As you may know, my darling husband is also from Alabama and from a gigantic family with big strong Southern roots! Since we are expecting our first little one, we knew his/her name would come straight off the family tree in my in-law’s foyer. I had to explain to Miss Emily that if it’s a boy he’d “be a Branch.” Meaning we’d give him the name of my husband and many Kloess men before him (BDK is one in a long line of Branchs!). Well, today, I feel like I met my match in couple form! While this adorable duo may live in Texas now, their own heritage in Alabama runs deep as a wishing well! Take their venue; Joanna + Sellars were married at the Oak Bowery plantation that was built around 1845. In true blue Southern fashion, Sellars is the great-great-great-great grandson (ESM, III), of the original couple the plantation was built as a wedding present for! While the plantation is no longer in their family, I cannot think of a better place for them to begin their lives together.
We’re sending lots of SW love to Candace Nelson for sharing such a lovely day with us!
Perfectly placed pouf, and a good deep side part? Yep, Joanna nailed it with her just-enough-Southern-bump hairstyle!
Tell us about finding your wedding dress.
Since the age of 13, I have been seriously dreaming about my wedding dress. It was at this time in my life that my sister got married and introduced me to bridal magazines. Over the years, I have collected around 100 magazines or so, in which I have flipped through and highlighted and circled dresses that were “the one.” This made me the running joke with my family and friends, but it definitely paid off in the end! When the time came to go dress shopping, I knew just what I wanted–the classic Watters Escalante gown I had been coveting in magazines and online for a while. My mom and cousin, Sara, went to Birmingham with me to look for a dress. The shop we went to did not carry Watters, but I went ahead and tried on a lot of other dresses. All of them were so pretty that I got a little stressed out and confused. We decided to give it another try at another shop a little closer to home, Diane’s Formal Affair. Diane’s is in my hometown, so my mom, sister, niece, and I went there a couple of days later. I asked about the Watters dress, and they took me straight to it. I tried it on and just knew! It was everything I had dreamed of. The lace top reminded me of my mother’s wedding dress that was handmade by her grandmother, so I instantly fell in love with it for that reason. We ordered the dress that same day, and looking back, I could not have made a better decision!
Did you decide to do a “first look”? Neither of us ever thought we would do the “first look,” but we decided to do it. Our fabulous photographer, Candace Nelson, actually recommended that we do the first look, and we both were so thankful that we took her advice. We loved the fact that it was “just us” because it was so intimate and special. We were also very happy we did this because we both were dying to see each other all day. I mean, we did spend our entire dating and engagement life apart from each other, so we were ready to get the “forever together” thing started!
Did you write your own vows?
We went with the traditional Christian vows, however, we worked very closely with my father (who was also the minister who married us!) in writing the ceremony. Sellars and I picked out a lot of scripture together that we loved. We did a marriage retreat with our church here in Texas, and during this retreat, we broke down each line of our vows and talked about what they meant to both of us. It was very important to both Sellars and I that we understood and meant each word, because we were making a covenant not with just each other, but with our Lord Jesus Christ as well.
There were so many details to the wedding that we loved and that I could go on and on about. However, one detail that was pretty awesome was our venue. When I first began looking for venues, I knew I wanted something with a rustic, Southern feel. When I stumbled upon The Reserve at Oak Bowery’s website, I thought it was perfect. I immediately sent the link to Sellars and asked him what he thought. He responded and asked if I had read the history of the plantation. Of course, I had only looked at pictures, but in going back to the history of the venue, I learned that this plantation was once in Sellars’ family (Sellars, of course, knew this!). Oak Bowery plantation was built around 1845 by Elizabeth Harris’ parents as a wedding present for herself and her husband, Edward Sellers McCurdy. On May 25, 2013, I married their great-great-great-great grandson, Edward Sellars McCurdy, III. The plantation is no longer in the McCurdy family, but each of the rooms in the home is named after one of their family members. Both of our families take pride in family heritage, so Oak Bowery was the perfect place to begin our lives together.
I think if you asked our guests this question, they would definitely tell you our food! We really wanted to go all the way with our Southern theme, so we decided to put together a Southern menu to die for: fried chicken, roasted pork loin, braised collards, mashed potatoes, green beans, and homemade macaroni and cheese (my favorite!). These dishes were served with cornbread, yeast rolls, and of course, sweet tea! We even had hot sauce and mayonnaise for the collards. Also, the details of the wedding made it simply Southern. Our venue was a rustic plantation setting that was the epitome of Southern. We also represented our new Southern home, the state of Texas, through our wedding favors. Malisa Harris made us the most adorable cookies in the shape of Texas with a heart right over our new home in Katy. The back of the Texas cookies were sealed with our new address, so our guests could keep in touch!
