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I’m sure many of y’all are no stranger to wedding weather woes–whether it stormed on your big day or you’re getting ready to bury the bourbon, unpredictable weather is a nerve-wracking factor that every outdoor bride has to endure at some point. Enter the lovely Hannah and Andy. It poured buckets on their June wedding day, and since their rain plan wouldn’t fit the 350 loved ones who showed up to support the couple, the umbrellas came out, and guess what? No one cared! The rain stopped a short half hour before the ceremony, and the rest of the day was pure joy, happiness, and fun for the bride, groom, and their guests alike. It just goes to show that when it comes down to it, all that matters is that you’re married at the end of the day–rain or shine.

Thanks so much to Kristin Sweeting for sharing Hannah and Andy’s special day with us!

Andy proposed almost exactly three years into our dating relationship. I was visiting Knoxville for a few days to help my little brother move into his freshman dorm, and I decided to stay a few extra days so I could spend some time with Andy (I was in Nashville at the time, so we only saw each other once a month or so). Andy picked me up one morning to go hiking in the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina. He beat me to the top and was on one knee by the time I caught up with him. He forgot everything he wanted to say, but it was such a sweet time of happiness, joy, and relief. We had known for two years that we were going to marry each other; we had just been waiting for the right time. The panoramic view of the mountain range was the most beautiful setting for such a special occasion. It was absolutely perfect.

Tell us about finding your wedding dress. I went to the J. Crew wedding shop in Atlanta, even though I had already purchased a dress. After trying on the entire collection, I still wasn’t “in love” with a dress. I have never been a huge fan of getting all gussied up, and comfort was a main selling point concerning my wedding gown. The sales lady remembered a dress they had in storage from a previous collection. It was a few years old, a sample size, and only had been tried on six times. And it had pockets! It was perfect, but also out of our price range. I was so disappointed, because this was the first dress I really felt like a BRIDE in. The sweet sales lady at J. Crew talked to her manager, and they offered the dress to us for 90% off! It was such an incredible blessing–my mom cried!

Andy was very adamant that he wanted our first look to be when I walked down the aisle. However, we did pray together the day of the wedding, right before the ceremony. It wasn’t planned ahead of time, but since it was raining so violently, we were unable to take all the photos we thought we would beforehand. That gave us a large window of free time, so I asked my pastor to grab Andy from the basement so we could all pray together. We held hands on either side of a door as our pastor prayed over us. It was so comforting to hear my future husband’s voice praying for our special day. It set us both at ease and gave me peace.

Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding and why you chose them. Andy and I chose hymns for the ceremony: “In Christ Alone,” “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us,” and “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go.” After we said our vows, the congregation sang “Be Thou My Vision” as my maids of honor and Andy’s best man prayed for us. It was such a beautiful thing to hear our closest friends and family sing blessings over our marriage.

Describe your wedding flowers. They were absolutely amazing–our florist completely captured my scatterbrained vision! I wanted the majority of the arrangements to be basic, in order to showcase particular flowers. Fresh moss, willow, and wax flower created a stunning foundation for the peonies and feathers I was so thrilled to have in our floral arrangements.

One of my dearest friends offered her farm to us as a venue even before Andy proposed. She has had an incredible influence on my life, from a spiritual leader, to a second mom, to a best friend. When Andy and I started dating, I found out that she knew his family, and was actually in his parents’ wedding party. It was such an honor to be the first wedding on their beautiful property, and we are beyond grateful for the incredible amount of work and love that she, her husband, and their children contributed to making our day amazing.

What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? It POURED. Seriously, the heavens opened and released a sea of water. Our entire wedding was outdoors. We had a Plan B, but there was no way it would accommodate the number of guests we invited. The ceremony was scheduled to begin at 5:30. The rain began around 3:30. Instead of taking my bridal shots outside, we were forced to shoot them on the screened-in porch overlooking the venue. We had to stop after only a few photos were taken because it was raining so hard, there was almost no natural light at all. The rain let up about thirty minutes before the ceremony and never started up again. Despite the monsoon, over 300 of our friends and family made the trip to our drenched, half-decorated wedding. I have been told our wedding was one of the most fun weddings some of our friends have been to. I am not sure if they feel obligated to say this, or if I am biased because I was the bride, but I have really never had that much fun at a wedding. My shoes and gown were soaked and muddy, all the tablecloths were wet, and we ran out of alcohol, but none of that mattered. The entire celebration was a blur, but the thing I remember as clear as day is how much fun we had. No amount of planning, decorating, or spending could have determined that. It was our friends and their ability to look past the rain that make the night the joyful celebration it was meant to be.

