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 bomb.com. 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