Describe your wedding cake or dessert.
Yummy! Our baker, Malisa Harris made our cake with two different inside layers: strawberry and cream cheese pound cake. These layers alternated and were topped with cream cheese icing. Sellars is not a huge fan of cake, but he ate a whole piece of the cream cheese pound cake layer, so that should tell you it was amazing! For Sellars’ treat, we decided to do his favorite dessert of key lime pie. The pies were in miniature form and adorned with a raspberry sauce or homemade whipped cream. They must have been really good because they were all gone before we could eat any!
How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story.
On January 15, 2011, I randomly met Sellars’ sister at my best friend’s wedding. His sister and her friend decided to do a little matchmaking and told me I needed to meet Sellars, who they just knew was my soul mate. Little did I know, they were correct! At the wedding, I played right along and told the two girls I would love to meet Sellars. I did not think anything would come of it, but then I got a friend request on Facebook (so cheesy) from my supposed “soul mate” that very same night. I decided to send a message to Sellars via Facebook, and I boldly gave him my number and told him to call me if he wanted to meet his future “soul mate.” A day or two later, I received a phone call from this guy whose country accent was even thicker than mine, and I thought, “What the heck…it’s a free meal!” The next weekend was the National Championship celebration in Auburn (War Eagle!), and Sellars came into town that night to take me to dinner. I can remember going to the celebration with my best friend Cambre and her husband, Nathan. They both thought it would be so funny if this random blind date turned into the real thing. Who would have guessed?! That night, for some reason, I was very nervous, and when I opened the door and saw Sellars McCurdy standing there, I immediately got butterflies in my stomach. He took me to my favorite Auburn restaurant, Hamilton’s, that night, and we had great conversation and great food. On the way home, I remember him reaching out and holding my hand; he held it the whole way home. When I got home, I felt different. My whole world was different, and Sellars’ world was different too. That random blind date turned out to be the most important night of my life.
Tell us all about the proposal!
On Friday, December 7th, 2012, Sellars came into town from Katy, Texas, where he moved about six months after the beginning of our relationship. We always looked forward to our visits because our time together was so limited. I teach high school, so at 3:00, I rushed to his mom’s house to pick him up (I literally left the school building as the bell was ringing!). We visited a bit with his mom, and then she had to leave to “run errands.” Sellars and I decided to play with their dog, Callie, in the back yard until his mom returned. We sat next to each other, just having a heart-to-heart and playing with the dog. Sellars kept telling me he loved me every five minutes–which I never get tired of hearing. Then, we started going over a list I had made earlier in the week of all the things we had to do. I, being the pushy person I am, put “get engaged” as the last item on our list of things to do (in my defense, we had already tried on rings and talked about it). After we had gone through almost the entire list, Sellars asked about the last item I listed, and then he pulled out the ring! I am pretty sure I never actually said yes, instead, I just cried tears of joy and fulfillment. We went on a date that night, just the two of us. The next day, my parents came down to the family farm (he had invited them earlier) to hunt, and later our families went to Michael’s Table in Montgomery to eat and celebrate. It was the most perfect weekend, and it will forever be one of my all-time favorite memories!
When did y’all get married?
May 25, 2013
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding?
Around 150 loved ones
What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony?
Per our request, my father used a lot of scripture in our wedding ceremony. Again, it was so important to us that our wedding was centered around the One who made our love possible: God. One of our favorite readings, though, was done by our good friend, and my mentor, Tiffany. She prayed the most genuine prayer over us and then prayed my favorite verse, Ephesians 3:14-21. Sellars is more than I could have ever asked for from the Lord, and for that reason, I am thankful to our God, for “He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us…” (verse 20).
Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding and why you chose them.
For our ceremony, we picked out our favorite hymns to be played. We were blessed to have one of my students play the hymns on her guitar for the ceremony. I opted to not come down the aisle to the traditional bridal march, but instead I walked to “Be Thou My Vision.” My sister sang Sellars’ favorite hymn “Sanctuary” during a time of prayer. We left down the aisle to “Come Thou Fount.” We both were so happy we decided to use hymns because we felt like it kept the focus right where it needed to be. Our first dance was to the Christian song, “Dancing in the Minefields” by Andrew Peterson. Tim Tyler, the best piano man in the South, sang the lyrics to this amazing song that Sellars picked out himself. The song is about a couple dancing through the minefields of life and having the strength to do it because of the promises of God. This song definitely defines our relationship.
Describe your wedding flowers.