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. We met at a Camp Vesper Point in Soddy Daisy, TN, a camp we had both attended our entire lives. We never actually met until we were 17 and both on staff at CVP. We dated for three and a half years, some of which were long distance, before we FINALLY got married!
When did y’all get married? June 1, 2013
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? About 350
Describe your wedding cake or dessert. Our cake was a delicious vanilla cake with a raspberry filling. We decided to have a small cake with other dessert options, like key lime tartlets and chocolate covered strawberries, made by wonderful family friends!
Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! I didn’t plan on it, but I borrowed my mom’s ring, my earrings were blue, my garter was made from a family friend’s 20-year-old lace collection, and my shoes were new!
What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? Our wedding had many Southern touches–the location was a family friend’s farm and the ceremony took place between the creek and a gorgeous field. Our families sat in old church pews that were family heirlooms. We ate gourmet barbecue and sipped on sweet tea and beer. We wanted our wedding to be a huge celebration with some of our favorite people. It turned out being the biggest party I have ever been a part of, which was our hope from the very beginning.
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? Sticking to our original budget was very difficult to achieve considering the number of guests we invited. We ended up going way over budget, and returning many unused decorations.
If you are comfortable responding, what range did your wedding budget fall into? $10,000-$25,000
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? The little things really don’t matter. Although my mom and I made almost ALL of our decorations (with help from talented friends), we didn’t even really SEE them. I guarantee you will be more interested in seeing your friends and family than whether or not the candles were put out correctly. You will have a much more enjoyable time planning if you choose not to sweat the small stuff.
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you most looking forward to about married life? We are now living in Auburn, Alabama, where Andy is getting his masters in Southern Literature at Auburn University. I am working full time at a local clothing boutique and am running an online women’s ministry I co-founded with an old friend. We are incredibly busy but love simply being together. We are so excited to see where life will take us next!

Photographer: Kristin Sweeting Photography / Planner: Dede Sceibe & Lavana Deal of Wedding and Event Details / Venue: Stonefly Farm / Florist: Color My World / Cake Baker: Dorea Johnston of Tis So Sweet / Catering: Providence Farms / Rentals: Southern Events / Tent: Action Tents / Restrooms: Royal Restrooms / Bride’s Dress: “Silk Taffeta Toscana Gown” by J. Crew / Paper Products: Anna Johnson / Hair and Makeup: Katie Anderson / Bride’s Shoes: Steve Madden / Groom’s Attire and Groomsmen’s Pants: J. Crew / Men’s Suspenders: American Apparel / Bow Ties: Tangled Ties

lisa Written with love by Lisa
  1. avatar Dana reply

    the pictures of them praying are so presh!

  2. avatar Emily reply

    Oh my word, these beautiful photos really give you a feel for their day! And I love their private dinner!

  3. avatar melanie reply

    oh my heavens! this is such an absolutely gorgeous day!! the venue is unbelievable…and her dress is so lovely and simple! you can just feel the love and joy. :)

  4. avatar Kyla F reply

    I absolutely love that Hannah embraced the rain! I often think about brides on those rainy summer weekends, but she is proof that rain cannot stop a beautiful wedding from coming together. Also, her ‘first look’ with Andy was precious. It makes me smile that they used that time to pray together and set their hearts on what truly matters. Thank you for sharing!

  5. avatar Lindsay Madden reply

    What a gorgeous wedding! AND i love how rich the colors are in each photo!

  6. avatar Emily A. reply

    Such a beautiful happy wedding. Kristin’s photography captured it so well!

  7. avatar Trish reply

    What an adorable couple! Beautifully captured!

  8. avatar Rachel May reply

    Such a pretty wedding!! Love the emotion!

  9. avatar Michelle Cross reply

    Awww what a sweet day! And the photos are truly stunning!!

  10. avatar Sera Petras reply

    Lovely work! I adore the groomsmen in suspenders! What a sweet first look, too!

  11. avatar Joyce reply

    Loving the vivid colors of this session!

  12. avatar wendy laurel reply

    love these! what a sweet wedding

  13. avatar Briana Marie reply

    Just love the images from their little prayer before the ceremony. So sweet! Beautiful through and through!

  14. avatar suzyb reply

    Weather mishaps or not, this weather is stunning from top to bottom. The emotion, the beautiful details, the stunning couple – everything is documented so perfectly! Gorgeous photography!!

