I stocked up at my local wholesale florist for eucalyptus garland, lamb’s ears and all things evergreen. Alex and I picked leaves from a friend’s magnolia tree for our mantel adornment, and I finally let Alex move in his prize buck (Buckey) to join in the reindeer fun. I have found that I really lean towards understated Christmas decor, although I doubt that will last as we just ordered chicken ornaments in honor of our girls!
What is a favorite holiday tradition your family has created post-wedding? Since this is our first Christmas as a married couple, I’m curious to see what traditions will “stick” over the years. So far, I’ve been making homemade Chex Mix like my mom always did, and we’ve been enjoying our church’s daily Advent devotional. Christmas movies at the Alabama Theatre are up next!
How do you navigate the holidays with your extended families? Thankfully, both of our families live in Alabama, so we’ll be spending the couple of days leading up to Christmas with Alex’s family and will head down to be with mine on Christmas day! We are fortunate to have flexible families who are simply thankful for the times we can all be together.

Where do you splurge and where do you save when decorating? Since we are renting, we vowed to only invest in items that we can take with us to our next home. That means no to painting the walls and yes to refinishing an inherited buffet. I am an avid antique hunter (I can’t say no to ironstone), and I think vintage treasures make a home’s furnishings feel collected over time. At the same time, I love modern design elements, and hit up Target and Domino Magazine’s online storefront to find trendier pieces.
What is your favorite memory from your wedding? We totally agree on this one. Our favorite moment took place during our ceremony; our family and friends joined as we collectively sang “Come Thou Fount,” our favorite hymn.

Tell us about the process of moving in together. Poor Alex. He graciously goes along with my design ideas and style (usually). Thankfully, cowhide rugs and antlers are very much in style, so those are basically his only decor items that have found permanent places in our house. Our most famous design compromise to date was our dining room chairs. I was craving ultra-modern metal, while Alex is a big fan of cross-back farm chairs. After he announced that our future children would NOT be forced to freeze on metal seats, we compromised on our modern (but not cold) acrylic ghost chairs.
Which room in your home is your favorite, and why? We love our dining room because it is right in the center of our house; everyone congregates there. Hosting family and friends is our favorite thing to do, and we have been known to squeeze up to seven people around our four-person table.

Which items from your wedding registry do you use the most often? We registered for beautiful Italian pottery that sits in our china cabinet. We use it to serve guests for special occasions, but get to enjoy it as decor every day!
What different decisions, if any, would you make for your registry if you knew then what you knew now? There are a few random kitchen gadgets that I never thought I’d use but have bought since our wedding as I become a bit more kitchen-savvy. My list includes a citrus squeezer (hand squeezing is for the birds…and those pesky seeds!) and a pastry blender (I’m trying my hand at homemade quiche!).

Who cooks dinner? I’m tempted to say that I usually cook dinner, but it’s probably 50/50. My cooking usually involves a researched recipe, new-to-me ingredients, and a sink full of dishes. Alex, on the other hand, has this crazy awesome talent of impromptu meal creating. He somehow uses whatever food we have and only a cast iron skillet to make dinner. It’s always delicious, and his “House Scramble” is something to write home about.
What is your go-to weeknight meal? Weekend meal? We’re all about the bowl movement for the weeknights. Haven’t heard of it? You just make food and place it all in a bowl. Our favorite combo is quinoa + black beans + veggies + pork. Try it. We like to splurge on the weekends by visiting our favorite restaurants. You can’t beat a burger at Melt or El Barrio’s Saturday brunch.
What’s your favorite place to find recipes? We would eat all organic, farm fresh food if possible, and we love to find chefs and cooks who create recipes with whole foods. I love the Sprouted Kitchen blog, and Alex and I are currently obsessed with Vivian Howard, the star of A Chef’s Life. I made her raw veggie salad for Thanksgiving, and only a few family members turned their noses up at the brussels sprouts. Oh, and Alex is currently looking into buying a heritage hog to butcher and eat?!?!

Do you have a favorite date night idea to share? We have made it a Sunday tradition to head to Whole Foods after our church’s afternoon service. We eat at their central restaurant for dinner and shop for groceries afterwards. Our bank account isn’t necessarily loving this tradition, but what can we say? We’re suckers for cheese samples.
What is one small way you love or serve your spouse? Alex is service-oriented by nature. In fact, when Bryan came over to shoot us in our home, I admitted that the most natural setting would be Alex making us coffee while I chat away at our counter. Knowing that Alex feels deeply cared for by acts of service, I try to surprise him with a swept porch or freshly folded laundry (it’s the little things, right?). Oh, and I try to never leave the grocery store without a sweet treat for my man.
Do you have children? We don’t have children yet, but we’re both hopeful for a big family (and feel called to adoption as well).

Before getting married, I wish someone had told me… that marriage is sooooo much better than engagement. Whew.
This year, our family is most excited about… our potential move! As sad as it will be to leave Birmingham, Alex has a job opportunity in Chattanooga, TN. We’re both Alabama natives, so this season will be full of adventure as we explore a brand new (but still Southern) state!
Is there anything else about your home or family life that you think our readers would be interested in? Alex is a hardcore animal lover. He also loves his parents’ farm. So how do you fulfill those kinds of loves in a small house with no yard and close neighbors? You build a chicken coop and adopt the stray cat from down the street. We started with two hens, Ina Garten and Martha Stewart, and we have since added Ree Drummond and Boots with the Fur (Boots has lots of feathers on her feet. What a cutie). We feel like such hipsters with our fresh eggs, just living the urban farm life. In actuality, Alex takes care of the chickens, and I just decorate their coop and collect the pretty eggs.

We’re so grateful to Abby and Alex for sharing their hearts and home with us! Be sure to follow along with them:
Abby’s calligraphy
Abby on Instagram
Alex on Instagram

P.S. We’d love to hear from you! Our hope is to feature REAL couples in the South – your inspiring friend, super talented cousin, or neighbor with the cutest house – the kind of person everyone would love to “e-meet.” If that sounds like you or someone you know, take a peek at our Southern Newlywed submission page and shoot us an email!

emily Written with love by Emily
  1. avatar Lisa reply

    Seriously, Abby and Alex are the coolest. So inspired by their marriage, their friendship, and their style!

  2. avatar Christy reply

    Abby & Alex, we would love to welcome you in Chattanooga! Our little city is growing in great ways, but doing everything it can to keep its small town feel. If you ever need advice, please let me know!

  3. avatar Kristina reply

    So pretty! Love your wall display of wedding photos!

  4. avatar Laura reply

    Although I am a born and bred North Carolinian, Chattanooga is my favorite southern city. I think you’ll love it! Speaking of love, that magnolia leaf garland on your mantel is to die for!

  5. avatar linda reply

    I just love these two.

  6. avatar Stephanie Creekmur reply

    Such a beautiful home and what a treat to spot my Hey Y’all print in that gorgeous gallery wall! So happy to play a small part in your home! <3

  7. avatar Kelly reply

    The chicken names!! Ina Garten and Boots with the fur!!! I’m dying. :-)

  8. avatar Callie reply

    Alex, you are probably the most famous hipster cousin I have ;) . We need to visit y’all now,

Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

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