Perfection! Our wedding flowers were absolutely gorgeous thanks to our wonderful florist, Lisa Thorne, who was able to take the little direction we gave her and turn it into something that far exceeded our imaginations. We told Lisa we wanted to use blush and ivory colors, nothing too bright. My bouquet was mostly made up of the most beautiful blush peonies with a touch of pink. The bouquet stems were wrapped with lace and adorned with one of my great-grandmother’s brooches. The bridesmaids carried bouquets composed of blush roses, stock, hydrangea, dusty miller (love this stuff!), and lisianthus. One of my favorite pieces was Sellars’ boutonniere. It was a blush peony and a sweetheart rose with a touch of seeded eucalyptus. My absolute favorite flower piece, however, was the mantle. The stone fireplace was garnished with a swag of polar star roses, cream hydrangea, blush peonies, asparagus fern and rucus. My dad made a white wooden cross to set in the middle of the swag, which completed it to be the perfect backdrop for our wedding ceremony!
Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new?
My cousin, Sara was my maid of honor and helped me check off all of my somethings. My favorite was the something borrowed. Sara let me borrow her diamond earrings her father gave to her just before he passed away when she was younger. My uncle was like a second dad to me and he was very special to our family, so by borrowing those earrings, I felt as if I was carrying a part of him with me that day. My something blue was the garter that Sara picked out for me. My something old was my great-grandmother’s first set of wedding bands. My mother gave them to me years ago, and I always knew I wanted to wear them on my wedding day. My something new was, of course, my fabulous dress!
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? I would say our distance was a huge challenge. A lot of the planning was done by me running around, taking pictures, and sending them to Sellars so he could give his input! Also, just trying to make everyone happy. Planning a wedding involved a lot of opinions, so Sellars and I constantly had to stop and think about what was important in our decision-making.
What is the one detail or vendor that you were so happy to have as a part of your wedding?
This is a hard question to answer because all of our vendors were such a blessing! However, the day was made complete by our talented photographer, Candace Nelson. She and her husband, David, did an amazing job capturing the intimacy of the day. They were so easy to work with and made both of us feel so comfortable. I have probably looked at our wedding pictures at least a hundred times since she sent them to us. It means the world to us that we will have these memories forever.
What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day?
For me, having my father walk me down the aisle and then marry me to the man of my dreams was pretty memorable. It was so special to see my father have the strength to give me away and then do the job of marrying us. For the most part, I knew everything my dad was going to say during the ceremony. However, he surprised me by talking a little bit from a dad’s point of view, rather than a minister’s. To see the emotion in his eyes and words was very moving. There was also a part of the wedding my dad did not tell me about. He and Sellars’ dad (who was also Sellars’ best man) prayed a quiet, intimate prayer over us as a couple and as their children. Standing there with Sellars and our dads, listening to our dads pour their hearts out and trying to hold back their tears (but definitely failing) was a very humbling, emotional and memorable experience for both of us.
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding?
I am definitely an advocate for short engagements! We had about six months to plan and that was almost too long!! Also, just have fun and plan together, just the two of you. During wedding planning, you can get so caught up in trying to make everyone else so happy that you forget what it is really about. Try to focus on the bigger picture: marrying the man/woman who God placed on this earth for you!
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you most looking forward to about married life?
Shortly after the wedding and honeymoon, I moved to Katy, Texas, where Sellars has lived for the past two years. We moved into a new apartment that is slowly starting to look and feel like a home. Sellars works for Great Southern Wood (YellaWood) in a small town in Katy, and I recently obtained a job with the Katy Independent School District teaching tenth grade English. We are basically here on our own and only know a few people here. Our main goal is to get back closer to Alabama one day, but for now, we are just excited about beginning our lives, just the two of us in a cool place like Texas (everything is better in Texas, right?!).
Photographer: Candace Nelson Photography | Ceremony & Reception Venue: The Reserve at Oak Bowery | Florist: Lisa Thorne, Thornes and Thistles | Wedding Cake & Pie Baker: Malisa Harris, Sweet Malisa’s | Caterer: Christopher Wilton, Wilton’s Catering | Pianist: Tim Tyler | Bride’s Gown: Watters gown from Diane’s Formal Affair, Escalanta Style | Paper Products: Elizabeth Gilmer, Gilm Press | Bride’s Veil: Diane’s Formal Affair | Bride’s Headpiece: Palisades Bride | Hair Stylist: Tiffany Cummins, friend of bride | Makeup Artist: One Eighty Wellness Spa | Bride’s Shoes: Seychelles | Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Lula Kate from Bella Bridesmaids | Groom’s and Groomsmen Attire: Jos. A. Bank | Additional Vendors: Tim Tyler via Music Garden