  15. avatar Lauren Guilford reply

    What a beautiful wedding! Their venue is so pretty!

  16. avatar Kina reply

    What sweet emotion you captured throughout this day, Kristin!

  17. avatar Nicole reply

    Gorgeous images!

  18. avatar ashleykelemen reply

    This is such a beautiful, moody wedding! Gorgeous work.

  19. avatar Hannah + Andy | Wedding | Music, Wedding, and Editorial Photographer | Nashville, Chicago, Paris | Film Photography reply

    […] Southern Weddings Magazine for featuring this […]

  20. avatar Lavana Deal reply

    Lisa, this article is beautifully written; thank you for posting it! The attitude of everyone at this wedding was AMAZING!! The rain did not deter anyone from having a fantastic day!
    I am one of the planners & DOC and Would appreciate it if you would consider linking my name/business name to my website in the credits?
    Thank you,
    All the best,
    Lavana Deal
    Wedding Planner
    Wedding and Event Details

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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Y’all know Lisa and I share an affliction for crying over the Real Wedding interviews, well, today I am happy to say that I kept it together while reading Ali + Jonathan’s interview. Not because it wasn’t filled with great details (the story of their church is incredible!) or meaningful memories (um, just the two of them dancing in the rain!), but because my heart was filled with such joy after reading the story of how they met! Not only did these two share the responsibility of telling this story, but they ping-ponged back and forth in such a way that I imagine they’d be ridiculously fun on a double date! I can’t help but see how their personalities continue to shine through in these photos from our very talented friends, Jordan + Landon!

After searching the pages of bridal magazines, (Southern Weddings was my very first–true story! I immediately bought it for myself to get ideas for our wedding and Jonathan, not knowing I had already purchased it, also bought it for me the same day. Great minds think alike!), I decided I wanted a simple, elegant, lace dress. I picked out a few I liked and described my vision to Leah at Alexia’s Bridal in downtown Raleigh, NC before she made a few recommendations for me. She nailed it! I liked each of the four dresses I tried on in increasing measure, until the last one, which quickly became THE one. My mother started to cry when she first saw me in it–a strapless, lace A-line with a sweetheart neckline, by Liancarlo. She said, “This dress makes you look like Jonathan’s bride” and there was no going back.

Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! Yes! Borrowed- My sister in law, Adrienne, graciously allowed me to use her veil. Blue- My shoes were dark blue Badgeley Mischka peep toe heels with a crystal broach on the top. Old- My original proposal ring that was Jonathan’s grandmother’s and the Tiffany pearl bracelet my grandmother gave me when I graduated from West Point. New- My lace Liancarlo wedding dress

The bride’s bouquet was in monochromatic shades of champagne with porcelain peonies, garden roses, hydrangea, lamb’s ear and seeded eucalyptus, with magnolia leaf accents. The bridesmaid bouquets were clutch bouquets of monochromatic shades of pale pink flowers with a magnolia leaf collar. At the reception, we used groupings of silver mercury glass vases mixed with hand-blown vintage milk glass vases with assorted shades of soft ivory and pink blooms, accented with magnolia leaves.

The venue for the ceremony–the Old Sheldon Church Ruins in Yemassee, SC. We absolutely love this place! There is something so uniquely beautiful about the brick columns and remaining structure standing along in a forest of oaks and Spanish moss. The feeling you get while you’re here is so mysteriously, romantically indescribable. As soon as we saw the church in person, we knew this is where we were going to get married. “The Old Sheldon Church Ruins is a historic site located in northern Beaufort County, South Carolina, approximately 17 miles north of Beaufort. Known also as the Sheldon Church or Old Sheldon Church, the pre-existing building was originally known as Prince William’s Parish Church. The church was built in the Greek Revival style between 1745 and 1753. Prince William’s was burned by the British in 1779 during the Revolutionary War. In 1826 it was rebuilt and later burnt by William Tecumseh Sherman, in 1865. An alternative view has more recently come to light, however. In a letter dated February 3, 1866, Miton Leverett wrote that “Sheldon Church not burn’t. Just torn up in the inside, but can be repaired.” The inside of the church was apparently gutted to reuse materials to rebuild homes burnt by Sherman’s army. The ruins lie amongst majestic oaks and scattered graves. Inside the ruins of the church lies the remains of Colonel William Bull, who “greatly assisted General Oglethorpe in establishing the physical layout of Savannah, Georgia. Bull surveyed the land in 1733 to form the basic grid pattern of the streets and squares.” We set chairs up inside the church, just as the pews would have been set up facing the altar, which is actually still standing and walked down the aisle where the original one would have been.

Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding and why you chose them. We chose to have a cello and violin duo for the ceremony music. We used several selections from Phantom of the Opera as the prelude because we felt like it matched the setting of Old Sheldon Church–beautiful, haunting, and timeless. Also, we both spent a lot of time in NYC during college and loved Broadway plays. Phantom was the first Broadway play I saw and I fell in love with the music at a very young age! We kept the traditional theme going with Canon in D for the mothers and bridal party entrance. I walked down the aisle to “A Thousand Years,” by Christina Perri, because I love the song (and will admit to being a huge Twilight fan!) It also sounds fabulous on strings. We chose “Here Comes the Sun” as the first song we’d walk to together as husband and wife, not realizing how true the lyrics would actually be. After intermittent showers all morning, it stopped raining just long enough for our ceremony and then proceeded to pour throughout the remainder of the evening. What a blessing! Our first dance was to “Moon River” with a live violin accompanying the DJ’s piano version. Another classic, timeless song.

What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? The menu and details that Southern Graces Catering designed were uniquely Southern! We wanted our guests to get a taste of the low country since they came from all over the country. The dinner menu included appetizers of deliciously presented she crab bisque soup in petite mason jars with a custom tag, presented with a pimiento cheese straw, and fried chicken satay presented with Cheerwine BBQ sauce. For the main course, we had a shrimp and grits station with caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms, cheddar cheese, crumbled Applewood smoked bacon, parmesan cheese, and diced tomatoes to add in. This was served with a local shrimp and prosciutto cream sauce and was served up in a martini glass. The other main course option was delicious Cheerwine BBQ pulled pork served with bread and butter pickles and Southern yeast rolls. As a side, we had smoked gouda macaroni and cheese.

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. J: Ali and Jonathan first met on the hallowed grounds at the United States Military Academy where Cadet Brigade Command Sergeant Major Ali relentlessly hazed young helpless Cadet Private Jonathan. Just kidding, we never met officially at school, but we likely passed each other in the halls and on campus numerous times without knowing it. A: I definitely did not ever haze Jonathan! Or any other plebe for that matter. Our story actually begins one rainy Friday night in September in Fayetteville, NC. Tired, disinterested, hungry Ali laid in bed and wondered if she really wanted to go hang out with the rest of the ladies she had just spent a VERY long five days out in the woods playing Army with. We just completed a physically and mentally demanding “tryout and interview” process and I was looking forward to a full night of sleep. J: To fill the Friday evening of a single Lieutenant, I asked my buddy Sean if he wanted to get some dinner at Latitude 35, where the fish tacos were filling and the music enjoyable. A: Meanwhile, I had decided not to be a complete party pooper, and tired feet, sore body, and all, was having a drink with Sean’s wife, Samantha, at the bar at the Mellow Mushroom. Amid conversations about life, love, and the Army, I happened to ask, “Sam, does Sean have any tall friends?” As a matter of fact, he did… J: At some point in the evening, Sam and Sean hatched a plot to introduce us. After dinner, Sean and I met up with the ladies at Paddy’s. A: Jonathan and Sean were already there, anxiously awaiting our arrival. I remember walking in to Paddy’s, paying my cover, getting my hand stamped, and seeing a strikingly handsome, tall blonde guy at the far end of the bar and thinking to myself, “I hope that’s Jonathan.” J: It was me. After a few songs and a little bit of goofing off on the dance floor with the rest of the group, I introduced myself to Ali, and after a brief exchange of companies and sports (it’s a West Point thing), we went to go find some stools so Ali could get off her feet. A: And my feet were HURTING. We chatted for a bit and even though I was super lame because I was so tired, it was enough to peak his interest. J: When I got home that night, I went straight to the bookshelf to scour the 2006 West Point yearbook and find out more about this intriguing beauty I had just stumbled upon. A: A couple days later, I got a friend request on Facebook from Jonathan and we began to build a wonderful friendship through written communication that soon developed into something pretty amazing. J: And the rest is history. :)
Tell us all about the proposal! I actually got two proposals! Not because I turned Jonathan down the first time, but because he had two rings and two plans, and if you know the guy, nothing Jonathan does is ordinary! We had both recently returned from deployments in Afghanistan, Jonathan about two months earlier, and he used the time to lay the ground for the upcoming proposition of nuptials. He took a trip to Beaufort, SC, to get my parents’ blessing and found the perfect ring in Atlanta. I had been back in the country for about a week and was trying to see all my friends I hadn’t seen in awhile. So when my friend Kim texted to see if I was available for dinner that Friday night, I asked Jonathan if he was up for it too. Of course he was (as he sat across from me at Starbucks that morning surreptitiously arranging the dinner plans with Kim… sneaky guy.) Friday night rolled around, and I put on a cute dress and cute heels, thinking I was in for a night of dinner and dancing downtown. Since I had just moved into a new apartment, my washer and dryer weren’t hooked up yet, so I brought a load of laundry over to Jonathan’s house before dinner at his suggestion. When I got to his house, Jonathan was excited to show me his new bathroom renovations, and eventually lured me outside under the guise that I needed to see the mess the plumber made out on the back deck. I was greeted by Jonathan’s roommate and a roaring fire in the back yard. After some awkward interactions with his roommate, who seemed content to stay seated by the fire for the ordeal, Jonathan finally got him to go inside and brought me over to the fire where two chairs and a champagne bucket were waiting. Jonathan got down on one knee and asked me to marry him (that is, after stumbling over my name in an attempt to be more dramatic and use my full name, but deciding at the last minute to just stick with Ali). Regardless of how it came out (I don’t even remember what he said), I said YES! We sat down to enjoy the fire and admire the ring that Jonathan proposed with, his grandmother’s wedding ring from the 1920’s. As we giddily drank champagne, I realized they were going to be late for dinner! That’s when Jonathan revealed that he had Kim set up the dinner date, but the reservation was only for us. He also divulged that he originally planned to propose on his roof, where we had spent many a evening watching the sun go down and watching the neighbors’ antics, but he didn’t know how to convince me to get on the roof in a dress and heels. Not to be underestimated, I wanted to try it out! I handed the ring back and, evening dress, heels and all, climbed the ladder, and crawled onto the roof! With the waning moon not yet up and poor roof lighting, the roof proposal was quick, but the laughter in the dark was plentiful. So dark, in fact, that I didn’t even notice that Jonathan didn’t give me first ring back until I scurried back down the ladder to show Jonathan’s roommate. As I stuck my hand out to show him, it was then I noticed that something wasn’t right. “That’s not my ring!” I exclaimed and then realized that Jonathan had not replaced his grandmother’s ring, but proposed the second time with a brand new ring of his own design. So I can say I was proposed to twice and proudly wear both rings!
When did y’all get married? May 4th, 2013
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 58
Did you decide to do a “first look”? Why or why not? No, we guess we are just traditionalists. I was living for the moment of walking down the aisle to see Jonathan at the end waiting for me and Jonathan believed the practicality of taking pictures before the ceremony wasn’t as important as seeing his bride for the first time when she was coming up the aisle.
Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? No, see above! There is just something about the traditional vows that are timeless and enduring. Plus, we aren’t that artistically creative. :)
What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 and Colossians 3:12-17
Describe your wedding cake or dessert. A classic three-tiered wedding cake, with vanilla butter cake and topped with classic buttercream frosting. It was presented on a vintage cake stand with fresh pink and green floral accents.
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? There were actually quite a few challenges. We returned from Afghanistan in the fall of 2012, and because we were both on restrictive military schedules, had to plan the wedding around a couple weeks of “off time” that we both had in common in April/May. This gave us about six months to plan the wedding, which typically wouldn’t have been challenging or stressful, but I was also applying for law school, studying for the LSAT, and still working as an Army officer at Fort Bragg, NC while trying to get all the details together. Jonathan was in Army training for the entire month of February with no communication allowed, so most of the final details waited until he got back and could give his input! It was a very busy six months for both of us. In addition, the added stress of planning an outdoor wedding ceremony and reception in the spring was realized, as we did have intermittent showers on our wedding day! Last minute changes in venue resulted in an indoor reception at Southern Grace’s “Soiree” venue instead of the garden dinner party at the Beaufort Inn as originally planned. Also, American Idol winner Candice Glover made her hometown visit on the same day of the wedding and set up her stage two blocks from the reception. Expected attendance was 15-20,000! Great for Beaufort, not so great for the weddings planned in downtown Beaufort. Parking, travel time, and the threat of having the reception drowned out by her music added to our anxiety. However, the last two issues solved each other, as the rain kept the numbers at Candice’s concert low, Soiree was a great back up option for the reception, and a little extra logistical planning and flexibility resulted in everything turning out beautifully!
If you are comfortable responding, what range did your wedding budget fall into? $10,000-$25,000
What is the one detail or vendor that you were so happy to have as a part of your wedding? Landon Jacob Photography. Jordan and Landon were my first choice after seeing so many of their amazing wedding pictures at the Beaufort Inn. We were thrilled when they told us they were available for May 4th. Our pictures are beautiful and they were such an easy and personable couple to work with! We get so many compliments about how we looked on the wedding day–trust me, it’s all them!
What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? The day’s most memorable moment actually came after the ceremony and reception were over. Because of all the stress and changes created by the weather forecast, I was a little bummed that I wouldn’t have my envisioned garden party dinner and get to dance under the twinkling lights of the Beaufort Inn’s courtyard. Jonathan promised me at the rehearsal dinner that he would make sure I got to dance in my courtyard. He made good on the promise, and after everyone had gone their separate ways, we danced together in the Beaufort Inn Courtyard in the rain. :)
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? We thought about eloping to save money and keep perspective on what was really important. It was definitely worth it in the end to spend the day with our family and closest friends. It meant a lot to us and we couldn’t have done it without their love and support. Also, small weddings are the way to go! The intimacy of being able to spend time with everyone we love is definitely something we look back on fondly, especially since the day goes by so quickly.
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you most looking forward to about married life? We honeymooned in New Zealand for two weeks before settling into married life. We live in Fayetteville, NC, where Jonathan is in Special Forces training and I just started law school at Campbell University. Right now, we are both so busy that we really just focus on enjoying the time we have together and making the most of it. We are looking forward to many more adventures together!

Landon Jacob is a delightful member of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

Photographer: Landon Jacob / Planner: Bethany Boyles-Hewitt / Ceremony Venue: Old Sheldon Church Ruins / Reception Venue: Soiree by Southern Graces / Wedding Cake and Caterer: Southern Graces / Cellist: Austin Fitzhenry / Bride’s Gown: Liancarlo / Paper Products: JWD Paperie / Bride’s Earrings: BHLDN / Hair Stylist: Amber White of Kaleidoscope Studio Salon / Makeup Artist: Linda Burton Makeup Artistry / Bride’s Shoes: Badgley Mischka / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: “Lace Sheath Dress” by Adrianna Pappell / Groom’s Attire: Army service uniform / Groomsmen Attire: Military service uniforms and personally owned tux

marissa Written with love by Marissa
  1. avatar Lisa reply

    I’ve always thought weddings in the rain were so romantic, and Ali and Jonathan’s gorgeous day confirms that! Love their most memorable moment :)

  2. avatar Emily reply

    Most magical ceremony venue ever! I’ve actually been there, and it is just as lovely in person :)

  3. avatar Amanda {Amanda Jayne Events} reply

    So beautiful and romantic!

  4. avatar Ashlee reply

    Absolutely stunning wedding! The ceremony in the ruins – amazing! I would love to know where the umbrella/parasols are from. We have an outdoor wedding planned for next April, and should the weather forecast decide to turn rainy (fingers double crossed that is won’t!), I think those umbrellas are a great way to stay dry and still look pretty! :)

  5. avatar Maria José de Barros Mullaney reply


  6. avatar Southern Weddings Weekly Round-Up | Southern Weddings reply

    […] West Point grads Ali and Jonathan didn’t let a little rain dampen (forgive the pun) their spirits at their romantic South Carolina wedding! See it here. […]

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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.

nicoleyang Written with love by Nicole
  1. avatar Emily reply

    What a beautiful and unique wedding!! She is right, that picture in the rain speaks a thousand words. Love this so much.

  2. avatar Lisa reply

    They are so beautiful together! I think it was Elizabeth Messina who said she loves rainy weddings because then whenever it rains, the couple will think of their wedding day. How romantic is that? :)

  3. avatar Emily reply

    I love her bouquet! Such a welcome bright pop amidst all the rain :)

  4. avatar Links We Love (May 31, 2013) reply

    […] Southern Weddings: Nuptials in the Great Smoky Mountains […]

  5. avatar Best Wedding Moments of 2013 Contest The Bride Link reply

    […] “I shot this wedding in Cades Cove back in April and it rained the entire day.  This poor couple got drenched in the rain but they didn’t care because they were so in love and so happy to be married!  It was seriously like a scene out of the Notebook!  Here’s a link to the story as it was featured on Southern Weddings“ […]

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